Having just released their enormously successful “Pieces of Eight” album right on the heels of the equally popular “The Grand Illusion,” Styx was at the height of their popularity when they were scheduled to play at the Michigan State Fair in 1978. There was no way my friends and I were going to miss the show. The concert was general admission, so we decided to get to the fairgrounds early in the morning to make sure we would be near the front of the line when the gates opened and be able to get spots right up front by the stage. As the day went on, the crowd size increased, and so did the heat. Since there were four of us, two from the group would occasionally break out from the crowd to get some fresh air, see the sights, and get something cold to drink. It was almost time for the gates to open when the last two wanderers returned to the crowd. When they arrived, I was totally parched, due in equal parts to the heat and all the bodies packed together in close proximity to each other. Not to worry, they had both came back with refreshments! A nice, tall paper cup filled with Coke, or iced tea, or lemonade, or whatever – just let me have some. I grabbed the cup from Rick, and before he could say anything, pulled a nice big drink through the straw. I had swallowed the first gulp and was working on the second when I realized that Rick had replaced the the icy cold whatever in his cup with warm sloe gin.
As a warm rush hit me and my vision began to quickly fade into a white fog, I felt my knees buckling and I knew I was going to pass out. With the noise of the crowd around me fading into the distance I heard the gates to the concert area being opened. Thoughts of being trampled to death by the crowd began to swirl around in what was left of my consciousness. Just as my legs turned entirely into rubber, I felt someone grab me under both arms, stopping me from totally collapsing. Barely hanging on to consciousness, I could feel myself moving through the crowd, but had no idea where I was going or what was going on. A few seconds later, when the breeze from the open air hit me, the fog began to lift from my vision almost as quickly as it had set in and the strength returned to my legs. My good friend Doug had grabbed me as I was collapsing and pushed me through the gate, into the open air. He probably saved my life that day. Amazingly, after a few moments, I felt as if nothing had happened at all. We all stood in the open air for a short while, everyone asking if I was all right. I told them I felt fine now, but I would really like something cold to drink. Because of this, we ended up not getting right up by the front of the stage like we had planned, opting instead, for seats near the front of the the grandstands – farther back than originally planned, but still good seats by any token. Styx put on a great show that night, playing nearly all their songs from “Pieces of Eight” and “The Grand Illusion” as well as a lot of their earlier songs.
I’ve been to many concerts since then – too many to count, really – and I still rank this concert as one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Because of the course of events preceding the show, it definitely was my most memorable. I don’t know if I ever thanked my friend for saving me from being trampled that day. So Doug, If you ever happen to read this, “thank you,” and I’m sorry you didn’t get to be right up front by the stage.
Copyright © 2014 Mr. Flying Pig