grand funk concert stories mark farner rocks island park with footstompin music
Grand Funk Railroad at the forum 1974
Island Park Dayton Ohio August 1985
Mark Farner rocks Island Park
It was August 31st of 1985 that I would experience my wildest Grand Funk show of all time.And so far it still is.It was advertised on the radio that the mark farner band along with special guest eddie salem and the wildcats,among others would be playing a free show at rockin island park in Dayton Ohio.There was an amphitheatre type stage there.This was a huge park that was completely surrounded by a river of water and gotten onto by means of an entrance bridge that crossed over into the park.I werent very far from the place.I was staying for the week in Dayton with a friend who had been living there a short while.We really didnt expect it to turn out this wild.I can remember a radio announcer who sounded rather crude in his comments to Mark when Mark had visited the station earlier.We arrived at the park for the opening bands.It was becoming very hot out and there were already a whole lot of people there.The area was massive.The stage was seperated from the crowd by two barriers of verticle pickett fences that had been set up along with cops that stood all along near the stage.Undoubtedly,the security here was gonna be pretty high.This certainly wasnt gonna be like the last concert in December 84 where we could just walk up to Marks door and knock on it after the show.Or was it?Later in the day as Eddie Salem and the Wildcats took to the stage,more and more people were gathering against the fence that surrounded the stage.Soon we were both firmly pinned against the fence as more gathered.I believe this band was a combination of the groups The Godz and The Outlaws put together and they put on one heck of a show and had gotten this big crowd into a type of rebellious rock rage and the crowd noise never let up.When there set was done,the crowd had gathered upfront even more so.Apparently I wasnt the only one that had felt that Marks earlier radio appearance was handled both poorly,unprofessionally and disrespectfully toward Mark.Now this same disc jockey is going to introduce Mark?Crowds of people hissed and boo-ed as this guy took to the stage microphone but was drowned out by the large chant of a F#####..Louder and louder it got.He was trying to introduce Mark and the band but the crowd wouldnt let up as they/we all kept shouting this obscenity to him in full force.Noticeably upset,he stormed off the stage.As I could see while being pinned against this fence,it was swaying back and forth as this huge sea of people were pressing into it.
Mark and the band then took the stage.By the second song,it indeed looked like this fence would soon collapse as the whole place was going crazy as Mark was hoppin all over the stage as if his feet were on fire as he went into footstompin music.Seemed like they were playin them all.Everything from early Heartbreaker and Inside Looking Out to The Locomotion and some kind of wonderful and everything in between.A big burly guy beside us starts yelling lets tear down this fence!Several others were now shouting this too as Mark and the guys were gettin set to start into the second song.It would collapse during the second song of the set.It was really swaying back and forth and before the number would be finished it would collapse completely down.But there was still the second fence barrier and it was up.One guy ran to the second fence and jumped it only to be greeted by a half dozen policemen.In a panic he screamed at the crowd to cmon!The crowd went forth as the second fence came down and the cops all had to jump out of the way of this huge oncoming stampede.We both made a dash for it too.We both ended up pinned directly against the stage with both our arms resting comfortably upon the floor of it.Mark was going off on his guitar.While he was struttin across the stage and as the band was in the middle of the next song,these two guys climbed onto the stage and started dancing around Mark and the other band members.Cops then took to the stage.They grabbed both the guys while the music blasted forth and placed them back into the crowd.Then another guy jumps onto the stage.No sooner had the cops removed them guys and this other guy is now dancing around the bass player.He was met by a rather large roadie.This man picked that guy up almost over his head and literally threw him back into the masses of people.
My friend and I were still pinned against the stage.We were so close that we couldve grabbed their feet.Not that we wouldve done that though.I do remember as Marks foot was on his wah pedal going into the song paranoid,this girl wedged in beside me decides to climb onto the stage.Mark was right in front of her.Since the stage height was only about four foot or so,it was easy for anyone to climb right onto it.Thats what this girl did like the others.She literally crawled on all fours once she hopped onto the stage. She crawled straight to Mark.Once there she wrapped both her arms around his legs and wasnt about to let go either.Mark still had one foot on his wah pedal.As she was firmly latched onto him and his silver parachute pants while hes playing,the cops are now onstage attempting to pry her locked arms off of Marks legs without making Mark fall down.He just kept on playing though.Eventually they got her off and gently deposited her right back to where she had been beside me.Or should I say squeezed her back in?From where we were at it was an extremely tight fit and I can remember being unable to turn my body right of left because of so many people.Then another guy jumps onto the stage.Mark then stopped the concert right in the middle of the song and asked the crowd to not jump onto the stage anymore.The concert eventually continued.An entire arsenal of songs were performed in true funk fashion but the song Closer to home which was played toward the end was just absolutely awesome.There were even a few encores as well.This may not have been the three amigos of Mark Farner,Don Brewer and Mel Schacher which comprised the original Grand Funk Railroad but honestly this Mark Farner concert was just as good if not better.The entire show rocked to the point of wild abandon and though one couldnt have asked for a more rockingly exciting concert,
I had the question of how do we get past this much security to see Mark?We didnt even have a stage pass.It had been just six or seven months ago when I had met Mark for the first time.I simply walked up to his motorhome and knocked.But this was different in that these were thousands of people along with cops everywhere and blocked entrances.This would not be easy.Or would it?After the concert was over it was much darker out now and many people were still hanging around.Cops were everywhere including all entrances.A different and much longer pickett fence surrounded the back area of the stage.The backstage area was huge.The large fenced in circle backstage held buses,motorhomes,cars and trucks,equipment and just about anything else you could imagine.Even if we got in,wed still have to find him.As we were looking around this huge fenced in area from outside of it,I was trying to locate Marks motorhome.After all,there was perhaps dozens of them to choose from.Eventually all the cops had momentarily disbursed from one of the entrances and so we entered in very quickly.It was dark and we walked around awhile.Soon I spotted a motorhome that looked familiar to me and told my friend what I was intending to do.He laughed and didnt believe that Id do it.As I slowly approached the door and knocked I suddenly felt a strong flash of dejavu as I remembered the last time I had knocked on this very same door.A guy answered it and I asked if Mark was around.He told me Mark was cleaning up and that itd be a few minutes.We went ahead and waited.We didnt really know one way or the other if Mark would actually be coming out to see us.We had waited a good awhile on him.My friend didnt really feel he was coming out and suggested that we go ahead and leave.Sorta bummed I partly agreed with him.As my back was turned away from the RV my friend blurted out,turn around Chris!As I did,there stood Mark looking directly at me.I introduced him to my friend and we stood outside in the warm summer breeze and talked for a good while.I got to ask Mark some various questions.One of which was his thoughts on the rock music of that day in the mid 80s.When I asked him where they were headed next I believe he had said Corpus Christi.I can also remember when I asked Mark if I could ever be his friend.He responded that I was already his friend and talked to me about how we are all brothers and sisters.We were there a good while.My friend went walking around some after awhile and I remained to talk with Mark some more.He came right back though.We both talked with Mark a little more and he signed an autograph for each of us.They were now ready to roll out now. We were exhausted and ready to go too,so we said our goodbyes to Mark and we left as well.Personally the whole encounter had left a deep positive impression upon me.This would become a wonderful memory.This wonderful memory would mean quite alot to me in the following months to come.Things had been bad for me in the mid 80s.However they would soon become much worse than I couldve ever imagined.I would write Mark from time to time.There wasnt any internet yet and I had an address of a studio that Mark had given me should I wish write to him.And write him I did.It wouldnt be until October 1988 that I would see Mark again.
Grand Funk at a Grand Price
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