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We left from Brick, New Jersey, jammed into a tiny red Datsun, very early on the morning of October 3, 1980 on a trajectory straight through to Ann Arbor, Michigan where Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were starting their first tour since 1978. There were five of us, and we were on a mission. And we had a fresh supply of zucchini bread thoughtfully prepared by someone’s mom for the journey. We pulled into the parking lot at Crisler Arena just as the band’s tour bus was rolling in and frantically jumped out of the car to join the small group of fans waiting there to shake hands with Bruce as he walked into the venue. It was the opening night of The River Tour. The album itself would not be released for another week.

I’d be lying if I said I remembered a lot from that night, but I do remember it was the first time I ever bought a concert ticket from a scalper. I blindly grabbed the first one that was offered to me, for $50, which was a huge amount of money when the base price was at most $11. But I would have paid whatever was in my pocket. You see, I walked into a concert hall on August 26, 1978, and my life was changed. That was the first time I ever saw Springsteen and the E Street Band present the glorious medicine show that was the Darkness Tour, and I walked out a different person.

Here’s what I do remember of October 3: the show was on the campus of the University of Michigan, and the security consisted of over zealous and totally obnoxious college kids who were drunk with power. The show started with “Born to Run,” which was unusual and had never happened before, but I was too much of a newbie to realize that. Bruce forgot the words but the audience chanted it until he returned to the groove. Eleven songs were apparently played from the new album. The show ended with “Backstreets.” The encores were “Rosalita” (which Clarence began with the classic opening lines from “Stagger Lee”: the night was dark / and the moon was yellow), “Jungleland,” “Detroit Medley” (we were, also, but a stone’s throw from Detroit), and “Thunder Road” (a repeat from earlier in the night, but this time featuring Bob Seger).

My friends and I were on the road for a week nonstop following the tour, which was a whole new experience for me. To save money we mostly slept in the car (in October, in the Midwest!) in hotel parking lots, so we could go inside in the morning and wash up in the lobby bathrooms. Once or twice, in big cities like Detroit and Chicago, we sprung for a hotel room and lied about how many of us there were in the room so we wouldn’t get charged extra. After Ann Arbor, we went to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago, and then back home to the so-called real world. It was sublime.

But that first night, 31 years ago today, was really the watershed moment for me, when I really gave myself over to a force a lot bigger than myself and just went along for the ride, smiling all the way. Ramroddin’ forever more, you might say.

Hey, little dolly won’t you say you will
Meet me tonight up on top of the hill
Well just a few miles cross the county line
There’s a cute little chapel nestled down in the pines
Say you’ll be mine little girl I’ll put my foot to the floor
Give me the word now sugar, we’ll go ramroddin’ forever more

(Ramrod, © Bruce Springsteen)

Apr 18

Danny Federici

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my deepest condolences to Danny’s family on his passing yesterday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. may he rest in peace. please visit www.thedannyfedericimelanomafund.com.

Tonight my bag is packed
Tomorrow I’ll walk these tracks
That will lead me across the border

Tomorrow my love and I
Will sleep ‘neath auburn skies
Somewhere across the border

We’ll leave behind my dear
The pain and sadness we found here
And we’ll drink from the Bravo’s muddy waters

Where the sky grows grey and white
We’ll meet on the other side
There across the border
- Bruce Springsteen, Across The Border

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHNlq0AWr_E]

I revisited my youth last week, hopped on a plane to Rochester NY to go see a concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It was tremendous, I believe it to be the best show I’ve seen on this tour. It was a girls night out kinda thing with friends who I had gone to shows with many times in the past.

We also (naturally) went to the show in Buffalo the following night. When a band you’ve seen hundreds of times can still (literally) make you scream, well then, what else is there to say. They got the goods.

Similar to the first time I saw those crazy characters 30 years ago, the “Magic” tour is nothing short of a medicine show. Allow me to tell you about the first Springsteen concert I ever saw in 1978, and this after I had turned down multiple chances to see him in the early and mid-70’s with friends who were clearly more on the ball than I was.

I sat there with my mouth open for the entire show, thinking to myself that I had never seen ANYONE who was more alive, able to reach into the soul of each audience member and turn them inside out. I literally staggered out of that show and my life was changed forever by it.

One thing that has always annoyed me beyond reason is the inability of people to understand what could inspire folks to see Springsteen multiple times. May I offer this analogy: say you’re a Mets fan, or a Yankees fan, or a Red Sox fan.

No one would think it odd if you wanted to see your team play against other teams throughout the series. Each night creates a different paradigm. Think of the audience as the other team. It’s never going to be the same night after night, no matter what.

There’s only one musical experience in my life that was more electrifying to me, and that was seeing Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul in 1987. That was a show that was beyond beyond, O Best Beloved. It was in support of the brilliant Freedom-No Compromise record, which is no longer commercially available. Chalk that one up under, um, criminal.