(Photo credit: Don Senia Murray)
Barry Fey, the legendary Denver based concert promoter, was a trailblazer in the evolution of live Rock n’Roll. He didn’t just break the trail – he paved the road too – even put vehicles on it and gave them direction. His eye for talent and ability to pitch his product were unequaled.
I thought about this last month as I was on my way to pick him up and drive him to Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Barry had agreed to meet Ireland’s Ambassador Michael Collins and his entourage at the famous site of the historic Rock video “Under A Blood Red Sky.” The video and accompanying album helped propel Irish Rock band U2 to stardom as one of the most popular band in the world.
Barry’s just released book “Backstage Past” gives the behind-the-scenes account of that event and his early relationship with Bono and the gang. It’s full of his first hand accounts of his 30 years growing and cultivating the live concert business and becoming one of the top promoters on the planet. As one would expect from Barry, no punches are pulled. He talks about the Rock Stars, agents, promoters that he liked or hated. You should buy this book – I’m not shilling for Barry, I’m just doing a favor to our readers who, like me, have an interest in the history of Denver, Rock n’ Roll, and the music business.
Standing in the middle of the parking lot was Barry, wearing his standard shorts and tennis shoes. I smiled at the iconic figure, still recognizable to so many Colorado concert goers from over the years. For the benefit of the Irish dignitaries he added a U2 shirt from UABRS and a tuxedo top coat to his ensemble. (He was invited to the White House by President Clinton and also wore shorts!)
As we drove to Red Rocks his cell phone was ringing almost non-stop. Often it was Phil Lobel, former Student Program Council Director from CU Boulder, concert promoter, and now a publicist in L.A. They were trying to salvage a recent interview Barry did for a London newspaper. Barry gave a candid negative opinion about Mick Jagger’s (Rolling Stone) wife Bianca and she threatened to sue that paper if the story was published. Not backing down, Barry wondered where he could send the story were it could be published.
I broke a rare moment of silence and told Barry how excited I was to go up to the Rocks.
During my school years I worked as a ‘grunt-out-front’ at Barry’s shows and have so many great memories. It is a very special place for me and I still get an adrenalin rush when I enter the place. Expecting Barry to share my sentiment in-kind, I was surprised that he replied just the opposite – He told me that after doing over 960 plus shows on the Rocks, they did not have of an effect on him.
However, by the time we left we both knew otherwise.
Steve Eisenstein, Manager of Events form City of Denver, (also a former security/event staff grunt) was gracious enough to meet us at the tourist center at the top of Red Rocks.
When the Ambassador and entourage arrived Barry showed them around up top, followed by a tour with Steve into the center. Barry and I stayed up by the front door. I told him a few of my Red Rocks memories but mostly I listened – I did not want to miss a word that he had to say. There were some laughs, but also a lot of bitching and head scratching about the nature of the concert business post Barry. But you can get some bits and pieces about that in his book.
After the walk-through of the tourist center, we all drove down behind Red Rocks to the backstage. As we neared backstage Barry became increasingly sentimental – talking about how good Denver had been to him.
The backstage door was unlocked along with Barry’s memories of the glory days and everyone enjoyed the questions and answers that ensued.
From the backstage area we walked onto the stage and took in the awesome view looking up across the seats to the towering Red Rocks. I turned to check on Barry who was the last one to enter. He slowly shook his head and said, “This is an amazing place.” As he got closer I could see tears running from his eyes.
Among all of his attributes as a promoter, Barry was also known for his “management by intimidation” style and gruff exterior. I’ve seen screaming in anger as well as smile at a successful concert. But this show of emotion was the highlight of that day for me.
Almost on cue came what I’m sure was Barry’s highlight of the day.
From up on top of Red Rocks came a loud shout “BARRY! BARRY FAY!” One of his thousands of his appreciative fans just happened to look down and see the historic Colorado figure on stage. Barry will tell you about all of the stars and famous people he knows, but the most important to him are his legions of appreciative live music fans.
“Backstage Past” is published by Richard Wolfe, Lone Wolfe Publishing, and the hardcover is priced $24.94, with a jacket that unfolds into a poster of vintage backstage passes. Sample pages can be viewed on buythisbook.net.
Independent bookstores such as
Pat McCullough, Celtic Events/Celtic Connection