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The Stub Project: Jane’s Addiction – Aragon Ballroom – 11.30.1990

April 21, 2011

The Aragon Ballroom on Chicago’s Northside is a glorious old venue that transports all who enter to an old Spanish plaza that’s apparently been taken over by a whorehouse. There are corners to hide in and painted stars sparking up the sky. It’s a truly majestic, somewhat devilish room. As such, over the years it’s developed a reputation for being the focal point of violence and mayhem.

It should be no surprise that it lived down (or is it up?) to its reputation when Jane’s Addiction took its fabled stage in November 1990. Jim Morrison used to say he could could stand above a crowd, say nothing, and inspire a riot. Perry Farrell climbed the walls of the faux-Spanish facade, looked down on his minions and his gaze had a similar effect. The crowd was clearly ready to do his diabolical bidding.

5000 Drug-Crazed Kids + Perry Farrell = Mayhem

Living up to its promise, the show was an orgy of rock n roll debauchery.  Beers were thrown. Dancers were slammed. Chairs were smashed. From the first note to the last, a forbidding electric current pulsed threw the crowd and it was nothing short of glorious. Jane’s Addiction was the Greatest Band in the World at the time and it was a title they weren’t planning to give up without a brawl. They were on the top of the mountain and they defended their position with exploding drums and an armory of guitars, spraying any and all comers full of lead.

I watched with jaw dropped and spine tingling. It was simply one of the most awe-inspiring performances I’d ever seen. Jane’s Addiction was everything a rock band should be: sexy, dangerous and out-of-control.

A Beautiful Death Trap

The mayhem had an echo. The proceedings only got more out-of-hand once the show was over. The venue holds 5000 people and to get there you have to go up stairs. As far as I remember, there’s one way in and one way out. Upon the show’s completion, people were pushing and shoving their way to the exit as if they were escaping a fire. I was caught in the rush and on the stairs it got ugly fast. A surge of sweaty bodies crushed against each other. Shouts of protest were met with more pushing. It was, for some, clearly part of the fun.

A girl in front of me fell down. Had I not pulled her back up, she undoubtedly would have been trampled to death – which is to say, yes, I saved her life. I remember her looking back and smiling before she was swallowed by the current and taken out of my site. Had there been an internet back then, we probably would have ended up reconnecting. Maybe we would have fallen in love and every single thing about my life would be different today. We’d tell the story of how we met and it’d always end with me saying, but really, in the end, it was her who saved me … whether not it was true or not wouldn’t even matter, because no one really wants to be with someone they saved, they want to be with someone who saved them. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Tragically, without Facebook to bridge the gap of awkward human interaction, we were left to helplessly spiral out of his each other’s orbit as randomly as we had come in, leaving our time together to be nothing more than a sobering moment in a night that was sloppy, wobbly and largely out-of-focus.

When we got out on the street, the riot was in full gear. A car was already turned over and burning. The street was full of cops ready to bash heads. Deliriously buzzed from the near-death experience, we headed the other way towards The Green Mill and got out of the neighborhood as fast as we could.

Up The Beach –Whores — Standing In The Shower… Thinking — No One’s Leaving — Ain’t No Right — Ted, Just Admit It… —  Pigs In Zen — Been Caught Stealing — Three Days — Mountain Song — Stop! — Summertime Rolls — Thank You Boys — Ocean Size — Jane Says

Video from shows in Milan seven weeks earlier:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lee Parell permalink
    June 29, 2012 6:59 am

    I was at this show… Your words took me back there like nothing since. We were so high and drunk, I only remember flashes. The pit, the balcony, the out-of-control stampede. What I do remember most was the way everyone was singing the lyrics along with me… well, along with Perry 😉 I, too, saved someone’s life there. My friend Keith fell in front of me during the mass exodus. He’s a short dude, about 5’3″. Earlier, he was was getting thrown all around the pit. He would try to jump-up to see the stage better, and pffffft! he was gone! haha! Every damn time! He was crowd-surfed right outta the pit like that probably 7-8 times! He got so pissed! Anyway, thanks for the flashback. Sometimes I really do wish we knew the net back then like the kids today… I guess Gen-Xers really are the bastard middle children of our time.

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