Summer 2009

A Memorable Summer and Coming Home

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

This past summer I tried to go out and see as many bands as possible and drive distances I had never considered before.

It all started when I won tickets to Shinedown and Saving Abel by playing a radio quiz show at Grandma’s Marathon. It surprised me that so many people were at the Shinedown concert at Wade Stadium and it went against the common misconception that Duluthians won’t pay money for entertainment. The production company that put on the event has been responsible for bringing several heavier acts to the area and they are finding success where others have struggled.

The next show that I attended was Little Richard and Chubby Checker at the Black Bear Casino. Originally billed as Chuck Berry and Little Richard when I paid over $70 for two tickets, I still attended despite it not being as great of a line up. Both acts were great and there was no way I could pass up Little Richard. I also got to meet both of the entertainers after the show, which was amazing. Shaking Little Richard’s hand was one of the high points of my life. I still think about how legendary it was to see someone of that level up close. He is a true entertainer.

Tory & Andrew Olson w/Grand Funk Railroad

After that show I headed up to Walker to watch Moondance Jam for the first time. Meeting Grand Funk Railroad before their performance was another momentous event. They also totally stole the entire festival.

I rushed out when I got home to buy their CD and have been singing, “I’m your captain….” all summer long. I had heard the song a million times before, but now it had a completely different feeling.

I later learned that they had opened for Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s and when they stole the show from Zep the band’s manager had the power pulled during Funk’s set. They were fired as the opener immediately because the crowd wanted to see Grand Funk over Led Zeppelin. Here they were playing in Minnesota.

Journey, Yes, Foghat, and other bands had a few of the original members, but some had really young lead singers. When the band looks a certain age it is awkward to watch a singer jumping around and sounding like the real thing, but not looking like the rest of the band.

The next weekend it was a treat to watch The Lovin’ Spoonful at the Head of the Lakes Fair in Superior. Meeting the band and hearing from a founding member about how disappointed he is in modern music and the lack of harmony really hit home. There are some years when music has been downright awful, but this year modern music had some great pop hits that kept it afloat.

This summer also took me back to my younger days and two daydream themed songs that I really loved. The first was The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream” and the second was The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”. This past year I met both Davy Jones and The Lovin’ Spoonful after their local shows. Both acts were great live and their stories made the shows more entertaining than most bands you might see.

Little Richard also told the story of how he helped to create rock and roll music, which is pretty important. It was reminiscent of the PBS documentary about the history of Rock & roll when Richard told similar stories about Pat Boone stealing his music. He also talked live about how rock & roll was originally not nice music and had heavy sexual overtones.

After seeing the oldies of rock it was time to be reintroduced to new music through Jack White’s latest incarnation The Dead Weather.

When I went out to buy their new CD the day it came out I was on the way out of town to attend Moondance Jam. So for the several hours I was in the car and I listened to the entire album a few times through. It was hard for me to get into their music at first and it took much more time than Jack White’s The Raconteurs, Loretta Lynn or The White Stripes CDs. Horehound is dark and vicious. It also is hard to listen to one of the greatest guitar players of all time on the drums.

Tory Olson & Dean Fertita of The Dead Weather

When I saw the band live a month later I was blown away by how I felt like I was there for a “moment” in rock. When Jack White grabbed the guitar the crowds exploded each time. Alison Mosshart is also extremely mesmerizing to watch and is a total throwback on stage as a lead singer. Jack White’s power playing his solo on “Will There Be Enough Water” is like seeing Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore East back in 1969 though.

During college I bought every 1950s and 1960s concert, documentary and festival I could find. It started with 1967’s The Monterey Pop Festival and then I went through everything filmed from that era. Through the hundreds of hours of tape and digital video there was something that seemed alive to me. It can’t be described in a word, but it was something real. The Dead Weather had that same vibe on stage. They were the above all of the other bands I saw this summer and their story is only beginning to be written.