While I have some very artistic and interesting posters from shows I’ve attended over the years, some of my favorite are the most basic. One of these posters would be the crumpled, basic album cover poster for the HEALTH show I caught with my friend Paul in Denver back in 2008. Not only does the poster remind me of the night, but it also symbolizes the chaos that went down in the cramped venue that night. Here’s how I remember it…
Around nine o’clock, north of down town, we found Rhinoceropolis, a tiny art studio in an industrial neighborhood. At the door we paid five dollars to a new wave looking kid who stunk of body odor. Once inside, we discovered we were two of ten in attendance. We sat a while, staring at the empty room, when I finally asked a nearby raver when the bands would start playing. When he told me HEALTH started at 11, I told Paul we should go check out a nearby brewery and then come back. He seemed unsure about my idea, but finally agreed.
Breckenridge Brewery, a well known microbrewery sold nationwide, was located right outside Coors Field, an obvious pre/post game drinking hot spot. Unfortunately, with the All-Star Game in New York that same weekend, the entire baseball district resembled a ghost town. This included the inside of Breckenridge, the biggest brewery we visited yet, and the most empty. We bellied up to the pristine bar and ordered a couple beers, both of which were just as lifeless as the bar scene that night. We both grimaced in pain with each gulp, but continued forcing down the putrid brew. It irritated me to think their horrid concoctions were sold nationwide while amazing breweries like Madison River remained relatively unknown.
After taking our daily dose of poison, we hurried back to Rhinoceropolis. When we returned, we found the art studio now packed wall to wall with skinny hipsters, mostly teenagers nodding their heads hypnotically to some noise/metal/art band. In the cramped room, the heat and humidity enveloped us. Realizing I wouldn’t survive long, I ran out to the car quick to grab a bottled water to bring back in with me. I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble; most people inside brought their own beer. The atmosphere reminded me a lot of little punk rock shows my friends and I used to attend in high school. Some kid named Jake from Fairmont, Minnesota would somehow get punk bands to play at his house to a bunch of unsupervised teenagers.
Back inside, I listened to the end of some disco/crap band, and then made my way toward the front of the stage to await HEALTH. The band came out and set up their gear quickly. It amazes me how a little band like HEALTH can set up their gear in mere minutes, while national stadium touring bands, with roadies and all, take over an hour to prep for a band.
When the band burst into their first song, “Heaven”, the crowd of teens instantly exploded into a mass of shoving, squishing, and sweating, all combining into a cluster-fuck of mass confusion. Before I knew it, Paul had disappeared and I was alone up front, fending for myself as the bounding drums toked the flames of fury in the audience. Chaos. It’s the only word to describe what I found myself caught up in – and I loved every minute of it.
Soon the mass of swinging arms and falling bodies pushed toward the stage; equipment fell, yet the band went on. Something in HEALTH’s music brings out the tribal Neanderthal in me, and obviously others. There is nothing quite like a little bit of the ultra-violence. As skinny teens flew toward me, I’d raise my elbow and watch them bounce off like a pinball. My mind began to conjure up images of King Kong throwing planes like bugs effortlessly in every direction.
The songs continued pushing us forward, even when our energy waned. I kept wiping the perspiration off my bald head, trying to avoid the inevitable dripping of sweat into my eyes. At one point I looked down at my hands to find my fingers pruned like I had just spent the day at the swimming pool. I felt like fainting from exhaustion, yet couldn’t stop moving to the magnetic music. I soon found I wasn’t alone in my fatigue from the heat when a little hippie girl in front of me ripped her shirt off (no bra) and continued enjoying the music. This wasn’t your usual rock concert “flash” for attention. This was a girl who was feeling hot and found a solution. I commend her for her ingenuity.
The band finally brought a close to their passionate performance. I turned around in search of Paul, but he came running to me first. When he approached I said, “Great show, eh?”
He began tugging at my shirt, “Dude….we have to get out of here…” With Paul, it’s never a good sign when he rushes up and tells you that you have to leave. We speed walked out the door and down the sidewalk; the entire way Paul glanced nervously back to see if some mystery hipster gang was chasing us. Instead of being worried, I became excited knowing another great Paul story awaited me in the car. We hopped inside the Element and he egged me on, “Go, Go, Go!”
Once blocks away from the Rhinoceropolis, Paul began giggling about what had went down inside, and then commenced telling his tale. When the crowd got crazy, Paul made an exit to the back where he could see the band without worrying about flying elbows. While watching the powerful performance, some schmo unexpectedly jumped on his shoulders, attempting to crowd surf, but in the process, aggravating Paul’s past wrestling injury. This transformed Paul from a calm relaxed guy into an angry monster reminiscent of the Incredible Hulk (I’m sure the booming music also had something to do with the building anger).
When the same back jumper tried moshing into Paul moments later, throwing his elbow into Paul’s sternum, Hulk Paul reacted quickly, pulling back on the guys shoulder and laying down a hard right cross into his face. The back jumper rolled to the ground and Paul retreated to a different section of the club to reconvene his viewing of the show without any troubles. Five minutes later a few other guys approached Paul.
“Where you from man?” the kid up front asked.
“Nebraska,” Paul responded, with his Hulkian anger seething just beneath the surface.
“It’s not a good idea to start fights when you’re not from…” and just as he was about to spit out his threat, Hulk returned, pulling the kids legs up in a double leg takedown and raising his fist in a sign that he would strike if necessary.
“Sorry dude! I don’t have a problem man! Was just wondering!”
Paul jumped off him and quickly disappeared into the crowd, hoping to be able to watch the last bit of the show in peace. Of course, this didn’t happen. He found himself standing next to a skinny raver wearing a bright green sequenced hat.
As HEALTH played their loud, grinding music, this kid performed boy band-esque dance moves, spinning and performing arm gestures. He kept looking back at Paul and others, in hopes they were enjoying his dance recital. Paul wasn’t. When the kid performed his third spin/hat grab/pose, Hulk Paul reached forward and pushed the raver’s face in disgust. This occurred right about the time the last song came to a close, at which point Paul searched me out to escape the legions of hipsters in search of revenge.
With Paul’s story finished, we neared Parker where we were going to stay one more night. We both laughed at our crazy evening, one more chapter in our summer adventure. I thought about how earlier I yearned to escape Malcolm’s place to exert my pent up energy, and the HEALTH show provided the perfect avenue for the unbridled bedlam I had been searching for.