Sitting alone on the bus bound for Toronto I looked down at my feet and exclaimed “Oh shit!” louder than I should have. People turned to see this large man who looked more biker than student, wearing a pair of headphones shaking his head at his own stupidity. Sandles… I was wearing sandles to a freakin’ big ass concert at the Exhibition Stadium. Worse, it was general admission floors and I realized that I had made a huge mistake.
I hook up with my girlfriend at the bus station, and meet with my roommate at the show as Blues Traveller put on a set that was entertaining to the few people who had arrived. I had expected a large crowd for Soundgarden who were still touring Badmotorfinger but that didn’t really materialize either. Despite low turnout for their set Cornell and co. put on a great performance. When they left the stage, that’s when things started getting weird. The crowd started filling in, but it wasn’t too bad until Pearl Jam walked on and the opening chords of “Go” rang out. Finishing the last dates supporting Ten, and having just finished the as yet unreleased VS. Pearl Jam was at the top of their popularity. Suddenly every kid who had a seat relinquished it and started breaking for the floor. Security was helpless as hundreds of people started to rush the stage.
I was perhaps 50 – 60 feet from the band when this started and within just a few seconds I was thirty feet from them; except I had not taken a single step. It was a current of kids turning into rapids. My girlfriend started to stumble. At that moment a mixture of fear, anger and adrenaline took over. I grabbed my future wife, said excuse me to the first couple people, and with no other choice just started pushing through the crowd sideways. Each step I became angrier and despite the music I could hear screams of pain in the distance. Finally, the three of us came into a bit of a clearing when some poor kid, who had my height but was twig thin, ran straight into me.
He looked down, went white and murmured, “I’m sorry.”
I didn’t have to look down to know what had happened. His Doc Marten kicked my big toe nail, and ‘pop’ my foot was now a bloody mess. All that adrenaline went straight to my chest and I bellowed “GET THE F#!K OUTTA MY WAY!!!” He disappeared in a shot. We went to a concession stand got a few napkins and then watched the rest of Pearl Jam’s set from the furthest seats of the stadium. Pearl Jam finished with a rousing rendition of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and left the stage. As they did so did the Pearl Jam fans. Hundreds just left.
We made our way back to the floor which was now civilized and found ourselves pretty much where we were standing before all the chaos.
Neil Young took the stage with the legendary STAX band Booker T & the MG’s and knocked through a set that pulled from both his acoustic and electric sides. The crowd was mostly in awe at the aging veterans who were putting on an awesome spectacle. For the first encore Young pulled out his harmonica and began to play the familiar whistle opening to the late Otis Redding classic “(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Booker T &b the MG’s play on that Redding original). Unlike other covers by artists like Michael Bolton, Young didn’t use the song as some opportunity to emote through musical masturbation of vocal range, instead he stuck to the true dreamy nature of the original. Then he went electric again and broke into the Dylan stomper “All Along The Watchtower.” When the band finished everyone left the stage.
For the second encore Young & the MG’s were joined by Pearl Jam for “Rockin’ In The Free World” which delighted fans both young and old.
My girlfriend decided to drive me home when the radio started announcing several injuries due to the crush of people. I looked at my foot, considered myself lucky for only losing a toe nail, and popped Harvest Moon into the tape deck. That was the last time I ever went to Exhibition Stadium. It was torn down in 1999.