Concerts

South Park Concert Recap: Theme Song History, Polis Proclamation, a Surprise Guest and More

Emily Ferguson
Twenty-five years ago, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone never imagined that their Comedy Central cartoon series would last this long — or that it would land them on the stage of the world's most epic venue, located just miles from where they grew up.

"This is the best night of our lives," Parker said on Wednesday evening, the second and final night of the South Park 25th Anniversary Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. But it was also a touching and unforgettable night for anyone who's been a fan of the groundbreaking cartoon, which famously showcases irreverent Colorado fourth-graders Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovsky, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick and highlights real-life locations in this state, everything from Casa Bonita to the Coney Island Boardwalk hot dog stand in Bailey.

But South Park was officially ushered into Colorado history last night, when Governor Jared Polis joined Parker and Stone on stage to announce August 10 as South Park Day.

"They said I'd never play at Red Rocks!" Polis said, before reading aloud his proclamation:

Whereas in 1997 Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo first squeezed onto the scene to become Colorado's most-beloved mascot; whereas the Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka is the only animal in Colorado known to kill with just a glance; whereas a wild Jakovasaur has not been found in Colorado since '99, but since then Colorado voters passed the initiative for Jakovasaur reintroduction; whereas trapper keepers are continued to be suspect in Colorado; whereas Scott Tenorman's tears of unfathomable sadness taught us all a life lesson; whereas Thumper, the Aspen ski instructor, taught us all that, 'When you French fry when you should pizza, you're gonna have a bad time'; whereas I mean, come on, South Park taught us when one is born with a disability or acquires it, it's a normal part of life that shouldn't divide us; whereas Matt and Trey introduced the outside world to the cliff divers at Casa Bonita; whereas Coors Field has not seen a battle between Randy Marsh versus Bat Dad, and drew fire from Tom Cruise trapped in a closet, still there; whereas the super-serial threat of ManBearPig grows larger everyday, we successfully overcame the smugness about hybrids; whereas we couldn't say, 'Poor Butters from Camp New Grace,' Colorado has now outlawed conversion therapy; whereas our oracles Trey Parker and Matt Stone predicted a pandemic, but tragically there were less Peruvian pan flute bands than promised; whereas fish sticks are forever ruined for Kanye; whereas no one needs to fake an illness in Colorado for access to legal cannabis; whereas the state of Colorado wants to recognize homegrown talent Lorde as an iconic Colorado musician; whereas the United States of America and our democracy may never recover from our first LGBT president, Mr. Garrison; whereas water bears are now classified as honorary government workers in the state of Colorado; whereas Tegridy Farms is a certified, Colorado-proud product; whereas China really needs to have more Tegridy; whereas Coloradans have one of the lowest death rates from COVID and one of the highest rates of artistic talent in the nation; whereas in 2021 the creators of South Park purchased the iconic Casa Bonita, a fine dining restaurant, an entertainment mecca, and money tent and jobs broker for Colorado contractors. True story, we went from the ninth lowest unemployment rate to fourth because of all the contractors working at Casa Bonita. ...

After 25 years, South Park is beloved by Coloradans. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are true sons of Colorado. Therefore, I, Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado, do hereby proclaim August 10, 2022, as South Park Day!"
By then, the crowd had already been rocked by performances by Parker and Stone, along with Ween and Primus; Stone told the audience that he's been a fan of both bands since the ’80s. Ween was included in season two's "Chef Aid" episode, playing a song for Chef's benefit concert, and Parker and Stone directed the music video for the band's song "Even If You Don't." Meanwhile, Primus frontman/bassist Les Claypool included Parker and Stone in his mockumentary Electric Apricot and, of course, created the South Park theme song.

Stone and Claypool shared a story about how that theme came to be, with the bassist coming on stage sporting the outfit also worn by the unnamed character who sings the song: a red-and-white-striped jacket, blue pants and a boater hat with a fish coming through the top on a spring. "It was the weirdest music I'd ever heard," Stone said of seeing Primus live for the first time. "And I just thought, 'This is fucking great. I love this band, I've got to listen to this shit forever.' And they quickly became my favorite band; they still are.

"A few years later, me and Trey make it to Hollywood and we get a TV show pilot," he continued, "and I'm thinking, 'We need a theme song.' So we looked up Primus's management company in the phone book and sent them a letter and a copy of 'The Spirit of Christmas' [the pilot]. And it worked!"

"And here we are!" Claypool said. "I'm standing here with a felt fish on my head!"

Claypool continued: "We got this letter at the office that said, 'Hey, these guys fresh out of college made this cartoon, and they're big Primus fans, and they really want you to do this theme. They have $74 to spend.' ... We watched 'The Spirit of Christmas' and thought, 'That's fucking amazing, that's unbelievable, that's incredible. We're gonna do it.' We didn't do it for the money — we did it because we thought it was an amazing thing."

Claypool then played the song that Primus first sent South Park, with Stone commenting: "The first thing we thought was, 'Wow that's fucking amazing, we got our own Primus song!' And the second thing we thought was, 'That's a minute and forty seconds, that's not an intro theme song, that's way too fucking long.'"

So they sped the song up using Pro Tools, and begged Claypool to re-record the lyrics, which the band did backstage at Fiddler's Green Amphitheater when it was playing a show there. Primus recorded the theme song once more when the characters went into fourth grade (season four). And Claypool played all three versions at Red Rocks.
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While Red Rocks has hosted acts of all genres and age groups, we doubt we'll ever hear a song about boogers and cum blasted from the stage again (at least, not unless South Park lasts another 25 years). That's right: Parker and Stone played multiple South Park songs, often backed by Ween and Primus, throughout the night, including "Boogers and Cum" from fan-favorite episode "You're Not Yelping"; "Jackin' It in San Diego," from season sixteen's "Butterballs", "My Robot Friend," from the Butters-Cartman-centric episode "Awesome-o'"; and pretty much every original from the show. They also played a song from Parker's musical about Colorado cannibal Alfred Packer, and ended the night with "America, Fuck Yeah," from his film Team America: World Police.

Considering the breadth of their creativity, it wasn't surprising to find that Stone and Parker have some serious musical chops. Not only did they do the voices of characters including Mr. Mackey, Butters, Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny and Randy — the crowd got a particular kick out of a special trick when Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny appeared on the stage screen and were then projected onto the stage-right rock — but Parker was on the mic and piano most of the night, while Stone played various instruments, including guitar, ukulele and drums.

In fact, Stone was sitting at the drum kit during one of the most memorable moments. "I want to say happy anniversary, man, I love you," Parker said. "We put a little surprise together for Matt; he has no idea this is gonna happen and neither do you. ... Matt grew up a big fan of Rush, as well. Roll the tape!"

And on the screen appeared Rush's Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, rendered as South Park characters in Canada. While Stone watched, he was shocked when Claypool announced that Lifeson and Jones had come to Red Rocks to play with them. And the audience was as shocked as Stone played "Closer to the Heart" with his favorite band. "This is the best moment of my life," he said afterward.

And one of the best moments of our night was when Parker invited a young girl named Harper up on the stage while he was singing "They Took Our Jerbs."

"Did Joe Biden take your jerb?" Parker asked.

"Um, I don't know," she replied.

"Well, he took everyone's jerb," Parker replied. "So will you tell everyone Joe Biden took your jerb?"

"Joe Biden took my JERB!" she screeched.

All in all, it was a well-deserved, epic celebration for Parker and Stone, who not only got to play with their favorite bands, but got to do so at Red Rocks, a Colorado landmark that just marked its eightieth birthday.

South Park needs just 55 more seasons to match that.

This article has been updated to correctly identify Geddy Lee. Read about 25 real locations from Colorado spotlighted in South Park here.
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Emily Ferguson is Westword's Culture Editor, covering Denver's flourishing arts and music scene. Before landing this position, she worked as an editor at local and national political publications and held some odd jobs suited to her odd personality, including selling grilled cheese sandwiches at music festivals and performing with fire. Emily also writes on the arts for the Wall Street Journal and is an oil painter in her free time.
Contact: Emily Ferguson