Scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, a friend of mine had posted about his very first rock concert. Underneath, several others had written comments about their first show, with many of them being some pretty big-name acts.
I immediately remembered my first concert, and would venture to guess that few others have had the pleasure of seeing the singer I caught in the early 1970s at the Saratoga County Fair. Give it up for ... Anson Williams!
Yes, the first live music I ever remember hearing in person was performed by Potsie from "Happy Days." My mom took her two sons to what I remember being a Saturday evening show in the infield of Saratoga Race Course, and I know my brother and I were excited about seeing someone famous from TV. Perhaps we even begged Mom to take us, because looking back it seems incredibly unlikely that a rock 'n roller such as she would want to sit through a (gulp) Anson Williams gig.
I couldn't help but think of that nearly-50-years-ago concert during the recent Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival while hanging out down at Sailboard Beach. I hadn't been able to make it to see Casey Donahew on the first night, as daughter Grace easily took priority with her annual dance recital. The next evening, though, we made it a family night along Lake Okabena when we took in a performance by Bootleg.
While Bootleg — as a band that played strictly rock covers — didn't offer anything particularly innovative, the show did remind me how cool it is to see almost any kind of music performed live. It's one thing to listen in earbuds, and another to listen at a slightly unreasonably high volume — but I've long thought that seeing and hearing any kind of musical act in person is a different (and preferable) experience. In short, nothing can beat being there.
Unfortunately, it's been so infrequent nowadays that I've gotten to hear live music in a real concert setting. Sure, there have been the always-enjoyable performances by the "Amazing" Worthington City Band, as well as some shows at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, but the music events I'm talking about include crowds singing along and dancing, getting a little sweaty, enjoying a beverage or two (or more) of their choosing.
The Regatta, of course, offers this sort of experience, although it's also obviously not what one would call a major live music venue. Growing up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., home of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and a summer mecca for big-name live music, I was spoiled as a youth and got to see lots of shows (I could brag, but I'll skip those particulars). Then, living in New York City for four years after college, there were even more concerts — mostly rock, some jazz. The incredible thing about NYC was the opportunity to hear music at places as varied as Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, the sadly-defunct "birthplace of punk" CBGB (my most beloved venue, and the one place I blame most frequently for my less-than-stellar hearing) and even Carnegie Hall.
Since moving to Worthington 20 years ago, those kinds of music experiences have been few and far between, as I've never even traveled to the Cities or Sioux Falls to see a show (Becca did take Grace to a Florida Georgia Line concert there a few years back). In October 2019, though, I was in Cuero, Texas for Turkeyfest and heard a loud outdoor show by the southern rock/county band Whiskey Myers while surrounded by a large crowd of inebriated — or well on their way there — folks. It was almost a sort of homecoming, and it was fairly awesome. Most of all, it was absolutely nothing like that Anson Williams show that started it all.