Rock and Roll All Night
(written by Bill Petersen, Archives Staff)
Growing up as a teenager in the 1970s in a small town near La Crosse, I still remember the excitement and anticipation upon hearing on the radio that one of my favorite rock bands was going to be playing at the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium. Tickets were often purchased at Metamorphosis Records, 205 Pearl Street, and were usually in the five to six dollar range. That equates to about $22.00 in today’s economy.
The bands that played “The Sawyer” were often on the cusp of making it big. Headliners that I saw included Kiss, Rush, Queen, Sweet and Cheap Trick. There were always at least one or two opening bands. It seemed like Kansas was always one of them. I think I saw them three times at the Sawyer, before they “made it big.”
Reserved seating was rare so an important element in the Sawyer concert experience was to arrive early. When the security guards, who obviously wanted to be somewhere else, opened the doors (and I think they only opened two or three) it was like a giant toilet flushing as the mass of teen flesh flowed into the spacious auditorium. I swear there were times when my feet didn’t touch the floor as the young rock fan conglomerate squeezed through the door. A mad sprint to the stage and there you were, right up front, in position to be spattered by fake blood from Gene Simmons or to grab a drumstick tossed by Brownsville Station.
It seems like when the original Mary E. Sawyer auditorium went the way of the dinosaur, the multi-rock band concert experience in La Crosse also disappeared. I still have my memories though, and somewhere, my Brownsville Station drumstick.