Novelty was the concept behind what's been called the first rock-and-roll concert, DJ Alan Freed's notorious Moondog Coronation Ball on March 21, 1952. Famous for popularizing black music among whites and later scandalized by the first payola trials, Freed wanted to reach a new audience: kids. There were some established performers on the bill, like jazz guitarist Tiny Grimes and blues belter Varetta Dillard. Others were new, such as saxophonist Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers, jumpin' jivers who were the only act to play before cops shut down what was then viewed as an alarmingly interracial gig. No one is sure how many tickets were sold, but legend has it that there was a riot (supposedly 25,000 tickets were sold to a venue capable of holding 11,000).
These days the Moondog Coronation Ball's a heavily branded event, where nostalgia rules. This year's headliners bear only a passing relation to the originals: Tommy James and this year's version of the Shondells; former Supreme Mary Wilson; Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of the Turtles/Flo & Eddie; Badfinger's only surviving original member, Joey Molland; and all the Box Tops, including maverick lead singer Alex Chilton. The music could be good, particularly from Volman and Kaylan, harmony masters of the mid-'60s, and the Box Tops, Memphis boys who delivered some of the sweetest blue-eyed soul of that decade. If nothing else, it'll bring back the memories, always a safe bet in Cleveland.