After a month-long break that began just before Christmas 1972, Weather Report resumed performing in late January of the following year, with gigs at the University of New York at Stony Brook, a weeklong return to the Smiling Dog in Cleveland, and three nights at a tiny Atlanta music venue called the Twelfth Gate.
Weather Report then traveled up the Eastern Seaboard to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it spent five days in early February recording its third album, Sweetnighter. After those sessions, the band immediately hit the road again, arriving in Boulder, Colorado, for a gig at a new venue called Edison Electric on February 12.
At the time, Boulder’s live music scene was dominated by Tulagi, located just a few blocks from the University of Colorado campus. But in late 1972 Talagi found itself in competition with Edison Electric, a short-lived and little-remembered music venue (“behind the McDonalds” according to the advertising) that angled for many of the same acts that Talagi was attracting. Taking over the space of a previous club, Edison’s owners upgraded the premises with newly installed quad sound systems, new stage lighting, and “supergraphics” (whatever those are) on the walls, plus seating for 600 patrons. It was considered one of the best live music venues in town, and in its first few months of operation Edison Electric hosted Hot Tuna (when over a thousand people crammed inside), folk musician John Stewart, and the Dillards. The owners had eyes on bigger things for 1973, and booked Crazy Horse, Gram Parsons and Weather Report for early the next year.
So it was that Weather Report blew into town and proceeded to put on a well-received show for an audience of 550. It went so well that Weather Report vowed to be back soon. Everyone was pleased; that is, everyone but the motel owner next door.
Unhappy with the noise and crowds that Edison Electric attracted, he managed to get Colorado state officials to turn up at Weather Report’s show armed with decibel meters. Standing outside the club, they determined that the sound emanating from within ran afoul of the state’s legal limits and shut the place down.
According to contemporaneous reports, the legal limit was 55 decibels, whereas Weather Report was measured at 62 dB outside the club. How loud is 62 decibels? 60 dB is about the loudness of a normal conversation, or background music, or normal piano practice. As a point of comparison, the city where I live limits outdoor music to 70 dB measured 25 feet or more from the source until 10:00 p.m., after which it can be no louder than 60 decibels. The same applies to indoor music as heard outside the business. So a threshold of 55 dB seems a bit low, but that remains Colorado state law in commercial areas from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Maybe the club should have invested in more sound insulation than “supergraphics.”
In any event, Edison Electric was instantly caput. “Thanks to my good neighbor at the motel next door, I’ve got a permanent injunction not to open,” club owner Conboy grumbled to the Colorado Daily. “My voice right now is about 60db. The traffic out on the turnpike is more than that. The Boulder ordinance is 80 dB. They came out and measured outside our door. Sixty-two dB, but…”
“If I sound bitter, I am,” Conboy added. “I just took a $560,000 bath. Out of business, bankrupt, down the tubes.”
With or without Edison Electric, Weather Report did return to Boulder, performing at Tulagi for five nights in June, and giving a concert in October at the 2,000-seat Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus. That was a lot of gigs in an eight-month period for a metro area of about 140,000 people. Evidently Boulderites had good taste in music.