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November 20, 2009

Checking in with Nils Lofgren

nils lofgrenNils Lofgren might not be a household name, but Lofgren has played with some of the biggest names in rock.

Lofgren was a founding member of Crazy Horse, and has been playing guitar in the E Street band since the '80s. Tonight, he and the rest of the gang will be at 1st Mariner Arena. I talked to Lofgren a few days ago about the show.

Did you know Bruce and company hasn't played here since 1973.

You're kidding. I can't believe that. That's bizarre. ... I can't believe a town that big has been skipped that long. This is a momentous return.

Same venue too.

Is this is the old Civic Center? You're kidding me. 

Have you played there before?

I played there in the '60s or '70s opening up for somebody like Country Joe and the Fish. I can't even remember. Way back in the '60s I went there trying to sneak backstage to see Cream and Jimi Hendrix. I used to go with my Telecaster and try and tell the security that the headline act needed it for the show, and they were expecting me. ...

My band Grin, of course, we cut our teeth in Baltimore and at UMBC. A lot of great memories of Baltimore. I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix in the hallway, walking to the stage, looking awful. He looked like he weight 90 lbs. My band Grin had opened three shows for him on my 19th birthday out in California.

To me, Jimi and Jeff Beck were always the two greatest guitar players. I didn't know him. I just asked him how he was doing, and he said 'Not so great.' I said 'Take care of yourself, we need you. He said, 'Yeah, well, my manager's got me playing 64 cities in 66 days.'

I'll never forget it. He was all alone, walking down the hallway to the stage. I was hiding in a doorway. I was young and naive, but now I get it. He was just a piece of meat for his management and for the booking agents. ... No one was really protecting Jimi. It was ruthless. He had too many hangers-on, and drug dealers and groupies and people that didn't really care about him around him. I was grateful to see him play so often and open shows for him, which was an honor.

Did you hesitate when Springsteen told you he wanted to play all of "The River" and "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle" at Madison Square Garden earlier this tour?

We all look at each other, and there's a part of you that rolls your eyes. We're fatigued, we've been on the road for two years and we're in the home stretch. To take on those two records, back to back in New York City with almost no notice is crazy. And you know what? We just knew we were going to be doing homework. I didn't quite make it to college, but for those four or five days, it felt like I was studying for my big college exam.

Look, when Bruce calls a song on stage we've never played before, you know in 30 seconds he's going to count it off. You can sit around for the rest of your life laughing about it and telling stories about how that's not what you wanted to happen. But the bottom line is, it's happening, and it's starting in 30 seconds. So you better figure out what to do to contribute.

It's fun. That's the beauty of playing live. ... The review is instant from the audience, and that's an arena I thrive in. The band does too. We're proud of the fact there's nobody out there challenging themselves to do these kind of improv-inspired shows for their audience. There just isn't.

(Handout photo)


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 12:33 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Comments

This is great! I had wondered what the rest of the band made of the Boss's spontaneous set decisions.

When Nils Lofgren left Baltimore in search of the bigtime, Grin played its farewell concert at Parkville Teen Center.

FYI Bruce played at Towson University in 1977 as the first performance at the College Center. Why does the Sun keep saying he has not played here since he opened for Chicago in 1973!!!!

Diane -- because Towson University isn't in Baltimore

That's two celebrities, football commentator Brian Baldinger and Lofgren who expressed shock that a big city like Baltimore has gone this long without Bruce. Mabye with the Stones and Springsteen playing in the anachronistice arena will embarass somebody in power in this state and motivate them to put a decent arena in its biggest city.

It would be cool of Bruce to let Nils sing "White Lies" when they do a Baltimore/DC area show.

I was lucky enough to see Grin at Parkville Teen Center several times as well as a show they did at Lock Raven High (my high school) in about 1974. I also worked for Special Services for Towson State and worked the setup and strike for Bruce's show. Great fun, particularly the sound check. The strike was high and low, Cleaning up puke and picking up dropped bags of reefer. Oh and boy did the band consume a lot of milk. Not sure what that was about.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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