For Kid Rock superfans, concert run is a family affair

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

When Kid Rock completes his record-breaking 10-night stand at DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday, Diana Sanchez will have seen it all — every microphone flip, every outfit change, every “Bawitdaba.”

She is part of an elite class of Kid Rock superfans who cleared their calendars when Rock announced his massive hometown stand at the Clarkston amphitheater and decided to go to not one, not two, but all 10 shows.

“I’m Kid Rock crazy,” says Sanchez, 56, of Westland. “The more I see him in concert, the more I want to see him in concert. I can’t get enough of him, I just can’t.”

Laurie Makarewicz of Canton is in the same boat. The 49-year-old stay-at-home mother of three has seen Rock in concert more than 50 times, has gone on multiple Kid Rock “Chillin’ the Most” cruises, and has met others she now considers lifelong friends within the Kid Rock fan community.

“We’re called a dysfunctional family by Kid, and we look out for one another,” says Makarewicz, who, too, will have been to all 10 DTE shows come Saturday. “We share tickets with one another, and we share life moments as well. It’s not just about Kid. You meet people from all over the world. I love it; it’s a lot of fun.”

Makarewicz and Sanchez are committed members of Rock’s intensely loyal hometown fan base, which Rock, 44, has steadily built up since breaking into the mainstream 17 years ago. It’s that fan base that has allowed him to sell out 10 nights at DTE, two better than his eight-night run at the venue in 2013, which tied Bob Seger’s single-season record set in 1977. By the time Saturday’s concert is over, Rock will have played to more than 150,000 fans during his DTE stretch, which is being touted as a state record for a single block of concerts. (Rock also plays DTE Friday night.)

‘My bread and butter’

Rock’s tour has been a strong seller nationwide, but in his hometown his popularity is transcendent. The same way New Jersey’s got Bruce Springsteen and New York has Billy Joel, Detroit’s got Kid Rock.

Rock’s core fans talk about how much Rock looks out for them, keeping prices low on tickets ($20 on this tour and on his 2013 tour) and T-shirts ($25), offering seating upgrades at concerts and providing an environment where they can congregate with one another. They in turn support him, buying merchandise — from beer koozies to trucker hats — in droves, scooping up concert tickets and selling out Rock’s yearly cruise (cabins for next year’s seventh-annual journey, setting sail from Miami to Jamaica March 10-14, sold out this week).

Rock is a blue-collar rocker and his fans are a blue-collar bunch. They come to shows early to tailgate in the parking lot, many sporting Rock wear of both the official and handmade variety.

Rock described his fans in a Rolling Stone profile earlier this year: “45-50-year-old girls wearing extra-large T-shirts — they’re my bread and butter,” Rock, born Robert Ritchie, told the magazine. “They know how to (expletive) party — ‘I don’t (care), I’m making a T-shirt and putting sequins on it. I’m saving my money for beer and having a good time.’ ”

Makarewicz first saw Rock live at Comerica Park in 2009. She had been a casual fan, and she got a kick out of his 2003 VH-1 Christmas special, “A Kid Rock Christmas,” but seeing him live struck a nerve.

“Kid just rocked it,” Makarewicz says, “and after that, I was hooked.”

When Rock announced the maiden voyage of his “Chillin the Most” fan cruise the following year, Makarewicz knew she wanted to be a part of it, but she couldn’t find a roommate for her cabin — none of her friends had any interest in a Caribbean cruise on a ship full of Kid Rock fans. That led to her posting on Rock’s website, where she connected with other Rock fans and forged online friendships with them, eventually scheduling a real life meet-up with about a dozen others at the Union Woodshop in Clarkston.

She had her reservations about meeting people she only knew online in the real world — “it was kind of scary,” she admits — but she wound up making friends with several of them, including Val Sulfaro of Saginaw, whom she now considers her dearest friend in the world.

“We all come from different backgrounds, and we have a great time together,” Makarewicz says.

A family of fans

Makarewicz secured tickets for all 10 DTE shows — she turns 50 in December, and considers them her birthday present to herself — through Rock’s fan club pre-sales. She’s sat up front, on the side, in the middle, on the lawn, and has met up with different people every night, including friends from North Carolina, California, Texas and Pennsylvania.

“So even though it’s the same show, it’s a different show,” she says.

Makarewicz is not a groupie and she’s not a hard partier; many nights she acts as designated driver for her friends. She’s just a big fan after what she calls “good, clean girl fun.”

“It’s nothing raunchy,” says the former journalist and University of Michigan grad. “We’re just moms; normal people that like to go out and have a good time.”

Going into this current DTE run, Melanie Quinn of Livonia had tickets for only one of the shows, but she managed to get her hands on tickets for the full block of shows through friends and contacts within Rock’s fan community.

At Tuesday’s DTE concert, Quinn had on a “First Kiss” necklace and “Chillin the Most” flip-flops, and drank from a “First Kiss” cup — all homemade. She made sure she could make all 10 shows to be a part of the “epic” string of concerts.

“I work two jobs, but I’m still here. I can schedule around them,” says Quinn, a 46-year-old hair stylist and beauty salon rep.

Quinn has been to more than 30 of Rock’s concerts since 2004 and also has gone on several of the Rock cruises.

“I love his show, he’s amazing live,” she says. “But a big part of it is all the friends I’ve met.”

Lifelong devotion

One of those friends is Diana Sanchez, who became a fan the first time she heard Rock’s “Only God Knows Why” in 2004.

She had avoided his music earlier because she “wasn’t into rap,” but the ballad from Rock’s 1998 breakout album “Devil Without a Cause” struck a chord with her. She went and saw him at The Palace of Auburn Hills that year and that was it — Rock’s Aug. 7 concert at DTE marked her 50th show by the rocker.

“I fell in love with the entertainer in him,” she says. “And all the good he’s done for Detroit — how can you not like the guy?”

Sanchez hasn’t missed a hometown concert since that Palace show, except for the final two shows of Rock’s eight-night-stand at DTE in 2013. “I ended up with the flu,” she says, and she’s still upset about it. The fact that Bob Seger came out to share the stage with Rock on that final night “makes it 10 times worse,” she says. (Seger is among the guests fans are hoping for a cameo from during Saturday’s show; Eminem, Uncle Kracker and Sheryl Crow are also high on the list.)

When Sanchez was growing up she was a big fan of Rod Stewart, “but it was nothing like this,” she says. She has a room at her house dedicated to all things Rock and, after 11 years of following him, her enthusiasm for him hasn’t dulled a bit.

“I thought it would die down. My family thought it would die down, but it’s not dying down at all,” says Sanchez, who works as a para-professional in the Wayne-Westland school district.

“I love to watch him on stage. Even if it’s the same show, it doesn’t matter. I’m anxious to see what outfit he’s doing to wear that night, and what hat he’s going to wear. It thrills me.”