A friend of mine recently started a blog and one of his recent posts reminded me of a story from years ago. I have not met many celebrities over the course of my life and tend to clam up around anyone who has made a name for themselves, so my stories are few and far between. But this one time, many years ago, I lived an ’80s dream.
Born in the ’70s, growing up in the ’80s, I was a child of ’80s music. Sometimes a song will come over the radio that catapults me back into the days of wearing Madonna-esque clothing (although I was a tomboy and really just wore the same jeans and T-shirts until middle school). Night Ranger songs tend to have this effect. Isn’t it strange how a song can help you remember things that you thought had faded from memory? Smells have that same effect; I keep a perfume that I used to wear in high school simply so every once in a while I can take a whiff and remember how it felt to be 16 with no mortgage to pay and a back that didn’t hurt all the time. It’s a strange effect, really. I can no longer wear most “real” perfumes because they give me an instant headache. However, I do like the nostalgia they evoke. Anyway, back to Night Ranger.
It was the summer of 1996. I was newly graduated from college and living with my sister in a very small town (think a couple hundred people) in southwest Minnesota. The town had one bar, but the place seemed to draw some pretty big names due to some fantastic networking by the bar’s owner. That summer, we found out that he had somehow convinced Night Ranger to play at the bar, and that is where the adventure begins.
The night was surreal, really. The bar’s ballroom could hold a few hundred people, but it was nowhere near the stadium you’d expect to see one of your favorite bands in. Yes, I know — by the mid-’90s, Night Ranger wasn’t exactly a big draw anymore. However, when you have those bands that mean a lot to you, it’s pretty darn exciting to have them play mere feet from you, playing songs that you love. I know that night I caught a thrown guitar pick, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I stashed it.
The extra surreal part came after the concert was over and the bar closed. The owner allowed some of his favorite people to stay behind and, well, party with the band. After many beers that night plus twenty-five years behind me, I cannot recall exactly what was said, but I know I had an extended conversation with Gary Moon about — get this — education reform. I had the chance to talk with the guys of Night Ranger about anything in the world, and I end up in a conversation about that. I never said I was cool . . . or smooth. That right there just proves it. Whatever the case, Gary had some sort of interest in the subject, and we talked for a long time about it. Maybe it was refreshing to have a conversation about something other than himself and his music career; who knows.
As the night wore on and the crowd thinned, someone brought up the subject of their tour bus, which had been pulled up right outside the bar. Somehow my sister and I were brought out to take a peek on the bus. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking about the hijinks that happen on tour buses. This honestly was a peek. We went up the stairs, looked in, said, “Wow, that’s cool!” and then got off the bus. No Penny Lane stuff going on that night. Not from me, anyway.
I think the thing that gets me the most is that in 1996, cell phones were not what they were today, hence no instant access to a camera. I have NO PICTURES from that night – only the story to tell.
I’ve since seen Night Ranger several times since that night but have never gotten the chance to meet them again. Gary Moon has since departed from Night Ranger and is doing his own thing now, but I would like to think that if he ever needs to have a deep conversation about the state of Native American education in today’s school systems that he knows who to call.