Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with random Ruminations – I ELPeed myself edition

My greatest concert experience, and my band Grendel


Emerson, Lake and Palmer in Dallas – Oct 20, 1977

I saw ELP on their Brain Salad Surgery tour. Entered Dallas Memorial Auditorium with anticipation. As I topped the balcony steps the audio geek in me fixated on the P.A. system, reportedly (pre-internet info age) quite a big deal.

I looked at the stacks on either side of the stage (nobody was flying PA systems at that time) and saw a PA that was the equal if not better than any I had ever seen. – impressive, but not THAT big a deal. Then I turned to the left to go up to my seat and found myself facing the twin of the stage right PA stack.  Ulp.

Slowly I turned (gotta copyright that) to the right and saw, on the other side of the balcony, the twin of the stage left PA stack.

They were not only carrying double the largest PA system I had ever seen, it was QUAD!

The FOH man had fun for the whole show, dive-bombing the audience by sweeping Emerson’s Moog leads from upper right to lower left. The snarling Moog (they’re a completely different beast at 115db than they are coming from your living room stereo) made an interesting effect. I could see the heads of the floor audience DUCK as the Moog leads passed (sonically) over their heads.

They played just about everything they had recorded, came back for an encore, and played the entirety of Pictures At An Exhibition. The whole bloody album.

They also played this astoundingly difficult repertoire about 20% over album tempo. It was like they had decided “Well, we’re going to play every single thing we’ve recorded, and if we don’t get on the stick, we’re going to be here all night.”

Carl Palmer kept up this relentless pace with perfect timing, and didn’t seem human. I would NOT have been surprised to have seen a big key sticking out of his back.

They played for 3 hours and 20 minutes, and I was deaf for three days afterwards.

It was worth it.


Meanwhile, my band Grendel was cranking out the old Prog rock (covers for the most part) at club after club.

We were playing music of a difficulty level that most other bands just couldn’t perform it. Too complicated. So we were the only way for them to see a band playing these pieces, unless Yes, ELP, Moody Blues, etc. were in town. We started noticing that our audiences were largely other musicians.

It was amusing to see our audiences (guys, mostly) divide themselves up – keyboardists on the stage left side, guitarists in the middle, bassists on mid-stage right (in front of me), and drummers on stage right (where the drummer was located).

During breaks, I would be cornered by other bassists who wanted to talk shop, music, and gear. I always had time for them, and never brushed them off.

Grendel started our shows with the ignition of “caramel candy” in two barrels behind the backline, lights off during the guitar intro to “Tie Your Mother Down”, then as the guitar smash chords came in, lights coming on to reveal the band, shrouded in smoke, in front of our homemade 30’X12′ backdrop. Good times!




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