Starship street concert draws thousands; problem-free event pleases organizers

       Several thousand people - exact numbers uncertain - descended peacefully on Old Colorado City for the free Jefferson Starship concert on Colorado Avenue May 6. The Jefferson Starship belts out “Crown of Creation” from
the temporary  stage on Colorado Avenue just east of 27th
Street. Based on different estimates, a crowd of 3,000
(plus or minus) was on hand at the time.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Police reported no serious problems or injuries, although members of the “reunion” band of 1960s-to-'80s rock 'n roll fame repeatedly needed oxygen. “ 'You've got a bunch of flatlanders here,' ” concert promoter Charlie Cagiao quoted 65-year-old Starship leader Paul Kantner as saying.
       Sponsored by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, the event marked the first-ever time Colorado Avenue has been shut off for a free street concert by a major band.
       The stage was just east of 27th Street, facing east down Colorado Avenue. The first of three warm-up bands started playing around 12:30 p.m., and the Starship concert - led off by solo subsets from guitarist Country Joe McDonald and pianist Tom Constanten - got underway near 6 p.m. Although rain was in the forecast, the only squall, lasting about 20 minutes, came just at the end of the mid-afternoon Cross-Eyed Mary set and scarcely phased the band's followers.
       Crowd estimates ranged from as few as 3,500 for the entire day (from Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Bob Weber) to as many as 7,000 for the day (from Cagiao) and 4,500 when McDonald came on. All who were queried agreed that the crowd dwindled gradually after that, so that by about 9 p.m., when Kantner and company completed a three-song encore, no more than 1,000 remained on hand.
       There was no question that most of those in attendance enjoyed themselves immensely. Although many preferred to sit farther back on folding chairs, hundreds surged right up to the stage, dancing, cheering or singing along to such rock favorites as “Somebody to Love,” “Crown of Creation,” “Jane” and “White Rabbit.”
       “I'm happy,” Cagiao said. “We pulled it off. It went well, and all the bands were excellent, and a lot of businesses made money.” He was especially pleased by the genuine pleasure so many people felt at seeing the famous band - or at least a facsimile, now featuring original member Kantner and other nationally known musicians - that had produced numerous hit songs and albums in days gone by. “Someboy would shake my hand or say 'Thank you, this brings back so many memories,' or, 'My first date I listened to a Jefferson Airplane album,'” Cagiao said. “There were so many things people related to, it made my chest ache for a few hours.”
       The OCCA fronted the roughly $30,000 needed to pay for the band and related promotion costs. The hope was to make that amount back through sponsorships and percentages of vendor sales during the concert. Although it appears this will not quite happen - “I think we'll lose a little bit, but not a lot,” Cagiao said this week - the OCCA board was not dismayed. After a meeting Tuesday, OCCA President Carole Jourdan said the board would consider doing it again.
       Overall, she said of May 6, “I thought it was great fun. A lot of businesses had a great day. There were little fires here and there, but all and all it went off real well for a first-time effort.”
       One future improvement all OCCA board members seemed to agree on was that if the concert is on the street again, the beer garden needs to be closer to the stage. In anticipation of a larger crowd (Cagiao's preliminary estimates had been 10,000 to 15,000), the garden was two blocks away for the Starship event, and some believe this hurt beer sales. Such sales were key because the success of OCCA's sponsorship with Budweiser depended on how much Bud was sold at the beer garden.
       Nancy Stovall, the OCCA's executive director, said she had heard from merchants who liked the event and others who didn't. Her general sense was that the concert “was good exposure for us, and the people that did come in fit our demographics: a little older crowd, clean and orderly.”
       One of the merchants who was pleased with the event was Kathy Bousquet of Barbeque Mercantile (located near the stage at 2619 W. Colorado Ave.), which stayed open until the concert's finale. “It was spectacular,” she said. “I wish we could do this once a month. It was a great sale day.”
       A different response came from Laura Reilly, a painter who has her gallery at 2616 W. Colorado Ave. “It hurt my business,” she said. “My normal customers couldn't get in here, and there was much less traffic. People were coming in just because they wanted to use the bathroom [even though porta-johns had been provided on the street].”
       Sgt. Weber reported only a handful of calls from a half-mile radius of the concert between about noon and 11 p.m. May 6, and only a few of these could be clearly traced to the event. The only noise complaint call came in from an address near 27th and Colorado at about the time the concert started, he said.
       There also were three open-container citations that afternoon. That evening, near 30th Street, there were two DUIs, but Weber did not know for sure if they were concert-related.
       Despite a free shuttle service, it was evident that most concert-goers parked in the surrounding neighborhoods. Parking officers wrote 18 tickets for illegal parking, Weber said.
       Trash had been another concern expressed by nearby residents regarding special events in general. Weber said he surveyed the surrounding neighborhood beforehand and found it wasn't quite “pristine,” as he put it. The cleanup group, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, picked up eight bags of trash, including beer bottles, before the concert began. The total trash - either tossed out by attendees or picked up in a four-block radius from the event - was enough to fill 2 ½ dumpsters, he said.

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