Patti Smith Goes To SchoolOctober 17, 2008
I continue my retrospective of rock ‘n roll concert venues I attended from ‘back in the day’ with a last minute concert at Oberlin College, home of the famed Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. It was the only time I attended a concert at the college’s Finney Chapel, a small theatre with great acoustics and sightlines and it was, as stated, a last minute decision to go.
One late afternoon on a weekday in the latter part of summer or early fall of 1977 (I can’t recall the month) I stopped to get gas in my hometown of Orrville, OH when two acquaintances, Steve and Russ, spotted me and stopped by with a plan. They were headed to Oberlin College to see the Patti Smith Group and did I want to hitch a ride with them? I didn’t even know they were playing that night but what the hell, I’m in.
I had heard Patti’s first LP and an early single and was well familiar with her and especially her guitarist, Lenny Kaye, from all of his work in the various music magazines of the day. In addition to writing for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines, Lenny also served as editor of Rock Scene and Hit Parader magazines. Thanks to Lenny, and lots of other New York based media, Patti Smith was turning up in all of the rock ‘n roll magazines and fanzines.
We checked out a map at the station, I parked the car and off we went to Oberlin College. When we got there we tracked down the location of Finney Chapel, scoped out the nearby scenery and then made our way to the boxoffice to buy tickets and find our seats. I was a month or two from turning 20 but I felt o-l-d. The students who attended the concert and who we mingled with at the concession areas seemed young for some reason. A different vibe, but not negative.
When Patti Smith and her band took the stage I was expecting a garage band performance and I got that and a whole lot more. The band put on a hell of a show, the music was rockin’ and Patti was captivating. She put a lot into that show and the music was new, exciting and…. different. Patti Smith made me take a good hard look and listen as ‘punk’ arrived and that performance, and subsequent albums, broadened my musical tastes considerably.
But looking at that concert on performance alone, they hit a grand slam and I’m glad I went. Factoid: Some time after, Liz Phair attended Oberlin where she studied art.