When I was younger, it was very rare that I went to live music events. My parents never saw a huge value in paying to attend live music events if you could get the same music on the radio for free. As a result I have only flashes of any live music before I was in High School. The earliest memory of a live performance was a band performing Cliff Roberts’ song The Horse at a party for kids whose fathers were in Viet Nam (saw Bozo the Clown doing magic tricks during that party too).
High School changed the concept of live music as every dance I went to from 9th grade on had a live band. DJs were unheard of and a few of the bands were good enough that they are still around. Slap Water was the band that performed at my prom and then later at one of the reunions of the class three decades later. Having experienced parties at friend’s houses where a record player was the source of music; I knew the difference live music could have. Slow dancing especially was always so much better when the band was live.
The first big name, sit down and listen type concert I went to was when I took my Dad to see Johnny Cash. Even if you did not like his music, he was known to put on a terrific live show that also featured wife June Carter Cash along with the Carter Family and his brother Tommy. But this was the 70s and there were dozens of bands on tour -- the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Segar, Elvis, and so many more. This was before MTV and music videos, so the stage show made each concert an amazing experience. Alice Cooper toured with a guillotine on stage, ZZ Top had live long horn cattle and no KISS was complete without explosions and Gene Simmons spitting blood. Unfortunately, I went to none of those concerts.
In the past couple of years I have been able to see the Eagles, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and ZZ Top live, but the march of time has not been kind to my favorite bands as death seems to be catching up with them. Flash forward to 2016...because of prior concert attendance I started to get notices for upcoming concerts featuring my favorite bands in March. The first was Journey & the Doobie Brothers, but Ticketmaster’s app kept screwing up and, because they have no humans you can call anymore, by the time I got it resolved the only seats left were undesirable (who the hell pays $100 to sit behind a pillar on the far left of the audience?) or ridiculously expensive. But then more concert notices started to arrive in my mailbox – and these included advance purchase codes and the like; so I was able to get good seats at prices I considered worthwhile. Based on kismet and a reminder of the mortality of humans from Glenn Frey’s passing, I have declared this my Summer of Live Rock & Roll and started to pick up tickets as the shows were announced. So far, I have seats to attend four great concerts with nine stellar acts:
The Rock Hall Three for All featuring Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Cheap Trick. This was the second notice that came and I jumped on it and managed to score great seats. I had lobbied for both Heart and Joan Jett to get into the R&RHoF, glad they both finally did. Cheap Trick was just icing on the cake; Cheap Trick’s Live at the Budokan album is still one of my favorite live albums.
Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton. Not the first time I had tickets to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, the last time was 1977 but a few weeks prior to the concert date, fate intervened when Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with backup singer Cassie Gaines and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick were killed in an airplane crash and the concert was cancelled. (Details). Frampton Comes Alive! rocked my 1976 as we all took guesses at what the mouth guitar lyrics actually were – our interpretations were no doubt dirtier than his.
ZZ Top and Gregg Allman. The last time I saw ZZ Top I was in the upper bleachers of a State Fairground venue with two friends. Too far away to see the show well and big screens had not become standard yet. Los Lobos was the opening act and they were great. Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers were ahead of my time, but I got turned on to them after the band had been through various breakups and reformations. My love of guitar driven Dixie Rock led me to their music and they ended up with 3 songs on my 50 Best Bike Riding Tunes list, more than any other artist.
Steve Miller Band. Last ticket bought, first show I get to go to. This to me was a Holy Grail. I have loved Steve Miller’s music for a long time and to finally get to see him in person is even better. I really wish they had offered a VIP or Meet & Greet option for the tickets, but alas nothing was out there. Scalpers have some better seats but not sure about the cost versus value.
NOTE: Just found out later that the concert included special guest Peter Wolf & The Midnight Travelers. I had never heard of them. So I looked them up and discovered that Peter was the former lead singer of the J. Geils Band and his standard concert playlist contained most of the J. Geils’ hits.
Now begins the count down for each concert date, but even before that will be the receipt of actual physical tickets in the mail. E-tickets for a flight -- great idea; vapor tickets for a live rock & roll experience – totally unacceptable. Getting and holding that ticket is the second step on your way to what you hope will be a one of a kind musical experience, and it is also the only real physical reminder you will have decades later – once you have worn out the tour T-Shirt and the ZZ key chain has been lost. You will come across the ticket in that place where you stuck it for safekeeping or some forgotten drawer -- then holding it again in your hands and closing your eyes you will remember not only with your mind but with your soul.
Even on its best day, radio will never come close.