Life on the Road: A Touring Band’s American Adventure [Vol 4: Colorado Springs, Colorado]

When we told our new crunchy hippy friends that we were headed to Colorado Springs for our next show, we were greeted with confusion.  “Colorado Springs? Really? Why?  Isn’t that a military town?”  We weren’t sure, having never been there, but we were about to find out.

Our guitar player, new to the band and the booking process, had confirmed a gig at Rubbish Art Gallery, and we had no idea what to expect.  The venue was supposed to be a safe haven for liberal, indie artists in the conservative surroundings.  We were ready for armed forces to be waiting for us when we arrived, maybe with “I Love America” badges and scowls for us dirty musician types.

We drove in to town, sort of shocked by our surroundings.  This was not what we were expecting at all!  A clean, quiet city with a few parks and tall buildings.  No scowls, no people in uniform, just a nice little town with some mountains in the distance.  The drive from Taos was short, so we had a couple hours to kill.  Our bass player was getting tired of his long, curly hair so he shaved his head at Samis Hair Salon.  While we were waiting for him, the rest of us went to an old bar that a maybe-homeless man recommended to us when he overheard us talking about finding a mid-afternoon beer.  “Definitely Phantom Canyon Brewery!” he told us, although later admitted that he only liked Heineken.  The building was beautiful and the local beer was tasty, from their “Queen’s Blonde Ale” to their “Phantom IPA.”

Still more time to kill….

…So of course we grabbed a snack!  Walking around town, we saw it was TACO TUESDAY at Jose Muldoon’s.  You say Taco Tuesday to any band, and they’ll come running.  Margaritas and tacos and beers, oh my!  The place was pricey, but the tacos were 75 cents and the beers and ‘ritas were only two bucks.  We sat outside on the patio and soaked up the sun, as many others were doing on this beautiful day.


Finally, full of food and booze, we were ready to start loading in for our show.  We found Rubbish Art Gallery in an alleyway, and met its strange cast of characters.  A woman with an uncanny resemblance to Tinkerbelle and a small man not unlike Peter Pan showed us around and handed us cans of Pabst.  Our eccentric hosts proved to be highly artistic and equally friendly, but we had low expectations for this show.  We hadn’t seen very many young people around town, and we wondered who would come see us play tonight.  Anyone? Someone?  WHERE WAS EVERYONE?

And then suddenly, as if the setting sun was a call to arms, all the hippies, hipsters, and youthful artists emerged, and the gallery was packed.  The show was a SUCCESS, complete with cheap beer, sweaty dancing, new friends, and an encore.

After packing up, we followed Tinkerbelle back to her house in Manitou Springs (a short distance away), where she showed us our sleeping accommodations.  “Well guys,” she apologized,” I don’t have a couch, but I have this great roof!  You want to sleep there?”  Sort of a rhetorical question, since it was the middle of the night and we knew no one else within a hundred miles of Manitou Springs.  We set up our sleeping bags on the roof of her house, tried to get as high as we could so we wouldn’t mind the slanted, hard floor, and fell asleep listening to the wind in the leaves above us and the peaceful sound of a flowing stream down below.


As you might imagine, we woke up early the next morning to a cat meowing and the sun in our eyes.  We packed up quickly and got ready for the tour of Manitou we were promised (threatened?).

All of us being coffee fiends, we asked where the nearest local grinds were.  Peter Pan, who happened to live next door to Tinkerbelle (and also had no couch…) took us to The Maté Factory Café, which was said to be run by a local cult or possible religious group.  Could this part of the tour get any weirder?  Once we entered the café, we were set at ease.  It looked like a tree house inside!  We all tried some maté, and ZING!, we were ready for the day.

We walked around the small town, exploring abandoned outdoor arcades, hearing ghost stories of haunted buildings, and taking sips out of the public fountains that provides pure, fresh water for the springs of Manitou.  Most delicious water in the world!  Some boiling hot and some freezing cold, we tried each spout to drink a small piece of Colorado.  This place was magical and strange… maybe there was something in the water!

We’d had a lovely morning, but it was time to head out.  Peter Pan wouldn’t let us leave without showing us one last thing, so we followed him to the Garden of the Gods.  And that’s truly what it was.  All around us were huge rock formations made from red earth and orange soil.  Like giant hands from unearthly beings, we stood in awe of the towers around and above us.  This park is not to be missed, and is worth visiting if you happen to be in this part of the world.

We thanked Peter Pan for his hospitality, and headed off to our next gig: Montana!  In the van, we all looked at each other and laughed.  Did that really just happen!? Did we sleep on a roof?  Did we see ghosts at the abandoned arcade? Did we drink cult maté and visit God’s playground?  Even now, doing a bit of research for this article, I found out that Rubbish Art Gallery is unfortunately no longer running, and there are hardly any pictures that document that part of our tour… Who knows, maybe when you visit Colorado Springs you leave a little piece of yourself there and bring a little bit of it with you.  There truly were ghosts and gods in Manitou, and we were lucky enough to see them.

If you’re not in a touring band, you’ll still like Colorado Springs and its surrounding areas!  Check out some of the links below for Big Tree’s favorite local spots.

Kaila McIntyre-Bader is a freelance writer and a musician splitting her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. Born and raised in San Rafael, California, Kaila received a Liberal Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Kaila lived in Cuba for four months, taking Biology, Spanish, and Opera Singing classes while learning how to smoke cigars and stay up all night. She has backpacked through Europe, traveled through Central America, volunteered for the Amigos Program in Panama, and toured extensively across the United States of America with her pop band Big Tree. When she’s not working as a waitress or teaching flute lessons to children, she is wandering the world and faithfully reporting back to readers all of her secrets and adventures.