Barry Fey

The Sound and the Fury

When Barry Fey sold his interest in the concert firm that bore his name late last summer, a lot of his competitors figured that, career-wise, he was as good as dead--but the old cuss won't lie down. Since then, the man who was Denver's most successful, and most feared, promoter over a three-decade span has put on major concerts in Las Vegas (his agreement with Universal Concerts precludes him from doing likewise in Denver); masterminded promotions schemes intended to create excitement around the Colorado Avalanche (who are so good that they don't really need his help) and the Denver Nuggets (who probably could find a way to lose with Jesus Christ as point guard); made frequent appearances in gossip columns, most recently because he has been temporarily banned from betting at Colorado racetracks (he denies any wrongdoing); received honors for his accomplishments in the music industry (on January 27 in Los Angeles, he was named to the Performance Magazine Touring Hall of Fame); begun planning a book of memoirs (it's still in the nascent stage); and become such a frequent caller to radio talk programs that the average listener can be forgiven for believing that he's got a show of his own.

Perhaps someday he will--because Fey has no shortage of opinions, about everything from rock and roll to the Colorado way of life. And he's not what you'd call shy about sharing them.

Westword: Last year you said that it was the right time for you to sell Fey Concerts. Do you still feel that way? Have the months since then reinforced that?

Fey: Oh, my God, yes. I am so happy to be out of the business, because there are too many ugly people dominating it now. I'm very, very happy to be gone.

Westword: Right now, with [longtime Fey associate] Chuck Morris teaming up with Bill Graham Presents, there seems to be the potential for a promotions war here. Is that the way you see it?

Fey: I think it's going to be good--but in a way, it's a shame. It's just like Russia.

Westword: Russia?
Fey: When the communists had control of the Soviet empire, it was harsh, but it was controlled and orderly. Then there was the breakup of the states, and now you have Bosnia, which is the worst example of what's happening because of all the killing, and you have the Russian mafia going wild. It's chaos--and none of it would have happened if the Russian army was still in charge.

Westword: How has the music scene in Denver changed since you started promoting here?

Fey: Well, I started in 1967, and I'd say by 1972, we were well on our way to being the best per capita concert market in the country. And it just kept going like that. In 1985, Springsteen did 137,000 people. At the time, that was 11 percent of the population. But with the new music that came--I guess in the late Eighties--I think the concert scene really dissipated here. Now, and so much of this is going to sound self-serving, but it seems that--how do you say this in a nice way?--the less interest I paid, the less of a good concert market it was.

Westword: Is another reason for that because people don't seem to have the kind of brand loyalty they once did? With the exception of Phish and maybe a couple of other groups, there don't seem to have been a lot of new bands rising up in the past few years that people seem interested in following over the long run.

Fey: You're right--and people around here seem to associate that with me. They're constantly coming up to me and saying, "It's not the same with you gone. It's just not the same." And obviously, it's not the same for me, but I don't think it's the same for anyone. There just isn't the excitement out there that there once was, I don't think. When you go to some of these new-music concerts, alternative concerts, the people are so much a part of the show that they don't really have that spontaneous roar that they used to have--because they spend all their energy stage-diving or in mosh pits or whatever. And everything's on a smaller scale. The bigness is gone. Concerts used to be big--big--huge. But that's gone. People who always complained about stadium shows won't have anything to complain about for much longer. Because there aren't going to be any.

Westword: Did regular concert-goers start losing interest in going to as many shows around when you did?

Fey: Yes, I think my career and the feelings of the regular concert-goers parallel each other. This was always such a great, great concert market, but I ran into a guy the other day and he said, "What the hell's happened to the concert scene here?" And a lot of people seem to have that opinion now--that the scene here is not as good as it used to be. But the local-band scene is the same as it always was. This has never become a Boston or a Seattle, even though a lot of people thought it would be. The local bands never really made it. You had Firefall, and before that you had Tommy Bolin--and now you have Big Head Todd. But there was never any explosion.

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