Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let the Fair Season Begin

With the County Fair season upon us, kicking off in late June at the beautiful Alameda County Fairgrounds, it can only mean one thing - Boys II Men, Nightranger and Teen Idols of the 70s are traveling down the road in bus, reliving the dream of their heyday.

Catching a band on their way down from stardom has a certain charm. Either the artist is bitter and nursing a drug problem, or they’re thankful and grateful for what they have (God usually has something to do with this picture). Tony Orlando and Dawn was the latter; Foghat was the former.

As the sun set at the Alameda County Fair, Tony Orlando and Dawn (only 1 original member of Dawn was with him) were halfway through their set, having played most of their hits and were relying on covers to fill out the show. Introducing Candida, Tony graciously said, “We’re going to play another song called Candida, a hit from back in 1970.” The audience clapped, a few shrilled and Tony seemed genuinely surprised. He had the same reaction when he announced “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” Maybe this was part of the act…surprise.

He finished the song and again appeared to be surprised by the applause. With his hands together in prayer and bobbing up and down, giving the audience the Namaste, he repeated, “Thank you for remembering. Thank you very much. Thank you for remembering.” He continued to bow and Dawn followed suit. It was a beautiful Fair moment. (Side note: Tony put out a record in 1995 entitled “Ghetto Dope.” Wonder what that was all about?”)

In the mid-90s Foghat had found a permanent home in the fair circuit and half filled clubs. During this time, my band opened up for them at Slim’s, a club South of Market in San Francisco. Before the show, we were sitting back backstage drinking free beer. Someone knocked on the door. The door slowly opened and an older man with wispy hair and chest full of laminates peaked in. By the laminates, we assumed he was in or with Foghat. He entered the room and slowly closed the door. He quickly glanced around the room and lowered his voice. Be his demeanor, I knew we were in for something good: “Hey Mates,” he said in a whisper, still looking around the room and back at the odor, “were looking for a little…” He gestured like he was snorting cocaine. “Do you know where we can get some?” It was a classic rock moment that I immediately stored in my long-term memory. All of us looked at each other and smiled, acknowledging that the dude from Foghat just asked us for cocaine.

Before his words settled, I said, “Classic.” My punk rock sensibilities told me to tell him to “fuck off,” but I was in no situation to be righteous. With my perfect long, curly hair, tight-ass jeans and harness boots and opening for Foghat on a Tuesday, I had no ground to stand on.

A more politic member of the band, the soundman, took his request seriously and made a call. They left together to get the stuff and I pondered Foghat being English (I just kinda figured they were from Jersey or somewhere like that) and that our soundman could get cocaine in a minute’s notice.

Alameda County Fair
Solana County Fair
San Mateo County Fair


  1. Glad you are writing again.

    We went to the Alameda County Fair a couple years back to see Charo. Coochie Coochie.

    We have a 15 month old daughter named August and still live on the wrong side of Shattuck.

    randy (ypsi_oakland).

  2. Great to hear from you and you got a kid!! Welcome to the team!

    I can’t believe I missed Charo. When I was a boy, I loved her. I remember putting on an elaborate shadow puppet show where all she did was dance and say, “Coochie Coo!” My queenie music/theatre teacher loved it.

    Nightranger, Charlie Daniels, B.J. Thomas and En Vogue (saw them with NKOTB at the Coliseum), along with others, are playing the Alameda County Fair. Weird AL will be at the San Mateo County in July.

    I’m on Facebook (greg kim) if you find yourself trolling around the site. I would love to see pictures of your boy? Girl?

    Take care, Randy!