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The roar of motorcycle engines cut through the night like saw blades. They were still some ways off, but gaining. The sound of their engines faded in and out due to some weird trick of the acoustics of this blighted landscape. It was impossible to tell how soon they'd catch up to us, but each time I heard them the noise was louder.

"Run! Run faster!"

I urged my friends on, gasping and gritting through the burning in my lungs.

Sweat poured off me yet still I ran.

We had left the Stude at the side of the road where it had broken down and that had been a mile ago. The desert air, so cold and crisp and sharp at night, stung me with every desperate breath I sucked down. Our ragged breathing and the slapping of our shoes on the still-hot asphalt of the highway was now the only sound.

But I knew.

Knew it was only a matter of time before they caught up with us, those mutated biker circus freaks.

And then it would be a trip back. Back to the one place I couldn't bear to see again. Rock 'n' Roller Drome. And there would be no more escapes for any of us after that…

 

 


Welcome to the History Page!

Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and played loud rock music, Dennis Larkins was busy bringing set design out of the Paleolithic with revolutionary arena rock stage concepts.  Under the aegis of legendary promoter Bill Graham, Dennis brought a vision of monolithic drops to life in the form of towering painted backdrops and scrims.

Taking what he'd learned as a painter of stage backdrops for the San Francisco Opera, Dennis almost single-handedly designed and painted the set decorations for Bill Graham's annual "Day on the Green" music festivals, such as the original legendary "Monsters of Rock" festival (featuring Aerosmith and Ted Nugent), concerts for Led Zeppelin (in what would prove to be their last American concert), the Eagles, Journey, and many more legends of Seventies rock.

This legendary period of rock music, marked by much musical experimentation and diversification, not to mention the explosion of music as an industry, was also an extremely fluid and experimental time for set design and show presentation.

Live shows in the Fifties and Sixties often consisted of little more than the musicians lined up on a bare stage, surrounded by the raw equipage of electric rock, with perhaps an occasional lit backdrop or gel-tinged spotlight to provide variety.

The growing popularity of rock music, as well as Bill Graham Productions' development of the stadium/arena as a venue for concerts, demanded performances that delivered a memorable show, more than simply a band belting out its "greatest hits".  One of the easiest ways of doing this (from a promoter's point of view) was to jazz up the stage on which the band performed.  Today's elaborate stages, with their pyrotechnics, banks of special lights, and shifting colors were born in the Seventies.  And Dennis Larkins was one of the earliest developers of these revolutionary new staging concepts.

Working from a design, often conceptualized in conjunction with BGP producer Peter Barsotti and executed in a matter of days (at best), Dennis, under tremendous pressure, would literally paint the full sized drops by hand.  Hung from the stage superstructure, the sheer scale of these sets can best be appreciated by viewing the photographic evidence presented below.

While he was busy enough creating and painting this new breed of rock set designs, Dennis was also performing yeoman's work as a graphic artist for Bill Graham Presents, producing t-shirt designs and posters, work that would end up continuing (on a freelance basis) for some years after Dennis' set design days were over.

Dennis' career as a set designer reached its zenith when he designed and implemented the Rolling Stones 1981 American tour set package in conjunction with Japanese graphic artist Kazú. 

He was able to then develop his connections in the entertainment industry and the next two decades saw an evolution into a respected career in themed Exhibit and Attraction design.  Dennis was able to apply his set design experience to a job in the Disneyland Parade Float Shop, where all those nifty floats you see making their way down Main St. three to five times a day are constructed.  Not long after landing that job, Dennis moved up to a desk job as an Imagineer.  He later went on to work for a diverse spectrum of theming outfits, both on a freelance basis and as full-time employee, from the Korean company SuperTech to local contractor SpectraF/X,  from MCA/Universal to Warner Bros. Studio Stores to Sega GameWorks.

Needless to say, Dennis filled what free time he had with his own work in fine art.  It was during the Seventies and Eighties that Dennis developed and refined his dimensional technique, at first with great gobs of paint, later in mixed media using various plastics and flexible materials.

Clicking on the link below will take you to an interactive timeline that traces the development of Dennis' personal and professional art in the realms of Fine Art, Exhibits and Attractions, and Graphics and Illustrations.

 

 

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