This morning at 8:30 a.m. my family was awakened from Sunday morning sleep-in by a boom outside. A loud boom. A boom that at first we thought was thunder, but then… it lasted way to long for that, and just seemed… bigger.
My wife immediately got out of bed and looked out the window. Clear skies. Sunshine. Not even a hint of rain clouds.
We jumped on our phones and started Googling. What was that?? Did something just blow up? Was there a gas leak that ignited?? Or the worst thought – are we under attack???
I found the answer about 15 minutes later on the Internet. It was an “ah-ha” moment; we both had actually heard about it earlier in the week. We never conceived, though, that we’d be able to HEAR it from our home! Neither did we foresee how it would make us feel. Or what we’d remember.
More on the big boom later. Right now, lemme set it in its right frame of reference and establish where we’re headed today. It’s a subject most of us have some experience in if we live in the Western world. Have you ever experienced… a live music concert??
I thought so. Haven’t we all? Even if it’s just musicians playing live with no amplification in a city square somewhere, or family and friends out for a rural celebration in the country on straw-lined barn floors, we remember these musical expressions so well. Sometimes they really emotionally impact us. Sometimes they change our lives.
Isn’t it interesting, tho’, how we also remember where the music took place so well? We don’t just see the musicians; we see their stage and surroundings too, like it’s part of the experience. Often it’s planned that way; other times serendipity paints the picture.
Either way, the concert memories that remain alive and electric in our heads could not have taken place without some venue somewhere giving them the permission to play. That’s what we applaud today: the halls, forums, arenas, domes, amphitheaters, small stages, big stages… the many places around this planet where our most precious live musical moments were birthed.
I call them the pie crusts. It’s what is inside the pie that gives it its name, and most of its rich, luscious flavor. But without the pie crust to contain the deliciousness, we’d just be eating… stew.
We’ve heard of the great, esteemed concert venues, most in the larger cities around the world: London’s Royal Albert Hall; New York’s Carnegie Hall; L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall; Colorado’s Red Rocks; Beijing’s N.C.P.A.; the Sydney Opera House… the list goes on and on. They are all the warm, sweet, perfectly baked crusts for thousands of concert pie fillings that live on in our psyches as ascendant moments of pure, delectable entertainment bliss. Been there? Done that?!
Most of us remember well our first concert experience. Especially those of us who took music on as a living. I’m no exception. Somewhere in my teens I was able to attend an excellent performance at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in my home town at the yearly town fair. It remains one of my favorite moments of being alive to this day!
The downtown horse-racing track and its surroundings were transformed annually for the County Fair events, and every day a new band played, the biggest name act being on the last day of the fair. I can still smell the ubiquitous popcorn, the open blue sky above the track, the hundreds of people and the shape of the concert stage. The loudness. The excitement. The way-too-expensive cotton candy.
The band had come all the way from the West Coast. They’d had numerous hits on the radio and I was a fan, so I had to be there. It was my first time seeing a real, professional music group.
They tore it up.
The band was Pablo Cruise, crooners of “Love Will Find a Way”, “What You Gonna Do?” and “Cool Love”. They were suuuuuch good musicians. Man! Totally impressed me. And the vocals were really impressive too; being a singer I knew how hard it was to sing that high for a couple hours, but they pulled it off like breathing.
The fairgrounds are still there to this day, and the County Fair still takes place annually at that same spot. I haven’t visited in decades, but if I did… I know the whole place would look pretty familiar. And I know what songs would be popping into my head too…
The next venue I celebrate today is one of three that I recall not only with fondness, but also with melancholy, because they are now all torn down and gone. The Lansing Civic Center in Lansing, MI. hosted “Men At Work” in the summer of 1983. I was still in high school and they were a favorite band of mine and my best friends, so we all went together.
Isn’t that another great thing about concerts you attend that really mean something to you? They often will include loved ones that became even closer because of the special musical moment you shared that will never happen again, at least not in the same way.
Men At Work were only on radio’s radar for a short time before the band broke up, so I am SOO glad we got tickets for that last tour they ever did. I think their songwriting is brilliant, and the production is top-notch whenever they used all the real band’s musicians (never was a fan of the occasional ‘drum machine’ they threw in).
We drove about 45 minutes to get to the Lansing Civic Center for the show. Being from a small town, the facility looked massive! Such daunting architectural distinction made the concert feel that much more important, and special.
It had opened in 1955, and finally was demolished in 1999. The auditorium had 6,500-capacity seating, and I believe it, ‘cuz when we walked in it looked like a sea of seats! Over the decades thousands of vocals, instruments, songs… moments, had bounced off those walls. Thanks, L.C.C. I remember you well!
1984 was a great year. It was my first year of college, I was finally able to grow my hair longer since I wasn’t at home, and Van Halen had just released a killer album that was tearing up the charts. Of course, when one of your favorite bands is coming to town, you can’t not go, right?!!
Interestingly, I was going to college in Indiana, but I made the extra couple hours’ drive to head back to Michigan to see VH with, again, some dear friends at the Joe Lous Arena in Detroit. I would rather see VH at “the Joe”, as we called it, than any other place. Like, KISS, Detroit always held a special place in Van Halen’s heart due to our large “rocker” population. They always knew they’d get a hero’s reception if they played at the Joe!
Two fave memories of this event: one, seeing DLR do a martial arts swinging sword attached to long colored ribbons routine that was dangerous, exciting and mesmerizing all at the same time. Second? After the show, my friends and I were still so wired from the energy we’d been a part of. As we walked down concrete stairs outside, I instead walked over to the concrete wall by the sidewalk and said, “Hey, guys! Might as well JUMP!!” and, well… proceeded too.
I only had to use crutches for the next week. No biggie. LOL
The Joe opened in 1979 and was named after the heavyweight champion boxer of the same name who lived in Detroit. It boasted 20,058 seats and was used ongoingly throughout the year for concerts and games. It garnered consistent recognition especially as the home of the Detroit Red Wings hockey franchise The Wings played their last game there in April of 2917. Since then, the Joe had its doors closed and is awaiting demolition at any moment.
The Oakland Coliseum was a favorite venue for many concerts when I was a Valley dude out there. Totally, dude. Genesis, Sting, Peter Gabriel – all the big guns were hoisted there, and I’ve sat and viewed the stages there from pretty much every angle. Except, of course, from behind the stage. I would never do that!! Who would do that??!
The Coliseum is the home of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and the Oakland Raiders football team. Besides all the sports, it was built as a multi-purpose stadium, so all throughout the year there’s all manner of events, conventions and such happening there, and with good reason – it’s one of the best venues for large-scale events anywhere. It’s certainly the best concert venue I’ve ever experienced.
I have to admit that one of the reasons I’m sure this coliseum is so awesome to me is that Genesis, Sting and Peter all were touring on the albums I like best when they performed for us there. “So”, “Nothing Like The Sun”, and “Invisible Touch”!! Are you kidding me?!! Holy GRAIL of album sets, baby!!
The Coliseum opened in 1965 and is still in use today. The seating capabilities clock in at 56,057 seats.
Which brings us to the BOOM. This morning we discovered the incredible, worrying sound that had woken us up was the sound of placed explosives being detonated to bring down the once illustrious Silverdome in Pontiac, MI. For decades the Silverdome was the home of the Detroit Lions. All through those years, it was also a major concert venue.
Seating 82,000, the Silverdome was the largest stadium in the NFL until FedEx field opened in Washington D.C. in 1997. Whew! That’s a lot o’ Coke and corn dogs! This made it ideal for hugely popular music acts on tour with big, elaborate stage shows.
First thing my wife said when we found out it was the Silverdome demolition? “That’s where I saw Michael Jackson!” Not only did she see him there, but she saw him on the “Victory” tour at the time of his “Thriller” album! Talk about music history. That’s like saying you were there live when Elvis played his “Aloha From Hawaii” concert (more people watched this on TV than the MOON LANDING, folks)!
The whole day here after this morning’s boom I’ve been revisiting all our old concerts and the accompanying scenes, actions, people and venues. An unexpected mix of gratitude and melancholy.
Thanks, Silverdome. For all the celebration you provided, I toast a Vernors to you!
The memories we hold of awesome live music events I hope never dim for any of us. They are so invigorating and still bring smiles to many faces, including mine.
Whether you’ve never had a slice o’ musical pie or whether you’ve consumed a total like America’s Thanksgiving Day over the years, make sure to continue to get out there, go to concerts, support musical acts and create new memories in venues like those I’ve mentioned here and those near and dear to you.
And don’t forget the small venues, who need our presence even more than the big pies. I just supported the Ark, in Ann Arbor, MI, for example, seeing another of my musical heroes. Check his story out here.
Viva la LIVE MUSIC!
So, what about you? What venues coincide with your treasured music memories? What’s your favorite concert venue? Anything interesting/memorable/crazy happen to you at one of them? Let us know. After all, much of our brains are still from caveman eras – we like a good story (and a pie!) around a roaring fire!
Until I hear your story, go… make… sounds!!