Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Prince: October 30, 1988

What I remember best about this show is that I violated curfew in Detroit to see it. In Michigan, the night before Halloween is known as Devil's Night -- for most of us, an evening of innocent pranks such as egging and toilet-papering houses, but in Detroit things often took a darker turn, with fires being very common. I was still in high school but went to the show with my friend Bonnie. I even remember passing a cop on the way to the show and he just said hello and kept going.

I wish I could recall more about the show. I do remember we were only five or ten rows from the back of Joe Louis Arena, but I was happy just to be seeing Prince at last. He performed in the round, so none of the seats were truly bad. There was no opener: it was just Prince, in a show with two "acts" separated by an intermission. I recall him explaining very politely how he was going to leave the stage for a break, but would be back in approximately such and such minutes to continue the show.

It's funny how memory works, isn't it? Prince is one of my favorite musicians yet it's his polite demeanor that I remember from that night, not the performance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dead Milkmen: May 14, 1989

The Ritz, as far as I recall, was a hair-metal bar in Roseville – a rather, um, inelegant suburb of Detroit. The Dead Milkmen were the only band I ever saw there and one of the occasional “alternative” acts that performed there. At this time the Milkmen were touring in support of Beelzebubba, the album containing their big crossover song, “Punk Rock Girl.” However, it’s another track from that album, “RC’s Mom,” that I remember best from the concert. The song is a redneck parody with jokey lyrics about spousal abuse: “Gonna beat my wife / Gonna smack her with a lead pipe.” The lyrics get more outrageous and ridiculous as the song goes on; it’s doubtful even the most humorless of people would take it seriously. Still, it was a little disconcerting seeing a few boys, probably about ten years old, at the front of this all-ages show singing along enthusiastically. Hopefully they were old enough to get the joke! Sadly, I don’t remember much else about the show except it was fun and cheap.

The Roseville Ritz died some time ago but the venue has been resurrected in the city of Warren. Given its current ads for stripper pole contests, divorce parties, and shows hosted by radio station WRIF, I guess it hasn’t changed much. Then again, I haven’t either: The Dead Milkmen’s Bucky Fellini is still one of my favorite albums.