No matter what you think about cute-as-a-kewpie-doll Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, you have to hand it to the former Arkansas governor for rocking out on the campaign trail. His classic rock cover band, Capitol Offense, has performed semi-regularly throughout Huckabee’s presidential run, caressing audiences with tunes like “Free Bird,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” Made up of former staffers, an Arkansas pastor, an investment banker, and an accountant and a math teacher that attend church with the candidate, the outfit will play again on Sunday at a barbecue on Chuck Norris’s ranch outside of Houston.
But long before Norris buoyed Huckabee as a Republican frontrunner, the band performed at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
On July 13, 2005, Capitol Offense took to the stage in a rush of unadulterated adrenaline rock that would forever imprint itself in the memory and the campaign website of the former governor.
Huckabee’s invitation to play Red Rocks was the brainchild of Drew Armstrong, an erstwhile employee with the city of Denver’s Theatres and Arenas department. Armstrong knew Huckabee through a business associate named Rick Calhoun, who happened to play guitar and sing for Capitol Offense. At the time, Huckabee was the chairman of the Education Commission of the States, a non-partisan think tank focused on education policy, and he liked to play with Capitol Offense at the organization’s events. When Armstrong heard that the Commission was holding a major national meeting in Denver in 2005, he knew that Huckabee just had to experience the majesty of Red Rocks.
“He was familiar with the location,” says Armstrong, who now lives in Jacksonville, Florida where he volunteers for the Huckabee presidential campaign. “His daughter had been to a Dave Matthews concert up there.”
Though Armstrong no longer worked for Theatres and Arenas, he pulled some strings to book Capitol Offense at Red Rocks for a private reception for the Commission’s attendees. The day of the show, Huckabee and his band were given the royal treatment; the governor changed into a guitar-print t-shirt in the “star dressing room” and he signed the wall beneath the venue, where innumerable great acts have left their autographs.
Capitol Offense, which played for free, was preceded by a jazz band from the Denver School of the Arts. When Huckabee and the musicians finally got on stage, the 600-person crowd went wild, boogying in their seats as they munched on barbecue and unwound from a day of meetings. Some attendees even hopped up to dance around the governor.
Capitol Offense was ecstatic “You know, they loved it,” says Armstrong.
Though the band hasn’t returned since, Armstrong anticipates a sequel. This time, he says, it will be a higher profile show. “We said, ‘Next time we want you on stage is as the Republican nominee or President of the United States.’ As time goes along, who knows, he may be back up there.” -- Naomi Zeveloff