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Raved out: Hip-hop show booted from City Auditorium 

This is how Paul Butcher, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, defines a rave:

"It is the radical audiovisual experience. They are electronic dance music events. They are very tactile, and usually they are very large in terms of, this is not a small party ... They are more or less associated with some use of drugs or alcohol."

Sean Romano swears that his Woodwork Urban Music, Arts and Dance Festival, originally scheduled for Jan. 13 at downtown's City Auditorium, did not meet the above description. But the event was canceled 36 hours before show time, when Butcher and others deemed it a "rave."

"It's a severe hit on free enterprise for people to tell us what we are doing is wrong," says the 25-year-old Romano, who had been planning the mainly hip-hop show since June with Clockwork Productions colleague Brandon Cone and Pimp Circus partner Roy Attardi, all locals.

The 10-hour showcase, which featured Tech N9ne and Colorado Springs mainstay Black Pegasus, was moved to Mr. Biggs on Mark Dabling Boulevard. But the smaller venue precluded some of the show's highlights, including a breakdance performance by a Boston-based team that had flown in especially for Woodwork.

Attardi says the all-ages event lost around $35,000 in door ticket sales. Around 2,000 people less than two-thirds of the anticipated crowd attended. Some festival-goers may have snuck in drugs or alcohol, he says. But there was nothing on par with the city's misgivings.

"It was something for people to do aside from get drunk or high," says Cone. "The city looks down on culture."

A decade ago, the City Auditorium was a prime venue for raves and all-night hip-hop shows. Thousands of teenagers who might otherwise have trekked to Denver each Saturday made raves the auditorium's most profitable events.

The anti-rave policy was put in place five years ago in part, says Butcher, because "we had compelling videotape taken in the facility of exchanges of drugs, drug buys. There was kind of that Ecstasy effect, where people become very tactile. They would like to touch each other. They get zoned out, they do glow-stick painting."

Rather than outlaw raves altogether, the city disallowed events that went "significantly beyond midnight." (An outright ban could have opened the public facility to legal challenges.) Woodwork, which had been on the City Auditorium's calendar since September, was scheduled to end at 3 a.m.

Romano says he commissioned a 20-person security team and several on-site EMTs for the show. When he approached the police for extra staffing, the department learned that the online ticket vendor, called "Groove Tickets," sold for club and rave events.

Butcher was notified and he canceled the show. Soon after, his e-mail address was listed on the "Underground Network" message board; he has since fielded letters calling him a "troglodyte" (someone out of touch with the modern world) and a "Babylon boy" (a police officer).

A blinking photo of Butcher was also posted on the Web site along with the phrase, "Hey guys! My name is Paul Butcher! I hate it when kids have fun ... So does Jesus. I know him personally." The words "Give me a call" accompany his office phone number.

In spite of the trouble, Romano says he plans to donate 25 percent of his next show's proceeds to the Parks and Recreation department to "put [his] best foot forward."

"[The move] blindsided us," he says. "We were not trying to hide anything."

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