Alibi V.29 No.12 • March 19-25, 2020 

Music History

It Was Beyond Ordinary

Brad Cole discusses Burque’s scene

Brad Cole
Brad Cole
courtesy of the artist

Back in the before time, when August March began his tenure as the music editor for Weekly Alibi, we made a commitment to cover the best of Burque’s music scene, from notable upcoming concerts to recordings and information needed to navigate an incredibly diverse local music community.

We also promised our lively and growing audience that we’d cover all sorts of genres with equal gusto and glee—no longer singling out hep local indie rock as our best friend forever.

Exactly five years later, we thought we had succeeded. For instance, now hip-hop, art music and indie rock all get joyfully covered on these pages. But now we’re faced with a life-changing dilemma. The COVID-19 outbreak has made live shows, festivals and even small gatherings for live music at your local brewery things of the past.

We’ll get through it and, in the meantime, ask you to embrace the sort of self-reflection borne out by being socially distant from large groups of your fellow clubgoers, musicians and servers.

This week, we’re going to continue where we started five years ago, with a really cool read about the history of the music scene in Burque. This week, we talked with preeminent DJ and impresario Brad Cole.

Strange Days

If you talk to people in this town—the ones that remember the music scene from coming up in the Duke City—you’re bound to hear Brad Cole’s name.

To many, Cole is considered one of the progenitors of the current music scene here in this town. In May 1989, Cole and a group of other local music types and investors opened the first modern rock club in downtown Albuquerque—certainly the first club to eschew cover bands and Top 40 rock—Beyond Ordinary.

Cole sat down and made himself comfortable at Alibi HQ before we asked him to talk about his work in this town. For cosmic effect, he brought along three T-shirts from his days at B.O. Before hitting the record button, our reporter comically noted that not even the XL size of such T-shirts would fit either of them now.

Beginnings

Cole began the discourse by talking about his roots, telling your favorite weekly newspaper that, “I started out in the DJ business at the end of 1985.” Cole is a 1985 graduate of Sandia High School who started out deejaying at a club called Cheers. It was located—as most live music venues were back in those days—in the far Northeast Heights on Eubank Boulevard. Now the building houses TD’s Eubank Showclub. After that gig, Cole moved on to LePark, a dance club on Montgomery and Eubank that attracted heaps of UNM undergraduates on weekend nights, despite its distance from the school. LePark became Biarritz in 1988, Cole remembers.

“At LePark, I started playing some of the groundbreaking ’80s music that we still play today. It was ground zero for some really great music because it opened smack in the middle of the ’80s. Both Cheer’s and LePark had under-21 nights that were huge.”

Downtown

Cole continued his historical overview, telling our music editor, “I remember a friend of mine did a couple of events at El Rey in 1988. I had never really seen Downtown as a place for nightlife until those shows. There were shows and a few minimal things going on Downtown back then,” he recalls, “but it was very little.”

After that experience came the first ideas for a modern rock club in downtown Burque. Cole remembers that, “In 1988, Mike Goodwin and a couple of partners, John Smith and Roger Bishop, got together to build Beyond Ordinary. I was brought in to help. We got a lease on the building in 1988, and we started working on it then, but we did most of the work in the first half of 1989 and opened in May of that year. Beyond Ordinary was the first fully alternative night club built in Albuquerque, period. Prior to that, it was very commercialized, very Top 40- oriented at the clubs and bars.”

Having grown up in the Duke City—including time spent as an undergraduate at UNM in the late-1980s—our reporter then asked Cole if he remembers the punked-out industrial design featured at Beyond Ordinary, such as tables made from tires and plywood that hung from heavy chains wired into the ceiling.

“It was a punk rock space. It was a very industrial space,” Cole recalled, adding, “One of the actual highlights of the things we originally did there—and we didn’t have a proper stage or anything like that—was to host Front Line Assembly in concert.”

“Quickbeam Systems did the sound for that one,” the DJ further recalls. Quickbeam Systems, a local rock and roll lighting and sound company, founded by Burqueños Gary Mathews on sound and Kurt Jaeckel on lights, was often employed as the technical expert needed to make Cole’s early events happen, loudly and brightly.

“I remember standing at that show, inside Beyond Ordinary, and thinking that it was the loudest show I’d ever heard. Quickbeam used their notorious blue B-System stacks to make it sound like total alternative thunder.”

“In those days, Wax Trax Records and industrial music was really happening, and Beyond Ordinary was the place to hear those sounds,” Cole reflected on those facts while our reporter thought about the age from whence they came. It was certainly true that—at the end of the ’80s—all sorts of Chicago-based music, from house to the aforementioned industrial-strength noise outta Wax Trax, had landed with force in Albuquerque, changing established club norms once again in the process.

Goth Not Goth

Then Cole reminded people reading along with this story that, in those halcyon days, industrial music was replacing the likes of The Cure and The Smiths as the dark bands du jour. “I like to tell people that they didn’t say ‘goth’ back then. That was an invented word. It didn’t start to become a phrase [or a descriptor] until about 1994, I think.”

A bit confused by the whole nomenclature thing, our reporter then took the opportunity to ask Cole to clarify his position, inquiring humbly, “So folks who had pictures of the Angel of Death from Bergman’s Seventh Seal pasted on their dorm room wall or spent their off-hours listening to The Bolshoi weren’t actually goths?”

Cole laughed quietly to himself before answering, noting that, “The style, the clothing, the music were all there,” before reiterating that the term “goth” was originally what outsiders called some of the descendants of the rave scene.

A Rave

“Many people in Burque credit me with starting the rave scene and the goth scene in Albuquerque,” Cole humbly admits, before adding that the two scenes are intertwined in many ways but still totally singular.

“The truth is,” Cole continues, “Beyond Ordinary closed and eventually became Club UN, the center of both of those scenes.”

Cole also hosted an after-hours club in downtown Burque between 1993 and 1994. Called Ritual, the raved-out dance spot was in the same spot on Central Avenue where Anodyne and Sister now rule the roost.

“Ritual was an after-hours club that began to happen just before the local rave culture became defined. We had done raves before Ritual existed.” Both Cole and our reporter then take time to think about all the cool places—from out in the East Mountains to the South Valley’s Five Points Shopping Center—where Cole and his collaborators Aaron Latham and Lisa Wortman held events in 1993 and 1994 that usually ran from midnight until 6am. “My first event like that was at Downtown Louie’s [now the Downtown Distillery]. That was the first rave we ever did. That was a rave called Insomnia and it happened in May of 1992.”

We asked Cole how his influence brought raves to The Land of Enchantment. Again, the stalwart DJ recalled the early ’90s and the moments leading up to the creation of Insomnia. “I went to to LA in the early part of 1992. And I went to a rave. And I thought, ‘this is so cool.’ Then, I went to DC in April to see my grandparents. I went to a rave there, too. It was this amazing thing that made me think that I had literally seen the future. I came home and, within a few weeks, we had a party planned. Then we started doing raves here in Albuquerque. What a riot that was!”

Asked about his influence, why he did what he did and the effect of all that on Burque’s popular culture—as things in the scene shift dramatically away from the past—Cole was passionately reserved, concluding our talk by saying, “The way I feel about it now is that people need to continue supporting the local scene. So go to the show. If you can’t go out, then buy a copy of the record. Some of these things are priceless.”

That sounds like very good advice—past, present or future.