Welcome to the Jungle

15 February 2017 Clare Bongiorno

Welcome to the Jungle

Guns N' Roses are back together in Australia once more.

On 1 February 1993, Guns N’ Roses played at Calder Park Raceway – a dusty motor racing circuit one long drive north of Melbourne. It was 42°C, but that didn’t stop 70,000 people from going to the (now infamous) show, including 13-year-old Clare Bongiorno.

My two friends and I had begged our parents to go. We were 13 and 14, read Hot Metal magazine and thought Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach was a babe. 

When we went to see Guns N’ Roses it was like entering the jungle. Calder Park was a dustbowl – hot and dry. Fans sloped up the raceway hills, mostly older blokes in black. It was rough as guts and intimidating. 

We sweltered in our cut-off jeans and tried our best to act tough. During the early acts we managed without much water and with the busted loos. We looked out for each other.

Skid Row was a highlight and Bach had us enthralled. We tried to catch glimpses of his face and could see his long blond hair headbanging as he slipped across the stage.

The conditions were tough and the weather was wild. We had seen bands before but not like this. The wind whipped up into dusty swirls, thunder crackled and it poured with rain. People grew rowdy and restless. There was a shout from the stage: “Hey, you – you in the black T-shirt, stop fighting”, and we erupted in laughter, as one.

Guns N’ Roses finally took the stage when it was dark. The excitement was palpable. The crowd’s energy swelled as the great rock anthems played out into the vastness – ‘Live and Let Die’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, ‘Patience’, ‘November Rain’. People sang along to every song.

The sight of thousands of lighters swaying in the black sky was mesmerising and there was a sense of relief as we saw what we had come to see and the epic day drew to a close. It was surreal. The final chorus of ‘Paradise City’ stayed with me for days. 

But in the end nothing beat the sight of my friend’s mum’s car ready to take us home. We were exhausted. We had been part of something big and we had survived.

» Clare Bongiorno is a Melbourne-based writer, a bookworm and beach lover.

This article first appeared in Ed#530 of The Big Issue. For more content about Guns N' Roses, and their reunion tour around Australia, buy a copy from your vendor today!