Monday, June 27, 2005

Red Rocks Or Bust!

I've wanted to go to Red Rocks Amphitheatre for probably 15 years now. On 6.24.05 my dream came true. It was all by accident really. After much prodding by my mother, I finally agreed to go to Denver for my cousins wedding, only to discover that Widespread Panic would be there for a three day run over that weekend. I contacted my college pal Leigh, and as luck would have it, he and his wife(Kristin)would be in town. Not only would they be there, but several other pals I had met through my journeys with the Grateful Dead would also be in attendance. My anticipation grew stronger as the date got closer.
I got to Denver mid morning on 6.24(Leigh's 38th birthday) and one by one my chums arrived. We sat in the "Red Rocks Bar" inside the airport for everyone to convene and had a drink on me. Leigh was the first to arrive, followed by Heidi and Marc. A hip little gal named Beth came to pick up the girls(Linda and Kristin would arrive later), while the guys all piled in to Danny's truck. After some ambiguous talk about the "supplies" everyone had brought along, we made it to the hotel and quickly headed off for the "Lone Star" cafe next door. The girls all caught up with us there and we all talked for a bit before heading off to the venue. The ironic part of lunch was that all the employees had shirts that read "Don't Mess With Texas". Here I had traveled a thousand miles to escape the Lone Star State, only to have it shoved in my face in Colorodo.
We arrived at the Red Rocks State Park about 3:00pm. To our dismay, we discovered that the gates to the lot wouldn't open for another hour. So, Marc and I grabbed some collapsible chairs, a few beers and water, and hiked up the road about a 1/2 mile to the upper parking lot and entrance. There was already a line forming that was about 75 people deep, so Marc and I plopped down and joined the fun. It wasn't too long before he recognized a group of folks a few people ahead of us and soon he was sharing some of his Northern California goodness with them. Shortly thereafter, Danny and Leigh showed up and we succeeded in snaking our way up to Marc's friends spot. More Cali goodness was shared and we were feeling pretty good about our position in line.
Free Image Hosting at
It was about 30 minutes later when a large cargo van pulled up directly in front of us in line. In one of the more surreal moments I've experienced at any rock concert, 2 dozen "frat" type guys piled outta this van along with 1 red headed chick. Like clowns out of a miniature car, they just kept pouring out. These guys had procured front door service for themselves! And no sooner had they filed out of the van, that they opened the back cargo doors and empty beer cans came spilling out on top of them. Too fucking funny! It was indeed and 'Animal House' type moment that I'll never forget. We all got a good laugh outta that one. We all agreed that we talked big about partying at these events, but these guys had it down to an art form or something like that.
Free Image Hosting at <a href=
Not much later, the line started moving and a kind of 'panic' overtook everyone and the crowd rushed the gates. The only trouble was that they weren't open yet. But fortune fell our way and Danny secured an even closer spot at the front of the line. We gave the tarps and carpet rolls to Marc and Danny and set off to meet the others in the lot.(Everyone we ran in to was indeed impressed that we would have carpet to dance upon).
Did I mention that I didn't even have a ticket for that evenings show yet? Well, I didn't and was more than a little concerned at this point in the game. My fears were soon put to rest as Kristin, who was set up with a free ticket for herself + 1, hooked me up. Leigh and I sat with the girls in the lot for a spell and enjoyed the freak show that it had become. It wasn't long after we arrived that Beth and Leigh procured a 'bag of hate' and the 3 of us dove right in.
As Leigh and I headed for the lower gate entrance, we ran in to Kristin who informed us that Danny had been stopped by security at the gate for a very LARGE container he had in his pocket. Unfortunately, they had already torn his ticket and he was not allowed back in the venue. Uuuugggh! But it wasn't too long before Kristin came to the rescue and managed to get another ticket for Danny and all was well. The Gods were smiling on us. This was a good sign.

As Heidi, Leigh, and I entered we began our search for Marc who had given his cell phone to Danny, thereby leaving us unable to contact him. About ten minutes later we found him about 12 rows back on the left side, a perfect vantage point. Slowly but surely, everyone gathered at our seats including Ted and Lisa Rockwell whom I've know since my college days back in Chicago. Ted is the publisher of a book and website called the "Everyday Companion", which catalogs all of Widespread Panic's shows and set lists. It was great to see them as I hadn't seen Ted since 2002 and Lisa since 1995! They are great folks who I've seen most of this country with during my travels with the Grateful Dead.

I jumped into my 'party pack' about an hour before showtime and got progressively higher as the night went on. Danny scored some 'excellent' goodness and also managed to still have some of the contents of the container he had been originally thrown out of the venue for(I didn't ask how). It wasn't long before that creepin' feeling was on my heels. And not long after that, the band came onstage and did their thing.
Now I don't know if it was the altitude, a contact high from the crowd, or a combination of the two(I suspect the latter), but I was soon flying in the stratosphere. The magic of the venue hit me like a 747. It felt to me like I was peaking for about 4 hours straight. I got a little worried because it was never leveling out. But the overwhelming feeling I had was of comforting love. How could I freak out when that's what I was feeling? I was a wreck inside my head for the second half of the concert, but again, I had a feeling of being smothered head to toe with LOVE. I was confused, anxious, and a little bit scared. But I kept reminding myself that the emotion I was drowning in was one of supreme nirvana. Everyone one there was looking and taking care of each other. I hadn't felt this since back in my Grateful Dead days. I was completely overtaken. Needless to say it was a bit overpowering, but never dark or sinister. Just all encompassing love. Everywhere I looked it was there. Above, below, and surrounding me. I hadn't been this high in a long time, if ever. My mind kept telling me to freak out, but my body would not allow it. I figured as long as I was standing, I was in good shape. I had to step out to the side a few times to get my space together, but each time I came back to our seats the smiles and joy I felt from my friends was as solid at the rocks that flanked each side of the venue. I had found ecstasy, literally and figuratively.
The band, of course, blew my mind with the lyrics I could make out. I felt as if they were speaking directly to me at times concerning my current situation. The music blew over me like waves of heaven. The light show tripped me out. The venue had me gasping with awe. The skies had be threatening rain all day, but it held off until the last song of the encore and it started to rain just as they tore in to it. Something bigger than us all was at play here. We could see the lightning rolling through the clouds in the distance and the twinkling lights of Denver below. Very cosmic!
As John Barlow wrote, "This must be heaven. Tonight I crossed the line." Indeed I had. My mind was swimming. Every pour of my body was spinning out of control. I thought of my friends back in Houston and the love I had for them and my family. It was a very humbling experience that I'm not soon to forget. My friends reminded me why I started doing this in this first place. The sense of security, despite my bewildered state, was enough to help me keep it together. I knew that if I was to fall, they would be there to catch and take care of me in a moments notice. I was as secure as a baby in its mothers arms. And best of all, I'm going to do it all over again in Vegas come October!

iPod Song of the Day: 'Train In Vain' from London Calling by the Clash


Post a Comment

<< Home