Spectrum Music Memories

This week we caught up with five Philadelphia musicians who’ve played the Spectrum during their career to reminisce a bit about their experiences in the venue, both as fans and performers.

By Michael Alan Goldberg  
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 27, 2009

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And so it ends. On Halloween night, Pearl Jam will play the final-ever show at the Spectrum. Soon after that, the ol’ brown building—once dubbed “America’s Showplace”—will be reduced to rubble, leaving only memories of four-plus decades of legendary concerts, Sixers and Flyers championships and more.

This week we caught up with five Philadelphia musicians who’ve played the Spectrum during their career to reminisce a bit about their experiences in the venue, both as fans and performers.

Tommy Conwell

Early Spectrum memory : “I got robbed in the bathroom one time trying to re-sell some acid at a Santana concert. I was just like, ‘Anybody wanna buy this?’ And some big dude just came up to me and said, ‘Can I see it?’ and just took it from me and walked away. That shows how street smart I was. I said, ‘Hey, gimme that back!’ and he said ‘Back off,’ and that was the end of it. It was like taking candy from a baby.”

On playing the Spectrum for the first time : “The first time we played there as a legitimate opening act, we opened for Bryan Adams. I’ll never forget: We went on the stage and the lights went down and we just start our first song, and you could see all the people rushing in from the exits and you could see the silhouettes—it was like an ant farm or something—all moving down to their seats because the show had started and it was us. That was really like a wow moment.” 

Favorite Spectrum story : “We were playing with George Thorogood and I had just bought some amps from Medley Music in Bryn Mawr. I’d been going to Medley Music my whole life and they never once said hello, you know what I mean? Jerkiest music store ever. They just went out of business. Anyway, so I bought these two amps and they called me that day and said, ‘Hey, they’re in, we’ll deliver them. What’s your address?’ I said, ‘Well, tell you what, I got a gig tonight ... just bring ’em to the Spectrum!’” 

DJ Jazzy Jeff

Early Spectrum memories : “I wasn’t at a lot of shows—my whole thing was the Sixers. The first time I went there, it was the biggest place that I’d ever been in, and just looking in and seeing the court and seeing the Sixers logo on the floor ... and Dr. J came out and George McGinnis came out and it was like, wow, this is my team and this is my city. It was amazing.” 

On playing the Spectrum for the first time : “I think it might have been one of the worst shows me and Will ever did. When you perform in your hometown, and especially at a venue like that, you’re too excited. You’re so excited to be in front of your home fans that you just lose all focus. Even going down there for rehearsal, I’m standing there on the stage and I’m looking up and I’m seeing the scoreboard and the banners up in the ceiling and you’re like, ‘Whoa’ ... And then when we were doing the show, you’re rushing and you’re forgetting stuff, and you’re thinking, like, ‘My mom’s here!’” 

Favorite Spectrum story : “That was the place where we received our very first gold record—right on the Spectrum stage. It was during the Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell tour. The Philly gig came up and [ He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper ] just went gold. So they wanted to present us with those records on the Spectrum stage because it was our hometown, and it was amazing.”

Reggie Wu (Heaven’s Edge)

Early Spectrum memories : “That was like the place growin’ up. I went to a ton of shows. I remember seeing Ozzy with Van Halen warming up, and Van Halen just completely smoked him. I saw Ted Nugent and Blue Oyster Cult probably a couple times. That was the place to go, the fog-filled Spectrum—everybody getting’ high, smokin’ up.”

On playing the Spectrum for the first time : “We played with Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen, and I remember I had like three Marshall stacks, which at the time was huge for me. And Yngwie had 27 Marshall stacks set up at the back of the stage. So my stuff probably looked like a little pignose amp compared to what he had. And Dio had, like, a castle up there, so between his castle and Yngwie’s Marshalls, there wasn’t much room for us. But it didn’t matter. I guess by that point we kinda knew we were on our way out, but that night was truly, truly a dream come true.” 

Favorite Spectrum story : “Somebody said to us as we were walking down the corridor, ‘Just imagine—the Zeppelins, the Van Halens of the world all walked the same road here,’ and he was like, ‘Welcome, boys, to the other side of the barrier,’ and we were like, ‘Wow, that is awesome! This is too cool!’

Eric Bazilian (The Hooters)

Early Spectrum memories : “I think the first show I went to was Cream. I saw Hendrix there, and I was there for the Stones in November of ’69. I saw some shit there.” 

On playing the Spectrum for the first time : “Our arena experience up to that point had been opening tours with Loverboy and Bryan Adams, so headlining there it was like kids in a candy store having the run of the big stage. When I was up there I was thinking, ‘God, I hope we’re filling the room,’ and when I watched it back on MTV I was reassured that, yes, we had filled the room.’

Favorite Spectrum story : “I used to take photos there and it was a lot easier to get around, you didn’t need photo passes. I remember at the Stones concert there was a bit of security, and I had to struggle to get close to the front, but I remember [famed Philadelphia concert promoter] Herbie Spivak saying to me, ‘Hey kid, do you wanna get up to the stage to take some pictures?’ It was pretty great.”

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