Opening day, Spring into Summer and Rootdown

by Chris Aaland

Legendary American poet Walt Whitman, known as the father of free verse, knew a thing or two about baseball and our collective psyche.

“Well, it’s our game. That’s the chief fact in connection with it,” he once said. “America’s game has the snap, go fling, of the American atmosphere. (It) belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws, is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

So when the Boston Red Sox rallied for four runs last Sunday for a 9-7 win over their arch rivals the New York Yankees, all was right in the world. Everybody is 0-0 on opening day, dreaming of World Series parades. Only the Red Sox had an ace up their sleeve in a legendary crooner from Brooklyn who happens to be a lifelong Yankees fan.

Since the late 1990s, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” has been played in the middle of the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Originally, it was only used when the Red Sox were ahead. Lagging a bit behind their loyal Red Sox Nation, the club officially adopted Caroline as their theme song in 2002. On Sunday night, Diamond, affectionately nicknamed “the Jewish Elvis,” sang it live at Fenway. He even wore a Red Sox hat. I have to admit, tears welled up in my eyes.

On Friday, Chuckles, Steve Miller and I will make our annual pilgrimage to Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies home opener. It marks my 15th Rockies opening day (I missed the inaugural game in 1993 and the 2007 and ’09 openers). For the record, Colorado is 10-7 in home openers and 8-6 when I’m in the house.

We’ll probably go to all three games on opening weekend. The music front looks good, too, with honky tonk favorites Ethyl & the Regulars playing Bender’s Tavern in downtown Denver and Hank III & Assjack country-moshing at the Ogden on Saturday. Yee-haw.

KDUR’s “Spring into Summer Fun” fund drive kicks off Monday and runs through April 18. You can pledge your support by calling 247-7262 or visiting Community radio is many things to many people, but for me, it’s all about the music. The diverse programming on KDUR is classically edgy, in the true spirit of college radio. Fortunately, we live in a part of the world where music festivals happen on a near-weekly basis during the summer. Thus, KDUR’s premiums include passes to such festers as Telluride Bluegrass, RockyGrass, Four Corners Folk Festival, Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass, Telluride Blues & Brews, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Santa Fe’s Thirsty Ear, the Taos Solar Music Festival, Moab’s Desert Rocks, Globalquerque, Telluride Jazz and Flagstaff’s Pickin’ in the Pines. My favorite: general admission to the Aug. 27 Red Rocks date featuring Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon and Split Lip Rayfield.

Locally, perhaps the biggest musical uprising happens Saturday night at the Summit as Rootdown plays pop, rock and reggae. The band’s promo says, “Think Beastie Boys meets Beach Boys.” Their roots stretch from Bob Marley’s early days to Sublime. DJ I-Gene opens.

Dielectric Sound is one of Denver’s best young blues rock bands and plays the Summit Friday night with an opening set by …in a day.

The Summit also has one of Durango’s top new bands, Seven, tonight (April 8). Led by keyboardist Gregg Andrulis (you know him from Wayword Sons), the septet plays mostly fresh originals.

The Irish Embassy Pub hosts a celebration for the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Meet the players and coaches who led the Skyhawks to the brink of a national championship a few weeks ago in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. Appetizers will be served and a minimum donation is required at the door.

Other happenings: Kirk James & Hal Lott play happy hour at Desperados Bar & Grill from 5-7 p.m. tonight; Kirk does another 5-7 p.m. FAC Friday at the Purple Haze; Psychedelic Mojo plays 8 - midnight Friday at the Purple Haze; DJ Ralphsta & Benjamin K are at the Starlight at 9 p.m. Saturday; Durango favorite Ralph Dinosaur & the Fabulous Volcanoes play 8 to midnight Saturday at the Purple Haze; Black Velvet, featuring Nina Sasaki, Larry Carver and Ben Gibson, rock out at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Derailed Saloon; and Kentucky Deluxe plays at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Starlight.

Another rite of spring: Ska released its popular seasonal offering, Mexican Logger, this week. Brewed with saaz hops, this light, refreshing ale is synonymous with warm weather. Find bottles at any local liquor store. Sadly, though, it means sayonara to Euphoria Pale Ale until the fall. But you can deal with it. A few bars still have a keg or two of Euphoria floating around.

This week’s Top Shelf list features my favorite Denver opening day moments:

• Eric Young leading off with a home run in the first-ever home at-bat for the Rockies in an 11-4 win over Montreal on April 9, 1993. I watched it on a crummy TV in the Miller Student Center on campus.

• Dante Bichette’s three-run bomb in the bottom of the 14th to cap an improbable 11-9 win over the N.Y. Mets in the first-ever game at Coors Field on April 26, 1995.

• Watching the Railbenders, Colorado’s best country band, play a free show in front of Coors Field on April 4, 2008.

• Ken Griffey Jr. blasting his 400th career home run on April 10, 2000 at Coors Field. The Rox still won, 7-5.

• Rookie shortstop Clint Barmes’ ninth-inning homer off Trevor Hofman spurred a 12-10 comeback over the Padres on April 4, 2005.

• Walt Weiss knocking one out in a 9-6 loss to the Cubs on April 8, 1996. I had a bet with Russ Elliott that the light-hitting Weiss would have a power surge that year and go deep on opening day. Indeed, he did and went on to hit a career-high eight homers in ‘96.

• Pregame ceremonies on April 2, 2002. I’m not overly patriotic, but the first opening day following 9/11 echoed Walt Whitman’s 100-year-old sentiments. Nobody seemed to care that the Astros beat the Rockies 8-4. •

Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away? Email me at



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