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My First Rock Concert

I started to get interested in music a little earlier than most of my friends. I think I was influenced by all the guys working for my dad. I had my first radio at age ten. My first cassette tape was given to me by Mike, a guy who worked for my dad – it was a K-Tel compilation with Robert Palmer, Foreigner, and Blue Öyster Cult. I followed that up and bought Van Halen I when it first came out.

Well, the day my parents feared was upon them. I asked to go to my first rock and roll concert. I had heard on the radio Kiss was playing the old Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse. I was flat out denied because I was too young. Age discrimination sucks.

I asked my father again a couple years later when Rush was coming to play the new La Crosse Center. He asked a few of the guys working for him what the environment was like during a concert, and how badly it would end for me. Once he discovered a few guys that would be attending, to keep an eye on me. I think his plan was just to not have to go himself, I was given permission.

February 24, 1981 – The La Crosse Center - La Crosse. Wisconsin

My mother made sure I was bundled up well, since it was February and it was cold outside. Typically she tried to bundle me up like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story." I had my heavy down-filled ski jacket, hat, and gloves to keep me warm. The plan was to have my dad park downtown, near the auditorium. He would wait the second half of the concert out at "Sandy's Keg Bar", a downtown bar his pal owned. I was under orders to walk directly to the show and directly to the bar to meet him as soon as the concert was over. Being in Wisconsin, a kid in a bar (accompanied by his father) wasn’t a big deal.

This was a pretty cool deal for me. None of my friends would be allowed to go, so they'd all be jealous when I talked about it at school the next day. Everybody was older inside. I looked around, and found a place to chill out and remain mostly unseen.

The band played, and pretty much rocked the house. I didn’t recognize any of the songs, but it was loud, and there were guitars. The lead singer was tall and wore stripped tights and jumped all over the place while singing. After about a hour they finished up and the house lights came on. People were milling about all over the place. I started for the exit, but was stopped by some folks that recognized me and said,

“Where are you going?”

I was on my way to the bar to meet my dad. Then, I was informed that I just witnessed Max Webster, the opening act. Rush will be playing in about a half hour. Nobody told me about warm up bands.

I milled around the place until I saw Mike and Tim, who worked for my dad. These guys were about sixteen at the time, and in a large group. Being Wisconsin, and in La Crosse who was home to the 3rd largest brewery in the country – the G. Heileman Brewing Company, the beers served were large and cheap. The drinking age at the time was eighteen, and overlooked. These guys all had large 42 ounce cups of beer.

At twelve I still couldn’t get a way with passing for legal age to drink, so the guys made a circle around me and made sure I got a couple large gulps, just to relax.

There was about 45 minutes of removing Max Wester's gear and setting Rush's equipment up. The lights dimmed and Rush began to play. It was even louder, and I recognized the songs. I had guessed it was just so loud earlier when Max Webster was playing that I couldn't make out any of the songs. There was no MTV, so I didn't know what most of these rock and roll bands looked like.
They were fresh off a few tune-up gigs at some Iowa colleges before they started playing areas. The new album, Moving Pictures, was due to be released in a few days. That album cover featured a perfect triple-entendre. On the front cover there are moving men who are moving pictures. Then there are people crying because the pictures passed by are emotionally "Moving". Finally, there was a film crew making a "moving picture" of the whole scene.

I was standing in the floor area of a general admission show. Everybody was older and taller, so I couldn’t see very well. Some guy saw me and decided I couldn’t see the band very well I was given a little push to get up closer to the stage. The next group of people did the same thing, and so forth, and so forth.

By this time I’m about six feet from the stage and the crowd is a little tighter. I’m starting to get pretty warm wearing my down-filled ski jacket, with gloves and hat stuffed into the inside pockets. It was starting to get pretty warm with all the body heat. Sweat was turing to steam, and with only beer having been consumed so far I'm exausted and ready to pass out. The natural concert going experience.
I started to get another push forward, and my hand was pushed right into the sweet-spot of a college woman’s round and close to perfect ass! It was a very nice ass, and she was kind of hot. She didn’t, however, appreciate a twelve year old sending his hand up the crack of her ass. She poured one of those giant 42 ounce cups of beer slowly over the top of my head.
For the next 10 minutes I actually appreciated the cold beer, as it chilled my body down. After that, the beer became warm and mixed with sweat and starting to steam from excess body heat trapped inside my down-lined ski jacket. There was a distinct possibility I could melt if I stayed up close to the stage with the packed crowd. I made my way to the back of the floor, then up to the nosebleed seats, so I could remove my jacket and cool off, and not have to worry about some jackass steeling my coat. The band was still rockin’ and I didn’t want to miss any of it.
The band played 2112 as the grande finale and La Villa Strangiato for the Encore. The house lights came back on. The show was over, so I started trekking towards the bar. My dad was not amused at my smelling like I had just returned from a drunken frat party. I did smell like the brewery down the road, so my dad asked me if I had been drinking, and I told him I had took a few gulps of beer. It was better to admit up-front I had been drinking beer. Then I told him how I got drenched by some college woman with a near perfect ass. That made him laugh.

The bartender noticed my smell, and told my father to remove me from the bar. Being in a bar with your father was legal, but no bar owner wants a beer soaked kid drawing unwanted attention. Now he had to get me in the house with as little attention from my mother as possible. We managed that, and my dad had my jacket dry-cleaned the next day! I think I had to head off for school in a heavy sweatshirt to stay warm.

Rush instantly became my favorite band, and I ran out and bought Moving Pictures the next day (Brought to me by the letter 'E').

I think I had to wait a whole year before my next show - Foreigner. Then Rush came to La Crosse again on September 4, 1982.

It is believed the setlist remained the same throughout the tour for that origional concert.

  1. 2112 (Overture/Temples of Syrinx)
  2. Freewill
  3. Limelight
  4. Hemispheres (Prelude)
  5. Beneath, Between and Behind
  6. The Camera Eye
  7. YYZ / Drum Solo /YYZ
  8. Broon's Bane
  9. The Trees
  10. Xanadu
  11. The Spirit of Radio
  12. Red Barchetta
  13. Closer To The Heart
  14. Tom Sawyer
  15. Vital Signs
  16. Natural Science
  17. Working Man (reggae intro)
  18. Hemispheres (Armageddon)
  19. By-Tor and the Snow Dog (abbreviated)
  20. In the End
  21. In The Mood
  22. 2112 (Grand Finale)
  23. Encore: La Villa Strangiato (classical guitar intro)
I think I faded out from being a Rush fan for a few years until Presto came out. I had just moved to Rochester, MN and they were about to play the Target Center in Minneapolis. I think I saw them three times there, then after moving to Phoenix, I caught them a couple times at Cricket Pavilion. Back to Minnesota for me, and so far, one more Rush show at the Xcel Energy Center.