As I mentioned in my last Acappella post, I performed over 1,400 concerts in the space of 11 years. That does not take into account church service performances, radio stations, bookstores or mission trips. I couldn’t even begin to remember even 1/3 of those. That said, there are a few that stand out with vivid recollection. South Bend, Indiana is one of those.
The South Bend / Elkhart / Goshen area was a good place for Acappella and AVB. Both groups appeared there many times. Radio airplay was good to us as well. We consistently charted quite high in that local market. AVB’s The Victim stayed #1 for months in 1989-90. Needless to say, we were in that area annually for a concert.
Sometime in the 90’s, around 1998 I believe, we released a “best of” album called The Collection. There were far too many songs requested for the album. As it was, we included 17 and the CD was full. As a means to include more songs and pay homage to some of the older tunes, we put together a medley. It was just short of 12 minutes and covered many tunes. We then worked up a slightly edited version of the medley and added it to our concert repertoire. To make the presentation of the medley more intimate (and give us a slight break), we used tall stools for the medley.
You can probably guess what’s coming.
As I recall, it was the late Spring of 1999 and we were singing at the ELCO Theater in Elkhart (now renovated and called the Lerner). The house was full with just short of 3,000 people. The concert was going very well and we were in our 2nd set, after intermission and nearing the end. It was time for the medley and we pulled up our stools and started in.
It’s important, for this story, to know that these were not the usual straight, 4-leg wooden stools. These were metal stools with cross bracing. In other words, they fold in on themselves for easier storage.
I have always been a bit… husky. Yeah, that’s a safe way to say it. Anyway, these stools had been in use for a while, holding up my huskiness. 8 minutes into the 11-minute medley, my stool gave up the ghost. A bracket popped loose and down we went, me and the stool. 3000 people. The stool folded in on itself as it went down. By that, I mean to say that the seat of the stool folded down onto the footrest to create a flat profile. Perfect for loading into a trailer.
The problem was that my feet were on the footrest and my posterior portion was on the seat. 260 lbs. of weight closed down on my ankles, which were between the footrest and seat. 3000 people.
My legs were splayed apart by the impact (though my feet were trapped) and intense pain immediately shot up my legs. I was able to roll to one side to relieve the pressure of the weight and somehow free my ankles.
One of our performance rules in Acappella was: “Don’t stop the song. No matter what.” The majority of mistakes that were made would either not be noticed or would be forgotten if the song continued. That rule led to some other comical stories which I may share in another post. For this particular event, it was somewhat surreal. The other three guys (Kevin, Barry and Ken) kept singing but just sort of stood there looking at me, one hand on their mic and one hand sort of stretched out to me. They had a “what do we do?” look on their face. 3000 people.
I was rolling around on the stage, trying to find a way to continue singing and get up, pain or not. I remember that our sound man started turning down the volume on the sound system. I thought, “That’s a good idea. Turn it down slowly so the crowd won’t hear how bad we sound right now.” Then he started dimming the lights. I thought, “Maybe that’s a little too much. Is he trying to fade us out like a video or something?”
Then the truth dawned on me. He’s not turning us down or dimming lights. I’m passing out! 3000 people. I quickly said a prayer asking the gracious Lord to keep me from passing out there on that stage. Boom. Just like that, the lights came back to full and the sound came back up. Along with that, the pain came back to full bore (I had not realized it had eased with my passing, so to speak).
The song was still going, believe it or not. The entire audience was undoubtably watching me, yet the song has progressed. Again, surreal. Sure enough, we’d almost gotten to the end of the medley… to my lead on The Time Has Come. I propped myself up on one elbow and start singing. How I did that, I’ll never know. I hardly remember it. All I know is I got through it and then sang the closing piece, which was Let’s Get Together.
After the medley concluded, a stage hand brought out a smaller, normal folding chair and helped me into it. I was able to finish the concert from my chair, although Well on my Way was a bit lame. We concluded and someone helped me to the dressing room. My right ankle was already the size of a cantaloupe and had turned several shades of a very pretty purple (which, of course, it not a normal color for ankles).
That was one of the very few nights I did not go out and meet the crowd after the concert. A very nice physician who had attended the concert came backstage and attended to me. I have no idea who it was. If by some chance you are reading this, thank you.
That was the last time I was ever in the South Bend area. Great memory to leave behind, eh? If anyone from north Indiana is reading this, we’re you there? What are your memories?
3000 people. Ouch.