Kaye's piece was reissued in 2003 in Barney Hoskyns' essential The Sound and the Fury: 40 Years of Classic Rock Journalism. Kaye spends the bulk of the eye-witness piece describing Grand Funk's enormously successful sold-out show at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1971, a terrific account that places you right in the rocking and swaying and weed-bathed stadium bleachers alongside Funk freaks. (Here's some great of-the-era footage of the show, which famously sold out in 72 hours). Kaye also considers the band's Midwest roots, and the key to their considerable success:
Grand Funk never disappoint, unless you happen to be looking for things that just aren’t there. They’re always square-shooters, on the level, up front and together. They believe wholeheartedly in their ‘brothers and sisters’, instinctively think of their audience in that light, and this in turn means that they will never treat their fans badly: never step on them or scorn them or take them by the heels and shake them until the last little bit of change falls out of their pockets. They realize that given another time and place, it might’ve been them down there rather than them up here; a sobering thought—for any musician. And if, in the end, it may come to mean that they'll never be more than the sum total of their audience, that Grand Funk will never be able to rise far above themselves that they levitate a crowd beyond any of its other awareness...well, what the hell, rock'n'roll is only rock'n'roll, and it ain't too many who get to find God in a I-IV-V progression.That's a pretty great definition and defense of bare-bones rock and roll, and, notwithstanding the Funk's often tedious, elongated boogieing, soloing, and we'regonnarocktonight exhortations, Kaye really nails the source of their earnest appeal in the early 70s.
All of this is to say that I was startled by the paragraph near the end.
But even with all this, they haven't hit their peak yet, and I’ll tell you why. They’ve saved the best for last, those sly l’il devils. You’ll see: one of these days, they’ll be finishing up a concert in some out-of-the-way place: Dekalb, Illinois, or something. The closing bars of "Inside Looking Out" will shudder to a close, and they’ll leave amid cries for more. After only a matter of seconds, though, they’ll be back in their places, excited and energized, like kids who are about to receive an unexpected surprise.I find it hilarious and awesome that Kaye would choose l'il DeKalb as the site of an imagined emotional moment onstage between Grand Funk and Knight. (DeKalb with a lower "k." That's alright, Lenny Kaye, or should I say kaye, it was probably the editor.) I don't know if Grand Funk ever played DeKalb; a few years later KISS did on their first tour, at Northern Illinois University's Field House, so I guess that could've been the place where Farner, Brewer, and Mel Schacher brought the Funk, another stop on a long journey for The American Band. Alas, the moment never happened, and DeKalb remains a what-if in 70s arena rock myth. Or something.
Photo of Kaye at Village Oldies, NYC via Pinterest.