Cheap Trick has always been one of my favorite bands. I finally got to meet the band last month when they played here at The Limelight and it was a ton of fun and the concert was really good. They still put on a fantastic show after all these years. Every time I think about Cheap Trick, I’m taken back decades ago when I saw them in concert with my brother Jim in Indianapolis where I lived briefly. I’ve told this story so many times and now I’m going to tell it again, so here goes!
My Favorite Cheap Trick Concert
In the summer of 1979 I moved into an apartment in Indianapolis, Indiana from my hometown of Peoria, Illinois. I was 21-years-old and I had taken a job with a safety products company and would be selling their products in and around Indianapolis. That was my “territory.” A couple weeks after settling in, my brother Jim came to see me for a weekend and I had secured tickets for the two of us to go see Cheap Trick in concert.
Cheap Trick has always been one of my favorite bands and I was psyched to go. The concert was on a Saturday and my brother showed up on Friday. We mainly hung out at my apartment on Friday and goofed around together and listened to music and drank a lot of beer. We were both excited about the concert the next night.
On Saturday we went to a bar before the show and had many pre-concert drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Then we went to a liquor store and we each got a bottle for the show. Jim got Jack Daniels and I chose Southern Comfort. Then we went to the arena where the concert was being held and the seating at the show was “festival seating,” which meant, “first come, first served.” There was a throng of kids piled up at the door and it was turning into an ugly mess. (About six months later, 11 people were trampled to death at a Who concert and that put an end to “festival seating.”)
We stashed our bottles inside of our jackets (nobody searched you back then and nobody really cared what you brought in as long as you weren’t obvious about it walking past, “security”) and wormed our way into the crowd. After about twenty minutes being pushed, jostled and being way closer to this smelly fat guy than I ever wanted to be, the doors were flung open. I remember feeling like I wasn’t even in control of my movements—my legs and body just jerked along with the mass movement of the crowd.
We found seats off to the side of the stage that weren’t too bad and sat down. Jim was on the aisle and I was seated to his right. As soon as we sat down two kids came bounding up to the aisle and pointed at the two seats next to us.
“Those seats taken?” One of them asked.
“Nope,” I replied, “knock yourself out, Ringo.”
I don’t know why, but when I called him Ringo, Jim and I both cracked up. We got up, let the two kids in and we all settled into our seats. Soon the entire arena was one big marijuana cloud and people were pulling out bottles of booze and cans of beer that everyone had snuck in.
Security guards looked the other way back then as far as booze and drug concert contraband was concerned. These were rent-a-cops making minimum wage and all they wanted was to get the show over and collect their dough. Unless you hassled them, they pretty much left you alone. This was 1979 after all and no one was too concerned about matters of the mind back then. Especially at a Cheap Trick concert. Ah, the good old days!
After about a half an hour the house lights went off and people started hooting and hollering and the first band came out. I can’t remember the name of them, but they were a low-level Southern rock band who had a minor hit at the time. They were horrible and nobody was really listening. It was then that we sat down and pulled out our booze.
We each had bought a fifth of our particular brand. I know it sounds like a lot, but my brother and I were always of the mindset that it is far better to have way extra, than not enough if you can swing it. There’s nothing worse than running out of booze, especially if you’re all cranked out on some sort of drug like speed or acid.
I have many sorrowful memories of being gooned out of my gourd on one thing or another and opening the refrigerator to one of the most horrific sights in the world: One lone beer! And you knew you’d be up climbing the walls and staring at the ceiling for at least four more hours. Sure, there were a few all night convenience stores in Peoria, but sometimes it would be a real chore to navigate somewhere for a booze run and pull off the purchase without going directly to jail. Anyway, that’s why we always over-bought if our wallets permitted back in those hazy, crazy days.
As I slugged down a belt out of my bottle of Southern Comfort I glanced to my right and the two kids were staring at Jim and I. One of them kind of looked like a lankier version of Beaver Cleaver and the other had braces and patches of zits all over his face. They both had hair down to their shoulders and couldn’t have been three days over 16-years-old.
I leaned over to Jim and said, “Watch this.”
Then I leaned into the Beaver Cleaver look-a-like and said, “You want a shot of this?” I held the bottle out for him to grab.
He smiled and looked at his friend and said, “Sure!”
Pretty soon the four of us were passing the bottles back and forth. The party had begun and all was right in our world...for a brief little while at least!
Right after Cheap Trick hit the stage to a thundering welcome, my brother lit up a joint, which our new found pals were happy to indulge in. Soon they were pretty well out of their minds.
Everybody was on their feet and Cheap Trick was putting on a great show, as they always do. About twenty minutes into the set, Rick Nielson banged out the familiar opening chords to their anthemic song, “Surrender.” Everybody was on their feet clapping and singing.
My next memory of this show always plays out in freeze-frame, slow motion style, because that’s the way it seemed to have happened that night.
Rick Nielson had just started his solo on his black and white checkered guitar. Beaver Cleaver let out a whoop, jumped up in the air and fell down on me. I grabbed him before he fell into his seat.
“You okay?” I screamed at him.
“Yeah, I’m fucking great!” He slurred back.
I wasn’t so sure, he didn’t look too good. And that’s when it happened. I think to prove to me that he was fine, he stood up straight, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Rock...”
I think the next two words he wanted to scream out were, “and roll,” but the next thing you know, his hands flew down to his stomach and instead of words, a steady stream of vile and violent vomit came spewing projectile style out of his pie hole.
All over the woman in front of us.
She let out a spine-curdling scream and her boyfriend looked at her, then back at Beaver Cleaver who was slumped down in his chair in a post-vomit-eruptis daze and time seemed to stand still for a second.
Her boyfriend was a big and brutish-looking guy, with short hair and the both of them were dressed a little too nicely for your standard 1979 Cheap Trick concert. In fact, my brother was a little nervous that the guy was a cop or a narc when they first got in their seats. We relaxed when someone passed him a joint and he took a hit off of it.
After staring at his girlfriend who was covered in Beaver Cleaver alcohol vomit and assessing the situation for a few quick seconds, he turned around and stared daggers at Beaver and his buddy. I grabbed Beaver and kind of pushed him out towards the aisle and yelled one vital word of instruction to our new-found young friends:
Beaver Cleaver took off with his friend close behind. The brutish cop-looking guy grabbed his puke-covered girlfriend and they hightailed it out of there in quick pursuit of the vomit avenger! I hope the kid got away, but I'll never know.
I looked at my brother and we started laughing our fucking asses off. We continued to laugh all through the concert and afterwards we went to a bar and told the story to anyone who would listen to it and even those that wouldn’t.
I’ve told that story thousands of times and I never get tired of telling it. I always wonder what that kid is doing today. I’d like to buy him a beer for making that evening a memory that never fails to bring a grin to my face.
I’ve always felt that life is just a bunch of stories you collect and share with other people. This one is an ace in my deck of tales and it’s my favorite Cheap Trick concert of all time!