Backstage in South Florida ... and Backstage in Knoxville, Too!

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions and observations about the local scene. This week: Two very different backstage scenarios...

Considering the fact that this column is called Backstage in South Florida, I found it interesting to note the differences in a pair of backstage experiences I recently experienced. In the interest of full disclosure, I will start by saying that until recently it had been awhile since I actually had opportunity to go backstage for any show, either in South Florida or elsewhere.

In fact, the last time I ventured backstage to visit with a band was in 2010, when I was given a pair of passes at a Hard Rock Live performance by the band America. Up until that point, my backstage days were largely behind me, confined to the time I was a record company promotion guy and the backstage meet and greet ritual was largely a function of my gig.

In recent years I had become a civilian, enjoying shows from the front of the house, having mostly settled on the fact that there would rarely be a chance to meet the musicians personally like I used to.

The America gig was a nice throwback to those earlier glory days of schmoozing and hospitality. That was especially true given the fact that I had met the band previously when I worked for their one time record label, Capitol Records. We also had a common connection with a fellow musician named Jeff Larson, a fine singer/songwriter in his own right and the group's sometime sideman.

The guys were great and very personable, and there was plenty of time to talk with each man after taking that long trek through the winding hallways that lie behind the Hard Rock stage.

On New Year's Eve, my wife Alisa and I ventured up to Knoxville Tennessee, our second home of sorts, to see a special performance by the V-Roys, an outstanding Americana outfit that was playing a reunion gig for the first time in 12 years. The show took place in a stately old historic theater, aptly named the Tennessee Theater.

For us, it was the perfect place to greet the start of 2012. Think Miami's Gusman Hall without the hassle of finding a place to park. What made it especially nice was the fact that I'm personal pals with two of the guys in the group, the two frontmen in fact -- Mic Harrison and Scott Miller.

I've known Mic for several years now, ever since I hung out with him at Tobacco Road. I've followed his progress as a recording artist in the years since then and I've seized on every opportunity possible to review his records, each of which has been a fine example of premium roots rock authenticity.

I met Scott on last year's Cayamo Cruise when he gave a series of stirring solo performances and I introduced myself by remarking that we both knew Mic. As it turned out, Mic had told him to look for me, and we subsequently formed an instant bond.

One of the reasons I like eastern Tennessee so much is that the people are extremely nice and friendly. (Are you listening South Florida?) Mic and Scott exemplify those sentiments to the max. Scott even invited us to have dinner with his family and some friends before the show, an added bonus on New Year's Eve when fellowship means so much.

When we arrived at the show we were surprised and delighted to find backstage passes waiting for us. Once we went back after the concert, the gathering that greeted us was much like the gathering we enjoyed prior to the performance -- mainly family, friends and a few overseas acquaintances. I caught up to Mic outside the stage door, puffing on a cigarette as usual, and we greeted each other with the same affection shared between long-lost friends.

As an added bonus, I got my first taste of genuine Tennessee moonshine, courtesy of a fellow in a tiny fedora and bearing a metal flask. It wasn't as distasteful as I thought it would be. In fact, it tasted a lot like Gatorade; it went down easy and left me craving more. All in all though, the backstage session was fairly laidback and uneventful, little more than an opportunity to say hi to a few pals, followed by the trek back to the hotel.

On the other hand, our invitation to go backstage following Bob Seger's recent performance at the BankAtlantic Center took us completely by surprise. I was especially psyched for this opportunity as I had worked with Bob many years ago when I was a promo dude for Capitol Records, his longtime label, and I was anxious to reminisce. After all, many of the gold records given me by his manager, Punch Andrews, still grace the walls of my home office.

Getting everyone back to the reception room following the show took on the precision of a military drill, what with the couple hundred or so individuals who had been tapped for the meet-and-greet. Once we all gathered in the reception room, it was completely packed.

Happily, there were beverages and snacks to keep us satiated until the stars showed up, and as the band members began to filter in one by one, anticipation over Seger's arrival grew considerably. In the meantime, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to drummer Don Brewer, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad. I told him I had seen his former band perform at one of the first free concerts in London's Hyde Park in 1971, and I reminisced about what a special show that was. He was a most gracious guy, a resident of Delray no less, and we snapped the obligatory photo to commemorate the occasion.

Nevertheless, as the evening wore on, Seger himself failed to show. Other members of the band were freely circulating, but Bob's absence made it clear that this reception would indeed lack its star attraction.

We wandered outside the reception room and found guitarist Kenny Greenberg hanging around idly awaiting the call to return to the tour bus. When my wife Alisa approached him and asked about Seger's whereabouts, he matter-of-factly remarked that his boss was long gone. Apparently, he flies home after every gig.

Nevertheless, Greenberg was a friendly fellow and he remarked that he was still in awe for having been chosen for the tour, which was now ending its two-month run. Again, there was the obligatory photo at Alisa's urging, followed by a final check of the reception room where saxophonist Alto Reed now seemed to be holding court. Other than that, a few rock star wannabes were all that were left of the guests gathered there, signaling that it was time for us to make our way home.

There was still a New Times review to write, after all.

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Lee Zimmerman