Crew revives spirit of Steamboat’s Inferno this weekend
March 21, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Jan Levy remembers the first touring band that she brought in to play at her father's Steamboat Springs bar, the Inferno. The year was 1985, and Jan Levy was in her early 20s.
The band, called Little Women, was out of Boulder and featured Jerry Joseph, who still plays shows in Steamboat.
But Marty Levy, a fixture at the local bar he started in Gondola Square in 1984, wasn't sold on the idea.
"A band called Little Women?" Jan Levy recalled her father saying. "No one is going to see a band called Little Women, let alone pay a cover, but go ahead, try it."
"The band shows up onstage, and they have percussion and dreadlocks, and my dad was like, 'This is not going to work.' Then all of a sudden, people start to line up at the door."
The club closed in 2000 but in its 16-year history laid the groundwork for many classic Steamboat stories. It hosted bands such as Dave Matthews Band, String Cheese Incident, Phish, Parliament Funkadelic and Sugar Hill Gang.
For Steamboat residents and visitors during that time, many memories were made in the basement bar, and bonds were forged that still last today.
Two years ago, the first Inferno reunion took place, in which Levy revived the bar's famed Shot Wheel (which was spun at happy hour and offered shots for 35 cents to 95 cents for 10 minutes) and re-created the former Disco Inferno dance party.
This year, coinciding with Levy's 50th birthday, the old Inferno crew takes over Steamboat once again this weekend. Anyone is invited — even if they weren't born the year Inferno opened or if they never set foot in the bar — because that's what Inferno was all about: family, friends, community and music.
Sharing their memories, stories and reflections on the bar and venue's 16-year run in Gondola Square are former manager and co-owner Jan Levy, of Steamboat Springs; former bartender and Levy's roommate in the 1990s, Todd Cotter, of Illinois; and longtime Inferno bartender Charlie Washburn, of Maryland.
■ "Basically, back in the 1980s, there was nobody here. In a good way. It was like we had this little place all to ourselves. It was just crazy. It was the wild, wild West."
■ "I had a pair of black leather pants I used to wear. Marty used to say that if I was wearing my black leather pants, it was going to be a good night."
■ "Widespread (Panic) played at the Inferno one time, and we didn't have enough power, so they literally had the biggest power cable you've ever seen going out the back door and into the lower-level parking garage."
■ On the Sugar Hill Gang show:
"They were doing 'Rapper's Delight' and everyone, everyone in the whole room was dancing. I was in the back of the room, everyone was singing the words. And the band was lip-syncing."
■ "I look back on it as probably the best 10 years of my life. The people you worked with, the people in town, the friendliness of everyone. … It was family, whether you worked there or you were a local, there was always somebody you knew in there. It didn't matter."
■ "What I took away from the last Inferno reunion was how much my employees and customers loved what we had, how much it was a part of their early adulthood, friendship base or their experience in Steamboat. Just being able to be in Steamboat and have that bond, you know, people still walk up to me and tell me they met their wife at the Inferno, and they have two kids now."
■ "I met a lot of really great people that came in not only the first night they were in town but the second night and the next year. … I met people in New York City in a clothing store who recognized me from the Inferno."
■ On the Phish show:
"I was sitting behind the bar and watching the band play, and the crowd, people were trying to crawl in windows. They were so desperate to get into the show. Who knows how many people crawled in through the windows that night."
■ On what Marty Levy would think about an Inferno reunion:
"He would have been holding court. He would have been hanging out with his gin on the rocks and his cigarette dangling. I don't know if he created the Inferno or if the Inferno created him.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com
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