Some rumors are too good to be true. On Thursday evening, one spread that John Cougar Mellencamp and his band would play the Bluebird, a small Bloomington club. Cover charge: $1.
Then it happened.
Rehearsing for upcoming Farm Aid appearances, Mellencamp, Lou Reed and John Prine performed for nearly 90 minutes before 350 delirious, bunched-together fans. Many hundreds more listened outside the front door and the back exit.
Shortly after Bloomington band Raging Texans finished its set at 11:10 p.m., Mellencamp and Reed took over, blazing through seven songs for the wildly enthusiastic crowd.
Clad in a Harley Davidson T-shirt, Mellencamp and his eight-member band opened the gig with “Small Town.” They followed up with scorching versions of “Paper in Fire” and “Pink Houses.”
Mellencamp then introduced Reed, who would use Mellencamp’s band at Farm Aid III Saturday. Sporting his trademark black leather jacket played “New Sensations” and “Sweet Jane,” with Mellencamp providing background vocals.
Mellencamp, a Monroe County resident who lives about six miles east of Indiana University’s campus, left the stage for Reed’s final two numbers: “Walk on the Wild Side” and “I Loved You, Suzanne.”
“It was a lot of fun to play at a small club,” Reed said afterwards. “The whole thing was about as spontaneous as you can get.”
Actually, a member of Mellencamp’s band called Bluebird manager Dave Mowery to discuss a possible appearance Wednesday. But it wasn’t until Thursday night that Mowery received confirmation of the performance. Prine, meanwhile, also was in Bloomington to practice with Mellencamp’s band.
Mowery said about half of the crowd didn’t hear about the gig rumor. Regardless, he said, the moment was priceless.
“The crowd was so enchanted. When you looked out over the crowd, everybody was so into it,” Mowery said. “Most people people realized this was a pretty rare occasion.”
Students said they weren’t sure about the rumor’s validity.
“I heard from a fraternity brother that this might happen,” Gus Hodek, a senior, said. “But it was yes and no – nobody was too sure. But for a buck tonight you heard John Cougar Mellencamp and Lou Reed – that’s incredible.”