REO Speedwagon – Shellabration 2011

If standing in the front row and meeting REO Speedwagon last summer was an incredible experience, then words will not be able describe my experience at this year’s Shellabration event in Fort Dodge, IA. However, with the help of some pictures, I will try to arrange words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into a way of expressing the amazing experience of building the stage and working security for the concert.

It all started on Friday at 8AM as many volunteers, including four friends and myself, took an empty Oleson Park Bandshell and created a large covered stage, decked out with your typical concert lighting and sound system. Saturday morning we helped load in REO Speedwagon’s equipment. From drums and risers, to guitars, amps, and Neal Doughty’s Hammond organ, we helped set up all of this equipment.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Oleson Park Bandshell: Friday Morning

Friday morning at 9:30

Oleson Park Bandshell: Saturday afternoon

Saturday afternoon at 3

Nearly 14 hours on Friday and several more on Saturday went into creating this event on-site, not including the many months of work that went on behind the scenes to organize personnel, advertisers, etc.

Rain was in the forecast for the night, but luckily for us, Mother Nature was an REO Speedwagon fan on this night as it turned out to be a beautiful night for a rock concert. The gates opened at 5:30 Saturday evening, and the local band Saucy Jack kicked off the show at 6 and HipKnosis took the stage around 7:30, and REO finally a little after 9:20.

REO in Fort Dodge

REO Speedwagon performing their 1981 #1 single, "Keep On Lovin' you"

REO Speedwagon played for about an hour and a half. Their set-list began with six songs from their chart topping 1981 album, Hi Infidelity, as they are celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the bands rise to stardom. “Don’t Let Him Go” was their opener, followed by their first #1 hit single “Keep On Lovin’ You,” “In Your Letter,” “Someone Tonight,” “Tough Guys,” and “Take it on the Run.” After wrapping up the Hi Infidelity nostalgia, they busted out other big hits including “Keep Pushin,” “Golden Country,” and their second #1 smash hit “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” 1970s rock songs “Son of a Poor Man” and “Like You Do” came next in the setlist, followed by “Time for Me to Fly,” “Back on the Road Again,” and my personal favorite “Roll With the Changes.” The band left the stage after rolling with the changes, only to come back for an encore including “Ridin’ the Storm Out” and their closer “157 Riverside Avenue.”

Anyone at the concert could have told you how the concert itself was, but not many experienced all I did before the concert and after. It was extremely neat to see exactly how much work goes into preparing for a concert this size, and we were rewarded after the show. Along with the four friends I brought, we all had the chance to meet the band backstage after the show for pictures and autographs. I had the chance to meet the band last August at the Iowa State Fair, but it was cool to see my friends have the same opportunity this time.

Words can only go so far in describing exactly what I had the chance to do, so here are several pictures from the two day extravaganza.

Our crew: Brant, Michael, Stevie, Aaron, and me

Starting to unload REO's equipment

Neal Doughty's Hammond Organ and keyboards

Kevin Cronin's guitars

Bruce Hall's bass picks

REO's tour bus, or THE REO Speedwagon

Kevin Cronin enjoying some HipKnosis

Kevin Cronin and Dave Amato

Imagine standing on stage with your all-time favorite band. Well, for half the concert, I was pretty dang close.

REO's bassist, Bruce Hall

Here I am standing with Kevin Cronin, REO's lead singer

If you want to see all of my pictures from Shellabration 2011, check them out on Facebook.

A lot of work went into getting this event off the ground (literally), but in the end, it was completely worth it. Before, during, and after the concert all had something special about them, and this will be a weekend I’ll remember forever.

Shellabration 2011 was a huge success as almost 6000 people made it to the concert, practically tying it with their previous record set back in 2005 when the Beach Boys were headlining. 30 years after striking gold with Hi Infidelity, REO Speedwagon is still rocking, and are still extremely good at it. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the concert, but that’s very common for an REO show.

My 2011 REO Speedwagon experience is in the books and I’ve now seen them three times, met them twice, and worked with them once. At the rate they’re still going, I may very well get to add to those totals over the next few years.

This REO Speedwagon concert as a whole was amazing, and hopefully my words and pictures truly show how amazing of an experience this really was. Until next time, keep pushin’.