Happy Birfday to Tingley Coliseum. The venerable old gal is 50 years old and like an aging film star, in close up, she’s pretty much showing her age.
Doors opened for the first time in 1957 to kick of the New Mexico State Fair. Friday kicked off the 2007 Fair, and with that, Tingley ushered in her 50th festival of rodeo, cotton candy and all things New Mexico.
There is a pretty thorough article in the Albuquerque Tribune, an interview with Mahlon Love, former act who performed in the venue and also former State Fair commissioner.
In the story, Mahlon shares some memories from the long history of Albuquerque’s most well known multi-use venue.
Being a child of Albuquerque, I’ve many of my own memories from Tingley. I remember my first rodeo, with entertainment from the aforementioned Freddy Fender. We sat way up in the nosebleed seats, on the bleachers, not seats with backs (my mom always was a cheapo).
We watched the rodeo first (always the best part), then afterward watched them tow out a stage and set it up. Then the lights went down. A shiny convertible came rolling out of chutes where the livestock had just been, a shadowy performer stepped on stage. The lights came up to cheers. And as Freddy began singing, the stage started slowly revolving.
“…in 1966, a revolving stage…was introduced in Tingley.” Ah, the ubiquitous revolving stage.
Even as a kid I thought that was pretty damn rasquache.
Now, I get why they do it. Tingley wasn’t meant to be a concert venue, and no one should pay good money to look at the hindside of a famous act for two hours. However, it really is kind of ridiculous, in a way only New Mexico can be.
I remember seeing Alison Krauss there in the mid-90’s. She played one hell of a show, but made several comments throughout the night about how disorienting it was being on the spinning stage.
There has been many a great show at Tingley. The Garth Brooks show in 1996 seems to be one for the memory books. (It’s mentioned in the article.) I was there, the guest of a supplier who had an extra ticket. I do remember Garth putting on one hell of a spectacle that night, like nothing I’d ever seen. I also remember that it was raining outside…and inside. As I sat there watching Garth work up a lather on stage, I was busy trying to avoid water running out of a leaky roof. Looking around I noticed several of us scootching and moving out of the way of the variety of leaky spots.
However, one of my most vivid memories was seeing Randy Travis (who I understand is playing the Fair again this year). I had *really* cheap seats, and ended up sitting at the very tippy top row. In fact, it was kind of nice because that bleacher rail in the very last row backed up to the wall of Tingley, so I actually had a makeshift seatback. I leaned back and enjoyed the show, singing along to the faves. Not that I could actually see the performer, but…you know.
The show was rolling along fabulously when Randy started up with “It’s Just a Matter of Time”, a song that was popular then and a fave of mine. I smiled as he sang and I sang along. Now, if you are familiar with this song, Randy has to hit some pretty low, low notes and Mr. Travis has a pretty deep voice. When he hit those deep bassy notes, the wall behind me, the one I was leaning against, noticeably vibrated. I’m not making this up, I could physically feel the walls shuddering as Randy sang “Iiiiiii knooooooow” (<--deep vibrating bass) "ooooh-whoa Iiiiii knooooow, that someday you'll wake up and fiiiind…"
That deep bass voice vibrated the walls, my backbone and my sternum….it was the most visceral music experience I’d ever known. I swear to God I thought Tingley was going to collapse from the strain, like a crystal wine glass in a storm of operatic vibrato. But she held, and has continued to hold up through the years for more raucous concerts than Randy damn Travis. I mean, Pearl Jam played there in 1998. If Seattle grunge angst rock can’t bring down the walls, then a country crooner certainly can’t.
I wonder if Randy can still hit those low notes? I wonder if the walls will rattle like that again this weekend? Would be cool to be there again to see.
Meanwhile, the venerable old Tingley still stands and welcomes a new crop of Fair goers into her rickety arms. The bulls and broncs will buck, the pretty girls will race barrels, and the crowd will look at a new cast of popular acts (spinning on a new spinning stage that comes down from the ceiling. Rasquache goes high tech).
She’s a grand old girl with a lot of stories to tell and a lot more history yet to be made.
Gary Roller, former backup man to Michael Martin Murphey sums it up best (from the end of the Tribune article).
“You can’t go anywhere else in the state and find that legacy,” he said. “Roy Rogers opened the place, for goodness’ sake.”
(post updated to remove images)