Pardo with Chicago's Jason Scheff

The 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductions took place this past Friday in New York, with acts like N.W.A., Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Chicago, and the Steve Miller Band finally (?) landing their spots in the Cleveland institution’s darkened halls. And while it would have been easy enough to report the news of the actual ceremony—who wore what, what songs were played, what Steve Miller said, whatever—The A.V. Club figured it might be a little more fun to send comedian and Never Not Funny host Jimmy Pardo to cover the whole thing for us. An avowed Chicago superfan, Pardo grabbed his buddy, Rock Solid host and Cheap Trick diehard Pat Francis, and headed to New York for the event. What follows is his morning-after report, which he relayed via phone.

The A.V. Club: How was your night at the Rock Hall induction? Give us a blow-by-blow. You had purchased tickets to begin with, right? Before we got you press passes?

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Jimmy Pardo: Let me tell you something. Let me tell you how dumb Jimmy Pardo is.

My buddy Pat Francis is Cheap Trick’s biggest fan and hosts the Rock Solid podcast, and I’m Chicago’s biggest fan. So it’s bananas that these two bands are getting in at the exact same time. So we say, “Let’s do this, let’s do a dumb cross-country trip, we’ll fly to New York just for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.” I happen to be on a plane at the time tickets are going on sale, so I tell him, “I don’t think I’m going to have access, you’re going to have to buy the tickets.” Turns out I have access, so at the exact same time, he and I both bought tickets. So he drops $600, I drop $600. Then I get an email, because I’m a member of the Rock And Roll Half Of Fame—which by the way I only joined because they said I’d get presale so I was dumb and believed that—but I got an email from them telling me, “Hey, we’ve just released new tickets closer to the stage.” So I go online and I see the seats that they released, and it’s like, “Well holy shit, I’ve got to sit here!” So I drop another $600 on tickets. We’re now $1,800 into this effin’ thing, in addition to airfare and hotel and cabs and all that bullshit. Then you are gracious enough to hook us up with these press passes. I end up selling two pairs of the tickets on StubHub for… I took a loss of about $1,000 in tickets. I took a bath on tickets. It was awful how nobody wanted these effin’ tickets. But we get there, and we kept our seats, just in case something with the press room didn’t happen or whatever, like, “We’ll always have the seats if we need them.”

Pat Francis and Jimmy Pardo backstage (Photo: Jimmy Pardo)

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We never needed them. We walked around like we owned the effin’ joint. I don’t know if we were supposed to, or if we were supposed to stay in this little pressroom corral. When I got there, I said, “So what kind of access does this give us?” And they said, “You’re in the pressroom, but if you need to go into the venue, just let one of us know and we’ll escort you.” So we go into the pressroom, and it’s a bunch of journalists, [and] everybody in there’s just self-important, you know what I mean? They were just these joyless faces. Maybe because to them it’s their job; they’re just going and they’re covering this, and it’s just another day at the office to them.

So Pat and I are like, “I like the free soft drinks and the snacks, and all of this is great, but let’s go check out the venue!” So [someone] escorts us, and I said, “Hey, if anytime during the show we want to come out here, should we come and get you?” And she goes, “Just remember the path, and you can go on your own.” Of course, that’s all Pat and I needed to hear.

(Photo: Jimmy Pardo)

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Before the show, we walked around and we saw them setting up. Like awards shows all do, they all have pictures of who’s going to sit where on the chairs, and all that stuff. We saw Steve Miller rehearsing accepting his award, basically just saying “Okay, this is me rehearsing, accepting my award.”

The guy who did the Chicago documentary, my friend Peter Pardini, was also there, because he was covering it with the band. So Peter came and met us and we went back to Chicago’s dressing rooms and hung out with Chicago before the show.

AVC: That’s pretty cool. That’s a big night for them, and you got to be part of it.

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JP: It was great. I’m in their documentary for like 30 seconds, and I mentioned the movie on Conan, and so the band couldn’t have been nicer to me. They were all like, “Thank you so much for the shout-out on Conan.” These are guys that are getting inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They’ve got a 50-year career, and they acted like I was part of this thing. It was the craziest. They’re all coming over. Jason Scheff is like “Thank you so much for what you said.” Lee Loughnane comes over and says, “Oh my God, you’ve done so much for us.” I’m like, “I’ve done nothing for you! I’m in your fucking movie for 30 seconds!”

So we’re hanging out with Chicago, near the dressing rooms, and we’re seeing everything. The dressing rooms are all right there, and here comes Deep Purple and Cheap Trick. The only ones we didn’t see backstage were N.W.A. But everybody’s just walking around and being pleasant.

David Byrne, Kimbra, and The Roots (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

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Then David Byrne opens up the show with The Roots, and does David Bowie’s song “Fame,” which just gave me chills. It was everything that Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s wasn’t. It was phenomenal.

We’re mingling with Chicago, and they have to go to their seats. The show’s starting, and it’s like, “Well, what are we going to do? Are we going to go to our seats?” My buddy Peter and his girlfriend are like, “we don’t even have seats, we just have these talent backstage passes, we can just walk around wherever we go.” And I said, “Let’s just all go into the venue, and we’ll find a place to sit or stand.” So we went in the venue, and we basically stood right behind the $10,000 seats.

Basically, we covered the show live, and then we’d go back from time to time to the pressroom. The show went off so smoothly that there was no time… You had to make a choice of, “Are you going to cover the live thing, or are you going to be one of the people back there asking the questions?” We tried to do both at first, and it wasn’t working, so then we ended up just staying and watching the live show.

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Jimmy’s view from the crowd (Photo: Jimmy Pardo)

AVC: Definitely stay in the room.

JP: I’m glad we did. We did get lost at some point backstage, which was very funny. It was literally the cliché of Spinal Tap. We literally just kept making the same left turn. We were like, “Weren’t we just here?” “No, I don’t think we were just here.” “Well, let’s go this way then.” Two minutes later, “I swear to God we were just here.” It was one of those stupid things.

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Lars Ulrich (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

After The Roots and David Byrne, Lars Ulrich came out to induct Deep Purple. And he’s one of the most unlikable musicians in the world. He’s just kind of a dick. He’s never pleasant. That said, it was the most human I’ve ever seen him. He gave a terrific speech. It was obvious that he wrote most of it. It didn’t seem written for him. It seemed very genuine. It was just him talking about growing up and idolizing Deep Purple and how it’s ridiculous that it’s taken this long for Deep Purple to be in [the Rock Hall] when other bands that are not as influential as them have been in for decades.

When he said, “I’d like to induct Deep Purple into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame”—Now I like Deep Purple, but I’m not a huge Deep Purple fan. But I got chills! I turned to Pat as Deep Purple was walking to the stage and I said, “I’m so glad we made this trip.” There was just excitement in the air, and it just felt special. So then Deep Purple did their thing, and they did their speeches, and they sounded great, and that was Deep Purple.

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Deep Purple (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

AVC: How long is the break between when they speak and when they play? Do they finish their speeches and then walk over to their instruments?

JP: They do! There was no down time for anything. I thought, “When the second band is going from doing their speeches to setting up to play, that’s when I’ll go and interview the people backstage.” But they just said, “Okay, thanks. We’re going to go over there and play.” Then they’d would walk over in semi-darkness, and you’d hear “one, two!” And then they’d start playing. I thought it was crazy, because seconds earlier, they’re tearing up, talking about their careers and how moved they are, and now they’re saying “Let’s rock this fucking place!”

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Deep Purple (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

Then they did a lifetime achievement award for a songwriter named Bert Berns. That was fine. As much as I’m into music and everything, that’s when I went to the restroom.

The Black Keys (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

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After that, Steve Miller was inducted by The Black Keys; I didn’t understand why they were there to begin with. It really looked to me like The Rock Hall was trying to get the “younger demographic.” “We’ll get The Black Keys. That’ll make the young kids to watch!” Then I thought, “Well, maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe The Black Keys are going to come out and talk about how Steve Miller is the most influential artist of all time. Who knows?”

Turns out I’m right. The Black Keys opened up their speech by saying, “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m so-and-so of The Black Keys. When we started researching on Wikipedia for this speech…” So you’re even admitting you don’t give a fuck? You felt the whole audience stop listening. Especially after Lars gave this heartfelt speech about Deep Purple, here are these two guys who are literally reading a teleprompter. They have no emotional investment at all.

The Black Keys and Steve Miller (Photo: Jimmy Pardo)

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Everybody feels like the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should either use artists that are already inducted that are now bringing their friends into it, or a young artist who was influenced by the band in some way, like Rob Thomas with Chicago. When it was neither of those, you felt an entire arena stop listening to these two guys talking. So much so that when Steve Miller got up there, he grabbed the microphone and said, “Let me tell you how it really happened.” And then he gave an amazing speech.

I’m sure you read about how backstage he was shitting all over The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but he did that a little bit onstage, too. He said, “There have got to be more women, and you’ve got to be more open, and you have to be more accessible, and be more transparent, and you’ve got to be more welcoming to the artists.” He said all that onstage, and then he got deeper into it backstage. Everything he said is accurate.

Steve Miller (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

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Either way, I think Steve Miller was right in shitting on what was going on. All the nonsense that you heard with Chicago and N.W.A., and how the Hall was controlling what songs they performed. It’s like, either invite these people in and make it a special night for them or don’t. Why are you producing them? This whole rock thing happens because of these artists. And then to act like they’re doing them a favor seems insane to me.

So Steve Miller’s speech was phenomenal. And then he played. The funny is that Pat and I were trying to guess what every band was going to play. And we actually nailed every band. We got all three songs in the order we thought they’d do them in. It was really funny.

Steve Miller sounded fine. He did his thing. I used to make a joke about how somewhere in the world Steve Miller is somebody’s favorite band. I don’t know why it was funny to me, because he just seems like nobody dislikes Steve Miller, but nobody loves Steve Miller, in my opinion.

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AVC: He still tours big amphitheaters, but who goes every single year? Who makes that an annual trip?

JP: “Every year I go to see Steve Miller.” “Hey, my man’s coming back. Steve Miller!” My wife maintains that her friend Eileen growing up was the biggest Steve Miller fan, but then when I met Eileen, she went, “Yeah, I think I liked him.” So even the one example wasn’t a fully perfect example.

Kendrick Lamar (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

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Then came N.W.A., and they didn’t perform. Kendrick Lamar introduced them. I’m not the biggest N.W.A. fan, but I thought the induction speech was terrific.

I pretend to throw it around like, “I know Cube, and Dre,” but these guys were great. They gave great speeches. When Ice Cube dissed Gene Simmons, I thought that was funny. You’ve got to love that Gene Simmons just unnecessarily runs his mouth. Whenever I hear anybody complain that some rap band is in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame before their favorite classic rock band, it’s always coming out of the mouth of some white trash hillbilly. So when Gene Simmons says whatever, it’s like, “Gene, you’re smarter than that. You’re in the Hall Of Fame now, you don’t have to be bitter, you don’t have to be mad that rap is getting in.” Who cares? It’s music.

N.W.A. (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

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Anyway, it was very nice. I was disappointed they didn’t perform. The rumors backstage were—by the way, from no qualified sources, it could have been an usher—that the Hall was restricting them from what they wanted to do, and at the same time, there were rumors that they just didn’t think they could pull it off, because they really haven’t done any of that in decades.

Grace Potter and Sheryl Crow (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

Then they did the memoriam, where Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter came out and sang “New Kid In Town,” the Eagles song. Shrug. I like Grace Potter, but I think Sheryl Crow’s a chameleon. I’m not her biggest fan. It felt forced and very produced to me, like we have to have two “current” artists paying tribute to Glenn Frey for just passing away. It wasn’t moving. It wasn’t anything.

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AVC: Sheryl Crow seems like one of those people that you call just do do anything. “Oh, we need someone to sing the national anthem.” “Call Sheryl Crow.” “We need someone to pay tribute to David Bowie.” “Call Sheryl Crow.”

JP: Exactly. That’s what I meant by she’s a chameleon. It’s like, of course it’s Sheryl Crow. “We’ve got to get somebody that everybody will recognize and they’ll go ‘Oh, look who it is!’ And we can’t get Lady Gaga, so let’s get Sheryl Crow.” And I like Grace Potter. I think she’s fun, and she’s got a lot of energy.

When they did the videos for the memoriam, that was interesting to see. It’s just crazy to think how many rock legends have died in the past year. And of course, it’s just going to continue as time goes on. All these people that we grew up loving the ’70s and ’80s and ’60s, they’re all going to start dying. It’s evident when you see the “In Memoriam.” There had to be 15 bona fide, “Oh Jesus Christ, they were a big star!”

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Rob Thomas (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

Then it was time for Chicago. Rob Thomas came out and gave a great speech, yet sounded like he had a little help from a speechwriter. He did a thing about the balls on Chicago that their first three albums were all double albums, and then they had the balls to call them Chicago I, Chicago II, Chicago III. And of course, as the biggest Chicago fan in the world, I turned to my friend Peter, and we looked at each other like, “the first album’s not called Chicago I. It’s called Chicago Transit Authority.” So it’s like, really? You screwed that up in the frickin’ speech? But who cares?

And then Chicago came up and they gave their speeches. Walt Parazaider was very teary-eyed and genuine, and Lee Loughnane was the same, and Jimmy Pankow, who’s known for talking quite a bit, didn’t say very much. And then Robert Lamm was at a loss for words and I’ve never seen him that way. I don’t know if his emotions got away from him—obviously I’m not in his head—but it was interesting to see him kind of fumble with his words because he’s usually a really articulate guy. I don’t know if it was emotions or what, but it was interesting to see him be a little scatter-brained.

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Then came Danny Seraphine, who’s the drummer that—basically he and Terry Kath and Walter Parazaider started the band back in ‘67, he got fired in 1990, and this was the first time that they’re playing together since. He gave his speech, which was the speech that you want to hear a guy say, like, “Hey, this was my fucking band! And I haven’t played with these guys in 25 years.” At one point they told him to wrap it up, and he goes, “Oh, they’re telling me to wrap it up. Screw you! I’m not wrapping up. I’ve been waiting 25 years to say this fucking speech.” So he gave a great speech, and he thanked all of the former members of Chicago, and the guys in the band were behind him. I obviously wasn’t close enough to see, but reports online were that the band didn’t look amused by Danny’s speech. I thought it was great. Then Terry Kath’s daughter—Terry Kath died in 1978, but his daughter was there to accept on his behalf, and she gave a nice speech.

Chicago (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

And then they played. Here’s all I’ll say: Deep Purple was great, and Steve Miller was great, but when Chicago went into those first chords in “Saturday In The Park,” the place came alive. Everybody was on their feet. It seemed like a real heavy Chicago/Cheap Trick crowd. I did see a lot of Deep Purple shirts in the audience as well. But when Chicago started playing… it could have been because “Saturday In The Park” has one of the most recognizable opening bits and it’s a really fun number that makes you want to get on your feet. But it also was on the heels of the memoriam, which is a bit of a downer. The venue became electric. You just felt more of a buzz in the room when Chicago started playing. They did three songs. Rob Thomas joined them on “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

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AVC: You said you were a little upset when Peter Cetera bailed. Do you think that their performance would have been more interesting if Peter Cetera had been there? Not that it wasn’t interesting to begin with.

JP: It would have been, because he hasn’t been with the band since 1985. So it would have been 31 years since he played with them. And I do think it’s what all the fans wanted. But I don’t know if it’s his fault, the band’s fault, the Hall’s fault, a combination of all three, as to why it didn’t happen.

Jimmy with Jason Scheff

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By the way, they sounded great. As a guy that had seen them hundreds of times since 1981, they sounded great, like they had something to prove. “We’re not this fucking ballad band, we’re a rock band with horns, and we’re going to prove it to you guys.” And they did that. They did “25 Or 6 To 4.” The guitar solo, Keith Howland, who’s been in the band for 20 years, he sounded great. But would it have been more exciting had Peter been there? Yes. I don’t want to act like I live in a bubble, but the news would be talking about it. If they would have sounded as great as they did that night, and had Peter there as well, I think it would have been something that the rock world would be discussing.

It was neat to see Danny up there again. I think after his speech, it will never happen again. I don’t think there’s any love between the two parties. And there certainly isn’t any more with Peter over the fact that he didn’t show up.

AVC: It’s nice that they could make it work with Danny for one night.

JP: It really was. And again, it was a moment where I’m glad that I didn’t walk away from coming to this event, because it was neat to experience this thing, this band that I’ve been following since I was a kid. To follow along with them their whole career and actually be there when they’re getting their induction, and being in the position to be able to do that, too, is pretty cool.

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Kid Rock (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

Cheap Trick, I’ll just tell you very quickly. Kid Rock, who I don’t care for at all gave a great speech. Except he admitted that he had help writing it, because he had one joke that laid flat, and he said, “I didn’t write that one!” But otherwise, he seemed very in the moment, very charming, very grateful, and pleasant. And then Cheap Trick, Tom Petersson, the bass player, gave I think the speech of the night. He talked about the music industry, talked about Cheap Trick, and about fans. His speech was terrific. And then Rick [Nielsen] and Robin [Zander], and Bun E., you know Bun E. Carlos isn’t in Cheap Trick anymore, but he regrouped with them. They were able to reconcile, as opposed to the Peter Cetera situation.

So Bun E. came, and Cheap Trick played, and I’ve got to tell you something: It was amazing. Chicago brought it to a nine. Cheap Trick brought it to the 10. I’ll admit this selfishly because I’m a Chicago fan, but I thought,”Why isn’t Chicago headlining this thing? They should be the last band.” After watching Cheap Trick do “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and then close with “Surrender,” the place was crazy. The one thing I’ll say the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame got right was that that was the right way to end the show. Robin Zander sounded better than I’ve ever seen him, and I’ve seen him 50 times in my life. He was great. They were really, really great. And I was glad that my buddy Pat Francis was there to witness it, because he’s been loving this band for 40 years as well.

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Cheap Trick (Photo: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame)

Then they did The All-Star Jam, which was a mess. They did “Ain’t That A Shame,” Cheap Trick’s cover of the classic. And then Little Steven jumped up and he played guitar, and a couple of the guys, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, who had not played with Deep Purple earlier, they came out and they sang. Chicago sang. It was a clusterfuck. It sounded muddy. It was a mess. You didn’t know who was singing. I don’t think they knew. Grace Potter’s getting involved. It was crazy.

AVC: It’s a lot of personalities at one time. A lot of guitar players.

JP: And all kind of wanting to be the star, you know? It was funny to me because at one point it looked like Grace Potter was trying to get in front of David Coverdale, and it’s like, “Honey, this guy just won a trophy. Get out of his way.” And by the way, I say “honey” in the Bernie Sanders sexist way. I’m putting women down. And then denying it. Wow, I got political for no reason.

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Jimmys Pardo and Pankow

After all that, we went back by Chicago’s dressing rooms, and hung out with them again. Once again, it was their night, then they would all come over, “Hey, what’d you think? Was it good? Did we do okay?” And I was like, “Yeah, you guys were great!”

That’s when Pat ended up talking with Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, and talking with Steve Miller. Kid Rock blew past us and had no interest in talking to us. And Pat tried to say hello to Ms. Sheryl Crow, and she was… dismissive would probably be the nicest way to put it. Grace Potter could not have been friendlier or more polite or appreciative.

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Pat Francis and Robin Zander

We just hung out there, in that area, and talked a little bit with the guys from Deep Purple. Any question that we had sounded so clichéd, though, you know what I mean? We both had recorders to interview and ask questions and then we quickly realized how lame that would have been. These guys are coming down from the high of being on stage, and then all of a sudden someone has a tape recorder in their face, asking the same effin’ questions. “How’d you feel out there?” “I felt great, how the fuck do you think I felt?” It was better to capture it where that wasn’t the case, where they didn’t have to put it in sound bites. Then it was one in the morning, and when they’re pushing wardrobe racks past you, you know it’s time to go.

AVC: There’s no big after-party?

Jimmy Pardo and Donnie Dacus

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JP: There was some sort of after-party. And there was a pre-party that we were not privy to. But I don’t think the 72-year-old guys in Chicago were going to the after-party.

We went back to the pressroom, because we wanted to get you a picture of Pat and I by the big poster. Stupid Jimmy and Pat, waiting ’til 1 in the morning to take that picture instead of 5 o’clock when we got there. But of course, the poster’s down, so we’re just like, “Well, let’s get up on the press stage, and we’ll do it in front of the press stage. There’s one other guy in the pressroom. It’s 1 in the morning, everybody’s gone. There’s one guy left in the pressroom. So Pat goes, “excuse me sir, can you take a picture?” And he goes, “I have a deadline! I’m very busy!” And we went, “Oookay,” and then he looked up, and he said that he was sorry that he reacted that way. So we took an awful selfie instead.

Jimmy and Lee Loughnane

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AVC: I’m really glad you had a good time.

JP: It was phenomenal. I don’t care that I lost that money, all of it was worth it to me. There are so many times you do things in life, and you’ll go, “Oh, I wish I would have done this!” This was none of that. This was like, “Jesus Christ, this is the one thing that went right in my fucking life!” This was a 10 out of 10. This was just phenomenal.