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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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Guilty Pleasures and a Trempealeau Treasure (06/28/2006)
By Patrick Marek

They say that it's human nature to be drawn to things that aren't necessarily good for us. This might explain my attraction to Old Dutch Potato Chips, severe weather, and Blue Oyster Cult. While the chips and storms might cause me bodily harm, Blue Oyster Cult is making a play for my immortal soul.

With a vaguely satanic hooked cross logo and songs that compel you to sing along to lyrics about suicide, giving the devil his due, Joan Crawford rising from the grave, and drug deals gone horribly bad, Blue Oyster Cult isn't going to make the play lists of any Sunday church services. However, it's the only band that makes it to 10 on my volume button when I'm alone in the car.

It all started on a dark and stormy night in a sold-out St. Paul Civic Center back in 1976. The concert featured Mott the Hoople, Rush, REO Speedwagon...and then the final act: Blue Oyster Cult. The other bands (with the exception of Mott the Hoople) were very hot at the time, and were getting tons of radio play, but once Blue Oyster Cult took the stage, there was no doubt who were the kings of the live performance.

From the moment they were introduced with the classic: "On your feet, or on your knees! The amazing Blue Oyster Cult!", to the encore where every member of the band (including the drummer) grabbed a guitar and rocked out in front of the stage, Blue Oyster Cult generated a jaw-dropping, high energy, crowd-pleasing performance. Remember, this was before the days when the band had hits like "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Burnin' for You." It didn't matter. I came to the concert to see Rush and REO. I left as a lifelong Blue Oyster Cult fan.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Blue Oyster Cult was advertised as one of the bands in the Trempealeau Hotel's annual "Stars Under the Stars" concert series. After experiencing Arlo Guthrie, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Little River Band from my lawn chair in this intimate outdoor venue, I had decided that the Trempealeau Hotel was one of the best places on the planet to see a concert. With the Mississippi River and Minnesota bluffs in the background, a stage close enough to actually see the band's facial expressions, superior sound, walnut burgers on the grill, and plenty of local color to go around, the Trempealeau Hotel is a local treasure.

So, after 24 years, how would Blue Oyster Cult match up to the awe inspiring performance of my youthful memories? After over three decades of touring to sold-out auditoriums throughout the country, how would the band react to the friendly confines of the Trempealeau Hotel?

Let's just say, they gave the devil his due. Led by the incomparable lead guitar stylings and silky smooth vocals of Buck Dharma, Blue Oyster Cult transformed Trempealeau into Hawg Heaven. The sound was great, and the weather was perfect as the band played all the numbers the crowd came to hear. We were treated to a meteor shower while experiencing "R.U. Ready 2 Rock," "Then Came the Last Days of May," "Godzilla," and an incredible 15 minute version of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" for the encore.

My friends smirked when I bought a "Harley style" Blue Oyster Cult "Feel the Thunder 2000 Tour" souvenir shirt and immediately put it on. I wore it proudly for years until my racquetball partner at the YMCA asked me who the Blue Oyster Club was. As we finished our standing ovation, and happily made our way back to Winona, everyone in the car agreed that it was a once in a lifetime experience.

Sometimes lightning does strike twice. Last April Jim Jenkins, the owner of the Trempealeau Hotel, called to place some advertising for his Reggae Sunsplash event. I took the opportunity to tell him how much I enjoyed his facility, and shared some of my personal favorite highlights, including the train roaring through when Arlo Guthrie was singing "City of New Orleans." Then I asked the fateful question. "What bands are booked for this year?"

He said he was still negotiating with a number of acts, but that nothing was set yet. I told him that my friends and I often play a game where we imagine what it would be like to see James Taylor, Crosby Stills and Nash or the Eagles at the Trempealeau Hotel. After he commented that we shared the same taste in music, I said: "That's true, but I'll tell you what, one of the best concerts in my life was Blue Oyster Cult at your place."

"Hmmm." he said. "I may be able to get them back." The rest is history. Blue Oyster Cult is bringing their black magic back to the Trempealeau Hotel this Friday night. If you want to experience one of the best live performance rock bands in history, grab a ticket and be there...with cow bells on. After all, lightning almost never strikes three times in the same place. 


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