Monthly Archives: September 2009

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Echofest ’09: In this case, it’s the first time that’s charmed – Echo Mountain – 09/26/09

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Dick Chaffin, lead singer of Longmont's Smackfactor. (Photo: DenverThread)

Nielson, lead singer of Longmont's Smackfactor. (Photo: DenverThread)

If this first one is any indication of its future, Echofest has the potential to become  a significant annual event, and quickly. While the new outdoor festival, put on for the first time last Saturday at Echo Mountain, is certainly no Monolith (yet), it was well attended, and went off pretty much without a hitch. Arranged and staged in a cooperative effort between local sponsor JamSpace, local promoter Whisper Fiercely and Echo Mountain, the all-day festival featured a lineup of about 20 local Denver bands (a few bands did end up canceling, something that happens even when the venue is right down the street) on two stages set up smack in the middle of the mountain’s bunny hill nestled against the “magic carpet” lift, and attracted a crowd that at one point looked like it was comprised of more than 100 fans, despite some pretty stiff winds, wild temperature swings, and a general campground atmosphere.

While the new outdoor festival, put on for the first time last Saturday at Echo Mountain, is certainly no Monolith (yet), it was well attended, and went off pretty much without a hitch.

As you can imagine, putting on any live show isn’t a walk in the park. There are so many places where things can go wrong – from bands canceling at the last minute (even if they do actually call and let the promoter know) to equipment problems, to a myriad of other problems, any of which have the potential to bring all the promoter’s and venue’s efforts to naught, which is to say nothing about any return on their investments in both time and money.

Stage One setup at Echofest '09, at Echo Mountain. (Photo: DenverThread)

Stage One setup at Echofest '09, at Echo Mountain. (Photo: DenverThread)

Try and imagine doing it outside, on the side of a mountain, in the middle of a skiing/boarding park, more than 30 minutes from downtown, and more than 12 miles from the nearest significant power grid. Not only are there the usual equipment and sound considerations to contend with, but now you’ve added weather, terrain, transportation and power challenges that no other venue faces, even on their worst day.

So, massive props to Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely, for making Echofest ’09 happen, and for pulling it off as smoothly as they did. Just to address some of the challenges I mentioned, and how they were handled:

All power for both stages, and nearly 20 bands’ 30-minute (or more) sets was supplied by a generator provided by Echo Mountain that was parked off to the side of the festival area on a catwalk. And there was only one outage instance (that I saw).

Fans sat on the Magic Carpet between both stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Fans sat on the Magic Carpet between both stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

While bands had ample room to park their vehicles in Echo’s two parking areas, even the closest parking was a few hundred yards (at least) from the stage, over rough, mountainside terrain. So each band’s equipment was “ferried” by truck from the lot to one of the two stages and unloaded while another band was playing, and then it was all reloaded and taken back after their set, as the next band setup and sound-checked. It sounds like a massive undertaking – and it was – but the Echofest crew members made it seem all in a day’s work.

. . . massive props to Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely, for making Echofest ’09 happen, and for pulling it off as smoothly as they did. . .

Of course, there’s not much Echo Mountain or Whisper Fiercely could do about the weather – except continue to pray it didn’t get any worse (it never rained, or snowed for that matter, while I was there – though just a few days before the mountain had over an inch of the white stuff on the ground and it looked more like January than September). Still, as the winds picked up, and temperatures declined, the staff at Echo built up a few bonfires outside the open lodge/bar area, and provided respite inside their two buildings, the Echo Lodge and the Echo Garage, that featured food, drinks, and – most importantly – warmth for the fans and bands in between sets.

All of these efforts came together brilliantly to provide a solid foundation for the festival, which allowed the bands to give their best onstage. Cold, high winds, stiff fingers and red cheeks all ended up being only small matters. These dedicated musicians filled the two stages for a combined total of more than 9 hours of music – all local, and all ecstatic to be a part of it.

Fans got a chance to see their favorite bands perform on the side of Echo Mountain, on one of two stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Fans got a chance to see their favorite bands perform on the side of Echo Mountain, on one of two stages. (Photo: DenverThread)

Throughout the day the lineup featured nearly as many punk, metal and rock genres as it did bands (there was a distinct lack of alt-country or folk bands, come to think of it, but I don’t think their absence was really noticed). Many of the bands came from Denver’s suburbs like Thornton, Parker, or Longmont, which proves that, while the downtown scene may gobble up much of the focus, the Denver scene is strong all around the Front Range. There was chunky, Mudhoney-style grunge funk from Circle # Dot, followed by edgy and noisy prog-rock from Portamento, while Apex Vibe and Can’t Quite Get Right featured their unique blends of dub-ska rock, and AudioFlux poured on some straight up punk thrash.

And then there was the metal.

As the sun crept further down behind the Rockies, the lineup seemed to focus more on the harder rock, from System of a Down-type angst of thiC and Cypher, to the pure, unadulterated death metal from Smackfactor (who, by the way, feature an impressive merch machine – everyone in the band had matching hoodies, and so did half of the fans). The crowds loved it all, and by that time was larger and seemed even more excited to be there than at any point earlier in the day. In fact, as I left (finally succumbing to the cold and wind) there were still five bands in the lineup left to play, and the fans showed no signs of slowing down.

Check out this slideshow of the event’s progression:

[slideshow id=echofest_09_2 w=600 h=500]

The question now is whether Echo Mountain and Whisper Fiercely intend to make this year’s festival just one of many to come. When I spoke to Cindy Dady, Echo Mountain General Manager, and Molly Mueller, Echo Mountain Marketing Director, they both seemed impressed with the results, and hopeful for future events. They also hope that an annual Echofest will build awareness of Echo Mountain as a summer fun destination as well as a winter one.

Circle # Dot onstage at Echofest '09 (Photo: DenverThread)

Circle # Dot onstage at Echofest '09 (Photo: DenverThread)

“We’re looking at adding more regular events both during the season and the summer,” said Mueller. “We want to support Denver’s music scene, and also offer some new entertainment for our skiers and boarders during the season, so we’re looking at ideas.”

“[Echo Mountain hopes] . . .that an annual Echofest will build awareness of Echo Mountain as a summer fun destination as well as a winter one.”

Echo Mountain went over and above in initial support by hosting Echofest ’09. In addition to donating the land, man-hours and dedication required to host the event, the administration also gave each band member a season pass for participating in the festival this year, a pretty sweet deal for a few hours’ work, especially doing something you love. The passes ensure that these locals will be back all season long, too.

Another possibility may be regular events – monthly, maybe even more often – in which Echo would feature live shows with local bands or DJs on the deck at mid-mountain or in either the Lodge or the Garage. Providing live, local entertainment during the afternoon and evening offers skiers and boarders already there for the day a unique “apres-ski” environment, and should also attract local music fans to experience Echo – some undoubtedly for the first time – to see what the mountain has to offer. And, since Echo hosts night skiing nearly every day of the week until 9PM (the mountain is closed on Tuesdays, and shuts down on Sundays at 5), skiers and boarders will have the opportunity to play on the mountain to the tunes of their favorite local bands, live and in person.

Smackfactor's Dick Chaffin, givin' y'all what-fer (Photo: DenverThread)

Smackfactor's Nielson, givin' y'all what-fer (Photo: DenverThread)

Whatever develops out of it, EchoFest ’09 was only the beginning, it seems. Melissa Lycan, President of Whisper Fiercely, pointed out that the production company learned a lot about logistics on the mountain and in the woods, but were “. . . happy to help kick off the first year. . . . upward and onward for the future!”

Another possibility may be regular events – monthly, maybe even more often – in which Echo would feature live shows with local bands or DJs on the deck at mid-mountain or in either the Lodge or the Garage.

Judging by the event’s initial success, that future looks damned promising, for the promoter and the mountain, as well as for Denver’s many local bands.


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The Alltunators, Velvet Cash, Jimbo Darville and the Truckadours, New Ben Franklins @ the Meadowlark, 09/24/09 – Reverb

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Velvbet Cash (Photo from MySpace)

Velvbet Cash (Photo from MySpace)

. . . on the way to wrapping up another great season of backyard concerts in the Meadowlark’s spectacular outdoor stage, the venue may have run into some trouble with their Larimer Street neighbors. At least that’s why I was told that last Thursday night’s Velvet Cash, New Ben Franklins, Jimbo Darville and the Truckadours and the Alltunators lineup was moved inside at the last minute.

Catch the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!


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CYPB: Already at the top, these young pipers have their eyes on world domination . . .

The Colorado Youth Pipe Band, in competition at this year's Long's Peak Scottish-Irish Festival. (Phot: DenbverThread)

The Colorado Youth Pipe Band, in competition at this year's Long's Peak Scottish-Irish Festival. (Photo: DenverThread)

The Colorado Youth Pipe Band have grown, through real competition, hard work and strong, dedicated leadership to dominate the Colorado Piping Community. And that’s just the beginning . . . .

The Colorado Youth Pipe Band, the only competitive pipe band in Colorado comprised entirely of youth under 18, competes regularly – locally, nationally and internationally – against all-adult bands, and has for a lot of years.

CYPB - practicing hard for the next judging (Photo: DenverThread)

CYPB - practicing hard for the next judging (Photo: DenverThread)

Their first competition was just about 20 years ago, as a matter of fact, and they’ve not missed a year since. And, in the past three years, the CYPB Competition Band has dominated all of the major Front Range contests, gaining or retaining status of “Band of the Games” for nearly every one.

Until this year, that is. In the 2009 Long’s Peak Scottish/Irish Festival, held in Estes Park from September 10th – 13th, the Competition Band found themselves a bit back on their heels, and slipped just a bit in their standings. They placed just 2nd in the Quick March Medley, and 3rd in the Time Limit Medley, and lost the “Band of the Games” title, for the first time since 2006, to the Denver/District team (you can find more on the Long’s Peak Festival and the live music on constant display at Denver Post Reverb).

In the 2009 Long’s Peak Scottish/Irish Festival, held in Estes Park from September 10th – 13th, the Competition Band found themselves a bit back on their heels, and slipped just a bit in their standings.

Not to worry, though, according to Band Director Jamie Cuthill.

Cuthill believes the CYPB is as strong as ever, maybe stronger. In his view, the band’s slight downtick in results is a temporary thing, and is more likely a result of the local piping community finally taking notice and improving, rather than an off year for the youth band, and Cuthill intends to prove it as soon as the next rounds of competition start up again.

Band Director Jamie Cuthill calling out the tune and cadence during practice. (Photo: DenverThread)

Band Director Jamie Cuthill calling out the tune and cadence during practice. (Photo: DenverThread)

After all, a 2nd and 3rd aren’t all bad. Especially considering that the CYPB drummers took First in both contests for the Long’s Peak Scottish/Irish Games overall, and considering CYPB member Billy Woods was named “Piper of the Games,” and dominated in all of the amateur soloist competitions. CYPB’s Highlands Dancers also placed well in all of the dancing competitions this year. It was only in the overall standings that CYPB was edged out. But Cuthill thinks the sting of that wee edging will be enough to inspire the members to pick up their game in response to the community, and regain their former prowess, as well as their title, quickly.

The Youth Band wasn’t always this successful. In fact, from the time it was founded by Neil Gillette around 1989 until the competitions of the past four or five years, it was largely viewed by the piping community as a “kiddie’s class,”  (at worst) or as a sort of “farm team” for other Colorado pipe bands. It started out with 10 students and just a few instructors back then, and has since grown into a small community within the state piping community, with no less than ten instructors for piping, drumming and highlands dance. These teachers lead upwards of 22 piping and drumming, and 13 dancing students, as well as the additional 25 members of the Competition Band. And after the past few years, they’ve long had the ear of the community, and a whole lot more respect.

Another shot of some CYPB between-competition practice, in perfect Highland surroundings.

Another shot of some CYPB between-competition practice, in perfect Highland surroundings. (Photo: DenverThread)

“When I took over as Director,” says Cuthill, “I had just returned to Denver from a while in British Columbia, where I’d noticed a marked difference in the way the youth bands, and under-age pipers in general, were viewed. That difference is also obvious in the way they’re taught. In the Colorado piping community, for the longest time the youth band was never taken seriously as a competitive force. I decided to change that, and started working on it right when I took over in 2002.”

“It took a little while, but [former drumming instructor] Colin Hickman, [piping instructor] Shannon Long and I noticed something “click,” during a performance on St. Patrick’s Day at The Irish Snug [on Colfax] in 2006,” explains Cuthill. “We heard something in the band’s sound suddenly change, and all of us looked at each other as if to ask ‘Where’d that come from?’”

From that point on, the band consistently placed high in results in virtually all Colorado games and competitions, literally dominating all of them for the past three years. Not only that – the band traveled to Scotland to compete in 2007, and took 2nd place against more than twenty bands from all across the country in general competition. They also took 2nd place when qualifying for the Finals. As a result, CYPB still stands as the first and only band from Colorado to win any competition, and bring home a prize, in Scotland.

“We heard something in the band’s sound suddenly change, and all of us looked at each other as if to ask ‘Where’d that come from?’”

When Cuthill started as Director, he admits, one of his inspirations was to prove to the community that the Youth Band could not only be competitive, but could, in fact, be the best.

Part of the CYPB Drum Corp, winners in the Long's Peak games.

Part of the CYPB Drum Corp, winners in the Long's Peak games. (Photo: DenverThread)

“At first, I wanted to make the others eat their hats. It inspired me. But it quickly grew to be more about the kids. Colin, Shannon, the other instructors and I have been driven to make this band the best in Colorado – the best in the country – regardless of age. But it’s been the kids that have done the work, and they deserve the credit,” says Cuthill.

“We just needed to treat them as adult learners, as true competitors, which was not the opinion or belief of the community when the band started out,” Cuthill remembers. “Outside the States, piping is actually about as close to a sport as music can come. Young pipers in B. C., for instance, live, eat and breathe piping. Piping, drumming and dancing are all part of their regular curriculum in school – they practice every day, and compete almost every week. We wanted to teach our students to take their piping that seriously, from the start, no matter what they heard from the community.”

That attitude and dedication has paid off, so far.

The Weather on Saturday during the Long's Peak Scottish-Irish Festival provided a perfect Highlands feel to the games. (Photo DenverThread)

The Weather on Saturday during the Long's Peak Scottish-Irish Festival provided a perfect Highlands feel to the games. (Photo DenverThread)

As far as the recent Long’s Peaks results, Cuthill feels he may have even allowed the band to “rest on their laurels” a bit over the previous year, and perhaps for good reason. Sometimes nothing teaches like the sting of defeat, even a minor one.

“I might’ve let them relax a wee bit,” he says, “to teach them that they can’t afford to be lazy. Not if we’re going to be the best in the world.”

Check out this documentary by Leigh Cousins, Andrew Crighton and Ryan Ovadia, from April of 2009, for an in-depth look at the prowess and dedication this group shows:


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Upcoming Show: Pink Mountaintops w/Snake Rattle Rattle Snake – Hi-Dive, 11/21/09

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Stephen McBean of Pink Mountaintops (photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

Stephen McBean of Pink Mountaintops (photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

Pink Mountaintops, perhaps the closest thing to a perfect mashup of shoegaze and freak-folk, have announced a Denver date at Hi-Dive on November 21, 2009, in support of their recently released third record, “Outside Love.” Pink Mountaintops is a project from Vancouver/Victoria punk rock scene veteran Stephen McBean, one-time member of Black Mountain.

Their psychedelic, multi-layered sound winds and grows on “Outside Love” from a quiet, nervous Devendra Banhart style of folk to a crashing cacophony that recalls My Bloody Valentine.

Some lines about “Outside Love” from the Pink Mountaintops website:

PinkMtnTops_OL

Pink Mountaintops, "Outside Love" (Photo: pinkmountaintops.com)

“Outside Love” is ten songs of love and hate that read like a Danielle Steele romance novel but that would probably make for bad television.

The ten songs on “Outside Love” are about or influenced by weddings in Montreal, winter, Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut, Christmas albums, that one Exile song and that one Echo and the Bunnymen song, the Bermuda Triangle, being depressed in the sunshine, people who haven’t made out yet but will in the future, The Everly Brothers, clowns in the ceilings, and bedrooms where skinheads used to live.

Pink Mountaintops . . . will be joined on tour by Black Mountain bandmate Matthew Camirand as well as Sophie Trudeau, Sar Friedman, Chad Ross, and Mike Maxymuik.

Opening for Pink Mountaintops will be Denver local “supergroup” Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. Tickets are $10/$12 DOS, and can be purchased online at Hi-Dive.com.


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Topper, Mick and Billy - together for rock and rehab! (photo: Tom Sheehan/J.G.D.)

Billy Bragg teams up with “Clash”-ers Mick Jones & Topper Headon for “Jail Guitar Doors”

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Topper, Mick and Billy - together for rock and rehab! (photo: Tom Sheehan/J.G.D.)

Topper, Mick and Billy - together for rock and rehab! (photo: Tom Sheehan/J.G.D.)

For the first time in nearly three decades, Mick Jones and Topper Headon, from The Clash, the only band that ever mattered, have reunited in the studio. Along with Billy Bragg, the boys have formed a trio to record a version of The Clash’s 1977 punk rock hit “Jail Guitar Doors” to help raise funds for a charity to support prisoner rehabilitation named after the song.

The charity aims to provide inmates with musical instruments to learn and create with during their incarceration, to help with rehabilitation. Backed by a band of former inmates, the trio recorded the song in Steve Barnard’s (ex- of Mescaleros) studio, and was filmed as part the film “Breaking Rocks,” an upcoming documentary about the program.

The Clash's Mick Jones. (Photo: Alan Miles/J.G.D.)

The Clash's Mick Jones. (Photo: Alan Miles/J.G.D.)

Check out this video clip, below. The whole idea gives a new, refreshing and hopeful slant to “Jailhouse Rock!”

And who’s not about to jump out of their skins in excitement after seeing such a triumvirate of punk rock together in the studio?


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Riverboat Gamblers, Kill City Bombers, Pitch Invasion @ Larimer Lounge, 09/15/09

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Riverboat Gamblers played a hot set of cool punk at Larimer Lounge last Tuesday. Photo from MySpace

Riverboat Gamblers played a hot set of cool punk at Larimer Lounge last Tuesday. Photo from MySpace

Most of the time, when I hear the moniker “melodic punk,” “neo-punk” or “modern punk” added to a band’s description, I’m immediately turned off, or at least hesitant to see them. I’ll admit it – I’m biased. There are simply too many bands out there playing an overproduced, too clean and tight brand of “punk,” with sounds loosely based on bands like Sex Pistols, The Exploited and Stiff Little Fingers, but with little or no depth and often no substance – and you can catch more than you’d really want to on any installment of Vans’ Warped tours over the past decade.

I spent my adolescence and young adulthood chasing punk bands like those originals I mentioned above across the states (and some of them in Europe) to see them anytime I could. I trolled small record stores all over, buying everything I could get my hands on. After so many years, they’ve been a part of my mental soundtrack, so deeply imbedded that hearing some of the tunes subjects me to an involuntary trip back in time, to an angrier, more desperate time, with a distinct flavoring of Knickerbocker beer, Mad Dog 20/20, and angst. Call me a snob, but I have a hard time not hearing a bunch of kids ripping off the basic structure behind the punk, but leaving out the passion, and too often the talent.

Which is why I was so amped after seeing Texas band Riverboat Gamblers at Larimer Lounge last Tuesday night. Despite sharing nearly all of the characteristics that define many of the other bands in the melodic punk genre, Gamblers are head and shoulders above any I’ve heard in a while, both in skill and passion. Fronted by Mike Wiebe, along with his seemingly endless energy and charm, on vocals and Fadi el-Assad on lead guitar, the five piece put on a high octane, engrossing and fun set for about an hour on the Larimer’s low stage, and the packed back room did all they could (unsuccessfully) to egg the band on for another hour.

Riverboat Gamblers have a wild stage presence, as seen here in a photo of a recent show in Austin. Photo from MySpace

Riverboat Gamblers have a wild stage presence, as seen here in a photo of a recent show in Austin. Photo from MySpace

Ian MacDougall (guitar), Rob Marchant (bass) and Eric Green (drums) rounded out the band, and kept the band’s machine-gun rhythm constant, while Wiebe ran across the stage again and again, decked out in a dark shirt with tucked-in tie and slacks, repeatedly bouncing off the room’s north wall to expend even more excess energy. More than anything they reminded me of Hives, after being inoculated with a stiff dose of punk rock to add even more edginess to the powerpop.

Riverboat Gamblers on their "A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology" single.

Riverboat Gamblers on their "A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology" single.

As manic as the band appeared, the feeling in the room never felt out of control, and Wiebe’s charisma was largely responsible. Between coaxing the audience into wild singalongs during a setlist that included “A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology,” “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and “Rattle Me Bones,” he simultaneously chided the situation and comforted the audience about our crumbling economy, and about how impressed he was that so many had come out on a Tuesday night. The highlight of the show had to be when Wiebe cajoled the crowd to crouch to their knees, and then come up screaming “G-A-M-B-L-E-R-S!!’ again and again, in an exercise that recalled the famous Otis Redding “Shout” movement from “Animal House,” but with a more punk-filled, happy angst.

I saw two of the three Denver bands that opened for Gamblers: Kill City Bombers (most of whom used to be in a local band called The Allergies a few years ago), and rising SoCal hardcore aficionados Pitch Invasion. Briefly: Pitch Invasion keeps climbing in the hearts and minds of the Denver scene by offering the most honest, bare-bones SoCal hardcore show the mile high city has to offer. At their sloppy best, Kill City Bombers reminded me of a stage full of Johnny Thunders clones, and they sounded nearly as wasted as Johnny did most of the time. Though that didn’t take anything away from a brilliant cover of Dead Boys’ “Flamethrower Love.”


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For the Holidays: Los Straitjackets – new holiday album, ¡Viva Christmas! tour, with El Vez, in the works

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Photo: Jim Graham/Yep Roc

Photo: Jim Graham/Yep Roc

What better time than late summer, when the waves are making swells after the hurricane season, and there’s no one but locals willing to brave the onset of the autumn chill to ride them, to start thinking about what to get your wave riding buddies for the holidays this year? Especially those who have as deep a love for surf twang, and a hankerin’ for Mexico, all year ’round! And America’s favorite surfing luchadores, Los Straitjackets, are mere weeks away from releasing a brand new Christmas album, a follow up to their extremely popular “‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets,” released in 2002.

2002's "'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets"

2002's "'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets"

“Yuletide Beat,” from Yep Roc Records, is slated for a November limited vinyl and CD release and download, will feature 10 rockin’ new arrangements of traditional carols, to help give the season more swing and surf than ever before. Here’s an excerpt from the band’s release:

“The band has created 10 all new rock & roll arrangements of traditional Holiday carols,  that’ll have you rockin’ through December, and closing out 2009 with a romantic slowdance to “‘Sould’D Lang Syne.” The band rides a desert surf wave on “We Three Kings,” takes “Joy to the World” to Memphis, and takes “Jingle Bells” on a Bakersfield Sleigh Ride. Not to mention entering uncharted territory with a classic rock rendition of “Jolly Old Saint Nick” (retitled Groovy Old Saint Nick for 1971 ambience).  This limited edition, numbered pressing of 1000 CDs & 1000 Vinyl comes in a lovingly printed and letterpressed package by DC area poster artist El Jefe, and will also be available for download via all major download sites.”

El Vez, onstage with Santa & Frosty

El Vez, onstage with Santa & Frosty

On top of that, the legendary surf-luchadores are teaming up with El Vez for a Fall/Winter ¡Viva Christmas! tour of both coasts, with a short jaunt in the midwest. Sadly, there are no Denver dates scheduled just yet, but let’s hope they’ll make a stop our landlocked surf mecca before it’s all over – stay tuned!

Pre-Sale information to come!


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Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips on Colbert Report

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Wayne Coyne spoke briefly to Stephen Colbert, and the entire band performed “Convinced of the Hex,” from the new album “Embryonic,” Wednesday night. The new album is scheduled to be released October 13, but you can stream the entire thing online at ColberNation.

Coyne seemed genuinely tickled to be interviewed, but maintained his characteristic charm and warmth. Check out the interview below, and go to ColbertNation.com to see their performance.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Wayne Coyne
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

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Revolting Cocks @ the Gothic Theatre, 09/13/09 – Reverb

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Photo- Reverb/Tina Hagerling

Photo- Reverb/Tina Hagerling

I was half right — the band put on a damned funny show. I wish I could say the same for the music, or for their schtick. The more they played, the more RevCo seemed to be more a Revolting Cocks cover band — or even a latter-day Ministry ripoff — than what I’d heard on record. The feeling behind songs like “Cousins,” “Robo Bandidos,” and set-ender “I’m Not Gay” seemed to fall flat. . . . the type of industrial punk they were pawning, infused with a cheap strip-joint aesthetic is more worn out, old and embarrassing than the strippers one might find at said strip-joint.

Catch the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!


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Long’s Peak Scottish-Irish Highlands Festival, 09/12-13/09 – Reverb

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Grey skies at Estes, beautiful highlands weather. Photo - Reverb/Brian Carney

Grey skies at Estes, beautiful highlands weather. Photo - Reverb/Brian Carney

Weaving ubiquitously through all of it was the music. From so many pipers practicing simultaneously (a cacophony that everyone should experience), to the competing full bands on the field, to the large and small musician’s tents hosting performances with endless combinations of Celtic folk and rock, the music was as omnipresent as the cold gray that enveloped the entire festival. All of the tents seemed to breathe occupants, filling as the rains increased, and shrinking — albeit only lightly — whenever the sun attempted to break through.

See the entire review, and many more of Brian Carney’s photos, at Denver Post Reverb!


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Last Minute Live! It Should’ve Been Lars w/Speedwolf – TONIGHT, Oriental

Photo: DenverThread

Photo: DenverThread

Denver metalheads, and local scenesters! Due to some “technical difficulties” (the van broke down), It Should’ve Been Lars and Speedwolf, who were supposed to play in Aspen tonight, have moved their show to The Oriental, on 44th & Tennyson, in Denver.

As of right now, Speedwolf plans to hit the stage at 10, and Lars after them.

COVER IS ONLY $2!!!

Get out and support Denver Metal, and the scene in general!

Here’s I am the Demon from Speedwolf’s “Bark At the Poon!” CD. Enjoy!


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Madness releases a new album – 1st in ten years!

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Madness is back on the shelves, and in the air! Photo: Yep Roc!

Madness is back on the shelves, and in the air! Photo: Yep Roc!

Remember Madness, the ’70s/’80s UK-Ska band most famous for their irreverent attitudes and spiffy dressing (not to mention some brilliant ska-punk music)? Well, it’s been ten years since their last one (save an all-covers piece called “The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1, released in 2005), but they’re set to release a new record, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, on Yep Roc! Records, with a street date of September 29, 2009.

The Liberty of Norton Folgate

The Liberty of Norton Folgate Photo: Yep Roc!

According to a Yep Roc press release, the album is “described by the band as an ‘audio guide to the greatest city on earth’ and . . . moves between elements of burlesque jazz, rock, ska and even polka combining for an effortless lesson in pop song craft.” The band’s version of a concept album, “Liberty . . .” focuses on an area outside London city walls that would eventually become Whitechapel (made infamous by Jack the Ripper), and used to be home to artists and writers like Philip Marlowe.

Grahame McPherson (Suggs), one of Madness’s founding members, described the area as ” . . . a refuge for actors, writers, thinkers, louts, lowlifes and libertines – outsiders and troublemakers all. We’d been kicking around the idea of a concept album about London for a while. We wanted to get the x-ray camera out and shoot down through the crust, past the bullets and bones, the clay pipes and stones, to try and get to the soul of the place. We’re all dancing in the moonlight, we’re all on borrowed ground.” And the record promises to bring a new light to the streets and gathering places of the area, as only Madness can do it.

PRE-ORDER “The Liberty of Norton Folgate” from Yep Roc.

Stream the record HERE.


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Ween @ Red Rocks, 09/06/09 – Reverb

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Ween @ Red Rocks. Photo: Brian Carney

Ween @ Red Rocks. Photo: Brian Carney

Ween have . . . aged well (only too evident in Gene’s now-grey, newly short hair), and comfortably wield many varying musical styles with aplomb. Their tight grasp on the building blocks of so many genres, arguably born out of a deep-seated irreverence for all of them, has given them the ability to create true-sounding originals full of wit, charm and sarcasm, with mere hints of mockery.

See the entire live review at Denver Post Reverb!


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Git Some @ Bender’s Tavern, Sept. 5, ’09 – Reverb

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Photo: MySpace, Doug Beam

Photo: MySpace, Doug Beam

Git Some gets a lot of their sound from the now defunct Denver band Planes Mistaken for Stars, once home to both Keener and French (and once voted Denver’s best band in the Denver Post’s Underground Music Poll), but this band’s take on the music is somewhat less dramatic. They’ve kept the weighty metal chords in their sound, but have added a Jesus Lizard-meets-Black Flag song structure, which seems to give the sound some lift. Where PMFS reflected the more traditional, sour sturm und drang behind emo, Git Some offers a faster, more careless attitude.

Read the entire live review at Denver Post Reverb!


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Interview: The Alltunators, courting Denver with a sweet, folksy, bygone sound

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The Alltunators (from left to right: Jessica Slater, Andy Miller, and Pascal Guimbard) played a set recently at Denver station KRFC.

The Alltunators (from left to right: Jessica Slater, Andy Miller, and Pascal Guimbard) played a set recently at Denver station KRFC.

“We’ll sing what we’re told,
We’ll sleep when we’re old,
And we’ll wait ’til they say we are done.”

– The Alltunators,
“Karaoke Life”
from their new CD
“Nation of Three”

If you’ve been trolling some of Denver’s many bars over the past few years, chances are you’ve found yourself watching a set by The Alltunators, and no doubt thoroughly enjoying it. Their eclectic mix of Americana, bluegrass, country and swing, sprinkled with just a tad of gypsy swing, is a perfect backdrop for a few beers and soft discussion, or a few mint juleps, martinis and daydreaming. This talented trio, all three accomplished multi-instrumentalists, has a tendency to make any venue feel as comfortable as your own living room.

The Alltunators came together as a duo in 2005 with Andy Miller on vocals, mandolins and guitars and Jessica Slater on vocals, fiddle, guitar and banjos. They added Pascal Guimbard, from the Gypsy Swing Revue (and probably the source of Alltunators’ gypsy swing influence) on bass, guitar and harmonicas in 2007, to complete the trio. They’ve consistently been playing perfect old-timey music ever since, and have also built a large local following that continues to grow. Their set at July’s Denver Post Underground Music Showcase, in The Irish Rover, was well attended, and their tour schedule is approaching that heavy phase that many young bands inevitably seem to find themselves enmeshed in on their way to the top.

Andy Miller fo The Alltunators. Photo by Joe Mahoney.
Andy Miller (Photo : Joe Mahoney)

If huge popularity is their intention – and I’m not saying it is  – it’s well deserved (I’m more inclined to believe that they simply, and brilliantly, love the music they’re playing). The band just released their second CD, “Nation of Three,” (find a review on Denver Post Reverb) last July, full of brilliant examples of their alternatively somber and jubilant “old-timey” sound. Both live and on record, they masterfully mix honest and passionate acoustic constructions behind Slater’s heartfelt lyrics and sweet and earnest, soft-spoken vocals, and add brilliant, bluesy jams behind Miller’s sassy juke joint crooning. Slater’s fiddle often forms a baroque melody structure atop some of the jazzy swing foundation laid by Guimbard’s bass and  Miller’s mandolin (one of which he made himself). The result is a summery Sunday afternoon feeling – fresh, relaxing, almost drowsily comforting.

I had a chance to interview the band recently about where they’ve come from, and where they’re going. Here’s what they had to say:

DenverThread: When Alltunators are onstage, and shortly after your shows, the most oft-heard comment is relation to “old-timey music,” or even “The Soggy Bottom Boys” from “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” Obviously your oeuvre has heavy ties to this genre, as well as some Gypsy Swing – can you comment on some of the reasons behind them?

Andy Miller: I grew up in a household with casual musician parents who had a band off and on, and musical types hanging around most of the time.  Playing music was a key part of the social agenda with the parents’ circle of friends.  This music included bluegrass, country, old rock ‘n roll, etc., so that was my initial connection to the “old-timey” stuff.  The bluegrass and folk and americana kind of stuff with a genuine, storytelling, sincere kind of feel to it seems to talk to all three of us, and that’s why we’re able to get it across to audiences.

“We’re far from being an authentic-sounding gypsy swing band, but it’s encouraging to think anyone’s hearing that in what we do – we’ll keep working on a few of those Django [Reinhardt] tunes.”
– Andy Miller

Gypsy Swing?  Well we just like the way it sounds, and have always thought as a guitar/fiddle pair it was fitting, then we stole Gypsy Swing Revue’s rhythm guitar player to play bass with us, so this is an ongoing evolution.  We’re far from being an authentic-sounding gypsy swing band, but it’s encouraging to think anyone’s hearing that in what we do – we’ll keep working on a few of those Django [Reinhardt] tunes.

Jessica Slater: The only theory I can offer is that our music is not so much about the strict bluegrass or gypsy swing genres that have emerged over the years, but more about where they came from – both of those styles are hybrids, they sprang from a variety of influences, and I doubt the pioneers of either style of music would be all that excited to hear that people are now struggling to reproduce exactly what they did, note for note! To me, it’s about acknowledging your influences and then making something unique from it. Playing in this band has been all about the adventure of finding my own voice – quite literally, because I really didn’t sing much until recently.

Jessica Slater  Photo by Joe Mahoney
Jessica Slater (Photo: Joe Mahoney)

The three of us grew up in three different countries, with quite different backgrounds – I played classical music growing up, we had a string quartet in my family – but we have found this common ground in music. (And that was the idea behind the album title, “Nation of Three”). It’s hard when someone asks “What kind of music do you play?” and you find yourself answering with a long list of categories… but there are common roots to these styles, and to me the common roots are often more compelling than the disparate categories that grew out of them.

As Andy said, we like sincerity and good stories. And we happen to play instruments made out of wood, that probably lead to an “old-timey” sound! But I honestly find it disappointing to listen to a bluegrass band, say, that will only play straight bluegrass all night and nothing else. It may be well executed, but it gets boring. I think you can find a true, consistent voice that traverses different emotions and styles. Life isn’t all one style, or one emotion, after all… (We joke that Andy sings the happy songs and I sing the melancholy songs – at least we have two emotions covered..!)

Pascal and Andy (Photo: Joe Mahoney)
Pascal and Andy (Photo: Joe Mahoney)

I have played the violin for nearly 30 years, and I have been singing for only a couple of years. I consider my violin playing to be at a higher level of skill, yet I get way more comments from people about my singing. Maybe I need to practice the fiddle more…! But it says a lot to me about how people connect with music. I know my voice isn’t perfect, I know there are millions of people out there who are “better singers” than I am, so I have no expectations – except that my voice is mine.
I’m glad people hear our roots in what we play, but I also don’t think there’s another band out there that sounds quite like us, and I think that’s important. That’s one of the things that fascinates me when you hear a new band – there are always strengths and weaknesses. We’re all human. And in the end (despite everything you can now do with digital recording!) I think people still respond to those real, human, “old-timey” voices.

DenverThread: Jessica – your lyricism brings to mind works of Cole Porter, Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” and Billie Holiday (in my opinion), all American music greats, and you exude a deep familiarity with their ilk, yet you grew up in the UK. Certainly these music legends are international, but I’m curious as to your history with them growing up?

Slater: Well honestly I didn’t listen to any of those greats growing up, although I do appreciate them now! My musical diet was a mix of classical music, a couple of Simon and Garfunkel and Beatles records that my parents had around the house,  records and mixed tapes of folk music my aunt would send us every Christmas from Maine (along with a new pair of LL Beans gloves), and later, my brother’s extensive collection of Dylan albums that I “borrowed” from when he went off to college…

“My musical diet was a mix of classical music, a couple of Simon and Garfunkel and Beatles records. . . records and mixed tapes of folk music my aunt would send us every Christmas from Maine and later, my brother’s extensive collection of Dylan albums that I “borrowed” from when he went off to college…”
– Jessica Slater

I also loved Tracy Chapman as a teenager. So I really don’t know who I sound like, but there was a solid American influence growing up (my Dad is from Boston, so I’m actually a dual national) and every time someone has a suggestion about who I sound like, it’s someone new – I have discovered a lot of good music that way! I do love Billie Holiday though, and I’m flattered you’d associate her with anything I do. So thank you!

DenverThread: Andy – I’m intrigued – and incredibly impressed – by the fact that you build your own (and other) mandolins. How did that come about? Do you also make other instruments? Are there any other musicians in Denver (or elsewhere) that use one of yours?

Miller: A few years ago, we’d acquired a few guitars, and as they needed setup and maintenance periodically I realized I would be spending a good amount of money on that, so I started looking into what it takes to do it myself, and buying specialized tools, and learning how to work on them myself.  The place I was getting tools also sells instrument kits, I mentioned to Jess that it sounded interesting, and she got me a mandolin kit for my birthday.  I built that one, then built one more for her and one more for a friend before moving on to an octave mandolin kit from another source.  I gave that octave away, then built two more like it, mostly from scratch, using the plans that came with the kit.  So I’ve built three flattop mandolins and three flattop bouzouki/octave mandolins to date.

Pascal Guimbard (Photo: Joe Mahoney)
Pascal Guimbard (Photo: Joe Mahoney)

A friend in Fort Collins occasionally plunks with one of the mandolins, as Jess does with hers.  My uncle uses his bouzouki regularly and claims to like it.  I just sold the third bouzouki to another friend in Wyoming and he’s learning to play it.  I rarely use the first mando I built for myself – instead I play a Collings carved A-style mandolin that I bought, it’s much better!  I do use octave #2 that I built and probably will continue to do so, it has its place.  Maybe I’ll build a guitar next.  I plan on continuing to build instruments – maybe some day I’ll get to where I’m proficient at it.

DenverThread: What’s coming up for The Alltunators, after the new CD? Touring? Inside/outside the US?

Both: Well we’re hoping to get another CD out there fairly soon – we have plenty of material that we’d like to record, and recording is a pretty effective way to tighten up the arrangements! We are playing a lot, sometimes for money, sometimes for beer….  And we’d love to tour here and abroad –  it’s a little tough to reconcile with our day jobs, but having a French person and a Brit in our band means there’s some motivation to try and make it happen… We’ll see.
I have a feeling we’ll be seeing sooner than later, considering the talent and dedication of this Denver trio.

Like Jessica sings in “Karaoke Life” – “. . . it’s all for the sake of the song.”

The Alltunators are scheduled to play in and around Denver in September:

– Saturday Sept 12th, 7-10pm – Cannon Mine Coffee, Lafayette
– Thursday Sept 17th, 9pm-midnight – Mead St Station, Denver
– Thursday Sept 24th, 8pm – Meadowlark Bar, Denver
– come and enjoy their outdoor patio before the end of the season!

Find more dates on The Alltunator’s Facebook page, and purchase their new CD online, or at local shops!


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Modest Mouse @ The Fillmore, Sept. 2, 2009 – Reverb

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Photo: Joe McCabe

Photo: Joe McCabe

I love it when two drummers can pull it off playing together, and Green and Plummer played as if they were one — with the benefit of eight limbs. At the same time Fairchild’s guitar performance came as close as possible to actually replacing Johnny Marr, arguably one of indie rock’s most innovative players.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!!


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Fruit Bats w/Death Vessel, @ Larimer Lounge, August 29, 2009 – Reverb

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Photo - Alissa Anderson, MySpace.

Photo - Alissa Anderson, MySpace.

[Eric D. Johnson‘s Fruit Bats] weaved a ’70s-tinged folky-pop tapestry that recalled as much Supertramp and the Allman Brothers as My Morning Jacket and, yes, just a slight dusting of the Shins, as they choogled through an hour-long set of alternately jammy and poppy tunes.

As strong a performance as Fruit Bats put in, it was nearly overshadowed by Providence, R.I.’s Death Vessel, fronted by wunderkind Joel Thibodeau. With a noisy, goth-folk aura behind his eerily beautiful, unusually high-pitched vocals, Death Vessel had the audience transfixed from the first notes on.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!!


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Reverb Interview: Fruit Bats

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Eric D. Johnson (center) and his Fruit Bats

Eric D. Johnson (center) and his Fruit Bats

Being part of a successful band is often a double-edged sword: You gain more attention, but it’s not always the right kind. Not that Eric D. Johnson is complaining. The Portland, Ore.-based musician recently became a fixture in indie rock figureheads the Shins. Johnson is a longtime friend and creative confidante of Shins leader James Mercer, so it makes sense that a spot in the Shins’ touring band would morph into something permanent. . .

Read all of John Wenzel’s interview with Fruit Bats on Denver Post Reverb


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