Showing posts with label Van Wezel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Van Wezel. Show all posts

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More classic rock at the Van Wezel

By Ray Shasho

After moving to Bradenton in August 2003, I was somewhat disappointed over the lack of local concert venues. Then in November of that year it was reported that Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. (SMR) and DVA Sports LLC (DVA) had announced plans to construct a 7,400-seat multipurpose entertainment facility. It would be the home for an ECHL minor league hockey franchise, but more importantly the facility would bring concerts to the Bradenton/Sarasota area.

The news got even better; the facility would be built in Lakewood Ranch within walking distance from my residence.
But the project ended in disaster. The arena sat partially built for years because the owner ran into financial trouble. Then in October of 2009 it was finally demolished.

The only real concert venue in the Bradenton/Sarasota area was the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, locals still refer to it as “The Purple Cow.”  Since opening its doors in January of 1970, the Hall has booked high profiled performers like Ray Charles, Liberace, Ella Fitzgerald, Lucille Ball, and even Cary Grant. And this reporter has witnessed excellent shows at the Van Wezel like Ann Margaret, Engelbert Humperdink, and Paul Anca. By the way, Paul Anca’s drummer that night was Graham Lear. (Santana and Woodstock fame)

After witnessing a packed house rocking to a rare Doobie Brothers performance in 2005, there was a definite yearning for classic rock shows at Sarasota’s purple people eater. Over the years, the Van Wezel has catered to an older population. But now, classic rockers fit the mold of shows that should be performing live there.

Those overpriced rock stars of yesteryear are now affordable and willing to play the smaller venues. And a sold out classic rock show at the Van Wezel should generate decent revenues.
For the first time, Crosby, Stills & Nash played the Hall in September of 2010. The Van Wezel is nowhere close to showcasing classic rock artists like Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, but they are making an effort.
Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, Three Dog Night, and Dennis Lambert with Mickey Thomas of the Starship will all be playing at the Van Wezel this season.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Keeping cool around your favorite rock stars

By Ray Shasho

Most people would love to meet their favorite rock stars. But most concert goers believe it’s an impossible task so why even try. It’s true, if you go about it like a crazed stalker or look like an overexcited fan wearing their band logos on every stitch of clothing you’re wearing, than the odds of you getting to meet anybody are probably slim to none. So play it cool and act like it’s no big deal.

One of my strategies is to schmooze with the security guards who are at the entrance to the backstage area as a technique to hang with the talent. You may have to start talking with them somewhere in the middle of the concert. Show a genuine interest in what they do and make a new friend. Then after gaining their confidence ask to take a tour backstage.

After being led backstage I shared a delicious food tray with Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers. (Ferry across the Mersey) Once you make it backstage then you can blend right in, but only if you act normal. My wife Sharon and I happened to be with him when some of the band members from the Troggs (Wild Thing) asked to party with them in their hotel room, but I  respectively declined. Never take a girlfriend or especially your wife into a rock bands hotel room.

In smaller venues, the band will travel by bus and it’s usually parked out in the back parking lot somewhere. If you bring an item for the band to sign like a guitar, the security guard will sometimes let you go back to their bus and meet the band. And you don’t have to be a knockout girl with big breasts either. Smaller venues are definitely the easiest way to meet with your favorite rock stars.

 I met with John Kay the lead singer of Steppenwolf on his tour bus. The security guard alerted the Steppenwolf star by walkie talkie, sending a message that a cool fan carrying a 1973 Fender Telecaster was on his way. Mr. Kay greeted me and signed the guitar with a silver marker. The marker exploded and Mr. Kay literally freaked out. He thought the guitar was ruined. He sincerely apologized as we diligently worked together to clean up the silvery mess. It just goes to show you that our rock and roll heroes are people too.

Those wild backstage party days of yesteryear are over. Classic rockers are laid back and very approachable. After all, most of them are grandparents now.

I struck up a conversation with an older man outside a smaller venue in Washington, DC. It so happened that the man was Alvin Lee’s tour manager. With that same Fender guitar in my hand, I ended up hanging out backstage with legends Alvin Lee, (Former Ten Years After- frontman and the hero of the original Woodstock) Eric Burdon, (Former lead singer of the Animals and Eric Burdon & War) and Aynsley Dunbar (Drummer for David Bowie, Whitesnake, Frank Zappa, and John Lennon to name just a few)

Alvin Lee even played my 1973 Fender backstage. I drove to the show in a white limousine and nearly gave Mr. Lee a ride back to his hotel, if it weren’t for his girlfriend wanting to eat on the tour bus.

Here’s another technique to meet your favorite rock stars. Be cool but sneaky. Like finding out what hotel they are staying at. After a little detective work, I  found out that the Doobie Brothers were staying at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota after their performance at the Van Wezel in October of 2005.
After the show, I drove out to the hotel and witnessed several members of the band hanging out at the lobby bar. After joining them for a few rounds, it came time to settle the bar tab and I graciously paid the bill. (A clear example of how easy it is to lose your cool around your favorite rock stars) And forgetting the fact that rock stars live big! Nevertheless, expensive Scotch meant an exorbitant bar tab. But the evening turned out quite interesting to say the least.

Two buddies and I spent the rest of the night inside Michael Hossack’s hotel room at the Ritz. Mike is the drummer for the Doobie Brothers. Wow hanging out inside a rock stars room. Can you imagine what went on in there?  I’ll tell you, Mike sat behind his laptop and for hours we tried to find out what state had the most beef cattle. Wild scene man!
By the way, Michael Hossack and the rest of the Doobie Brothers will be performing live at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City on March 10th.

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