Thursday, April 16, 2009

"INSTANT KARMA"

YouTube - Renaissance - Carpet of the Sun On October 25, 1975 as concert co-chairman of the University of Connecticut Student Union Board of Governors we had a homecoming concert with Renaissance and Fleetwood Mac. (see You Tube link above to see a 1977 video of Renaissance).

This concert was held in the old field house where UCONN basketball and track events were held. I had to meet with John Toner, Athletic Director, to get permission to hold a concert in this facility. To stage a concert in the field house we had to rent a stage, lights, folding chairs and have a crew of 160 volunteers to help with setting up the chairs and stage, breaking down the stage and removing the chairs after the show along with cleaning up after the concert. We made yellow tee shirts silk screened in blue ink in the Board of Governors office for all of the student volunteers.

The show was a sell-out and the first show ever held in the field house. There were approximately seven thousand tickets sold. I believe the tickets were about four dollars each. I was able to hire Fleetwood Mac for this show for $6,000 and they signed the contract just before they hit the "big time" with their "Fleetwood Mac" "white album" with the addition Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to the group of Christine & John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood Mac was playing other venues at the time for around $100,000 per show.

On the night of the show we had to provide Renaissance with a baby grand piano along with some dry ice that they needed for their dry ice machine to create a fog effect for their song "Ocean Gypsy". Prior to letting all of the concert attendees into the field house I was informed that the road manager for Renaissance said that the piano we had on stage was not acceptable to their group. He said that the group wouldn't go on stage with that piano. Winston Wilson, our student union advisor, commenced to make a few calls around the university to try to locate another piano. We called around to the fine arts department and a few other locations but we couldn't locate a replacement piano. As we were calling to locate another piano; the crowd was waiting outside the field house and anxious to get in and claim their seats as it was an open seating concert.

After our best effort to locate another piano, we were resigned to the fact that Renaissance may not play. We were encouraged however, when the Renaissance road manager started asking about the dry ice. We figured that was a good sign as why would you ask about the dry ice unless the group was going to play.

We finally opened to doors to the concert goers and everyone found their seats. We were behind schedule due to our scrambling around to try to find another piano. After everyone was seated I climbed up onto the stage to address the crowd. I said "Good evening everyone. On behalf of the Board of Governors we would like to welcome you to the Homecoming show with Fleetwood Mac and Renaissance. This is the first show ever held in the field house and could be the first of many future shows or the only show. There is to be no smoking or drinking." (After saying this there was a thunderous BOOOOOOOOOO!!!! from the crowd.)

I then introduced Renaissance and left the stage to sit down in my seat. Renaissance performed their set. Lead singer Annie Haslam came on dressed in a long white floor length dress and commenced to sing in her angelic sounding voice songs such as "Scheherazade", "Ocean Gypsy", "Mother Russia" among others. Above the stage was a mirror ball that they planned to use for their encore song "Ashes Are Burning".

What Renaissance didn't know was that the road crew from Fleetwood Mac was unhappy that the show started late. They found the field house light panel switches and turned on all the lights after the last Renaissance song so that there was no encore for Renaissance. Annie Haslam was upset and burst into tears as she ran to the backstage dressing room.

Fleetwood Mac came on next and gave a good show. Songs they played included "Over My Head", "Rhiannon",and "Landslide". Prior to their performance they were originally supposed to wait in one of the locker rooms. They objected to this so we were able to use the athletic department lounge for them. After the show we found out that there were burns on a lot of the athletic department furniture from something that they were smoking which wasn't a cigarette.

After the show was over the crowd left quite a mess of trash and beer bottles which took hours to clean up in addition to breaking down the stage and removing the portable chairs. This show ended up being the only show ever held in the field house.

Renaissance ended up paying the price of not having an encore for their song "Ashes Are Burning" when they delayed the concert as we tried to find another piano. The only ashes that burned were in the athletic department lounge from burn marks left by Fleetwood Mac.