White Lion holds a special place in my heart as the first band I ever had the chance to meet. My friend Jeff’s dad was a dentist and among his patients were people who owned the Phantasy Theatre in Lakewood. Back in ’87, we spent lots of time shooting hoops and listening to music (often at the same time) and hard rock was the flavor of the day – from Bon Jovi to Whitesnake to Van Halen. We were also both KISS fans which made us fans of Ace Frehley’s post-KISS band, Frehley’s Comet. When we read in Scene Magazine (because that’s how you found out about concerts in Cleveland before the internet) that Frehley’s Comet would be coming to the Phantasy, we begged Jeff’s parents to pull some strings and get us into the show.
I remember the day (July 10, 1987) like it was yesterday. I flew into Cleveland Hopkins airport after a weeklong vacation in Florida and my mom took me directly to the Phantasy where Jeff’s parents had made a deal for us – if we showed up early and helped get the venue ready for the show, we’d be allowed to stay and watch for free. It was mid-afternoon when we showed up and the bar manager had Jeff and I carry kegs to the bar, fill the bins with ice, and whatever other task he could think of that would help save him some time.
The opening band, White Lion, was hanging out backstage (which was connected to the kitchen at the venue) so Jeff and I had the chance to meet the guys. We had picked up the band’s Pride album (released just a few weeks earlier) and were pretty familiar with it by the time we got to the show and having never had this opportunity before, we were pretty stoked to be hanging out with a real live rock band, something we had never thought (at that time in our life) would be possible.
After the band’s opening set, they returned to the dressing room area where Jeff and I were hanging out. Drummer Greg D’Angelo pulled us aside and said, “Hey guys, I need a favor. I left my shirt up on stage. Would you guys mind going to get it for me?” (I think it was a shirt … he left something that he wanted us to retrieve). Um, ask two 16-year-old kids if they want to go up on stage in front of hundreds of people and Greg didn’t even get a response, we both raced to go stand on stage and bask in the spotlight, if even only for 30 seconds.
White Lion released two more albums after Pride and then called it quits in 1991.
Singer Mike Tramp has continued to make music after White Lion’s demise (with Freaks of Nature and as a solo artist), most recently releasing Cobblestone Street in April. Fans of Tramp’s from his White Lion days may find his solo work to be a bit too mature and lacking a driving punch, but Cobblestone Street is actually a really great listen, a largely-acoustic driven release that shifts between Springsteen-like numbers (“Cobblestone Street”) and seaside shantys (“Caught in the Storm”).
While I haven’t kept close tabs on Tramp’s career, I don’t think he’s toured the U.S. much (if at all) since his days in White Lion so his run of July and August tour dates is worth noting (and worth attending!) as you never know if or when he might return.
Fortunately, the good folks at Bethel Road Pub (1375 Bethel Road) will be hosting Mr. Tramp on Monday night as the singer will most likely run through songs spanning his entire recorded career armed simply with an acoustic guitar and probably many stories to tell. Erica Blinn and The Vague share the bill with doors opening at 7pm. Tickets are $10.