Donovan: 11/20/1987

Club Nu was a trendy nightclub on Miami’s South Beach, which seemed like an odd place for an old hippie like Donovan to be performing. But several of my musician friends and I went to see the psychedelic troubadour and made sure we were in the appropriate state of mind prior to the show. My friends included Bongo Bob, Greg, and Big Ed (RIP).

As we mingled in the strange scene which was the South Beach nightclub, the lights went down for the opening act. I stood for a bit, trying to grok exactly what it was that I was observing, because it did not make sense to me. Something was… different. Then it dawned on me: female impersonators. We were being treated to a drag show as the opening act. It was surreal, to say the least.

Later, Donovan took the stage, just himself with an acoustic guitar. My friends and I sang along and were truly engrossed in the performance. I had the strange feeling that most of the other people there had no idea who this old guy was or why he was up there singing, but I didn’t care. I was happy to see the musician whose music inspired me and my friends. After the show, we all hung out together and played Donovan songs on our acoustic guitars. It was a great night that lasted till the early morning hours.

Sadly, I could not find a set list online, and the memory of this night is a little too hazy to recall what he played; but I can say with certainty that there were not any songs that I wanted to hear that he didn’t play. “Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new: Hail Atlantis!”

Chuck Berry and Donovan: 02/20/1988

BerryDonovan_2-20-88

OK, so first off, observe the price of this ticket. That’s right — $0.00. This was a free concert, but it did require a ticket to get in, probably to minimize the number of people.

As you can imagine, Chuck Berry was the headliner, with Donovan as the opener (not a bad opener, in my humble opinion). Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. The show was delayed and people were getting a little antsy. Finally the announcer came out and said that Donovan’s flight was delayed, so Chuck would play first and Donovan would play later. All I could think was I would HATE to have to perform after Chuck Berry.

The man came out on stage, and it was rock and roll in the purest sense. Words fail me in trying to describe the feeling I got from seeing the person who, in my eyes, was the grandfather of rock and roll. He was everything I expected. You knew and sang along with every song; he did his trademark duck walk and skip; and he had the youth and vigor of someone half his age. When it was over, I was floored. All I wanted to do was go home and play Chuck Berry tunes on my guitar. It was truly inspiring.

Then came a wait, a very long wait. The announcer spoke up again, ensuring that Donovan would in fact be there. Lots of people left, which I could understand. Hey, they just saw the great Chuck Berry… for free! But I do love Donovan’s music, so I patiently waited, seeking creative ways to entertain myself.

Finally, Donovan arrived. It probably worked in his favor that a couple hours passed between when Chuck finished and he started. It was just him with an acoustic guitar and the people who stayed were very appreciative. He played all his hits, as well as some obscure tunes (sorry, don’t ask me what they were). But I was really glad I waited around because he was great, not Chuck Berry great, but great none-the-less.

It still blows my mind to think that I got to see such an amazing show for free. I’ve seen some great free shows in my life, but they usually did not come with a ticket stub. Having a stub with Chuck Berry’s name on it makes me really, really happy.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you get out and see some live music soon.