Before there was Coachella and Lollapalooza and even Live Aid, there was the Day on the Green. Day on the Green was a concert series presented by concert promoter Bill Graham at the Oakland Coliseum. DOTG was one of the best concert experiences I ever had but it would be a very different experience if I had it today at my age.
This Day on the Green was a dark and cloudly day. But it would be the first time I saw my favorite band “Fleetwood Mac” and the first time I’d get to see Stevie Nicks live.
I came out as a Stevie Nicks fan a long time ago and it shows so sign of stopping. " If you love me then by default you love Stevie Nicks," I told my friend once. My friend was horrified but if you think about Stevie centered songs: "Gold Dust Woman," "Sisters of the Moon," and "Sara," you have to have at least a little grudging respect. Those are amazing songs and I'm only skimming the surface.
Being a tad bit obsessed, my main reason for going to SJSU was because Stevie Nicks went there. And she didn’t even graduate. Well it was the late 1970s, and people didn’t choose their universities as carefully as they do now. I don’t think anyone actually toured a school before they went there. Picking a college was like a blind taste test, you couldn’t see what you were getting but you stuck out your tongue and hoped for the best. I suppose I should be relieved that Stevie Nicks didn’t go to Princeton or Harvard or I might have had to apply myself and betray the rest of my fellow underachievers
But college was a long way away on that ready to rain day so long ago. I remember wearing the standard concert going outfit: jeans, platform shoes and a shirt with a hood on it. They weren’t called hoodies back then; they were called “shirts with hoods on them.”
Everybody in San Jose bought their jeans at People’s Pants on Lincoln. They bought Levis, and Lee Jeans and Wranglers. Sailor jeans with the two square pockets on the front were super popular at our school. They looked best if you had no butt as opposed to Dittos which looked best if you did. Combs were kept in the back pocket and smokes were kept in your rolled up sleeve if you were a dude. Only guys were dudes back then as in “all the young dudes” or “any major dude will tell you.”
I have no recollection of how we got to and from the concert. I don’t remember The Doobie Brothers or Gary Wright but I remember Fleetwood Mac vividly. I expect my Mac memories will never fade.
The Doobie Brothers were known as a San Jose band, though I am unsure why. Fleetwood Mac was not known as a San Jose band but they did live there for a time. I was thrilled when I heard that Stevie Nicks wrote the song “Gypsy” about their San Jose time.
As it got closer and closer to the Fleetwood Mac portion of the mega concert, it got more and more crowded at the front of the stage. Punk hadn’t really caught on yet, so there was no mash pit. Generally, drunk girls would take their halter tops off and sit on their drunker and on the edge of obnoxious boyfriend’s shoulder’s to see. Exposed breasts always got VIP seating. But if topless wasn't an option, you had to find other ways to get up close and personal with the performers.
There was no playful elbowing of someone out of the way, the way you could for Metal shows. I just prayed that some drunk guy wouldn’t fall on me or worse barf on me. Everybody was fairly good- natured but solid. Getting them to move out of their spot so you could get closer, seemed near to impossible. One technique to get up front, was to pretend that with each new location you’d stand in that you had been there the whole time. Fingers crossed that your neighbors hadn’t noticed your chameleon concert maneuvering.
I was doing my best to work my way to the front, kind of politely, weaving around people but still I was pretty far back. I had waited all day, I was exhausted and my energy was draining. But I had to see Stevie and I had to see her up close. Front row was not only my quest but my destiny.
People don’t understand the lack of music choice back then. There was metal, disco, R& B and rock. Disco was kind of embarrassing. I secretly liked Chic and KC and the Sunshine Band but it wasn't like I'd put their stickers on anything. Did Disco acts have stickers? If you liked Metal then you were bad-ass and they definitely had stickers and patches for your leather jackets and boda bags.
At the time rock music wasn’t exactly overloaded with female role-models. There were the Heart girls, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and the Fleetwood Mac chicks and that was it. Linda was really girly back then and Bonnie didn’t take sh*t from anyone. Stevie was sexy but not overtly so. Men and women admired her beauty equally. She dressed cool, she sounded cool and she was cool. Stevie was the people's rock goddess.
It didn’t look like I was going to have much of a view at all, when it started to rain. Even though people were blitzed out of their minds, the rain started to wake them up. Although we lived in a place where it rained pretty frequently, it seemed like no-one wanted to stand in it, even for Fleetwood Mac. How lame is that? They couldn’t even handle a little bit of a downpour for the Mac? People started to leave and I got closer and closer to the front. Luckily I had worn the platform shoes which gave me some traction in the increasing mud.
Finally I was right in front as the rain poured down on my head but it didn’t bother me as Stevie and the rest of Fleetwood Mac came out and did an amazing show. They were far-out to use the vernacular of the day. Stevie twirled and stomped and amazingly didn't slip. Every member f the band seemed to play their hearts out even while they also got rained on. When Stevie would change from one shawl to another or grab her tambourine with the multi-colored scarfs, it was magical.
When the marathon show was finally over, I was drenched, muddy and deliriously happy. I knew I’d never get as close again and I never did. I guess concert goers got tougher. Audiences got better at standing for long periods of time and didn’t care if they got a little wet or a little dirty.
Sadly Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash and the great Days on the Green ended. But it was glorious to be young, sopping wet and to feel as if the legendary Stevie Nicks was singing right to me. I still have the cool programs from both the Days on the Green concerts I went to and looking at them always makes me happy.
If I went to a Day on the Green today, I’d insist on assigned seating. I would hate the opening act on principal. When the headliner finally arrived on the stage, I’d be completely spent. How I’d roll my eyes at the “spontaneous” encore and would want to leave before the show had ended to try to escape the traffic. Later I would complain about the horrible parking and how I wished I had bought a bootleg tee-shirt. I would know that no matter what the venue or the artist that nothing will ever top that Day on The Green but then nothing can top when you are on the edge of seventeen either.