Burning Spear's Wetlands debut almost costs me a job
This show was one of my seminal Wetlands experiences and I'll never forget it. This was a Wednesday night and I was visiting Manhattan from Boston (where I was writing for The Boston Globe) while interviewing for a cub reporter job at The New York Times. When my buddies told me that Burning Spear was playing that night, there was no way we were going to miss it.
Burning Spear had been a legend since the 1970s, so getting him into a relatively small club like The Wetlands was a genuinely big deal (his first Wetlands gig). My college buddies and I had all been big Spear fans for years, but none of us had seen him live. Being a Wednesday, we thought getting in wouldn't be much of a problem.
We were, of course, quite wrong. We showed up around 9:30 for what was billed as a 11pm show and there was a line halfway down the block. We got in eventually though and the place was packed like a mob scene. Now the basement at Wetlands was notorious (notoriously awesome!) as, shall we say, a free fire zone. Given that this was a big reggae show, it was like Mount St. Helens had erupted down there.
Now normally that would have suited me just fine. But on my way down the stairs I remembered that I was in town to interview at The Times, and the Times had already warned me that I would have to pass a piss test if they wanted to hire me. Oops! Better turn around. So now instead of plunging headlong downstairs, I'm basically fleeing upstairs to get as far away as I can, fearing an inadvertent contact high!
Of course, being a reggae show, "11pm showtime" really meant that Spear didn't go on until close to 1am. My friends who had come with me - most of whom were working at Wall Street investment banks and had been drinking since 7pm - started to bail until I was basically on my own by the time the music actually started. All I had to do the next day was get on the train back to Boston so I wasn't going to give up.
Needless to say, the performance was incredible. I didn't get out of there until after 3am, thinking "Well, if I don't get the job at the paper at least I caught this show." Thankfully, I -did- get the job and moved to New York full time a month later.
At some level, though, I still regret not checking out that scene in the basement!