Teacher collects memories, memorabilia at concerts

Shannon Koborie, Staff Writer

Teacher Mark Swindell is known for his interest in classic rock, displaying his vast collection of band memorabilia around his classroom. Swindell has attended a number of different concerts over the years, but the one that started it all was Kiss in 1983, his eighth grade year.

“I was too young to just go with my brother so my dad had to go along with us, so he got to see Kiss, too. He was not a big fan at the time,” Swindell said. “It was everything I expected it would be. It was over the top, bombs, fire, explosions. It was awesome.”

Unfortunately, not every concert has been one to look fondly upon. Swindell names singer Meat Loaf as being an artist he would never want to see again live, stating that the show was “unlistenable awful”.

“It was by far the worst concert I have ever seen. He sounded so bad that I legit thought we were being punked,” Swindell said. “That one I actually considered walking out early.”

Concerts are a place for people to let loose and just have a good time, so naturally some outrageous events are bound to happen. Swindell’s craziest concert experience was seeing a mosh pit for the first time when metal band Pantera opened for Skid Row on their Slave to the Grind Tour in 1992. Moshing, also referred to as “slam-dancing”, involves people deliberately colliding with one another in a large group at metal and punk shows, often resulting in a wide range of injuries depending on how close a person is to the middle of the pit.

“When [Pantera] came on stage, that place went crazy,” Swindell said. “It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. It was pure chaos on that floor”.

Due to COVID-19, concerts have been on hold since last March, leaving bands ready to get back on stage and concert-goers eager to get back to the live shows they love. Swindell describes the collective experience as being what he looks forward to most when concerts are permitted to resume again.

“There’s nothing quite like that moment when the lights shut off. Even with as many concerts as I’ve gone to, when those lights go off, man, that’s the best feeling in the world,” Swindell said.

Music is so diverse, and as a result there will always be artists with a large outspoken following and a few people who simply cannot understand the hype. For Swindell, the band that fits this description is U2.

“I don’t know what it is. I can’t listen to their music, and I don’t know if it’s a Bono thing, like I just don’t like Bono, but I have never been able to get into their music,” Swindell said.

Growing up in the 1980s, Swindell saw the rise of the PMRC, a parent group hell-bent on censoring the music and image of major rock bands on the basis that it was corrupting the young, impressionable youth. Luckily, this hysteria did not affect Swindell personally, as his parents did not keep him from the music he loves, even if they may not have been thrilled about it themselves.

“It never really bothered me much. I just thought it was kinda funny that people were inventing all this stuff like playing records backwards and they’d be like ‘There did you hear that it said sacrifice your child to the devil’ or something. It’s like no, I did not hear that at all,” Swindell said. “And all it did was when kids would hear something like that it’s like ‘oh I need to go buy that album’. It just sold more records, so it completely did the opposite of what they were wanting to do.”

Despite the hedonism of rock stars being considered controversial when they first came out in the ‘70s and ‘80s, such as Kiss’s Gene Simmons spitting fake blood on stage or Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil and Tommy Lee setting their hotel room on fire, Swindell does not think that these acts would be very shocking if they came out today.

“Nothing is shocking anymore with the internet and all these videos. Nothing shocks anybody. So, you look at what was shocking in the ‘70s, today that’s nothing. You look at what Kiss was doing and parents were losing their minds and now it’s like, it’s a cartoon,” Swindell said.

Swindell has even met a few rock artists, including Poison’s Bret Michaels and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, but someone Swindell has met that he would like to actually get to know is shock rock icon Alice Cooper. 

Swindell said, “He [Alice Cooper] is the one guy that I would love to sit down and have a conversation with. He’s a very smart guy. He’s actually incredibly religious. I would really like to sit down and have a talk with him. He’s the one guy I would truly like to meet.”