REO Speedwagon, August 8, 1979, St. John Arena, Columbus, Ohio

I was only 12 years old in the summer of 1979, but I’d already been to several rock concerts and thought they were the most fun a guy could have. I was living in San Diego at the time but went to Columbus for part of the summer to visit my father. As soon as I got to Columbus I started checking the newspaper to find out about shows. I wasn’t really an REO Speedwagon fan, but it was the best option I could find, so I got two friends to go with me and my dad agreed to be our ride.

It was the first-ever rock concert for my two friends, who were both 13, so they followed my lead. At San Diego concerts in those days, it was common for people to bring frisbees to toss around in the crowd before and between bands, so all three of us brought frisbees to this show, with the expectation that we’d throw them in the crowd and never see them again.

If you’ve ever spent time in Ohio in August, you know how hot and humid it can get. St. John Arena didn’t have air conditioning, probably because it primarily served as home for the Ohio State basketball team, which of course plays in colder weather (and has since moved its home court to the newer Schottenstein Center arena). So it was about 175 degrees inside, so hot that we held onto our frisbees to fan ourselves with rather than throwing them into the crowd.

The opening band was The Rockets, who had a minor hit at the time with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.”

There was a giant fan on stage, and the singer from The Rockets spent every non-singing moment standing directly in front of the fan. Watching that just made me feel the heat more.

REO Speedwagon had been around for a few years but their only real hit at that point was “Ridin’ The Storm Out.” They played a long version of the song, like 15 minutes or so, milking it for all they could. I thought it was cool. Singer Kevin Cronin also spent a lot of time standing in front of the fan, his curly hair blowing to and fro.
When REO Speedwagon played their encore, they set off huge bursts of fire on the corners of the stage, and that sent fresh bursts of hot air through the arena.
Did I mention it was really hot there?

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