It was Feb. 2, 1959, and the music was incredible at the Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake, Iowa. Few if any realized it at the time, but the songs featured that night there would become some of the most notable classics of ’50s rock and roll. Part of a series of concerts, the February show would also become, in the words of American singer/songwriter Don McLean, “the day the music died.” Later that night, a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper would crash, silencing their voices far too soon.
A re-creation of the concert is scheduled at Thunder Valley on Saturday. “Winter Dance Party: A Buddy Holly Tribute Show” promises all the songs performed that fateful night, including “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Raining in My Heart,” “That’ll Be the Day” and “Oh Boy” from Holly, along with “La Bamba” from Valens and the wonderfully playful “Chantilly Lace” from the Big Bopper. About two generations can still sing them word by word.
Dion and the Belmonts, known for “I Wonder Why,” was also on the bill that night at Iowa’s Surf Ballroom, along with Frankie Sardo (“Take Out”). But best-remembered will always be the bespectacled kid from Lubbock, Texas, who, in three years, changed music – first locally and then internationally. Holly’s talent and wide appeal were evident when he faced an Apollo Theater audience and won them over, exhibiting stage antics that are still part of rock’s physicality. (8:30 p.m.; $25, $30, $40; thundervalleyresort.com)
Another star from that era is set to perform at Harrah’s Saturday, but this one is still alive, kicking – and twisting. Chubby Checker established one of the biggest dance crazes in history with the twist. The song itself was earlier recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, but it was Checker’s version that became ubiquitous. Even those in the more dignified circles didn’t feel too silly when, as Checker himself described it, they moved like they were putting out cigarettes with both feet and wiping their bottoms with towels to the beat. On stage, Checker still makes the memories fun. (7:30 p.m.; $55; SouthShoreRoom.com)
The Imperial Acrobats of China are back at Cache Creek, telling legendary stories through graceful and athletic moves in a variety of performances. The biggest is the full-length “Chi of Shaolin: the Tale of the Dragon,” in which a young thief is befriended by a monk and led to redemption. (7:30 p.m. every Friday through Feb. 28; $20 or free with club card; cachecreek.com) The acrobats also have three brief shows every Sunday through March 2 – “Mind of the Dragon” at 3 p.m., “Secrets of the Tai Chi” at 5 p.m., and “Behind the Great Wall” at 7:30 p.m. ($20 or free with card).