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Ike and Tina Turner headlined a controversial rock concert at Bosse Field football stadium on Sunday, July 2, 1972.
Organised by Bob Alexander and Tom Duncan, they assembled a superb bill for this one-day festival. Black Oak Arkansas, Cactus, Country Joe & The Fish, Country Joe McDonald, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Edgar Winter, Howlin' Wolf, Ike & Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Spirit Ike & Tina were the headliners but rain delayed the start of the 12-hour gig but it failed to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.
The area in front of the stage, which was built on the pitcher’s mound, was a swamp. In the outfield, fans lit fires to keep warm, others curled up in sleeping bags and blankets. Now, in the modern day world, this would seem like a bad thing. We do not tolerate such discomfort easily now, but back in ‘72 it was all part of the vibe, part of the counterculture, even.
About 7,000 young people, described by local newspapers as “long-haired, bearded boys, and girls wearing scanty clothes,” had already gathered in Garvin Park by 1 a.m., eight hours before the concert’s scheduled start. ‘Scanty’ is such a saucy 70s word, isn’t it?
The Evansville Courier also reported the long hairs and scanties “were just sitting on the ground talking; others were dripping wet after taking a swim in the park's small lake ... But the mood was peaceful and the youths were for the most part very quiet." Far out, cosmic and solid. Inside the stadium, drugs were sold and consumed openly as policemen hired by the concert promoters generally remained near the gates to prevent gate crashers. This was always the best policy. Every time they tried to arrest dopers, they just made unnecessary work for themselves.
Outside, a riot erupted when the promoters, who had promised free admittance after 9 p.m., changed their minds. It was a strange policy to announce in the first place because it would obviously lead to a crowd of people gathering, happy to turn up for the last couple of hours and pay nothing for the pleasure. And then to say, actually no, you’re not getting in, well it was bad ju ju all round, baby.
Angry fans rushed the gates and policemen, weary from a long day of pushing back the surging crowds, lashed back in force, using tear gas and nightsticks to scatter about 2,000 people. Promoters eventually gave in and let everyone in for free anyway. What a waste of everyone’s time and emotion.
After the show was over, the City filed suit against the promoters to confiscate the proceeds and reimburse the City for the additional expenses it had incurred in hosting the festival. However, damage to Bosse Field, home of the Triple-A Triplets baseball team, was minor. Debris and rubbish also had to be cleared from Bosse Field and Garvin Park.
Twenty arrests were made on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to indecent exposure and possession of dangerous drugs, possibly all three were connected! Despite the 1972 concert being a financial success for the promoters, Mayor Russell Lloyd vowed that the city would not allow similar events in the future. Boo. C’mon man, don’t play the killjoy. However, he eventually relented and permitted a rock concert at Bosse Field on August 20, 1974 which featured the Allman Brothers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and R.E.O. Speedwagon and drew 18,000 people.
The promoters also went on to produce an even bigger show called the Bull Island Rock Festival, officially named The Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival, also known as ‘Woodstock on the Wabash.’
One of them, Bob Alexander said of the Bosse Field show which had pulled in 30,000 people “I made the most money that I'd ever made in my life at that point by doing that event. I don't remember exactly how much we made because it was so long ago, but I remember that I took my whole family down to Montego Bay, Jamaica, after it was over, and I had a real ball.” Pity they didn’t get a poster designed for the show though!