Peter Dawson, who performed with his group "Bunz" that night, remembers the show:
"It was September 20, 1980 at an arena that I think was called "Le Forum" in Rouyn-Noranda. It was one of the strangest gigs I have ever played. I was in a five piece band called Bunz that did a mix of classic rock and new wave in a small circuit around our home town of North Bay, Ontario. We managed our own bookings, so the first odd thing was for me to get a call from a booking agency based out of Sudbury, Ontario. He said there was a show in peril in Rouyn because the first of two opening acts had left suddenly, and how would I like to open for Deep Purple? Tonight? Ritchie Blackmore is still one of my heroes, how could I say no.
I was able to round up the guys, who were all strangely available on short notice on a Saturday, and we took the four hour drive to Quebec. We arrived too late for soundcheck, but there were two stages and one was empty. So there we were, with our little club sized sound system setting up in an arena (more strangeness). Just after our set, I was approached by a lanky Brit who introduced himself as the stage manager for Deep Purple. He asked to borrow our Hammond B3 and my guitar amp. I should have known that Ritchie would never play through a 1-12 120W combo amp lol. But, strangely, we agreed.
The second act was called the Zeta Brothers (I'm unsure of the spelling). Our gear was hauled over to the other stage with the big light and sound system before their set, which was quite enjoyable. My band had a great vantage point as the stages were just beside each other, so we stayed up there to watch the show.
Now it's intermission, and the roadies are prepping the stage as we anxiously awaited the arrival of our heroes. I noticed some guys standing around my little amp looking puzzled. I went over and asked if I could help. They told me it wasn't working but the light was on. I reached around the back and popped in the speaker cable. Yes, that was the problem that confounded these seasoned sound professionals. Strange was moving into the bizarre.
Now the moment has arrived, Deep Purple hits the stage, and we are wondering who are these people picking up their instruments? I recognized nobody at all, which is the same feeling as when you find out there is no Santa Claus. They launch into their set and they were so bad that a song would be half way done before I figured out what the title was. Every song was done way too fast and played in all the wrong keys. Also, the sound crew seemed to have no idea how to mix for an arena. It was simply atrocious from all angles. My band had Hush and Lazy in our regular repertoire, which we of course didn't play. Even on our worst night, we would have blown these guys away. My apologies to those players, but it is what it is.
Then the fun began. Most of the gear on that stage belonged to the Zeta Brothers. It was as if Deep Purple flew to Canada with nothing more than drum sticks and guitar picks. It was then that I realized why the original opening act disappeared so suddenly. They must have quit and left with as much gear as they had left. These Deep Purple masqueraders didn't play, they pounded. At one point the keyboardist is kneeling on the keyboard of the B3. Fortunately Hammond makes a robust product and it was not harmed. The drummer is literally flailing on the drum kit and the drums are physically undulating on the risers, the cymbal stands kept falling off and had to be put back up. I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Jacques, my keyboard player, beckoning me to the back of the stage. This is strangest and kinda funniest moment of the night. When I got to the back of the stage, I see the drummer from the Zeta Brothers trying to climb the scaffolding because he wants to go beat up the guy on stage wrecking his drums, but the stage manager and two other guys have him by the legs so he never got there. The scene was just surreal.
When the night was over, we didn't get paid what was promised either, but at that point I wasn't surprised by anything. I didn't find out until I looked for help from the musician's union to pursue the money that Rod Evans was even involved. I never did get the rest of the pay, but I assume the promoters may have gone broke after an arena gig that only attracted maybe three hundred people. The word about fake purple must have been out by then. I was glad when I heard that they had been shut down. It's bad enough to falsely advertize a big show, but for a former member to try to cash in on the greatness of the Deep Purple that came after him, thinking us idiots in Canada won't even notice the way Evans did, is truly despicable. Rod, if you ever read this, shame on you.
For myself, I can look back on a great road story, and I can say that I opened for Deep Purple on sites like 'Fandalism'. I never thought anyone would ever even know about that gig, let alone find me on the internet to ask about it. I had great fun writing this...
Many thanks, Pete (and Tommy Solo!), for this great story! Keep on rockin', friends