The Fania All-Stars at Yankee Stadium.
August 1973 I think. I’ll look it up. The year or two before, Masucci had put together the All-Star concert at the Cheetah, in NYC. It was a tremendous success. The place held about 2000? people and about 4000? were jammed in. Outside on the street were another 4000? trying to get in. Leon had his camera crews shooting everything. Alan Manger and I were in Larry and Aron’s remote truck parked outside. The event started and went on like a freight train.
Now it’s a year later and Masucci knows the concert can draw more Salsa-nics then anybody had ever thought so he figures he needs a bigger venue. He rents Yankee Stadium. He hires me and Alan again. This time Alan is in the truck recording and I’m doing the stage and then the live sound. We had a production meeting. Sound system for Yankee Stadium is a different story than for a club indoors.
I asked Jerry how many people he was expecting. He told me 8,000, no more than 10,000 for sure. OK I knew we didn’t have to cover the whole place. 10,000 fits in a corner of the stadium. (The stadium then held about 60,000)
I went to a sound rental company that had some really powerful horn loaded woofers.
We got to the stadium and set up. The Stadium Grounds-keeper was very concerned about messing up the really nice grass on the field of Yankee Stadium. He insisted that the big multi-pair audio cables be elevated whenever they crossed the grass. We had these little wire spikes that were used to go into the ground and then life the cable up about a foot off the grass.
The stage itself wasn’t a problem, it was set up to sit on the infield non-grass part. The house live sound mixing console was also off the grass. I was set up right outside the dugout on the first base side. Very cool. Right in front of me was the main A/C breaker box. In it was the power for the sound system and stage monitors etc.
As we waited for the show to start I started to notice something wasn’t right. People were filing in and going all over the stadium. It didn’t dawn on me the effect yet. But I could feel the tension. The audience wasn’t unruly but they were very excited. The concert started late. El Grand Combo was I think the opening act. They were great. But things kept getting later and later.
It was pretty late into the show already and the Fania All-Stars were not even out yet. And then all the All-Star were individually introduced. Each time a star was announced, he would coming running out on to the infield and up onto the stage. They were each like a separate baseball star coming onto the field, except they took their time. Each was dressed in his own and different outfit. It all took a while. Time was getting even later.
At about 11:15 PM they started playing, maybe it was even later. They play the first long song. The groundskeeper came up to me and said this show is over at 11:45. It’s a union house and shows have to end at 11:45. I knew this show wasn’t ending at 11:45, hell it was just starting.
I saw something coming. I got my wife to leave around now. They opened one of the metal doors and more people came in. Bev went out. It was starting to get crazy. People in the balcony were holding the corners of their nation’s flags and jumping from the balcony onto the netting just behind home plate. The flags would flutter as they flew through the air and were caught by the net.
The grounds-keeper was anxious to stop the show. I knew if the stopped this show we would have a riot. People were pushing forward down to lower levels, down to the area between first base and third base. There were about 45,000 people here at the stadium by now. I knew the ones in the back and up couldn’t hear. This was more than 3 times the people we figured for.
Jerry came up to me and said can’t you turn it up? I said, “it is up”. We just hadn’t ordered a sound system big enough to cover this many people. Jerry said there would never be this many people. Sound systems were no where near as big then as they are today.
People were pushing to get around in front and down and moving forward. No one it the stadium was sitting.
The All-Stars were playing a particularly exciting tune. While the tune was playing the Grounds-keeper, I guess also house rep said to me he was turning off the power. I pleaded with him not to do that. This show wasn’t going to follow the normal stadium rules.
At around 11:45 he pulled the power at the box in front of me an d the console. I freaked out. The sound collapsed into nothing. With no amplification the brass sounded like a Kazoo would sound, a block away. The piano was gone. The bass was gone, The whole rhythm section was inaudible. NO vocals, no percussion just a very distant kazoo.
The people began to rush the stage. They ran right out of the seating area and onto the infield. It was Chaos. I tried to turn the power back on. At that distro-breaker box in front of me. He had just yanked an a/c feeder. I don’t exactly remember exactly how I got the sound system back on. I knew I had to.
Lighting up the stage for the filming and concert were these two very large pedestals with cross members high up in the air and many large lights on each cross member. With maybe 4-5 or so cross members on each 20-30 foot tall pedestal these light stands were pretty big. Maybe there were 4 or 5 lights on each side of the vertical on the cross member on each side balancing the whole stand out. It probably wasn’t guy wired to keep it from tipping but during the set up it was OK as nobody was in the infield to mess with it.
When the sound collapsed and people on the infield all over the nice pristine grass, people started to climb the two lighting towers. I knew if the towers fell over they would kill a few people. They were rocking back and forth. I got the sound system back on. Fortunately I still had the RE-15 (an Electrovoice microphone) still stuck in my pocket from the sound check. Also fortunately and RE-15 connector is the same size as a microphone connector and doesn’t need a short mic cable to be plugged in the input. I jammed it right into a microphone input in the back of the console, and raised that fader. Trying to remain calm is spoke slowly. “Get Off the towers.” “Please get off the towers”. It took a few times. People go off the towers. No one was killed. Alan, the rental company, and I lost about 32 microphones. Every thing except Ray Baretto’s congas and the Piano was taken.
I met Alan out in the outfield after the show started to calm down. We watched as people would throw, taken microphones, from the upper deck and they would slam into the field.