when he told me they were doing a show that night i initially didnt believe him. the legendary Run DMC were performing in san francisco and i hadnt heard about it until that night? the possibility of this seemed slim, considering we both worked in the record industry and we were both avid hip hop fans and to see Run DMC live was the holy grail of shows. this, even though they were past their prime and nostalgia had yet to lift them back into relevance (that wouldnt happen for another two years). still, i agreed to go. it definitely wouldnt hurt, and if he was wrong then we'd already be on the town and surely there would be some other shenanigans for us to get into.
we go to the DNA Lounge at about 9pm, the show wasnt starting until 10. As we approached the box office i noticed, pasted on the window, a hand made sign that read: Run DMC- $20. it was only twenty dollars? to see the group that changed the landscape of pop music in the 80s and arguably launched rap music into the mainstream stratosphere for good? this seemed, for lack of a better term, too good to be true. the fact that there were still tickets available did not lessen my skepticism either. we each paid for a ticket, got our hand stamped, and walked into the club, my friend beaming with enthusiasm and me wary and kicking myself because i had lost a precious Jackson.
the club was packed, which did lift my spirits some. at least i hadnt been the only one fooled that night. the DNA lounge is designed in a very practical manner. there is a fairly large, square dancefloor with a stage at the front, and an upper level balcony that wraps itself around it, allowing patrons to watch the madness from above while sipping on their over priced drinks. we made our way to the balcony as the main floor was too packed, got ourselves some drinks, and began rolling a joint. from where we stood i had a perfect view of the stage. hanging from the back of it was a huge banner bearing the legend: Run DMC, in their classic black and white font. in front of that was set up two turntables, and at the front of the stage two microphones on stands. that was it. i had to admit, this was encouraging, but i still wouldnt believe it until i saw it.
slowly the crowd began to press against each other. i wondered if they would oversell tickets then have the fire department come in and shut down the show. that was a classic shady promoter move i knew and had experienced all too many times. my wariness began to kick in again. it was a healthy mix of people, not your usual hip hop crowd, all races and ages, girls and guys alike. we began to smoke the joint and i let the feeling of being stoned wash over me while i clocked the faces and bodies that crowded the area. i wondered if i was the only one that was skeptical, everyone else seemed to be wearing their happy faces. all eyes were wide. the enthusiasm was thick and palpable.
thats when he came on stage, Jam Master Jay himself. my jaw dropped to the floor. was that really him? still, my outlook was hesitant. maybe he was just going to do a DJ set. not that that would be a bad thing, mind you.
then Run and D came out. the crowd roared in approval. they wore their classic black pants and black jackets and black tshirts underneath, even sporting the hats they were so closely identified with since they early, RUN DMC albums. they looked like they did on the cover of Raising hell, or in the movie Krush Groove. they looked exactly how i, and everyone else in the room, wanted them to look. i marveled at their royalty in silence, letting the crowd do the cheering for me. i couldnt believe it. they were there. i was looking at Run DMC, live, in the flesh.
the facetiously introduced themselves, as if we didnt know who they were, and went into the first song of what would be an hour and a half set. the sound was stellar, rare for a hip hop show, and their set was flawless. you could tell they had rehearsed it hundreds of times. hit after hit after hit. not letting up for one moment, keeping everyone in the crowd standing and cheering and aching for more. younger hip hop acts have to take note of this kind of shit. they new how to put on a show better than most anyone id ever seen.
at one point, after a second joint, we decided to barrel our way down to the main floor. we wanted to feel the energy they were giving off. we squirmed our way to the middle of the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, hardly able to move for ourselves. thats when Run decided to reintroduce the group again. He sited his alternate moniker, Reverend Run, and pointed to the decks to allow Jam Master Jay to get some love. then he asked DMC, what do they know you as, D?
as DMC launched into "King of Rock" a jackpot of excitement erupted on the foor. the whole place exploded as those enormous rock drums, courtesy of John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, thundered through everyone. i was being lifted as the crowd jumped up and down, absolutely mental, along with the track. for a moment a began tearing up. this was easily one of the most exciting moments id ever experience in my concert going career. i was overwhelmed with joy.
when it was over we stumbled from the place, exhausted yet still thrilled with the night. i cant even remember what we did afterward. most likely went home and talked about what we had just seen and felt. it was one of the most satisfying concerts any of of would ever have, and we knew it deep in our bones, as sweat still clung to our flesh. we had seen the legends. they had delivered.