I never had much respect for Great White. Their popularity in the late 80’s came completely on the strength of a cover song and I think it’s bullshit when bands are allowed to get away with that. Where you can be fined $1,200 in America for downloading and listening to a copyrighted song, if you re-record it a couple years after it’s performed by the original writers and strike while the iron’s hot on your particular genre of music, your band can walk away with a few million. Cause you can be certain Great White weren’t going anywhere with their first stab at a hair metal anthem, the melancholy “Rock Me”. Even the band’s chosen name was a cash-in on the inexplicable craze of using your band name to pay homage to a random white animal.

That’s not to say Great White’s version of “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” wasn’t infectious, or that the video wasn’t outstanding. Remember when they all drove their motorcycles into that warehouse or whatever and those groupies were line dancing and there was the particularly smoking one wearing just a bra, like the voluptuous, traffic-stopping Sue Ellen Mischke? I’m not saying Great White maybe didn’t deserve a spot opening for the downward-spiraling Ratt or whatever but based on just that one ripped off song, Great White started headlining arenas and I think they were up for a fucking Grammy!

I will say, even though all they really had was one #1 cover single followed by a slew of mid-tempo half-hits, the band did earn my props a little bit with the brilliant “Wasted Rock Ranger”, one of the best songs to come out of the entire 80’s canon. Sadly, for some ungodly reason it was an obscure B side and not even on the Twice Shy album and most of you Finnish weirdos who loiter at our website have probably never even heard of it.

So I live in Waterloo, IA, and and it’s a miserable craptown and we rarely  get any good music coming through here. But sometimes, when the annual My Waterloo Days festival has its three-day run, some burnout adviser convinces the city council to spring for a rock group straight off the pages of Metal Edge magazine. A 1986 issue of Metal Edge magazine. And I’m not gonna lie, I usually look forward to it. Two years ago, we got Quiet Riot in the park and that night was a blast, all the way through to when I woke up in a crackhouse spooning a fat black woman with dentures.

Last year, Bret Michaels was the featured act, but I missed that one cause fuck him. Awhile back we got Lynyrd Skynrd, with Ronnie Van Zant’s cousin fronting the group, because Ronnie is dead.

’09 presented some new wrinkles. In honor of this year’s festivities, the ribbon was cut on a newly renovated downtown square which was probably financed with our FEMA funds from the ’08 floods. It lays just south of a 12-story retirement home where I’m assuming many of the residents were shaking their fists out the window all night for 10,000 people to get off their lawn. There was another big difference in 2009- I was attending the My Waterloo Days extravaganza sober for the first time since I was in middle school. Ah yes, I rolled in with a crowd of anonymous alcoholics. We wore fake beards and sunglasses to conceal our identities. Well, I did. Because there’s nothing like that awkward 14 seconds between when a hot girl you know yells out your name and boozily stumbles in your direction before she realizes you’ve started your new career as a total stick in the mud. And so, because I hate my life, I just decided to concentrate on the upcoming stage action. Diet Mountain Dew in hand.

Now, before we proceed any further, I just want to mention that I heard more than enough mean-spirited jokes that you can probably just write your own, such as “Boy, I’m sure glad this show is outdoors!” I decided not to even go there, because that’s all between Great White’s former tour manager, the Rhode Island state’s attorney, and God. But don’t think we didn’t experience a minor tragedy of our own on the closing night of My Waterloo Days.

The band came out playing and their guitarist – new guitarist – took the stage with the familiar opening riff to one of their mega-hits, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”.  Predictably, that quickly bled into a different, obviously lesser-known song, “Desert Moon”. Now, I wouldn’t recognize any of the rhythm section anyway, but most of us who ever tight cuffed our lightning-washed jeans know who the fuck Jack Russell is. The hard-drinking, big nosed front man with the straight blond mullet. Well, whoever the hell was singing had a big, curly, black afro. And this was even weirder in light of the fact that Kevin Dubrow showed up in 2007 without his trademarked big, curly, black afro and instead rocking a spiked golden top similar to Ozzy’s old ‘do. What was going on? Where were we? Did hamburgers now eat people?

These motherfuckers did two songs before the bass player crept nervously up to the mic and informed the audience that unfortunately, and I am not fucking making this up, Jack Russell fell off a ladder and could not be present that night as he was healing from his injuries. You have got to be joking. That’s the best they could come up with?

He went on to tell us that in Russell’s absence we’d be entertained by the ex-lead singer of the band XYZ, Terry Ilious. Yeah, me neither. I could Google my own name and get more hits than I did on Ilious when I got home last night.

So it’s not enough we have to exist in Waterloo, Iowa but we now had to watch the spitting image of Frank Stallone substitute for the lead singer of a band whose claim to fame is a shamelessly lifted power anthem. Surprisingly, few people besides me were really all that upset. Of course, they were all drinking delicious, icy, refreshing beer. Beer that flows like cold fresh spring water on a hot summer day down the Rockies and…FUCK! There was this one guy wearing a Jack Russell T-shirt that said something about Russell rocking a Jack Daniels festival in Kansas City or some shit. That guy did look pretty bummed and I felt bad for him. Nonetheless, the show went on.

One would think that after unleashing this disappointing news on an unsuspecting crowd of drunken revelers, “Great White” would launch into an uptempo rocker to quell the discontent. Instead they plucked out a slow, bluesy bar jam for the better part of the next seven minutes. Then, the godawful power ballad, “Save Your Love” and then another fucking despondent low-tempo blues song following that. This shitty block of tunes probably lasted 20 minutes. A guy behind me told his old lady, “they better start playing some cover songs or something”.

I saw three downies and their keeper backtrack through the crowd. If you can’t keep a downie entertained, you need to find yourself another line of work, pal.

After that, the band played “Mister Bone”, which is sort of a righteous song, “Rock Me” and finished out with the only crowd-pleaser left in their holster, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” One of my drunken buddies who I ran into there said to me “Oh, that song is by these guys?” Why were you even there, Jon?

The only real bright spot of the evening came after the audience had thinned down to a few crusty bikers, when the band came through on some sporadic requests they were getting to play the anti-anthem, “Wasted Rock Ranger”. I have to admit, that put a smile on my face.

So all in all, at least we have this cool new town square in the heart of our city. It will no doubt meet the same fate as Auto World in about five years but right now it’s kind of pretty to look at.

As for the music scene in our little burg, well, one common theme for the bands that are coming through here is they are either fresh off a horrible tragedy, or they have one soon after they leave. So maybe that means next year we’ll get Mayhem.