Guns N’ Roses’ Indiana History

The original members of Guns N’ Roses come home this month for the first time since the summer of 1992. Here, an abridged history of Guns and Indiana.

1962: GNR founding members Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin are born in Lafayette as the much less rock-star-sounding William Bruce Rose and Jeffrey Dean Isbell.

September 1987: The “Welcome to the Jungle” video opens with a clean metaphorical break: Clad in a trucker hat and chewing on a literal stalk of wheat (come on, man), Rose steps off a bus into the neon fever dream of Sunset Strip L.A., where he promptly transforms into the mercurial frontman for the biggest band in the world.

August 1988: Already huge, GNR opens for Aerosmith at Market Square Arena.

October 1989: GNR serves as the opening act on the Rolling Stones’s Steel Wheels tour, which includes a stop at the Hoosier Dome. Axl and Izzy are invited to perform with the Stones in Atlantic City. Glenn Gass—the recently retired professor of rock history at IU—saw that concert and spent an hour at an afterparty with Axl, where, Gass says, the frontman lamented not being more known for his roots: “He went into this thing about Mellencamp—who he didn’t hate—but he kept saying, ‘Every time I see Mellencamp’s name, it’s ‘Hoosier rocker.’ No one ever calls me ‘Axl Rose, Hoosier rocker!’ It brought him down to a human level.”

April 1990: GNR joins Hoosier rocker Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson for Farm Aid IV at the Hoosier Dome.

May 1991: The band performs a now-legendary homestand at Deer Creek on the Use Your Illusion tour. The second night is believed to include the live debut of “November Rain.” Marc Allan, reviewing “the best band in rock” in The Indianapolis Star, says Rose is “magnificent.” But getting there requires patience: Guns goes on nearly 90 minutes late, prompting chants of “Bullshit!” from the crowd. Rose calmly defuses the situation by unleashing a five-minute rant about the “(bad-wording) scared old people in this (equally bad-wording) state.” Guns plays 55 minutes past Deer Creek’s 11 p.m. curfew on the first night and goes on to blow the curfew by 25 minutes on the second, causing Hamilton County authorities to fine the band a cute $5,000.

July 1992: GNR and Metallica’s coheadlining tour roars into the Hoosier Dome, but Guns waits two hours after Metallica’s set to take the stage. Writing in the Star, Allan says, “When Guns N’ Roses decided to shut up and play, it successfully defended its standing in the hard-rock pantheon.” But he is less enthusiastic about Rose’s “spoken tirades about Indi-(bleeping)-ana.” Antagonized, Axl faxes Allan a nasty response to what he calls a “basic Indiana attempt at journalism,” writing, “You’re just gonna sit on your wanna-be ass and watch me, born a Hoosier, grow larger than you could ever imagine.”

1996: GNR implodes in one of rock music’s most acrimonious breakups. Rose gets in sporadic scuffles with the law but largely falls off the grid.

2002: With Rose as the lone remaining original member, a new GNR embarks on a tour that’s scuttled halfway through its U.S. leg.

December 2011: In what’s still his last Indiana performance, Rose brings the replacement band to Conseco Fieldhouse.

April 2016: The (mostly) original band’s comeback begins with an April Fool’s Day show at the Troubadour in L.A.

2016–present: The original-member tour gains momentum—and finally comes to Lucas Oil Stadium this month (September 8). It’s a massive razor-guitars-and-fireworks show that has endured for an improbable five years. Welcome home, guys. Just keep an eye on the clock.