Rob Hammersmith, Scotti Hill, Christi Screws, Johnny Solinger, Connie Hall Scott, Rachel Bolan, David Sabo, 2012
It’s hard to conceptualize Northwest’s approaching 25-year reunion. Have I really been out of high school for a quarter of a century? It seems like– maybe not yesterday, but definitely last week – I was zipping into the NHS parking lot in my beloved red Fiero stuffed too-full with Shelly Majors, John Shoemaker, and Lynn Anderson. Chances are we were running late. The radio would have been playing a little too loud as we sang along with Guns ‘n Roses, Def Leppard, or maybe Skid Row.
Sadly, I’m not going to make it to the reunion because of a work commitment but fellow alumni Christi Michael-Screws and I will be paying homage to that totally awesome time in our lives on Saturday, September 27, at Wild Bill’s in Atlanta, with none other than the boys of Skid Row.
While the other sophomores and I were no doubt studying hard in the foothills of northwest Georgia back in 1986, a group of New Jersey kids with a punk-metal attitude were joining forces to conquer the world. The battlefield was the stage, their songs the arsenal, in a rock ‘n roll coup d’etat that gifted us with hits like “I Remember You,” “18 and Life,” and “Monkey Business.” Skid Row produced Top Ten singles, owned the Billboard album chart, and reached multi-platinum status before in-fighting resulted in disbandment in 1996.
But the core camaraderie never died. In 2000 Skid Row returned to the stage, opening for Kiss, with new lead singer Johnny Solinger out front. They played 100 shows with Kiss. Now days the band plays 100-plus shows a year all around the globe. Annually performing in Georgia, though, is personal to them as two members – Bassist Rachel Bolan and drummer Rob Hammersmith – call Atlanta home.
“Skid Row has always been about the live performance,” Johnny recently told me in a phone interview. “It’s just about going out there and playing, and with new material. We still have something left to say. We’re not just going to rest on ‘Youth Gone Wild’ and ‘I Remember You’ – which we’ll play every night – but there’s new music that we’re making and we want to get that across.”
In August Skid Row released a seven-song EP through Megaforce Records titled “Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two.”
“It’s based on Rachel and Snake’s writing,” Johnny shared. “It’s more old school rock ‘n roll but hardcore and fresh.” Snake is Skid Row’s guitarist, David Sabo. Scotti Hill is also on guitar.
“The message in these songs was delivered on-target by each of us,” Johnny said. “I approached it with every ounce of emotion I could conjure up, and I cannot wait to unleash it live on stage in Atlanta.”
They grew older, but the members of Skid Row will be the first to tell you they never grew up. Their latest release is still the youth gone wild, their musical spark still burning gasoline.
“I will always be that 16-year-old kid in front of the mirror, pretending to be Ace Frehley or Michael Schenker,” Snake admitted. “It’s still about writing a great song with your friend, praying it connects with someone.”
Though I did grow up, and now have three gorgeous teenagers of my own at Northwest, I like to remember yesterday sometimes. And just like yesterday, my best comrade Christi can more often than not still be found in the rock ‘n roll trenches with me on those dalliances. Excellent music is always best when shared with good friends, whether you’re creating it or connecting with it.
Wild Bill’s is located at 2075 Market Street in Duluth. For more information call 678-473-1000 or log onto www.wildbillsatlanta.com. Tickets for Skid Row’s September 27 show are priced from $20 to $55. Doors open at 7:30.
For more information on the class of 1989 NHS reunion, set to occur on October 18, contact Kim Westfall-Kiker at 770-324-4998.