First Concert Experience
I should qualify this pick as “First Unchaperoned Concert,” since my first concert really was a Sonny & Cher show at the York County Fair in York, PA in 1970. My friend Sally’s mom took us to the fair, and we got to see the show at some point, but we were really there to ride ferris wheels, eat, and check out the farm animal action. The concert was an afterthought, so I’m not counting it. You can’t make me.
I lived in Lancaster, PA, and there weren’t usually any major acts passing through town. There were small clubs like The Village, but they usually featured local bands. If you wanted to see a big name, you had to go to Philly or Harrisburg or Hershey, and you had to nag someone’s parents to drive you there and back. (Having been a nagged parent, I can totally understand the lack of parental enthusiasm when the kids beg. Some day I’ll have to share the story of taking my kid and a couple of his friends into Boston ON A SCHOOL NIGHT to see Hoobastank.)
Anyway, it was announced that Chicago would be playing a show at a local college, Franklin & Marshall (referred to in Lancaster as F & M, or by my husband as Effin M.) Oh. My.God. They were huge back then (1974,) and they were stopping in our little corner of Amish country? I had to find a way to go.
I don’t recall all of the details, except that my friend Mary and I decided we had to go. I got the parental permission nagged my parents, scored a loan for ticket money, and promised I’d pay it back with babysitting earnings, and bought the ticket.
I think Mary’s mom or dad drove us over to the campus, and we made our way into the concert hall. I was immediately impressed with the size of the speakers facing out toward us on the stage and the sheer numbers of them. Wow, this was going to be loud! And what the hell was that music coming from the speakers? (The band’s not even out there yet! ) Everyone was buzzing about the song playing, but I had no clue what it was. I found out later that it was Mike Oldfield‘s “Tubular Bells,” and everyone was into it because it was recently known as the spooky song from “The Exorcist,” which I had been banned from seeing. (Thanks, Mom!) Since this was all new to me, I really took it all in. How the crowds filed in, what everyone was wearing, how the roadies scurried about while they set up the equipment. It was all so intriguing!
Mary and I chatted a bit, and then the band filed out. No opening act. I remember the particular thrill of seeing Robert Lamm at the piano and Terry Kath dead center with his guitar. I hoped they’d play all of my favorite songs. (We always seem to hope for that, don’t we? Sometimes we hear new stuff and we get a little disappointed.)
You know, I didn’t think to write things down, but I know they rocked it and played everything I wanted to hear and then some, and they blew me away. Even though there were so many speakers, the sound level didn’t offend my ears. I loved every minute of it. Some songs turned into long jams with the horns blaring, so that was an extra treat. Right away, though, I became a non-fan of the long drum solo (sorry, honey.) Sure, drummers are fairly unsung in bands, but throwing them a bone by offering them a chance to show off sends me into “let’s hurry up and get to the next song” mode.
I wasn’t prepared for the whole encore routine, since it was my first time at a show, but I found it rather amusing. The lighters flared up and the band came back and played a few more songs! How cool! (Now, I see this as a tedious display. I respect bands that play their asses off and give you want you want to hear, then leave.) Anyway, for the final song, the band returned to the stage sans shirts, but I think Jimmy Pankow was wearing an open vest, exposing his chest and nice upper arms. The crowd went completely nuts, and girls, including me, were screaming like Elvis fans. Of course, the only song to accompany such a display was “I’m A Man,” and I couldn’t help but love them so.