"If you don't dig what I say,So ends the third and final verse of the Flamin' Groovies flagship song, Shake Some Action. And, after the rough reception they were given by a few hooligans at their concert here in Detroit tonight, I would not blame them a bit for not coming back this way again.
Then I will go away.
And I won't come back this way again. No.
'Cause I don't need a friend."
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I attended this concert with my son who, at the age of 19, has already been a Flamin' Groovies fan for 12 years. The Magic Stick, on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, seemed to be the perfect venue in which to first hear a band I'd been waiting 37 years to see: warm, welcoming, and intimate. And, so it was, at the start.
The Groovies did not disappoint. As the band blazed through treasured classic covers such as Freddy Cannoon's Tallahassee Lassie, the Byrds' Feel a Whole Lot Better, and the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, the large crowd responded in lively fashion, clearly appreciating the rare and beautiful event. The reaction was perhaps still more positive, however, when Cyril Jordan and the boys rolled out a string of the Flamin' Groovies' own hits, including You Tore Me Down and I Can't Hide.
According to my hand-scrawled notes, it was just after a fine cover of the Stones' Paint it Black that the trouble started. A large and seemingly very drunk audience member decided to grab Cyril's mic and pull it down toward himself to make a request of the group. Instead, he bonked himself on his bald head with the mic before he finally replaced it clumsily on the stage.
This did not sit well (understandably!) with Groovies' lead singer / guitarist Chris Wilson, who warned the man not to do that kind of thing again. It seemed a fair warning, and I expected the music to get right back on track, but it didn't quite happen that way. Apparently this patron and several of his friends were under the mistaken impression that the rest of the audience had come to see them -- that, indeed, they were the show. Some of them made obscene gestures at Wilson and at least one suggested that Wilson come down and fight him.
Chris opined that this audience member had rather better wait until after the conclusion of the concert to have his butt kicked (or words to that effect). At some point, beer bottles were thrown. One shattered somewhere near me, and I felt a rain of glass shards come down around my head and shoulders.
What Security people were there seemed slow to respond. Even once they got there, it was difficult for them to wrestle the fat balding man out of the hall. And then, even after that, it was not over. Others who remained jeered or shot the bird at Chris and, to his credit, he played the man and would not countenance this type of behavior. He asked for the troublemakers to be ejected from the music hall. Security eventually removed one or two other patrons, and the crowd where we were near the stage had thinned out quite a bit. I thought at that point: "That's it, that's our concert."
And I would not have blamed the band one iota if they had called it quits then. They'd already given us quite a decent show, and hadn't been treated at all well by the several hooligans in the audience. But, to their great credit, the Flamin' Groovies came back out energized even more, it seemed, by the confrontational behavior of the few, and finished off the concert in a blaze of glory.
The high point for my son was their brilliant performance of their song, Slow Death, during which Chris Wilson could be seen with a distinct glint in his eye, probably thinking of the young punk who had tried to call him out and had ended up disgraced. The song ended up having the perfect menacing tone. But then, they outdid themselves with what was nominally their final song, the epic Shake Some Action. Some action had indeed been shaken up in the Magic Stick that night, and one was only saddened if, indeed, the opening lines of this blog (from the 3rd verse of the song) are to become prophetic.
Chris, though he hadn't done anything untoward, repeatedly apologized to the crowd for the way things had gone down. But, for the actual perpetrators themselves ... only the chilling warning of the lyrics of the Groovies' encore song, Teenage Head:
" When you see me,I think if the drunks and punks knew what was good for them, they were probably safe at home in their pajamas by the time this encore was actually sung. So, did my son and I get enough of the Flamin' Groovies tonight? No way! We're headed to Cleveland to see them again tomorrow night!
Better turn your tail and run.
'Cause I'm angry,
And I'll mess you up for fun."