Category Archives: Interviews

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Everybody Can Pussy Riot

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A night with Maria Alyokhina and Alexandra Bogino of Pussy Riot

By Isobel Thieme

“Don’t you know that a wall has two sides and nobody is free?” – Pussy Riot in their EP xxx

Members of Pussy Riot spoke on a panel at the Oriental Theater, moderated by local journalists Bree Davies and Ru Johnson.

Pussy is a word I’ve seen and heard quite a lot lately, how it is “grabbed” and how it “grabs back,” for example. And now, Pussy Riots.

While I walked around the block-long line of people on Tennyson on my way into the Pussy Riot panel held at the Oriental Theater recently, I was happy to see so many women lining up – I don’t know about you, but I could use some girl power these days.

Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time.

The inside of The Oriental seemed to ring with a certain sense of desperation–but not the kind we feel when we’re simply waiting in the crowd for the lights to dim, the band to come on stage, and the music to start. It was heavier, characterized by a need, a cry for help. The last few weeks in the US have opened up the floodgates for so many questions and uncertainties about our country’s government–in my case, anyway–and here we were presented with the chance to hear from two women who have helped to start a vital conversation around the government in their own country of Russia. Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time. What could we learn from these women who have dedicated their lives to activism? To changing an outdated patriarchal, corrupt system – through music, nonetheless? I, and I think many others, took Masha and Sasha’s visit as an opportunity to listen and learn how best to move forward in our own situation.

Feminist Punk Rock Protest – and more

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

The female warriors who are Pussy Riot are often armed with bright neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, their loud musical instruments, and their refusal to be quiet. Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow, known for their intentionally disruptive performances in public spaces. Specifically, they broke through US media for their performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which two original members were arrested for “hooliganism” and imprisoned for two years afterward.

In every way, Pussy Riot demands to be recognized.

As a band, Pussy Riot is inspired by other punk, thought-provoking, music makers, like Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill. But, in truth, there is no band out there quite like Pussy Riot. Their creation stems from an oppressive and patriarchal dictatorship which violently condemns any form of political resistance. Sasha told us that those who live in Russia can easily be put into prison for political opinions they might post on Facebook (imagine how many more new babies, kittens, and reports of bagel-eating we would see if that was the case in the US).

As we know, social media is an incredible platform for activism and social justice, albeit an easy, incomplete platform – as one can be an ‘activist’ anywhere from an airplane to their own toilet. But Pussy Riot saw the dormancy of social media for social justice. Beyond that, Sasha talked to us about the fact that the authorities in Russia don’t see sanctioned rallies as a threat to their power, so they simply ignore them. Any voices that come out of those kinds of rallies or protests go more or less unheard by the government. So, the rallies and performances which are not sanctioned are an essential piece to the Pussy Riot movement.

They’re disruptive, unsolicited, and absolutely demand attention

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

Pussy Riot knows how to be heard by the audiences they are targeting, simply because they don’t have any other choice but to be loud. The kind of performance art they participate in is intrinsically disruptive, it’s unsolicited, and it absolutely demands attention. Not only that, but it’s provocative. The name of their movement was inspired by wanting to make those who heard, spoke, or wrote about them feel uncomfortable, just by having to use the word “pussy.” These warriors are fearless – they are constantly pushing beyond the boundaries which are built around them with feminism, activism, and progression in mind.

It was amazing to hear these women talk about how they have actively participated in developing a cultural shift in their country that could allow for sexual equality, the proper treatment of LGBTQ+ people and women in Russia, how they have redefined protest for themselves, how they have learned about the power of community. Pussy Riot is a special example of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. They don’t simply talk or argue about the ways in which they are oppressed by their culture and government, but they are actually doing something about it. Something real and something tangible.

“Every person has a choice, every choice is important, and if you choose to stay aside, you’re giving away an opportunity for action. So ACT.” – Maria Alyokhina

It’s easy to sit aside and watch, to scroll, like, comment, share, and retweet in this electronic bubble we’ve blown for ourselves, that is a given (like I said, you can be an activist from the comfort of your own toilet), but what choice are we really making when we do only that? Masha and Sasha both encourage the use of protest and street riots because “you see the eyes of people who are with you,” which can only work to fuel the fires of progression when and where we feel it is needed.

Truly, We all should Pussy Riot

As a young woman, it felt inspiring and rejuvenating for me to watch the way these women have taken control of their country’s situation in their own way—how they have harnessed the power inside themselves and from their community to call for change. Masha and Sasha’s story–and their presence–offered us incredible advice while we take our turn to call for our own change. We ought to refuse to be quiet about the things we believe in, we all ought to Pussy Riot.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Pussy Riot–A Wake Up Call for American Women

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By Molly McGrath

Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.

Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.

What do we really know about Russian women?

I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.

My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.

“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.

The 2016 American Election

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change. 

When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.

Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.

What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.

If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Hypnotic Turtle Radio presents “Mothersbaugh/Still,” a Web-Radio Simulcast, TONIGHT!

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If you haven’t had enough of Mark Mothersbaugh – and, really, who can say they have? – be sure and tune into Radio 1190 at 9:00 PM tonight, Thursday, May 21, to catch a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get even more! Local wonder-star and rock legend Arlo White will host an interactive event showing off the collaboration Mothersbaugh led with the Clifford Still Museum that just recently left town, complete with music created just for the event.

White got together with Mothersbaugh before the DEVO founder and all around brilliant genius pulled his circus out of Denver, and the two formed a show that only Hypnotic Turtle could produce. The plan is to spin music inspired by the Myopia show that dominated Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the past year, and simultaneously post images on Hypnotic Turtle’s  web and Facebook sites.

If you’re familiar with White’s projects – the legendary Deadbubbles, The Pretty Sure, Diablo Montalban and his most recent activity, Sparkle Jetts – you already know there’s a lot to look forward to. It’s not too far out of reality to say that White probably holds the reigns of Stooges-style rock n’ roll in Denver.

 

Just Tune in… For your own good….

 

In the meantime, here’s some classic Deadbubbles, covered by the inimitable Sparkle Jets. Enjoy!


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Shonen Knife Ready to Destroy Denver, with a Little Help from Denver

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Shonen Knife will attack Denver - and win - Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

Shonen Knife will attack Denver – and win – Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

“Just the idea of a trio of Ramones worshiping Japanese girls roaming the earth playing their own brand of J-Rock, J-Pop, Pop/Punk Fun Time Soup, was good enough for us,” recalled local musician Arlo White, of Denver’s Sparkle Jetts. “When we finally heard them it was exactly like what it sounded like in our heads: Pure Innocence, Straight forward Rock and Roll Fun!”

It’s a pretty perfect way to describe Shonen Knife,  one of the ’80s and ’90s more obscure, but most delicious, Japanese exports. You may think that bands like Guitar Wolf hold the J-Punk torch (and they do, handily – but not completely), but it’s Shonen Knife that made the first real stab (pun fully intended) of Ramones-powered pop from Japan into America. Shonen Knife – and particularly Naoko Yamano – have enjoyed 32+ years of existence, and haven’t wavered once from their original happy, poppy, cat-, food- and youth-loving brand of punk rock. And they’re not about to slow down.

The latest incarnation of the trio, featuring Yamano on guitar and vocals, Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums, is touring in support of the band’s 20th release, “Overdrive,” and they’re appearing at the Oriental Theater in North Denver this Thursday night. Not a show you want find out too late that you missed! Tickets.

“Overdrive” is solid, just like it sounds, focusing on ’70s rock a la Kiss, Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy, but with the same naive, happy charm that the Knife has always been known for. Kittens, noodles, green tea win out over heartbreak, overdose, alcohol or endless groupie groping on this record – but the charm we’ve all come to love far outshines the gritty, grimy shortcomings (after all, we get plenty of ’70s lubed-up glam porn from all the Kimye crap, don’t we?).

We had a chance to reach out and touch Yamano while she was on the road, between nearly 7-day-a-week gigging, to ask her a few questions. She was kind enough to reply – and we love her and the band all that much more for it. Read on:

DenverThread: Wow – nearly 33 years, and 20 albums, all amped full of consistently catchy, unavoidably addictive Ramones-y power punk. Any end in sight? Do you plan to retire, or keep kicking ass until you just can’t anymore?

Naoko: Keep kicking ass is ROCK! But if there will be no Shonen Knife fans, I have to retire.

DT: Many of your dates on this US tour are back-to-back. Is it exhausting – just how you like to roll?

Naoko: Actually, long drive makes me exhausted but once I see our fans at our show, I get power.

DT: Since the happy, positive power behind your output hasn’t, how has your world view changed over the past 30+ years?

Naoko: My world view hasn’t changed. I just get well experienced.

DT: So much rock n’ roll is heavy, emotional, overbearing (especially in the US), yet you are constantly able to maintain a light, carefree feeling in the subject matter and feel behind your songs. Do you think that comes from your own personal outlook, or your upbringing in Japanese culture?

Naoko: It comes from my personal character. Many bands are singing about love in Japan and US and  sometimes about social problems in US. I don’t want to be the same with others. I like to make one and only unique music.

DT: There are so many to choose from – and they’re all great – do you each have favorite Shonen Knife songs/albums?

Naoko: I always prefer the latest album. Thus “Overdrive” is the best so far. I especially like “Black Crow”, “Shopping”, “Like a Cat” and “Jet Shot”.

DT: Your songs often have a food focus – and the USA spreads a giant table of wonderful, tasty – and sometime just plain weird – food choices. Anything in your travels that fits in the “weird,” “super-weird” or “just plain crazy” category?

Naoko:  “Weird” — “chicken cutlet waffles and hazelnut chocolate cream on the side”. I like the taste of both chicken cutlet and waffles but the combination is a little odd. Waffles should be separated from chicken. “Super-weird” — too colorful artificial colored sweets and cakes.

DT: Is there any American food you just couldn’t do without?

Naoko:  I don’t have any particular food but American Rock.

DT: You seem to be cat lovers – why is that? Are they more preferable than other animals in your opinion? More preferable pets than dogs? (Full disclosure: I love both, but prefer cats).

Naoko:  I love both two but for dogs, I have to take them outside for walk. Cats are more free and independent.

DT: Your sister Atsuko used to design and make all of your costumes – does she still influence the onstage costumes?

Naoko:  She made our new costumes. Her design and sewing is the best!

DT: Did you know any of the opening bands for the Denver show – Sparkle Jetts, Sonic Archers 0r 9 Volt Fatale – before hearing they were opening for you?

Naoko:  I don’t know them but I’m looking forward to play with them.

DT: Do you often find bands on tour that you end up really liking, or following? Any that stick out from other sites on this tour?

Naoko:  I like [The] Mallard that they opened up for our US tour in 2012 in the west coast.

Don’t miss this one, presented by local promoter Girl Wreck Presents, at one of Denver’s classic, beautiful venues – the historic Oriental Theater. Besides the headliners, there will be an impressive collection of Denver local bands warming up and filling out the lineup, including glam rockers Sparkle Jetts, Mod-Brits The Sonic Archers and noise merchants 9 Volt Fatale.

Continuing from above, Sparkle Jetts’ Arlo White – also the host of Radio 1190‘s Hypnotic Turtle Radio, and a Denver celebrity in his own right, had a few things to say:

Sparkle Jetts are… “Whitney Rehr (guitar/vocals), vocal/guitar goddess and one of Denver’s most underrated performers, also plays in Gata Negra, I’m A Boy, and Meta Lark. Arlo White (lead vocals), flat-footed, rock and roll mephisto, formed DEADBUBBLES and The Pretty Sure, and currently hosts Radio 1190’s Hypnotic Turtle Radio. Hope Bertsch (drums), crazed, primal powerhouse, also plays in The BlackoutsChris Keift (bass), lays down the low end with post-punk devotion, was the bassist for The Dirty Lookers.”

“We’ve all been around the Denver music scene for a long time, playing in various bands, and the stars finally aligned,” White went on to explain. “Our uniting of superpowers came about almost a year ago, and we’re now ready to use our powers for good!”

“SPARKLE JETTS are currently playing a mixture of songs from my previous bands DEADBUBBLES and THE PRETTY SURE, plus SPARKLE JETTS originals,” he continues. “I want SPARKLE JETTS to be Denver Rock City’s go to band for the pure Rock and Roll experience!”

Once again – you don’t want to miss this one. We’ve been fans of Deadbubbles and The Pretty Sure since their get-go. We know what you’re going to like.

 


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Beware of Darkness – Orthodox, the DenverThread Record Inter/Review

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Beware of Darkness is on the upswing - and just appeared in Denver last week. (Photo: Rebecca Joelson)

Beware of Darkness is on the upswing – and just appeared in Denver last week. (Photo: Rebecca Joelson)

LA’s Beware of Darkness played the Larimer Lounge a few days ago, and those of you who were there no doubt saw a hi-energy performance that will likely be relegated to many “Were you there when…” threads of conversation soon enough.  If you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s probably just a matter of time before you will. Beware of Darkness is on an upswing – and that’s a good thing.

Their hometown pedigree notwithstanding, this power trio has a lot going for it that actually sets them apart from the usual LA fare. Remember Mother Love Bone – the proto-grunge glam-metal outfit fronted by Andrew Wood that spawned most of Pearl Jam (and arguably the Seattle explosion itself)? Beware follows in those pretty large footsteps, and adds some Black Crowes swagger, and  almost Beatles-esque songwriting on their debut record. “Orthodox.” Heavy in guitar, this record is a solid, straight up rock ‘n roll record. Sure, there are debut record shortcomings, but the overall feeling of this one is that it’ll lead to more good stuff from the band.

The first single, “Howl,” bleeds Billy Corgan with it’s central riff, but quickly evolves into a raucus scream, not self-conscious at all. Other tracks like “Sweet Girl” smack of pop, while others wax anthemic – like “Amen Amen” or “All Who Remain” – and don’t carry the swagger through, but the balance of this record makes for a strong debut. 

I got the change recently to speak with an erudite and delightful Kyle Nicolaides – frontman/guitarist from  – as he re-strung his guitar for the Denver show, and learned a few things about the beautifuyl women in Denver and the power of the Used Record Bin.

Read on, to get a taste, below the link to the strong “Holy Men” (not on the new record):

DenverThread: How’s the tour going?

Kyle Nicolaides: “Great  – Denver is one of our favorite places to play…. Everything seems so healthy here – Denver has the most beautiful women in any of the places we’ve played…”

DT: Coming from an LA native, that means a lot.

KN: “But it’s a different kind of beauty – it’s a natural beauty. It feels organic here. It’s nice. Walking down the street, it seems everyone is just leaving their yoga class or something.”

DT: Tell me about the band name – any relation to George Harrison’s tune from 1970?

KN: “It has everything to do with it- I got that record at Amoeba. An y’know when I was growing up in Santan Barbara, all the CDs were like $20 – that’s why people are pirating music, by the way – and when I got to LA,  I went to Amoeba records, and found the used bins. They’re a musical lifesaver – and when you’re broke, the used record bins are beautiful. You can lay down a few bucks for a cd – or less – and learn about so much music. That’s where I got the record, and it just stayed with me – especially that song. That record really stuck with me – it was like the first one I’d found that actually tried to express someone’s belief system with pop music – tried to make someone’s life a little better.”

KN: “It’s so important – y’know – I remember I was on Wilshire in LA one day when we were thinking of a band name, and I saw the record and the title “Beware of Darkness,” and I thought – hey, that could be a cool name. And it means so much, too – about watching out for negativity & all that.

DT: And George Harrison has always been that way – always so deep, spiritual, and so often so underrated…

KN: “Yeah! And the title of that song is so much like our music, my attitude. I mean, it’s “BE AWARE” of the darkness. Y’know, you can choose not to fall into the darkness. I just feel like there are so many people who don’t realize they have that choice, y’know? Life is like that – you can meet a challenge, or deal with something by choosing to take it on, or you can react in a programmed, reactionary way. Life is like that, and so is our music.”

DT: Does the name get a few heads to turn? It seems like such a typical Doom/Metal/sludge sounding name – which your band decidedly is not.

 I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious! 

KN: “Yeah – everyone always thinks we’re going to be some thrash metal band – and obviously we’re not. Every time we go to the UK, as soon as they hear our name they laugh. And – even now – the sound guy here is blasting metal out there while I’m re-stringing. I had to tell them they had to get this guy to stop playing metal. It’s like he’s warming up the crowd…and we’re not that band.”

DT: How about influences? You’re definitely rocking a ‘90s sound – full of Smashing Pumpkins, a little Alice in Chains, Primal Scream, maybe even a little Black Crowes swagger?

KN: “That’s so funny, ‘cause i never listened to them [all those ’90s bands]. I mean, I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious! I liked some of the Alice in Chains from then, but just the acoustic stuff, and a little Soundgarden – but everyone hears that sound in us.”

DT: It’s not a bad thing, necessarily – I think it might be your huge guitar sound – and you have an almost Black Crowes or Mick Jagger swagger in your voice and guitar – so there’s a’60s base and a ‘90s cover, maybe.

KN: “When we recorded this album, I was listening to Fiona Apple and David Bowie more than anything else. But we do get the ’90s comparison a lot.”

DT: You sound a lot older than your media kit makes you look – you’re obviously a thoughtful person. How old are you?

KN: “Thanks! I just turned 23, actually.”

DT: Well – you’re a man wise beyond his years – both musically and phiolosophically (as much as I can get from a 10- minute chat, anyway).

KN: “I hope – I believe that’ll serve me well  – that it’ll turn out good for me, and help me through a lot of things. I think so. I’m a pretty positive person.”

DT: I do, too. Just keep digging through the used record bins, and you’ll never really get old.

 

 


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Suicide Girls in Repose (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque – Inked Punk Rock Pin-Ups Take Over Lodo!

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Suicide Girls will take on Lodo Saturday night, October 19 (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Suicide Girls will take on Lodo Saturday night, October 19 (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Tomorrow night the Summit Music Hall in Lodo will host some of the most raucous, sensual, smart,  inked and shapely punk rock you’re likely to see anywhere. Suicide Girls – the “… online community that celebrates alternative beauty and indie culture,” will be presenting Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque to an undoubtedly hip Denver crowd.  If  you don’t already have tickets, you might as well pack up the car and head for Salt Lake City for Sunday night’s show, or to Seattle for Tuesday’s – the Denver show has been sold out for a while. To get a taste of what you’ll be seeing on stage, take a gander at the slideshow below (WARNING: While none of the images are full-on NSFW, they’re damned close! Gaze accordingly – you’ve been warned…).

That tour created what the troupe claims is a community with “…tens of thousands of models who have submitted MILLIONS of photos  to [their] website hoping to earn official SuicideGirl status.”

When Suicide Girls put together their first burlesque tour in the early ‘aughts, they knew they were offering their audiences something new, refreshing and fun. They also knew they were putting something new, fresh and strong  on stage every night. This interpretation of  burlesque was based in the same vitriol and vehemence that spawned Punk Rock (yeah, with capitals!) in the mid-’70s, with a newfound venom and oodles of sexy defiance. What they may not have known was how deeply their desire to bring back to life the then-staid American Burlesque genre – lethargically kicking and screaming to the worn down tune of “The Stripper” – might affect the members of those audiences, and the power of the ripple effect the tour produced on the genre as a whole.

That tour created what the troupe claims is a community with “…tens of thousands of models who have submitted MILLIONS of photos  to [their] website hoping to earn official SuicideGirl status.” It popularized a community that “…carefully chooses the most unique, beautiful women from those submissions and invites them to join our sorority of badass bombshells and geek goddesses,” and gave all of those millions of people the 21st-century version of the circus that every kid, at one time or another, dreams desperately of running away with.

Missy Suicide  (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Missy Suicide (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

This year’s tour – which started in Cleveland,OH on October 11 – stops in a different city nearly every night (consecutively and with very few nights off) until it wraps up the US leg in New Orleans on December 5. DenverThread had a chance to talk with Suicide Girls co-founder Missy Suicide about the new production, and a little about the mark the SG Community has made on pop culture. Read on to get a taste of the intelligent, enlightened world of the Blackheart Burlesque ….

 DenverThread: Tell us about the reasoning behind re-opening the Blackheart Burlesque after six years of quietly growing the Suicide Girls Community. Any chance this tour is a recruiting tool for erstwhile hidden – maybe unaware – future Suicide Girls to join the movement/army?


Missy Suicide: We did a mini book tour last spring for a book we put out called Hard Girls, Soft Light and even with just listing the book signings as Facebook events the word got around so quickly – and the turn out was so incredible -we were just blown away by the enthusiasm for seeing  and meeting the girls live in person. With 500-750 people showing up to have a few of the girls sign a book in a comic shop, we knew we had an opportunity to create a better experience than just a signing for our fans, and so we decided to re-imagine and re-create our Burlesque show from the ground up and put it back on tour.  We are always looking for new girls and the girls are passing out cards to recruit the lovely ladies who come to the shows.


DT: What’s the reaction been, overall, over the first portion of the tour?


MS: Really positive!  People have been posting pics to Instagram and really enjoying the show.  It is a lot of fun.
DT: Over the last decade or so, burlesque in general (as opposed to stripping and punk rock shows – which, on their own, certainly provide a service, but certainly not one as grounded and complete as Suicide Girls)  seems to have been enjoying a resurgence – which could be a result of the number of hip, indie tattooed kids reaching drinking age and attending. Thoughts?


MS: When we first put out our SuicideGirls Burlesque tour in 2003, we were the only people who were doing non-traditional, non-old fashioned burlesque on a large scale. We were excited to put on a sexy performance that didn’t involve feather boas and songs like “Hey Big Spender.” We wanted to use modern music and references to modern pop-culture but still put on a show in the spirit of old time burlesque. Now, ten years later, there are a lot more non-traditional burlesque acts around, and some of them are doing really fun and different kinds of shows. Devil’s Playground and their Star Wars Burlesque is a great example of just how diverse and non traditional the Burlesque scene has become.


Also – look at the spectacle performers like Lady Gaga put on at live shows. People have seen a lot and it’s much harder to show them something that really feels new and original.


We really had to take the spirit of pop-culture modern burlesque that we pioneered ten years ago and up the production values, sexiness and performances by a factor of ten. It’s the same kind of Burlesque show we used to do, but this time I think we have executed at a much higher level in almost every respect: dancer abilities, costumes, choreography, everything.


DT: It seems pretty obvious (to me, anyway) that Suicide Girls – both the movement and the individuals – is likely largely responsible for the resurgence of club-level burlesque over that period of time, starting with its start in 2001. Would you agree? Are you happy to take credit for that development (of course, considering the power and influence the whole concept/group/community has had on all of us)?


MS: I do believe that we helped to pioneer punk rock burlesque but we haven’t been on tour in 6 years – and there have certainly been lots of other people that have been working hard to keep it going while we have been at home.   I hope that people are blown away by the show that they see today.  I hope as we have gotten older and more mature as a company our main evolution has been in upping our game every year. I think we learn how to do what we do better, we listen carefully to our large audience and take what they say into consideration and improve the quality and artistry of what we produce. I hope that people who came to our show 6 years ago see that and people who are seeing it for the first time just enjoy a great show.


DT: I’ve long been impressed by the punk rock aspect of suicide girls, which, as a distinguishing characteristic, seems to put this show into a different arena altogether than either old-time burlesque, ink culture or punk rock – but the mix of all of them have certainly changed each individual phenomena – and all of them for the better. What do you think?


MS: Thanks!  We wanted to create a show that our audience would want to see.  A show that included a variety of music and pop culture references,  embodied the sexy spirit of the girls on the site and would exude the confidence of the women who call themselves Suicide Girls.  It is an eclectic mashup for sure but we hope that it works and that people enjoy the show.  We think we have created the right mix to make one hell of a good night.  We hope you agree.


DT: An underlying theme behind the Suicide Girls is the concept that this community is a haven for real women (and men?), away from the often overwhelming pressure to meet some sort of idealized “American Beauty,” and to embrace one’s natural beauty. Its continued popularity and consistent growth attests to the power of that message. How much of that growth and influence do you attribute to SG’s existence itself, and how much is a coincidental convergence with some natural. generational (and, some might say, inevitable) improvement in self-esteem  – if only in reaction to the overwhelming resistance to – and repudiation of – that bullshit ideal?


MS: I think Suicide Girls is a place that celebrates a wide range of beauty.  In 2001, we started Suicide Girls we built it as a community for alternative culture people to discover each other, have discussions and post and look at photos of alternative pin-up girls. And in the 12 years since we launched, we have had hundreds of thousands of people post tens of millions of comments and millions of photos on our website. Over the years we have made 6 movies for Showtime, 3 books, a magazine, a series of comics and countless other creative endeavors, all of which have contributed to our place in pop culture.  It’s been an amazing adventure.  I am not sure how much of our popularity can be attributed to the fact that we do exist vs. the improved self esteem of the youth of today.  It’s kind of a chicken and egg type of question.


DT: Is there – in your opinion/observation/experience – any truth to what I just pointed out above (that self-esteem in upcoming generationals is improving overall), or do you find even more reason to sound even more alarm (is Miley a product more than a symptom?)? In other words, does the future look bright, or bleak, for the younger, heavily inked and (seemingly) more jaded kids of today?



MS: I think for sure growing up in the internet age has allowed this generation both access to an incredibly diverse amount of information and a thicker skin to cyber haters – because of all the anti bullying campaigns and simply growing accustomed to the trolls. The more diverse the population the harder it is to narrowly define beauty or desirable characteristics.  Since pretty much the whole world has access to the internet and we all carry it around in our pockets now, it is really hard to live in a super categorized John Hughes real world anymore.   I think the internet has been a win for self esteem and more informed people all around.

DT:  How receptive is the Suicide Girls community to likeminded folks that want to “runaway and join the SG circus?” Any advice for the hopeful youth as far as getting to be one?


MS: Do it! 🙂  Have confidence, persistence and apply:  http://suicidegirls.com/model/


The SuicideGirls are the most bad ass sorority of awesome women in the world!  They are constantly having shootfests around the world where girls hang out, meet up and shoot photo sets. The girls pretty universally will tell you that they have gained confidence met some of their best friends through the site.


Anyone who is interested in applying should submit an application to http://suicidegirls.com/model/  One of our model coordinators will help them navigate the process of shooting a set and figuring out all the paperwork.  Once a set is submitted our members take it from there and if the set is well received the girl will become an SG.  If your first set isn’t accepted, keep trying!  SuicideGirls don’t give up so easily.


DT: What’s your tour mix for this leg of the tour?


MS: We made a handy playlist from the show here:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?feature=edit_ok&list=PL-FC-XO5Mm6Jhv_KBpf-UjdT_IVp00aOn



The Denver version of the Blackheart Burlesque is sold-out, but that shouldn’t prevent you from seeking out some of these badass inked punk rock women online. Check out their Pinterest page, for a start (is is just me, or does the fact Suicide Girls has their own Pinterest seem just the right kind of iconoclastic?)! If you’re not at work, you can also go to the Suicide Girls Tumblr (this one – not surprisingly – is DEFINITELY NSFW!).

If you have tickets to tomorrow’s show, we hope you’re ready. Here’s the slideshow:

 

 


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Buildings hit Lost Lake Lounge on Colfax tonight. You may need protection.

Buildings Coming to Lost Lake – Maybe Bring a Helmet (Brian may need one)

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In response to my (admittedly) short-shrift email interview questions, Buildings drummer Travis Kuhlman returned a few short answers. I deserved it (see the whole thing, below) – lugging around a day job doesn’t bode well for blogs (especially when said job requires enough sleep to warrant missing more of the late night than I’ve been used to for a while). At least his answers came back as quickly as they were quick – and smarter.

The most revealing – or poignant (trust me, not a word I’d ever anticipated using in relation to this trio)? In response to my query: “Bigger influence: Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard or Big Black? Thoughts? Others?” Kuhlman replied: “They’re all great. Although we sound more like Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?”

Of course he’s right on all counts – but particularly in his description of Buildings’ sound. They do sound most like The Jesus Lizard (thankfully so), but they also wrap in a pound or so of Pissed Jeans, METZ and some unmistakable Steve Albini noise, to boot. The Minneapolis trio do a wonderful job of not only recharging the sound and chaos of these bands, they also push it just a little further. Not too much yet, but they’re still young – their debut album “Braille Animal” only appeared in 2008, followed in early 2012 with the current “Melt, Cry, Sleep.”

This latest offering (yeah, it’s almost 2 years old – so?) is a consistent, soggy sledgehammer, and it’s a perfect rendition of the play on book/movie titles in its moniker After a listen, I have no doubt that Singer Brian Lake – much like David Yow – is much more prone to follow the record title’s path than to get anywhere near an “Eat, Pray, Love” situation (or anywhere near Julia Roberts, either, though I could be wrong about that).

The latest record - "Melt, Cry, Sleep" - is not a romantic memoir. Not at all.

The latest record – “Melt, Cry, Sleep” – is not a romantic memoir. Not at all.

“Born On A Bomb” slaps you around a little, maybe with a stoneware coffee mug in its large hand, after which “Invocation” solidifies the Jesus Lizard comparison (bass player Sayer Payne – who has since left the band to be replaced by Ryan Harding – is the spittin’ sonic image of David Wm. Sims all over this record, and maybe nowhere as much as here). “Mishaped Head” drives the nail further into your forehead, and then “Night Cop” pours on the concrete.

Buildings will be at the Lost Lake Lounge tonight (Wednesday, August 21), and you may want to wear a hard hat. Based on what we’ve heard, the trio is aptly named – since they tend towards destroying buildings from the inside with a chaotic act. It’s almost a little miracle they are planning to play this show, considering the tour they’ve had. The van was broken into in San Francisco (personal items and more were stolen – you can donate at PayPal using the buildingsisaband@gmail.com email to help them recoup, if you so desire), Lake somehow damaged his head at the band’s performance at Total Fest in Montana, and tourmates Hawks’ Mike Keenan injured an ankle in Seatlle. Needless to say, the bands feel a little spooked, but more than happy to soldier on.

Go out and support them – and Glass Hits, too – at  Lost Lake tonight.

Here’s the interview, as promised:

DenverThread – Bigger influence: Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard or Big Black? Thoughts? Others?

Travis Kuhlman – They’re all great. Although we sound more like The Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?

DT – This tour seems to have been a royal pain in the ass – but sometimes these circumstances turn into great epics. Would you say this tour is going in that direction? Or are y’all about ready to crawl into a bed for a week and shut out the world?

TK – It’s been a very rough tour. I honestly think that if Hawks didn’t join us halfway through we might be at home right now. People have been very generous to us and supportive, there’s still people who care about independent bands after all!

DT – Can you give us a quick rundown of tour life this time around?

TK – Hot, very long drives, very nice folk

DT – What happened to Brian’s head, and is it ok?

TK – Something happened at Total Fest in missoula, not quite sure what’s wrong with it but it doesn’t work at all. Just pile it on the “bad let’s blow more money shit pile.”

DT – What’s your assessment – as a band – of the genre in which you find yourselves, related to (maybe annoyingly) Pissed Jeans, METZ and the like? Obviously you make the music that you love – but what are your thoughts on that sludge/punk/noise “genre” that seems to be gaining some traction (and do you agree it is)?

TK – I think its great, sub pop better fucking sign us, like, sooner than later.

DT – What’s on the van cd player on this tour? What’s on your car stereo when you’re home?

TK – We listen to all kinds of stuff. Its best to not listen to loud music all the time in the van, kinda drives you a little mental. At home its the same. It’s good to chill out to some The Band or Neil Young every now and then. There’s been a lot of No Means No and Pygmy Shrews lately.

Welcome to “Rainboat” –


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Firestarters del Desmadre : a Molotov Cocktail

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Somewhere in the middle of the hot desert between Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California, a tour bus carries a band of explosive cocktails to another kick ass tour destination.  To the untrained eye and ear, these guys look like a bunch of rockers who just like to party, and sing about girls and sex. And yes, they do love to party and sing about the sexy ladies, but listen to their politically charged songs and you might start to understand the social commentary behind their sucker punch lyrics.

These self-denominated “fire starters del desmadre” (fire starters of chaos), most commonly known as the Mexican rap/punk/rock band Molotov, are coming to Denver as part of the Jägermeister Music Tour. Red and Jerry’s on Santa Fe & Oxford will host their debauchery in our Mile High City on Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

It’s not only enticing that Molotov is (finally!) coming back to Denver, but that they are the first Latin group to headline the Jägermeister Music Tour. DenverThread contributor MissReported dared to interrupt the shenanigans on said tour bus for quickie interview sesh with Mr. Tito Fuentes (singer/guitar), which resulted in a lot of laughter, slang, and heated discussions, roughly, as follows:

DenverThread: What does it mean for you guys to be the first Latin group to headline the Jägermeister Music Tour?

 Tito Fuentes: “‘Chido’. We knew the brand since the 90’s when Metallica used it a lot and they have a sticker of it on their guitars. We also drank it a lot in Europe. It’s a pure rock and roll brand and they support us in what we say.”

DT: Up until this leg of the tour, which city has been your favorite to play in?

Tito: “Each city has its own peculiarity. Dallas was a ‘reventón’ (chaos/raving/awesome). It was so cool because there was a big fan group and ‘gringos’ who didn’t know what to expect of our show, but love the music. Wherever there’s more people screaming, that’s where it’s the best. We are the fire starters ‘del desmadre’.”

DT: What do you expect of the concert goers in Denver?

Tito: “Denver has a lot of our ‘paisanos’. It’s ‘chido’ and it’s been a long time since we have played this city. We have a lot of fans and we’re counting on them to start the party. ¡Caíganle al concierto! (Drop-in to the concert!).”

DT: You’re super famous in México and Latin America. Would you say that you have managed to cross over entirely to the English-speaking market and how have you managed that transition to the US musical stage?

Tito: “It hasn’t been easy. We have worked very hard to get to where we are and I think it still hasn’t been a complete transition. You see that when you go to our shows and you see a lot of Latin fans and some ‘gringos’. And even though our lyrics sometimes attack the US government, the ‘gringos’ that go to our concerts might not agree with their government, so they can relate to our songs. You can never generalize (about our audience).” *There’s a ruckus on the bus and I can hear the other band members talking to each other about this question.*

“There’s also a big nostalgia movement right now. So you will get a lot of the 90’s bands coming back to play concerts and the fans that are a little bit older coming out to see us. But for example, in Germany, half of the fans were local and there were very few Latinos. We still haven’t seen that here. They still see us as Mexicans.”

DT: We love your tributes to Queen, José José, and other artists. Are there other artists that you would like to collaborate with or do a tribute?

Tito: “Whenever we are playing covers, it’s because they are specific projects, and we have to ask the label’s permission, pick the songs, and go through a complicated process to be able to do it. We avoid doing stuff like the Beatles because they will never give us the rights to ‘re-imagine’ their songs. But now, everyone does everything… We would love to collaborate with Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) or Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, Danzig)… but we are not killing ourselves over collaborations.” *Laughs*.

DT: You guys are characterized by being a living incarnation of controversy – or you “can’t hold your tongue,” like my madre would say. You posted on @MolotovBanda that you were going to stop using the term “maricón” (a derogatory word for homosexual) in your song “Puto” supporting Esteban Navarro in Chile (attacked and almost killed for being LGBT). Some people claim that you have not done what you pledged to do. But then, how can you strike a balance between being supportive and auto-censoring yourselves?

Tito: “The intention is what’s very important with this word. (The word) is part of the song’s lyrics, the context, or that which we are referring to. When you don’t understand the language, there’s a problem. I didn’t get to live through the hate behind that word. It was just a slang phrase that kind of means ‘cowards’ and we would say that the government was ‘puto.’ We’re not interested in being politically correct. What happened in Chile is a tragedy, but the way that we use this word, it’s more of a natural expression. These are words that we use and represent relief or venting. When you try to explain this to another culture or another country, the word takes on a different meaning. It actually means ‘man-whore’ or ‘man-prostitute’ in other Spanish speaking countries.”

Catch Molotov on the 2013 Jagermeister Tour, which makes a stop at Red and Jerry’s in Denver on August 21st. Here’s a taste from this year’s SXSW:

 


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METZ - earning their capitalized moniker - play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there - you'll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

METZ to hit the Hi-Dive in Denver – You’ve Been Warned

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METZ - earning their capitalized moniker - play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there - you'll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

METZ – earning their capitalized moniker – play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there – you’ll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

The power of a trio probably comes from its simplicity. Probably (at least that’s my take, and I’m sticking with it). It’s been proven again, and again and again – Rush, The Minutemen, Nirvana, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, ZZ Top, the Police – even Triumph (ferchrissakes) – all innovators, all brilliant (well – I’ll leave Triumph in the list regardless). Add METZ to the mix, too. Toronto’s best musical export to date, METZ more than earn their name’s all-caps each and every night. Slinging heavy, thick and chunky guitar noises, bass that sounds like a herd of bulldozers crushing through concrete and insanely loud drumming, these three gents make noise and powerpop mix in glorious ways – and they may be the hardest working band in the business right now (they’ve been touring non stop for close to a year – not even any time to record a new record).

They’re playing the Hi-Dive in Denver Tuesday night, May 7th, and you’d better be there – or have to deal with all the noise you’ll hear about it from those of us that are.

Each and every one of those days and nights, crammed in small stages or spread out across the gargantuan festival ones, they bring a strange sense  of order to their dissonance – their sound smells of The Jesus Lizard, A Place To Bury Strangers, Big Black, Black Flag  – all the noisy ones – but METZ has some uncanny way of making their sound constantly fresh, brisk, clean – even amidst all the punishment.

We got a chance to speak to METZ vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins a few days ago, and have to say that the sound onstage and on record does not match the friendly, assured conversational tone that Edkins uses. Like all Canadians, he’s polite as fuck – but you can tell he’s focused, and knows exactly what he and his two bandmates (bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies) are doing. You can also tell they’re loving every minute of it.

Read on to see for yourself – and then check out the treats at the end.

And then get your ass over to the Hi-Dive Tuesday night to catch METZ with No Joy (another Canadian wonder band – and another trio, BTW).

DenverThread: Where are you all now?

Alex Edkins: Were in atlanta – it’s really nice here. just played last night & we’re heading to Birmingham, AL.

DT: Awesome! I used to live in Montgomery, AL – went to a couple shows in Birmingham in my high school days.

DT: First question: Big Black or Black Flag?

AE: I would say – and the band would agree – Black Flag.

DT: I swear I thought you’d say Big Black! Both are obviously legitimate, but likewise, Black Flag kind of runs thick in my blood.

AE: Yeah – no totally – that’s where we come from as far as what got us into punk music and y’know, grabbed us when we were young. That kind of early hardcore, Minor Threat & all that kind of stuff – that’s near and dear to us for sure.

DT: You’re aware of the two competing versions of Black Flag touring right now – any chance METZ will cross paths with either of them?

EA: You know what – I think we’re actually going to be playing a festival with FLAG – and I have no bloody idea who’s in that band! ‘Cos there’s Flag, and then Black Flag and it’s very confusing, and I don’t know who’s playing in which group!

DT: Well – just to clarify – I read on Spin.com just this morning that Flag had a secret show in the Moose Lodge – where the original Black Flag played their first gig. From that article I know that Flag is the Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski and Bill Stevenson (with – at least for this show – some Greg Ginn guitar-slinging by  Decendents’ Stephen Edgerton)  – all early members – and the other one’s the Greg GInn joint. I’m not sure which one I’m more excited to see.

AE: Oh my god – it’s terrible! I wanna see both – but at the same time I don’t want to see either of them, y’know? I mean – you can’t have Black Flag without Greg Ginn!

DT: Amen to that – it doesn’t seem right! But I also kinda hope – in my own weird fantasy – that they’ll meet up playing in some sort of “right across the street” venue situation and that they’ll end up meeting out in the street and having a knife fight – sort of a la “Beat It.”

AE: Oh my god – we can dream! Yeah – that would be insane.

DT: So you’re touring a while with No Joy – playing here in Denver with them. The reason I found out about METZ is because of No Joy – because I’ve followed Laura Lloyd on Twitter for a long time, and she mentioned how great you guys are – maybe a year ago? I take her recommendations seriously ‘cos No Joy is such a great band. Anyway – METZ, No Joy, Fucked Up – all are from Canada – and all of you are great. In fact, some of the best music not only to come out of Canada lately, but from anywhere. Who are some of your favorites from the Great White North right now, and what do you think of this sort of “Canadian Invasion?”

AE: First, we’re really pumped to be playing with those guys. We’ve played a few times with No Joy in the past, and we’re really pumped to be doing it again – Jasamine and Laura are just awesome. We always have a great time with them – and to be able to just play a bunch of shows with them is perfect. I can’t wait to hear their new record – I think it came out today, even! I’m gonna bug them about getting a copy.

AE:  Anyway – Toronto right now has got some really cool stuff going on. We played in New  York recently with a few of our favorite bands out of Toronto – Soupcans and Odonis odonis, who are on tour with us right now. And um – yeah – they’re a few examples of really killer stuff coming out of Toronto. Another favorite would be Teenanger, who we’ve toured with in the past. But yeah, I think there’s certainly no shortage of cool music coming out of Toronto,and out of Canada right now.

DT: I agree – it just seems fresh. I mean – you guys are a perfect example. METZ a great, strong sound, and  you seem to have a way of expressing it and controlling it in ways that I don’t see too much – it’s really fresh (and I’m not alone in saying that). Your sound owes a little to Big Black and hardcore – Black Flag and such – but you seem to somehow be able to control it in ways that many other bands considered in the same light just can’t. I mean, I love A Place to Bury Strangers, their sound is extreme, pretty unique. But where Oliver tends to lose sight – or control of the sound – METZ doesn’t. You keep it fresh, new – but it’s still extreme.

AE: Thank you – that’s really cool to hear. We try to make something that we can call our own, but there’s no doubt that some of our influences are y’know, on our sleeve. And we don’t have a problem with that, but you just, y’know, put everything into a pot and mix it around and you end up getting METZ music out.

DT: And we’re all the better for it – thanks for that.

DT: So – you three seem to have been on tour, literally, forever. You just came back from Europe, and were everywhere else before that for months – it’s like you’re the hardest working noise band in the business. Have you had any time off recently?

AE: We have had some time off – not very much though. We just went to Europe, then went to Austin for South by. After that we had about three weeks at home – but we ended up going into the studio.

DT: And that was exactly what I was going to follow up with – was there time in the studio for a new record?

AE: No – not yet – it’s more of a new single or something like that, maybe. We haven’t really had time to get in there and start working on the next LP. That’ll come after this stint.

DT: So after his stint meaning  – I think there are a few more weeks after Denver – and then there’s nothing else scheduled. Are you all going to get some time after that to record then?

AE: Well – actually, we’re doing this American leg, and then we go over to the UK and we’re touring with Fucked Up,  then we do Primavera [in Spain], then some shows with Mudhoney and the Meat Puppets for a week in the UK as well, and then we’re booked up almsost every weekend until the end of the summer. So – it’s not like we’re going to have any time to go home and really, y’know get into the studio to actually record. And we just can’t write it on the road the way we do it – it’s kinda tough.

DT: I can imagine. Even so, it really sounds – as busy as it is – like you guys are living a dream. I mean, you say you’re touring with Fucked Up (again, one of my favorites right now) and then the Meat Puppets and Mudhoney in the same sentence. I mean – holy crap. You must be waking up grinning from ear to ear every morning.

AE: Well it’s true – I mean, those shows are like – we’re like “are you KIDDING me? Of course we would love to play with those bands!” So it’s definitely a treat when you get to play with bands you look up to.

DT: My last question – from my daughter (a budding music journalist) –  what’s your favorite song today?

AE: (Pauses) Wow! That’s tough. I would say something I was just listening to – but I don’t think I’ve heard anything today, honestly.

DT: Yeah – it’s a tough question, it puts you in the moment, and I think that’s interesting our readers.

AE: Yeah it does – um… Let’s say off the new Redd Kross record – there’s a tune, the second tune on the record, called “Stay Away from Downtown,” which is just a superb powerpop song, I have to say that one. I’s such a glorious pop  song from one of my favorite bands.

Here’s a video of Edkins’ favorite song from that morning – and maybe a clue to his headspace. Check out the video below that for a taste of METZ, too – and catch them at the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7th, too.

Redd Kross: “Stay Away from Downtown”

METZ: “Wasted”


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Heavy with Joy: An Inter/Review with Wovenhand’s David Eugene Edwards

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David Eugene Edwards leads Wovenhand Friday night, November 16, at the Oriental Theater, kicking off a new tour of Western cities. (Photo: Wovenhand)

Wovenhand released “The Laughing Stalk,” the Denver-based band’s seventh studio album, in September – so we may be a little late in reviewing. But then, so is Friday night’s CD Release Dance  at the Oriental Theater – November 16, 9:00 PM, with Reverend Deadeye – a little late in coming (and we’re happy to take advantage of the timing).

The reason for the separation between release and Dance Party, actually, is mostly the band’s recently (well, actually, consistently) busy schedule. Frontman – and Denver enigma – David Eugene Edwards is not only leading the newly re-formed four piece, but is also an intrinsic part of the re-genesis of legendary Australian band Crime and the City Solution, alongside some other musical heavy hitters like C&CS founder Simon Bonney, Alexander Hacke (most famously of Einstürzende Neubauten – and  this latest record’s producer) and his wife, artist & vocalist Danielle de Picciotto, Jim White (of Dirty Three) and more. The Bonney-led rebirth of the band is big news – on the supergroup scale for post punk – and it’s taken an understandable amount or Edwards’ time.

Still – Wovenhand is alive and strong, maybe stronger than ever. After 2010’s The Threshingfloor and some lengthy touring worldwide, longtime bassist – and longtime friend – Pascal Humbert quit to take on his family’s French vineyards and guitarist Peter van Laerhoven left as well, leaving Edwards and drummer Ordy Garrison alone with the keys. For The Laughing Stalk, the group added new bassist Gregory Garcia Jr and additional guitarist Chuck French (of Git Some, Planes Mistaken for Stars and more). The result has been called “… the most heavy incarnation” of Wovenhand, ever (which is saying something, considering the band’s characteristic gravity), but there’s more than a hint of levity in the mix now, too – and much joy.

We talked to Edwards recently about the C&CS project, touring, and some other things – but, most importantly, The Laughing Stalk. He had a lot to say about it, and so do we.

The Laughing Stalk jumps out of the gate immediately, almost joyous, with “Long Horn,” a rousing tune that envisages the beginning of a Western adventure, speeding across wide, sweeping landscapes – atop horses, motorcycles or landspeeders, it doesn’t matter – the feeling is one of conquest, maybe even victory. Wovenhand always combine unique instrumentation with old folk tendencies, and lay them atop strong, driving Native American rhythms – but never more excitingly than with this record.

It sounds live – the whole record does, really, which was by design. About working with Hacke – with whom Edwards became friends out of the C&CS project – the band has nothing but respect.

“Hacke is great – no complaints. Of course he’s brilliant at what he does,” said Edwards. “But he was happy to not have to change much after we recorded it.”

“It was recorded differently than our other records; Hacke didn’t have to change much – which he liked,” he explained. “He added his… ‘special sauce,’ of course – especially in the low end, cause that’s where he lives – but not much more.”

“We recorded this one basically live, because everyone has always asked for a live album,” Edwards added. “The live shows are so much different than the records, they have a different feel – everyone keeps asking for that. And I’ve never liked live recordings – so we put this together that way. We think it’s a good result.”

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

The Native American influence has long been a constant in Edwards’ compositions and performance – a mainstay. Is it born out of lineage, or upbringing, or both? According to Edwards, it’s a little of both; it’s as much a part of his internal makeup as it is a part of the landscape.

“There’s some Native American in my lineage, but more on the peripheral,” he explained. “It was something we grew up with, that was important in my life, in my parents’ lives and in family. It’s always been something they – we – were proud of. There’s no real spiritual significance to it, though. It comes in through the blood … but also from where we are.”

It’s no surprise to Edwards that this record emanates a lighter, more exuberant feel than previous Wovenhand material. It starts at the title.

“It’s [the title] meant to be light, to imply a little comedy,” he explained. “This record… reflects my current situation, where my life is right now. It’s joyful, filled with humor.”

“In The Temple” is a perfect case in point. This piece is anthemic – on a level with what bands like Coldplay might feel like they’re playing (instead of the sentimental and mostly vacuous treacle they really are). It lifts your heart rate from the first squalls of its almost church-organ base, and continues to build – tempting you to begin speaking in tongues in response to Edwards’ witnessing.

The feeling continues to rise with the onset of “King O King,” maybe the only tune on the record that reflects Wovenhand’s 2010 tour with Tool. With its force, this is the record’s most evident victory march – replete with biblical proclamations in its verses, and significant liberation in the chorus.

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Wovenhand shares much of its personality with Joy Division – in fact, their ability to cover the legendary Manchester post punk icons without coming across disingenuously or awful (sadly, this is the case with too many other bands that attempt to cover JD’s material) is unmatched –  especially live. For a taste on record, look to “Truth” (actually a New Order song – but one written in the shadow of Ian Curtis’s suicide) on The Threshingfloor. For an even more intoxicating example, catch them live to see if they cover “Heart and Soul,” a semi-constant, fantastic piece.

That said, “Closer,” the fifth track on The Laughing Stalk, isn’t meant to relate to Joy Division’s last album of the same name. Rather, this song is a meditation on a Biblical verse: Proverbs 18:24 – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,/but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

“It’s something I’ve been singing/playing, between songs, for about the last two years,” Edwards pointed out. “We just put it together into a whole song.”

The result is an isolated, private treatise of gratitude, it seems, to someone in his life. Quiet, desperate; the song emotes a powerful mantra, anchored in Garrison’s incongruent drumming and whispy guitar, ending with a nod to early Echo and the Bunnymen, from a Dylan perspective.

“Maize” settles in next – a song that’s in itself a play on its title. Native American-influenced rhythms match feet running through a looping maze, lead by a beautifully creepy piano, while Edwards describes awe of the height and depth of the canyon through which the Philistines pursued Samson – in Judges 15 – before he turned on them and “… Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.” The sound inspires such a clear vision of the pursuit, the massacre, and the rage of the giant hero at the refusal of his Delilah – and the ultimate victory he feels after laying wast to a thousand men.

The official CD Release Dance poster – by Ryan Mowry. 40 of these glorious prints (2 color, 18×24, screen printed on speckletone oatmeal french paper, signed and numbered) will be on sale at the show. (Photo: Sounds Familyre)

And the song sits at the acme of the record – aptly named as the product of such a mirthful stalk.

A close second plateau is the punk/folk “As Wool,” a fun romp that promises to be memorable live. From the drums to the thick, faster chords and guitar lick of the song’s verses, to Edwards’ playful preaching, this one harkens back to a more aggressive, simpler – yet no less purpose-filled – time.

After the release party at The Oriental this Friday night, Wovenhand are off on a West Coast tour, and then get a well-deserved break for the Holidays. It’s been busy for Edwards.

“I just got back – and just had gotten back the last time we left again. I’m busy – unusually busy, for me – which is something I try not to be,” he said. “We’re touring the West coast after Friday night – San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, Santa Fe, Los Angeles and other places out there.”

After the Holidays, it’s back on the road again for Edwards, along with Crime & the City Solution, followed by the release of the supergroup’s full album, slated to drop in the spring.

About his experience with Bonney and the rest of the Crime crew:

“The experience has been great. I mean, it’s a lot of big stuff, big people – it’s a pretty large project,” he said. “It’s going well – we like how it’s turning out.”

Need some proof? Listen to the album’s the epic “Maize,” below, and then head out to the Oriental Theater Friday night.

[ca_audio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Maize.mp3″ width=”500″ height=”37″ css_class=”codeart-google-mp3-player”]


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Mike Watt and The Missingmen, live at Larimer Lounge, April, 2011 (Photo: Mike McGrath)

Mike Watt – the DenverThread Interview: Touring Econo, Jamming Austere, Pure Dada

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“Actually, Chuck Dukowski built the circuit we’re all still touring on,” pointed out Mike Watt, as I watched him from the other side of a Skype video chat recently.  Watt was responding to my (constant) amazement at the legendary touring virility he’s been an integral part of for the past thirty years with his many bands – including Minutemen, fIREHOSE, now the Stooges, and his currently touring trio, the Missingmen.

Our conversation rambled on for about a half hour, but the always efficient Watt covered some major ground in that short time. From his current stint with the Stooges, to some of the history of Minutemen and his beloved San Pedro (CA), to the tour he was bout to kick off in a few days, he led me on a musical, improvisational, stream-of-thought journey – and kept his reputation as one of rock’s nicest guys you’d ever want to talk to.

The “Black Flag Tour Experience”

Mike Watt's got charisma. (Photo: Brooklyn Vegan)

Mike Watt’s got charisma. (Photo: Brooklyn Vegan)

“I’ve been doing that for over 30 years,” he added. “That’s the good thing about Michael [Azerrad], when he wrote that book – he got the title form one of my songs – “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” he continued. “Before that, I remember there was all kinds of stuff – like on PBS and shit – all kinds of stuff that went from The Sex Pistols to Nirvana, and they tried to say there was nothing in between.”

“Things come and go – things change. But, y’know, the way I tour hasn’t changed.  It’s still where you count on people to be in those towns, to have a scene going when you come to town.”

But there was something in between – a lot of somethings. There was Watt’s life, for one, along with a whole slew of underground, mostly hardcore punk acts like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat and more, that formed the so-often ignored musical bridge between  ‘70s US and British Punk and the early ‘90s Grunge thing that grew out of it. Before Nirvana’s stardom finally “legitimized” Punk Rock for the millions.

Watt is still touring the same way, now with his latest trio, The Missingmen, which features Watt on bass (or “thunderstick,” or “thud staff”), Tom Watson on guitar and Raul Morales on drums. They’re covering the world with the latest, third installment of an opera he essentially started regurgitating three albums and fifteen years ago with “Contemplating the Engine Room.” After that classic album and 2004’s “The Secondman’s Middle Stand,” and the regimen of touring that led him pretty much everywhere on the globe, Watt found himself in a position where he could finally face another part of that musical bridge: his longtime best friend and co-conspirator, and Minutemen’s legendary leader, D. Boon.

Documenting the Past

“When he got killed in that wreck, I couldn’t really listen to the Minutemen,” said Watt. “It would make me sad too much.  And then – you know about this documentary, “We Jam Econo”?  These two guys – they were too young to see us – in fact, the whole documentary is kind of about how they found out about us. And I had to, y’know, they wanted me to drive them around town, and go through the albums,” he added. “So I had to listen again. When I did, I was like ‘Whoa! I wanna try this again!’”

Watt onstage, circa 2005. (Photo: Mike Watt)

Watt onstage, circa 2005. (Photo: Mike Watt)

Once Watt heard the short, minimal tunes, along with Boon’s screaming, high-treble guitar style and George Hurley’s frantic drumming, he found he was finally able to get past the tragedy of the loss of his lifelong friend, and face the  desire to make that kind of music again. That music is his masterpiece – or at least the culmination of his journey – entitled “hyphenated-man.” Watt and The Missingmen will be here in Denver next Thursday night, October 4th, at the Larimer Lounge, to give you all a chance to see and hear the stream-of-conscious, Coltrane-soaked genius of the whole thing.

Hell – in a real perfect world, it would only be about two minutes long, because I’d play all thirty parts at the same time!

“Both the first  – “Contemplating the Engine Room” – and the second “The Secondman’s Middle Stand” are about the old days,” Watt explained. “The first one’s about Minutemen, and D Boon, and the second one’s about this sickness that almost killed me.”

“Both of those had beginning-middle-end – one had a happy ending, one had a sad ending. So  – I didn’t want to repeat myself – so, I was using elements of the old days, and I didn’t want to talk about those days,” he continued. “I wanted to talk about now. In a perfect world, there wasn’t any beginning-middle-end – it was all middle. Hell – in a real perfect world, it would only be about two minutes long, because I’d play all thirty parts at the same time!” (laughs).

Touring Econo – Still

“Things come and go – things change,” said Watt about the tour, as we talked just a few days before the first gig would kick off in Ballard, Washington. “But, y’know, the way I tour hasn’t changed.  It’s still where you count on people to be in those towns, to have a scene going when you come to town.”

So now, The Missingmen put on a show that’s non-stop, 45 minutes of scraping, chunky guitar, thundering bass and Watt’s signature guttural drawl. It’s a set filled with more than 30 songs – or maybe 30 parts of one song – and Watt wants to put it out there in the way he hears it – in shotgun blasts.

Watt & the "thud staff" (Photo: Mike Watt)

Watt & the “thud staff” (Photo: Mike Watt)

“One good thing about this tour, this piece – this’ll be the fourth tour of it,” he explained. “We really know it now – we know it a lot more now than we did. There’s a lot of parts in that fucker!  We let it get into our muscles – into our muscle memory – because in the head – I tell you.”

“Tell you what – the first tours – it was a nightmare,” he went on to illustrate, “and I know that was the only way to really learn it. I mean, we prac at the prac pad, but the real prac is doing it for people. So – we’ve really made it into a living, breathing entity here.”

Which is kind of the best way to describe the opera, really. I saw it last time he was through Denver – also at the Larimer Lounge – in April of 2011, and I remember it starting like a quick slap to the side of the  head, and then filling the place like an uncomfortable stomach bubble until it burst and bathed the whole place with sweaty, frantic and funky jazz-punk. And then the trio dared us to take a breath.

“Really – I have so much respect for Tom Watson and Raul Morales for wrapping their spirits around this thing,” he said. “Y’know – this isn’t just parts that they learned, they really know this thing, like they wrote it. It’s really beautiful.”

“I think this is just the third time for me at this newer place, Larimer Lounge. And people are very nice. But this one guy was very upset,” Watt reminisced. “Y’know when I do this opera, it’s this 45 minute thing in various parts and I don’t want to stop, but this man wanted to discuss something with me (laughs) in the middle of the piece! Hopefully he didn’t think I was tryin’ to be some kind of weirdo! I was just tryin’ to focus.”

Missingmen: Origins

Mike Watt is so busy – like the James Brown of Punk Rock, maybe – that it seems he’d have no more time for another tour. He’s still playing – after nine years – with The Stooges, he’s spearheading a Japanese hardcore scene (one bad of which – LITE – he’s bringing along with The Missingmen for this leg of the tour), he’s constantly recording and producing tributes, songs and records – many on his own label clenchedwrench – it’s mind-boggling. But he still has time for his Missingmen, something that began with that simple desire to play that old Minutemen minimalist style again.

‘Look – I’ll make one big thing out of all these little parts – like we did in the old days. Except, I’ll talk about right now. I won’t talk about the old days’

“… all fairness to George Hurley and D. Boon, I shouldn’t be rippin’ off my old band,”Watt explained to me. “So I thought, ‘Well – I couldn’t – don’t want to make it totally “Happy Days,” which would be all poppy & shit – so, I’ll write about right now! Which will be the middle aged punk rocker – something I would have never wrote about before!”

"hyphenated-man" and Bosch (Cover: Mike Watt)

“hyphenated-man” and Bosch (Cover: Mike Watt)

“It made me think about being on tour with the Stooges in Madrid,” he added, “and they got this museum there called the Prado. And in it they got six or seven Heironymous Bosch paintings.  It was something I always liked as a kid, Bosch – his depictions of all these creatures and shit. I saw the actual things – done by his hands – over 500 years ago.“

“When I was a boy, I was into astronauts & dinosaurs, y’know,” he went on, “space race & creatures. And so maybe some of these creatures look kinda like dinosaurs & space race, and when you focus, and then step back, you see all of these things make one big thing. And I thought ‘Whoa! That’s kind of like a Minutemen gig!’ So I kinda got the idea: ‘Look – I’ll make one big thing out of all these little parts – like we did in the old days. Except, I’ll talk about right now. I won’t talk about the old days’”

Watt went on to explain how The Missingmen came about, just for this part, this third part of the opera, the “Hyphenated Man” gig: “The Missingmen was put together – It was really focused – I put this outfit together to do this opera. Tom Watson was from Slovenly – he was from the older days. Played for Minutemen, even,” he explained. “Me and D Boon put out the first Slovenly records, and he was from here. Well – he ain’t from Pedro, he’s from Manhattan Beach, but it ain’t too far away. Now he plays kind of treble – I think maybe some D Boon influence in his guitar playing – but he’s a real link from those old days.”

“Raul – when the punk scene came into being out here in Pedro in the ‘90s,” he went on, “I wasn’t even aware of it, I was touring so much. In the old days, y’know, Minutemen – we were the only punk rockers in town. There wasn’t even a scene really – so I was really surprised.”

“In fact,” he added, “there were some people even moving into town to be a part of this scene! They were hosting bands to play in their living rooms, in these house gigs.   I found Raul – he’s kinda part of Minutemen, he’s like a, uh, grandson or something,” he explained.

“He’s part of Minutemen, too, because, part of this opera was – in a way – to kind of indulge myself.  I wanted to do that form again.”

And doing that form again is exactly what this is.

Iggy & The Stooges, and There’s Dada

Watt’s been playing for The Stooges now since they inducted him in 2003. To say it’s been a dream come true is kind of an understatement, according to him.

Watt with Iggy, circa 2004 (Photo: Mike Watt)

Watt with Iggy, circa 2004 (Photo: Mike Watt)

“It’s very surrealistic to me. It’s been 9½ years now, and  y’know, we wouldn’t even have had a punk scene without  the Stooges, and I owe them my best notes,” he said. “It’s helped me become a much better bass player. They’re all very interesting gentlemen – and I’m finally the youngest guy in the band.”

The latest incarnation of the Stooges is still touring – Watt just played with the band  few days after we spoke, in Europe – with legendary frontman Iggy Pop, Scott Asheton and James Williamson (Stooges guitarist on the classic Raw Power LP), onboard after the death of Scott’s brother Ron in 2009. To hear Watt describe it, the power of the Stooges is till there, still raw.

“I’ve got to play with some cats who  are really sincere – about the same kind of things I am. I mean, how do you find things like that?”

“It’s like being in a classroom – I love it,” he went on. “These last 9½ years seem to have gone by in 5 minutes. It’s almost like I’m like a kid – but I need to focus, to play with these guys. These songs have been in my head for so many years before that – it’s pretty surreal.”

“First time I was sitting in the chair – me & Thurston [Moore] were doing the soundtrack with Ronnie [Asheton] for the movie “Velvet Goldmine,” and Ronnie starts playing “TV Eye,” just a few feet away from me. I couldn’t believe it. That was the sound – it was that sound.”

“That’s one thing I gotta say,” Watt reminisced. “I’ve been very lucky. I mean, besides, yeah, getting to play with the Stooges. But even with my own music. I’ve got to play with some cats who  are really sincere – about the same kind of things I am.”

“I mean, how do you find things like that? I mean, I grew up with D Boon, y’know? And so it was  kind of an extension of the way we used to hang out,” he added. “Y’know – we were together. The other thing was – well, I think it came out in the movement, too.”

Mike Watt also related the early Punk Rock scene – that same one he helped to build, and that made that bridge between the Sex Pistols and Nirvana – to the early days of the last century, particularly in Art. He’s not the first to have done it – look at Greil Marcus’s “Lipstick Traces” for a whole damned treatise on the subject. But Watt did live a lot of it, and it was Watt’s memory we were talking about.

“Even though D. Boon was a painter and stuff, we didn’t know about dada. We didn’t really know any of all of that,” Watt explained. “These people in the middle of a war got this kinda – there were a lot of similarities between our scene and dada and the surrealists in the 20s. This dada thing – what I’m finding out is that there are echoes of other movements in all of this.”

It makes sense, too, when  you relate what Watt said to his music. Not only is there a hefty dose of Coltrane’s “Meditations,” a sloppy helping of electric, bass-string-bound scat and funk, but there’s also a discernible flavor of John Cage, or Marcel Duchamp. It’s this strain that lifts Missingmen –  and that lifted D. Boon and Minutemen – up and over the movement, and it’s that stream that’s keeping it alive in Mike Watt now.

“The important thing is that you gotta find your own voice, rather than being a Xerox machine or a cookie cutter – of course,” explained Watt. “Everybody brings a lot of themselves to it, too – but then a lot of this stuff is kind of – dare say – traditional? Preserving something, some old ethics – like silly politics.”

“ You try to bring back some of the stuff from the old days, and then try to be a little progressive,” he said, chuckling, ”and then all of a sudden you have to wear a certain type of tin foil hat.”

Dada.

Definitely dada.


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Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

New Year, New Venue – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is changing up New Year’s Eve

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Slim Cessna's Auto Club Live (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Live (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

One of Denver’s most popular New Year’s Eve parties is about to change. For the first time in about a decade, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club won’t be helping Denver fans jettison the old year for a new one – at least, not at the same location. After a long string of consecutive, packed shows at the Bluebird – for more than half of the band’s history – this year’s New Year’s Eve two-day shindig will be taking place at the Oriental Theater in Northwest Denver.

We got the chance to talk to Slim – the enigmatic leader of the goth-country, funky americana outfit – about the move recently, and the fact that this year’s gigs have a special addition: Slim Cessna’s son’s band – The Sterling Sisters, based in Baltimore, MD – will be joining the party.

Turns out the change may have been in the works for a bit, too. The relationship between the band and the venue seems to have wilted of late – sort of the same way a hockey team seems to get tired of its coach. It’s no-one’s fault, really – it’s just that a change is in order.

Slim Cessna at The Bluebird in 2011 (Photo: Jon Solomon)

Slim Cessna at The Bluebird in 2011 (Photo: Jon Solomon)

“It’s become pretty clear over the past couple years that Scott [Campbell – AEG Booking agent for the Bluebird and owner of the Larimer Lounge] has been ready for us to move on,” explained Slim. “We’ve had the New Year’s Eve shows at the Bluebird  – we’ve played the Bluebird for years – and we used to have total control of the shows. Which bands we brought to play with us, what we did with the stage, for instance. Not so much anymore – we’ve lost a lot of the control of the stage and bands.”

“Our 11th consecutive NYE show was at the Bluebird – and that’ll be the last one. The 12th will be at the Oriental,” he added.

And this year he’s bringing son George’s band  – The Sterling Sisters – to the party

The new venue should be a fine place to hold these locally famous, near-revival-tent-like parties. The stage at the Oriental is larger than the Bluebird’s, and official capacity at the Oriental is about 150 more. And, since the ceiling was replaced after last year’s minor collapse, the sound inside has been largely brilliant.

Besides all of that, Slim and the boys seem to be happy with the management at the Oriental as well. Since Scott LaBarbera regained the Oriental over a year ago, the place has been running well, filling up more often, and attracting more significant acts nearly every week (if only the parking could somehow grow a little, it’d be set for just about anything). And LaBarbera seems to be making the bands that come by happy.

“Scott’s been great. He’s fair, allowing us to pick our bands, and paying them fairly. Which is really important for Sterling Sisters, because they needed to be paid enough to make their trip  out here from Baltimore worth it.”

Sterling Sisters is Slim’s son George’s five-piece band, and it’s not a surprise that they stomp on the same mystical musical ground as the Auto Club. The group’s sound is spearheaded by George’s carbon-copied Slim Cessna vocals (heck – George even looks the spitting image of his father: tall, lanky, Hank Williams in a black suit), intertwined with the beautiful, operatic and haunting singing of Scout Paré-Phillips – a pairing that, though it doesn’t sound like it, brings to mind the kind of vocal pairing the Exene Cervenka and John Doe created to lead X. It’s unforgettable together, and makes the atmosphere of Sterling Sisters’ gothic freak folk all the more enticing, intriguing even.

George Cessna is a film student in Baltimore currently, studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art, on his own path, to be sure. But there’s no doubt he’s not fallen far from Slim’s influence. Sterling Sisters features the young multi-instrumentalist alongside Pare-Phillips vocals and bass, and Andrew Haas on Banjo, Nicole Rodrigues on violin and Corey Hughes on drums and percussion. Their sound is the next step in the evolution of the Auto Club, really.

The Sterling Sisters. Have you picked out George? (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

The Sterling Sisters. Have you picked out George? (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

Similar, but very different.

The group’s first, eponymous EP, starts out with Paré-Phillips crooning over a slowly strummed banjo, and immediately causes visions – invariably in sepia-tone – of ghost-towns, windswept prairies, high desert on horseback, and a heavy helping of desolation. And then the band digs in, with a style of country folk that only the Auto Club could have gestated. One standout, “Fairplay, Colorado,” invokes an eerily accurate vision of the town, probably because George has spent his fair share of time hiking through it:

“It’s not George’s fault that he looks like me – sounds like me,” said the elder Cessna. “But he’s definitely not “us.” He’s found his voice, and it’s unique, and it’s really beautiful.”

It’s obvious Slim is proud of his son when he talks about him. And why not? George is only 20 now, and seems to be well on his way. It’s amazing how a life around talent breeds even more of it.

“He started young – both of my kids did. They’ve had access to all of this music for all their lives,” said Cessna. “Amelia plays the oboe, and just recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a major in oboe.”

“George – he can play everything now,” he added. “Drums, piano, guitar, violin – hell, he can even play the cello!” (laughs).

“I’m good – I’m good at surrounding myself with talented people,” explained Cessna. “I’m good at making a fool of myself. George is actually, a naturally good musician.”

The Sterling Sisters Live (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

The Sterling Sisters Live (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

Asked whether Sterling Sisters is a regular sharing the stage with the Auto Club – at least on this tour, Slim pointed out that George was too busy with school to be a part of it all. But they have begun to make their mark with the elder band – even all the way out west here in Denver.

“Sterling Sisters played a show opening for us in August in Pittsburgh,” explained Slim. “We were happy to share that stage with them. They played their first Denver show at Bender’s in June, opening for Munly’s band – the Lupercalians. That was a great show.”

They’ll be sharing the stage again for both nights of the New Year’s Eve celebration this year, though.

“We wanted Sterling Sisters to play at least one of the two nights – an they’re opening for the Auto Club for both. And being paid – significantly. They’re pretty excited.George is 20 now – but he’ll be 21 for the NYE gigs – something he’ll no doubt be taking full advantage of.”

Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim is well aware of the influence he’s had on his kids. They are, in fact, the entire reason he’s based in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, rather than here in Denver. Slim moved his family out there in 2003, specifically so that they could take advantage of some of the things other cities like Denver offered – but that they would never be able to afford because of the costs of living. Both kids went to the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and have obviously benefitted greatly from it. These kinds of sacrifices are what make the difference, and what make Slim even more of a rock star to his kids than to the band’s worldwide fans.

“Yeah – they were sacrifices,” he commented. “And they worked.”

The Auto Club has been, it seems, almost non-stop touring this year – to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. If you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, it seems they’re in another town just about every other night.

“On this tour, we’ve been to Europe twice, up in Canada, through the Northwest and Southeast in the US,” said Slim. “But, according to everyone on Facebook, we’re not in their town.”

Still, the band calls Denver their home, and still announces their allegiance at the beginning of every show. Though Slim calls Pittsburgh home, and guitarist Dwight Pentacost is based in Boston, the band’s real spirit comes out of Denver.

“It’s not like I’m not there,” explained Slim. “I spend weeks at Bob’s [Ferbrache – who has recorded the Auto Club’s music and engineered it for years – and plays in the band] house from time to time. And we play in Denver a lot, every year.”

And Denver’s a strong base for them, as well as the rest of the city’s bands. Slim was quick to express his gratitude: “Denver is a wonderful place for music. It’s got such a vibrant scene, and so many great clubs to play in,” he said. “Never take that for granted – Denver’s awesome.”

Besides celebrating their second decade, this year’s tour has been in support of the band’s eighth record, “Unentitled,” which is receiving some pretty strong reviews according to Slim. “It’s been accepted well – it’s selling,” he explained. “It’s a good record, and people like it, from what we hear.”

It is a good record, except for the fact that – if you’d been to many of the Auto Club’s many shows in Denver in the few years before it was pressed – their stage shows featured most of its songs. When it first came out, it was a little hard to get excited about the tunes. But, here in Denver, we’re spoiled.

“It takes a lot of time to record our stuff – partly because of the long distance thing, but partly because of the way we work and – just our stuff,” explained Slim. “We often find we go in different directions a lot as we’re working it all out, and so we play it live a lot before we record. It helps to get the whole thing straightened out.”

That it did. The tour now features a lot of that stuff, to be sure – but there’s still no match for the tent-revival meets psychedelic freakout of an Auto Club show. Slim was understandably tight-lipped about any real specifics about this year’s New Year’s Eve shows, but it’s certain to be unforgettable, at least.

I asked Slim if he felt, after 20 years of constant Auto Clubbing, that things might wind down soon, or that he might be passing the torch on to his son George. His answer was typically down to Earth – but hilarious, nonetheless.

“Well – this is it – I don’t have a backup plan. No 401(k), no retirement, no healthcare, even,” he said. “I’ll be doing this for a long while.”

Denver Broncos UK (Photo: Denver Broncos UK)

Denver Broncos UK (Photo: Denver Broncos UK)

He also perked up about another project he and some of the members of the Auto Club have been toying around with for a few years now: The Denver Broncos UK. A noisier, more aggressive version of the Auto Club (which is a purposely understated description, designed to get you into the oriental early for the first day of festivities), the side project looks like it’s going to start getting real.

“We’re also working on The Denver Broncos UK,” Slim pointed out. “Our first show in Denver will be one of the two at the Oriental, on Sunday, The 30th of December, opening for the Auto Club. We’re looking forward to on that as a real thing – not just a side project. We’re excited to see where that’s going.”


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