It feels like the first time… it feels like the very first time!

Last Saturday, I drove to Rochester for a PBL basketball game; the Rochester Razorsharks hosted the Kentucky Bluegrass Stallions with an afternoon tilt at Blue Cross Arena.

Some notes – Blue Cross Arena (formerly the Rochester Community War Memorial Arena) is situated on the banks of the Genesee River, right in the heart of Kodak country.  Also next to the arena?  A Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant.  And yes, the food is absolutely tasty there.

The game itself was anticlimactic – the Rochester Razorsharks cemented third place in the PBL playoffs (Micheal Ray Richardson’s Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry are the number one seed in the playoffs, while the Quebec Kebs have nailed the second spot).  They defeated the Kentucky Bluegrass Stallions 116-86, essentially an old-fashioned butt-kicking.

Now you’re probably wondering about the headline of this blog post.  Well, tonight’s pre-game ceremonies for the playoff-bound Razorsharks featured a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by the former lead singer of the legendary arena band Foreigner.  Yep, Foreigner – “Hot Blooded” and “Double Vision” and “Juke Box Hero” and “Feels Like the First Time” and all those classic 70’s and 80’s hits.  Yep, that’s Lou Gramm singing the National Anthem in this YouTube clip.

Sorry for the shaky video.  You try to film with one hand and operate a camera with the other.  ‘Tain’t easy.

Now a few things to note.  Lou Gramm was born in Rochester, and he attended high school and college in Monroe County.  He also remains friends with Razorsharks general manager Orest Hrynwak.  Prior to his basketball team ownership, Orest spent over 20 years as the general manager of Rochester’s #1 rock and roll station.

L-R: Lou Gramm, Rochester Razorsharks owner Orest Hrynwak, Lou Gramm's guitarist Don Mancuso, and Razorsharks announcer Dino Kay. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And yes, that gold record in Orest’s hands is the same gold record that was awarded to his radio station when Foreigner’s debut album sold a million copies.  Awesome.

After his years with Foreigner, he currently tours with his band Black Sheep, as well as with the Lou Gramm Band, whose members include Gramm’s two brothers.

There was a short break between the photo ops and the actual pre-game ceremonies, so I had a chance to talk with Lou one on one.  We talked about some of Foreigner’s early hits; his band’s collaborations with everyone form Jr. Walker (“Urgent”) to Thomas Dolby (“Waiting For A Girl Like You”) to Jennifer Holliday (“I Want To Know What Love Is”), and that Lou’s new album – which will be out later this year – features a collaboration with Tom Bailey, one of the members of Thompson Twins.

Me with Lou Gramm. Photo courtesy Brad Thyroff.

We also talked about if he remembered ever playing in Albany; he said he recalled playing at SPAC and having a great time there; he also mentioned performing at the Empire State Plaza as part of one of their outdoor concerts, and recalls enjoying the enthusiastic response from the crowd.

He also asked me to take a picture of him with his son.  Glad to oblige.

Lou Gramm and son. Photo by Chuck Miller.

But while he was there at the arena, I had to take care of a special request.

Last Thursday, when I told my Street Academy trivia teammates Jeremy and Alexis that I was going to see Lou Gramm of Foreigner at the Razorsharks game, Alexis replied, “My mother loves Foreigner, she loves all their songs.”

And since I had my newly-acquired Flip video recorder, I had to ask Lou if he would oblige and say a few words to Alexis’ mother via the Flip video recorder.

And it was at that moment that I realized – I don’t know Alexis’  mother’s name.

So on the video, Lou says some fond remarks to “Alexis’ mother,” and thanks her for being a supportive fan of Foreigner’s music, and that he hopes she will listen to his new album when it comes out later this year.

I sent a copy of the video to Alexis, and I hope she can forward it to her mother.

Good basketball game, and I did a good deed for a friend.  And I got to meet Lou Gramm of Foreigner.  Good day all around.