A tape deck, some Creedence tapes and, uh, a briefcase
Creedence Clearwater Revisited vs. John Fogerty:
Swamp-rock fans line up by the hundreds, inching closer to a massive outdoor stage, welcomed by the Southern-inspired “Born on the Bayou,” impressively belted out by some guy who sounds damn near identical to John Fogerty.
The guy singing is actually John Tristao. And thing is, I’m a Fogerty snob. So when I mentioned to friends I was going to experience Credence Clearwater Revisited, who kicked off Thunder Valley Casino’s summer concert series this past Saturday, instead of seeing Fogerty himself at Cache Creek Casino Resort on the same evening, I received a lot upturned noses and comments like, “It’s not Fogerty, bro.” But I’ll never turn down a chance to do my shimmy dance in an outdoor amphitheater setting to my childhood favorite, “Suzie Q.” So Thunder, I was struck.
Revisited, which still boasts original members Stu Cook on bass and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford on drums, share stories in between songs about a group of 13-year-old friends who formed in a garage in El Cerrito, Calif., with a dream of playing rock ’n’ roll. Fast-forward 50 years: Members have come and gone, friends have become not so friendly, but the music still lives on.
Proof came in the form of Saturday night’s diverse crowd, who become more and more rowdy as the sun finally sets and the night sky draws its deep-blue curtains. And, of course, when the overpriced beer flows.
Unless you enjoy being planted to assigned seating marked by numbers and letters, the cigarette-smoking section is the choice area to dance at Thunder Valley. A couple with matching rainbow tie-dye T-shirts dance off to the side of the section, shaking their hips to “Down on the Corner” as if they were 20-somethings again. Several middle-aged women sway together in a bunch, holding their plastic Bud Light cups in one hand while waving the other in the air, singing the lyrics to “Bad Moon Rising.”
Even teenagers and 20-somethings are here to listen to CCR—or maybe they are their parents’ D.D.’s for the night?
And then, as the steady strike of snare drum complements an increasingly loud ride cymbal, everyone including myself knows what is to come: “Suzie Q.”
Live is the only way to enjoy this song. Full of electric-guitar solos, provided by lead Kurt Griffey, who to his credit wails—this very moment is when the Fogerty snob in me melts away and a new respect grows for the bellowing, soulful voice of Tristao.
There of course is a bit of irony buzzing throughout the evening, because Fogerty is at Cache Creek in Brooks at this very moment.
“The bus leaves in five minutes for the other place,” jokes Cook, coyly prodding at his former friend and CCR bandmate.
Still, despite the Fogerty vs. Revisited battle of the bands, nothing beats seeing professional musicians jamming to songs that still roll some 50 years later.
This story has been corrected from its original print version.