November 19, 2015

FTV: Rats, I missed it!

There was a twenty year window that opened around 1965 when a lot of great,  nationally known bands made their way to Marquette.  Living as I did across the street from the Northern Michigan University campus and within sight of Hedgecock Fieldhouse (where most concerts were held before Lakeview Arena was built), all I had to do was secure a ticket and trot 500 yards to see many of them.  I have previously discussed some of these shows in past FTVs.  Not too long ago, Tony Vezzetti and I had a, “oh, were you at that show, too?” conversation and it reminded me that there were more than a few that I also missed.   I could not attend some because I was playing my own gigs on those nights and a few because I was out of town.   I still regret that circumstances prevented me from seeing some great artists.  On the other hand, I still feel lucky to have grown up in Marquette at a time when very good bands frequently made their way to the Upper Peninsula.   Some were already famous and some were on the way to becoming famous, but all afforded me an opportunity to see a variety of great drummers  at the time that I was first getting started as a rock and roll drummer.

    Tops on that list would probably be Cheap Trick.  They came roaring out of Rockford, Illinois and I had actually picked up their first big breaking album (Heaven Tonight 1978) just before they hit Marquette.  I may not have initially understood drummer Bun E. Carlos and his chain smoking ‘I ran from my gig at the DMV to the band gig’ persona, but he was my kind of drummer.  I still get a little sore that they were in my backyard and I missed them.  The same could be said about Seals and Crofts who were  making a lot of hit records when they rolled into town.  A good friend of mine raved about the show so much he felt guilty enough about it to make sure I got to see another great show (America in concert) when I visited him at his new home in Portland, Oregon a couple of years later.

    Frank Zappa made an appearance at Hedgecock on another night I was working a band job.  I had a summer class and job at NMU’s Field Studies camp east of Munising soon after missing Zappa and heard all the details from a guy in my Field Geography class who was there.  Apparently when they ushered Frank off stage at the end of the encore, they sent him down the wrong stairway and he couldn’t get to the area that served as the dressing room that way.  He got stuck on a landing that also lead to one of the exit doors on that side of the Field House.  For his part, Frank shook hands and signed things for everyone who asked as hundreds of fans streamed out the exit and, one presumes, eventually made it back to his dressing room.

    While I was busy visiting Portland in May of 1975, another up and coming band made an appearance at Lakeview Arena.  Arrowsmith was just starting to make waves (Get your Wings – 1974 & Toys in the Attic – 1975) but I already had my plane ticket for my graduation trip to Oregon when this show was announced.  America was a great concert, but I really would have liked to see Arrowsmith on the way up (and before they became their own reality show which I would have called Survivor:  the Toxic Twins if there had been such a thing).

    Richie Havens was in Marquette not too many years after his career defining set at Woodstock.  I got to see his stage set up when I was cutting through Hedgecock on the way home from the bookstore.  I stopped to watch local band Walrus doing their soundcheck and thought, “Dang, I am going to miss Walrus.”   I had my own band job to get to and had already convinced myself that it was okay because if you have seen one folksy guitar toting singer, you have seen them all.  It was unfortunate for me as several people I talked to that had also seen Havens previously said he put on the best show in Marquette that they had seen in years.  It figures!

    Marquette has always been a little off the beaten path, but fortunately it was close enough to Milwaukee that many of the bands that routed tours through the Brew City were happy to get one-off gigs a little farther north.  It also did not hurt that Marquette had gained a reputation as being a great town to perform in.  Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom reacted to the rabid crowd at Lakeview the first time they played there by stating, “Man, we’ve got to get out of New York more often.”   They did come back a couple of years later and played a two set show when Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow canceled their half of the double bill.   I wanted to see Rainbow, but in this case, it wasn’t my fault I missed their gig!  The double length BOC show certainly wasn’t a waste of time.

     Guitarist J.Geils of the Boston band that bears his name was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson not long after they had been through Marquette.  When Johnny asked him if they had played ‘any great gigs lately’, Geils replied,”we did a concert at a college in Marquette, MI recently and it was great.  We can’t wait to go back!”   A lot of touring bands may avoid playing in the backwaters, but they will make the extra effort if the backwaters have a reputation as ‘good concert towns’.

    Another concert that was eagerly anticipated was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  For some reason (the rumour was ‘slow ticket sales’ but in that they sold out, I don’t see how this could have been the case) they cancelled and NMU had to scramble to find a replacement.  How do you replace the Four Seasons on short notice?  Little Anthony and the Imperials got the call and I can’t say that I missed the Four Seasons all that much.  Little Anthony was the consummate showman and had a crack three piece back up band.  The energy they put out and the quality of the music was terrific.  As an added bonus, a show band from the U.P. called The Revells were booked as the opening act and they set the bar pretty high for the Imperials.  The Revells were the closest thing I have seen to a nationally known band like The Brooklyn Bridge and they more than held their own on the big stage.  I am not sure how disappointed my date was that we did not see The Four Seasons, but I enjoyed the show.  

    Tony and I discussed a couple of shows I hadn’t even known about.  One was a multiband show featuring War (still touring today as the Lowrider Band) and one with Bob Seger.  I can’t count these as misses because I had seen War on a previous tour at Lakeview (and very recently at the Calumet Theater as the Lowrider Band) and Bob Seger (at Hedgecock opening for Brownsville Station) when he was touring with Teagarden and Van Winkle in the period just before he became a hit making machine with his Silver Bullet Band.   

    Jay and the Americans were the first ‘name’ band I remember coming to town.  My sister had a ticket and was giddy about it a good week in advance.  I would have loved to see them knowing what I know about music now, but back then it was ‘well, if she likes them, how good can they be?’   Little brothers can be a little dumb sometimes.  I would have loved to see the Doors but try as they might,  NMU couldn’t book them.   The Doors were the hottest ticket in town one day, and then personna non grata the next when singer Jim Morrison got himself in trouble for his erratic stage antics.  The Doors were voted the number one act the student body wanted to see, but they went from ‘too big to book’ to ‘untouchable’ in a very short period of time.

    I contacted both NMU and Lakeview Arena to see if there was a written archive of the shows that have come through those venues and surprisingly, there isn’t.  The City of Marquette office that operates Lakeview simply said ‘we have no records of concerts held at Lakeview’ and NMU suggested that such a list could be compiled from the campus newspapers in their library archives.  I will probably take a look at the NMU archives in the future, but for the moment, I will hope  someone with more time on their hands will take up the mantle and do it before I get to it.  

    The one ‘out of town’ show I wish I had seen was The Ides of March who appeared at MTU in the early 1970s.  My old bass player Mike liked the horns and the fact that guitarist Jim Peterik did an entire solo with one hand pointing at the ceiling while he played only with his fretting hand.  If Peterik the guitar player doesn’t ring a bell, most people are more familiar with him as the keyboard player/songwriter for his other band Survivor.   I love bands like Chicago a lot, so a horn fueled song like the IOM’s Vehicle would have been  great to hear live.  Cue the Eye of the Tiger until next time.  Better yet, go see that concert you have been thinking about attending so you won’t regret it later!

Top Piece Video – The Vehicle that got the Ides of March to the top of the charts!