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8 July 1971
JETHRO TULL PLAYS AMID TEAR GAS
DENVER — Ian Anderson wandered on stage at the outset of the June 10th school's-out Jethro Tull concert here at Red Rocks Amphitheater with tears in his eyes. The other members of Tull were also weeping, not to mention gasping for breath, as was most of the 10,000-strong audience. Swaying, fingering an acoustic guitar, Anderson surveyed the crowd and the Denver police chopper hovering in the distance dispensing periodic charges of tear gas at the rear of the assembly.
"Welcome to World War III,"
he croaked, and the music began.
The music, much of it from Tull's new "spiritual" LP Aqualung, went on for the next hour and 20 minutes, and so did the tear-gas dispensing. In the wake of the concert, 28 persons, including four Denver policemen and three infants, were treated at area hospitals for injuries received in the disturbances. Dozens more — policemen, concert-goers, and would-be gate-crashers — were treated at the scene by a volunteer medical team. On charges ranging from drunkenness, weapons violations, and possession of narcotics, 20 persons, including three juveniles, were arrested. One car was destroyed by fire, and several other vehicles were reported damaged.
Concert promoter Barry Fey blamed the trouble in part on a throng of ticket-less longhairs whom he claimed were lobbing around their own personal canisters of tear gas (purchasable at local drug stores).
"Two or three fuckups fucked it up for everybody," he said in the aftermath of the riot, adding that he didn't intend to sponsor any more concerts at Red Rocks. To clinch the deal, Sam Feiner, director of Denver's Theaters-Arenas Division, said he wouldn't allow any more rock events at Red Rocks as a result of the disturbances.
Lt. Jerry Kennedy of the Denver Police department justified the zealous response of his fellow officers at the scene:
"The show was sold out and about 2000 people showed up expecting to get in, anyway. We gave them the side of a mountain that overlooks the amphitheater and said they could watch the show there. About 1500 of them took us up on it.
"Then some of them began to move through the crowd talking about charging over the wall. One guy had a bugle, and started blowing it. When they reached the bottom of the hill, they started throwing rocks at the officers and knocked one off his horse. When another officer went to help the injured one, he was hit on the head with a rock — took five stitches to sew him up.
"We started spraying the tear gas from a helicopter when a crowd persisted in throwing rocks from an inaccessible point on the hillside. We figured gas beats clubs by a long shoot, anyway. 'If you don't like the game, get your ass out,' is the way we figured it with them. I got a faceful of gas myself. Fact is, about 50 of the officers didn't have masks and got exposed to the gas."
A Tull groupie who'd jetted out from L.A. for the concert recalled the pandemonium:
"I was in the car with Tull, and at first the cops wouldn't let us in. Then we got a special escort. The real trouble started during Liv Taylor's set — all kids outside were chanting 'Fuck you' and 'No more gas.' Then Ian went on and cooled it all out. I've never seen such an incredible energy turnaround. He was playing 'My God', and all those religious numbers from the new album. John Evan was so fogged by the gas, he couldn't even see the piano, it looked like, and the drummer was having trouble, too. But Ian was awesome. The fumes kept coming, and he kept playing like a motherfucker."
Note: the drummer was Barrie Barlow, playing only his second gig with the band after Clive Bunker's departure.