my vast pilgrimage

december 11, 2000

by adella

I was a huge fan of VAST, but until December 2000, I had never been able to see them live. They didn't play a Florida show during their first leg of their tour, when they were playing with Queens of the Stone Age. I guess good things come to those who wait, as the saying goes, because I finally was able to see them when they were the main act and not opening up for another band.

I had just joined the VAST Street Team when it was announced that VAST would be playing four shows in Florida. The nearest one to my humble abode was in Ft. Myers, which was still a 2 to 3 hour drive to the west. My best friend, who is also a huge fan of VAST, agreed to go with me, and I began to work on getting tickets and getting everything arranged for our "pilgrimage". I got free VIP tickets from the street team, and all they wanted me to do in return was hand out free VAST posters! I mean, how easy could it get? Just hand out some stuff, and you get free concert tickets to see the best band in the entire world? Wow! Unfortunately, my friend's car decided that right before the show, it wasn't going to work anymore. We had to rent a car, which actually worked out pretty well because it had a CD player and air conditioning. Yay! :)We called the venue, Orbit Nightclub, and got directions.

It's time for a quick lesson in Florida geography. My friend and I live in West Palm Beach, and Ft. Myers is almost directly across from us. Unfortunately, there is no highway that you can take directly from West Palm to Ft. Myers, so what we had to do was drive south to Ft. Lauderdale, drive west to Naples (where rich people who don't live in Palm Beach live) and drive back north again to Ft. Myers. As if that weren't bad enough, the road from Ft. Lauderdale to Naples is on I-75, also known as Alligator Alley. It crosses the world-famous Everglades, which basically is a huge stretch of swampland. (I had never seen real swampland before, because the definition of "swampland" in West Palm Beach is when someone forgets to clean their swimming pool for a few months.) Imagine almost 100 miles of nothing bordered by barbed-wire fence, and you have Alligator Alley. I mean, the place is so isolated that there isn't even a police force to patrol it.

Needless to say, we were a bit scared. We wouldn't have done this for any other band except VAST (and maybe the Cure...).

The morning of the show dawned with one of the worst rainstorms of the year. It poured all morning with little rest, and there were car accidents everywhere. I figured, "Great, we have to drive three hours later this afternoon, and it's going to rain on top of it!" Despite the storms, my friend and I went that morning to pick up our rental car and run some errands before we got dressed. We ate lunch (because I knew I'd be too excited to eat later on), got dressed, and set out about 3:00 PM. The doors were set to open at 7:00 PM, and we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get there in case we got lost. We put in some good tunes, told some good stories, and luckily, got there without a problem at about 5:30 PM.

The venue was deserted, but we decided to cruise to the back to see what we could see. We saw VAST and Sunna's (the opening band) tour buses, and squealed "They're here!!" like two teenyboppers. This had been the highlight of our day so far. We decided to hang out at the mall we had passed a mile back for an hour or so, then make our way back to the venue.

Let me just say that there were virtually no gothic people in the Ft. Myers mall, from what I could see. I had kind of dressed up for the VAST show, but I hadn't gone all out. I was wearing a long black coat, my favorite green and black zebra-striped skirt (that my mom hates and everyone else loves), little Mary Jane shoes on my size-5 toes, and sparkly hair clips, while my friend wore a purple velvet backless top, PVC pants, and boots ['cause she's got a great figure and I don't -- :(]. People were staring at us like we both had wings sprouting from the tops of our heads. I was actually getting to enjoy all the attention after a while. It was kinda funny.

We left the mall and checked our makeup, and then made the short drive back to the venue, arriving at about 6:45 PM. I figured the place would be packed, and I was kinda mad because we had missed VAST's sound check, but c'est la vie. When we arrived, we checked our watches to make sure that we hadn't arrived an hour early instead of 15 minutes early because the place was deserted. Think spaghetti Western deserted, with a lone tumbleweed being the only movement in the entire town. I felt bad for the band at that moment because they had traveled all this way and there was no one around. Then I got the idea that if we were the only two people at the show, then there would be more VAST for us! Yay! :)

We hung out in the car for about 10 minutes when people (yes, people) actually started to arrive. They were "casual" goth, wearing Bauhaus and Cure T-shirts and jeans. I started handing out posters as more people started to arrive. I was worried that I was a little too dressed up (and my friend was worried that she was too dressed down), but we fit in okay. It was strange how different everyone looked. There were regular people there in T-shirts and jeans, girls in dresses and boots, guys in nice shirts and jackets, people in bohemian clothes, some people wearing makeup, some not -- a great mix. Another girl was there from the street team, and she actually had CD samplers and stickers to pass out (I hadn't recieved mine yet), so between us, the croud was pretty well-stocked. Everyone was really amazed to hear how far we had driven just to see VAST. One girl said, "You must be a really big fan" to me -- :)!

Of course, the doors opened late at about 7:30, after Sunna was finished with their sound check. We walked in to the venue (to me, it was actually a nice size, but then again, my favorite club is about the size of my friend's car), explored it a little bit, looked at the T-shirts, and sat down.

A guy named Wag with an acoustic guitar walks out on the stage, and he says, "My agent says I'm real big in Ft. Myers," and begins to play a few songs. Now, you must remember that VAST and Sunna are hard alternative/gothic/industrial bands, so to see some guy coming out and playing folk-y music was like, "What the hell is this?" But luckily everyone was nice and respectful to him. I though he was cool, actually, especially the last song he played, which talked about how his girlfriend was really a guy. :)

After Wag was finished, Sunna came out. My friend and I had made our way up to the front row (not that there was much of a fight for it -- there was maybe about 50 people in the venue) so we were near the center. I had never heard any of Sunna's music but I had heard that they were pretty good from a few people, so I was psyched to see them. I actually started to get into their set towards the end, especially after they played the awesome song "Power Struggle" and lead singer Jon Harris started jumping around on the stage. They had a traditional hard-rock style, but they also used sampling and electronic beats like VAST does. They were very compatible with VAST, so that was cool. We caught little glimpses of Jon Crosby and Steve Clark peeking out from the backstage area during the Sunna set. I think this was when I started to move from the "I'm excited!" phase to the "I'm shitting myself, I'm so excited!" phase.

After Sunna was finished, the road crew began to set up for VAST. It took forever, at least 20 minutes. Their stage looked nice. There were little pink Christmas lights all over the amps and speakers, and these huge candles were lit. I was considering asking the band where they got them, but I chickened out. Then about 30 bottles of water were put all over the stage. I wondered how someone could drink that much water and not puke all over themselves. They were having some problems with Jon's microphone before the show started, but the sound guys fixed the problem (or so they thought...). My friend was directly in front of Jon and I was on her left. I had a great view until a small speaker was put in front of me, blocking my view of Steve. Oh well. Jon was about a foot and a half in front of me, so I couldn't complain too much. He was so close that I could read his copy of the setlist. As if they could draw out the wait any longer, a dj from the local radio station came out to hand out T-shirts and CDs, like the new Orgy disc and Marilyn Manson's new album. By this time, I just wanted this guy to get his ass off the stage so that VAST could come out. I think the rest of the croud was agreeing with me because the shirts and the CDs were passed out fairly quickly.

Finally, the dj guy introduced VAST. The croud roared. Steve Clark came out first, followed by Thomas Frogatt, then Justin Cotta, and finally Jon Crosby. They started right in to "My TV and You", which sounded great live. Let me take a second to give you the setlist (as far as I can remember it; I think I'm pretty close):

Lady of Dreams (Intro -- played while the band came out)

My TV and You


The Last One Alive


The Gates of Rock and Roll

Pretty When You Cry


I'm Dying

What Else Do I Need?

I Don't Have Anything





Dirty Hole

Three Doors

So anyway, the show gets off to a seeming good start, except for the problems with Jon's microphone. It didn't work! I had heard that Jon sometimes threw water bottles when he was mad, and he was definitely mad (not that I blame him...), so I quickly prayed that I didn't get beaned with a water bottle, or a flying guitar, or the microphone itself. He just threw the microphone down on the stage and went to Thomas's to sing. The sound guy crept out (looking a bit scared) and quickly fixed the problem. Luckily, the sound was fine for the rest of the show.

"My TV and You", always one of my favorites off the new CD, sounded even better live. I started singing along right away. Next, they played "Here", which drove everyone wild, since there were a lot of fans there who had discovered VAST through the first album. Jon sounded great; he dances exactly like Elvis, which I thought was fab. The whole croud was singing along and having a great time.

The mood continued to grow with the next songs, "The Last One Alive" and "Blue." During "Blue", the stage was flooded with blue light. Jon took some time to introduce the band: "Hi. We're VAST, and we're from California." [Enter applause and cheers.] "We have two Austrailans in our band. Just thought you would like to know that." [Enter loud scream from me only. I feel like an idiot; everyone laughs at me. Oh well.] "The Gates of Rock and Roll," in my opinion, a fucking fab song, was played next.

Jon took a bit more time to talk to the audience. What had happened at Orbit that night was this: most of the people who showed up were there for the VAST show. The others who were there had paid the $10 cover to drink at the bar(s) and watch the band from their little comfortable stools. Jon said, "All you people in the back -- stay in the back!", which made everyone laugh. It beats me why anyone would want to pay a $10 cover just to spend even more money on drinks, but hey, it's not my money. :)

The opening beats from "Pretty When You Cry" sounded. The croud went wild, singing along loudly. People (including myself) screamed after he was done with the first verse. Damn, that song sounded great. "Touched" started up, and the croud went even wilder (if that was possible...). I was now in a cold sweat from dancing around so much and screaming out lyrics, but I was having a blast.

More talk from the band: Jon made a election joke, which we expected since everyone makes fun of us anyway; and Wag, the opening performer, along with the rest of the band, was introduced. They also talked about how nice the weather was (it was perfect shorts weather even though Christmas was 2 weeks away), and how it had been "fucking freezing" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "I'm Dying", one of my absolute favorite VAST songs, began, and the whole croud sings along: "Jesus Christ, are you the son of God? I want to ask that I believe..." Wow. There was nothing like a bunch of young people who were different, who were often seen as outcasts, singing that song. It was amazing. I almost cried, it meant that much to me.

Jon reached out to touch hands after the song was finished. I tried to make myself as tall as possible, standing on my tippy-toes, damning the speaker that had been placed in front of me. "Please...touch me..." I thought, and he grabbed my hand, almost as if he had heard me. His hands were beautiful. (Uh oh...I'm getting to sound like a teenybopper...) He grabbed my friend's hand too; when she was pulling away after he had clasped it, he grabbed her hand again, even tighter. It amazed both of us how a simple touch of his hand meant so much. I wonder why more performers don't touch their audience because that simple act from them means so much to their devoted fans.

When "What Else Do I Need?" started, I realized that the show was almost over. It had flown by! I couldn't believe how great VAST was live. As great as their CDs were, they were even better live. They blew me away, they were so good. I think it was at this point that I noted that half the damn audience was taking pictures and we had stupidly left our camera in the car because we thought they were being confiscated. (If you are reading this and you have/know someone who has pics of this show, PLEASE e-mail me. I will give you full credit for your photos, pay for copies, etc. I'm desperate here!)

"I Don't Have Anything", which my friend (and I too, for that matter) loves, was up next, and Jon ditched his guitar. He paced the stage, going from side to side, touching people and climbing on things. He climbed on one of the speakers, reacing out to the audience, while the sound guy/roadie from the earlier mircophone incident (still looking nervous) came out to support him in case he fell. He started heading my way, and he climbed up on the little speaker in front of me and leaned over, singing about six inches from my face. I instinctively backed away (I would have loved to be closer to him, believe me!) and smiled at him. He stared right into my eyes as he was singing. Wow. What a moment for me. He sang the song absolutely gorgeous, and the best part was after the normal version of the song ended, the guitars started up again and Jon sang the chorus once more.

It was time for "Free", the first single off Music for People and the last song of the main set. Since this song was about being different and not caring what others thought of you, Jon invited everyone to sing along. The band really did a great job on that song. They said goodnight and walked offstage amid the audience's roaring. Now, there were only about 150-200 people there at the most, but the roar was deafing. Everyone was screaming. At one point the whole audience quieted down at the same time, but people laughed and the noise resumed, even louder than before.

VAST came back on, Justin smoking a cigarette. He sat down on the stage and Jon came toward him, taking a puff off his cigarette. He walked back to the microphone again and asked, "Does anybody have any requests?" Some guy yelled, "The Strawberry Song!" I had absolutely no idea what the hell the guy was talking about, and I'm a pretty big VAST fan. Okay. Someone may have had a little too much to drink.

My friend grabbed the end of his leather pants. Jon looked at her, and she said, "I want your pants!" He started singing a little ditty about how everyone wanted his "shiny leather pants" (I think). We looked at each other and I mouthed "You're so bad!" to her. The awesome guitar part to "Temptation" started up. I had always liked that song; it has a ton of energy. Justin sat this one out, I think: Jon did most of the guitar work. A few people in the audience were passing their lighters up to light his cigarettes. He had to stand up again for "Dirty Hole" and "Three Doors." I really don't remember too much about the encores, all I remember is that they sounded great. I was exhausted from barely sleeping the night before (I was too excited to sleep!) and from jumping around at the show. I really have no idea how the guys can play so many shows almost every night. They do such an incredible job.

After the band left the stage, my friend and I went to go buy T-shirts. We had a lot of fun talking to this lady who was telling us about how she had had to drive to West Palm from Ft. Myers to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Amazingly, she made it in to work the next morning. :)

We got Cokes from this asshole of a bartender who was probably upset that we weren't going to tip him. Oh well. He could have kissed my underage ass. We sat down and heard an announcement: "All those with VIP tickets, please report to the floor immediately." (Emphasis mine.) We hurredly finished our Cokes and sat on the steps that led down to the dance floor. The venue was nearly deserted by then. We sat around for a few minutes wondering where everyone was. After about 5 or 10 minutes, I got a hold of a security guard and told him our predicament. "You're supposed to be at the signing right now," he said. I guess I was half-deaf from being in front of a speaker (and Richie from Sunna's drum kit) and he had actually said to report to the door. Ha ha. Very funny.

We finally got backstage (or rather, to the "backstage" area of the parking lot)! Yay! Maybe it was better for us, but a lot of the fans who had came out to the parking lot after the show to get stuff signed were already leaving. My friend and I met Jon Harris, the lead singer of Sunna. What a lovely guy. We were delighted to find out he was British. He was extremely nice to us, considering we hadn't even heard of his band before. He said he was from Manchester, England (home of Joy Division!). We also spoke to Ian, the guitarist, and Richie, the drummer (who looked a tad like a punk Brad Pitt, in my opinion). I must say that the guys from Sunna were awesome. Jon Harris talked about Hollow Man, the (crappy) movie in which the Sunna song "Power Struggle" had been featured. (Do not see Hollow Man. The Sunna song is the best thing about it.) They had also toured with A Perfect Circle, which I thought was cool even though I'm not into them that much.

I was saying goodbye to the band when a older, blond guy asked me to take his picture with them. I agreed, even though I'm generally not too good at taking pictures. (I hope that one came out, mister. I tried!) I took the picture, then turned around to discover my friend had disappeared. I spotted her talking to someone on the other side of the police tape that separated the "backstage" area of the parking lot. I quickly ducked under the police tape, calling out her name. I stood up next to her and was face-to-face with...Jon Crosby.

It took a moment for the fact that I was three feet away from His Crosby-ness to register in my brain. I knew I had one of three options:

1) Grab onto his leg and profess my undying love to him. "I LOOOOOVE YOU! Take me with you!" This option was eliminated rather quickly.

2) Give him the Adella Sexy Eye (patent pending). "Hey baby. Like the pants. Can I get in them with you?" This option was eliminated even faster than the first one (if that is possible...)

3) Do what I actually did: introduce myself.

I shook his hand and said, "I think you might know me. I've emailed you three (!) fan letters." He asked me what my name was. "Adella Irizarry," says I. "I don't remember one in particular, but thank you anyway. We get a lot of letters." (I don't think he picked up the fact that I had written three of them, which is probably better.) "I'm sure!" I replied back. He asked me if I had gotten a reply (which I had, from Steve) and what I had said. I told him that I had said how much their music had meant to me. I also thanked him and the rest of the band for reading and replying to letters and being so accessible to their fans.

My friend and I talked a bit more to him. I asked him about the new song that I had heard about from the Message board, and he told me that it was called "I Am Someone" and that it would be featured in the new Tomb Raider movie starring Angelina Jolie. My friend told him about the first time she had heard "Touched" and how it had meant so much to her. "You write all your songs about real experiences, don't you?" she asked. Jon said, "Yeah. I think everyone goes through a lot in their life. It just depends on how much you articulate it." He had the "Caution" tape wrapped around his head (he was on one side of the tape and we were on the other.) "I'm going to write a song called 'Caution' next," he joked. We said that VAST absolutely had to come and play a show in West Palm. He agreed, saying, "Our driver said that West Palm is really pretty."

We told him about our drive there and how the road had been bordered by fencing covered in barbed wire to keep the alligators from crossing the road. While all this was going on, Thomas was missing (maybe playing the Playstation 2 on the tour bus?), Steve was talking to a pretty goth-looking girl, and Justin was surrounded by the ladies. It was hilarious that the girlies were leaving Jon alone (except for the occasional autograph-seekers) and surrounding Justin. A girl about my age (18) had Justin sign the butt part of her "favorite" jeans and Jon signed her leg. Another girl my age lighted Jon's and Justin's cigarettes. The croud was beginning to thin out until it was primarily the VIP people. There were some girls and older guys (one was one of the girl's dads, who was also a fan of VAST -- how cool was that?) who were going to the show the following day in Tampa.My friend and I were asked if we were going, but we couldn't make it (school and work). I had to wonder where some of these people worked if they could afford to take time off to go to two or three VAST concerts in a row.

We quickly dashed back to the car because my friend wanted to take a picture with Jon. He agreed, and I took the picture, saying "I hope I don't fuck this up." After I had said it, I realized my potty mouth had reared its ugly head (Sorry). He asked me if I wanted one, and I said, "Well, if it's not any trouble." He said sure. After we were done, I said thank you about a thousand times. He hugged me tightly goodbye, without my even having to ask. I must agree with previous reports that he was a really nice guy. I wanted to say goodbye to Justin and Steve, but Justin still was talking with the ladies and Steve was still talking with the pretty goth girl (a friend?).

So we left for the night. Richie from Sunna said goodbye to us as we were leaving. "Will we see you tomorrow?" he asked. "No, we've got tests tomorrow," my friend replied. "Good luck!" he said. He was a really nice guy too. We hurried to the car because we had seen these 3 guys hanging around the parking lot and we didn't feel like getting raped, robbed, or murdered after seeing VAST. One of the guys came towards us. He said, "Can I talk to you for a second?" We dived into the car and attempted to roll up the windows (damn electric windows!). "My friends and I need a ride to the Ft. Myers hotel just down the street." Would we let him in? Do chickens have lips? I swore that if he even attempted to come into our car I would scream bloody murder. Maybe I was just acting too cautious, but we would be damned if we were going to let some strangers into our car when we had no weapons and no way to defend ourselves. "If it's just down the street, you can fucking walk!" I said. We couldn't back up fast enough because a car had blocked us in. I was so scared, I thought for sure the guy would take out a gun and shoot us. Finally my friend maneuvered the car out of the parking lot, and we sped off.

Once a few minutes had passed and I was sure that the guys weren't following us, I finally relaxed. We put on The Cure's "Disintergration" and talked about the show and how nice everyone had been. The show had been worth every mile driven, every dollar spent ($165, to be exact). It had been absloutely incredible. I had walked out an even bigger VAST fan than I had been before. I was now completely devoted. I knew what everyone had been raving about for the past 5 months. We got home in about two hours because we were able to go about 80 mph home. :)

The whole way home I kept singing "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" by The Smiths: "And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us, to die by your side...well, the pleasure, the privelege is mine..." I figured that if we died, at least we would die happy. Luckily, we got home fine, and by 3:15 AM I was warm and snuggly in my bed. It didn't quite hit me until I came home and saw the VAST posters on my door that I had met Jon Crosby, a man whose lyrics had transcended all boundaries and had managed to touch me and mean so much to me. The show and those few minutes I had talked to him were without a doubt one of the best nights of my entire life. I sat on my bed and cried for about 20 minutes when it all hit me. I was above cloud nine; I must have been on cloud fifty. I could see the stars, I was so high.

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