Sunday, March 15, 2009

Albuquerque Civic Auditorium: A Response to Vance's Concert Post

I was originally going to just post this as a comment to Vance's post about concerts, but it really drifts into the realm of Moonpie Chronicle material.
I saw Motley Crue about 4 years ago and was up pretty close -- in a private box at Journal Pavilion. Any concert venue with a corporate sponsorship must be automatically disqualified for this discussion, even though I had VIP passes courtesy of the corporate sponsor. There were a shitload of girls who treated the show like it was festival seating in order to be able to flash the boys in the band.

But, yeah, I know what Vance means when he's talking about going to a concert. I think the old Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque was one of the best venues for that sort of thing. I saw my first concert there (Seals and Crofts). One of the last ones there was The Pretenders (original lineup) in the early 80s. Totally awesome. Wikipedia says:
Albuquerque Civic Auditorium was an indoor arena located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With a capacity of 6,000. The auditorium was notable for its innovative construction, as the dome was created by pouring concrete over sand. Afterwards, the hill of sand was removed. The venue opened on April 27, 1957, with the Albuquerque Civic Symphony playing the opening night. The Albuquerque Civic Auditorium was demolished in 1987.
If you've not started the music player above, do it now. It's an entire set of the Grateful Dead live at Albuquerque Civic Auditorium on November 17, 1971. No, we weren't there, but it just reflects the spirit of the times. The poster at the top is from when Hendrix played the civic in 1970. Zeppelin played it a year earlier.

The best concert I saw there, and one that is probably tied for best ever (with Queen in Seattle, and Crosby Stills and Nash at Tingley Coliseum) was the night Vance and I went to see Brewer & Shipley (of One Toke Over The Line fame), Arlo Guthrie, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (before they became a mediocre country act.) This was in the spring of 1976. I was on crutches, my leg in a cast from a hiking fall. There was this fellow there who took me under his wing (because he'd had a brother who had a bad leg or something). Anyway, he bought us beer and shared his weed. It was awesome. I remember Arlo singing "The Story of Reuben Clamzo & His Strange Daughter in the Key of A." The audience was singing the refrain, which was "Clamzo me boys Clamzo." (Yeah, whatever. For the entire lyrics, go to Anyway, it was just such an awesome evening, and the buzz was just right. I remember looking over to Vance and sharing this total look of "This is the absolute shits" Big old possum-eating grins pasted across our mugs.

We had to leave shortly after NGDB started their set. It occurs to me now that one of us was not supposed to be there. I’m thinking it was me, because The Jacqueline was the one who came and picked us up.

To me, the destruction of the Civic was some kind of an end of an era that, I'm sure, every generation encounters. The place hadn't run a concert in years, having been purchased by St. Joseph's hospital, who viewed it as prime parking space. Still, there was just something about that place, about being there in that atmosphere that gave you some kind of hope for your future. Like maybe this was what you'd do for the rest of your life—which at the time seemed like a pretty cool idea. I guess it still does. Who could complain about being in a dark place with 6,000 like-minded individuals, listening to—and singing along with—some of your favorite musicians, all the while drinking cups of beer and smoking dope. Sure, that may not be what life is all about, but if you could somehow do that the rest of your life, would it be all that bad.

And, you know, I guess in the end, the demolition of the Civic really did signal the end of an era. Not long after the auditorium fell to the earth,, an exotic, erotic dancer went and led me to Jesus; A true story, but one for another day.


  1. "I shed a silent tear as I watched the 'Sands" go down in Vegas."-Wayne Newton

    Rick and Wayne shared a similar experience knowing that a end of an era had come, no matter the venue.

    The Civic was the place to be at concert time. It was big enough to bring the acts and small enough to stand just the other side of a wooden barricade, 5 feet from the cops and blow a doobie. The police would just smile and Rick and I would smile back in a way that is long forgotten between the law and heads. It was a gentler time and more peaceful. We went to Seals and Crofts for crying out loud! I went to that concert with Ben and they were searching at the door. Ben yelled, "hey, this is a peaceful crowd." But as we passed the 50 gallon drums at the front door, they were filled to the brim with beer and wine bottles, peace man. I had my Kodak Instamatic at the Arlo concert and took several photos. Rick was cruising around with his new companion and I followed behind in case Ricks crutch spun out or something. We did, we had a blast that night, even with a parent coming to give us a ride home, thanks mom. The civic is were the crowd got tear-gassed at a Grand Funk concert because about 100 people rushed the entrance with no tickets. So, instead of letting it be (the official statement was that too many people were in the Civic and that exceeded the fire code.) I know, let's throw in tear-gas and cause a stampede! I saw Black Oak Arkansas there with Martin. I had to borrow the money from Martin and we got there with only about 30 minutes left in the concert, but I 'HAD TO BE THERE! Shit man, Ruby Starr and Jim Dandy were back-to-back belting out the jams and Ruby was throwing black roses into the crowd, I had mine for three years. I could go on for an hour, I'm going to go light up a cig. and just reflect for awhile. Later.

  2. You and I saw Black Oak there as well. Must have been during high school when you were seeing that little blond chick whose name escaped me three minutes after I was introduced.

  3. Little blond chick.....hummm, the name escapes me as well. I'm sure the three of us had fun.....didn't we.

  4. I stumbled on your blog as I was telling a friend about how I stole a brick when they tore down the Civic Auditorium. It was my souvenir of all the good times I had there. I figured the brick was long gone, a victim of several cross-country moves in the past 25 years, but my family just unpacked some old boxes and found it. I can't tell you how happy I am that this brick is still around.

  5. @tautechuck. That is so totally awesome, dude. What a great bit of memorablila. About the only thing I've got from those days is a ratted out General Store T-shirt. The brick, now that is something.

  6. taotechuck. not tautechuck. I was wondering why that looked funny when I typed it.

  7. Right on, a visitor who actually commented. Thanks dude. And the funny part is, you are just up the road in Baltimore, hon. We need to hook up and have a Natty Bo and a brat someday. I currently live in So. Maryland. Have fun checking out our silly blog from time to time and feel free to comment. Peace.

  8. Stumbled here while trying to recreate a list of concert dates. Saw some good ones at the Civic Auditorium, inlc David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Foghat, Linda Ronstadt. Saw a few B-Ball games also: St. Joseph's/University of Albuquerque.

  9. Wow. University of Albuquerque. Forgot about that place. That's another one that's long gone. St. Pius (which used to be where Uptown Plaza is) took over that campus years ago. Thanks for the memories of the concerts there SteveR. I would have loved to have seen Jackson Browne back then!

  10. For B-Ball games they used to close off half the auditorium, fans on one side teams on the other. Jackson Browne was Running on Empty Tour early '78 I believe.


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