Not too long after the Hard Rock Café opened in 1998 on the 16th Street Mall, the Fray played one of its first gigs there. John Lindsay, Hard Rock Denver's senior sales and marketing manager, said the guys in the band walked up the mall begging people to come to see them play.
A lot has changed for the band since then, as well as for the Cafe itself: It just went through a major remodel and got a new collection of nearly 200 pieces of memorabilia -- some of it from the Fray, actually.
As part of the floor-to-ceiling makeover in the 11,000 square-foot space, the previous bar was completely demolished and a new expanded bar area put in its place, with 24 taps, more than half of which are local microbrews. In addiction to modern décor around the venue, there's also a new 220-inch video wall and new LED lighting for the stage.
With the new memorabilia collection came new gold frames (a nod to Colorado's mining days), and Lindsay says the Denver location is the only Hard Rock in the world to have these kind of frames. Also, the plaques for each piece of memorabilia have Red Rocks graphic behind them.
In the new Red Rocks room -- a private function space on the second floor -- there's some local-centric memorabilia from the Fray and John Denver as well as some other legendary acts that have played the venue, like the Beatles (who played there in 1964 and didn't even sell the place out), and a promotional sleeveless vest for U2's War Tour, which included a stop in Red Rocks in 1983 that was documented on Under a Blood Red Sky concert film and EP. There's also black leather shoes worn by Johnny Cash when he played at Red Rocks in 1965.
Other highlights in the new collection include boots worn by Jim Morrison, a guitar smashed on stage by the Who's Pete Townshend in 1964 when the band was still called the High Numbers, a jacket with a fur collar worn by Elvis in the 1970s, Les Paul's Gibson MM12 Melody Maker and the toboggan used in the Beatles film Help. In the front window there's Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's monstrous amplifier (one of three he used during the 2010 Time Machine tour). It weighs 460 pounds and took six people to move. Lifeson's Gibson Howard Roberts acoustic guitar is on the second floor.
Lindsay says a lot of Hard Rock memorabilia is donated from the artists, while some of the pieces are purchased from auctions, and that Hard Rock has largest rock and roll memorabilia collection in the world -- larger than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While the Hard Rock has memorabilia from a number of different artists, whether it be something they used, wore or played on stage, Lindsay says two of the hardest bands to acquire memorabilia from are Led Zeppelin and Metallica, as those bands tend to hang on to stuff. But the Hard Rock Denver does have one of Metallica frontman James Hetfield's guitars.
In addition to the remodel, Hard Rock International recently introduced a redesigned menu. Tirey Thomas, regional marketing manager-Western North America, Hard Rock International, says HRI put together a culinary council from around the world, including executive chefs, managers, and a research and development team, and spent all of 2013 testing current recipes, new recipes until they came up thirty new menu items (including the Cowboy Rib Eye and Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich) and modified nearly just as many items that already existed on the menu, like Hickory Smoked BBQ Ribs, Grilled Norwegian Salmon, Hickory Smoked Chicken Wings and the Legendary Burger.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.