Waterfest gets Saved By The Blues
Shoe Suede Blues in Oshkosh, WI, 7-29-04
by Shane Worden
Okay, so you've read about the disappointing non-encounter with David here in June. Let me fast forward things seven weeks. It is now the middle of summer, it is Peter's turn up at bat for Waterfest, and there hasn't been a single rainout since David's week. (Not that I'm bitter, mind you.) So, naturally, when it came time for Monkee Number Two, ol' Mother Nature had to put a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the forecast. How wonderful for me. But yet, I had very limited time to even think about that, as I was getting a houseguest that week. (And no, it wasn't the return of the squirrel.)
My friend, and fellow PFG member, Joyce Lopez had been making plans for several weeks to join me here in Oshkosh for Peter's show. Traveling on the Greyhound bus (My favorite mode of transport! Not.) all the way from St. Paul, MN. I've known Joyce ever since I got caught up with the PFG in 1994. In fact, I believe that we both joined the Gang at the same time. For quite a while during the Monkees resurgence in 1996 and 97, we wrote pen pal letters to each other often, and then kind of lost touch over the years as the guys went on with their lives, and so did we. Then in March of last year, Joyce surprised the heck out of me with a happy birthday email on my special day, and we've been keeping in touch via cyberspace since then.
Unlike the Davy Jones show, (or non-show), back in June, Joyce didn't have the luxury of being put up at the resort where I work. The week of Peter's show happened to coincide with the week of the EAA, (short for Experimental Aircraft Association), which is an unbelievably huge aviation convention which attracts close to 750,000 people to this area every year. Needless to say that every hotel in the general area is booked solid that week. So, it was my pleasure to put her up in my place. But that also meant a degree of cleaning. You know the drill--washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, squirrel-proofing the living room.... The plan was for Joyce to come in at 5:30 PM Wednesday night, which would give us a whole evening to chat and get caught up before concert day on Thursday.
After getting out of work (late) on Wednesday afternoon, I had just enough time to get my Mom's loaned inflatable mattress together before it was time to go and pick her up at the bus terminal. Surprisingly enough, the Greyhound was right on time. Well...okay...if you want to be picky it was 4 minutes late. But man, given the experiences I've had in the past, that's pretty darn good. Even more so considering the extra traffic and congestion that the EAA brings into this area. For a rookie Greyhound rider, I'd say that Joyce had a pretty good experience. After a quick tour through the area, including a drive by my place of employment so Joyce could at least get a glimpse of the outside of the building, it was off to my place for an evening of Domino's pizza and Monkee memories.
When Bonnie and Kimmi stopped over at my apartment in June during the Davy disaster, Bonnie noted how my place looks like a Monkees museum. And I suppose that's a pretty apt way of putting it. Some people have pictures of their family on the walls. I have pictures of the Monkees. My philosophy is this: My memorabilia does me no good sitting in boxes somewhere, collecting dust. I prefer to have my stuff out where I can see it all the time. Hence, all of my autographed albums have been professionally framed and put on my walls, as have some promotional JUSTUS posters and record flats that I got through my local music store. Even the handmade poster that I had made and put on my hotel room door that David had signed behind our backs during one of his weekends at the old Lady Luck in Bettendorf has found a place in my abode. Lots of stuff like that. I think the enormity of it all overwhelmed Joyce a bit upon entering my apartment. But, by the end of the evening, I had ALL of my albums out, and had even delved into the un-catalogued wasteland that is my photo cache in the cabinet beneath my TV. Thank goodness Joyce came to visit! I found things that night I had even forgotten that I had! But what a nice trip down memory lane.
Needless to say, it was quite late before we hit the hay that evening. Normally, that would be a problem for me, especially during the week of EAA, when things are so busy at work at help is hard to come by early on in the morning. But by hook or by crook, I finagled my way into getting Thursday off. My ONLY day off in what became quite a bit of a stretch actually, so I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in the next morning. Once we were up and ready to go that day, I gave Joyce the 25 cent tour of downtown Oshkosh: the gift shop, CD store, thrift market, not to mention the library and bookstore. It was while going through the latter two locations that Joyce really impressed me with her love for the written word. It seemed as though every other book we looked at she had read at some point or another. Totally unreal!
After a stop at the local Blimpe's for some takeout subs, we made our way back to my place. Our local oldies radio station had been promoting a *supposed* in-studio interview with Peter at 1:30, so we wanted to be back home in plenty of time for that. I also wanted to check out the weather report on the noon news to see if the forecast had improved at all. Unfortunately, it had not, but still things were not looking any worse outside than they had previously that day, so I remained hopeful.
We turned on the radio at around 1:00, at which time Peter's forthcoming interview was still being promoted, but when 1:30 came and went without anything further to report, I knew that something must have happened. An on-air caller even asked the afternoon deejay if the interview was still going to happen, to which he answered that he hoped it would, but Peter seemed to be operating on "rock star time". To further add to the confusion, it was announced on-air that Peter was driving north from Milwaukee, because he wasn't able to procure any rooms here in Oshkosh due to the EAA, and if anyone should happen to see the Monkeemobile driving north on Hwy. 41 to let the station know... All of this is in direct negation to what my friend Jacki, who interned at Waterfest this summer, told me about the Park Plaza hotel, (across the street from the concert park), reserving rooms for all the acts at Waterfest *all summer long*. As it turns out from what I found out after the fact, Jacki was right and the radio station was wrong. Peter was here, or at least in the general area, all the time. I am not exactly sure why the radio thing didn't happen, then. Obviously some lines of communication were crossed.
And...as if to add insult to injury...it was around this time that it started to rain outside. (Hard!) I was beginning to get that old sinking feeling, again. Not only for myself, but for Joyce, too, who had come all this way on the insufferable Greyhound for this. And I couldn't even offer her the option of phoning into the radio station to at least speak with Peter that way. All I could do was look out the window and sigh.
By 2:30-3:00, however, the rain started to let up and eventually stopped! Encouraged by this news, I hopped online to check out the latest weather radar, and sure enough it did appear as though the line of storms that had been threatening us was moving off to the east, and there didn't seem to be anything behind it to keep the evening's show from taking place. Perhaps Waterfest had been saved after all! After a call to Cindy to say "hello" a bit later, Joyce and I headed down to the concert park by quarter to five, where already a small group of fans were waiting outside the park gate for the show. It was a good thing that we got there when we did too, as it was only a very short time later that people started lining up by the droves. In fact, I think the attendance for this particular show will most likely turn out to be the highest of the season. (Not surprising, considering the air show and the strength of the acts.)
One of the nice things about Monkees concerts, (or at least the ones that I have been to), is that a person tends to see the same fans in the same general area whenever one of the guys performs within driving distance. This proved to be no exception. Among the familiar faces in the crowd was Karen Barnes, a good friend of Janet Litterio's. Not only is Karen a big Monkees fan, but she and her daughters are also big followers of the Grass Roots, who happened to be the headliners for this evening's show, so they were really in their element. (As a little side note, both the Grass Roots' keyboardist and guitar player were on the Monkees' 1986 tour. I bet that it was really something backstage, with everybody knowing just about everybody else.) It is always nice to see some familiar faces in the crowd and catch up on what everybody has been doing.
By 6:00 the gates to the park opened up, and Joyce and I took our position in front of the stage pronto. It's always a good thing to claim those spots as soon as possible, as people aren't allowed to set up lawn chairs or blankets and then just leave them in front of the stage. Stand you must, and stand we did. There were to be three acts this evening, with Peter and SSB being the second. The first was a local 80's and 90's cover band called Sonic Circus. They were pretty good; Joyce seemed to like them, anyway. I wasn't exactly "getting" the guy in the tight leather pants chucking cheapo stuffed carnival-type animals into the audience, but hey, everybody must have a gimmick I guess. The kids seemed to like it.
Shortly after Sonic Circus ended their set, Joyce nudged me and said that she had just spotted Peter standing behind the stage. And yup, there he was. I must admit that this was a bit of an exciting moment for me, too. After dealing with Jones getting rained out and not even seeing him once while he was here, it was great to know that at least nothing was going to stop this particular ex-Monkee from taking the stage. Peter and the rest of SSB were very busy getting things set up for their set while the first band was packing up, but that didn't stop Peter from clowning around a bit, either. When he took the stage for the first time to set up, and people started to applaud, he looked around with a goofy grin on his face that kind of said "Who are you guys cheering for ?" I could tell right away that Peter was in a really good mood, and I was very happy for that.
Once everything was set up, one of the deejays from our oldies station took the stage to introduce the band, and off they went for close to a 90 minute set. Almost the entire Saved By The Blues album was played, with Peter handling most of the lead vocals that Tadj Galleran had provided on the CD, as well as some more obscure jtems like "Get What You Pay For" from Peter's Stranger Things Have Happened album, "Mojo" and "Cross Cut Saw" from the first (Live) SSB album, "Lucille", and even a handful of Monkees hits, i.e. "A Little Bit Me...", "Daydream Believer", "I'm A Believer", "Steppin' Stone", "Auntie Grizelda" (complete with the talking parrot imitation during the song's bridge), and a completely (blues influenced) reworking of "Clarksville" that I thought was actually pretty neat. Joyce wasn't too big on it, but I kind of like hearing different arrangements of familiar material every now and again.
Peter seemed to be having a really good time on stage, even when a minor snafu occurred. In the middle of performing a song, Peter managed to break a guitar string, and had to do a quick repair in between tunes. When Peter mentioned what he was doing on stage, a small group of fans applauded, to which Peter playfully quipped that they were cheering because he broke the string. I shouted out, (although I don't think anybody heard me), "tell them you tune because you care"! ;-) (I should mention that Peter was not the only person to have a guitar string break onstage. The same thing happened to Dusty Hanvey of the Grass Roots just a short while later. Must have been somethin' in the air.) At another point in the show, an older gentleman who was to the left of me in front of the stage shouted at Peter between songs that he had seen him before on TV. (I think the guy was a little tanked.) Peter took it all in stride and joked that it was a good thing that he had, because it would be alarming if he had seen him on his washing machine.
While Richard Mikuls and Michael Sunday stuck to guitar and bass duties respectively, Peter and John Palmer doubled up on instruments whenever possible. Peter played both keyboards and guitar during the show, and John blew me away by handling a blues harp (harmonica) solo AND drum duties at the same time! Pretty amazing, if you ask me, since John was playing the drums with one hand and playing the harp with the other. While Tork and Mikuls shared lead vocal duties, I noticed that even Michael Sunday, who has had such a reputation for not wanting to sing, was even doing background vocals whenever it was necessary. Needless to say, I was impressed at how this band has matured and grown over the course of their history. They put out an amazing amount of sound for a four piece act.
At the end of the show, Peter announced that he and the band would be selling CDs and signing autographs as the merchandise table to the left of the stage immediately following the show, so as soon as the band was finished, Joyce and I surrendered our front of the stage vantage point to go talk to the guys. Now, I have seen Peter solo a number of times, and while I can say that I've never seen him signing for people while in a foul mood, I've never exactly seen him in the kind of giddy mood he seemed to be in this night. In fact, he was downright chatty! Cracking jokes with people, graciously posing for photos, talking with everybody who said hello...that was Peter that night.
In addition to my older copy of Saved By the Blues, which sports an earlier group shot of the band, and which all of the band members noted as being an "original", I had Peter sign my copy of the Headquarters Sessions CD set. Since this title is now out of print from Rhino, I figured that this item will have some value down the road, and the autograph can only help. Peter signed the back of the box, and told me to look at his signature because "it's a joke". And he asked me if I got it. Sure enough, I did. The back of the box shows a picture of the Monkees which is slightly distorted to give them the appearance of being stretched out. Peter signed his autograph in exactly the same way....elongated and "stretched out". He mentioned that this was the first time he had signed the set in that particular way, so I guess I have something of a collector's item after all! Thanks, Peter! :-)
There was quite a crowd waiting for autographs, which I was really happy to see. That's a really good sign that we can look to have Shoe Suede Blues back again in future years. Peter and the guys patiently took their turn with everybody. I even saw them giving a little special attetion to a big music fan that I know a little bit who happens to be around my age, but is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair. I was happy to see him get his autograph and photo. I know that made him really happy. After the crowd wore down a little bit, Joyce asked if I would be willing to go back up to the merchandise table with her so she could get a photo with Peter. (She didn't want to bother him with that while he was so busy signing, which I totally understood.) So, after a quick photo with Peter, (which I have yet to see...what's up with that, Joyce?!), we made our way back to the stage for the Grass Roots, who were just about to start their set.
Of course, by the time we got back to the stage, the crowd standing in front certainly had not diminished in size, and we knew that it would be impossible to even try to get back where we were again. So, we spent about twenty minutes or so watching from the back of the crowd standing in front of the stage, which to be honest didn't provide the best view. In addition, we were right in front of the right speaker pointing into the crowd, and the sound coming out of that was absolutely deafening. After a short while of putting up with that, Joyce motioned to me that she would rather go back to my place and unwind, which was fine by me. I had an early 6 AM start time at work the next day, and we had gotten what we came for anyway. On the way out, I again made a note of the size of the crowd. I was glad to know that Peter played for such a good audience that evening.
Back at my place, we tried to unwind a bit, but the going was hard. At least it was for me. I really cannot communicate to you how surreal it has been for me this summer to have the Monkees here in my hometown, after all the years of travel to see their shows. To walk two blocks and see one of the Monkees live, for a fan like me, is a fairly mind-blowing experience, and to be honest, I am still kind of pinching myself that I've seen Peter, (and Micky, which you'll read about soon), here. It was a pretty tired day at work for me the next morning, but also a contented one. A few of my coworkers in the hotel dining room told me that they were glad that the show hadn't rained out, because they were going to call in sick the next morning if it had. (Okay, I guess I was a little bitter for a while in June after all.)
Joyce spent an extra day here in Oshkosh, so while I was at work, she and my Mom went out shopping! (Hope you had a good time, Joyce! My Mom says hello...) After I got off of work, we went over to my mom and step dad's house for a nice little evening cookout, where Joyce got to meet our family dog, Snickers, (who also says...or woofs...hello), as well. Saturday morning saw Joyce's return on the Greyhound, which I understand except for a pretty tight layover stop along the way went pretty smoothly. I was so glad that things went as well as they had. SSB's inaugural Wisconsin appearance was a total success, and I can only hope that they'll be back again for a return visit soon.... Thanks to the Waterfest folks for booking the show, SSB who got here and made it happen, and to Joyce, my partner in crime for the show. Waterfest has indeed been saved by the blues...