Lollapalooza 1993 at Deer Creek near Indianapolis. Through cosmic circumstances, I’m attending with the friend of a friend who I’ve never met and will never see again after this day, even though he turns out to be pretty cool. On the trip to Indy, Michael mentions that the one thing he’s most interested in seeing is the sidestage set from Tool, who are getting their first wide exposure on this tour. A few songs into Arrested Development’s set, we amble over to the sidestage to establish our position for Tool.
We’re early, close to the stage, nearly alone. It’s over 90 degrees and the sun is almost directly overhead, so we don’t even have each other’s shadows for shade. We’re cooking like pot roast. The field begins filling and soon well over 1,000 other curiosity seekers surround us. As we survey the crowd, someone says, “We’re Tool,” a guitar chord jagged enough to saw lumber blows out of the amps and there’s a pair of Doc Martens right under my nose.
We are the mosh pit.
We step back just enough to escape the roiling bodies to fully appreciate the sonic tumult erupting like an active volcano in front of us. Frontman Maynard James Keenan says, “This is our sensitive love ballad. It’s called ‘Prison Sex.’ ” The band and the crowd are soon competing over the title of Most Frenzied Entity at Lollapalooza.
The heat is unrelenting and our skin feels as though it’s ready to split like grilled sausage casings when Tool’s roadies take the stage with 10 gallon buckets of water and industrial-sized Super Soakers. As the band slashes with Viking-like intensity and Keenan howls out lyrics of disaffected rage and ruin, jets of cold water knife through the scorched air and hit us dead in the face and chest.
The relief is abrupt but short-lived. Tool’s viscerally shredding set is designed to elicit gyrational sweat even without the unrelenting, cloudless sun. The mayhem on stage is unstoppable — torpedoes of H2O are arcing through the air, offering seconds of blissful release before Tool ratchets up the volume and dark energy with almost psychopathic intent.
Metaphorically, this is exactly how every Tool show has felt to every subsequent audience over the past decade and a half, as the band agitates, cooks, refreshes, repeats. Thus may it ever be.
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