Friday, December 10, 2010

Several species of small furry thoughts - Memories of Ebbets Field

I first started going to concerts in the Denver area in about 1971 and by the time Ebbets Field opened in early 1973 I was starting to venture into clubs that would allow people under 21 to see the acts. Ebbets was one of those. You would get hand-stamped or wristbanded and were allowed to enter and see the best acts of the day in a tiny, intimate setting and buy overpriced cokes (there was a two drink minimum as I recall). I remember going to my first show there (Taj Mahal and Corky Siegel) with what would also be my first date. A great show where I learned about the magic of seeing a band up close and the horror of the first date. The girl’s name was Miriam (same as my mother) and she was totally beautiful and I just couldn’t quite put together that she was there WITH me and I was her date too. That part didn’t go so well, but I was smitten with seeing bands in clubs. I’d sort of figure the woman thing out - thank god for Jill - later in life, but rock and roll was very clear to me from the beginning. Some of the great shows I saw at Ebbets field were Country Joe McDonald, Renaissance, Roger McGuinn, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton among many others. It was such a special place to see a show. At the furthest you were maybe 25 yards from the band and the sound system that Listen Up installed and ran was many people’s first exposure to really world-class sound.
You wouldn’t know it now, but going in to downtown Denver in those days was more of a rare occurrence. In the early 70’s, when you came into downtown after 5 pm or so, it was quite literally a ghost town. There was very little going on, and Ebbets was an early glimmer of the cosmopolitan life that awaited Denver in the decades to come. In other words, it was a glittering, special event to go see a band at Ebbets. Denver was also not the primary concert market that it has become in recent years. We didn’t get all the great bands back then like we do now. Chuck Morris, Barry Fey and their early efforts to put Denver on the musical map really did accomplish that goal. We are now as good a market as any city in the country, and the first tentative steps represented by Ebbets, Tulagi’s and later the Rainbow Music Hall were milestones in Denver’s development. 
And so, our friends at Listen Up have released the 4th volume of their Live From Ebbets Field series. For you see, Listen Up not only ran the sound in the legendary club, but they recorded the shows and broadcast many of them on the radio. For years I loved listening to these shows surface on various radio stations, and the series of CDs that have been released have brought back many great memories. Volume 4, which benefits The Morgan Adams Foundation, is a wonderful disc that really captures the magical intimacy of these performances, but also the eclectic and hip nature of the booking. Highlights of Volume 4 include Cheech and Chong introducing The Beau Brummels as “The Bro Bummers,” ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s riveting version of “Set You Free This Time,” a young, angel-voiced Dan Fogelberg playing “Stars,” a triple shot of blues greats with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Freddie King all making appearances, Doc and Merle Watson tearing up “Wabash Cannonball” and ragers by El Chicano, Spirit and The Marshall Tucker Band. This CD really reminds me of a great time in music history, and a special period in Denver’s movement toward becoming a world-class city. This is a limited release, with a charitable component, and this is the only record store where you can get it. Rush in and get 10 right now - they make great gifts. 
We also were lucky enough to get the few remaining copies left of Volume 3. This disc will benefit the - soon to be a reality - Colorado Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (of which I am a board member). It is only $4.99 and it goes to a cause very close to my heart. Highlights of Volume 3 include an over-the-top version of “Green Grass and High Tides” by The Outlaws, “Hello Hello” by Sopwith Camel and more great stuff by Robin Trower, PeterFrampton, Pure Prarie League and many others. These discs are a wonderful reminder of a very special time and place in Denver’s music history.

-Paul Epstein

1 comment:

Eric A. said...

I too cut my teeth at Ebbets. Saw half the shows you just listed as well as Wendy O. Williams, Joan Jett, coked out Steve Stills, coked out Jesse Colin Young, Fogelberg trolling for groopies while singing sweet heartbreakers. OMG that was a fine place. Remember the waitress who would stand in front of the shag carpet bleacher seats and yell, "Something? Nothing? Something? Nothing?" to get peoples' drink orders?