Friday, August 3, 2012

Fellow Prisoners of Rock and Roll

Conditions were perfect for an outdoor evening concert at Ramapo College last night but the cherry on top was the B Street Band, the longest running Bruce Springsteen tribute band, bringing life to selections from Springsteen’s repertoire. Every so often, at day’s end, you characterize the past 24 hours as one of your better days.

Since I work four-day weeks—four long days—Thursday nights are my Friday nights. Knowing I wouldn’t have to drag my carcass out of bed this morning, combined with wonderful music, the Boss’ music, fantastic weather—the moon didn’t need to be full, but it was—and the company of good friends, saturated this Thursday night experience with good karma.

I worked my way around the back of the band shell moments after the performance, located the open door, waded through backstage clutter, and found the band unplugging and packing for their next gig. There was no need this time to wheedle my way through layers of security using a press pass and fast talking.

            I finally got to meet William Forte, owner-performer of the B Street Band, face to face and he graciously introduced me to the lead singer, Bruce-mimic, Glenn Stuart. I had been exchanging emails with the band and had explained although my Springsteen ebook is temporarily moth-balled, I want to finish the few remaining interviews. The urgency to get the book out is waning but, before I put A Notion Deep Inside into suspended animation, I need to complete the writing.

I also know how hard these guys work and how busy their schedule is—too much to even think of interviewing them before or after a gig. I only wanted to connect the faces, meet an email connection, and lay the groundwork for future interviews with them.

The first thing you need to know is when I walked onto the stage last night their joy was palatable. My first impression was how envious I was that these people were loving what they do to the point where you felt the joy envelope you as if you walked into a wet mist. Sweat was pouring off William’s head but he was beaming like a Buddha, having ridden the high of a 2-hour concert.

“Great performance,” I said, pumping his outstretched hand.

“Could you hear us out there?” William said, worrying about their projection.

William Forte

I was seated two-thirds of the way back in the audience and had no problem with the sound so I assured him it was just fine. Their rendition of Jungleland had the full wall of sound familiar to Springsteen fans, yet I could clearly make out Stuart’s elocution of Bruce’s raspy, throaty style above the boom of the drums and the wail of the saxophone.

Glenn bounded across the stage. “This is the guy writing the book?” As he extended his handshake, I was a bit surprised that he could still bounce like that after two hours singing with no break. He looked like he could do two more.

Glenn Stuart

“Greg Miller,” I said, barely omitting “Bergen Record,” the standing greeting from the old days. (There is always a conscious need as a reporter to identify yourself immediately so that, one, you warn them everything they say from that point on might be “on the record” and, two, you want them to know, from the start, exactly where their utterances might appear, as opposed to appearing in a free shopper, a small, weekly newspaper, personal blog or website. In this case, they immediately connected me to my purpose but “Bergen Record,” as it was called in the old days, almost slipped out from habit. I had this déjà vu of my old reporting days, a warm fuzzy familiar feeling that never lose when I interview. In this case, it was neither of the two warnings.)

Besides personal time travel, last night also allowed me to stockpile questions for their future interviews. The last time I had seen them perform was the summer of 2010 at same venue. At the time, I had no idea I would write a 70,000-word ebook on Springsteen, so I was delighted when my friend, Donna reminded me last week they were playing again at Ramapo.

I told Glenn the story about the first time Bruce had played Madison Square Garden, a performance that came during the Darkness tour in 1978. I hadn’t remembered that performance until last night when the band started into Jungleland and sang the opening lines, “The Rangers had a homecoming.” It brought me back to 1978 and a booming thunderous response at the Garden, home to ice hockey’s New York Rangers.

Glenn looked at me and said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I was at that performance!”

“And you remember that, right?”

“Yeah, yes I do,” he said. A repeat of the common bond all Springsteen fans have, of having been at the same performance and having felt the same emotions. We were both prisoners of rock and roll.

Last night alerted me to all the conveniences of a B Street Band concert. Getting to Ramapo was so easy. Parking wasn’t frenzied. You could sit anywhere and on anything (I suppose if you brought a pickup truck nobody would object to unloading a couch and end tables. Some dinner spreads had everything but the candelabra.) You could bring in whatever you wanted to eat or drink. And, huge bonus, last night’s concert was free. Last night, you didn’t need a ticket, you just got on board.

The B Street Band 

Even if you are not a devoted Springsteen fan, you must see the B Street Band perform. Please visit their website:  to view their performance schedule. 

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