Twenty fabled moments in Denver music, #18: Black Flag at the Rainbow Music Hall 1984
The Nig-Heist on stage at the Rainbow Music Hall in 1984.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Backbeat will be counting down the twenty most fabled moments in Denver music history. Today, a look back at Black Flag's 1984 show at the Rainbow Music Hall that ended with members of the opening act being arrested.
You may have heard about this one; it was notorious enough to merit a mention in Get In the Van,the 1994 memoir penned by Henry Rollins about life on the road with Black Flag: On April 25, 1984 at the Rainbow Music Hall, Nig-Heist, Black Flag's opening act, led by the band's iconic roadie Steve "Mugger" Corbin, played a, uh, stripped-down set that landed Corbin and Tom Trocolli in a Denver jail cell after the set. Almost three decades later, feelings over the whole incident are still a little raw for Corbin.
Looking at the band's short-lived history, the Nig-Heist was wasn't really a band at all -- it was more like something of a side project led by the Black Flag roadie and some of his friends. The Nig-Heist's collaborators were a who's-who of punk rock elder statesmen, including Greg Ginn, who bailed the band out of jail, D. Boon, the Minutemen's fabled frontman, Danzig/Social Distortion drummer Chuck Biscuits and Minor Threat/Fugazi singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye, who all sat in at one point or another.
The show at Denver's now-defunct Rainbow looked to be one of the highlights of Black Flags' tour, which had by that point reportedly become a bit of a clusterfuck. In his Get in the Van, Rollins writes that the band's touring rig (a Ryder moving truck) had its tires slashed in Milwaukee a couple days before coming here. But things were looking up for Denver. "Apparently the show has sold over 800 advance tickets," Rollins wrote. "I'm looking at the press. It's fairly raving."
The Nig-Heist changed that narrative. Duane Davis, who owns Wax Trax Records and was at the show, recalls, "There was a lot of badmouthing of 'true' punks and 'fake' punks and everything in between. It was funny...it was meant to offend, and they got exactly the reaction they wanted. I imagine they'd have been disappointed if nothing happened."