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Please Welcome to the Stage: 1980s

We asked Badger Insider readers for their favorite college concert stories; here are the musical memories we collected.

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As the saying goes, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Whether you listened on vinyl, cassette tapes, or a first-generation iPod, we all have that song that makes us feel like we’re back in our UW dorm room. But even better than jamming out with your headphones on is singing along at a concert. Did you dance along to a rockin’ UW Marching Band halftime show? Catch a then-unknown but now-iconic artist at a local dive bar? We asked Badger Insider readers for their favorite college concert stories; here are the musical memories we collected from the 1980s:

In 1983, I was taking a Fortran programming class in the summer since it was easier to have access to the mainframe computer. Since there were daily assignments I couldn’t join my friends to see this new Rock-a-Billy band, the Stray Cats, at Merlyn’s, at second-floor venue on State Street. Once I finished the night’s programming assignment, a classmate and I walked to State Street to see if the concert was still going on … and boy was it! We could clearly hear the last song of their regular set since the windows were open (no AC). Then the band went into the green room back stage. Well, the 30 or so of us outside could see into the green room from the street. They were hooting and hollering, celebrating the great show and getting amped up for the encore. Watching them unscripted, interacting with each other so early on in their career was even better than listening to their fantastic encore.
Linda Callies-Kingsley ’84
Arlington, Virginia

The first time I ever saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was my freshman year at the UW. The concert was at the Dane County Coliseum on February 2, 1981. I had heard of Bruce at that time in my life. I knew a couple of his songs. One of the guys on my dorm floor was walking around asking if anyone wanted to go with him as he had an extra ticket. I said, “What the heck? I’ve heard of this guy. I’ll take it.” That ended up being a really good decision. A 30-song setlist with a small break in the middle. Close to four hours in length, the place going crazy with cheers and singing along, Bruce interacting with the audience and ending up soaking wet with sweat and completely exhausted … I was hooked.
I went out and bought all of his albums produced to date and started pounding through them one after another. My roommate thought I was crazy because that’s all I would listen to (prior to that I listened to a lot of Eagles). I’ve seen Bruce at least once every time he’s been on tour since. I’ve seen him in Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Boston. The most concerts I’ve attended in any one year was five, and believe me, that’s not enough. Every album he’s released I’ve purchased on the first day it was released, including his latest album, Western Stars, released on June 14, 2019.
My wife (also a fellow Badger) has been with me for most of these concerts and our children have joined us as well. When our daughter was 10, I took her to the 2005 “Devils and Dust” tour in Madison. Our son’s first show was back in 2006 in Milwaukee when he was just eight years old.
There are not many things in my life I am as passionate about as Bruce and his music, and it all started when a guy on my dorm floor said, “Hey, anyone wanna go see Springsteen at the Coliseum?”
Bill Monfre ’85
Green Bay, Wisconsin

One registration week in 1982 or 1983 (during those years, you picked up your “registration packet” at one of the Veterinary School buildings in a dirt floor, and got “stamps” at the various classrooms when you were admitted to the class), I had the good fortune to see the Violent Femmes with the gang from Mack House at a free concert they were giving at the Memorial Union. I’ll never forget that concert. Those were some incredibly fun years!
James Kunick ’86
Oak Park, Illinois

Watching R.E.M. on the dirt floor of the stock pavilion. Amazing!
Loyola Macari ’87
Norman, Oklahoma

My favorites both took place at the Stock Pavilion. One was a No Nukes Rally where Pete Seeger sang and Linus Pauling spoke. The second was a Billy Joel concert (before he was so famous). It was just after his second album. Outstanding.
Janet Smith ’87
Oro Valley, Arizona

I was a freshman in 1985 living in Mack Hall dormitory along the lakeshore. Music was exploding back then for me: Talking Heads, Violent Femmes … I eventually was able to go on air through the student radio station, as I was a radio-TV-film major. Three memories to share, one near miss and the others were experiences. As a freshman in September of 1985, I regret missing out on the R.E.M. concert at the Stock Pavilion in May of 1985. As R.E.M. grew in presence across the country, it was clear that I missed out on a great opportunity to see them while they were emerging. A couple weeks later, I saw a band on Langdon Street in a fraternity house called Pat McCurdy and the Confidentials. I still have a cassette tape of their recording. They were quite good, but I never got to see them again because McCurdy went on to have his solo comedic music career since then. In May of 1988 I was present for the Pink Floyd Momentary Lapse of Reason concert in Camp Randall with a large pig floating above the concert goers. The musical exposure as a Madison student was amazing — including the gift of Mike Leckrone!
David Crawford ’90
Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Freshmen in the fall of 1986, my roommate, Laura Larson, and I missed the first-ever night football game at Camp Randall on October 4 because we'd traveled to see Journey at the Rosemont Horizon in Illinois on their "Raised on Radio" tour. That had been a very tough choice! In the spring of freshman year, a local band called the Cheeters performed outside between Slichter and Carson Gulley — does anyone remember them? They were GREAT, and IBA played them that summer, but I guess they didn't go further, sadly. And what about free hot lunch at Club de Wash in the late 80s? They were brilliant, hilarious, awesome! In September of ’86, I waited in the morning outside the record store on State Street to be the first to purchase Boston's Third Stage album when they opened. I still have that IP today.
Thanks for prompting these memories!
Larisa Lirgameris-Liekys ’90
Wauconda, Illinois

Please Welcome to the Stage

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