There are many stories for all of us when it comes to classic rock and our favorites. But when I saw that ZZ Top and Cheap Trick are playing a double bill at the Minnesota State Fair, it conjured up all kinds of memories that reside in the back of my mind from not only my various concert experiences but also the back stage/meet and greet scenarios that tend to wallpaper my life.
Let’s start with Cheap Trick. One of many great memories in seeing this band includes them playing at what was then the Buffalo Run in Downtown Brainerd. I recall that the band was completely geared up for a massive arena tour and they accepted this one off date in Downtown Brainerd. I am pretty sure that they had no idea how big the place was, or that they would be shuttled to town in a minivan owned and driven by a co-worker at the station. The legend has it that none of the other guys would talk to Bun E Carlos on that shuttle ride because he was in a mood. Then for their set list that night they played every single song in their library that explores darkness. Think Auf Wiedersehen.
On the other hand one of the coolest back stage meet and greets was with Cheap Trick at Moondance Jam on a perfect summer’s night. This would include the infamous picture backstage where Mac stood directly in front of Tom Petersson and all you can see is Tom’s hat sticking out from behind Mac’s head. Of course Mac blames that one on the photographer. But that was also the night we found out that Bun E Carlos had been fishing on Leech Lake all afternoon and he was in a fantastic mood! And that show was one of the most high-energy and fun summer shows ever!
One final note on Cheap Trick is an interview that I had with Rick Nielsen. It happened to be on a day when Mac was on Vacation. I thought Mac had gone to Montana to visit family, but when I got Rick on the phone he had me believing for few seconds that he had seen Mac in a bar the night before in Florida! And as is always the case Nielsen had nothing but great stories to tell.
Then there’s ZZ Top. The first time I had the chance to meet ZZ Top was about 1994. I think they were still on their Antenna tour. It was great to simply shake their hands and say great show. I was relatively new to a meet and greet situation and obeyed all rules laid down. And then I witnessed others at the same meet and greet ask for photos and they were granted. So the next time I was able to go to another meet and greet, (I think it was XXX) I was prepared and bought a great looking hat that I thought they might sign. Well I should have stuck with shaking their hands as there tour manager was screaming at me because of my asking! None the less, if you don’t ask… you don’t know.
The next time I was granted access to the band I secured an interview opportunity with Billy Gibbons back stage at Moondance Jam. This included meeting their tour manager back stage (I don’t think he recognized me) and then being welcomed into the camper/trailer that Billy was using as prep space for the show. Brian Moon came with me and was carrying the guitar that we hoped would be signed. The tour manager asked what it was, and we were told to leave it behind. (no screaming on that one) Moonie and I entered and before we could really get comfortable, Billy asked Moon if he would step out and get a couple cans of Diet Pepsi. Moon gladly obliged and I sat and observed as Billy began to concoct a soup of sorts containing peanut butter, honey, salsa cheese sauce, and when Moon returned, Pepsi. Billy had a very early USB turntable in the trailer with him that day and he worked to get the variable speed unit to spin at the perfect rpms to deliver the tempo he wanted from what amounted to a simple rhythm/beat box album. (I later read that he had become a fan of the rhythm type albums while spending time in South Africa) Then he was ready to talk. It was a blast to discuss what fans could expect that night. And that show at Moondance was one of the best performances from the band I have witnessed, and if I’m not mistaken one of the most attended shows ever presented at Moondance Jam. They ran the gamut that night. I can’t be for sure, but I think every album was represented in a fantastic set.
Hope you all enjoy the fair. Here’s the interview with Billy Gibbons I collected at Moondance Jam in 2004.