The Holiday Show
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (phatphlogblog.blogspot.com)
We as music fans seem to have an inherent need to mark our holidays with a concert experience. It’s a way to raise the level of the day and gives fans a united gathering place. Halloween, New Year’s Eve, 4th of July, and birthdays are all a reason to get over to the local venue to rage. I find myself falling into this habit a lot lately. Colorado continues this tradition with yearly not-to-be-missed events with everything from the now-on-hiatus Yonder New Year’s run, Blues Traveler at Red Rocks on the 4th, and a rotating slate of shows for Halloween.
My first Holiday show was Big Cypress. It probably set the bar a little high. I traveled down to a Seminole Indian Reservation in the heart of Alligator Alley and witnessed the best Phish show in the history of my concert attendance. The weight of the show was raised because it was how I chose to welcome the new millennium. Phish rode out to the stage just before midnight atop a giant wooden contraption that resembled an ark. It was transformed into a giant hot dog before our eyes. During the almost 8-hour set, I wandered around having lost my crew just before the start of the show.
I took the opportunity to focus on the music and mingle with the slew of fans throughout the massive concert field. Phish gave their all during that show and brought the idea of the “long jam” to life. Never in my 19 years (at that point) had I felt so welcomed and loved by a fan base. Everyone was there to have a good time, and for all we knew with the Y2K hysteria floating around, it was the end of the world. I remember walking back to my site after the now historic performance behind a sleepy wookette who reached a T in the road. She said, “Where do we go now?” She was referring to the route back to her campsite but what she said stuck with me. Where do we go now?
Since then I have marked many holidays with various pilgrimages around the country for concerts. One that sticks in my mind is Blues Traveler at Red Rocks. Popper has played the famed venue every year since 1992, excluding 1999 due to a medical issue. I have made it up to this event three times since moving to Colorado in 2006. I find it’s a combination of great music and the eye candy in the form of fireworks shooting off across the Denver skyline that keeps me coming back. You can literally see every major display from Denver to Castle Rock going off at once. It’s an amazing spectacle.
The past two years, Umphrey’s McGee has jumped on the BT bandwagon by putting on Red Rocks and Blue on July 3rd. I headed up for the second year, which was the first time that UM planned on playing two sets for their headlining slot. The show was much undersold, mainly due to that fact that both Watkins Glen and Electric Forrest were happening across the country, a fact that further bolsters my observation about holiday shows.
Again the 4th added an element of excitement to the crowd, with many attendees donning American flags and various star-laden garbs. The show was solid on paper but at times UM seemed unable to really connect with the crowd. I had a lot of fun, as it was my first photo pass at Red Rocks, which overshadowed my entire show experience.
One other noteworthy Holiday that almost takes the cake for concert going is Halloween. I have seen everyone from Phish and Leftover Salmon to moe. and Euforquestra. Every band takes a different approach. Of course Phish takes on the daunting task of the “musical costume.” I was amazed at Festival 8 to witness them play Exile on Main St. They have performed everything from the Talking Heads to Velvet Underground, but the Rolling Stones set was probably my favorite. It was the pinnacle festival experience of my year and incredibly well executed.
moe. took a different approach in 2003 with their Heavy moe.tal show at the Aragon Ballroom. Playing a mix of covers and originals that added a distinctly metal flair to their sound. Covering Enter Sandman, Godzilla, and Shout at the Devil, they infused their set list with huge songs from all of the heavy metal greats over the last 25 years. In 2002, I witnessed Euforquestra perform a Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory set with the entire band in costume.
Tallman sported the classic Wonka outfit while then keyboardist Eric Quiner wore an Oompa Loompa getup. It was a psychedelic journey that stuck with me after all these years. Not only were the outfits and stage dressing amazing, but also considering they played at the now defunct Green Room which held a little over 240 people, they really pulled out all the stops. And musically, they nailed covers of Pure Imagination and Golden Ticket.
Over the years I will continue to mark my holidays this way. It’s a great way to get together with friends and celebrate the day. It adds a level of enthusiasm and anticipation that is rarely seen when you go out to see a show on Wednesday night. So the next time you think about busting out the BBQ or knocking on strangers’ doors for candy, head on out to show and rock the Holiday in a big way.