They'll rock Hammerjacks in name of friendship

December 11, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

If you spend a lot of time listening to hard rock, either on the radio or in the concert hall, odds are that you think of Skid Row primarily as a party band. Sure, the band had some success with slow songs like "18 and Life" or "I Remember You," but as anyone who has ever caught their stage show knows, mostly what they do is make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun -- pretty much what you'd expect from a band specializing in songs like "Monkey Business."

So if you heard that Skid Row was in town to play a benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, you might think the story was somebody's idea of a joke.

But then, maybe that's because you don't know these guys the way Mike Naprstek did.

Naprstek was a Skid Row fan from the first -- the very first, in fact. "Back in '88, we played at Hammerjacks," recalls Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach, over the phone from his New Jersey home. "It was one of our first gigs ever, opening for Kix, and we met this guy named Mike, who, I guess, was maybe 15 at the time.

"He loved us from day one and we loved him. Every show since then that we've played in the Largo or Baltimore area, he'd be there. We even played Salem [N.C.] one time, and he came there. He followed us to every single show, and we would always get him backstage. We seemed to hit it off really good."

Then, a few months ago, tragedy struck. "He was just horsing around out in a sand dune someplace with his Jeep, just like any normal early 20-year-old kind of guy," says Bach. "And he rolled his Jeep, and he died."

Bach says the news came as a shock to the band. "It just slaps you in the face when you get something taken away that means something to you, like a close friend," he says. "It kind of wakes you up to the fact that you never know what you got till it's gone."

Rather than just sit and mourn, though, Bach and the band decided to do something. "Being that it's Christmastime, and that we hadn't played Baltimore this year, we decided to give him a tribute in his hometown," says Bach. "And the only way that we know how to do it is to play a gig." So Skid Row decided to go back to where this friendship began -- Hammerjacks -- and do a show to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Washington, a charity suggested by Naprstek's family.

Setting up the show wasn't easy, Bach adds. "Actually, it kind of turned into a logistics nightmare in one sense," he says. "We're going on tour in Australia with Guns 'N Roses in January, so they had to yank all our equipment off the boat.

"But that shouldn't stop a band from doing a show. It'll cost a little extra to fly the stuff over to Australia, but who really cares? It's just the spirit of this guy. He was the type of guy that would always be hanging out by the buses, waiting for you to show up. It'd be like, 'Hi, Mike.' "

In many ways, what Skid Row's commitment comes down to is having a sense of community -- something people outside the heavy metal scene often miss about the music. "I think rock and roll is all about just good people getting together, and basically saying, Hey, we all like the same thing. We like it fast, we like it loud, we like it heavy.

"But we also have to relate and get some sort of meaning out of the lyrics, or it would just be all ear candy," Bach adds. "Like the song '18 and Life.' That was one of Michael's favorite songs -- it touched a lot of kids. When they don't have the outlet of being able to relate to a teacher or a parent or an authority figure, they can put on a record and feel like that's their special place."

That's why Bach and his bandmates didn't think twice about paying back some of their fan's devotion.

"One thing about heavy metal rock and roll is, we always take care of our own," he says. "The feeling I always got out of the music was like, you'd go into a concert and the people around you, you felt like you belonged with them.

"Mike was one of us, so we're going to pay him back the only way we know how. Somewhere he's probably looking down, with his two fingers raised in a salute for us."

Skid Row When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Hammerjacks.

Tickets: $15.

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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