Rock of (Bygone) Ages: The Spice Girls ’98

Well, for the second of my “Rock of (Bygone) Ages” posts, I decided to switch gears as much as possible–so, here goes: The Spice Girls at Blockbuster Pavilion ’98.


I don’t know that I really liked The Spice Girls; I think I was, though, fascinated by The Spice Girls.  For one thing, they were in some ways a breath of fresh air.  By 1996, when The Spice Girls fist hit the scene with the annoyingly catchy single “Wannabe,” we were a good five years deep into the post-Nirvana era of  “modern rock” on the airwaves.  Where previously the musical mopings of the myriad Gloomy Gusses of alternative rock were confined to the CD shelves of college students  (like me, for example) and MTV’s 120 Minutes,  now the airwaves of even top 40 stations were saturated with angst and ennui.  When a band (Creed, maybe?) can score a hit that features the totally serious and non-ironic lyrics, “I feel hurt!  I feel angry!” you know something’s really, really wrong.  Tell it to your therapist, dude–I don’t fucking care. As Jonathan Richman once remarked, “Rock and roll isn’t about ennui and philosophy; it’s about cars… and beer… and girls.”

And so, like an Archies 45 played at the intermission of a Wagner opera, into the midst of a musical environment saturated with The Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, etc., came “Watcha watcha want?  Wathca really, really want?”  The Spice Girls didn’t have the afore-mentioned cars or beer–but they sure had the girls part.  Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “but, hey, there was tons of other lightweight pop going on in the 90s, not just the Spice Girls, right?”  Yeah, sure… but none of that generated the sheer mania of the Spice Girls–the “Spice-Mania,” if you will…

That said, though, my fascination with the band didn’t really extend much beyond picking up a copy of their first record for $4.00 at the used record store I worked at, and lecherously ogling them when their videos came on.  Then, though, the Spice Girls came to town.

As mentioned, I was working at a record store at the time, and that record store was a Ticketmaster outlet, which meant we were selling a lot of Spice Girls tickets to parents so their kids could go to the show.  The venue at which they were playing was what’s known as a “shed”: it has a couple of sections of covered, reserve seating areas up front, but also a huge uncovered grass field behind that–the “lawn seats,” as they were called.  The way things usually worked was that when someone wanted seats, you’d hit “best available” on the ticket machine and it’d give you the best seats available, if any, in the reserve section.  Depending on how good those seats were  and how much they wanted to spend, they’d either take those or just opt for the cheaper lawn seats.

A few days before the show, a mom and her little girl came into the store to buy Spice Girls tickets and I began with the “best available” option.   What turned up was a pleasant surprise: two seats, front row center.  (Note the “row 1” on the ticket above.)  This isn’t a totally unheard of occurrence, since often some really good seats for a concert are “held” for radio promotions and give-aways and whatnot, but then re-entered into the system a few days before the show if they’re not used.  Now, of course my first thought was, “Man, this little girl and her friend are going to have the best time ever at this show!  Awesome!”  My second surprise came, though, when this cheap-ass broad asked what the tickets cost, and then opted instead for lawn seats that were maybe ten dollars cheaper, if that.  That’s right: to save maybe $20, this graduate of the Joan Crawford School of Parenting decided she’d turn down front row seats for her daughter, and instead leave her and her friend out on the lawn–potentially listening to their favorite band in garbage bags with holes cut out for their tiny, adorable heads in the pouring, pouring rain.

But, hey, carpe diem, right?  Once they’d left, I bought the pair of tickets for myself and phoned up the only person I knew who I could imagine being even vaguely interested in going to a Spice Girls concert, my friend Cheryl.  Cheryl accepted and apparently mentioned the impending show to a client of hers at the salon she worked at in Charlotte.  The client, as it turns out, ran a limo service and offered us a free stretch limo for the evening.  And so it was that a few days later we were lounging comfortably in the back of a stretch limo, knocking back tumblers of Glenfiddich en route to see The Spice Girls perform.

So, how was the show?  I honestly can’t remember that much about it.  It was post-Ginger, which of course left a hole in the hearts of all of the Girls’ fans (including me, nach)–but at least they projected a head shot of her on the gigantic “jumbotron” screen above the stage much to the cheers and delight of the audience.  I remember feeling really guilty for being a guy over six feet tall in the front row of a concert full of kids–effectively blocking pretty much everyone’s view.   At one point they invited some random boy from the audience onstage and sang to him personally.  He looked a lot like “Jimmy Jam” from the old “Dance Party U.S.A.” show.  I was hoping they’d invite me on stage instead, but alas, it was not to be.  I would have totally tried to engage them in some dirty dancing–not like the kid they selected, who just stood there like a calf at a new gate.

My favorite memory of the evening actually occurred after the show was done.  Cheryl and I were leaving in our limo and, of course like everyone else, were stuck in the post-concert traffic trying to exit.  All the kids on foot, heading back to the Family Truckster, though, saw a limo leaving the concert and assumed it was carrying the Spice Girls themselves, and so they begin to pile onto the outside of the vehicle like the proverbial flies on a rib roast.  While this in no way satisfies my long-standing desire to be piled on by a throng of teen-aged girls, it was hilarious nonetheless.

Some people reminisce about particular concerts, saying this concert or that concert “changed their lives,” and in this case I think the Spice Girls show did change me: before seeing them in person, I thought Posh Spice was the hottest Spice Girl, but afterwords I knew for sure it was Baby Spice.


  1. Isaac says:

    That is a fucking hilarious story.

    You have to make this into a comic, Ben. Seriously.


  2. Ben says:

    Oh, if only Peter Bagge would do another issue of his “Spice Capades” anthology of Spice Girls-related comics!

  3. Mike says:

    As a comic, this story would stand alongside Cathy Leamy’s delightful minicomic of her attendance at a GWAR concert, only with fewer decapitations and a happier ending!

    I never owned a Spice Girls album or attended any of their concerts, but I did enjoy the Spice World movie…

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