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It all started in 1971...
Tear gas and helicopter spotlights shone down amongst the crowd of people, emphasizing the chaos that was unfolding..
The popular and talented band Jethro Tull booked a show to play at an outdoor venue in the Colorado mountains called Red Rocks Amphitheater. This venue was beautiful, but was not legendary at this time.. it was just another medium size venue back then. So, Barry Fey, Jethro Tull's concert promoter decided to book the 10,000 capacity venue, not knowing what was to come.
It's now June 10th in the year 1971 and the "school's out" concert is starting soon!.. Ian Anderson walks out onto the stage, boldy as ever but with tears in his eyes. In fact, all the band members have tears in their eyes. Up on stage amongst Anderson is Jeffery Hammond, Clive Bunker, Martin Barre, John Evan, and Barriemore Barlow (the drummer who is playing only his second show with the Jethro Tull since Clive Bunker's departure.)
Before making it onstage, the band had just charged the gate where the police are blocking it just to get to the stage. The police said "You're not allowed to go back there," but Jethro Tull knew they needed to calm the audience themself. Once they made it to the stage, the policeman stood back, as they realized what needed to happen. Getting to the microphone, Anderson announces that everyone will hear a full set of music! Taking charge of the crowd's attention like an army general in war. He then tells the crowd to wear any articles of clothing over their mouths to breath better and directs parents with small children and babies to visit the impromptu hospital backstage. It is so packed in there, that people begin passing their young children and babies up through the crowd of people to get them away from the chaos.
The band is trying to keep their composure as they look out across the sold-out crowd of 10,000 people, with an extra 2,000 more people forcing their way in. People are mimicking the free admission ambush just like they did at Woodstock almost 3 years ago. Bumrushing and climbing up the backside of Red Rocks to get in, only to be attacked with tear gas and stumble through the war zone of policeman and Jethro Tull fans. Suddenly, Ian Anderson began strumming his guitar and cawed "Welcome to World War Three."
As the band began it's set, chaos remained unfolding across Red Rocks. Fans climbing up the back of the amphitheater, policeman and civilians throwing rocks at one another, tear gas inhibiting people's reflexes, helicopter spotlights shrouding the crowd in spotlights... all resembled a strange war. Quite possibly it acts out the "war" between the United States and rock and roll. During the 60s and 70s, rock and roll was being rejected by the mainstream as they didn't understand it.
After the band's set came to an end, they were able to get away lying down in the back of a station wagon, hidden from the police under blankets. The next day, news of the chaotic event hit the papers.
The aftermath of this concert, was a consequence many would come to hate and appreciate equally. The police chief and mayor of Denver both agreed to allow no more rock concerts play at Red Rocks. Even Fey, Jethro Tull's concert promoter, agreed to hold no more rock concerts there. With word of this rock and roll ban on Red Rocks, other venues in Denver decided to join the ban as well by prohibiting rock and roll shows. This ban lasted shortly until 1975, when Fey decided to sue the city of Denver. The judge ruled in Fey's favor stating to Denver officials: “Who do you think you are, czars? You’re going to tell the people what they should listen to?”
Rock and roll was once again restored to Red Rocks, and Barry Fey's "Summer of Stars" began in 1976, bringing the most fame and recognition to the beautiful outdoor venue. Let's never forget though, the audacity of Barry Fey, the wisdom of the Denver judge, and courage of the legendary band Jethro Tull.. rock and roll heroes.
To hear the entire 80 minute setlist that Jethro Tull played through chaos at Red Rocks in '71, you can click on our Spotify and Google Play playlists below:
Here is a YouTube link to a '82 keyboard solo similar to the one played between the 8th and 10th songs on their '71 Red Rocks setlist: click here
The band Mountain opened for Jethro Tull at this show! This information has been added to the article after a commenter shared their first-hand experience of the event, and we confirmed the opener.
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