That’s the sound of my head exploding and spraying thick goblets of cadmium deep red awesomeness all over the room. Ponder this: It’s 2K9 and MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice just played a concert in Orem, Utah and there wasn’t a ticket to be had. Not a single one. My vocal chords vibrate but there is only stunned silence. I wear a mask of bewilderment to hide the deep feeling of jealousy.
The idea of an MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice concert in Utah raises a lot of questions. On second thought, it’s just one question—why?—but it comes in two varieties. There are the nuts-and-bolts whys, which we can tick off now. Why would either Hammer or Ice do a concert to begin with? Because they have families and mortgages and the Iceman has the tattoo bug. Why together? I thought they hated each other. There was mild drama when they toured together in the ’90s, after Ice reportedly said the crowds were more impressed with his skills than Hammer’s. Water under the bridge. Why is it in Utah? Because a local promoter invited them to perform there, and Utahns love to party. Why would anyone pay forty bucks to see this concert? If you’ve read up to this point, let’s face it, with the right social lubricant you’re there with bells on. But there are more complex, philosophical whys. Why do MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice still exist? Having provided the soundtrack for my bat mitzvah and the basis for ironic Halloween costumes, has not their purpose been served? Why, after all these years, have the winds and rains not eroded them away?
Equal parts nostalgia, brilliance and cultural curiosity. They exist, as a branded entity, because the people in Utah will come out to see them. This concert was the first time Ice and Hammer have seen each other since they were hanging out at Michael Jackson’s house four years ago. Is your head still intact?
But there’s a difference between accepting their right to exist and coming out in droves to celebrate them, as the good people of Utah do. They come costumed: neon colors, translucent fabrics and acid-wash denim, with teased hair and single earrings. Many of them wear the pants that became Hammer’s sartorial trademark. One woman wears no pants at all, the better to read the words stitched on the rear of her red panties: “Ice Baby.” Most of these folks were just born the last time Hammer and Ice performed together 18 years ago, if they were born at all. Somehow, they still sound nostalgic. “I hope he does his old stuff,” says Reagan Nickel, 21, who trekked an hour and a half from Bountiful, Utah, to see Ice. “I saw him on TV a while ago bashing his old stuff. He shouldn’t bash it, he should be proud of it. We are. Aren’t we proud of it?” “Yeah!” shouts a sextet of nearby girls, in unison, every last one of them 14 years old. The majority of the crowd falls into the late-teen, early 20s range. They aren’t the ones who bought Hammer’s and Ice’s records the first time around. They got their nostalgia secondhand, from VH1’s ceaseless “I Love the ’80s” and “Awesomely Bad” specials, from iTunes recommendations, from “Family Guy,” which derives a solid half of its humor from arcane pop-culture references. To these kids, the Hammer era is fun and frivolous, something to celebrate, not to deride. It’s not the lame music their parents conceived them to. It’s the music that blared from their older siblings’ rooms.
I could make fun, but the truth is, and I’m willing to admit this, that I would pay more than $40 to see these two in concert. Right now. I don’t know how much money I wouldn’t be willing to pay, but my guess is somewhere in the $60 range.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than that strange feeling of the internet and society collapsing in on itself. MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice played a concert together in a tiny town 40-miles south of Salt Lake City. People drove from all over and dropped $40 to see them perform. There was not a single empty seat for the concert.
The world did not end. It kept spinning on its axis oblivious to the sound of a person’s head exploding in Portland, Ore.