The Time Weather Report Was So Loud It Shut Down the Venue

If you attended a Weather Report concert back in the day, you know it was loud. This is because Joe Zawinul liked it that way, perhaps inspired by the raw power that he admired in rock bands. And so as part of my “Fifty Years Ago Today” theme, we remember the time Weather Report was so loud that it actually shut down a music venue.

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.

3 thoughts on “The Time Weather Report Was So Loud It Shut Down the Venue

  1. E

    Great story! Thanks for sharing it.

    I had a similar experience (if memory serves me correctly*) of seeing Weather Report in the Summer of 1982 in downtown Santa Barbara, CA, in an indoor venue – a movie theater, I believe. Despite my love of their music, it was so searingly and painfully loud that I couldn’t bear it. I was only 24 at the time, but I never bought into the (still) prevailing idea that music has to be over-amped to enjoy it – loud, absolutely, but not to the point that you fear permanent hearing loss. Of course, it also made it impossible to talk to the beautiful girl I barely knew who I took to the concert, but that goes with the territory.

    Unfortunately, I was never able to see WR or Zawinul before or after (YouTube helps fill that void), but I’ve been fortunate to see Wayne Shorter live a couple of times (Symphony Center, Chicago).

    *Here’s the rub: I can find no evidence in all the Internet searching I’ve done that WR ever performed in Santa Barbara in the Summer of 1982 (or 1981, if I’m off by a year).

    Might anyone know whether WR performed in Santa Barbara around that time to help me confirm my recollection?

    Thank you very much!


    And while I imagine most of you reading this already know, for lovers of this music – and any music, for that matter – YouTube is an endless source of joy. ; )

    1. curt Post author

      Hi Eric. Thanks for the comment. It is certainly possible that Weather Report performed in Santa Barbara in 1981 or 1982 even though I have no record of it. If you remember the personnel, if Jaco and Peter Erskine were in the band it would have been before 1982. In 1982 it would have been Victor Bailey on bass and Omar Hakim on drums.


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