Stub Chronicles: Propagandhi

Propagandhi at the VFW
May 18, 1996

It’s hard to overstate how excited I was to see this show. I ended up with the band’s first CD, How To Clean Everything, in the summer of ‘94 and committed every word to memory. I made sure to dub a copy on cassette for my friends, so they could all sing along with me. That was the cool thing about getting into punk: it was like a secret club. If we didn’t all trade tapes, we never would have heard new bands, because no one was playing anything like it on the radio. So when one of our skate buddies came across something cool, they got to play tastemaker for the entire crew. It was a lot of fun to be that excited about music.

In ‘96, Propagandhi were touring in support of the recently released Less Talk More Rock, which I had ordered through the mail, but hadn’t yet received. Apparently I couldn’t score a ride to Wax Trax, since I was 15 at the time, so I had to resort to slower methods of obtaining music.

Anyway, this show famously devolved into a full-on riot and Propagandhi didn’t play (which has been documented elsewhere). But we did get there in time to see Nododys, Four, and two songs of Crestfallen. It was my first real exposure to the local scene that I would become a part of in a couple years. (And of course, the riot part was pretty fascinating. Watching someone throw a huge rock into the back window of a cop car blew my 15 year old mind. I hadn’t witnessed anything like that before.)

I pulled an article from the Rocky Mountain News from a library database summarizing the events of the night, which I’ve included below. My memory of the evening doesn’t exactly line up with that summation. A couple of key differences:

1) The article blames concertgoers for starting the melee, and fine, we played a part for sure. But police didn’t help things with the way they handled the situation. They tried to physically force people to leave the venue immediately after shutting down the show without considering the logistics of getting 300 kids down a narrow stairway at the same time.

2) The newspaper also left out the part about how there was no air conditioning in the venue, and it was 90+ degrees up there. I found out later (from someone who knew the promoter) that that was the reason the owners denied entrance to everyone who was trying to get in — even if they had tickets. I suppose they figured there would be a lawsuit if someone passed out, and so they tried to limit the number of entrants. This was a massive failure on the part of the venue.

3) Although I don't agree (of course), I understand the press for not wanting to blame veterans and cops when they could blame a bunch of youngsters with funny haircuts who weren’t good at sports.

4) And that’s the other thing. If we were college football fans rioting because the team won, we wouldn’t have been so vilified. But whatever.

5) Not that it has anything to do with this, but my band The Gravity Index opened up for Propagandhi on September 9, 2001 at the Ogden in Denver. That was the first time I saw them live.

The article:


May 19, 1996 | Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)

Concertgoers at a west Denver veterans hall Saturday started a melee on West Colfax Avenue when they began throwing chairs and bottles at police officers.

A punk music concert featuring five bands was filled to capacity with 300 people at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lowry Post #501 hall at 4747 W. Colfax Ave. when several people upset that the show was shut down began fighting just before 9 p.m., a concert-goer said.

An off-duty officer working at the concert called for help and dozens of police officers from three Denver police districts responded to help usher large groups of youngsters away from the hall.

Several teen-agers began throwing chairs and bottles at officers. One officer was hit in the head with a chair, and two others were injured and treated at the scene, said Margaret Chavez, a police spokeswoman.

More than 100 youths outside also got upset and tried to start rioting, she said. Officers sprayed Mace into some large crowds and arrested several juveniles, police said.
Some teens were upset with their treatment.

“In the middle of one set, a bunch of cops came in and one came on the stage and said, ‘This is shut down. There's a riot outside,’” said Ann Poe, who was in the audience.