Wednesday, July 1, 2015
It’s inevitable that a concert review of a Blue Oyster Cult/Kansas double bill would include references to Spinal Tap, but who cares? My friends and I were only too happy to shell out $40 for this show in the MassMutual Center on May 29. Little did we know the concert was in the building’s exhibition hall. I would rather have seen them in the main arena, which would have offered us better, more elevated views, but I guess old fogies like us can’t be choosers. How old are we? I took the following selfie at the show. Do I look a bit long in the tooth?
There were a couple of thousand people in the place—a far cry from when they sold out the Civic Center on February 9, 1980. When we were in line, I couldn’t help but turn back the clock 35 years, when my friend Dave O’Brien and I went downtown that Saturday on a truly half-baked scheme. We intended to get into Blue Oyster Cult with a couple of unused Civic Center professional wrestling tickets—extras his brother had from a February 2 wrestling card there. We reasoned that it was worth a shot: the same venue was on the ticket and the same month. Would the ticket-tearer notice or care?
We carefully surveyed the scene, and it was obvious that the ushers in two of the lines were scrutinizing the tickets before tearing them, but one woman wasn’t. Guess which line we got in! After a few anxious moments in queue, presto! We were inside.
Of course, we had to return to a Black Sabbath/Blue Oyster Cult concert the following September. However, I had to convince my father we’d be safe, because he had read about the near-riot (and two car accident deaths) after thousands gate-crashed a show the previous month at the Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York.
The Lebanon Valley Speedway banned concerts after the fiasco.
The Springfield show was awesome. I describe some of it in “When the Springfield Civic Center Rocked, Part 2.” A fan actually made a sign referring to the speedway incidents that read “Lebanon Bloody Lebanon.” As for the prospect of a riot, there was none, but 18 days later this happened at the Black and Blue show in Milwaukee:
Here is some footage of this year’s Springfield show I found on YouTube. I apologize for the shaky camera and the video-guy cutting off the end of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
Kansas rocked too:
The last time I saw them was in 2007 in Simsbury, where I got to meet the band!
Before that I had last seen Kansas open for Yes in Hartford in 2000. Hard to believe that was 15 years ago.
On the subject of old Springfield-area shows, how about Taj Mahal and Billy Joel in 1972? No, I didn't go.
Gene Pitney at Mountain Park in 1963
Courtesy of the “Springfield, 413 Then and Now” Facebook Group:
Connie Francis at the Paramount in 1965.
Courtesy of the Facebook page “You Know Grew Up in Springfield, Massachusetts if”: Baystate West opens in 1971.
Ah yes, the optimism of the 1970s: reclaiming the downtown riverfront began in 1978 with Riverfront Park, which eventually became the 3.7-mile Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway.
But whatever became of this circular “spray park” fountain that is sketched above and pictured below under construction?
I don’t remember such a structure. Did it ever come to exist? I have the feeling that the remnant of this is now this circular “garden”:
The city has been pretty negligent when it comes to maintaining the River Walk. The skybridge elevator (below) near LAFitness had been mostly inoperable since it was built 13 years ago, but it was fixed in 2015, thanks to a complaint to the state filed by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.
The pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks
A peregrine falcon (top) and a red tail hawk battle it out above the River Walk.
The good news is that last year Deval Patrick, when he was governor, signed a transportation bond bill that provides $3 million in improvements on the path, including resurfacing, a drainage system, lighting, and landscape maintenance. The state also invested $1.3 million in the makeover of the North Riverfront Park, which branches out from the River Walk in the North End. The city matched that funding with $300,000 of its own.
Unfortunately, many people have avoided that end of the path after a murder in 2006, in which a man was robbed and stabbed to death. His body was found at 6:00 p.m., not at night.
The victim, 45-year-old David LePage (below), was a Holy Cross and Cathedral guy who rented an apartment from the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street. He had been down on his luck but appeared to be getting his life together before it was cut short.
At the city’s Vision 2017 development presentation last March, the UMass Amherst Design Center suggested a redesign (above) in which the riverbank would be closer to its natural form “for wildlife diversity” and stairs would replace the old floodwall. How about keeping the path clean and safe first?
So, did you get your copy of the Yellow Pages in June and immediately throw it into the recycling bin like most people? There’s good reason to do this in an increasingly paperless society—and not just because of the Internet. Masslive.com discovered that there are such long-closed businesses listed as the Rivoli Theater, JC Penney at the Eastfield Mall, B’Shara’s on Riverdale Road, and Kentucky Fried Chicken on State Street.
Sure enough, the snippet above includes Joy of the Wok (closed), Abdow’s (long gone), Abruzzo (now the Anchor House), and Abudanza (closed). As for A Taste of Elias, it has been replaced by Captain Pizza (below)—as if you would really get out of your car on that end of Fort Pleasant Avenue.
The only restaurant still there in this clip is Adolfo’s, which is named after…you know:
And as for Abdow’s Big Boy:
My post on the area’s roach motels neglected to mention the Agawam Motel, AKA the Agawam Motor Lodge, which was recently in the news when a resident said he was bitten by bed bugs and discovered a hypodermic needle under his mattress. According to the June 9 story, the police answered had calls there 184 times this year—that’s more than once a day, folks.
I always look for old postcards of these roach motels—when they might have been respectable establishments after they first opened—and sure enough, here it is. It still looks rather cruddy back in the day. Which to you like more, the pastel panels or the rusty guardrail across the street?
I also found it touted as a “Fun in New England” place for the weary traveler to stay. Lots of fun to be had at the Agawam Motel—although I should point out that this tourist web site is even more outdated than the yellow pages. It actually lists the Wilbraham 10-Pin, although the site acknowledges it might be closed.
What’s amazing about the Agawam Motel is the fact that its neon sign actually works!
The moody black and white version harkens back to another equally fun place to stay:
The one review I found of the Agawam Motel was written by a guy from Atlanta who was going to Six Flags and apparently can’t recognize a roach motel when he sees one. I guess “revolting” merits a one-star rating:
But wait! I found someone on Facebook who admits to staying there as well! And she had a party in her room!
OMG! Here comes the vomit! I like the room’s lighting, though. Perfect for a selfie. Or not.
This guy gave the motel four stars. Yes, that’s a machine gun in his profile picture:
While we’re in Agawam, let’s do some bowling at Games and Lanes (above). Then again, maybe not. It’s pictured below a few years ago, before the greenery totally enveloped the building.
This guy got in and went to town with his camera:
Nobody here except Fred and Barney...
...and Bugs and Yosemite. Mother Nature fights back.
Here’s a link to more of his shots. Daniel O’Neill is not only an extremely talented photographer, but he also has some balls (as big as bowling balls) for sneaking into a contaminated site. The offending chemical: trichloroethylene, used in dry cleaning. The offending company: Standard Uniform Company, which owned the building from 1969 through the late 1980s and before leasing it to Games and Lanes.
Another guy got in there and videoed the spooky structure:
I couldn’t find any photos of Games and Lanes in its heyday, although here is the hardcore band Line of Fire playing there in 1998. Look at this fucking sausage party.
Here is the entire lineup for this truly unforgettable extravaganza:
Games and Lanes has been abandoned since 2001, when it closed after a small fire and a malfunctioning sprinkler system caused $80,000 worth of damage.
Below is an update on the construction going on at the Pioneer Valley Christian Academy on Plumtree Road. It appears to be a gym. I was a little hard on the school in my previous post—maybe because PVCA beat my son’s basketball team.
If the old part of the school on the right in the picture above looks familiar, it’s because the facility’s previous incarnation was my alma mater, Ursuline Academy—the stomping grounds of the meanest nun of all: Sister Godzilla!
I’ll leave you now with more music as she leaves a path of destruction on the psyches of Catholic School children, sparing no one.