There were those seemingly endless summers of my youth that were filled with concerts. Live music under the stars, out in the sun. Colorado Sun Days as they were called. Held in the University of Colorado's football stadium, the each show would start up slowly, building as the crowd would eventually crowd the field to catch the headliner. Fleetwood Mac. The Eagles. Cheap Trick. Boston. These were big deals, but somewhere in that mix I managed to catch a pre-Van Halen Sammy Hagar, Boulder's own Firefall, and Bob Seger doing one of the hardest possible rocking version of "Get Out Of Denver." Not to mention the illustrious set performed by one John "Welcome Back" Sebastian who kept calling out to the crowd "Hey, Denver," even though he was thirty miles away in Boulder.
And these were events that required days of planning and preparation, since we were going to be standing out in the elements from morning until nightfall. As I got a little older, I started bringing something "a little extra" in a Thermos. No need to bring any pot. By showtime, marijuana smoke made up roughly fifty percent of the air available for breathing.
Trips down the road to Red Rocks required similar arrangements. Though the bills were generally smaller, just an opener before the star, the amphitheater's general admission policy required you to show up as early as possible if you wanted to actually see the performers. This is where I earned my Parrothead badge of honor, attending a Jimmy Buffett show there once a summer for as long as I can remember. Which isn't as easy as it sounds, given the necessitation of Margaritas. I saw Steve Martin there. I saw the Blues Brothers. I saw Dire Straits. As a favor to my girlfriend, I took her sister to the Go-Gos. I saw Talking Heads stop making sense. And I saw Bruce Springsteen. That was one of those life-changing moments.
It is here that I would like to pause and reflect for just a moment on the ticket price for that Springsteen show: Thirteen dollars and fifty cents. These were actual tickets. Printed tickets that were torn and the stub was handed back to you so that you could hold onto it and obsess over it for weeks, months and years to come.
Which is what I did.
In 1988, Fiddler's Green Amphitheater opened just south of Denver. With its plastic seats and metropolitan location, the vibe that was once summer concert season shifted to a more refined and, for me, more uptight vision. This was a pre-packaged venue in every sense of the word. It was never as arduous a trek as those to Folsom Field or Red Rocks. This was a family venue. When I left Colorado for northern California in 1992, I was not surprised to find a Fiddler's Green clone perched just above Silicon Valley. They called this Shoreline Amphitheater, even though it was miles from any shore. I saw Jimmy Buffett there. I saw Bruce Springsteen there.
It wasn't the same.