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In One Ear: Notes From the Local Music Scene

Matthew Gromala, Columnist

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Just as I noted an anniversary last edition, I’d like to do the same this time. The only difference is that this is a much more personal anniversary and memory.

Bear with me and enjoy Story Time with Uncle Matt.

As I wrote this column, Facebook reminded me that a year ago I was in New York City with two of my best friends, Dayton Russin and Dave “Squid” Stevens (he got that nickname from his obsession with the Nickelodeon show Rocket Power growing up). We went to the city for the Madison Square Garden date for Black Sabbath’s “The End” tour. We all loved Sabbath and knew we had to take this last shot to see them, especially in one of the most storied venues in the world.

We planned  a whole day in the City, and even though I didn’t get to do the one thing I wanted to do, which was go to Coney Island for a bit, it still was a great time wandering Manhattan.

We ended up going a bit pricey for lunch, by hitting up the Hard Rock Café. The reason for that was Squid’s insistence that, “You never know, Ozzy might want to eat there before the show!” Obviously, he didn’t make an appearance, but it was still a good meal.

I also broke my rule that I generally do not buy tour shirts because the mark up is so high. But it’s okay because it was a knock-off some dude was selling outside the venue, and I haggled him down from $20 to $10.

The show was amazing. I really didn’t expect so much from Ozzy and Tony Iommi (especially given that Iommi was fighting terminal cancer!). Ozzy was moving around like he was a man in his twenties, much like Neil Young at Outlaw Fest last autumn.

One thing I was a little bit disappointed about was that Sabbath only played Ozzy-era songs, and though I understood the decision and expected it, it was a shame that Ozzy doesn’t think that there are any Ronnie James Dio-era songs worth playing. Both eras of the band were solid and put out quality work.

Dio often played Ozzie material during his tenure, and I just thought that it would have been a nice touch during the band’s final tour to play some songs by a great man and musician that sadly is no longer with us.

The single greatest moment of the show, at least for me, was hearing Black Freaking Sabbath start up the opening to ‘War Pigs’, easily my favorite Sabbath song. It’s one thing to grow up listening to that song on a beat-up cassette tape in my brother’s Firebird; it’s another to see it performed live in Madison Square Garden.

I’d often heard that the Garden doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, and I’d long been skeptical. So when we ended up with what seemed like real nosebleed seats, I was a bit worried about my concert-going experience.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. We had a great view of the stage and a giant screen near us, too. I would definitely recommend the Garden for anyone looking for a great concert venue. I’m actually planning to go back to see Billy Joel if I can swing it financially.

Speaking of finances, I almost never even made it to this concert. Tickets were $175 to $200, and that was just for the ‘nosebleed’ seats. We had been talking about this concert for a while, hemming and hawing about whether we’d go. Our main point was how would we find each other afterwards if we sat separately or how would we  miraculously buy tickets for seats near each other.

This got pretty ridiculous after a while, and once I got my tax refund I made an executive decision. I woke up early one morning, hopped online, and ordered three seats next to each other. All on my debit card. It was about a $500 charge. I messaged  my friends on Facebook, “We’re going to Sabbath @ the Garden. I bought the tickets this morning.”

I knew it’d take a while to see the money, but I didn’t really care all that much. I wanted to see Sabbath and have my friends there. Dayton ended up getting me the meet & greet for Weezer at Fuzz Fest, and that became an ordeal of its own. That’s a story for another time, unfortunately. I can’t give away all of my good concert stories in one edition.

Next time I’ll cover a local radio station’s recent changes, a new release by local band Eye on Attraction that’s long overdue,  the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert that I’ll be attending in Portland in a few weeks, and whatever else I find interesting between now and then.

Since Parade Day in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Pittston all happen before my next column comes out, I’d also just like to say have a great time everyone, but remember to stay safe. There’s a fine line between fun and danger, and Lord knows I’ve walked that line enough to know.

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In One Ear: Notes From the Local Music Scene