Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony - April 14, 2012 - Adventures

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on an overcast Cleveland day, April 14, 2012

Listing of 2012 Inductees

This year, the Induction Ceremonies for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sizzled on an overcast but otherwise pleasant day (Saturday, April 14, 2012 8 PM -?? AM) and returned to its home city of Cleveland, Ohio.   While the Induction Ceremony itself sold out within 15 minutes of tickets being offered for sale, I was one of more than 1,250 people who were fortunate enough to snag tickets to the Induction Simulcast Viewing, which took place at the actual Rock Hall last night.

The 2012 Induction Ceremony was held about 2 blocks down the street, at Cleveland's Public Hall Auditorium and boasted a crowd of 6,000 fans, fellow musicians, press officials, and even mounted police officers standing by on horseback!  Here are some great photos of the bands and all the coverage, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.  
Johnny Cash Tour Bus, 1979

The event itself was a stunning, historic, and energy-filled memory that I will treasure for years to come.  I still have not grokked the fullness that I Was There and that the rest of the world will not be able to witness what the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, and many other world magazines, blogs, and newspapers saw along with me last night until it airs on HBO next month.  Accompanied by friend and Cleveland-area native Kim Foster, we two ladies made our experience a day never to be forgotten.

9th Street aka "Rock and Roll Boulevard"
We arrived at the Hall at about 4 PM, as we wanted to avoid excessively long lines at the exhibits. In honor of the Induction, admission to the Hall was free to the public all day from 9 AM to 5:30 PM, and even at that time of day, patronage was still healthy. 

We strolled and viewed marvelous exhibits such as the exterior of Johnny Cash's 1979 tour bus (outside, shown above), Alex Van Halen's 1980 full drum kit (lobby), and further in, John Lennon's Yamaha upright piano and classic mellotron, Janis Joplin's psychedelic 60s Porsche, ZZ Top's bold red Eliminator, many of Stevie Nicks' famous gypsy-witch performance gowns, a full room of Elvis memorabilia, Michael Jackson's various glittery outfits and Grammy award for "Thriller" in 1984, marveled at "The Wall", a black-and-green back-lit veritable wall of artist autographs.

At every turn, we heard the music all around us, revelved in the costumes, videos, marquees, posters, and guitars, and soaked up the history of those various styles of music that blended over the past 60 years to create what Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed termed in the 1950's as a "little something to make you rock and roll..." 

ZZ Top's famous "Eliminator"
We then headed over to the gift shop, as we learned that it would not be open all night, and grabbed swag for ourselves and family members that had pressed us to visit the Hall for so long: coffee mugs with the listings of the 2012 Inductees, postcards, a magnet to support music education, and a vibrantly-colored mouse pad.
At 5:30, the Rock Hall was closed to the public and security made a sweep of the seven-floor monstrosity to clear it for the Induction Simulcast Viewing Party 90 minutes later. During this time, Kim and I decided that this might be our only moment to grab a bite to eat, so we headed back out to the street. 

We met a new artist, named BRIK (aka "KRYME" ... a "Thug Food Production" .... ) who was selling his new hip-hop and rap CD for a "donation" of $5.  I figured that you only live once, and what happens if and when BRIK gets big?  I will have wanted to have a copy of the thing.   I bought one, chatted with the enterprising young man for a while, handed him my card, shook his hand, attempted to get his autograph (sort of did, his pen wasn't working well), and wished him a great weekend and career.  When we turned around to look for food, we noticed right away that Cleveland still has a little work to do in terms of making food accessible to both Rock Hall and adjoining Cleveland Browns fans (across the street), as there were no restaurants within sight or even a comfortable walking distance. 

We noticed that there were two police officers sitting in a cruiser nearby and Kim immediately headed over to their car as though it were an information booth.  We chatted with the officers and asked if they knew of any good places to eat.  They began to explain that the nearest restaurant row was easily 3 blocks down and a few over, and then, seeing our reactions at having to walk that distance, smiled and said, "Hop in!  We'll take you there."

We couldn't believe it - two of Cleveland's finest (and truly friendly officers) offered to shuttle us 100% free but taxi-style to a hip restaurant row a few blocks away.  We hopped into the cruiser, the officers shut the doors behind us, and we were off.  The entire ride, the jolly gents joked about how they were just kidding and that they were actually taking us to jail.  In actuality, they kept their word, took my last name down as a passenger (since they need to track who has been in their car), and drove us to a small restaurant area off of 6th Street.  Once there, we had to make a quick decision, spotted Sushi Rock and asked to be let off there.  The officers let us out of the cruiser, we shook their hands and thanked them tremendously for saving us a good 15-20 minute walk, took a few pics of them and the car, they drove off, and we stepped into the establishment.

My view from the back of the cruiser .
The officer had to take my last name as a casual passenger.

Our friendly driver from Cleveland's finest.
This officer should be a model!

Let me be the first to tell you that when you step out of a police cruiser and into a restaurant, the host might not be willing to seat you right away.  Two lovely hostesses were stationed at the door that were forced to do a double-take and asked if we just got out of a real police cruiser?  We explained that yes, we did; that we had just come from touring the Rock Hall, and that we managed to snag a ride. The hostesses were incredulous that the cops would offer to take absolute strangers to a restaurant, but thought that was the coolest thing that they had heard in a long time.  We agreed!

One of the hostesses whisked us to a table upstairs, where we were greeted again by another smiling server who also had seen us step out of the cruiser.  Once again, we explained how it happened, and she laughed and said she couldn't believe it.  Most people run away from the police; we ran right to them and look what happened.

Upscale dining at Sushi Rock
An excellent choice!

We had a fantastic dinner at Sushi Rock  (a pure coincidence as it seemed that everything "Rocked!") - a delicious assortment of tuna and salmon sushi, as well as Philadelphia roll and spicy tuna roll.  Kim also ordered a fantastic plate of "Beef Sushi", which was not raw fish at all; rather, slightly-spicy filet mignon strips soaked in a delightful marinade and served over rice.  Kim loved the fish and beef both and with my coaching, learned how to manipulate a pair of chopsticks. 


Rear view of the cruiser from which Kim and I had just emerged!
At 6:30, we called for the check, because we needed to get back to the Hall in time for the 7:00 PM door opening to the Induction Viewing party.  Once outside, we regetted that we no longer had the police to shuttle us back to the Rock Hall; but no matter.  We walked the short distance down 6th Street, back out to Lakeside, and witnessed the throng of people awaiting their turn to enter Public Auditorium to see the actual Induction.  There again were officers on horseback, who graciously allowed us photos of them on their mounts, and a red carpet that adorned the Auditorium's front hall for the famous artists about to be inducted.  We snagged a few photos and then picked up the pace to get back to the Hall, as we were running a bit late, but also because it had started to sprinkle and we didn't want to be caught in the cold rain.

We arrived back at the Hall just after 7 PM and there were two long lines forming outside.  A line to the left of the entrance formed for "Will Call" ticket holders, while a line to the right queued for Internet/pre-printed tickets.  We jumped into the second line and miraculously found our way inside and to the viewing area.

Press, musicians, and fans queue at the Public Auditorium
Site of the 2012 Rock Hall Induction Ceremonies.
For the over 1,250 ticket holders to this exclusive viewing event, the Rock Hall did a super job of ensuring everyone had a decent seat and that peace and order, in spite of the rock and roll, were preserved. 

There were actually at least four viewing rooms established; one giant one with a 12-foot projection screen, right in the main lobby (and photographed here), which is where we chose to sit. 

(Side note: If you look carefully at the Plain Dealer's photo, you will see that there is a man standing near the windows, dressed in a black sweatshirt, and pumping his fist into the air.  This would have been taken near the beginning of the show, as the "GWEN" and "MOBY" lights above had been dimmed for the occasion.  My friend Kim and I were seated right behind that man and next to the picture windows that faced Lake Erie.  The man's name was also Kim (with wife: Vickie), who was attending along with his buddy Jeff (who allegedly knew many British Invasion people and even once slept at the Beatles' Abbey Road Studios - with wife: Maureen), and all four made the event even more fun, as they were true-blue music fans, fueled by the power of Budweiser and the elation of the evening.  To be fair, I don't think Maureen drank anything all night, which was good, because by easily midway through the simulcast, Kim, Jeff, and Vickie were completely soused.   The hardest thing either Kim or I drank all day was Coca-Cola.

I had to snag a picture of (male) Kim's sweatshirt and he was proud to model it.  He said that it was actually made by his mother-in-law as a gift to him and in tribute to Todd Rundgren. The shirt is a gorgeous hand-creweled work of art, showcasing Rundgren's visage on Hermit of Mink Hollow.)

Kim proudly models his Todd Rundgren apparel

As well as the back side...

Anyway, back to layout of the viewing area.  In addtion to the 12-foot big screen featured here and in Cleveland's "Plain Dealer" newspaper this morning, viewers could also catch all the Induction action on several other large, flat-screen televisions placed just below our viewing area, as well as in the Foster Theatre upstairs.  The Hall itself also stayed all night, allowing patrons VIP access to stroll through the exhibits at their own pace - completely unfettered by the large crowds seen earlier in the day.

Around 8 PM, the Induction Ceremony itself began and viewers in the Rock Hall were strongly admonished not to take any photographs or videos of the event.  HBO secured exclusive rights to the filming, which will air in May 2012, and luckily, it will be edited by then.  We, however, endured the unedited version of the event, which included plenty of profanity, but also incredibly long-winded speeches, first from the presenters of the inductees, among whom is a small listing:

  • Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill (bearded guitar and bass guys in ZZ Top) for blues legend Freddie King.
  • Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day) for Guns 'n Roses
  • Bette Midler for Laura Nyro
  • John Mellencamp for Donovan

Unlike most award shows that are custom made for live television and therefore impose a three-minute-or-less restriction on speeches, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame did nothing of the sort.  Each inductee took easily 30-45 minutes apiece, followed by no more than a performance of 3 songs.  All told, considering the set changes and the amount of work that it takes to get changed from one artist to the next, the staff at the Rock Hall did a tremendous job to keep things moving along.

This year, however, as you may have already heard or read, the lead singer for metal music giant Guns n' Roses, Axl Rose, chose not to attend the ceremonies and also wrote a little to the Hall, asking not to induct him personally.  While the Rock Hall deliberately ignored this request and inducted the entire group, Axl was not in residence last night.  

When presenter Billy Joe Armstrong of the punk group Green Day introduced each member, and then finally landed on Axl's name for recognition, the thronging crowd at Public Auditorium booed, as well as a portion of the fans at our simulcast.  Billy Joe would have none of that and immediately -- and courageously -- barked at the clamor: "Shut the F*CK up!!  Shut up!!" and proceeded to defend not only Axl's talent as a brilliant vocalist but also possible reasons why, after so many years, there are times when musicians do not always appreciate a forced reunion with his bandmates and may choose to bow out of the pomp and circumstance.  Given the acrimonious history between Slash and Axl, this was probably not far from the truth; futhermore, as Rolling Stone reports, this was also not the first time in Rock Hall history that such a refusal occurred.  In any event, in the same letter, Rose thanked the Rock Hall for considering him, but "respectfully declined" the Induction.  The show went on with an unnamed stand-in for Axl; I found it a little annoying that the sub wasn't publicly recognized or even thanked for his work with the band last night.   For what it's worth, here it is:  To Miles Kennedy, great job, sir!  You took on a huge burden and kept the show alive! Thank you!

At about 12:30 AM, the Induction Ceremony was still going strong, but we were worn out.  After 4 1/2 hours of speeches and a general loss of hearing from the awesome sound system, we were ready to bug out, even before the Red Hot Chili Peppers (the closers) took the stage.  Apparently others felt as we did that it would be safer to leave a little ahead of the rest of Cleveland's drunks after 1 AM, so we graciously took our leave. 

In its 27th year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still going strong. With over 7 floors of the short history of this incredible art form, it has established itself with prominence in the music world, accepting not only traditional "rock" bands, but also blues, rhythm and blues, soul, songwriters, British Invasion, and countless other forms that have woven their song into the rock and roll story.  I was blessed to be a part of last night's Induction and look forward to perhaps attending again, either in Cleveland, or in the next city chosen for this momentous event.

Best always,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc.
Denver, CO by way of Cleveland, OH, USA

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