As we documented in the last post, the Summer of 1991 had our heroes on the road again. This revamped juggernaut wiped out Chicago on this date in 1991. The boys played the Avalon with the Lunachicks and Spinout in support. Here are some memories of the gig from our Senior Midwest correspondent, Robbie Q:
The Avalon was formerly known as The Quiet Knight, a truly legendary folk/rock/blues/comedy club. It was located on the second floor of a building at Belmont & Sheffield, just a bit south of Wrigley Field.
Many future stars played there in the ’60s & ’70s. Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Bob Marley, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, the Kinkster, even Jimmy Buffett played there before they were stars. But by the time punk hit, the place was declining, as was the neighborhood, and it finally closed, reopening as “Tut’s,” becoming a cornerstone of the Chicago punk scene, then finally becoming the Avalon. I don’t believe it stayed open as the Avalon very long, either. Too bad, it was a cool and historic room. The building is still there. Last time I went by, several years ago, the second floor was now occupied by a beauty/barber college. I wonder how many future cosmetologists knew the real history of the place?
I’d sworn off live music in late 1990. Many of the bands I’d loved, most of all The Dictators, were now dust in the wind. Several of my favorite bands, such as Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult, had become arena rock staples, but were now on their way back down to earth, and were treading water at best.
I’d seen hundreds of bands in the ’70s and ’80s. I was getting too old for this. My ears were battered (earplugs were for pu**ssies), and I thought I’d seen everyone I had wanted to see. But I had I made a solemn pledge to myself: If The Dictators ever played Chicago again, I’d gladly lift my musical embargo. Fat chance of that happening, right?
So when I saw the Avalon ad in the Chicago Reader, I was ecstatic. And a bit leery. The Dictators? Really? Our DICTATORS?
There was a good size crowd, about 250 people, on a steamy night. I grabbed a “Search and Destroy” tour t-shirt when I first walked in; they were completely gone minutes later.
Openers were punk band Spinout, followed by The Lunachicks, who were a real surprise. They rocked like hell, had some good songs, and were, on top of everything, funny as hell. The singer did a great shtick with a marital aid and a rubber chicken.
The Dictators took the stage, Frankie Funaro on drums. Ross was wearing a black Frank Thomas White Sox jersey. They sounded like they’d never been away! Playing several consecutive nights had them as sharp as I’d ever heard them. Amazing! The Dictators had risen from the ranks of the dead, while resurrecting my love of live rock and roll with them. They hit all three albums, were clearly all digging playing together, and playing well. HDM looked like a new person, slimmed down, doing several funny raps, clearly lapping up the crowd’s adulation. Ross, Scott & Andy were totally locked in. Frankie’s drumming and background vocals fit in nicely, although he wasn’t a heavy hitter, closer in style to Rich Teeter than JP.
Afterwards, Andy, Ross & HDM were signing autographs by the side to the stage. Scott had disappeared, with Frankie. But HDM was truly the star, still signing away, using the Sharpie I’d purloined from the office that day, while RTB & Andy started packing up their gear.
We briefly saw Andy in the hallway, asking him if Manifest Destiny & Bloodbrothers would ever see CD releases. He shrugged and replied there were no plans at that point, but he was hoping against hope that eventually WEA would put them out. And we know how that panned out.
This gig was just the start of The Dictators nearly 10-year string of gigs. They became even stronger when JP came on board, and stayed at the top of their game for most of the next decade. They became a live machine, finally learning how important pacing is in a rock set. They had then finally become what we’d always known they could be…