Long before 9/11 upped the ante on jittery nerves, DIA hired Meredith Gabow to coordinate the International Performance Series, a performing-arts program that brings dance and musical acts to the airport during peak travel times over the holidays. By now, the fourteen-day 2004 version, Relax Under the Big Top, is well under way, with assorted artists featured through January 2 in the Jeppesen Terminal's Great Hall and in passenger check-in areas.
That's where Robert Eldridge, who's been part of the program for about a half-dozen years -- since Gabow caught him opening for Big Head Todd -- was stationed on November 23. "It's the calm-the-beast scenario," he says. "I get a kick out of it and get a lot of praise just for playing. Even employees have come by and listened to me." His biggest fan, though, was the traveler who came up and told Eldridge that "it was the best half-hour he'd spent, just hanging out, listening to me play."
Eldridge, whose performances are billed as "world-fusion guitar," knows just how beastly the world can get. He's a Denver Tech Center broker by day, a musician by night. "They are my yin and yang; they are my total balance," he says. "If I was just a broker, I'd probably go crazy. My music compensates for my stress in the market. I wouldn't know what to do if my music became my vocation."
He's coming a little closer all the time, though: Last month the Zeut sideman released a solo disc, Eclectic and Mental Guitar Music, that's selling well, he says. Not at DIA gigs, of course -- the performers, who are paid for their appearances, are not allowed to accept tips or peddle paraphernalia at the airport. But Eldridge brings a guest book that his flying fans can sign, and he later sends out e-mails thanking them for listening and letting them know when and where they can hear him again. "If it became my vocation," he continues, "I don't know what I'd do for a hobby."
Well, he could hang out longer at DIA and listen to the other acts, which over the next few days will range from Bill Barwick and Sons of the Tumbleweed (you can also catch Barwick at the Buckhorn Exchange most Saturday nights) to Brazilian jazz by Banda Felicidad to the Rocky Mountain Banjos. For a complete schedule, go to www.flydenver.com/guide/art/performing.asp. But there's an encore feature you won't find listed: Because the performers can't get clearance to play the concourses, roving bands of DIA's more talented employees will offer half-hour sets out by the gates at noon each day.