We pulled up the Ranch Bowl to see dozens of teenagers in saggy JNCO jeans hanging out under the marquee. The glowing lights read “Kottonmouth Kings Wed and Thurs, SOLD OUT”. As my mom dropped us off, a dank smell of marijuana billowed out of the car next to us.
Being that we were at a Kottonmouth Kings show, this came as no surprise. I covered my nose with my shirt, and we made our way towards the doors. Once inside, we met up with some friends and headed to the merch booth. I got a one-of-a-kind orange custom fit Kottonmouth Kings hat, and Virginia picked up a t-shirt from Kottonmouth Kings labelmates Corporate Avenger.
After securing our swag, we nestled in towards the back of the tiny club. The Ranch Bowl was a music venue like no other. It was a bowling alley, concert venue, and sand volleyball court all rolled into one. The concert hall could only hold about 400 people, but combined with the bowling alley and volleyball court, it felt much larger. It even had an extra bar inside the complex. Bands would come from all over to play a show and go bowling afterward. I was able to meet so many of my musical heroes just from hanging around the bowling alley after the shows.
On this particular night, I was able to talk with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Linkin Park! Granted, at the time they were just another opening band.
After the support acts Pomeroy and Rehab, the stagehands put up a small banner that said “Linkin Park”. It had a plain black background with a grungy white font. It was so simple, it looked like it had been printed at a local Kinko’s (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were). Though the banner lacked pizazz, the band had an interesting look. The guitarist wore over the ear headphones, there were two singers, one with pink hair, the other with a tight buzz cut.
Immediately I could tell this was something fresh, unlike anything I had heard before. The buzzing guitar was met with deep bass and DJ scratches. The melodic choruses mixed with hard street rhymes. The crowd ate it up, pushing forward with every note.
Little did I know, I was getting a first listen of an album that would go on to be diamond certified selling over 11 million copies.
As Linkin Park finished their set, they thanked the crowd for all the support and mentioned that their new album “Hybrid Theory” was coming out in just a couple weeks. My friends and I were blown away, and couldn’t wait to hear more. At the merch booth, there were free cassette tapes available, and Linkin Park branded sharpies. I grabbed a tape and marker and went outside to get some fresh air. The club was so small, it didn’t take long to feel like you were roasting in an oven.
As we walked around outside, I spotted the singer with pink hair from Linkin Park (Mike Shinoda). He was standing next to the short-haired singer (Chester Bennington), who was eating a salad out of a styrofoam bowl. I told them that I really enjoyed their set and was looking forward to their new album. They were very nice and offered to sign our promo cassettes. I picked up a Linkin Park t-shirt before we left for the night.
I was definitely the guy that Cake describes in their song “Rock and Roll Lifestyle”. I had the t-shirt to prove I was there, that I heard of them first.
After Linkin Park, the band Corporate Avenger came on stage. I had seen them open for Kottonmouth Kings a few times before, and they put on a crazy show. Painted all in white, wearing chains around their wrists they stomped the stage with bullhorns screaming “Taxes are Stealing!” It was a full-scale riot in the crowd. Kids jumped off the stage and violently moshed to the thumping beats.
Between Corporate Avengers and the headline act Kottonmouth Kings, stagehands placed fake marijuana plants all over the stage and wheeled out the drummer’s three-wheeled bicycle drum kit. The lights went down and the familiar sound of “Subaran Life” played over the speakers. The band came out firing on all cylinders. The crowd bounced up and down to the band’s trademark hip-hop/punk rock mashup style. One of the members danced around with a giant footlong blunt. I would say that it was fake, but with all the weed smell coming from the audience, there was no way to truly tell!
I had a great time thrashing around with my friends and couldn’t wait to tell all my classmates about the legendary show at school the next day.
After the show, while Virginia and I were hanging outside waiting for my mom to pick us up, we started talking to one of the opening acts Rehab. They signed my ticket and just hung out talking for a while.
When my mom arrived, one of the guys in the band said “Hey baby, who are you here with?” With an embarrassed look, my Mom said: “I’m just here to pick up my son and his girlfriend”.
He laughed, but I could tell he was a little shocked. We joked about that the whole way home. It was a great night.