Tramps Like Us

I have two musical “moments” in my life.

The first was around 1971 in Discus record store in Fairview Shopping Centre in Pointe Claire.  The soundtrack album of The Harder They Come was playing and I had never heard anything like it.  I hung around the store browsing while they played the whole album.  It was my introduction to reggae.

The second was in 1975, when the musician of our teenaged group brought Born to Run to a party.  My memory is so vivid – I know who brought it, whose house we were at, even what I was wearing.  We played it over and over that night.  I soon bought a copy for myself, and then the two previous albums.

I missed the tour in Montréal when he played Place des Arts.  Somehow the concert date passed me by.  (Concerts were so affordable then.  My first show at the Montréal Forum was Bad Company backing up Edgar Winter.  My second show was Eric Clapton with 461 Ocean Boulevard.)

Mooooooose shirt, 2003

Mooooooose shirt, 2003

Bruce had legal problems and Darkness on the Edge of Town was only released in 1978, and I took in my first Bruce show, and I was more hooked than before.  The longest show I had ever seen (he took an intermission), no opening act, and an encore that was as long as a set.  The sheer joy of his musicians, (yes I can name them all), the extended jams, the long personal stories, the interaction with the audience.  His unceasing energy.  And the setlist: 8/11/78 – FORUM, MONTREAL

  • FIRE

Concerts were affordable, and I have seen maybe 150-200 in my lifetime.  I saw Bruce whenever he hit Montréal.  The River (Jan 23/81), Born in the USA (July 21/84), Amnesty International (with Peter Gabriel among others, Sept 17/88) and then the Tunnel of Love tour never came to Montréal.  (Tunnel of Love – his divorce album – is under-rated.)

A couple of years later – wife, band, and location change for Bruce brought the Lucky Town/Human Touch tour – again not in Montréal. So I traveled for the first time out of town to see Bruce.  A bus tour to Worcester, Mass, and then a quick trip to Toronto. 

The Toronto show had the worst Bruce audience ever.  People sat with arms folded, no dancing!! said the security guard.  I asked my Toronto friends if they minded (they encouraged me, in fact), and I joined a group of “pop-tarts” (young cute girls that could do what they wanted) and hung with them and danced for the show.  People probably thought I was their mother, but as long as I could stand, and dance.

The solo Ghost of Tom Joad tour brought Bruce back to Place des Arts.  I was working at Cargo Records at the time, but tickets were still hard to come by.  I got a pair in the 10th row, with a coworker from Cargo who has since become one of my best friends – we bonded over Bruce.

The Reunion tour of 1999-2000, which as the name implies reunited the E Street Band with Bruce fell at a bad time for me.  Didn’t come to Montréal, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to afford an out of town excursion.

Asbury Park, Devils and Dust, The Rising (2002)

Asbury Park, Devils and Dust, The Rising (2002)

Then came The Rising in 2002, Bruce’s response to 9/11. 

All the middle aged fans were on Bruce’s official site chatting away.  Setlists would be posted in real time via a person at the show.  

I managed Buffalo and Albany in 2002. In 2003: Montréal, Foxborough MA, Fenway Park (!!!), Toronto (audience a little better, but still sucky), and Shea Stadium, where Bob F*cking Dylan came out for a couple of songs as Bruce’s guest to a murmuring crowd… it’s bob f*cking dylan, It’s Bob F*cking Dylan, IT’S BOB F*CKING DYLAN!!!

Then, well, read for yourself:

In 2002, the first leg of the Rising tour was not coming to Montreal, and in my panic, I started planning where I could conceivably score a ticket and how to manage the travel arrangements. Although I could hardly afford it, I traveled to Buffalo at considerable expense, returning on a train that left from a scary unmanned platform at 4 a.m.

When I returned to Montreal, my mother, seeing how rejuvenated and happy I was, told me “I think you should see Bruce Springsteen as often as you can.” and passed me some money towards my trip.

I was already an adult the first time I saw Bruce in 1978, and mom may not have been able to recognize any of his tunes, but she knew he was “the blue collar” guy “that supported unions and working people”.

Mom continued to “secretly” fund my multiple trips to concerts out of town in 2002-03 and bought my GA (“pit”) tickets for my friend and I in my hometown of Montreal.

Mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on April 7, 2004, at the same time that a group of “tramps” were organizing Springbreaksteen to fill the void of a tour-less spring season. This group of “bs.netters” led by Heartsie, She’s The One, Thunderdown, NY Nick, and too many more to mention, organized my airfare and hotel arrangements, and just a couple of days after the funeral I was walking the beach in Pensacola with strangers who knew who I was, hugged me, shared intimate family stories and otherwise gave me some hopeful joyful memories among the grief and pain.

When people mock me for being a fan at my age, I tell them the story of Springbreaksteen, and that these are the kind of people that call themselves “Bruce fans”, and the mocking people say they envy me.

page 166 “For You: Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans”

@copy 2007 Lawrence Kirsch Communications

Bruce fans never scalp their tickets.  You can always find one at face value.  I have stayed at people’s homes, bought tickets on faith, traveled with other tramps with no more introduction than mutual Bruce fandom.

After The Rising (total 9 shows) came Devils and Dust (3 shows), the Seeger Sessions (1 show), Magic (3 shows), Working on a Dream (1 show), Wrecking Ball (5 shows) and High Hopes (1 show). Not a disappointment in the bunch.

There is a Bruce song for every mood, every emotion, every life situation – jubilant or tragic.  He played American Skin (41 Shots) in Buffalo in April of 2012 just weeks after the death of Trayvon Martin. He is political in the vein of Guthrie and Seeger and Dylan.

The joy of his rock’n’roll dance songs “the record company Rosie just gave me a big advance!” sustains our dreams of rock’n’roll freedom.  I have touched him in concert twice, and also touched his Fender Telecaster guitar.  He has touched me every time.

Devils and Dust: Danny Federici and Vini 'Maddog' Lopez (Springsteen Symposium 2005)

Devils and Dust: Danny Federici and Vini ‘Maddog’ Lopez (Springsteen Symposium 2005)

Asbury Park shoes: Dave Marsh, Barbara Hall (Springsteen Symposium 2005)

Asbury Park shoes: Dave Marsh, Barbara Hall (Springsteen Symposium 2005)

Froggie Went A'Courtin, he did ride, a sword and a pistol by his side

Froggie Went A’Courtin, he did ride, a sword and a pistol by his side

Miss Mousie (Seeger Sessions 2006)

Miss Mousie (Seeger Sessions 2006)

Magic 2007

Magic 2007

Working on a Dream 2009

Working on a Dream 2009

Wrecking Ball 2012

Wrecking Ball 2012


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