Have mercy!

Have mercy!
Have mercy!
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Happy 70th birthday Russ Clem! His name may not be familiar, but in my mind, every time we go to a live show in RVA we have Russ to thank for it. Why? In the late 60’s and early 70’s Russ was promoting shows when nobody else really was. He brought “on the brink of success” bands to venues like The String Factory and The Center (also known as the Free U). Many of these shows were legendary and set in motion a cultural change in the concept of live music shows here. Shows included Alice Cooper (with goose down filling the house) and The Allman Brothers, as well as a then unknown guy from New Jersey with his band Steel Mill. That would be Bruce Springsteen.


monroe park

Russ introduces Mercy Flight in Monroe Park.

Local VCU band Mercy Flight played a lot of shows with Steel Mill, both here and on the Jersey Shore. In town, Russ booked them into shows at Monroe Park, U of R and most notoriously the top of the Marshall Street parking deck. That deck show was, by all accounts, an incredible gathering of bands and people intent on enjoying life…even with a menacing thunder storm rumbling in the distance. (Look for a follow-up story on that event).


Mercy Flight re-grouped at Poe’s Pub Saturday night for Russ’s birthday. For a band from 40 years ago with just one day of recent rehearsal, they sounded tight- opening with a handful of original songs and then some classic covers, just like they did back in the day. Vocalist Robbin Thompson said there were other originals they wanted to do, but the band just couldn’t remember them well enough. As to how Mercy Flight formed, Robbin said it was a fortunate coincidence.



Russ and Robbin on stage

Most people today may think of Robbin as mellow and laid back, but you wouldn’t have known that from Saturday night. He says he’s changed…as do all musicians… over time. Playing with a band, primarily as the vocalist (as with Mercy Flight), allows him to stretch a bit and focus on that performance. With Mercy Flight he brought a grittier, hard edge to his vocals, although he knew when to pull it back and let the band work it. Having seen Saturday’s show ,I can say without a doubt, there’s plenty of rockin’ inside that Robbin.


Mercy Flight drummer David Hazlett’s current band, Hazy Dave and the Mission Band kept the party going with a good times second set of well-chosen covers. Finally, a shout out to Bo Jacob…another face from back in the day…who gave the show great sound in a tough space.


Mercy Flight:

Robbin Thompson – vocals

“Hazy” Dave Hazlett – drums

Tom “Cool” Youlton – guitar

Jimmy Van Kueren – guitar

Art Stacy – bass


Watch Video


Road Case

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the great article and video, we had a great time playing for Russ. Felt like old times. Hazy

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