U.K. oi! band The Business takes the stage. Young testosterone-riddled skinheads start slam dancing, but the Party Vikings, a local gang of rowdy punk rockers, have named themselves the kings of the pit. It isn't too long before a full-scale riot breaks loose, remembers Gordy Andersen, Black Maria singer and Albuquerque rock stalwart. Punks throw pool balls down from the Golden West's balcony. Tables and chairs cartwheel through the air and are smashed into sticks. And The Business just keeps playing.
In the early hours of Thursday, Feb. 28, Puccini's Golden West Saloon at 620 Central NW was gutted by a fire that swept through the historic building, collapsing the roof and charring the interior. Albuquerque Fire Department spokesperson Melissa Romero says a rag soaked in linseed oil and stored in a plastic container started the fire. The Golden West was having its floors refinished. Romero says the linseed oil caused the rag to spontaneously combust. The oil acted as its own ignition source, she says. There is no suspicion of arson, Romero adds. The fire has been ruled accidental.
El Rey, which is next door to the Golden West, was dealt only minor water damage. "It's good to go," Zimmer says. “The marquee looks just fine."
On Thursday morning, sunlight spilled onto the street through the gaping hole where the Golden West's roof used to be. That roof housed Albuquerque's bands as they came up through the ranks on the scene. The Golden West gave many local acts a chance to play before anyone else would.
Though the Golden West of late maintained a love-hate relationship with many of Albuquerque's rockers, the room, with its tin ceiling and wood floors, is remembered fondly for its great sound, its community and its history.
Andersen recalls the days the Resin Records boys did it all, when there were little to no live rock venues in Albuquerque. Young local musicians convinced then-owner Virginia Doyle to let them bring some bands in. Resin Records would often provide the P.A. and work the door. They also built a squad of big guys to provide security, Andersen says.
The second floor that contained the green room for bands—the one rowdy youth dropped pool balls from all those years ago—suffered tremendous damage.
Cellist Matt Haimovitz will perform at either El Rey or the KiMo Theatre on Sunday, March 9, at 6:30 p.m. (Check www.elreytheater.com for updates.) Proceeds will benefit the Golden West. Tickets are $27 at the door or $22 in advance. Get your ticket at Bookworks or Encore Music, online at gettix.net or by calling 1-866-IGETTIX.
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