I could handle seeing the original sign for the Rainbow Music Hall still standing even though a Walgreen's had taken over the space of the legendary music venue years ago. It was a little piece of music history that I could still hold on to, considering that most of my favorite shows while I was in high school were at the Rainbow. So when I recently drove by the former Rainbow location, near Evans and Monaco, and saw massive piles of dirt and no sign of the marquee that had been standing even two decades after the Rainbow closed, I felt a dull thud in my gut -- kind of like the time I touched an electric fence as a kid. And that numbness followed me as I drove the blocks west of Monaco.
And then that numbness turned into anger, almost like when you find out that one of your favorite musicians died and you didn't find out until months after he passed away. I was pissed that I hadn't heard that the building was supposed to be razed. I mean, there was talk that it was slated to be demolished last summer to make way for a bigger Walgreen's store. But nearly a year a later, both the Walgreen's and the Rainbow sign were still standing.
Nearly every time I'd drive by the spot, or at least until the place was torn down, I'd think of the shows I saw there. I'm pretty sure the first show I saw there was Frankie Goes to Hollywood. They played "Relax" twice, and both times, a few of the guys held ketchup bottles filled with milk near their crotches and squirted them on the crowd during the "when you want to come" section.
During a Psychedelic Furs show, some gal, who was completely wasted, told me how she worked at Pizza Hut and couldn't stand wearing the polyester uniforms. I listened to her go on and on about the polyester for five minutes, because, well, she was pretty hot. It was one of the most non-linear conversations I've ever had.
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Just before I got in line for the Alarm show, I stuffed a tape recorder down the front of my pants. Right after I got past security, it started sliding down my pants, but I caught it halfway down my thigh, ran to the bathroom and pulled the recorder out. But since I had an aisle seat, I was too paranoid to hold the thing, so I hit "record" and left it under the seat. Not a good idea. I would have gotten the same result recording the show with it in my pants.
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In 1985, I saw the Minutemen open for Black Flag, which still stands as one of the most intense shows I've seen. Henry Rollins had a shit ton of hair back then, and Kira Roessler (who would marry Minutemen bassist Mike Watt a few years later) played bass for Black Flag. Both bands stirred the crowd into a frenzy, and I got knocked down in the pit and couldn't get up, since people were falling over me and stepping on me. Yeah, I know that's bound to happen to anyone in a pit, but hell, it was a Black Flag and Minutemen show.
Over the next few years, I caught X on the Ain't Love Grand tour, when Exene wore a burlap potato sack, Icehouse, Lords of the New Church. The shows I saw, well, that was just a sliver compared to the hundreds of bands that visted the place during its twenty-year run, including U2, the Police, Miles Davis, the Clash, Bob Dylan, Cheap Trick, Motorhead and Judas Priest.
Front Row Photography has a decent selection of photos from bands playing at the Rainbow, as well as McNichols Arena and CU Events Center throughout the '80s. And last fall, we stumbled onto a veritable treasure trove of vintage bootleg recordings from the Rainbow featuring Judas Priest, Blackfoot and Graham Parker and the Shot, which are still posted.