Between the Headphones of the Publisher


I wonder how this whole tarp thing is going to go over at Red Rocks.

In case you hadn’t heard, in mid-June the City of Denver’s Arts & Venues division, which owns and operates Red Rocks Amphitheatre, put out an announcement that tarps have been added to the list of items that are not permitted at concerts. The release said that tarps are personal property and that personal property can not be used to save seats.

Bringing a tarp has been a tradition at Red Rocks for years. Groups of friends coordinate and pick their ringer to leave the lot early, set up camp at the entrances and haul ass into a prime spot the moment the gates open.

It seems a benign enough practice, but lately the tarp situation has gotten out of hand on multiple levels. Some folks treat their tarp as their own real estate and are often nasty when someone invades their “land” — even when they’ve packed way too many friends of their own into a small space.

On the other hand, certain shows just beg for floaters, who could give a damn about intruding on someone else’s personal space. “Your two dozen friends are crammed onto that tarp fit for six people? Well my five friends and I are gonna bust in on that.”

A soldout concert is a fucking turf war, and the City just took one of the weapons of mass  destruction out of the arsenal. But that decision could cause some problems too, because the tarp is just the symbol.

The real problem is that people don’t know when to step down and be courteous. Festivals have used the tarp method for years with little problem. Certain festivals even encourage p­eople to share their tarp, and allow floaters to occupy a vacant tarp with respect until its residents return. But for some idiotic reason, people can’t handle that at Red Rocks.

You’ll always have the tarp owner who won’t allow a stray toe in his area, and you’ll always have the guy (or group) trying to get up close.

Personally, I think tarps work. What doesn’t work are discourteous people. Tarps or not: You lined up early and got a good spot in front of the sound board? Good for you! Now, don’t be an ass, just because you have the sweet spot. If someone wants to move up for a bit and hear a few tunes welcome them. And don’t pack it so full with all your “friends” that people can’t get through. And damn it, floaters, don’t show up with a whole gang and take over the space. Don’t suddenly act like it’s yours. Do what your mother taught you, share and be polite. And if you or someone in your crowd is too fucked up that you don’t understand personal space, then don’t bring your raggedy ass up front and fall all over those who cooked in the sun to get the spot.

Have a little bit of respect all around and everyone’s show will be better off for it.

See you at the shows.



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1 Comment

  1. John J. Wood on

    Brian, some good “food for thought”. After the very fine WSP Red Rocks run, we compensated by using Indian Blankets and saving one spot per person who came in.

    To be forward, when it comes to Red Rocks, I am all for the tarp ban! Prior to this year, I had numerous episodes with rude idiots who claimed the space that we had saved was their, to the point that it almost evolved to a physical altercation — which is NOT what live music is about. It got to the point this asshole complained to security THREE times, and on the third attempt, security said, “If I have to come over again, you [the asshole] will be asked to leave.”

    It comes down to selfishness, plain and simple,

    Especially when a rock concert environment is significantly different from a Planet Bluegrass festival environment, THAT is where the difference lies, IMHO, Brian. I’ve shared my tarp with many a squatter, and have done vice versa as well; and it’s a great way to meet and share the experience with like-minded others.

    But this space-grabbing thing goes well back to the days of the Grateful Dead. I’ll never forget my single GD New Year’s Eve run (1989), where people were taping off ENTIRE ROWS in a given section; which elicited a lame rank-drawing vibe. Too often, I would see seat-scammers, and there were times I was guilty of that as well; but saving so many seats is just plain ridiculous.

    (On a side note, on the third of the four nights, a person asked me to leave when I was at the end of the row, and I replied in anger, “MOVE me!!” I should not have to do that at ANY show of any kind, period.)

    BTW, this does not just happen at WSP either. At YSMB’s first headlining concert, I had set my tarp in the 13th row, 25 seats in. IT started raining hard and I retreated to a nearby planter until the rain stopped. When I returned, some asshole moved my tarp to the end of the row. Nobody in the spot I was at, of course, fessed up; but that was 100% pure bullshit! I”m sorry to say that is typical of the “new” fans YMSB has gained in their past 5-7 years, but that’s another topic in itself.

    At this point, you want a good seat to a GA show? Get there early and EARN it!