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Concert Tale
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
25 July, 2013
(Review written mostly on 28 July, 2013, with some much later edits)

Okay, so--I flew into Milwaukee the day before this show, and as has become "standard procedure" when I travel to this area, my friend Irene picked me up at the airport and I stayed overnight at her house. The two of us drove up to where her sister and brother-in-law live in Fond Du Lac, WI during the day on the 25th, which was a Thursday. It's only about 20 minutes to Oshkosh from FDL, and since her family was quite happy to host us at their place (they have a gorgeous house right on the shore of Lake Winnebago) we decided to stay there overnight rather than having to go all the way back down to Milwaukee once the show was over. We had some supper early at a local restaurant and then went back to the house to change and get our gear organized, and headed for the venue just before 6 PM. The weather service was predicting thunderstorms for the whole area that evening, and the radar image showed a big line of them closing in even before we left, but they were moving at a pretty good clip and there was enough time before Survivor was supposed to come on that we decided to go ahead and chance it.

We got to Riverside Park without incident and found somewhere to leave the car, then went up and paid our way in and submitted to the obligatory bag search by event security. (I told them honestly that I had photographic equipment in my backpack and nobody batted an eye, so I figured that constituted tacit permission to get pics!) Things weren't too busy yet so Irene and I set up our folding chairs right next to the little roofed shelter where the sound-board was, thinking that if it did end up raining, we might stay a little drier under the eaves. It was quite a ways back from the stage, but the opening act hadn't even started up at that point, and I figured I could always find a place closer up once they were done with their set.

Unfortunately, it did indeed start to rain after the opening act had played about a half-dozen songs, and while Irene was able to make do with a raincoat and umbrella, she doesn't have several hundred of dollars' worth of camera gear to think about. I had brought a poncho and a plastic garbage bag to use as a makeshift rain fly for my backpack, and the combination of them worked more or less okay; it rained pretty hard for probably half an hour at least, and while my shoes, hat brim, and the lower hems of my jeans got a little wet, I was able to keep the rest of me and all my stuff dry. The storm wasn't all that bad in terms of lightning and thunder, but there were enough strikes around for a while that they made the opening act shut down in the middle of their set. (Which was actually kind of a pity; their singer wasn't the greatest but they were at least playing some 80's songs I knew--"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, "Your Love" by The Outfield, "Too Much Time On My Hands" by Styx, and "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield are the ones I remember.) Anyway, the venue cleared out rather a lot after that--some people went off to their cars, others gathered wherever they could get a bit of shelter near the restrooms and other permanent structures around the park, and some few did the same thing as Irene and I were doing, which was to hunker down in whatever rain gear they had with them and wait the storm out.

It took most of an hour (if not more) for the rain to ease off, but finally it did, and then quit entirely. We watched the doings up near the stage, wondering if it was late enough to make them cancel the whole show, but no--the crew got back to work as soon as the rain started to slacken off in earnest. So once it DID clear up and people were starting to gather near the stage again, I managed to get my backpack on underneath my poncho and head up to the front row. There was no VIP pit this time, so I was able to get right up close, and by the time the soundcheck was done, things had dried out enough that I felt reasonably safe in getting my camera out. I had managed to drop my camera bag earlier in the day and broke the clear UV filter I keep on my 75mm lens (which is exactly why I have a filter in the first place--accidents do happen, and I'd rather replace a $20 filter than a $500 lens!) so I took that off temporarily and got ready to shoot as well as I could with my poncho still on. Fortunately, the distances were such that I was able to shoot the whole show with my short lens and not have to get my bigger (and much heavier) Sigma out; I had my monopod with me but it would really have been a pain to have to juggle it through my rain gear, and especially with as tight as the crowd was packed in around the stage. In fact, there was a little family group of a man, a lady, and their not-quite-teenage daughter standing right next to me, and I spoke to them and explained that I had come all the way from Colorado for this show and was really hoping to get some good pictures, and might need to move around a little from time to time to get a better angle or whatever. They were very nice and said that they would be happy to clear the way if and when I needed it, all I had to do was say so. (And after the show had actually started, I remember the same gentleman watching me closely as I was shooting, and after a while he gave me this look of rather surprised respect and said something like, "Wow, you must really love Jimi." I could only smile in response, and say, "Yeah, I do." Sigh... heart icon )

Even with the help and cooperation of those fellow attendees, though, I didn't get quite as many pics as I usually do at a show; only just over 700 raw shots, compared to 1000+ for Hoffman Estates and almost 1400 at the St. Paul benefit. I think it was partly because this was a fairly short show overall, only a little over an hour long, and also because this was during the period when they were touring with both Jimi and Dave Bickler, and thus the former was out of view a lot during the songs where the latter was doing the lead vocals. In terms of the show itself, I would say it was all right, but not spectacular... in comparison to the other Survivor concerts I went to at around the same time, I'd rank it above Olathe but far below Hoffman Estates. When I went to a show, I went to see Jimi, and was honestly just not much interested in anything else. I mean, I'm sure Dave is a very nice guy and everything, but as a vocalist he doesn't even begin to hold a candle to JJ IMO, and I really don't care for the band's older material all that much, either. So I spent a fair amount of time being bored and trying to catch a few extra shots of Jimi, and the best I can really say is that at least they only did the first couple of songs as actual duets, then settled into an alternating pattern of one guy doing lead vocals and the other either hanging out in the wings or singing backup. And, speaking of which, here's the complete setlist:

Feels Like Love
Can't Give It Up
Take You On A Saturday
High On You
Rockin' Into The Night
It's The Singer Not The Song
Rebel Girl
The Search Is Over
I Can't Hold Back
Somewhere In America
Caught In The Game
Burning Heart
Eye Of The Tiger

On top of not being very enamored of the musical side of things, I was also quite frustrated because I could not seem to catch Jimi's eye for the life of me. I tried and tried, just so that I could at least give him a wave and a smile like I did at Olathe, but he never did look toward where I was standing, so I don't know if he even realized I was there or not. sad emoticon And I have to say, the memory is especially bittersweet now, given everything that's happened since this show took place. I never imagined that this was going to be the very last time I saw him in the flesh, even if only from a distance, and it's also tough to recall how good I thought he was looking--fit and trim as always, and like he could pass for quite a few years younger than he actually was--when in reality he was probably not feeling very well in a physical sense even then. (90% arterial blockages don't arise overnight, after all, and he must have been suffering from the effects of his for many months before we actually lost him... sigh.)

Anyway--getting back to the review, they closed with "EOTT" as usual and didn't come back for an encore, and although I waited around for a bit, something told me that none of the guys were going to come out to sign autographs. I did work up the nerve to ask one of the security guards about it, just to be sure, and he confirmed what I was already thinking, so I went and found Irene and we basically just packed up our stuff and left. So, no hug, no conversation, not even a smile just for me this time around... I'm not actually sorry I went, and Irene was certainly a champ about the whole thing, even with all the rain and so on--I think she was much more cheerful about that than I was! Again, though, this was far from the best and most fun of all the shows I ever went to, and the memories of it are, alas, doubly difficult for me to revisit now. I really wish I could have ended this final Tale on a more positive note, but I suppose it just is what it is, as the saying goes...

So, that's the story, and while I wasn't able to get a full gallery together in time for this site update, you can view a "sneak preview" of the very best shots from this show here, and find the full list of all my concert pics in its usual place.

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