I was one of a few hundred people to see Radiohead at the Mercury Cafe in June 1995. To be honest, I don't remember a damn thing about the actual show; I can only recall brushing up against Thom Yorke, the group's singer, on the way out of the building. The dude was maybe a foot shorter than me, and he looked like some bizarre hybrid of Johnny Rotten and Ed Grimley, the character Martin Short popularized on Saturday Night Live. I was so stunned I could only say "Great show," or something equally contrived.
A few months later, Radiohead was slated to open for Soul Asylum at the Ogden Theatre. The musicians were staying a few blocks down the street, at the Ramada, which is where some bands playing the Ogden stayed at the time. The night before the gig, all of their equipment was stolen, forcing them to borrow Soul Asylum's gear and play an acoustic show. Rumor has it that after that, Radiohead vowed never to play Denver again — but the band did come back in 2001 for a show at Red Rocks.
Last week, I was thinking about Radiohead as I headed into the Ramada (1150 East Colfax Avenue). The bar there is now called the Rockmada, and as I walked through the lobby, I could hear a few people talking inside the bar. But the second I stepped foot in Rockmada, all other sounds were drowned out by Van Morrison's "Caravan." I took a seat at the bar near the huge Irish flag, which seemed a fitting backdrop for listening to one of Ireland's biggest exports. Just as the Van Morrison cut was fading, though, a guy across the bar said, "Man, you should play some Van Halen."
So the bartender walked around the bar and over to the crate of vinyl, flipping through a few records and then slapping a platter down on the lone turntable. As "And the Cradle Will Rock..." started thumping through the joint, this gal I'd seen leaving as I was coming in returned to the bar and sat down next me. "So, you're back for more?" the bartender asked her.
"I was trying to play it safe since I just got my second DUI," she said. "But it really sucks barhopping when you're sober. Give me a Bud Light. Just don't tell anyone."
Somewhere in our brief conversation, I asked if she'd ever heard about Radiohead's stolen gear. She said she hadn't, but then, she wasn't really a fan of the band. A little later, a group of guys came in. One of them asked the bartender why the Buck Hunter video game hadn't been fixed; they had to go with the bowling game instead. The bartender went back to the turntable and played side two of Led Zeppelin's Coda, which features John Bonham's four-minute drumming excursion on "Bonzo's Montreux."
By the time I was on my way out, Twisted Sister was playing — a far cry from Radiohead.
And as I crossed Colfax, I heard a U2 song blasting from the speakers outside of Kinga's Lounge (1509 Marion Street), which opened last month in the former home of the Boca Room (and before that, Lounge). The place was definitely brighter than the dimly lit Rockmada, with a slightly older crowd, but it looked like a cool joint. The Denver Poker Tour stops here on Wednesdays, and the room in the back, which used to be Club Boca (and janleone's before that) will now be used for private parties.
Club scout: After months of searching for a new location for the 15th Street Tavern, owners Myke and Jeneye Martinez recently signed a lease. While they still have months of liquor-license and permit approvals ahead of them, next month they're hosting a garage sale to raise funds, selling everything from records, CDs and music equipment to furniture, bikes and art. The sale runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 8, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, December 9, at the bar's new home at 1028 Park Avenue West. And starting at 7 p.m. December 8, the space will be rocking with Hexen, Turbo Knife Fight, the Bronz and the Absolute Zero.
Finally, the infamous Magic Cyclops just kicked off an '80s night every Wednesday at the Skylark Lounge (140 South Broadway). You can also still catch the dude a couple of blocks north at the hi-dive (7 South Broadway) every Monday, when he heads one of the more hilarious karaoke nights in town.