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LaGrange man explains why he is ‘still rockin’ with Dokken’

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Francis Hirsch of LaGrange holds an album by hard rock band Dokken. The 55-year old metal fan says he "is still rockin' with Dokken" more than 30 years after going through a "life-altering" experience at one of their concerts. The music fan says he has seen the band 57 times in total and will "never stop rockin' with Dokken." Francis Hirsch of LaGrange holds an album by hard rock band Dokken. The 55-year old metal fan says he "is still rockin' with Dokken" more than 30 years after going through a "life-altering" experience at one of their concerts. The music fan says he has seen the band 57 times in total and will "never stop rockin' with Dokken." (Photo used with permission)

LAGRANGE – More than three decades after experiencing what he calls “a life-altering” moment, 55-year-old Francis Hirsch insists that he is “still rockin’ with Dokken,” referring to the heavy metal band that he saw at Oxford Plains Speedway, in Oxford, Maine, as part of the “Monsters of Rock” tour, on June 25, 1988.

“In some ways, it feels like my life began at that show,” Hirsch said, his eyes wet with emotion. “I was as close to the stage as I could get and stood there in the pouring rain when it felt like God reached down from the sky and smacked the back of my head. The next thing I saw was the smiling face of (lead singer) Don Dokken.”

The “Monsters of Rock” concert in Oxford was part of a festival tour co-headlined by Van Halen and The Scorpions. Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come completed the bill. An estimated 1.2 million fans attended the tour’s thirty concerts – most of them performed in stadiums.

The 1988 “Monsters of Rock” tour entered the record books as a financial success despite being plagued by a variety of problems, including massive food fights and widespread destruction of bathroom facilities.

The Maine concert held at Oxford Plains Speedway was marred by heavy rain, severe lightning and a near-riot among the tens of thousands of hard rock fans present (a precise attendance figure is not available, although two Grateful Dead concerts held a week later drew 130,000 fans to the same venue).

“Just before I got hurt, I remember turning around and looking back at the crowd when I saw lightning strike one of the speaker towers,” Hirsch recalls of the torrential weather that threatened to stop the show. In fact, contemporary news reports confirm that a concert scheduled for the previous day at the venue had been cancelled due to the threat of lightning storms.

The storm was raging when Dokken performed their set undercover from the rear of the stage, according to Hirsch, who says he was standing no more than 25 feet away from his heroes.

“When Dokken played, they rocked like it was the last concert they would ever perform,” Hirsch recalls, adding “dude, they smoked it.”

Hirsch remembers an extended pause in the music to allow stage personnel to sop up some of the water that had pooled around the stage equipment as Dokken performed.

“The audience started chanting ‘rain or shine’ because that’s what the tickets said,” Hirsch recalls. “We were already soaked but we didn’t care. We came to rock and we wanted a show.”

Members of other bands on the bill recall the serious threat of electrocution faced by the musicians and organizers of the concert.

“It was a very dramatic show in Maine,” Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine told me during a 2014 interview. “We had to interrupt the show many times because of thunder and lightning.”

Danny Stag of opening band Kingdom Come remembers dodging swaying lighting trusses whipped by the wind and rain above the stage.

“I remember being very afraid that we would either be struck by lightning, shocked from the water on the stage, or crushed by falling stage lights,” Stag told me during an interview last fall, adding, “It was a miracle that nobody was killed that day.”

The delay prompted some members of the audience to pick up broken chunks of asphalt from beneath their feet and hurl them toward the stage.

“Dokken had just started their last song – ‘In My Dreams,’” Hirsch said. “They were rockin’ hard in the pouring rain, just like in the video. Then everything went black.”

Hirsch says he had been struck in the back of his head by one of those flying asphalt chunks, rendering him unconscious. Several members of the audience reportedly carried his lifeless body to the side of the stage. On-scene paramedics tended to him in a small medical tent set up behind the stage.

“When I came to, I looked up and saw Don Dokken smiling down on me with this bright light around him. The paramedics were gathered around him like angels. He said ‘You’re gonna be fine. Do what these people tell you to do and don’t stop rockin’ with Dokken.’ We’ll see you next time.”

Diagnosed with a concussion, Hirsch says that he was transported via ambulance to nearby Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, where he was admitted for observation before being released to his family the following day.

What could have been Hirsch’s final concert, had his injuries been more severe, turned out to be the first of many Dokken concert experiences for the LaGrange resident. Hirsch says he has attended 57 Dokken concerts in total, including the band’s most recent Maine performance, held at Aura in Portland, in April 2017.

“I’ve talked to Don Dokken during ‘meet and greet’ events at a few of those shows and he always smiles at me and tells me to keep rockin’ with Dokken,” said Hirsch. “I could have been killed at that first show but I was given the chance to keep on rocking. I feel like I need to honor Don’s request so that’s why I will never stop rockin’ with Dokken.”

(In case you haven’t already figured it out, this is our April Fools’ Day edition. As such, there will be stories that are completely and totally made up. This is one such story.)


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