1970’s Outdoor Rock Concerts/Festivals: How Did I Survive? – Doc Lehman
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge!
The Rolling Stones’ stage.
Back in the 1970’s if I wasn’t at a race track I was at a rock concert. In fact, my fever for rock ‘n roll was at thermo-nuclear proportions throughout the 70’s and I must have seen over 100 bands during that decade, many of them three, four, five, six and more times each! I recall seeing Aerosmith five times in one year once. And while my regular haunts to see rock concerts was usually the Akron Civic Theatre, Cleveland Public Hall, Allen Theatre, Music Hall, Cleveland Agora, Canton Civic Center and the Richfield Coliseum, I also attended numerous outdoor ‘festivals’ during the 70’s.
My run of huge outdoor rock concerts during the 70’s began in 1972. After the huge success of Montery Pop Festival and Woodstock in the 60’s, and despite the 60’s ending concert at Altamont Speedway with the Rolling Stones, big outdoor concerts or ‘festivals’ became the norm for much of the 70’s and my buddies and I were all for them.
After returning to Ohio in June after a three-month stay in Colorado I was lucky enough to attend several outdoor mega-concerts with my cousin Sue who is about six years older than I. My first outdoor concert was at the Akron Rubber Bowl on July 3 for The Faces and Badfinger and then a few days later on July 11, 1972 featuring the Rolling Stones with Stevie Wonder as support.
The Faces with Rod Stewart totally rocked the joint and Badfinger had a real good recepetion. It was my first ‘mega-concert’ and it hooked me. The icing on the cake came a week later when the Rolling Stones invaded the Akron Rubber Bowl. By then I knew it was only rock ‘n roll, but I sure as hell liked it!
What was memorable most about this concert were all the details we learned afterwards. There was a riot going on! Apparently, according to the media the day after, police busted a little more than two dozen people for drug offenses and that incited a large portion of the crowd that was aware of what was happening. It was quite a scene and we later found out about the number of arrests and that seven police officers were injured. 42,000 rockers were there and yes, the massive numbers blew this then 14-year-old away!
Luckily my parents didn’t find out about the ‘hippie riot’ and the following month, August 5, 1972 to be exact, my cousin, her friend and my pal Mike H., were headed back to the Rubber Bowl for the Alice Cooper School’s Out show. Supporting acts were Dr. John and the J. Geils Band.
Dr. John was better than I expected and prior to J. Geils starting their session lead singer Pete Wolfe came out on a Harley-Davidson, parked it center stage, bellowed something now forgotten to the crowd and it was on! I was a J. Geils Band fan from that day onward.
Alice Cooper was great. He had all the original members and the stage act was more than I expected. The hanging, the snake, ripping up huge Alice posters and throwing them into the crowd, throwing handfuls of dollar bills into the crowd and the musical performance just kicked ass all the way. The highlight was during the School’s Out encore when a helicopter flew overhead, started slowly circling the perimeter of the stadium and then strangely these white things started flowing out of the copter and floating down to the crowd.
Akron Rubber Bowl
My pal Mike was lucky enough to catch one and they turned out to be faux ‘lace’ panties with A.C. ’embroidered’ on them.
The following week at the Rubber Bowl I was offered tickets but declined. Just couldn’t get into Yes and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. And who the hell was that warm-up act the Eagles?
A couple weeks later it was return trip to the Rubber Bowl for the Jefferson Airplane and damned if I can remember the support acts (it was one of those days, ya know?). What I do remember is partway through the Airplane’s gig something happened, didn’t know what at the time but there was a ruckus happening up front and then onstage. Next thing we knew swarms of police were headed for the front of the stage and this strange ‘smoke’ started filtering through the air.
It was tear gas as we soon found out the hard way. We left.
A couple weeks later Rolling Stone magazine reported the details of what happened (as did the local newspapers but not in as much detail). Long story short, apparently the tour manager got into it with the police and started shouting and calling them ‘pigs’. The cops were antsy because of a supposed bomb threat that was phoned in prior to the concert. It was on then and then the rocks started being heaved towards the cop cars.
Naturally band members went to assist their associate and when it was all over Grace Slick and Paul Kanter were maced and Jack Cassady was not only maced but hauled off to jail literally kicking and screaming.
I’m not sure but I think that was the last rock concert at the Akron Rubber Bowl until the late 80’s or early 90’s when Bob Dylan and Tom Petty played there. (I didn’t go to that one.)
The following year outdoor concerts were still available just not in Akron. Massillon, OH, home of Paul Brown Stadium, was the next venue to pick up the gauntlet and despite objections from the local police department and the Fraternal Order of Police I got to see the Edgar Winter Group, James Gang and Frampton’s Camel at Paul Brown Stadium just ten miles or so from home on July 21, 1973. Around 12,000 attended and it went off pretty much without a hitch.
But a week later another concert was scheduled for Paul Brown Stadium that I HAD to see! Mott The Hoople, one of my favorite bands of the 70’s (and still today) was coming to headline along with the New York Dolls, Rainbow and Dr. Hook. I think half of my hometown of Orrville, OH turned out for that one. Everything seemed to go along just fine, the music was great, Rainbow was exceptional, the Dolls were insane and Mott The Hoople just, plainly speaking, kick-ass. What a show!
Ian Hunter & Overend Watts of Mott The Hoople
Later we found out that there were an abundance of calls to the police for a variety of complaints and reasons (to wit; drug overdoses, 5 men injured, 1 car theft, 1 grand larceny, 1 attempted grand larceny, 28 calls for trouble) and the City of Massillon banished concerts from Paul Brown Stadium after that.
It was fun while it lasted.
When 1974 rolled around Belkin Productions in Cleveland had scored a deal with Cleveland Municipal Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns and Indians, to stage rock concerts they dubbed ‘World Series of Rock’. The World Series of Rock were held for six years and I went to a majority of them.
The first World Series of Rock was held on June 23, 1974 featuring The Beach Boys with Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon & Joe Walsh. I didn’t have much interest in the Beach Boys but a buddy, Tim, was into them so we went. Skynyrd, REO and Joe Walsh were all good but I don’t remember much about the Beach Boys (it was the 70’s, ya know!).
The second one of 1974 that I attended was held on August 31, 1974 and headlined Crosby, Stills Nash and Young and damn if I can remember who the support acts were (another lost ticket stub!). I barely remember CSN&Y playing but I remember Neil Young being ‘so cool’ on stage.
Had tickets for the ELP headlined World Series of Rock but didn’t make it. The boss wouldn’t let me off work that day!
On June 1, 1975 my buddy Bill Evans and I headed off for Bowling Green University’s Doyt Perry Stadium in his Volkswagon for the Poe Ditch Music Festival that featured Golden Earring, Johnny Winter, Montrose, Styx, the Outlaws, Richie Havens, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Pure Prairie League.
Montrose in concert at Poe Ditch.Big crowd at Poe Ditch.
A hot day baking under the sun, but we were maybe 20 feet center from the stage on the football field surrounded by friendly and generous concert goers and one young lady in particular who spent most of the day topless. Never was a big Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Pure Prairie League fan, or so I thought, but they put on a good show. The original Styx line-up was on hand and they were mildly OK and Montrose just kicked ass and Richie Havens impressed the hell out of me.
Guitarist Ronnie Montrose performs at the Poe Ditch Music Festival at the Doyt Perry Stadium on June 1, 1975.
An swarm of concert-goers crowd Doyt Perry Stadium for the Poe Ditch Music Festival on June 1, 1975. Of the estimated 33,000-40,000 people in the crowd, only 3,300 were students. Even worse, there was only one law enforcement offiver for every 6,000-7,000 people, as stated by then Wood Country Sheriff Raymond Coller in a BG News Article dated June 3, 1975.
But right as Golden Earring was getting ready to go on stage a thunderstorm hit and everything came to a screeching stop and that, putting it mildly, pissed a good portion of the crowd off. Thinking it was cancelled they launched beer bottles at the stage.We made our way through the crowd, headed for the parking lot and walked right past Johnny Winter who had just arrived. As we approached the car a group of fans set the press box on fire in protest and that was the end of rock concerts there. NOTE: Awhile back there was an article published in a newspaper in the Bowling Green, OH area about the Poe Ditch Music Festival 35 years later. You can read it HERE.
On June 20, 1975 with nothing to do and no tickets, Flash talked me into heading to Pittsburgh for the Pink Floyd concert at Three Rivers Stadium. It was sold out but we found a deal with a scalper and took the show in. Never a fan, I went for the party and eye candy and actually had a good time. They be crazy in Pittsburgh but friendly as I recall.
We were right down on the field not too far from the front of the stage, it was h-o-t as hell and the women were looking good (and nearly naked). 33 years later my memories consist of Aerosmith kicking ass with Steven Tyler wearing a skintight black outfit with a black cape! He looked like Batman but it was one of Aerosmith’s better gigs that I have seen. Foghat were awesome, Jim Dandy and Black Oak were insane and I recall Blue Oyster Cult getting a great reception.
A couple weeks later it was back to Cleveland Stadium for another World Series of Rock on August 23, 1975 that headlined Rod Stewart & the Faces. I had wanted to see the Faces for a long time and finally got my chance and it was worth the wait. Rod Stewart had 80,000 people on their feet all singing and dancing in unison. Stewart & the Faces gave an incredible performance that day in spite of performing in such a huge facility. Support acts were Aerosmith, Uriah Heep, Blue Oyster Cult & Mahogany Rush. All bands were great and I remember the lead guitarist Mick Box playing awesome lead guitar with a broken wrist and a cast on.
’75 World Series of Rock headlining The Faces & Rod Stewart
Another shot ffrom The Faces headlining World Series of Rock
1976: Outdoor concerts were minimal for me that year as a full time job hauling milk and a steady girlfriend kept me at bay for the most part (except for LOTS of indoor concerts at the aforementioned venues mentioned at the beginning of this missive). One outdoor concert that was highly enjoyable was the Mosquito Dam Jam near Warren & Cortland, Ohio at Mosquito Lake.
Banner made for the occasion by Cindy Morelle & her posse of Orrville chicks.
The Mosquito Dam Jam was headlined by Blue Oyster Cult on August 28, 1976 with support acts Bob Seger, Starz, J. Geils Band, and I think Derringer and Styx (another lost ticket stub and fading memory, plus had a r-e-a-l good time that day!). This was another gig that seemed to have everyone from Orrville and Wayne County there as I recall. Another outdoor concert happened near Tiffin, OH (no ticket stub remains and I can’t remember the date). I only have vague memories of this but some enterprising promoters rented a farm with lots of wide-open land and off a bunch of us from Orrville went in Flash’s Lincoln Continental Mark IV (and a caravan of other cars followed). All we had was a flyer to go on and eventually we found the place but played hell getting to it. We had to park the car in a field, then walk through another large field, walk through some woods, cross a creek (no bridge), climb up a hill and at the crest was wide-open spaces and a huge stage.I don’t remember all of the bands but Foghat headlined over Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Mitch Ryder and several other bands. A good time was had by all which accounts for my cloudy memories and lack of specifics.
1977 was a busy year of attending outdoor concerts at Cleveland Stadium. Most of the concerts drew close to 80,000 people. On June 5, 1977 we planned to see Aerosmith headline the World Series of Rock but they cancelled and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes came on board with Ted Nugent, Nazereth and Todd Rundgren.
Legendary Murray Saul of WMMS getting the crowd primed to ‘GET DOWN!!!’
1978: A ‘family tragedy’ you can call it kept me away from the July 1, 1978 World Series of Rock with the Rolling Stones setting an attendance record at 83,000. Tickets were a whopping $12.50. Kansas (yawn, according to a friend whom I gave the tickets to) were the support act.
My only World Series of Rock for 1979 came on July 28, 1979 with 80,000 jammed in for a bill that consisted of Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Journey, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC. The top three all put on a good show but I recall being extra impressed with Thin Lizzy and AC/DC that day as I didn’t have the chance to see them too often.
1980: Even though 1980 wasn’t part of the 70’s I attended my last two outdoor concerts that year. As you can see going through this as the 70’s dwindled down towards the 80’s my outdoor concert attendance began to wane and that was due to marriage and a couple of kids.
A couple weeks later it was back to Cleveland for another World Series of Rock that was held on July 19 and headliner Bob Seger put on one of the best concerts I had ever seen him do. More amazing because of the size of the venue he nonetheless had the place rockin’ along with J. Geils Band, Def Leppard & Eddie Money.
©2008/2012 Doc Lehman/Bangagong!
NOTE: I would encourage everyone to read the comments left here. Some great, funny & entertaining stories from other folks’ adventures at outdoor rock concerts.