FORT RAM NIGHTCLUB

 | by BRYAN RAYBURN |

 

Fort Ram was a large-capacity nightclub in Old Town on Linden Street, just across from where New Belgium now resides. It was a major hotspot throughout the ‘80s to mid ‘90s (later becoming The Matrixx). “The Ram” was best known for its legendary Penny Beer Night, where a $4 cover got you in to drink as many beers as you could for a penny until the whistle blew at 10 pm. The whistle was actually the song “Foreplay/Long Time” by Boston blasting over the PA system, accompanied by a light and laser show signaling that beers were back to normal price. By 10pm you would see people stockpiling as many beers as possible, lling tabletops in every corner of the bar. This was a standard ritual every week for many. The Ram was also a place where many major live acts would come to perform over the years.

 

From 1992-94, I worked at the Ram as a stagehand and backstage security for a local promoter. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work a bunch of really cool shows. Acts like April Wine, George Thorogood, Bluestime with Magic Dick and J. Geils for a crowd of 50 or less, The Samples, Great White, Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe on his rst solo tour, and the late Ronnie James Dio. The Dio show was in front of a large, rowdy crowd of drunk, metal heads. I remember my buddies and I holding up the lighting rig, which was rocking back and forth because the crowd was crashing into the stage contraption, constructed of picnic tables joined together to make a pyramid-like structure. Looking back, and digging through old recordings and photographs, I have come to realize how important some of those performances actually were. Here are a few that really stand out and deserve special attention, due to the timeline of when these shows took place and what would follow them.

Bonnie Raitt 1989

Bonnie Raitt
(FEBRUARY 8, 1989)

20 years into her career, after losing her deal with Warner Bros. and a few years into finding sobriety, Bonnie Raitt finally achieved commercial success with the release of her tenth album, “Nick Of Time,” which was released on March 20, 1989. The month leading up to it’s release, she spent a week in Colorado for shows in Aspen, Grand Junction, Vail, and Fort Collins. The Fort Ram show would be her last small venue performance due to the massive success of the album, and having a #1 hit with “Thing Called Love,” a song written by John Hiatt. The album went on to top the Billboard 200 chart, selling five million copies, and winning three Grammys, including Album of the Year, landing her a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The following year would yield two sold out shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with the Je Healey Band and Charles “Gatemouth” Brown (August 28-29, 1990).

 

Phish

(NOVEMBER 4, 1990)

This was their best Colorado show from this era. In the “early days” of their career, there were certain performances that really stand out, and this show, without a doubt was one of them. The setlist “reads like pure gold” to any hardcore Phan. Listed as one of the top 100 “must have” Phish shows available, Fort Collins saw the last night of a ve show Colorado run which started o in Crested Butte, followed by the Armstrong Hall in Colorado Springs (for the band’s very first Halloween show to take place outside Vermont), and two nights in Boulder at the Glenn Miller Ballroom and Boulder Theater. The Halloween recording would become Phish’s rst o cial online release, and is also believed to have been the first ever commercial “download release” of a full, live concert by any band. These were the rst of many Phish shows in Colorado recorded by Michael Grace to Digital Audio Tape (DAT). They are some of the highest quality Phish tapes in existence. Mike’s company, Grace Design went on to create some of the best microphone preamps in the world, which are still being used by Phish today.

 

Widespread Panic

(MARCH 29, 1992)

Acoustic Junction and Lazy Bones were the supporting acts for the evening. This show was right after John Hermann (“JoJo”) joined the band as a keyboardist replacing Dixie Dregs keyboardist T. Lavitz. After kicking off the tour at the Georgia Theatre on March 13 and 14, Widespread Panic embarked upon an extensive spring tour. After two weeks of performances from March 19th through April 1st (Breckenridge, Boulder, Denver, Durango, Telluride, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Steamboat), Colorado was quickly becoming the band’s second home.

 

Blues Traveler

(MAY 11, 1992)

The band kicked off their week-long run in Colorado starting with Fort Collins, followed by a show in the Springs, and three shows in Boulder, as well as John Popper’s solo performance at the Fox Theatre. Aquarium Rescue Unit was the support act for the show which was originally scheduled for the CSU Ballroom but moved due to popular demand. The band was really starting to gain momentum at this stage in their career, and subsequently larger crowds started to develop, especially in Colorado. Less than two months later, the band would return for two nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, for what would become a Fourth of July tradition which is continued to this day.

 

BIG HEAD TODD

(OCTOBER 22, 1992)

BHTM was relentless when it came to getting their music out there and recruiting people to go to shows. When I first had my record store in 1991, the band would bring in cassettes of Another

Mayberry and Midnight Radio to put on consignment, and would check back regularly to see if any had sold. BHTM were also one of the very first “local” bands to produce their own compact disc. Over the course of a few years, I saw them perform in multiple venues around Fort Collins, this being one of the more memorable ones. This show was shortly after they finished recording “Sister Sweetly,” which concluded in August at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis, and four months prior to it being released on February 23, 1993. The band was in top form and playing a majority of the forthcoming album including “Broken Hearted Savior,” “Sister Sweetly,” “Bittersweet,” and “Circle.” The album went on to sell over a million copies, it went platinum, and was on the charts for over a year, but never hit the top half of the Billboard 200, peaking at number 117.

 

 

NO DOUBT

(NOVEMBER 12, 1992)

The ska-punk band from Orange County, CA, were signed to Interscope in 1990, but their self-titled, debut album wasn’t released until two years later. During that time Gwen Stefani and bandmate Tony Kanal were working at a department store together. Upon release, the album was considered a commercial failure, only selling 30,000 copies.

Gwen Stefani 1992

Without a radio single, the band struggled to connect with audiences during the “grunge years” which reigned supreme at the time. In the fall of 1992, they embarked on a two- and-a-half month national tour. Interscope refused to support the tour, leaving the band to nance it themselves. The end of the tour found them in Colorado for three shows: Breckenridge, Boulder, and Fort Collins, November 12. This was just four months prior to the tracking of the album that would later become “Tragic Kingdom,” which was recorded in eleven different studios in Los Angeles, starting in March 1993, and finally being released two-and-a-half years later in October 1995.
These are just a handful of memorable shows that took place at Fort Ram. Though there are many more that come to mind, including all long list of great local artists who graced this stage. It has become a massive undertaking documenting bands that have performed in and around the Fort Collins area throughout the years. If you have any stories or documentation of events from back in the day, I would love to hear about them. facebook.com/groups/LiveMusicArchive.