Column, Movie Diary

Same old song and dance

By Dom Cioffi

I hit the nostalgic trifecta this past weekend when my wife and I attended a concert featuring three retro acts from the late ’70s and early ’80s

Months ago, I got an email promoting all the popular musical acts touring the country over the summer. I went through the list and picked out a couple concerts that were within driving distance and ordered a pair of tickets to each. We saw Billy Joel in April and we’ll be seeing Elton John in September, but on this August night, we got to experience three groups that played pivotal roles during my teenage years.

I’ve been going to concerts my entire life; it’s one of those activities I’ve always loved. There’s something about seeing live music that makes you forget all the ills of life. And while any music is fun to see live, when it’s an act that played a meaningful role in your adolescent development, it becomes especially gratifying.

I remember exactly where I was sitting in our high school gym when a good friend walked in and sat next to me on the bleachers. Being curious and noticing the shape of the bag he was holding, I asked what album he bought. He reached in and pulled out “Hi Infidelity” by REO Speedwagon.

I was vaguely familiar with the band at the time, but I remember my friend telling me that the album was amazing and had several great songs.

He wasn’t wrong. Within a week, I had bought the album and added it to my turntable rotation where it stayed for over a year.

Whenever I hear a track from “Hi Infidelity” I immediately begin thinking about that winter in 1981 and how easy and carefree life seemed to be.

A few years earlier (sometime in the later ’70s), I was visiting a cousin out of town. We didn’t know each other well, but like most kids, we knew we could connect via music. I remember being in his bedroom and asking what albums he had. He said he only had a couple, then pulled out Styx’s “Pieces of Eight” and played the track “Renegade.”

The song floored me, and I was immediately hooked. I went home and within a month had purchased three Styx albums.

And then there was Loverboy.

In my small friend-group, Loverboy was how we got ready to party. Some bands are known for ballads and some bands are known for rockers, but Loverboy’s most popular tracks were the quintessential way to get pumped up on a Friday or Saturday night. You might finish the evening with some Pink Floyd, but you were definitely kicking things off with Loverboy.

So, those were the three acts that I saw live this past weekend and none of them disappointed.

I had high hopes for the concert but on Saturday afternoon, I was convinced it was going to be a bust since the storm clouds were fully formed and thunder was echoing in the distance. By the time we got in the car to leave, it was pouring.

I told my wife that – worst case scenario – we would drive to the parking lot and tailgate in the car. And if the storm was particularly bad, we’d just drive home since the show was at an outdoor amphitheater.

Luckily, the rain subsided once we got to the venue. We pulled out our chairs and set up our food table and took in the parking lots sights. And while the skies still looked ominous, the rain seemed to be heading in a different direction.

After an hour of tailgating, we headed into the show and found out seats. Before long, Loverboy took the stage and (appropriately) kicked off the Saturday night show.

As far as the eye could see were 50- and 60-year-old couples reliving their high school emotions and memories – and singing at the top of their lungs!

REO and Styx followed and put on equally great shows. We left just before the mass exodus to avoid the traffic jams and timed it perfectly.

All in all, the entire experience was amazing.

“Amazing” is not the word used to describe the events in this week’s feature, “Trainwreck: Woodstock 99,” a three-part docu-series about the ill-fated 1999 concert in upstate New York that was supposed to be a counterpart to the historic 1969 festival of the same name.

Generally considered to be one of history’s worst festivals in terms of the experience and the chaos and destruction that ensued, Woodstock ‘99 will be remembered as a hot, over-priced money-grab where decadence and alienation reigned.

Check out this documentary to get a look at the chaos from multiple perspectives, from the concertgoers who attended, to the individuals that put the show together, to the musicians that played. It’s a grandiose lesson in what not to do when gathering together 400,000 people.

A dissolute “B” for “Trainwreck: Woodstock 99,” now available for viewing on Netflix. Got a question for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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