Concerts: Yesterday and Today

beaverdamusa.com music musings zach claytonHaving recently seen Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Ryman and thinking about the KISS/Def Leppard show coming this summer, I was thinking about how concerts have changed over the years.

My first concert was my sophomore year in high school – Eddie Money played Vanderbilt Memorial Gym. My friend Joe and I got us some dates and off we went. Having heard all the stories about concerts and the debauchery that occurs there, we were pumped. I can’t remember the cost of the ticket, but it couldn’t have been more than $10. Well, it wasn’t the drunken orgy that we imagined, but I was hooked on live shows.

Most of the concerts I saw in the ‘80’s – 90’s were at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. My first show there was Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam. The Municipal is a round venue which held probably about 9,000. In the mid-90’s, most shows moved to Starwood amphitheater in Nashville, which was a completely different perspective. Being able to lounge on the ground under the stars was cool – zach clayton, reo speedwagon, beaveredamusa.comunless it was August and raining, or May and raining. An added benefit of Starwood was the fact that it sold BEER. Wow, you could drink at a concert without having smuggled a bottle into the venue in your shoe, crotch, or wherever. They even had an area where corporations could buy box seats and have servers bring you drinks, food, etc. Maybe this is when the transition started. What transition, you may ask? Let’s compare yesteryear to today:

Yesteryear – My buddy Joe & I decide to go see Journey on the Escape tour. We drive to Nashville & find a Sound Seventy ticket outlet. We pay the exorbitant amount of $10/ticket. The tickets have raised lettering with cool designs custom-made for the particular show.

We roll to Nashville, perhaps sneak a bottle of Jack by the searching Metro police at the Municipal, and we are ready to rock. (Side-note – wonder if a Metro policeman on Municipal duty ever bought liquor?) We arrive about an hour and a half early so we can get good spots standing in the general admission area in front of the stage. We park a couple of blocks away on the side of the road and walk to the auditorium. Occasionally during the show, I glance up towards the ceiling. There, through the haze of smoke, cigarette and other, I make out a faint glow – NO SMOKING in a warning hanging from the ceiling. For encores and power ballads alike, the crowd (even non-smokers) holds lighters aloft begging for more. Before Journey comes out, the question is “what will they open with?” or “wonder if they will play Lights?” After the show, Joe and I make a most difficult decision – which shirt do we buy to wear to school the next day? While either will smell like the interior of a Cheech & Chong van, we have to choose between the $5 t-shirt or splurge and get the $7.50 jersey.

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Today – You decide to attend an arena concert. You log on to the Ticketmaster website from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. You hope your 45-year-old eyes can read the random letters and numbers that allow you to proceed without having to resort to the Dick Tracy decoder glasses. Once you make it past scalper security, you select your ticket with prices starting around $40 (top row, back of arena) and ending at $1000 (backstage 5 minute photo op with the band). You can either print a bar code or have the generic looking tickets mailed to your house. The night of the show, you pay another $10-$20 to park and then walk about 4 blocks to the arena. The menu choices have changed, but so have the prices. You can get a $4 hot dog or even more expensive burgers, BBQ, etc. Wait, what is that – BEER & LIQUOR!!!! With no crotches or socks involved. Yes, you pay for it, but it is available. You can see clearly because smokers have to go over the river & through the woods & hang about 3 blocks to reach the smoking area outside. You already know what the band is playing because you have checked the band’s website, clicked on the tour button, and seen the set list for all the stops prior to your city. You also notice something else – there are kids. I mean middle and elementary school kids. This is ROCK & ROLL, not the Wiggles at TPAC!! You admit to yourself that probably the folks on stage may be getting Medicare currently or will within 5 years.

Yes, it is different, more expensive, and in some aspects, not as fun. But I am thrilled to have seen the shows I have. As Billy Joel says “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Also, never forget that if it’s too loud, you are too old.

Soundtrack of my Life

beaverdamusa.com music musings zach claytonSo as I sit here contemplating my next musing on Music Musings, it is the culmination of my 50th trip around the sun.  I joke that my chronological age is finally getting closer to my “feel like” age.  I am wondering if I really am 50 though.  I haven’t received the time-honored rite of passage into the next half century – the AARP card.

As I think back through my 50 years, some years aren’t there for various reasons (baby years, that one wild weekend in Key West, etc.).  But there is one thing that is always there – music.

Music is truly the soundtrack of our lives.  From the lullabies our parents sang to us are babies to the songs played at our funerals, music is always there with us.  As you think about each of the following situations in your own life – close your eyes and think about the song that comes to mind:

First concert: Eddie Money

  • What songs did you sing or play to your children when they were babies?  Mine was Harry Chapin’s Gold Medal Anthology and Jimmy Buffett’s Ballads (from the box set).
  • What artist was the first you ever saw in concert? – Mine was Eddie Money my sophomore year in high school at Vandy’s Memorial Gym.
  • What were your favorite slow dance (aka belly-rubbin’) songs in high school?  Mine were “After the Love is Gone” by Earth Wind & Fire,, “Babe” by Styx, and “Keep on Loving You” by REO, just to name a few.
  • What is your “go to” song for when your boy/girlfriend broke up with you?  Had to be “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi.
  • What is your favorite “pump me up” song?  Has to be Van Halen’s “Dreams” for me.
  • What song did you use for the first dance at your wedding?  We danced to “Groovy Kind of Love” by Phil Collins, but I made sure “When It’s Love” by Van Halen was in the playlist.
  • What one song do you want to be played at your funeral/memorial service?  If I had to pick one, it would be “The Dance” by Garth Brooks.

Go back and listen to these songs today.  Do they still stir up thoughts and emotions?  Enjoy the trip down memory lane. I’m off to see if iTunes will give an AARP discount.

Zach

Remembering Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jams

“Ain’t It Great to be Alive and
be in Tennessee!” — Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

Charlie Daniels hosted the Volunteer Jam for decades. Here, he plays for US troops in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp.)

With those words, Charlie Daniels kicked off the first Volunteer Jam I ever saw. He also kicked off every Vol Jam with those words. My first Jam (I think) was Vol Jam IX back around 1980 or so. It is strange how your mind jumps around.   I was walking through the parking lot at work strategizing getting my youngest son to his violin lesson. Violin turned to fiddle which made me think of Charlie Daniels and then Bam! I was suddenly thinking about the Volunteer Jam. For those of you from the Nashville area who are over 40 years old, you know about the Volunteer Jams. Read on for a walk down memory lane. If you haven’t a clue, read on about a great musical event that will probably never be duplicated again.

Charlie Daniels started the Volunteer Jams back in 1974. As the name suggests, it was basically a jam session where he invited all of his musical friends to stop by and play. The venue changed through the years from the War Memorial Auditorium to the Municipal Auditorium, to Starwood Amphitheater. The early Jams, including the first I attended, were truly spontaneous. Charlie didn’t know who was showing up until they were backstage. Each act would come out and play anywhere from two to five songs. Even lead singers without their bands would play with whoever was backstage. Charlie would typically open up the Jam with a set of his own. I noticed through the years that the length of his set depended upon how deep the lineup was backstage – the more people backstage, the shorter the set. It was fun between acts to try & guess who would be showing up next. Once my friend Joe & I saw a flute being brought out with the electric guitars. We immediately thought it might be Jethro Tull. Wrongo – Marshall Tucker Band. The number of acts was typically in the low teens, so the show typically ended around 2:00 a.m. The show would close with all acts (who were still around) coming back on stage to play a couple of songs together. Throughout the night, Charlie would introduce each act and come out and play with them.

The acts spanned all aspects of music and locale. There were gospel acts (Jordanaires), country (Roy Acuff), and rock (Ted Nugent). Some of the acts I saw were Billy Joel , Roy Acuff , Leon Russell , The Jordanaires , Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), The Marshall Tucker Band , James Brown, Molly Hatchet , Crystal Gayle , George Thorogood , Bill Monroe , Papa John Creech (90 year old fiddle player), The Outlaws, Delbert McClinton , Quarterflash, and Ted Nugent – who actually bear-hugged Charlie and picked him up.

The latter Jams were broadcast on a radio network so they weren’t as spontaneous due to commercials, promotions, etc.  Also, I seriously doubt in today’s world that you could get acts schedules coordinated, egos checked, and waivers waived to pull off a concert event like the Jam.

However, all the Jams were great and allowed me to see a wide range of acts that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see by themselves. To answer Charlie’s question – Yes, it is good to be alive and to be in Tennessee.

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