Rocking The Park

Rock The Park 6 is over.  Every year, 1039 FM (previously known as The Hawk) presents some of the biggest acts in the classic rock-ish genre at Harris Park in London, in support of Bethany’s Hope Foundation. 

It used to be a four-day affair for the radio station and this year we presented only one night, last night, and let me say aloud that I am grateful! There was a time when the thought of having to be on site for a four-day concert, plus having to work, seemed like a blast.  Frankly, kids, it would require a little more stamina than I’m willing to muster!  But for one day it was a pretty cool way to “work”.

My portion of the live broadcast went from 2-4 pm and it was good fun. Skip Prokop from Lighthouse came by for a live interview and he told some great stories about what it’s like for his band to do a sound check versus all of the techies who tune up for the Doobie Brothers.  Then that band simply strolls on stage and makes magic.  He shocked me by saying that Lighthouse isn’t in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  Such an oversight! The band also has a DVD coming out in the fall and tours lined up to support it.  Skip’s a warm and wonderful man.  I actually tried to hire him as an announcer long ago when I was a Program Director but I was shot down.  Crazy huh?  Imagine having a Canadian rock icon as your station’s midday announcer?  But my General Manager didn’t see the wisdom in it.  Pity.

Lighthouse did a terrific, crowd-pleasing set to open the show.  Then the skies turned dark and as my colleague Leigh Robert and I ventured backstage to prepare to do our little plugs and intros, nerves started to jangle over some far off lightning.  Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer of Styx, slinked in backstage as managers and producers checked their handhelds for weather radar.  Leigh and I did our bit and told the crowd the storm would last only ten minutes and it did. But what a ten minute storm!  It rained so hard that roadies and techies had to scramble to push the water off the canopies. One of them got soaked, head to toe!  They ran around looking for tarps to cover sensitive equipment.  Leigh and I shuffled around because no matter where we stood, it seemed we were in the way. Everyone was very polite though!  Finally we ended up  huddling in the middle of the backtage area with the band as the water rose all around us.  Dennis was long gone, though.  He had taken the only umbrella and, pouting, hustled back to his trailer.  When the sky cleared and the instruments were towelled off, DeYoung did an awesome but shortened set of Styx classics and then blasted out of there, blowing off a meet-and-greet he had agreed to do.  His rules were, no photos, autographs only.  And then he didn’t show up. Whatever!  He was obviously disappointed.  But his voice hasn’t lost even a fraction of its power or range.  He really was terrific.

Then it came time for CCR.  Everything had been pushed back a bit and stagehands were scrambling to keep changes tight and to get the music flowing again.  We got back for our photo op with the band whose manager told us that one guy was the “designated hand shaker”.  In other words, we weren’t to waste their time by shaking all of their hands.  The five of them posed with an obvious opening for one of us to step in – click click – and then move on.  And that’s what we did! The whole thing took about three minutes and I couldn’t pick one of those men out again today.  But good for them. They’re veterans and at least they still have the courtesy to do the expected meet and greet, even if it is an abbreviated version.  When you think about this being expected of them before every show, in every town, you can’t blame them for making it easy for themselves.  Then they rocked the joint.  Their replacement singer for John Fogerty has all the chops and sound of his predecessor and they were really great.

Just before the Doobies show we were summoned back again.  There are many more Doobies than I thought!  The bass player must be 7 feet tall.  I swear that when I put my arm around him for the photo, I was hugging thigh.  They were well organized and quick, too.  And what players they are!   I’ve been a Doobie fan since I can remember. I had some of their singles on 45 when I was a kid!  And to stand near the stage and watch these guys rockin’ out with perfect harmonies and sounding so much like the records – well – it was a kick!

I sensed that the vendors, food and otherwise, at last night’s event were disappointed with the way the weather played havoc with people choosing not to browse as they tried to stay dry. But the fans of the bands must have been happy.  They were a hearty bunch.  Even Dennis DeYoung said, “I wouldn’t have even sat through that (the storm) to see me!”  It really was great fun.  I had one of those “aha” moments when I looked around and realized that 20 years ago, I would have been one of those young women, improperly dressed in slippery shoes (it got VERY muddy) with a foamy beer sloshing out of a cup and whoo-hooing as a familiar riff hit the air.  But there I was, in my footwear with traction, a non-drinker now and just smiling warmly.  But I’ll tell you this – I had just as good a time as they did!