Tassoula Kokkoris reports on how U2's Stage Manager Rocko Reedy decided to support fellow live music professionals.
When the pandemic reached the U.S. last winter, U2 Stage Manager Rocko Reedy was just home from several tours, having some down time. He got a puppy, Bryn (whose Scottish name means 'small mountain') and focused on life with his wife Hollie in Columbus, Ohio. Seeing how the virus was affecting the music industry a few months in—and never one to rest on his laurels—he reached out to a local band he mentors, Liberty Deep Down, to see how they were doing. Lead singer Dom Frissora didn't mince words. He explained, "We lost our jobs, we had two tours planned, it was tough."
Hearing this news, Reedy's wheels began turning. He said, "I cannot live in a world that does not have live music. I always told Bono, 'The difficult we do instantly; the impossible takes five minutes." He continued, "Think about the history of U2 and the places we've played. We played in Sarajevo when there was a war going on. I stayed in a hotel with bullet holes in the walls and blood on the floor. That's the world that I've lived in."
He wanted to help touring and local technicians in the industry whose jobs had come to a screeching halt. Nothing would stop him, not even the Zombie Apocalypse (which is how he refers to the pandemic). He just had to figure out how to revive live music in a safe way to bring awareness to Crew Nation livenationentertainment.com/crewnation, a global relief fund for live music crews.
The first incarnation of his grand plan was to have Liberty Deep Down play a set on Independence Day on a flatbed truck. Inspired by what U2 had done in Manhattan in 2004, he'd drive around while the band performed, then end up in at the nearby Alum Creek State Park, which was still open to the public because of the ease of social distancing on the grounds. It was the perfect place because families facing hardships in the pandemic could spend time there, free of charge, enjoying the water and outdoors in a safe environment. But the weather was uncooperative, with temperatures in the 90s in the days leading up to the holiday.
"Our equipment would've melted - people would've been miserable, so Rocko just pulled the plug on that and said we'd do it at a later date, but even bigger and even better," said Frissora.
Reedy wasn't kidding about creating something bigger and better. While he was at the state park, he noticed several boats out on Alum Creek Lake and saw potential. He researched to see if anyone had ever attempted a floating gig and learned that in 1969 when The Beatles were recording their album Let It Be, one of their earliest ideas for what eventually became their famous Apple rooftop concert, was to charter a boat in Greece and play on that."Though their show didn't happen that way, I wanted to finish The Beatles legacy," said Reedy.
So he pitched the idea of playing on a pontoon boat to the band members. "At first we were a little bit skeptical, I'm not gonna lie," remembered Frissora. "I was worried, but I trusted Rocko's vision and I trusted Rocko's judgment."
So this "mad endeavor" as Reedy refers to it, was on. On a beautiful, sunny August day, Rocko and the band loaded up a rented pontoon boat with equipment and instruments, then set out on the lake "without notice, publicity or permission" to rock. To say they produced 'good vibrations' that day would be an understatement. Performing "Livin' On The Edge" by Aerosmith and originals like their timely song "Tilted," they sailed around the lake, never identifying themselves, to let the Crew Nation banner speak for itself.
Reedy shared his strategy of anonymity, "I wanted people to walk away thinking 'Crew Nation.' If you explain things to people, all they hear is blah, blah, blah. But if you put something up and let them just look at it, they'll dig around and learn what it's about. Nothing is sexier than silence."
For four hours, people on nearby boats, families relaxing in tents along the beach and passers by sang along, cheered and relished in the spontaneous joy of a free rock concert, which Reedy dubbed The Last First Rock Show. I want musicians who see the video of this to see that not only it's a great band, but a great message," said Reedy. "I want them to see themselves in all of us. See themselves driving the boat. Playing the guitar. Singing the songs, saying 'That's the joy I want to live with' and do what we did. Go out there and safely—and legally—get up and play."