The Izod Center
Friday, February 5
Better Than: Almost anything else in the state of New Jersey
We all know the drill at a monster-truck rally: It’s like an air show on the ground. We come to these kind of things to see the bravery, the stupidity, the sheer lunacy of people willing to risk life and limb to entertain. It may not be your bag, but once you get into the arena, it’s hard not to get swept up into it. too. The New Jersey Monster Jam has the air of a WWF match for gear-heads, with everyone coming to support their truck. As the lights go down, the announcer calls out their names, boxing-match style. “Easily one of the hottest trucks on the circuit, ladies and gentlemen, its STONNNNNNNE Crusher!!” After much fanfare, five trucks come to rest on each side of the arena, facing each other, ready for battle. It was time for something different, nightlife-wise: Why not a 1,500-horsepower Medieval Times?
There are mounds of junk-heap cars to smash in the middle of the course, and the trucks are called up one at a time to flaunt their own personal brand of destructive showmanship and, of course, their own personalized theme song. There’s Spiderman, who rides out to Aerosmith’s craptastic version of the movie’s theme. Stone Crusher prefers Operator’s “Soul Crusher.”. Krazy Train . . . well, that one’s obvious. And only “Bad to the Bone” is good enough for Grave Digger, the LeBron James of Monster Trucks (in terms of skill and popularity, not recent hatred). The rest of the music is predictable sporting-event fodder; but for every “Eye of the Tiger,” “Rebel Yell,” or “I Gotta Feeling” (no, you can’t get away from it here, either), there are somewhat less tried-and-true tunes from Rage Against the Machine, Mötley Crüe, and ZZ Top.
As for the action itself, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Normal-size cars are crushed by cars with tires twice their size. There is orchestrated destruction. There is much motor revving. There is much carbon monoxide (although levels are apparently carefully monitored). And of course, there is much noise. I have been to many concerts — I saw a reunited My Bloody Valentine in 2008 – and this was by far the most ear damage I have ever endured. Unfortunately, no one was handing out enormous, tire-shaped ear protectors; you have to buy those yourself for $20, provided you haven’t brought your own, as many people do. The flurry of flashbulbs once a vehicle is airborne rivals that of the Vancouver Olympics when a skater is lifted off the ice. The crowd goes nuts when the huge vehicles land on one wheel and teeter on the brink of overturning — they never do, but everyone’s ready nonetheless. Each round produces a winner, who then emerges from his or her truck to accept and sign a plaque. (The pink-themed Heart Breaker is indeed driven by a woman, though her truck overheats in the third round.) The victor then make his/her way into the audience to hand that plaque out to the most crazed child. To these kids, it’s like Hulk Hogan coming out of the ring in 1984 and handing his sweaty headwrap to some little Hulkamaniac. Ramps are then wheeled out, and we get an orgy of X-Games-style BMXers, motocross bikes, large motorcycles, and four-wheel ATVs as intermission.
There is no half-stepping here: You’re either blissfully unaware of the insane spectacle of these events or a massive fan who drives long distances to attend “The Jams,” following different trucks and drivers. Like Beverly from Wharton, NJ, who helps this city kid out by providing vivid color commentary and explanation throughout. “Well, maybe I’ll see ya in Wildwood at “Thunder on the Beach” in September, honey!” Maybe you will!
Critical Bias: One more thing to cross off my bucket list.
Overheard: A security guard at the press table prior to the event: “Village Voice, huh? Why are you here? Sounds like oil and water, if you ask me.” Well spoken, sir.
Random Notebook Dump: The chartered bus from Port Authority has a rowdy “college fraternity ski trip” feel and is overcrowded by at least 15 people, forcing all of us latecomers to stand for the bumpy trip through the Lincoln Tunnel.