Springsteen in a Parking Deck

Springsteen in a Parking Deck
Springsteen in a Parking Deck
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Richmond’s known for it’s history and that history extends to the music scene:

– In September, the Foo Fighters played a first-of-its-kind crowd-funded show at The National

– In 1994 Frank Sinatra collapsed on stage (ironically while singing “My Way”) at the Mosque

– Bruce Springsteen and band played an RVA version of “the roof-top concert” one evening downtown in 1970.

 

The “Parking Deck concert,” on top of the 7th and Marshall Streets parking deck, was put on by local promoter Russ Clem. (See SIFTER’s backstory on Russ) The show combined opening blues band Marlo Mays and the Stingers followed by VCU-based Mercy Flight and headlined by New Jersey’s Steel Mill, fronted by Bruce Springsteen. (Steel Mill in the feature photo  (L -R): Danny Federici, Bruce Springsteen, Vini Lopez, Steve Van Zandt.)

 

Russ had been promoting rock shows around town for a while, using venues like the String Factory, the Free U and Monroe Park. During a Cool-Aid Sunday concert in May, 1970, a teenager climbed on a statue that collapsed and killed him. After that, the city banned any subsequent shows in the park.

 

Russ needed a large, outdoor venue for Steel Mill, because he had to turn many band’s fans away. Serendipity and a parking ticket led him to the deck. Russ always said, “Believe and it will happen!”

 

steelmill-richmond-140870-894I was in high school and actually heard the music while driving through downtown. I didn’t stop (I was clueless), but classmate Brent Pye – fast becoming a Springsteen fan – was there. “I remember feeling the structure sway from the stomping and dancing during the show. The crowd was animated during Steel Mill’s set, as always, and I’d never felt a structure sway and bounce like this before. It’s as close as I’ve ever been to experiencing what an earthquake must feel like. One of the biggest crowd pleasers back then was what a lot of us referred to as “The Judge Song.” It was about Vinnie Lopez, the drummer, being arrested and having his head shaved in jail. The refrain was “Guilty! Guilty! Send that boy to jail!” The crowd knew it and sang along loudly that night. It was an all-out rocker.

mercy-7thmarshall

Mercy Flight ( L-R): Tom Yolton, Robbin Thompson, Art Stacy, Jim Van Kuren, Dave Hazlett

 

RVA’s Robbin Thompson, then Mercy Flight’s vocalist, says he knew it was a great idea when he heard it. “It became a very famous concert because nobody got arrested or hurt. Nothing bad happened. It’ll never happen again for all kinds of different reasons. But, they pulled it off that night.” After that concert, Springsteen asked Robbin to be in the band.

 

“Hazy Dave” Hazlett, Mercy Flight’s original drummer, has a great page devoted to Mercy Flight, Steel Mill and the concert.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane Billy. I went with some friends from HIghland Springs High School. It was the first concert I had ever attended and it was a crazy good experience!

  2. One correction: the boy killed in Monroe Park climbed the fountain, it broke, he fell and was killed.

  3. Sorry I never got back to you with my memories of this concert……I do remember the deck moving and a storm off in the distance. Thanks for bringing some of it back to me.

  4. yep, was there, I just loved those days, everything was to me just carefree. I worked in the local concerts in Richmond for a couple of years. At the Arena, bands like Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, which then was Steel Mill, Lee Michaels, Delaney and Bonnie, Mitch Rider Rider and Detroit Wheels, Phil Collins; you know I worked in the dressing rooms then and remember seeing him pray before he ate his food., then it really impressed me, and I still think of it to this day. I remember Santanner meeting Carlos, I remember Alice Cooper., the James Gang, gheez, wow, what fabulous times we all lived in. I love the memories.

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