It was August 26, 1964, general-admission tickets were $6.60 apiece, and parents feared the worst. They were utterly certain that when the Beatles took the stage at Red Rocks forty years ago today, the crowd, high on that mysterious evil force called rock and roll, would surely riot, screaming and throwing things and otherwise behaving like hungry, deranged animals. But in fact, the audience that night was relatively orderly. The worst items thrown at the stage were jelly beans, as the estimated crowd of 9,000 screamed and wept and dreamt of holding Paul McCartney's hand. One can only imagine what percentage of the audience was made up of young girls. Denver photographer Nicholas DeSciose, who was there shooting pictures for Tempo, a teen magazine, can vouch for the size of the crowd. Despite some reports that attendance was sparse, DeSciose's contact sheets show that the amphitheatre was full. "They were little, and there was a lot of crunch toward the stage, so the photos I made way early on when there was still daylight show only the upper tiers empty," he says. "But it was still early; people were still coming in. A lot of people snuck in, and transportation was difficult."
It will no doubt be different tonight when the Beatles tribute group 1964 brings its impersonation of the Beatles to Red Rocks at 7:30 p.m. to benefit KBDI-TV/Channel 12. "There was still a freshness, an innocence in the world back then," DeSciose remembers. "My images from that night show parents there with their children. This was something you did with your father."
Can that grainy black-and-white naiveté of forty years ago make even the slightest comeback in the 21st century? Two of the real Beatles are gone, and these ersatz moptops, no matter how hard they rehearse, are a pale shadow of the real band, a Xerox print that never segues or evolves beyond the Ed Sullivan days. Even the ticket prices at Red Rocks have risen far beyond any '60s-era promoter's wildest dreams.
On the other hand, it's all in fun. Even if the backdrop is cardboard, a brief walk down memory lane never hurt anyone, so go ahead. Scream a little.
Tickets are $15; call 303-830-TIXS. -- Susan Froyd
Eyes Wide Shut
Orwell's 1984 is here
George Orwell blamed Big Brother for a soulless future in his novel 1984. Five decades after the book was published, a new documentary by Robert Kane Pappas, titled Orwell Rolls in His Grave, points the finger not at BB, but at broadcasting. "Are Americans being given the information a democracy needs to survive, or have they been electronically lobotomized?" asks the film, which features politicians, activists and network news producers. Oh, yeah -- and Michael Moore. But Jason Bosch of ArgusFest, which is screening the movie tonight along with KGNU at the Starz FilmCenter, says that unlike Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Orwell is evenhanded. "This is not an attack on the Bush administration," Bosch says. "It is about the last twenty years of media consolidation and how it has killed street journalism and the entire democratic process. We need an informed public or democracy just doesn't work."
Filmmaker Pappas will be on hand to discuss the documentary at tonight's screening at Starz (in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus) and will make an encore appearance at a September 1 showing at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street in Boulder. Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is $8 at both theaters. For information, call 720-314-785 or go to www.argusfest.org.
"You just don't see stories in the media criticizing the media," says Bosch. "Every American should see this film." -- Kity Ironton
Nuba Renews Itself
Cafe Nuba's original slogan -- "It's hot and it's black" -- could now be expanded to include "and it's mobile." Tonight's venue, Blackberries Ice Cream and Coffee Lounge, 710 East 26th Avenue, will be the fifth location to host Denver's Pan African Arts Society's spoken-word set since January. If all goes well, it will be the final stop on Cafe Nuba's well-worn travel itinerary.
The odyssey began when the large crowds who regularly attended the monthly open-mike night exceeded the capacity of its original site, Gemini Tea Emporium in Five Points. After leaving the Emporium, the Cafe's home for more than four years, organizers searched for a new site. They bounced around and finally set up shop at the Construct Creative Arts Space on Brighton Boulevard. But the number of Cafe-goers, which had remained steady throughout the wanderings, plummeted from hundreds to about fifty per night there.
"We didn't know the exact reason [for the low turnout]," says Nuba spokeswoman Angelia McGowan. "But we knew when we were in Five Points, the audience was overflowing."
Her hope is that the move to Blackberries, which puts the gathering back in its original neighborhood, will be its last. Cafe Nuba unfolds from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. tonight and continues on the last Friday of every month. Open-mike sign-up is from 8 to 9:30 p.m.; admission is $10 at the door. Call 303-298-8188 or visit www.panafricanarts.org for more information. -- Caitlin Smith
Write 'em, Cowboy
These buckaroos sling words, not ropes
Poem, poem on the range
Where the dudes and buckle bunnies all play
Where seldom is heard
A four-syllable word
And effete types should just stay away
Cowboy poetry isn't new: Back in 1908, Howard Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys rounded up ancient cowhands' more lyrical moments. But cowboy poetry will be very now when today's Cowboy Poetry Showdown brings together some of the state's best cowboy -- and cowgirl -- poets for a regular rodeo of rhymes and tall tales. "Each competitor is an accomplished cowboy poet with a plethora of talent and diversity," explains organizer Alma Aragon. "From the energetic style of Jay Johnson to John Nelson's style of fun and humor, the Showdown will offer spectators a wide array of storytelling styles." The fun's part of the Colorado State Fair's Western Heritage Days, a series of Old West activities running through September 1 that include a display of custom-made saddles, a ranch rodeo, chuckwagon feasts and a performance by former Coloradan Baxter Black, author of Croutons on a Cow Pie and other epics that have sold close to three-quarters of a million copies -- amazing even Black, who notes that the genre is now respectable. "Mostly, all of us ever want is for somebody to listen," he says. "Cowboy poetry is not competitive."
The Showdown, which is free with gate admission, starts at 5 p.m. on the Pepsi Stage in Family Park on the Colorado State Fairgrounds, 1001 Beulah Avenue in Pueblo. For a complete schedule of CSF events, call 1-800-444-FAIR or go to www.coloradostatefair.com. -- Patricia Calhoun