1970-09-11 Clearwater Swim Club, Atlantic Highlands, NJ

One five hour show, held outdoors, with Steel Mill headlining a quadruple billing featuring support bands Task, Sid's Farm and local folk singer Jeannie Clark (with her backing band consisting of Steven Van Zandt, Garry Tallent, and Southside Johnny). A gig now steeped in folklore. In Steel Mill's lineup for this show was drummer Dave Hazlett (from vocalist Robbin Thompson's former band Mercy Flight). Hazlett had come up from Richmond to fill in for the absent Vini Lopez, who was stuck in Richmond due to a marijuana bust on a communal property where Vini's then-girlfriend lived (everyone in the commune were charged - Vini was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time). Steel Mill was intending to use its earnings from this show to help defray Vini's legal costs. So the unique Steel Mill lineup for this Clearwater gig was Springsteen, Van Zandt, Federici, Thompson, and Hazlett. Steel Mill had played a similar event at this venue in June that had gone smoothly. However some local residents had subsequently complained to town officials about the noise level so late at night, this resulted in the curfew time for the September concert being lowered from 11.00pm to 10.00pm, as well as a much stronger police presence. Several audience arrests for marijuana possession raised tensions in the crowd. Then when 10.00pm came around (Steel Mill was part way through its set) the police took a hard line about the curfew and switched off the power to the instruments, infuriating the crowd. Several members of the band then plugged into overhead light sockets, forcing the police to enter the stage and ask the band to stop playing, which then escalated the crowd into a near-riot. During the ensuing mayhem, some sound equipment fell onto the local Chief of Police (who was very slightly injured). Danny Federici earned his famous nickname of 'The Phantom' by disappearing from the melee with lightning speed. However, news reports in the days after say that police were searching for Federici, charged with assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. 21 people were arrested for a mixture of drug and assault charges and ten policemen were injured. The aftermath of this show was extensively covered in the local media at the time. Danny eventually turned himself in and was bailed in November 1970. This show was filmed, but unfortunately, the resulting recording was subsequently lost in a fire. Springsteen spoke about the events at Clearwater Swim Club during his eulogy to Danny Federici in 2008.

I was doing my set on a small stage away from the main concert. Steve, Garry, and Johnny (Funky Dusty & The Soul Broom) were backing me up. I was wearing a mink wrap with heads and tails still attached that my crazy Uncle Lenny gave me. The wrap really grossed-out my friends, Rob and Paul, but I thought it was a very Janis Joplin thing to wear. She also had a great influence on my singing style then. That was one of the best times, musically, that I remember.
© Jeannie Clark Fisher
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