CONCERT REVIEW: King’s X at the Highdive, Champaign, Il

KingsX-logo

There I was in the club on a chilly November 13, 2005 evening about five hours or more before show time. The old brick building was so quiet, empty and clean, something I wasn’t used to seeing. I came in the back door to find my friend, the promoter Ward up front doing some promoter thing he does. I went up to him and we hung out and talked.

Then I saw it there, out the large front plate glass windows, the big tour bus. They were here, they were in town already. I queried Ward to if he had seen them yet.

“Yeah they are floating around here somewhere,” he said so nonchalantly. He’d met thousands of bands before, so he wasn’t affected. But for me, I hadn’t met many world-wide known rock bands, and I had been a fan of these guys since 1988.

We kept chatting it up as I looked out the window, not really paying attention to what Ward and a few others were talking about. I was looking for them. Then from behind I heard his shy laidback voice. He was standing right behind me asking Ward something. I turned around and there he was. All six-foot-plus inches of one of my rock and roll heroes. He was thin, his jeans hung off his hips, but stylish of course. He had on a white tank top with a blue mechanics shirt over the top and a star belt buckle. His arms were long, maybe too long for his body, past his thighs and his hands were large and boney. Then there was the hair, the famous “blonde baby dreads” hung down on his black face.

I’ve interviewed this rock and roller a handful of times in the past but we never met in person, so we were kind of friends, but kind of not. Before I could get my name out he said “You must be Troy,” and leaned in to give me a giant hug.

Before this meeting, before all the interviews, it was 1988 and I was still in high school. I watched more of MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” than I studied for school. One night the music channel played a video called “King” from King’s X’ debut album ‘Out of the Silent Planet.’

King’s X was a three-piece band with a black left-handed bassist wearing the coolest Mohawk I had ever seen and he was in a fucking heavy metal band. That was something you didn’t see around the music scene, let alone on MTV. These guys were not just metal. They had some of the more beautiful Beatles-esque melodies you had heard since the Fab Four played the “Ed Sullivan Show.” They sounded like no other band out at the time. It was like someone put Black Sabbath, the Beatles and Rush into a blender and made King’s X.

Since that video, I was hooked and bought every King’s X cassette, and of course had to buy them again once the CD revolution hit the music world.

So there I was in present day as a fan, music writer with one of my rock and roll icons right in front of me. The Mohawk was long shaved off in favor of the baby dreadlocks, but it was still frontman bassist dUg Pinnick.

King’s X was about to get ready for sound check and dUg said I could stick around then we could grab some diner if I wanted. We talked about that prior to him coming into town but I didn’t put much stock in it because of his crazy schedule, so this was a nice surprise.

I sat back at the bar while dUg, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill tuned their instruments. They played a few jams and got things ready. The sound check was blistering loud and echoed since no one else was in the club save a few roadies and me and Ward. Ty was picky about his set-up or sound, which delayed things, which seemed to make things more stressful than they needed to be. By the time bickering ended dUg and Jerry were ready to get some food and hang out.

After sound check was done, dUg, Jerry, another friend of mine decided to try out this Italian restaurant because it was a Sunday and nothing was open close by. I’ve heard of this restaurant but little did I know it was a bit more upscale that we rockers were used to. We all walked in wearing jeans and t-shirts under our winter coats and we certainly stood out. In fact, some heads did turn to check us out. The waitress was slow and after dinner we all agreed the food was terrible, but the conversation was priceless.

KingsXJerry was equally as cool as dUg and had a dry sense of humor as we talked. He told me about life back in New Jersey and his son’s band. He spoke of his fiancée (now wife, Julie) with glowing words when he told me how they met. dUg and Jerry told us about the tour and how a few nights before they played the club where Dimebag Darrell was murdered and how the club had an eerie ghostly feeling.

After dinner we hopped back in the car and drove back to the club. There was a semi-long line of people waiting outside in the cold. We walked around the corner to head to the tour bus to bid our farewell’s at least I thought. The crowd roared when they saw dUg and Jerry. It was so surreal.

Once we got to the bus me and my friend started to say our goodbyes but dUg and Jerry said we didn’t have to go and we all went in the tour bus. I have to admit I never felt so important in my entire life. The small crowd chanted and the band peaked out of the window’s acknowledging them and dUg said “you never get used to that.”

We sat down among the clutter of clothes and food items and chatted some more. Ty was in the back of the bus sick – hence the cranky sound check. But he came out to say hello and he signed some King’s X memorabilia I brought.

It was nearing showtime. dUg said he needed to get ready and we took off. The crowd roared again as me and my friend stepped off the bus and I wondered how disappointed they must have been when it was just me and my friend. We walked down the street to a pool bar to grab a pizza because we didn’t eat that crappy diner.

The show was incredible. It was the first time I ever seen King’s X live. I had my camera and dUg let me on stage to take photos and again I felt like rock royalty. I’ve seen a lot of shows in my day and I’ve interviewed my fair share of rock people, but meeting and hanging out with these guys, who I have been a fan of for more than 20 years was in the top five greatest days of my life.

I wanted to be dUg Pinnick when I was a kid in high school. Now he is my friend…Life is so strange.