When Glenn Frey Came to Small-Town Minnesota

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Glenn Frey

Manhattan Beach, rural Minnesota, population 58. On your top 10 list to visit? Probably not, but in June 2008 one rock legend just might have changed your mind.

On Friday afternoon Scott and I left work early, packed our Chevy truck and headed north for a weekend getaway. With the Twin Cities in our rearview mirror and the pine tree branches pulling us closer to Brainerd, I pushed the radio button to The Power Loon, a classic rock station.

After a few tunes, the DJ announced that Glenn Frey and his band would perform Saturday night at the Manhattan Beach Lodge. I love big-name, small venue concerts. Who doesn’t? Besides, we’d been longtime fans. I could already picture the seating area curtain. Papery plates of white birch mingled in with green-needled pines. And Trout Lake would backdrop the stage. Only power chords, snare drums and the electric performance could break the serenity. The $52.00 a pop cheap seats were still available. We snatched two. How lucky were we?

On Saturday evening a few large, white tents welcomed us to the rustic lodge. Fans gathered inside to pick up t-shirts, CDs and other concert memorabilia. We tried to peer over and around people, but each zigzagged line stretched at least 10 deep. Outside we went.

We found our white plastic lawn chairs about three-quarters of the way back from the stage. Close to the stage, a white rope stretched between two posts to partition off the VIP area. A few security guards with folded arms scanned the crowd from this spot.

As Glenn Frey and his band took the stage and opened with “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” black clouds appeared and started to move across the lake, over the lodge and closer to the stage and crowd. The band continued to play. In between songs Glenn talked about his love for the Brainerd area and how he’d brought his sons fishing there seven of the last eight years. Then, Glenn leered up at the ominous sky and said, “We’ll try to play as long as we can.”

Frey performing at Manhattan Beach Lodge in Minnesota. (Photo: Nancy Kerns, GlennFreyOnline.com. Used with permission)

After a few more heavy guitar-riff tunes, the thunder and lightning burst on to the scene. Gusty winds followed the heavy downpour, like someone sporadically had thrown buckets of water all over us. The roadies and musicians quickly grabbed their instruments and booked from the stage. Some fans took cover under the white tents. Many fans left altogether. Others, like us, sought refuge in the lodge. We wondered what would happen since the tickets said “Rain or Shine.”

Related: Bruce Springsteen performs “Take It Easy” in tribute to Glenn Frey

Inside the front bar area, I nabbed the last wooden table. After ordering drinks, Scott left for the restroom. I scooped up some cocktail napkins and blot-dried my hair to get rid of the drowned-rat look. A guy joined me at the table as his wife had gone to the restroom, too. He said 3,500 tickets had been sold for the concert. After chitchatting about the weather, he talked about their lucky Friday night.

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At a local bar, Glenn and his band had stopped by and sat in with the bar band for a few sets. How cool is that? He obviously didn’t have to do that on his night off. I bet not many rock stars would.

Soon the storm stopped. We walked down the front steps of the lodge, and the most beautiful double rainbow appeared to the east.

The white VIP rope lay on the grass. No security guards, either. AWOL? We dashed to the front of the stage and joined the 200 or so remaining diehards. We looked around. It’s Saturday night in small-town Minnesota. Why did the music fans leave so quickly? It’s not like Vegas with a music act at every hotel.

The band played many hits from Glenn’s solo career and the Eagles’ albums. Glenn’s son Deacon sang while shredding his guitar, and brought down the stage for a few tunes including “Get Over It.” “Hotel California” and “Desperado” completed the evening.

Watch Glenn and Deacon Frey, with Don Was in 2010

After the concert, we returned to the tent tables. I chose a pink t-shirt with “I Got Freyed in Manhattan Beach” and Scott picked a yellow one with “The Eagle Has Landed, Glenn Frey, Big Trout Tavern.” No crowds to push through now, just a few loyal fans picking up some great mementos.

Yep, I have great memories from an Eagles 1978 summer concert at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. At the daylong concert the Eagles performed third, following Pablo Cruise and the Steve Miller Band. They played five or six encores, despite a dwindling crowd. My brother and I worked down the nosebleed bleacher seats to stand on the grass about 100 feet from stage. Even though our voices had pretty much left us after singing all day long, my brother yelled, “Tequila Sunrise.” The band obliged. I don’t know, but maybe this leaving a great concert early is a Midwest thing.

We attended Eagles concerts in 2002 and 2003 at the St. Paul Xcel Energy Center. Both great shows and most fans even stayed for the entire concerts.

But, without question, my favorite Eagles member concert happened June 14, 2008, at the big pine cabin lodge in Manhattan Beach, Minnesota. This is where we got “Freyed.”

Thanks, Glenn, for the memories.

Heidi J. Peterson

Heidi J. Peterson grew up in Chicago listening to DJ Larry Lujack of WLS and WCFL fame on her red transistor radio. In the evenings she'd find Casey Kasem and his long distance dedications. Her first concert in high school was jazz great Ramsey Lewis, and many classic rock concerts followed. In Heidi’s first summer after high school she worked at a suburban Chicago record distributing warehouse flipping eight-track tapes, cassettes and albums into bins that went to major retailers. Heidi still tracks down rock concerts, and has collected some great guitar picks over the years.

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  1. Guidopm7
    #1 Guidopm7 31 August, 2017, 13:59

    That is an awesome story! I am one of their biggest fans I think and saw them many times in many different venues while living in the NY/NJ area and that includes Pennsylvania too. I moved to Spain for almost 5 years and needed to fill my void of live Classic Rock by flying to England to see The Eagles on their “History” tour just a few years ago. Not long after Glenn died. That wasn’t my favorite show but I am very glad I got to see them before he passed…the music lives on!

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