Blastin' at the Sand Bar

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Sep 05, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Michigan
Saturday, August 11, 2007

(Saugatuck, MI, Saturday, August 11, 2007)-I've always loved going to Saugatuck, the gay little artsy tourist spot on the lower Lake Michigan coast, ever since the triumphant appearance by the MC-5 at the Saugatuck Pop Festival in the early summer of 1968. That's a gig I'll never forget for a couple of good reasons:

[1] Despite the several heavyweight acts of the time on the bill that day, to our utter amazement the crowd was there for the MC-5 and called out-actually chanted-our name during the breaks between all the acts on the show who played before our set. This totally blew our minds, because up to then we had been known to our fans in Detroit and Ann Arbor but were still strictly a "local act" which had in circulation only an A-Square 45 single, "Looking at You"/"Borderline," issued in an edition of 500 copies. True enough, our performances in the eastern sector of the state had become legendary for their excitement and high-energy dynamicism, but we had no idea that people on the West Coast of Michigan had any concept of who we were, let alone that they would be clamoring for our appearance at the Saugatuck Pop Festival.

[2] There was a terrific scene backstage when I met with the management of the Frost, the Amboy Dukes and the SRC to hammer out the order of performance to close the show when nighttime arrived. Dick Wagner of the Frost, who gained fame later as guitarist on records by Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, was a venerable Michigan rock star who had pulled up in his black Cadillac limousine to show off his new aggregation, the Frost, on the festival stage. The SRC were releasing albums on Capitol Records after their local hit with the old Skip James song, "I'm So Glad," on A-Square Records, and the Amboy Dukes, behind the corny guitaristics of the dread Ted Nugent, had been riding high with their national hit single of "Journey to the Center of the Mind."

All three Michigan bands were much better established than the 5, but then there was the matter of the frenzied chanting of the crowd all afternoon in their eagerness to be confronted by the power and beauty of the MC-5. The burning question was who would close the show, and while it seemed a cinch to me that the 5 should enjoy the honors, the other acts were invoking the traditional show-business rule that the bands with the hit records should be the ones at the top of the bill. My position was that it didn't matter to us where they put us, we would go out on stage and kill no matter what our position in the order of performance.

So I was chuckling to myself as I went back to tell the band that we'd hit the stage just as the sun was going down rather than at the end of the night where we belonged, and this only further enhanced the 5's determination to blow up the sky and leave no audience members unmoved. The thing I loved most about working with this band was its single-minded commitment to total destruction-every performance was seen as an opportunity to raise the level another notch higher, and the intransigence of the other acts at Saugatuck really lit the 5 on fire. This was by far the largest crowd so far assembled to hear and see the awesome rock & roll power of the MC-5, and when we were finished so were they-we leveled the place to the ground, and all of us in the MC-5 camp suddenly realized that things were going to be quite a bit different different from now on.

In recent years I'd returned to Saugatuck several times in the company of Brian Bowe and the Blue Star 6, and while we weren't no MC-5 our offerings had been very enthusiastically received by a series of packed houses at the Sand Bar. Tonight was no different, with the extremely sympathetic backing of Vince Hayes and his tough rhythm section carrying the day for me, and I enjoyed a great night that was only slightly diminished by the $100 fee the management saw fit to pay me. Hey, if I was in this for the money, I'd never leave home to play a gig in the first place.

In fact, I was so charged up by the evening's performance that Celia and I hopped in the car and drove the 3 hours back to Detroit in what seemed like the twinkling of an eye. For the rest of my stay I'd be based in Detroit with no more trips out of town, and that sounded mighty good to me.

-Cabiria Cafe
September 18, 2007
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