September: Super Rocky Mountain High

Reno Reprisal
All good things came to an end right around Labor Day. And labor we did as it was all hands on deck for the breakdown (aka strike) at two different camps. Whether that meant decapitating an art car or tearing down kitchens and tents and disposing of sludge water, it’s always a trying time after so much fun being had. Back in Reno it meant gathering whatever remains were still useful and washing all the playa dust off them for the remainder of the trip. Or in this case, just fixing a broke phone. Did I leave out the “mooping” of our space as to “leave no trace” on the Playa?

Denver Re-deux
The first go round was a bit rushed to really get a handle on what Denver was about. This time though, I got to explore around the city a bit more with one particular goal in mind – to see Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks. But it was also a first chance I had to check in with clients and such as I’d been having way too much fun of late. But once those two days were complete, we got a chance to buy some tickets to the show and then make an attempt at getting my phone fixed while uploading at least a few select photos and videos onto Facebook from these past 2 weeks.

After one less than desirable hostel experience, I checked out and into another. Very centrally located was the “Fish Hostel” about 2 blocks from Coors Field in downtown Denver. It was here that I first met David Carson Bello, a guitarist from a heavy metal band and instantly became friends. Notably that evening included an open mic night in which he performmed as I recorded and broadcast live over Radio Alchemy from the hostel bar. Near my final couple of days as we stalked several pawn shops for guitars, I opened a magazine to an advertisement for the Terrapin Cannibis dispensary in Boulder. This was my Alchemy moment as it confirmed that I was to meet DJ Godlazer which was already on my agenda. And so I caught a bus to Boulder, punched in Terrapin on my GPS and walked thru University of Colorado campus to where he worked. Very similar to what I experienced last year in Seattle, but this time I got a scent of the many varieties and a course on what was available within the dispensary. The real treat though would come after his day was done as I was taken to the very top of Mount Boulder at 10 PM on a full moon night by motorbike. A truly exceptional experience and a perfect way to capture the view from atop of this beautiful mountain.

Red Rocks Amphitheater
I’d already had some idea that Red Rocks was THE Premier Concert Venue beforehand from watching U2’s video “Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky”. But to be there in person was for me no different that seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I had planned to go there if I were in Colorado regardless. Nine Inch Nails made the decision a bit easier as they were playing two shows on September 18 & 19. I chose the earlier date since I would be leaving too soon after the show on the 19th to really stay focussed. I had already booked a nice Air BnB for that night and got to rest a bit before taking an Uber to the show. The magnificence of this place was immediately apparent. Similar to a miniature Grand Canyon with a large stage and about 10,000 seats and an indoor theater and museum which I wished I could’ve spent more time. As it was, I felt fortunate to be able to enter this monumental space of beauty. My phone had finally given out before I could snap my last photo and before I could show my ‘Flash Seats” ticket to the woman at the gate. Fortunately, I was told earlier that they could scan the Credit Card I used to purchase the ticket with. Out printed a ticket with my name above “Nine Inch Nails”… my favorite souvenir to take home from this majestic evening.

Nine Inch Nails
I’d seen NIN once before during their prime around when “The Downward Spiral” came out in 1994. It is known as my favorite weekend in Hawaii as the night before “Depeche Mode” had played at the Bleisdell Arena and were already well established as a Synth band with a darker edge. Depeche had also played a second show that Saturday across town in Honolulu and it was not until 3 AM at a nightclub called the After Dark that Trent Reznor and NIN took to the stage. One of the edgiest performances ever seen to date. Reznor had to allow Depeche to finish their show to make an appearance at his own. When they finally did go on, the entire warehouse erupted into a frenzy. A whirlpool of people that were already tensed up from waiting so long became a human cyclone. I would later also see Depeche Mode at the beach on the sands of the Kohala Hilton the next day two towels down.

Fast forward to 24 years later and a similar anticipation of finally getting to this venue at this moment. I was already riding a high from two weeks at Burningman and knew I was approaching the end of this expedition in Colorado. Could there be a higher note to go out on? NIN is not intended as a pop band. They (he) only became popular because he was so damn good that they were immediately invited as a main act at Lollapolooza in its early days. It’s music would be recognized for its biting lyrics and shredding of familiar pretensions commonly found in the pop culture. Though Reznor along with Atticus Ross would produce the soundtrack to the movie “Social Network” which was ranked by many as the best Film of 2010 certainly for its relevance to the Facebook phenomenon but also because of how the film effectively used the soundtrack.

Also of note, Johnny Cash would also cover his song “Hurt” on his 87th album of his enormous career. (Also of note he did coincidentally cover Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” on the same record). Not surprising that “Hurt” would be the final song of the last encore for both NIN shows at Red Rocks. The light show was incredible. The sound was perfect. His supporting band amazing. Even the opening act “The Jesus and the Mary Chain” were quite appropriate to set up the night.

It couldn’t be summed up in a few sentences to how important it was for me to see this particular show. Even my seat was placed next to a Chemist from upstate NY who had seen them 10 times before, several at Red Rocks as he was now transplanted in Colorado. I gave him my card for the radio station afterwards and hoped that one day he’ll tune in.

Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug” September 18th at Red Rocks

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor admitted that he was initially “flattered” but worried that “the idea of Cash covering ‘Hurt’ sounded a bit gimmicky,” but when he heard the song and saw the video for the first time, Reznor said he was deeply moved and found Cash’s cover beautiful and meaningful, going as far as to say “that song isn’t mine anymore.”

Return to Allentown
Allentown, PA was my home for 23 years. It was where I graduated both High School and College and worked full time. It was also where I volunteered time as a DJ at both WDFM in State College (Penn State) and WMUH, Allentown. It really set the stage for what was to come for the next 35 years. It’s always a pleasure to return to as I have family and a friend who I share the common interest with and is now host to Liber Limbia every Saturday from 2 to 6 PM Hawaii Time. It’s a space I like to return to as it gives some reference point to all that has happened since leaving in 1983. Because of all that has happened in Hawaii this past year, it takes on a role that I had not expected: A place of refuge and solace. But it also is a place where I can now resume my connection with Hawaii since I can now broadcast from this remote location 6000 miles away.