When looking back on what is more than thirty years of attending outdoor music festivals one of the magical moments that come to mind occurred when Mother Nature took her cue from a live performance.
The downpour that occurred as The Band played one of their all time classic songs at the Sugar Bush Folk Festival in the summer of 1990 can certainly be called one of the magical moments in Rock in Roll history.
The Sugar Bush festival took place at the Sugar Bush Ski Resort in Warren, Vermont. Some of the other acts on the bill that weekend included Shawn Colvin, Orleans and David Bromberg.
The Band had recently reunited after more than a decade in hiatus after their last performance in 1976, which was documented in the Martin Scorsese film, “The Last Waltz.”
This downpour occurred as the group’s bassist Rick Danko, while performing his theme song, “It Makes No Difference,” sang the verse “…and the rains come down.”
And come down they did, the heavens busted open at the very moment when that lyric was sung with some rather heavy precipitation taking everyone, even the members of the group by surprise.
“I still remember that moment to this day,” Jim Weider, the group’s guitarist (he replaced Robbie Roberston) said during a recent telephone interview.
“It was a mind blower, I looked over at Rick and he smiled.” Weider went on to say that anyone who was in that audience most certainly “felt the buzz.”
The crowd certainly felt the buzz. I don’t recall anyone leaving to seek cover, soaked people took it in stride, there was a lot of smiling and many danced.
As for the rain, it didn’t last long in fact it was practically over by the time the song, the group’s fifth in their set ended, making the moment seem even more surreal.
Equally amazing was the fact that the weather throughout that day was picture perfect, with bright sunshine, dry and hot. Rain was not in the forecast and it did seem to come out of nowhere.
But as quickly as the moment happened, it passed and the group went on to finish an inspired high energy festival closing set.
Vince Scelsa, a New York based radio personality who served as one of the festival’s emcees, has on his Idiot’s Delight radio program, called this occurrence one of the magical moments in rock music.
At the time of this festival Scelsa broadcasted his program on Sunday evenings on WXRK-FM (K-ROCK). He is currently heard on WFUV-FM, on Saturday evenings.
And it is Scelsa that gave me the opportunity to witness this magic.
In the weeks leading up to the festival Scelsa invited his listeners to submit postcards for a drawing to win a trip the festival which included lodging, admission and back stage access to all of the performances. I was one ten winners chosen by Scelsa’s at the time ten-year old daughter Kate. So I was able to view the rain as it happened from backstage.
To this day as I reflect on this scene, I have both Vin Scelsa and his daughter Kate to thank for being given the chance to witness the moment where a song lyric and meteorological phenomenon came together.
The song “It Makes No Difference” appears on The Band’s critically acclaimed recording, “Northern Lights, Southern Cross."