Saturday, January 03, 2009

Day 4 in Colorado

~ We checked out of our hotel in Westminster, drove to Boulder to pick up my friend, and got on the road.
~ We stopped in Breckenridge so the friend could get her hair cut; her hair dresser moved from Boulder to Breckenridge not too long ago, and this all-important primping session was scheduled weeks ago. While that was happening, the youngin and I walked around, had lunch at a teensy tiny pizzeria, and stopped into a shop so she could buy a T-shirt she'd spotted from the car window on the way into town. It reads "Dude, I think this whole town is high! Breckenridge, altitude 9,600." Funny.

~ We slipped and slided our way back to the car, and tried to find a Starbucks on the way so the driver could get her caffeine fix, but we didn't have much luck. When we found that the S'bux in Glenwood Springs' Safeway sported a broken espresso machine, we gave up hope; surely there would be a place to sate our cravings in Aspen.
~ There was, but not until tomorrow morning...
~ Meanwhile, the drive to Aspen was gorgeous. Not only are the views phenomenal (I know, I'm full of mammoth adjectives and convenient superlatives, but if the shoe fits...), but the weather was perfect for travel: dry, sunny and still.

~ After trying to find a place to park the car outside our hotel (the roads were narrow, parking is on-street, and the snow plow had left pretty large berms), we were assisted inside by a friendly, chatty hotel staffer who was very interested in going to one of the shows we effused about. (A convert? Perhaps; I never did see him at the Belly Up, but then, I was certainly distracted.)
~ The hotel is really beautiful, two-and-a-half blocks from the Belly Up, all restaurants, Starbucks (!!) and the base of Ajax Mountain. So convenient; the weekend felt like a cruise, in that you could party all night and schlep back to your room with no worry of car keys and DUI check points. Well, this wasn't exactly that kind of weekend, but I thought it worth mentioning for those of you planning a ski trip. Enjoy. ;)

~ Wash, dress, primp, loudly sing along to BHTM, excitedly dance around the room, take a final five (or ten) looks in the mirror, stop for an "ooh I forgot my scarf", and out the door we went to dinner at Little Annie's, which we'd heard and read many good things about. Our cheeseburger, BBQ chicken and grilled turkey sandwich were all great, especially since they were all accompanied by lumpy, peppery mashed potatoes of a divine nature. The woman who runs the front of the house (owner?) moved like a NYC diner hostess but had the personality of a Midwesterner: perfect. The place is cramped, bustling and affordable, and our booth in the front window was chilly but cozy. Note to self: Go back, if only for the mashed potatoes and the Tootsie Roll Midgies (or are they Minis? I'm never sure which are which.) that come with the check.
~ The Belly Up was only a couple blocks from the restaurant, it wasn't bitter cold, and the town is a storybook fantasy, so the walk to the show was enjoyable.
~ The venue is tiny but beautiful, the sound and lighting were great, the coat check not only exists but is free (wow), and the audience is permitted to stand right up against the stage. I'm unsure how the band feels about it (they didn't seem to mind us being right up in their faces), but I know we all were crazy for the set up. It's the best place I've seen a concert yet, and I've seen many.
~ The doors opened an hour before the show started, and we got there just a few minutes after doors for fear of a cramped space and no spots near the boys. But it worked out great. Everyone was watching college football and nursing their adult beverages while waiting for the show to start; there's a large, roll-up movie screen rigged in front of the stage, and it wasn't lifted until just a moment or two before the guys came on stage. But our group of six or so waited by the corner of the stage, chatting and taking turns refilling our water cups and emptying our bladders, until the screen was rolled up. Then we quickly scooted into position (with me dead center at Todd's toes, naturally), while everyone else jostled in behind us.

~ The show was perfect. Here's what I posted on the BHTM boards.

Last night's show was incredible, just incredible. The energy was crazy - both the guys' and the audience's. The set list featured a nice mix of old and new, including some great surprises, like a horn section and Clapton's "Forever Man". This was a BHTM show as I know and love them - outstanding!

Cherries on top: the venue is great (with a capacity of only 400 or so), the stage itself is pretty tiny so all the guys were within view, we were so close that my water bottle was on the stage at Todd's feet, and this was my teenage cousin's first show and she's officially hooked (Yay!). She's crossing her fingers that she gets to meet the boys tonight.

What was actually played varied a tad from the set list taped at Todd's feet; for instance, "Stategem" was on the list but wasn't played, and "Boom Boom" wasn't planned but made it into the encore. Here's the set list I jotted down over the course of the night:

Broken Hearted Savior
All the Love You Need
City on Fire
Resignation Superman
Again and Again
I'll Play the Blues For You
Fortune Teller
Dirty Juice
Under a Silvery Moon
In the Morning
Forever Man
These Days Without You
Dinner With Ivan
Please Don't Tell Her
Wishing Well
Spanish Highway
Kensington Line
Beautiful Rain
Encore: Conquistador, Boom Boom, Her Own Kinda Woman

~ After the show, we walked around town, trying to figure where to go; that chatty hotel staffer had suggested a locals' bar called Zane's but it was too close to last call to make the trek over. We ended up making it nowhere, wandering in circles and giggling our heads off. It's that giddiness that comes only from a stellar BHTM show. We eventually walked off some of our natural high and stumbled back to bed, where we lay talking for hours.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Days 2 and 3 in Colorado

My efforts at creating maximum mountain/music/metro time have minimized my wifi time. So this update will be abbreviated. (And please excuse any typos; it is about 4 a.m. eastern time, after all.)

Day 2
~ Drove deep into suburbs at the foot of the mountains, just poking around.
~ Picked up a quick lunch and another bottle of water. I can't seem to get enough water these days - cotton mouth and dry eyes!
~ Made my way over to downtown Denver to see where the Ogden Theatre and The Irish Snug are located. Noticed the city, especially along Colfax, is teeming with interesting signs; I'll post some pix later.
~ Went into REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.) in the city. It's an outdoor-equipment store in what looks like a huge, old brick warehouse (could be a new building for all I know), with a rock climbing wall about three stories tall and enough snowboards, fleece hoodies and mountain bikes to outfit the entire city, methinks. Pretty cool. Sadly, I bought nothing; no immediate need and no room in the suitcase.

~ Rode with a friend to our hotel in Denver, checked in, and ogled the dozens of Widespread Panic fans drinking cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon and noshing Skittles in the lobby, elevators and halls (the band played the Pepsi Center on 12/30 and 12/31, so the city was oozing hippies).
~ After some primping, we met more friends in the hotel lobby and drove over to the Irish Snug for dinner and a beer. It has the feel of a true Irish pub in a northern city (Manhattan or Boston), with wooden walls, all Guinness products on tap, and stuffed full of Christmas flocking, New Year's Eve decorations and local revelers. Unfortunately, we didn't find the folks we were hoping to meet up with until after we'd paid our tab; so we stayed for another beer, then walked the two blocks over to the Ogden.
~ Doors were slated for 8:30, show at 9:30, so we didn't expect much of a line at 8. We were mistaken. There were easily 50 people there ahead of us and security got a bit pushy with everyone at one point (wanting us to reform our queue across the street, but none of us budged for fear of losing our place), but we still staked our claim on a nice piece of real estate at the railing in front of Todd's mic. Perfect!
~ The band had announced that they'd play two 90-minute sets, but it turned out to be one hour-long set, followed by a 30-minute intermission and another two-hour set. My favorite Led Zeppelin song, Tangerine, was interrupted by the stroke of midnight, but we didn't care. Todd seemed awfully eager to end 2008 and start a fresh new year; we all agreed and toasted 2009 along with him, thanks to the champagne the band gave to the lucky front-rowers. Cheers! (More/better pix to come...)

~ All in all, BHTM played more old stuff than new, along with a few favorite covers (James Brown, Johnny Cash, Zeppelin), and were accompanied by a two-man horn section in parts. I got two full beers (cheap, stinky, sticky beers) down the back of my silk blouse, but I (almost) didn't notice, because the music was great and the boys were as adorable as ever. Sadly, my request was, for the first time in 16+ years, not played, but I think this weekend's shows in Aspen will be even better than yesterday's. Can't wait!!
~ Here's what I posted on the BHTM boards.

NYE was really fun! It was great to meet some of you folks I've been chatting with here for the last year or so; thanks for being nice! The set list was very cool, with lots of older stuff, which is just fine by me. And I agree, 422phos, that Todd's hair looks great short; and he seemed eager to shake off 2008 and start a fresh year. My view was great (though I wasn't able to get very many good photos), I had wonderful people all around me (including some new friends!), and it was a great way to ring in the new year.

Here's the set list I jotted down throughout the evening:
Turn the Light Out
Love Transmission
Come On
Please Don’t Tell Her
How Easy
Runaway Train
Heart of Wilderness (Todd rocked it so hard he broke a string)
Angela Dangerlove
Blue Sky


Midnight Radio
I’ll Play the Blues For You (with horns)
Freedom Fighter
Fortune Teller
Spanish Highway
Mona Lisa
Cruel Fate
Tangerine (interrupted by the stroke of midnight)
Auld Lang Sine
James Brown Medley
All the Love You Need
Ever Since You Pulled Me Under
Her Own Kinda Woman (with horns)
Conquistador (with horns)
Boom Boom (with horns)

Encore: Beautiful Rain, Broken Hearted Savior, Folsom Prison Blues
(By the way, who threw their panties on stage during the show? Come on, fess up!)

~ For now, we walked several blocks back to our hotel, and after a hot shower and second look at the city view, I sunk deeply into my cozy bed.

Day 3
~ After some shuffling of cars and a trek to the airport, I dropped off some friends at the terminal and then headed inside to collect my lil' cousin. Yay! (Note: Picking up an "unaccompanied minor" at the airport isn't convenient; plan into your schedule at least 30 minutes more than you think you should.)
~ The kid and I made a beeline for Morrison; I couldn't show her Red Rocks quickly enough. But, I suppose hunger gave us enough pause, because we stopped for a Mexican lunch at Morrison Inn; we chose not to partake of their (in?)famous margaritas, being as it was too early in the day for me and she's, ya know, only 14 years old. Small details. :)
~ After rolling ourselves out of the restaurant, we walked around town a bit, took photos, went into a new-agey-type store (you know the kind: reeking of incense and selling many hand-knit anoraks, but cute nonetheless). A few other places looked quaint but were closed, and we weren't really in the mood to shop. Give us fresh air and sunshine!

~ On the way to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, I regaled her with my "huffed and puffed all the way up the stairs" story from my Tuesday visit to the park, and she laughed at her old, sad cousin. Yeah, well, she laughed even harder when, after ambitiously heading down to see the view from the stage, we had to make the trek back up in increments, conquering 20 or so steps at a time. Her panting and grunting made me feel a tad better about my own physical fitness; it seems working out four times a week at 13 feet above sea level does not adequately prepare one for a few flights of stairs at 6,200 feet. ;)

~ We spent a few hours driving around Denver, and I showed her Invesco Field, the Ogden and Fillmore, the funny signs on Colfax. We stopped into Twist & Shout record shop for some used CDs and to take a gander at the posters and other artifacts on the walls, including items from both Big Head Todd and Kiss (For a prize, can you correctly match each cousin with her favorite band?). The adjacent Tattered Cover closed pretty early and we missed out, which was disappointing for us book buffs. On our way to dinner, we stopped for photos at the state capitol and the city/county building, which is beautifully decked out for the holidays.

~ Later, we walked down the 16th Street Mall, had dinner at the Rialto Cafe (nice but casual), and checked into our hotel for the night. Tomorrow will be a big day: a drive up to Boulder to meet a friend, then back on the road to Aspen, with a pit stop in Breckenridge for lunch. Oh, and don't forget the Big Head Todd show at the Belly Up tomorrow night - the kid's first!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 1 in Colorado

After two peaceful flights from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta and Atlanta to Denver, I picked up my silver Dodge Caliber (cute, large trunk, and pretty good clearance for a compact) and set off.

I made my way through the eastern and southern suburbs, oohing and ahhing over the view of the Rockies at every turn. Once I made my way to Morrison, I spent a couple hours at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. It's probably the most magnificent thing I've ever seen; photos (even those better than mine) could not do it justice. It's overwhelmingly mammoth and gorgeous. The air is pretty thin at 6,200 feet, so the other tourists and I were so winded that we had to stop every few steps while walking up the amphitheatre; the local joggers, most of whom were accompanied by their large dogs, didn't seemed fazed at all. But by the time I left, I was completely exhausted. After trekking around the park, you can rest your lungs and quads by walking through the visitor's center, where they have on display concert posters, signed guitars and other memorabilia from bands that have played there through the years (Big Head Todd included, of course).

Not too exhausted to head north to historic Golden, which has a western flair (possibly manufactured, but cute nonetheless). This town is also seated right at the foot of the Rockies, so the land is hilly and the views are great. (It's worth mentioning that the sun seems much bigger here in Colorado than at home, not to mention stronger and brighter; I suppose that's because I'm a mile closer to it! :P Anyway, this seems to have created a hazy effect in most of the photos I took today.) The town is adorable, it's full of bronze sculptures, and the creek is populated by what look like Canadian geese; oh, and it has an indy bookstore. Yeah! The Coors Brewery was closed for tours today for some reason, so no free sample for me; ho hum.

I checked into my hotel, took a power nap, and went for dinner at a local brewery called Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. It's a pretty cool place, full of TVs showing college ball games, a very nice cobb salad; their homemade Red Rocks Red was creamy (if you like Smithwick's, you'd dig this for sure). Nice touch: You can see the big beer kettles (is that what they're called?) from the street through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

I capped the night off with a decaf by the (faux) fire at Caribou Coffee. Now I'm going to bed, if I can - seems some of the folks in my building are fond of screaming, running up and down the halls and slamming doors. I need my rest, right? Tomorrow will be a long day, what with the Big Head Todd and the Monsters New Year's Eve show and all. :D