How a Healthcare Professional Rediscovered Denver’s Great Musical Past

I have just completed a psychological assessment at a mental health center in Denver of a homeless man with schizophrenia who was eating lunch. That was 2006.

The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” hit the radio, and I instinctively looked them up online for some passive reading. Suddenly, I was staring at a grainy photo of Jim Morrison playing a brotherhood emergency party at the University of Denver.

As a Denver native and a huge Doors fan, I couldn’t believe it. Nothing interesting from the 1960s has ever happened here, or so I think.

Moving into 2021, co-filmmaker Scott Montgomery and I signed a North American distribution deal with Cinedigm for “The Tale of the Dog.” The 100-minute documentary unearths the vanished story of the most important music venue in Denver’s history.

Family Dog Denver, as it was known in the late 1960s, hosted Morrison and the Doors the day after that photo was taken in DU.

I was not – or rather not – a filmmaker at the time.

I have been in the healthcare industry for 22 years, both as a licensed professional counselor and a health plan administrator. I had no concept of taking a filmmaker’s tour through Hollywood. But life is strange, and sometimes when you’re driving through it, you see a road that’s not in your journey and you feel compelled to turn the wheel.

Once you do, your life is never the same.

The first step is the biggest

I had never heard a single mention of Family Dog before this journey. My friends and I are Gen Xers who live by the music of the ’60s and ’70s, and we know about rock clubs like The Fillmore and The Avalon, along with the musical stages of San Francisco. and Greenwich Village.

Because it’s all recorded. Thoroughly. It’s all over and there’s nothing left to say or do but enjoy the music and the memories.

Until I saw that picture of Morrison in Denver.

Turns out, there was a 1960 archeological opportunity that was completely missed.

History is always incomplete.

Official poster of The Tale of the Dog

Family Dog, we’ve discovered, is why Denver is at the heart of music. It was a mystical, mystical place; an Avalon Ballroom opened by San Franciscans on the industrial frontier of the dusty city, which has hosted the Pharaohs of Rock and Blues: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Howlin’ Wolf, Jefferson Airplane and all Of course, the Doors.

Those collectible psychedelic posters were made for certain 1960s locations? They were also made for Family Dog Denver.

The light show we expect as a fundamental part of concerts? One of the world’s first and perhaps largest liquid light shows took place at Denver Dog, as many have called it.

Electronic music is the foundation of a large amount of today’s music scene? One of its pioneers, Lothar and Hand People, severed Family Dog’s teeth, while, emphatically turning down a contract offer from Elektra Records but immediately went to Morrison and the Doors instead.

The Canned Heat, the famous blues band who wrote Woodstock’s national anthem “Going Up the Country,” has never raked in a dime of their hits. Why? Because they were arrested for drug possession before the show at Family Dog and lost all their publishing rights.

It cost them millions of dollars.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Family Dog’s existence is the way it presents itself when cultures collide.

When the citizens of 1967 Denver, who defeated the Nazis and fought in Korea, saw their kids using LSD, dressed up as screw spheres, and ran to hippo apartments smelly downtown, alarm bells went off all over the city.

Era of Flower Palace, Close-up

The mayor ordered the closure of Family Dog, which was considered the offending agent. A single character, Detective John Gray of the Denver Police Department, emerges to lead the fight against the “hippie scourge”.

The resulting battles led straight to court, a dog that was closed early, and a will still carried by those still around 55 years later.

Despite this rich history, there is a big problem in trying to get a full understanding of it for the documentary. That’s because, rather oddly, there are no photos and videos of the place. Somehow, Family Dog has completely disappeared from memory.

In 2015, after years of hard work cleaning the dust around this mysterious concert hall, my wife, Nancy, saw an advertisement for a psychedelic poster show at a local museum. “Look, it’s about the Family Dog, honey. We should go.”

In what would become a pivotal moment, we did.

Director Dan Obarski-Raphael Poster Artist Bob Schnepf- Director Scott Montgomery
Co-director Dan Obarski, Raphael Poster Artist Bob Schnepf and co-director Scott Montgomery from The Tale of the Dog

The show was performed by Scott Montgomery, a professor of art history at the University of Denver. I don’t know him from Adam, but Scott is the only person I’ve ever met who has even heard of Family Dog.

Coincidentally from the Bay Area, he came to the mystery of the place through his own path, often focusing on the show’s psychedelic posters. At the end of his presentation, feeling the opportunity rising, I wrote in his guestbook, “We must come together!”

After a few months, we did, immediately falling into a frenzied exchange of liberated enthusiasm and discussing exactly what to do with this story.

We initially thought we were going to write an article, or maybe a book. But the old musicians are dying more and more, and there is a sense of urgency to document their history in the utmost way.

“We have to put these people on camera! Let’s make a documentary! “We cheer, as if we just solved, instead of creating a big problem.

The problem is that none of us have the deepest idea of ​​what that means.

If you asked me now if I would do it again, I would dodge that question, because it’s a ridiculous amount of work. We think we’ll be done in eight months. Maybe a year.

It took six years.

The story that we unearthed is quite extensive and original, and the road has been thorny, difficult, and exciting, so I’ll keep it as one of the most personally valuable things I’ve ever done.

What’s the first thing you say after declaring you’re making a documentary and you don’t know what you’re doing? An ocean of questions pervades the picture:

  • Are we interviewing people? How?
  • Do we need a cinematographer? Who?
  • Are we fundraising? How many, how much?
  • Do we know the people involved? Which ones?
  • Are we comfortable knowing the full story? How do we find out?
  • Do we need to form a company? What kind? We need a lawyer!

You get the idea.

The fuel needed to tackle these problems is our entrance to the story unfolding before us. It is a vital component, without which the process cannot be reversed.

We blindly started the production company. There is a real bliss in the “unknowns”, and we quickly learned that every component of running such a business must be discovered and successfully implemented. If we don’t hold the accelerator, this will last a decade.

It’s fun to tell people you’re making a documentary and bask in their rave reviews, but the hard truth is that until you have a final film, you have nothing. chief.

Course on incidents in Phimmoi 101

Just as a business deal remains a piece of the puzzle until the contract is signed, this movie is purely fictional until the minute it is completed. This is my current, terrifying, and motivating reality.

Every part of the business – operations, finance, research, cast, plot, editorial, advertising, etc. – is a whole new puzzle that must be solved. There’s a fair share of the days in those six years, the drudgery in the city is now the crux of the process, when an end seems unlikely.

However, because of our efforts, we were treated to a wonderland of new experiences, including a virtual red carpet at the Indiedance Film Festival that illuminates our dark days during COVID-19, inspired legendary Colorado classical rock DJ, Rick Lewis. I’ve been listening to him since high school, and he not only narrated the movie, but also invited us on his popular radio station to promote the finished movie.

There are also big, tough moments along the way.

Hundreds of years of rain shut down airports across Southern California and caused massive sinkholes on Ventura Avenue that almost got us murdered by a lunatic in a Los Angeles Rage. Angeles.

Mother Nature also nearly made us pay with an interview with Canned Heat.

Because of the rain, our videographers were stuck in Denver and we didn’t have the equipment for the next day’s shoot. Now, do you imagine that Hollywood could run out of movie cameras? Because they did.

As if in a bad hallucination, it turned out that this was the first day of a test shoot for the studios, and it took us 10 hours to drive around LA before we found a remote rental store and where Might really be the ultimate camera place in Hollywood.

The content of the interview Canned Heat will become the dramatic plot of the film.

Family reunion, Denver style

There were also fun moments, such as when we reunited Family Dog staff, patrons, bands and enthusiasts on our 50th anniversary for a grand (and lots of interviews). Dozens of people aged 70 – 85 have flown in from all over the country to celebrate, in their words, an association that transforms forever.

The dog has the same meaning.

But it was that last moment of radiance, which is when I turned on the TV and found “The Tale of the Dog” available to watch on Amazon, Apple TV, GooglePlay, and other streaming services. Years of hard work shrinking to a diamond in a split second, and a recalibration of all the possibilities hidden in the halftones of life.

I have become convinced that naive people run the world. In the end, we went like children into the forest. But the enthusiasm and willingness to do whatever it takes to get the full, objective story in place, combined with the uncanny receptivity of the universe when it meets us halfway, has created the final film. equally unlikely.

So now I’m back in health care, like an old timer reminiscing on his porch about the strangely long journey that happened, someone stronger and richer. In many aspects.

And keep an eye out for intriguing trails that aren’t on my itinerary.

“The Tale of the Dog” is currently streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play app market, YouTubeVudu, Tubi TVand Hoopla.

Dan Obarski is a healthcare director and Licensed Professional Counselor in Denver.

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