3/30/1980 – Pueblo, CO (Brown M&M incident)

Date: 3/30/1980
Location: Pueblo, CO
Venue: Massari Gym (University of Southern Colorado)
Opening band: Rail
*no known bootleg exists for this show

Brown M&M incident & food fight which caused the university to ban all concerts after this 🙂

Interview Listen to David Lee Roth talk about the incident at this show

Source: By AMY MATTHEW | THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN https://www.chieftain.com/article/20100328/LIFESTYLE/303289939

Blame it on the chocolate.

March 30, 1980, was supposed to be the beginning of great things for the University of Southern Colorado and Pueblo’s music fans. The school — now Colorado State University-Pueblo — was set to host what was, at that point, its biggest concert to date. Everyone involved hoped it would be a springboard to a steady lineup of big-name concerts on campus.

Working with legendary promoter Barry Fey and his company, Feyline, USC’s Concert Crew landed an appearance by Van Halen. The group was on the verge of its stratospheric success and released its third album, “Women and Children First,” four days before the Pueblo performance.

When the concert was announced in February 1980, Joel Zarr, then-assistant coordinator of student activities at USC, said, “Feyline is beginning to see a concert market in Pueblo.”

Tickets cost $8.50 — $7.50 for USC students. Five thousand people attended. The show was absolute rock ‘n’ roll: loud, wild and sold out.

“Acoustically, it was horrible,” said Sheri Giordano, who was 20 and attending her second Van Halen concert. “There was an echo and no distinction between (David Lee Roth’s) voice and the music. But David Lee Roth — what an amazing performer. I remember thinking, I really would be enjoying this if I could hear anything.”

And then . . . well, then the gym floor broke and the M&Ms, among other things, hit the proverbial fan. Instead of becoming a popular concert stop, USC and Pueblo became permanently tied to one of music’s most notorious incidents.

“Who doesn’t know about the brown M&M Van Halen show?” said Lisa Wheeler, a former Puebloan who attended the concert and now writes a blog, Pueblo City Limits, about Southern Colorado music. “Pueblo will always be associated with this concert.”

The fine print

There it was, near the end of the rider, in all caps, underlined for emphasis: “M&Ms (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES).”

The demand appeared in the contract rider for all Van Halen shows at that time. According to the group, it wasn’t made because of a whimsical color preference; this was their way of knowing if a promoter had carefully read the rider. If this request wasn’t followed, they claimed, how could they feel confident that the promoter complied with all the other specifications?

Larry Frazier was a USC freshman and a member of Concert Crew, an all-student group whose job was to build and take down the stages for on-campus concerts. He has been a university employee for more than 20 years and now is the campus locksmith. He said Van Halen’s reasoning doesn’t hold up because different groups are responsible for different aspects of a show.

“I remember specifically looking at that rider and going, ‘What’s up with the M&Ms?’ ” said Frazier. “We kind of laughed at it, but it wasn’t our area, so we passed it on to the caterer, SAGA.”

The band used rooms in the nearby University Center before and after the concert. According to reports in the USC Today newspaper, SAGA employees saw the M&M demand before the show but refused to comply with it. At that point, the band started smashing the candies into the carpet. The food fight escalated and continued after Van Halen’s performance.

Frazier said it was clear that the members of the band — Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Roth and Michael Anthony — were feeling no pain by the time they left the stage. Their water bottles were filled with liquor, he said.

William Provance, at that time USC’s vice president for business and finance, was quoted in The Pueblo Chieftain and USC Today newspapers describing the after-show debacle:

“We sponsored an after-concert dinner for the group, with our food service people involved, in a private room in the University Center, with linens, silverware and the whole bit,” he said. “Once (the band) arrived, they proceeded to act like a bunch of animals. They ate the lasagna with their hands, threw the food around the room, smeared the food on the walls and on each other. In one of the men’s (rest)rooms nearby . . . it’s unmentionable what happened there.”

Damage to the rooms was estimated at $3,500 and was paid for by Feyline’s insurance company, per the promoter’s contract with the university.


Though it was site of the most outrageous incident of the evening, it turned out the University Center wasn’t the school’s only casualty.

Frazier and the other members of Concert Crew built and took down Van Halen’s stage under the direct supervision of Feyline’s people and Van Halen’s production crew.

“It was my first opportunity to be exposed to a (technical) rider and say, ‘Here’s what we have to do,’ ” said Frazier. “As the equipment came in I thought, Wow, this is bigger than life.”

The stage was set up at the far end of Massari Gym, behind the outside border of the basketball court and in front of the emergency exits, according to Frazier. The stage was constructed several days prior to the concert and was done with great precision, he said.

“The roadie that brought Feyline’s stage would not allow us to not put pads (plywood) under the legs,” said Frazier. They were sandwiched under them to protect the floor.”

Despite those precautions, the tartan floor was damaged. Van Halen blamed USC, saying the school didn’t realize how much the staging weighed. Frazier said it’s possible some of the pads — all supplied by Feyline — were worn and gave way during the show.

“I recall seeing one or two impressions (in the floor) after the concert,” said Frazier, who worked a spotlight during the performance. “We certainly didn’t destroy that floor, or we would have heard it. We weren’t disciplined. Feyline even said we did a great job.”

Some damage estimates were as high as $80,000; the band’s representatives claimed it was closer to $12,000. Again, insurance covered the damages.

School officials supported Concert Crew. Fey didn’t put blame on the student group. In fact, after the concert Frazier and a few of the other members were hired as part of the promoter’s Pueblo crew, helping him stage shows at the Colorado State Fair for several years.

“If Barry thought we’d done something wrong, he wouldn’t have hired us for the Fair,” said Frazier. “That (damage) was beyond us.”

Lights out

The Van Halen fiasco signified the beginning and swift end of hard-rock performances at USC. Days after the show, a concert ban was announced.

“It’s not an issue of not wanting to provide programs for the general public. But these are student-sponsored for students, and we won’t tolerate this type of thing,” Provance told The Chieftain. “We’re outraged at this whole thing. It won’t happen again.”

The moratorium lasted until that October, when the group Atlanta Rhythm Section was allowed to perform at USC.

The Student Activities Board still sponsors an annual concert for CSU-Pueblo students. In the last several years, the organization has brought in headliners such as Kanye West, Ludacris and 3OH!3. Only Ludacris performed on campus (at Massari) — without incident; the other two concerts were held at the State Fair Events Center.

Wheeler, Giordano and Frazier still have their concert memories and each has a differing viewpoint about the aftermath.

Wheeler, who was a student employee at the campus radio station when the concert took place, said she recalls little about the actual performance because she was seated right in front of a speaker.

“I couldn’t hear for a week. I probably can’t remember because my gray matter was fried,” she said.

As for the destruction, “We had no clue about what had happened until we read it in the paper. For us it was just a really good hard-rock concert. There was huge buzz around this concert . . . that was like the Golden Ticket.”

For Giordano, the band’s antics put an end to her admiration.

“That’s when I really turned sour on Van Halen. I had the first album; that’s all I needed, anyway. It had all the good songs,” she said, laughing.

Frazier said several words come to mind when he thinks about the event. “Exhilarating. Uncharted waters. Having fun. Learning from those experiences,” he said. “We were dedicated and wanted something positive to happen (for the university). That’s what volunteerism is all about.

“The show went on and the kids had a great time — that was obvious. It was a success. It was rock ‘n’ roll at its best . . . and worst.”

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