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Cheap Trick in Nashville & Knoxville - May 1999

The temptation to follow Cheap Trick on their week long Southern jaunt was very high, but the amount of time and travelling necessary to go to the famous cities of Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis, with 3 other shows in between was just way too much. But the first two Tennessee shows (Nash & Knox) were achievable, so I arranged to take a road trip from Madison Wisconsin with a friend.

I flew into Chicago from Heathrow on the Weds, followed by the 160 mile coach trip to Madison. Got chatting to a couple of people on the coach about Cheap Trick, so hopefully there's a couple more copies of MFH sold ! We were due to road trip down to Nashville (650 miles) on Thurs, but we lost the day (and Friday morning) due to a car fault. Luckily my friend was able to get the car into into a garage at short notice to be diagnosed and fixed. Phew ! So we finally got away early Friday afternoon. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, the car was rolling, and we headed south across the wide open plains of southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Until then, I’d never realised how LONG Illinois is from north to south. It took 4 hours for the rolling plains to start to give way to green fields and trees. I drove a couple of hundred miles late in the afternoon but as the sun set, we were STILL in Illinois, so missed out on seeing the scenery of NW Kentucky and Tennessee. We arrived in Nash at nearly midnight!

As we took a short drive outside Nashville on Saturday morning, I could see how green and lush the area was, and it felt a great place to be. We headed the 8 miles or so into Nashville centre mid afternoon, and promptly got caught up in static traffic on the Interstate. It seemed like every vehicle south east of Nash was heading in the same direction, and it took an hour to finally crawl past 3 police cruisers blocking off two lanes of the 3 lane highway for no apparent reason. Maybe that’s what Nashville cops do for fun on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon ? We soon came off onto Broadway and headed downtown, managing to park 5 mins walk from the Fest area.

 

Cheap Trick - Riverstages, Nashville - 1 May 99

The River Stages Music Festival was held on the riverbank of the Cumberland River, alongside 1st Avenue. It looked like an ideal venue for an outdoor Fest. There were two stages on the riverside, the large Budweiser stage, and a smaller one nearby. The river formed a pretty backdrop, as did the impressive, almost complete Tennessee Titans football stadium on the opposite bank. Looking out from the stage towards town was a large promenade area, and then something like 3 or 4 stepped banks up to the bars and shops of 1st Ave. A few of the taller buildings of the skyline towered behind too, most notably the Bell South building, which looks like Batmans mask ! We got there around 5pm or so, and the grassy steps were already pretty full of people, sitting and enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Unfortunately not too many CT shirts in evidence, maybe a dozen all told ? We headed frontstage, and met up with CT friends who’d travelled from from Sweden, Chicago and Texas, as well as local. We all had a decent spot in front of the inventor of the 12 string bass. Local band Bare Jr, an energetic 5 piece played through from 6 to 7pm, and had obviously brought their own following. They were OK, and went down pretty well. We’d missed British/Irish girl band B*witched since we arrived late! The stage was then prepared for Cheap Trick, who were second on the bill, with Courtney Love and Hole headlining. The familiar stage props were there, Ricks amps, satanic Tweety, the Rick doll, and Chairy. Also saw a Kiss flat being prepared for Surrender. The band took to the stage a few minutes late at 7.50 pm, and received a warm welcome from the good sized crowd. There were certainly a lot of people behind us at ground level, and the stage was maybe 10 feet above the ground. In retrospect, I think those on the steps had the best view, though we could see everyone except Bun E pretty well.

RN - Black suit, black t-shirt with bright Eastern design

RZ - long black silk packet, mustard t-shirt, striped pants

TP - very light, thin pinstripe suit, light blue shirt

BC - grey shirt, black pants

Hello There, IWYTWM, Come On Come On, Hot Love, Anytime, ATAS, IKWIY, Wrong All Along, IYWML, Hard to Tell, Voices, Need Your Love, Southern Girls, Surrender (Kiss flat) / Dream Police.

The band looked fit and healthy and happy to be there, though the time constraints were evident as Rick didn't get to converse as much as usual with the crowd. But it was a good show, and it was a delight to get into songs like Hot Love and Anytime again. However, during Anytime it became evident that just standing and listening to the music wasn't quite enough for some younger fans who'd obviously had a few to drink or smoke. The security guard showed us the hand signals he'd use to signify bodies coming our way, and I soon understood what he mean when the first body "surfed" its way close to us at the front. More quickly followed, and it soon became sensible to watch the crowd not the stage, otherwise you'd get a foot in the head or worse. It became increasingly rowdy, and some of the "older" fans in the crowd were getting increasingly upset and angry at not being able to watch the show. The floor level had now become one big mosh pit, and at least one woman was almost in tears of frustration at having to continually dodge or get squashed by the bodies that seemed oblivious to the effect they were having on some people. As the crowd became more boisterous, I found myself become a little frightened, but more frustrated and angry at having my enjoyment spoiled. My idea of fun is NOT watching out in case you get hit by a drunken body. By the time the band had got to Wrong All Along, my friend and I had had enough of getting bruised and battered, and fought our way from our coveted front spot, and away from the impotent security who could mostly only watch the proceedings. We stood some 40 feet away to stage right, in front of the VIP area. Soon after, a few people came from the front too, with 2 women in tears. The band played a decent show, but that time was out of their control was obvious, as they barely left the stage after Surrender before returning to play Dream Police. And that was it, the end of the show at 9pm. Rick, Bun and Robin quickly got away from the area in minivans. We stood and tried to articulate our feelings with other CT fans. One nice thing though, just 2-3 minutes after CT left the stage, was the giant paddle steamer General Jackson passing by on the river. It sure looked pretty, lit up an'all.

My friend said she'd only seen body surfing once before at a CT show, when they were opening for Stone Temple Pilots. So I guess it should have been half expected with Hole being the headline band, that the teens and early 20's, tanked up, would be surfing for extra kicks. I would certainly think twice about going to this sort of show again, or at least being at the front for it. It was almost surreal to see people body surfing in the crowd whilst RZ was singing Voices.

As we headed back to the car, downtown Nash was vibrant, pretty and crowded, and I hope one day to come back and see more of the place. The Hard Rock cafe, with a huge guitar painted along its side was impressive, and the horses and carts, and people dressed for what seemed like Prom night only added to the colourful atmosphere.

We headed out to Knox late next morning (Sunday), remembering the 1 hour time change en route. A very pretty 200 mile drive took us though lush forests, rolling hills and a few breathtaking views, before we reached the small University city of Knoxville. We quickly found our hotel, and took a walk down the 3 blocks to Moose's Music Hall. It was a large bar with a stage at one end, that I guess could hold up to 750 at a push. We met up with both the Swedes and a couple of American friends to eat at a roadside sports bar, before I decided to go over the road to the venue at 5.30 to line up, and stunned to find 8 people ahead of me ! A woman who soon joined the line next to me with two of her friends recognised me from TrickFest1 and the NYC album shows, and the next hour or so were spend in pleasant CT conversation. The line soon built up, and finally got let into the venue around 7.30, but had to wait in line inside for another 15 mins before going into the actual music hall. Weird, the line snaked in and around the bar! The bar did brisk business during that time!

Cheap Trick - Moose's Music Hall, Knoxville, Tn - 2 May 99

We managed to get a decent spot stage left, in front of RN. The stage was fairly small, a typical club stage, so it was pretty intimate for seeing the whole band up close. Opening act were the V-Roys, a local band who'd played at River Stages the day before. They sounded OK and who had a decent following in the crowd. Bun E came in and stood side stage for a few songs. The band came on at 9.10 to an enthusiastic welcome.

RN - dark pinstripe suit, dark green t-shirt

RZ - unshaven, long blue velvet packet, blue shirt and pants

TP - white t-shirt, long black jacket, shiny black/gold pants

BC - blue shirt, black pants

IWYTWM, Come On Come On, Hot Love, Anytime, ATAS, IKWIW, Wrong All Along, IYWML (no extra bridge), Hard to Tell, Voices, Need Your Love, Southern Girls, Surrender / Ghost Town, Dream Police, Aufie, Goodnight.

From the start, it was obvious the band were in good spirits, relaxed, and feeling like having fun. It was a standard set list, though She's Tight was scrubbed out and replaced by Hot Love. After ATAS, someone shouted out for "He's a Whore", so Rick quietly played a few bars and started singing ! He then introduced "the inventor of the 12 string bass, as well as the inventor of the Kama Sutra... Mr Tom Petersson !!" After Wrong All Along, RN again did a bit of Whore ! He then asked who in the audience had survived Nashville the previous day ! After Hard to Tell, RZ played a few notes of "It All Comes Back to You". And 3 times during the set, Rick said "We're Cheap Trick and we're a ROCK band !!". Definitely, and a damn fine one too

! The picks were flying thick and fast as usual, including new MFH ones, and the flat for Surrender was again a Kiss one. The show was tremendous, and a real contrast to the previous night. I don't know, my feeling the whole day was that Knox was a "nice" place to be, it felt "good". And I guess the band did too, because they really produced a tight, yet relaxed and fun show. I've rarely seen them in better form.

It was a pleasure, as always, to say hello to the guys after the show. Robin was very excited about the new material that has been worked upon for the new album, as well as Trickfest 3. The band headed off in the bus for the long overnight haul to New Orleans, and for us, it was the end of a GOOD day !

We left Knoxville at 11am local on Monday 3 May, and spent the next 11 hours on the road driving back to Wisconsin. Another long haul, nearly 700 miles. But again the scenery was really pretty, the forests and hills of Tennessee giving way to gentler scenery in Kentucky. And weird to bypass the south west of Cincinatti, and pass through 3 states in about 4 minutes, KY, OH and IN. As the sun set, we passed the Star Plaza at Merrillville.. which will be the Mecca for CT fans in late August !

To end the trip, I caught an early Tuesday morning bus down from Madison to O'Hare, where I was met shortly before noon by a friend from Chicago, who took me downtown for the afternoon. We spent 3 hours or so, eating, walking and talking on Navy Pier. It was partly cloudy, but the city skyline and the Lake were pretty when the sun shone. And it was warm, but with a pleasant breeze off the lake, a very nice end to the trip.

The overnight journey home was long, in part caused by my London flight being cancelled, and the next London flight leaving 2 hours late. The tornado weather in the mid States of Kansas and Oklahoma were causing severe problems to schedules. I was 7 hours at Chicago O’Hare airport, and was exhausted when I finally arrived at Heathrow at lunchtime the next day, some 4 hours late. Then had to drive the 4 hours home to Leeds ! A fun trip, hectic and tiring, but worth it for the Knoxville show alone.

 

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