'Tis the season for the announcement of summer concerts--and usually by the time they make it into print, the details surrounding them are fairly firm. But that's not the case with KTCL's Big Adventure, set to take place on May 30, and the Fox's Seventies Saturday, scheduled for June 6. Rob Buswell, director of Jacor Concerts, which is putting on the gigs in question, swears that the KTCL festival, featuring the Foo Fighters and Ben Harper, and the Fox spectacle, with a bill that includes Heart, War and Leon Russell, will take place on the dates noted above. (The same cannot be said of a Harper turn in Vail on May 29 and a Foo Fighters-Harper performance in Colorado Springs on May 31; they've been canceled.) However, precisely where they'll happen is another matter.
Both of these shows were to kick off at Norlin Quad, near Norlin Library and Mackey Auditorium on the grounds of the University of Colorado at Boulder. But a university official says Chancellor Richard L. Byyny, who oversees CU's Boulder campus, denied a request to hold the concerts at the Quad on April 17. That's news to most people, though. As late as last week, Jacor ads still stated that the Big Adventure would occur at the Quad, and more than 5,000 people have already purchased tickets with that understanding; so, too, have 1,000 Fox fans. As for Buswell, who claims to have first heard about problems concerning the site late on April 24, a full week after Byyny rendered his decision, he says, "This all totally caught me off guard. I don't understand why this happened, and I can't believe it took them so long to tell us about it."
In trying to sort out the details of the dispute, time is an important factor. According to a knowledgeable source, Norlin Quad was not Jacor's top choice for the Big Adventure. Instead, the mega-company (which owns eight Denver-Boulder radio stations, including KTCL and KRFX/The Fox) initially wanted to stage the bash at Mile High Greyhound Park Stadium in Commerce City, broaching the topic to the facility's overseers last November. But after the state racing commission said no to the show, Jacor settled on Norlin Quad. The fit seemed like a good one: After all, the Quad regularly accommodates large crowds during summer graduation ceremonies and has been used regularly for musical events like Fun in a Nuclear Age (FINA), which drew approximately 12,000 listeners in 1991. Moreover, Buswell wanted what he refers to as "a non-traditional venue" for the Big Adventure, which in past years had been headquartered at Fiddler's Green.
"At Fiddler's, you've got 7,500 reserved seats," Buswell points out, "and a lot of the people with those tickets don't bother to show up until six or seven in the evening. But before then, you've got people on the lawn seating area who get there early in the afternoon and who are there to see some of the newer bands. So rather than having a band like the Aquabats play to a bunch of empty seats, which is a little awkward, we thought we'd try something different. And the Quad was perfect for us."
Unfortunately, Jacor didn't make this discovery until late in the game. Brantley Dunaway, director of CU's program council, the body that promotes and coordinates music events at the university, reveals that he met with Jacor representatives on Tuesday, March 31, and at that time, they told him they needed to get a yea or nay about the Quad within four days. That presented difficulties, Brantley says. "The approval process for the Quad is kind of lengthy. It's an academic area and it's treasured by the university for its historic value, so there's several entities within the university that have to be consulted. First there's the program council, and then it goes to the vice chancellor of student affairs, and it also has to go to the heads of departments that might be affected by the concert."
The program council promptly gave the nod to the Big Adventure and the Fox's Seventies Saturday, in part because of financial considerations; Buswell estimates that the university would have received $80,000 from the shows. The next level of CU bureaucracy endorsed the shows, too, and with Buswell confident that final approval was a mere formality, Jacor began hyping the Big Adventure on April 3; tickets went on sale one week later. But Buswell didn't count on the actions of Byyny. While he knew that Byyny had to approve specific Jacor requests involving an extension of the university curfew from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and the sale of liquor, he says, "I thought the worst-case scenario would be that he'd tell us we had to stop at 10:30 and that we couldn't sell alcohol--and I would have been able to deal with that. But I had no idea he could refuse to let us use the Quad at all."
Why did Byyny turn thumbs down? The program council's Dunaway guesses that Jacor's rush to publicity probably played a part. "They put the show on sale with full knowledge that it hadn't been approved yet," says Dunaway, "and I think it upset some people in the chancellor's office. It was like, 'Why are you even asking us for approval if you're already advertising it?'"
Pauline Hale, public-relations director at CU-Boulder, doesn't confirm Dunaway's theory, but she lists several other reasons for Byyny's ruling. "My understanding is that the promoters were expecting 15,000 people for the first concert," she says. "And the chancellor's position is that such a large number of people would take an enormous toll on the area in terms of physical damage. It would also create problems with noise, being so close to the library, and it was not consistent with university policies, which recommend that such concerts should be held indoors."
This last tenet is not set in stone. For example, the Warped Tour, a punk-and-ska traveling circus, has made stops at CU-Boulder before and will do so again this year on July 12 at the university's Franklin Field (a practice field near Folsom Stadium that's not quite large enough to accommodate the Big Adventure). Nevertheless, Dunaway, the program-council head, isn't surprised by Byyny's ruling. "When an administration changes--and Chancellor Byyny started in January of last year--some of the ideas about what is and what isn't quality programming change, too," says Dunaway. "And since the riots on the Hill last year, the questions about alcohol on campus and the attitudes regarding the safety of the student population, I think everybody's being very, very careful. And that can definitely present problems for us."
Hale denies that the university has suddenly become anti-rock and says future outdoor concerts may indeed be approved. Dunaway agrees, adding that he looks forward to working with area promoters on indoor and outdoor shows. But Jacor's Buswell isn't so sure he'll be one of them. At press time he was still scrambling to find a home for the shows, which don't seem controversial to him in the slightest. (The dates are part of Jacor's Concerts for the Cure series; a portion of the proceeds are earmarked for breast-cancer prevention and research.) When asked if CU's moves have made him leery about bringing another outdoor festival to the university, his answer is simple. "Yes," he says.
Upon further (local) review.
Sonar's...TranceTour '97 is the name stamped on a demo by TranceMission, created by a performer who calls himself Mingo. Song titles are absent from the package, but that's understandable, because what's on hand is thirty uninterrupted minutes of techno with plenty of beats per minute but not much personality. This stuff would likely get you going on the dance floor, but it doesn't inspire sitting and listening, as today's best electronica does. Still, there's promise here (C. Wilson, Sonar Productions, 1340 Emerson Street, #6, Denver, CO 80218). Sliding Reins, by Telluride's Sarah Spelsberg, is as folkie-retro as anything by Jewel, but the lack of a pop sensibility makes it an even more difficult listen. Lyrics that practically shout "Aren't I poetic?" don't help matters much, either. ("Come to invade my small space with her void/Loudly fleeting butterfly/Here to lie/And to alight in the smallness of me," from "Barbi's March," should give you an idea of what I mean.) It's all terribly sincere, and Spelsberg can certainly sing, but that's not enough in this case (Sarah Spelsberg, P.O. Box 1772, Telluride, CO 81435).
Coy Kindred's self-titled CD is built around the vocal cords of Lauren Cuggino, whose singing occasionally put me in mind of (seriously) Bonnie Tyler. Backing musicians Monte Thorin, Alec William Sims and Paul Rogalski provide a sufficiently bluesy sonic bed over which Cuggino wails and exhorts. It has its hokey moments, but a couple of numbers, "Dusk" and "Rough Face Girl," are fairly effective. Folks who still can't believe that Janis Joplin is dead should be suitably stimulated by fadeout time. Now, there's a scary thought (Coy Kindred, P.O. Box 7206, Boulder, CO 80306). Keith Rosenhagen, whose album The Other Side comes to us courtesy of Fort Collins-based Hapi Skratch Records, is a singer-songwriter who bares his soul on a regular basis. Because his soul has a lot in common with David Wilcox's, his revelations are often maudlin. But he benefits from the strong production of guitarist Dave Beegle, the virtuosic bass playing of Michael Olson and his own earnestness. It's not my bag, but it could be yours (Hapi Skratch, 2100 West Drake Road, Suite 280, Fort Collins, CO 80526).
Chief Broom, a Westword profile subject ("Hail to the Chief," March 27, 1997), has earned kudos in certain quarters for being a jam band that's not quite as lame as all those other jam bands out there--which, in my view, is a rather backhanded compliment. However, after listening to the group's self-titled CD, I came to the conclusion that faint praise is what the combo deserves. The guitar playing of Bruce Chester Bell and the rolling pianistics of Dave Cieri are certainly solid, but they're also thoroughly predictable: Anyone familiar with Widespread Panic and the like has heard all of this many times before. The musicians' competence and a few lonely sparks of inspiration (such as the comely vocals of Jessica Goodkin on the bluesy "101 Knights") may be enough for some people, but not for me. I'd rather hear an awkward player struggling to come up with something fresh than to listen to a better instrumentalist churning out the same old shit in an extremely professional fashion. But that's just me (available in area record stores).
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Five Iron Frenzy, joined by top skankers Less Than Jake, the Toasters, the Blue Meanies, Mustard Plug, MU330, Kemuri and Mike "Bruce Lee" Park (formerly of Skankin' Pickle), participates in the Ska Against Racism tour, which stops at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, May 8. A portion of the proceeds from the date will go to three organizations: Anti-Racist Action, Artists for a Hate-Free America and the Museum of Tolerance. Go out there and love somebody, why don't you?
But be sure to use a condom when you do. On Thursday, May 7, David Booker turns the page at the Catacombs in Boulder. On Friday, May 8, the Damn Shambles, the Hedges and Spleen Dingo howl at Cricket on the Hill, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers begin a two-night run at the Fox Theatre. On Friday, May 8, Miten & Premal headline at Dance West in Boulder (call 772-1720 to learn more), and Kirkland and Reed team up with the Da Vinci Quartet for the first of two nights at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl. On Saturday, May 9, Megadeth, the Deftones, the Toadies and the Din Pedals switch on for the KBPI Birthday Bash at Red Rocks; Chris Daniels and the Kings celebrate their fourteenth anniversary at Herman's Hideaway; Fast Action Revolver goes off at the 15th Street Tavern, with Inferno; and Roger Manning drops by the Lion's Lair (Manning also appears the next evening at Soapy Smith's). On Sunday, May 10, Pissing Razors is painful at the Snake Pit, with Pro-Pain, and Junis Ponds is all wet at the Oasis Brewery in Boulder. And on Tuesday, May 12, Intelligence Is Dead wises up at the Iliff Park Saloon, with Crush Automatic, and Moonshine Willy goes down smooth at the Lion's Lair. Make mine a double.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.