Friday, March 03, 2006

In Concert

Today - I just feel like writing down some things I remember that I'll never forget. But since I haven't told these stories in a long time... you may have forgotten them... smile.

In the car club forum I'm in, we were talking about first albums and first concerts and it got me to thinking about all the different shows I've seen. I've thrown a lot of money away going to concerts to have only a handful of them I remember. You know what they say - if you remember the 60s... you weren't "there".

My first concert was in Wichita at WSU. I was about 15 I think. The sights of all those hippies on the floor, throwing Frisbees around the room, bouncing beach balls and the smell of some strange smelling incense wafting through the air. Jimmy Spheras was first to go on and the crowd summarily booed off the stage without letting him get through a single song. That opened the door for Canned Heat - the blues band that I had really liked for about a year or so. Followed by the James Gang. Unfortunately, Joe Walsh had just quit the band and the guy they got to play the songs just didn't cut it. We thought he was awful and we left pretty disappointed.
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Out of a long list between 1970 and 1978, I remember maybe three or four... Alice Cooper - Killer, Uriah Heep - Demons and Wizards, Joe Walsh - Leon Russell - and Reo Speedwagen all together for a 6 hour concert.
The Killer concert was the first and last Cooper concert I went to and the one where they hung him onstage to the modified tunes from West Side Story - bizarre to say the least. Uriah Heep was so loud I literally couldn't hear for a week. The drive home was a series of thumps and bumps that I could feel but not hear.
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About 1975 or so, while I was playing in the band Aslan, we had an outdoor concert in the spring in a small town in western Kansas at a college. It was a warm, beautiful day as we drove out and while setting up the equipment. The concert plan was disorganized at best and the people who invited us had another band there to warm up for us. The sun was shining and it was warm and a crowd had formed on the lawn in front of the stage while the other band did their thing. Then as we were tearing down their stuff and setting up for ours... we noticed the Kansas wind had brought in a few clouds. By the start of the first song the temperature had gone from high 60s down to mid 50s and it just kept getting worse. By the time we finished our set, it couldn't have been much above 45 degrees and the "crowd" had dwindled to the people we brought with us. We should have opened for the other group that day!
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One summer - I think about 1976 or so - my wife and I decided we wanted to see a Willie Nelson 4th of July picnic concert. That year he was throwing it at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. There were something like 80,000 people filling the fairgrounds - so you can imagine it was crowded. We usually always worked our way to the center front area of the lawn but the closest we could get that day was still about 50 yards from the stage. We were told that to get any closer we would be walking through the most dangerous biker club in the midwest and we would be taking our lives into real danger. So ... we found a nice spot some ten yards behind them and planted.
First thing we noticed was the total lack of any shade. It was about 105 degrees out there in the Oklahoma summer sun and nothing but sweaty people all around. Sometimes someone would take a shirt off and dip it into a cooler and then swirl it around spraying everyone with cold water. At first it was gross to think about - but an hour in the sun - and you change your mind.
About that time some nutcase decides he wants to hang a Texas flag from one of the light poles... only problem was, he wasn't wearing anything but the flag on the way up the pole. So sliding down the pole buck naked had to have hurt much worse than the beating he got from the cops who were there to greet him when he got down.

Jerry Jeff Walker opened the show - half drunk as usual at about noon. Yeah that's right 105 degrees at noon and the concert is just starting.

Following Jerry Jeff was a southern boogie band we didn't much care for - Lynard Skynard. As it turned out it was one of the last times they would play Freebird before the plane crash that killed some of them. They did do some outrageous jamming though. During their set, Debbie noticed a couple just behind us had taken off all their clothes and they were dancing right there in front of everybody. I guess it was one way to be cool... though i bet they regretted the sunburn.

When Asleep At The Wheel started their show we knew we were in for a treat. The summer sun seemed to melt away as we forgot about the heat and enjoyed their humorous stage presence. They were really a funny and fun band to watch. In those days they had all of their original members - including a guy named Lucky Oceans on pedal steel guitar. AATW was a big band type of music style - western swing - and they had about 12 or 15 players on stage at a time. They would play mock baseball during a song and run the bases and just cut up all over the place. Lucky decided to climb the light stanchions on the right hand side of the stage and "dance" his way all the way up. Then dance his way back down. The Oklahoma Sheriffs at the concert though he was just a fan so they were going to do to him what they did to the naked pole climber when he came down. Funny thing was just about the time they were about to grab his foot and drag him from the scaffold, the roadies grabbed the cops and pushed them off the stage. The crowd - now very drunk and very well baked loved it.

Jessie Coulter came out and sang about three songs and then her husband Waylon Jennings finished their set with another 45 minutes of his hits. Then Willie came out and they did all their hits and most of his.

By the time the concert was over, we were standing literally knee deep in beer cans for as far as you could see. The air reeked of beer, the flies had found the fairgrounds full of targets and the heat had somehow approached 110 - with no shade in sight.

We were so exhausted, we spent the night in a hotel in Tulsa and watched the events all over again on the news - it was funny to watch the roadies do their thing all over again.

On the drive home in our 68 VW bus, the wind was blowing us all over the road when a highway patrol car pulled us over for weaving... he thought we were hippies or something. I just explained about how the wind could make you change lanes with a single gust and he let us go.

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About a year later, again my old band Aslan was playing another outdoor concert in a small town - this time in the summer! - and since I hauled some of the equipment in my dad's pickup, Deb and I decided to take our Irish Setter Willie to the concert with us. Knowing I wouldn't have any time to change once there, i wore what i was going to wear on stage. I guess Willie had a little too much to eat that morning and he got car sick just as we were pulling into the park. He decided my clothes looked like a better target than Debbie’s, so he threw up all over me.
Not having a change of clothes - the official band decision was to hose me off back behind the stage and let me play the concert dripping wet. I'll never forget it.
Some time after that - the band broke up...

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I went to a lot of concerts over the years and The Eagles Hotel California tour ranks at the top. We had seen them in Wichita - Joe Walsh's home town - in the late fall of 1977 and they did some cuts from their new - as of yet unreleased album - to a sold out arena. They were... good... at best and while Joe got to do a little of his old James Gang stuff - it was pretty uninspiring.

So like dummies we drove up to Kansas City and bought tickets to the outdoor Arrowhead Stadium concert in June of 78. 70,000+ inside and we were about 20 feet from the center front on the lawn. Dan Fogelburg opened for an hour - then Linda Ronstadt for about an hour and a half with her crack session band (Leland Sklar, Kenny Edwards, Waddy Wachtel and Russ Kunkle) - then the stage was reset in the grand Hotel California motif. The Eagles came out and played almost an hour - then since so many of Joe's family was there, they let him have about 45 minutes where he just tore it up with James Gang and solo material. Then it was back to another hour and a half of Eagles hits. Then they started the encores... 6 of them.

The first two encores, it was just them -
then they brought out Fogleburg to help sing a song -
then they brought out Ronstadt and her band to jam on a couple more -
then they brought out John David Souther for a rendition of Seven Bridges Road and another song... the crowd went wild - it sounded like we were going to tear the place down
Then they all came back out - Eagles, Fogelburg, Ronstadt, Souther... and Jackson Brown to do Take It Easy as the drive out. The whole "out to lunch bunch" was there from Colorado.

Capped off the absolute best concert I've ever been a part of!

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Then there was the Paul McCartney concert here in Atlanta, where we got 6 third row seats - sold two of them which paid for the other four and we took our employee Margaret and her husband to see what was left of the Beatles for free. It was a great show - not quite as good as the Eagles - but very very good. Especially the guitar jam war they did on "The End". Which is a good way to end this months blog... with...

the end...