When I was 17 years old, I moved from India to America.
One of the most exciting things about this move was that I would now have access to attend rock shows. In the late 1990s, not many musicians toured India although I HAD had the pleasure of seeing a who’s who of one-album wonders from Inner Circle to Michael Learns To Rock to Apache Indian.
Upon arriving in New Jersey, what soon became even more exciting than going to concerts was trying to win free tickets to concerts through radio station contests. This was my idea of Heaven. In those halcyon days, I probably went to about ten to fifteen shows that either myself or a friend won by being caller number one hundred four or ninety-nine or whatever the hell the lucky number was. Through a complex, precise and ingenious system of frantically calling up the radio station as many times as possible from as many numbers as possible, we ensured our invitations to concerts near and far to see acts from Guns & Roses to Poison to Skid Row to Neil Young and Motley Crue.
One day, my friend Tom Drew and I were calling off the hook and finally he got through and we won a pair of tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Jones Beach. Yay! So excited! High-fives ensued and I laid out my rock & roll plan. “Look Tom, we’re seeing Petty & the Heartbreakers next weekend. This gives us only 7 days to learn every song, every opening chord, every big riff. We’ve got to get to work. I have 5 Petty albums in my room, I will give you 2 today, get it done, then we’ll exchange albums mid-week et cetera.”
Tom’s face however was bereft of the enthusiasm I carried on mine. He looked like I was assigning him a heavy load of homework during the last class on Friday afternoon. Goddamnit Drew, where is your passion? I wondered. Either way, I had enough fire for both of us. While I listened to more Petty that week than every one of his roadies combined, I also found time to put on a shirt and tie and walk two miles to a liquor store where I proudly and underage-ed-ly purchased a bottle of rum to help us get “in the mood to rock” on the day of the show.
The day of the concert came, and I was PUMPED. I had listened to Freefallin’ a dozen times in 3 hours but in the meanwhile, Tom Drew had disappeared.
I called him repeatedly and after destroying my Swiss-watch of a plan (which demanded we leave my place at noon so we could “soak up the atmosphere in the parking lot for at least 4 hours”), he called me back at about 4 PM. The show began at 8 PM at a venue that would take more than an hour to drive to. He very casually said “Hey, I don’t feel like going.” My initial thought was to rip his soul out of his head and kick it in with my high-top Nikes. But I instead replied “Are you f*cking kidding, dude?” He confirmed he was not joking and that not only was he not going, screwing me completely because I didn’t have a car and now I would have to take about 3 hours of taxis, trains, subways and a bus to get to the venue but for the ultimate measure of the sh*tty man he was, he added that he would “give me a good deal on the tickets”. To this, my ears instantly burned as if they were bleeding profusely while being doused in barrels of after-shave. I said “F*ck you, Drew” and hung up.
I knew he was a worthless waste of skin and blood and guts right there but he confirmed it in Boston six months later when he unbeknownst to me made a deal to get my roommate a sh*t load of mushrooms. I only found out when lying in bed one night and my preppy roommate walked in, turned the light on and with the most frustrated look of sobriety I had ever seen – yelled – “Tom Drew’s Mushrooms are f*cking bullshit! Your friend f*cked me!” This brought a huge smile to my face because firstly, had I been consulted, I would have vouched for growing your own mushrooms in a septic toilet versus counting on Tom Drew and secondly, I was now just one person among two in my room who had been burned by the disease known as TD.
Well, it took almost 15 years but you got yours last night Tommy boy. I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and sure, they were 15 years older, and sure it wasn’t a beach. And sure it wasn’t free. But it was good, and it was loud and when the sticks hit the drums, it felt like landing an overhand right to your jaw you lying sack of sh*t.
I enjoyed the concert and it delved deep into their catalogue. As expected, I somehow managed to make a direct association between every song’s lyrics and that horrible SOB Tom Drew. When Petty began the seminal classic Refugee and sang “Somewhere, somehow, somebody musta kicked you round some”, I yelled to the horror of everyone in my row “Hell yeah! But no more Petty! I’ll kick his ass now!” When Petty sang I Won’t Back Down and Billy The Kid, I zoned out of the concert for those ten minutes as I vividly imagined me shooting Tom Drew down in a duel of pistols at thirty paces at high noon on the streets of a ghost town with no name. Eat lead, Drew! Songs like American Girl fell flat because even I couldn’t misconstrue their lyrics into my revenge-filled vengeance-soaked violent fantasy.
Walking out of the theater, I thought I saw a familiar face in the crowd shuffling out. I pushed my way past some giddy middle-aged blondes and spun around this lanky brunette dude. I was sort of disappointed that it wasn’t Tom Drew. I wanted my revenge gift-wrapped with a big bow on it. To be thorough, I planted myself outside the theater and scanned every face of the three thousand in the audience as they exited. When the security guards eventually locked the doors, I had to accept the fact that my revenge would have to be a metaphorical one versus a physical and vocal assault on an unsuspecting prey.
In the end, I was delighted by the show. Music has healing powers and with each bass line, piano fill, drum roll, the load on my heroic shoulders was lessened as I slowly convinced myself that living well is the best revenge.
Still, I did come home and do a search for “Tom Drew” on Facebook just so I could send him a triumphantly nasty message or perhaps even a photo of me under the marquee. Sadly, it is such a common name, that I gave up after the first two dozen.