When I was young I listened to the radio and I used to be a little jealous of the wacky radio DJs who got to be responsible for the joy felt by the people who won concert tickets. I even won a few of those call-in contests back in my day before I was a member of the media myself. I call the same number over and over again with the best of them. But look at me now, living the dream and spreading joy in the form of concert tickets.
The contest winner, Jennifer Langdon and her guest, Christopher Harms, were two of the youngest lucky readers that have accompanied me to a concert at the Pepsi Grandstand. I had never seen any of the three bands on the marquee live: Molly Hatchet, Foghat and John Kay and Steppenwolf. So I was pretty excited.
I asked Langdon how excited she was: “On a scale of 1-10 I’m at a solid 9”.
When Hatchet lead singer Phil McCormack introduced “Gator County” with “Here’s a song about the great state of Florida.” Langdon had something to say in response: “There’s nothing really great about Florida.” Sure, the ongoing adventures of Florida Man are highly entertaining but at the Missouri State Fair you should resist the urge to talk up other states. Only an international recording artist could get away with that.
Jennifer and Chris are taking a lot of pictures, more than most of my other special guests. The press box isn’t close enough to the stage for me to want to take any pictures. But if they’re taking pictures it means that they want to remember the experience, so that’s a plus.
The thing that stuck out at me about Molly Hatchet was the keyboard work. John Galvin on the keyboard was really working hard to make me feel it.
“We need you to buy a shirt so we can get gas money back to Jacksonville” joked McCormack to the audience.
A beautiful sunset was breaking out as Molly Hatchet ended their set with “Flirtin’ with Disaster”. Oh yeah, that’s the Molly Hatchet song I know. I knew there had to be at least one.
Both of my guests did that thing where you suck air in through your teeth before they answered my inquiry about how they felt about the Molly Hatchet set. They seemed to share the opinion that the McCormack seemed a little distracted.
“The lead singer phoned it in,” said Langdon. “He was depending on shout outs for crowd enthusiasm. You don’t have to wander off stage to hug people.”
“I really like my front man to stay on point,” said Harms, “Nontheless, still good.”
“It was fine, but I was expecting more,” continued Langdon.
That’s some refreshing honesty, because my concert guests usually have nothing but good things to say about the people on the stage.
Foghat came onto the stage with even less fog than I was expecting based on their name. I saw vapers in the crowd making more impact.
Jennifer shielded her eyes each time the stage lights shown on the audience. She might have had the right idea, I’m seeing a few spots even now. They were a little too friendly with the brights during “I Just Want to Make Love to You” – and for the rest of the night.
There wasn’t anything wrong with Foghat’s set: who doesn’t love “Slow Ride”?
“I feel like they actually made a solid effort,” said Langdon, “It was more about the music and less about trying to get cheap crowd responses.”
Harms had just three words to say about Foghat: “Really (Expletive) Awesome”
In the cheap seats, the power of Foghat rock was making women take off pieces of clothing that they probably shouldn’t have been taking off.
The worst part of the John Kay and Steppenwolf experience was the PowerPoint slideshows on the big screens with the cheesiest possible entry-level special effects. Whoa man, the drum skin is changing colors rapidly! And that’s definitely not a natural color for a wolf’s head. Look at those sweet transitions.
It was the first thing Langdon said when I asked her about the set: “The graphics were distracting and awful.” She’s right. The Steppenwolf graphics kept getting worse. I would think that one of these dudes has a kid or a young wife who could whip up something better than that. I could maybe whip up something better than that, if I had a little time to look at some YouTube tutorials.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone play the keytar at the Pepsi Grandstand! Michael Wilk isn’t too bad on it.
When they started to do a Muddy Waters song a few people decided to leave a little early. “People were straight up leaving in droves even before “Magic Carpet Ride,” said Langdon.
It seems that John Kay and Steppenwolf have seen better days. Most of the people who started to leave when they assumed that the set would end with “Born to be Wild” didn’t even come back when they started into “The Pusher.”
“Foghat should have headlined instead of Steppenwolf,” said Langdon. “Not the best classic rock concert I’ve seen at the fair.”
Maybe instead of getting John Kay and the only entity legally allowed to be called Steppenwolf we should have got one of the other Steppenwolf splinter groups.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.