Dear Cheap Trick:
We have to stop meeting like this.
I just can’t bear watching as you crush the competition for 30 minutes in front of a half-interested crowd, before some washed-up hair-band takes the stage as the headliner. The announcement this week that you would be handling the warm-up duties for Poison at Darien Lake this summer felt cruel. The flame flickers, I fear.
Remember when we first met and fell in love? I was in seventh grade, sitting in science class, when a friend walked in and showed me a new design on his loose-leaf notebook. He had cut up his older brother's copy of "At Budokan" and placed the striking Cheap Trick logo, in sloppy typewriter font (brilliant touch, guys) above a photo of Tom Petersson hunched over his 12-string bass. Tom looked like a cross between Keith Richards and Leif Garrett. His hair was completely epic. And his bass had 12 strings — three times the normal amount.
"They sound like the Beatles, but, like, crossed with really heavy rock," my friend gushed. I was intrigued, so I scraped together the $8.99 (1979 money) to purchase "Budokan." It took just one listen. By the time I'd made it through the rapid-fire assault of "Hello There," "C'mon C'mon," "Lookout" and "Big Eyes," it was all over. We were officially going steady.
Over the years, our relationship has seen some ups and downs. I saw you headline in a big amphitheater only once, in 1981. I'll never forget the version of "Gonna Raise Hell" you did that night. But soon, your commercial clout diminished and you were back to playing smaller places, or opening for other artists. At first, it was UFO, Heart, other bands that actually made sense. After the fluke success of "The Flame" – I forgave you for that one, because Robin Zander sang it so beautifully – your profile rose a bit once again, and I saw you opening for Robert Plant. It was incredible.
You had a period where you didn’t seem to know what to do, other than keep on gigging. I had your back, even though that album "Busted" felt like a serious betrayal of our relationship. But the albums started sounding like old-school Cheap Trick in the '90s, and I remembered why I fell in love with you in the first place.
You let my band open for you at Blind Melon's out on Youngs Road, and I met you. You were all really cool. I drove by the site of that long-closed club the other day. There's a chain link fence around it, and it looks like it's decomposing, about to return to the earth. Is this a metaphor for our love?
You still put out truly excellent albums of new music — the last three have been stellar. You still do a lot of headliner gigs, and you don’t always overlook the Buffalo market. Those nights at Artpark in recent years won’t be forgotten soon. But then along came these awful "package tours" that are all the rage these days. I get it — it's good money. But why would you think, after all these years, that my love for you implies a similar love for Def Leppard and Foreigner? Don’t you even know me? That time out at Darien Lake when I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to see your opening set ended in tears. Your flight was delayed. You didn't show up. No refunds were forthcoming, since you were "just the opener." The final insult? The show went on and no one seemed to care that you weren't there.
Readers recently pointed out to me on social media that our Buffalo history includes unconscionable pairings like Jimi/the Monkees (the Aud,) Al Dimeola/Robert Palmer (Shea's), the Flaming Lips/ Candlebox (Connecticut Street Armory) and Robyn Hitchcock/Barenaked Ladies (Kleinhans).
But your opening for Poison is worse. It feels like Paul McCartney warming up the crowd for Ed Sheeran.
You've broken my heart. But there's still hope. You could book a headliner gig in one of our nice, spacious area clubs. You could prove you still care.