OK, it’s been about 2 weeks and I think my head is clear enough to begin to write this review now. I still get home from work each night, check YouTube for anything new and page through Jay Bloomrosen’s photo book from the first night and will for many weeks to come, but re-entry is going smoothly.
It was an overall shocking experience. Shock 1. It started with the mere fact that my wife and kids were very supportive of my adventure and expenditure, leaving them on a long holiday weekend, spending a small fortune on plane, hotel, tickets, then extending a day and taking a vacation day (unheard of – I am the true work- aholic) and paying for the change in flight, additional ticket and hotel night. I believe this stems from my not even considering Toddstock, then jumping on the Rundgren Radio train shortly thereafter, dragging the wife along on a few stops, and letting her realize how “we” as a community not only get off on the music and the shows, but bond together and are all so connected. I think it was Pippi who wrote somewhere the analogy of being the only black kid in high school and then having the realization of going to a predominantly black college. And things get pretty scary when you start quoting Pippi.
So I land in Cleveland, get my rental car and drive to the Akron Centre Hotel. I have a slight MapQuest issue and it causes me to have to drive around the block only once (not bad, I once used them to get me to an abbey road show in South Jersey and it took me to the ticket management office instead of the venue (miles away) - talk about a bad trip) so I got to drive past the CIVIC Theatre to see the Marquee. Very cool – so close to the hotel. Parked the car, walking in about 6:30 PM and in the parking Deck I see Mr. Doug Ford of Rundgren Radio who gives me a big “hey Jay” and y’know – it may seem silly – but it made me feel great. Walk in to the lobby – Cruiser Mel all polka dotted out for the party, big hug, we were all actually there. It all started with an email from these two asking for some commitment on interest for this event and being one of those first few to pony up, I’ve been anticipating this since April. These guys made you feel like you were part of making it happen. So I go to check in and the staff behind the check in desk are all wearing the AWATS premier T-shirts under their uniform blazers. Later I’d see the bartenders in the same shirts for the whole weekend. Big Poster for the event up on an easel right in my face. It was great.
Rundgren Radio Party Started a little after 7. Found all my new best friends, Lois and Dennis (who really put up with me tagging along most of the weekend since I was totally solo) the Knife’s (I don’t think you refer to them as the “Knives” - Alex is just the greatest kid, I bond with him on these trips cause I miss my own sons), say hi to the Rister’s and the Linder’s, Sue and George, get to see Jodie and Richard who’s wedding I got to go to on NYE, Pippi, Mike Bender, Amy Reynolds, OC Sheri, Rob Warwas, Becky etc. Sorry if I leave anyone out. Way too much drinks – I was having the time of my life. Said hi to Jessie, Mary Lou, and Randy Brown. Went up to my room and on the way down ran into Kasim at the elevator. He, sort of jokingly, asked if I was security. After seeing the security guys at the shows, I think it was due to my belly. Anyway, I followed him back to the party, drank tons more, went to the Bar at 1or so after the Party closed down, drank some more and got back to my room around 3:30.
1. Shock 2 - Lois introduced me to her friend Neal. It turns out that when I was 15, I was friends with a girl whose older sister knew Neal and Neal introduced her to Todd’s music. She in turn was one of the few resident Todd Fans in town and she recommended I buy Ra. I remember it to this day – went to record store, they said they were out of the “red” one but the new “black” one was in so I went home with Oops wrong planet instead. The rest was history. As Neal and I are talking I distinctly remember meeting him in our mutual friend’s living room before going to my first Utopia Show in 1979 and being really impressed by the guy who knew everything about Todd Rundgren. And 30 years later we meet at this party and causally realize that we had this acquaintance. We hung out quite a bit that night and the next night. 2. Met Roger Powell – treat of treats, I got a kick out of how he said he had been living a very quite life the past couple of years. He seemed genuinely floored by the event and the interest we all had in seeing him again after all these years. 3. Just one Victory – so the DJ shuts down at midnight or so and they play AWATS from front to back to close out the night. Everyone is dancing to AWATS – which was interesting enough, but then we are all standing in front of the empty stage staring at it and singing JOV and doing the claps like there he was on the stage ….but guys he wasn’t. The stage was empty, no one was there. I find it very puzzling.
Open my Eyes …at about 10 AM next day – still in my clothes. OUCH. Head is pounding…grab Advil that I have in my travel stuff. It expired in 2005. Took it, it did nothing. Change from my clothes into my Pajama’s because of the Kasim Pajama show and go down to breakfast. See everybody and then some. Restaurant really slow service – and it was a buffet. Pippi saves the day with some more recent Advil. Make my way to the ball room – Bar opens – get Baileys – Headache goes away.
Kasim shows up in Pajamas – the whole pajama thing was a little disappointing, I’d say less than 10% of the people there wore them. Kasim was really good. I hadn’t been to a solo show, only seen them on the DVD and on YouTube. He was genuinely happy to be playing for us, played really great songs. Great job on Cliché, set me free and I just want to touch you were really fun. New song was good. Highlight for me was Don’t hold me Back. He told the story of how he used to play it during the Adventures in Utopia Tour solo spot and I remembered seeing it at the Philadelphia Spectrum sold out show. Made me very nostalgic – I had no idea what I’d be seeing 6 hours later…….
Went back upstairs as soon as the show ended while everyone waited on line to meet him. Took a 3 ½ hour nap. Woke up and went to CVS to get my own Advil in prep for the next morning. Met up with Mike Bender and went to dinner with Him and some of his friends, Jill Mingo, Marcia (spelled like my wife), Betty, Amy R. and a couple of others, then met up with Mike’s son and daughter and their spouses and friends. Some cocktails and then off to the AKRON CIVIC Theatre.
By now everyone has seen pictures of the inside of the theatre – what a place. Perfect Venue for this. I made my way to seat A1…front and center. Teri Forgue in A2 – we had been face booking since we got our seats about how awesome it would be. The Filek’s and the Warwai (that is plural) in the Pit in front of us. Curtain on the stage with a keyboard set up, drums, and 2 mics in front of it – very stripped down and very familiar. Could it be, yes it could. See where everyone is sitting – I know everyone around me by name going back many many rows. Best, just the best feeling ever.
Shock 3: Lights go down, space and Morse code sounds start, out walk Todd, Roger, Kasim and W….Prairie. Place goes nuts. They take their places in their oopsish attire and play the set of Utopia stuff. I totally forgot about the fact that most of us paid a lot of money for tickets, flew many miles to be there, paid to stay over, and made an effort to go…..all I can think of was what did we do to deserve this gift…….why were we lucky enough have this happen after so many decades, false starts, rumors, and “never going to bes”. Look….Kasim gets to sing more than 2 verses and an alternate verse in an entire show. How long has he been waiting for that. ROGER F’N POWELL DOING ABANDON CITY. He still grits his teeth when he plays a solo. TRAPPED WITH THE REAL INTRO, THE IKON. 1979 – 1983 all over again for me. It sounded great for the first time in public in 17 years and probably 25 years since a real tour. Roger had some earpiece issues – Randy Browne finally masking taped it to his ear. Todd was great but really let it be the other guys’ spotlight. Caravan - a little rough but wtf – it was a Utopia set after all these years. They finish, lights go up, my eyes are watering (not crying just watering), my face hurts, if I had hair it would have been blown back. Everyone around me is looking at each other with mouths wide opened; none of us could verbalize anything except WOW and WTF…..Nice support/opening band. What could he do to top that?
Lights go back down….waaawaaaawaaaa….waaaaa.waaaaaa.waaaa….HERE WE ARE AGAIN – Shock 4: spacesuit, 6 piece band, smoke, lasers, video screen, Guys, I had such a great seat. Todd is smiling from ear to ear as he moves slowly across the stage. It’s as if he’s thinking “I got em now ------look it’s working”. Man did he put his all into this show. Again, we really went to bat for him and he could have really done a scaled down performance and it would have been good. But you could tell he sincerely was out to make it worth it to “us”. Great great feeling. First costume change into black tails for Never Never land – he grabs the light up wand from Rob Warwas – couldn’t have been rehearsed better. Just great stuff. Band is wonderful, really sounding great. Minor hiccups on the head mic but everything is just going so well for a first night. Dogfight Giggle – absolutely terrific idea. . Zen Archer. Onion head in a fat suit. Kasim does a great Does anybody love you.
Now I’m a huge fan of everyone in that band – but by far the MVP was Bobby Strickland. Last in but made such an impact on that stage. He played every woodwind imaginable, percussion, keys, danced, and rallied the crowd. Solos in Zen Archer, whistle, flute, were awesome but cool jerk was his song and he got us all going. Todd’s I don’t want to tie you down. IS IT MY NAME was the definite highlight for me. Michele getting to come out to sing in Just one Victory was so well deserved. Everyone knows how hard she worked on this too.
Show ended, we all couldn’t really process everything we just saw – except we knew we were completely satisfied and dazed. If I hadn’t already extended the stay for the second night, I would have been running around making arrangements too. Instead I got to go back to the hotel with 500 of us to hang at the Bar, the outside patio, the hallway on the Plaza level, and just share the feeling that we witnessed one of the greatest Audience to Artist interactive experiences ever. As the band members slowly made their way back to the hotel individually they were mildly accosted. Jessie first, Greg, Roger. Somehow Todd and Bobby came in through the front door so they snuck up on us and went to the Bar. The focus shifted from outside to inside where we got to hang with them (Todd fully surrounded by every female in the place). Bobby decided to join Lois, Dennis, Neal and I at a table for at least ½ hour. Greatest guy and we talked primarily about the interaction between the audience and the artist during these special events. He was truly on cloud nine as much as we were if not more and couldn’t stop thanking us. In his words “Magical experience that cant be beat” I don’t think I can saw any more about it.
Whew, I’m exhausted just writing this.