Category Archives: Denver Venues

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Do You Remember the Family Dog in Denver?

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“We were all teenagers, working on coming together – and you know what brought us all together? Music.”  This was how Tony Guillory, former cabaret manager and co-founder of The Family Dog in Denver – likely one of the city’s most significant, and most hidden, venues. Guillory and I were talking that night in the backyard of the Wanamaker family home, some of the Dog’s original staffers, where people from all over had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the short-lived but hugely influential venue.

The Family Dog Denver was the cowtown’s dream and nightmare

The Family Dog, which occupied the building that now holds PT’s Showclub Denver at 1601 West Evans from September of 1967 to July of 1968 – less than a year – hosted such legendary greats as Janis Joplin/Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, and The Doors and more, in short order (to get deeper into the history of The Family Dog, check out Westword‘s article). The Family Dog not only set the tone for Denver’s future music scene, and made an indelible dent in the world of Rock n’ roll (at least for a slow-growing cowtown on the eastern plains), the venue also effectively launched the career and promotional empire of Barry Fey.

“The Tale of the Dog: the Untold Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” is trying to raise the necessary funds to keep production going – editing the film, distribution, promotion, rights & permissions, and more – and if you give, your donation will be 100% tax-deductible. You can find more information and donate online.

The party Guillory and I were in the middle of was almost a family reunion of old band members, promoters, artists, and personalities all associated with – and very much in love with – the Family Dog. Guillory managed the events at the Denver Dog during its short lifetime,  and then went on to a lifelong career in entertainment, but is by his own account truly a painter. In fact, he got his start in show business by painting set backdrops and helping set up events for many entertainers who turned later out to be legendary stars – including Johnny Mathis. He also managed the band Allmen Joy, about whom he said: “We were going to call the band ‘Snickers,’ but it was too close a rhyme with the sadly popular vernacular of the time.”

His incredibly interesting history includes time spent with the Hell’s Angels and the Rolling Stones in the historic Altamont show, chronicled by the 1970 film “Gimme Shelter,” and booking and managing bands and shows all over the world.

Local family members worked late hours for the bands and the venue

Among the guests were Melody Duggan, and Marilyn and Roy Wanamaker, who all worked at The Dog during its short existence. Roy, who started at the Dog when he was “… 15 or 16 – it’s hard to remember a lot of specifics from back then,” as he put it, used to run the psychedelic light shows that covered the bands as they played.

“I used to hang out on the balcony above the dance floor – and that balcony is still there – with an overhead projector, water, oil, and food coloring, splashing trippy colors all over the bands,” remembered Wanamaker, “among other things. I don’t remember all of them, but I have a lot of good feelings about what I do remember.” Wanamaker also regaled us with some stories about now-legendary rock stars that visited the Dog – including Jim Morrison (“My mother – who everyone just called mom, always said Morrison smelled awful!”), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and more throughout the night.

The other reason all of these beautiful ex-hippies gathered at the Big House that night was to help move a very special film project forward – “The Tale of the Dog: the Untold  Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” – which is being made and produced by Dan Obarski and University of Denver Medieval and Renaissance Art professor Scott Montgomery. A labor of love, the film has nearly reached critical mass as far as content, but is falling short of funds to get fully completed, and the pair are using the nostalgia for an era to generate awareness, and to raise some of that necessary money.

Montgomery and Obarski have been collecting verbal histories, memories, snippets of conversation, and just about anything they can find about the “Denver Dog,” which, regrettably, really isn’t much. They both met at a Family Dog concert poster exhibit in early 2015, and have been hot on the trail to unearth the venue’s true history ever since.

There’s not much proof left of the Family Dog Denver – except posters, and memories

“Aside from some pretty bad videos on YouTube, and the posters in the original exhibit and hanging in the parlor here at the house,” said Montgomery, “there really isn’t much proof the Denver Dog existed, outside of memories.” Part of the cool thing about being at the 50th anniversary was the fact that one room of the house was set aside, cleared out, and dedicated to another exhibit of Denver Dog poster art, only the second ever to . Aging hippies spent a lot of time strolling through, looking at the posters, remembering adventures, sharing war stories – and laughing, smiling, and sometimes tearing up, too.

Among the celebrities at the party was Paul Conley, the keyboardist from the seminal psychedelic band Lothar and the Hand People, who brought with him a veritable archive of magazine and newspaper clippings, photos, and artwork from the band’s early days. Among other revelations about the Hand People’s history that Conley revealed was the fact that they were “…the first band to ever tour and perform live with a synthesizer,” given to them by Bob Moog. He also confirmed that The Beach Boys’  Brian Wilson was inspired by his band’s use of Lothar – their theremin – which he eventually used in the hit “Good Vibrations.”

Every story, every memory, every reunion hug, every gut-bucketful of familiar laughter – all of these added up to the undeniable proof that The Family Dog was – and still is – the seed of Denver’s long rock n’ roll history and its constantly growing music and art scene. The fact that the Denver Dog attracted such a number and stature of celebrities in such a short time – in a desolate area of a small cowtown with nothing, really, more than aspirations to be a big city – as well as a pretty strong hippy scene so far away from Haight/Ashbury, speaks volumes of both the vibe of the place, and its loving, tireless staff.

“Growing up – surviving, there was no money – which supposedly runs things,” waxed Guillory, as the night wrapped up. “But that wasn’t true then. It’s friendship that runs things.”


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Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble Brings Sweet Sounds to Lost Lake

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All photos courtesy of Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread.com

If you’re a fan of Stereolab – the ’90s juggernaut of Euro-pop influenced, jazzy, space-age music – then you know Laetitia Sadier. Most familiar as the deeper voice in Stereolab, Sadier always occupied a dominant space in the band, opposite the late Mary Hansen until 2002. With her new band, Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, she’s continuing the tradition of ’60s-based electro-psychedelic pop, though she seems to have softened a bit on the leftist/Marxist themes in her lyricism. With the Source Ensemble, Sadier seemed concerned not so much justice or revolt as with love and freedom – between couples, between enemies – universally. She sang about worlds that could benefit everyone, based on an “Undying Love for Humanity,” which she called out for in the set’s first song.

The new group played on the low, humble stage at Lost Lake last Saturday night for a little over an hour, to a crowd that looked to have likely been at Stereolab, Pavement, Beck, and Flaming Lips shows throughout the late ’90s & early 2000s, and most ageing quite well – albeit none quite as impressively as Sadier. She crooned in front of them, playing a few different guitars throughout the show, often approaching the throatiness of Nico, but always with a smooth strength.

They played much of their debut album, “Find Me Finding You,” showing an even more melodic, heavily acoustic sound than Stereolab. There was almost a slight Brazilian psychedelia feel much of the time, soothing rhythms and lilting melodies backed by thick, groovy keys and pretty guitars. The ensemble felt more like a backing band for Sadier than a full collaboration – which I think benefitted their sound, and Sadier’s vision. Never giving up, Sadier appears to be well on track to continue creating beautiful noises, sounds, and utopian visions – which is both a good and refreshing thing for humanity.


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Thievery Corporation Slays Red Rocks, as Usual

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Photos by Sandisz Thieme

Last Saturday, I found myself at Morrison’s very own Red Rocks Amphitheater listening to what I thought was the soundtrack to “Hollywood’s Top Ten Drug-Induced-Orgy Scenes.” Just over a week ago, I had never heard of the band I was there to see, Thievery Corporation (so much for suspense, but you read the title), and wasn’t exactly excited to see them. I liked what music I had heard, I was just worried the concert would be a total snore-fest for your average 19 year old millennial, frequenting punk/rap shows with mosh pits (me) and I couldn’t find a plus one (most of my friends are the same sort of aforementioned millennial).

All of that said, I was pleasantly surprised! After a brief weather delay, Thievery Corporation took the stage to play their drug-induced-orgy-soundtrack-type music, which makes for a damned good soundtrack. They played in a number of different languages, spanning a series of genre from reggae to rap to an acoustic/techno sort of thing.

The venue was taken over by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton’s hecka beats, the beautiful voices of Loulou Ghelichkhani, Natalia Clavier, and Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell and some remarkably sick raps by Mr.Lif, while Jeff Franca took the drums, Ashish Vyas was on bass, and we were even treated to the occasional sitar solo by Rob Myers, plus a few extras now and again on things like trumpet, saxophone and a second drumset with bongos and a xylophone.

The music made for a great night on the rocks and the entire venue was full of love, a little of that dank-kush, and all that good shit, though there was an unsurprising lack of shoes in the audience, as well as on stage (look for photos of Ashish Vyas).


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UMS – Day Three is the Juggernaut. You Should See These Bands!

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The UMS isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon, and Day Three is the middle 15. Long, hot, stretched out and relentless, and the most fun you’ve ever had. Time to settle in and really get a taste of the festival, and we’ve got the band list for you.

Here’s the list for Day 3: Saturday, July 29, 2017

12:00 p.m.

Edison

Illegal Pete’s (Inside)

Brooklyn-esque folk rock born of bands like The Lumineers (one of ’em was in that one, actually), based in Denver. Easy to love, impossible to forget.

1:00 p.m.

Porlolo

Irish Rover

A Denver local scene mainstay, Erin Roberts has been Porlolo forever. And Porlolo has been ever-changing, moving, growing and supporting the scene with a rock-folk blend no-one else can claim.

2:00 p.m.

Gasoline Lollipops

Irish Rover

A little bit country, a little bit punk, a little bit, and a whiskey-trickle of Denver BumCore! heroes Slakjaw, the Lollipops set the stage for a square-dance mosh.

3:30 p.m.

The Corner Girls

Main Stage at
363 S. Broadway

Glitter–drenched, funky, feminist, pastel punk is what you’ll get from this relatively new trio, pplus some high-energy inspiration to wear unicorn horns, fart rainbows, and throw shoes at the TV when your dad’s screaming at Fox News.

4:30 p.m.

The Savage Blush

Main Stage at
363 S. Broadway

Surf-drenche 60s-esque psychedelic garage rock, by a brother-sister duo from Denver. Need to know more? Go and see!

5:00 p.m.

Kitty Crimes

Syntax: Physic Opera

If you’re not aware of Denver scene heavyweight Kitty Crimes – AKA Maria Kohler,
musician, producer, all-around powerful, unforgettable presence, and member of/contributor to a seemingly unending number of local bands (M and the Gems, Harpoontang, Houses, Science Partner, Mike Marchant) – you can’t really say you’re a Denverite. Fix that, today – see her unique show, now with a full band. One you definitely don’t want to miss.

6:00 p.m.

Quantum Creep

H-Dive

Obviously fans of early Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, and a garagey-er Big Star would love these creeps. We do, too. Just go see ’em.

7:00 p.m.

Pretty Mouth

South Broadway Christian Church

Pretty Mouth start off a little smooth for us, sometimes. But – before you know it – sultry, throaty singer/songwriter Marie Litton assaults you with said voice, and leaves you in a somnambulent stupor, to be awakened by the sweet, loud licks from guitarist/cellist Lief Sjostrom. Good luck with getting back to sleep any time soon after.

8:00 p.m.

The Omens

The Hi-Dive

In the tradition of bands like Alien Sex Fiend, Tarmints, and (now) Oh Sees, The Omens will rock you with a psychedelic garage sound that’l make you feel dirty, greasy, sweaty, and elated.

9:00 p.m.

Codename: Carter

The Hornet

We’d tell you what’s so damned good, smooth, exciting, intriguing, and fun about Codename: Carter – but then we’d have to kill you. And, besides, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a band of spies such as this. That is all.

10:00 p.m.

Parallelephants

The Irish Rover

San Antonio-based Parallelephants send out onto their audience a smokey R&B that’s perfect for chillin’ and catchin’ your breath as the final few miles loom ahead.

11:00 p.m.

Nasty Nachos

the Irish Rover

Imagine filling the large tray at 7-11 with the most chips and nacho yellow cheese liquid as you can possibly fit, paying for it, walking home and eating most of it, running into your recording bedroom, and spilling the gallon of leftover cheese and corn chip crumbs directly onto the keyboard of your synth. This is where Nasty Nachos comes from.

12:00 a.m.

The Baltic

Gary Lees Motor Club and Grub

Finally, we get to the shoegaze. If you like Ride, or MBV, or dancing with your eyes closed to bauhaus as you hum what you think are the lyrics, so no-one around you will notice that you don’t know them, The Baltic is for you.

1:00 a.m.

Rumtum

The Irish Rover

Found noises, sounds, animals, people – squashed up and forced through capacitors, wires, knobs and buttons, and out rhough b ombastic speakers, and into your ears. Just be ready.


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Japan’s Guitar Wolf turns Denver’s Moon Room into Den of Fun

Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Molly McGrath

There’s no better way to transition out of the strange patriotism and embarrassment  Fourth of July entails than immersing yourself in a wild punk show, and when Seiji of the Japanese rock band Guitar Wolf came out on stage in a Godzilla mask and immediately wrapped both hands around my neck in a mock choking, I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical wild punk show.

Guitar Wolf played the 5th of July to a rowdy crowd at the Moon Room inside the Summit Music Hall. Japan’s greatest “Jet” rock band took the stage wearing dinosaur masks, as they are on the “T-Rex From A Tiny Space Yojouhan” tour. Frontman Seiji immediately chugged a PBR through the mask (hard to say how much actually went into his mouth) as the crowd went wild. They played a set filled with upbeat, fast tempo punk songs as the audience danced and moshed. Guitar Wolf engages the crowd in countless ways including pulling an unsuspecting audience member named Bill onstage to play guitar in the place of Seiji, while he crowd surfed. The Guitar Wolf set ended with an entire band and audience drenched in sweat, everyone having the time of their life.

Guitar Wolf plays the Moon Room Denver, 7/5/17. Photo by Michael McGrath, denverthread.com

Before Guitar Wolf blew the audience away with their chaotic punk set, a polarly different band took the stage. Four piece band Isaac Rother & the Phantoms have the look of the Munster Family, but play a balanced mix of psychobilly, blues and surf- kind of like if the Cramps had a baby with Dr. John. The Phantoms setlist featured lots of old-school horror themed songs, complemented by the mystical, spooky and surfy dance moves of back up singer Tatiana Sandate. Isaac Rother & the Phantoms are one of the most perfectly danceable bands I have ever seen live, and served as a great juxtaposition to the blast of punk noise that followed in Guitar Wolf’s set.

But before either touring bands hit the stage, locals Poison Rites warmed the Moon Room with big sound and enthusiasm]. “Were from down the street”, explained frontman Reed Wolf , ahead of a set of heavy punk songs and hype for the Guitar Wolf set that would follow. The band played a quick but impressive set, and even shared stories about all the work they did to get on the bill for that show. Overall, Guitar Wolf at the Moon Room was a high energy show, filled with jarring and joyous surprises.


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Photos by Declan Geise

Thriving Local Band AMZY Rocks the Gothic

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Photos by Declan Giese

Ahh, to be young, fresh-faced, optimistic, and in a kick-ass rock band again…. How many of us wouldn’t sell everything we had to get into that spotlight? Well, local up-and-coming band AMZY hasn’t had to sell anything to land themselves in the great graces of rock ‘n’ roll – and pretty quickly. The seemingly cut-for-video four piece played a packed Gothic Theatre last Friday night, proving that – while young – they’ve got what it takes to stay there.

Fronted by Australian native Brennan Johnson – who belts out vocals like he was born to do it – they started with a heart-wrenching version of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” that stopped the audience in awe. Johnson did Simone justice, while the rest of the band backed him up impressively, and if anyone in the Gothic had any doubts before then, they were sold by the time the opener ended. They followed that emotional setting with a little more than an hour of upbeat, electronic power pop that was almost impossible not to dance to. Centered around Johnson’s strong vocals, Nick Billings’ bass work and Wes Barton’s near-flawless drumming gave their set a solid, skilled foundational rhythm, while Sean Grant’s guitar work defined the addictive, explosive sound. Who knew such a wall of sound could come from a simple Telecaster, anyway?

Their infectious grooves showed influences like The Killers and locals Churchill, and occasionally added a smidgen of Alt-J (especially in parts of “Feet on the Ground”) – but wrapped pretty deeply in a hard rocking maelstrom of vocal harmonies, power chords, keys and rhythm. Their new single “Sorry Not Sorry” was a wrangling anthem to walking away from a relationship that had the whole room jumping, while the smooth “We Don’t Walk We Dance” settled the crowd into a swaying dance. “5 to Midnight,” with it’s catchy singalong chanting and impossibly sticky hooks, had the crowd howling in unison. At one point, Johnson boarded a giant inflatable unicorn boat and navigated deep into the crowd on willing fan’s heads, hands, and shoulders – nearly abandoning ship more than once.

AMZY plays a solid, super-catchy power pop, but with more substance that the average young group. Their latest single “Sorry Not Sorry” is available now, and they plan to release a new EP later this year. Keep your ears open for them – they’re coming to take over Denver, and coming fast.


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Decatur Releases Smooth, Pensive Alt-Rock at the Walnut Room

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Local up-and-coming 5-piece Decatur hosted an EP release party last Friday night in front of a Walnut Room filled with happy & adoring fans, leaving no one disappointed. Fronted by a suave looking Sean Decrescenzo, the band played a little more than an hour of smooth, well-constructed rock that mostly recalled the sounds of Alt-J or The Fray, occasionally adding a soupcon of Dave Matthews‘ pop brilliance.

Decrescenzo was joined by Quinn Cox (guitar, keys, vocals), Chris Howard (drums, vocals), Sam Oatts (bass, vocals), and Tay Hamilton (guitar, vocals) in delivering a well-practiced and well-produced sound filled with full vocal harmonies floating through dynamic guitar and keyboard constructions and anchored by a rock-solid rhythm section. “Don’t Talk” – the opener on their debut eponymous EP – was a moody heartbreaker, and “Shadows” played out an almost film noir atmosphere.

While these musicians are fantastically talented and played a nearly flawless set, it’s a little too evident that they’re still reaching for a consistent style all their own. Well-constructed songs like “Hide Me Away” and “Every Little Step” Came across with just a shade too much of The Fray in the overall sound, although in most of the other songs Decatur easily portrayed their own unique, smooth and pensive sound.

The venue was either swaying or bouncing to the set, pumped up and excited as the band played ou its set. Many of the fans were familiar enough with the band to sing along, but almost nobody was standing still. Decatur is on its way up in the Denver scene, and with their talent and commitment should be among the upper echelon before you know it – keep your eye on them. You can stream their debut EP on SoundCloud, to get a good taste of them.


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Photo: Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

Substance Flows from Peter Hook and The Light

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Photos by Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

The Summit Music Hall was filled with history last Saturday night, as Peter Hook and the Light played both the New Order and Joy Division Substance albums in their entirety. Hook played his signature, unforgettable bass constructions alongside his son Jack Bates, who also played bass throughout the show, and keyboardist Andy Poole, drummer Paul Kehoe, and guitarist David Potts. The band did a masterful job replicating both New Order and Joy Division for nearly three hours, only stopping for a short break between the two records.

They started the first set with a few bonus cuts–“Dreams Never End,” “Procession,” and “Cries and Whispers”–before starting on the New Order album in order. The older songs stood out clearly from most of the rest of the New Order portion, which came from the band’s more accessible, dance-hit remix period. This part included highlights like the ubiquitous ‘80s hit “Blue Monday,” “Confusion,” “State of the Nation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and the rest. While the band performed all the songs remaining true to their roots – Hooky’s bass was a bit overpowering at times – after five or six dancefloor legends they began to get somewhat tiresome. The crowd loved it early on but seemed to settle towards the latter half.

Hook didn’t address the audience much, although he did dedicate their version of “The Perfect Kiss” to the recently passed director Jonathan Demme, and later stopped the band to admonish some sort of skirmishing fans near the front. Otherwise, he was Hooky the smug professional for the entire set.

After a brief intermission -no doubt allowing the band to load up on oxygen – they came back out and played Joy Division’s version of Substance – and they looked as if they’d just begun, rather than having already played a full 90-minute set. And the audience was re-energized right along with them, screaming out lyric after lyric to nearly every song, pogoing, or simply swaying in old-school shoegaze form. Hearing such influential and brilliant classics like “No Love Lost,” “Warsaw,” “These Days,” and “Leaders of Men” performed live was a hugely satisfying experience. Hook did a good job of approximating Ian Curtis’s signature vocal style while keeping his own affect pretty evident.

It was the last half of the Joy Division set that brought the place down when the band launched into songs like “Transmission,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Dead Souls,” and “Atmosphere.” Even after nearly three hours of playing, the band never looked or sounded worn down, and did justice to the original post-punk anthems. And then, of course, came time to play the ubiquitous (but still emotionally jarring and brilliant) “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As you’d expect, nearly the entire audience sang every word along with the band, which stopped playing at one point to showcase the howling that absolutely filled the venue.

While Peter Hook remains in litigation with the other member of New Order–something he often comments is truly heartbreaking–his tours have re-introduced these important albums to so many, and in many cases have introduced them for the first time, with great respect. The records’ longevity is absolutely evident, and the insight and ingenuity of the lyrics and music are, maybe, more relevant now than when Curtis was alive.


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With a New Record, Japandroids Brings their Ecstatic Rock to The Gothic March 7th

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If you’re familiar with Japandroids, you don’t need any encouragement to get to the Gothic Theatre next Tuesday night to catch their infectious, ecstatic music. You already know that this duo sounds like an orchestra, exploding from speakers & stage with huge drum and guitar sounds, channeling as much Bruce Springsteen at his prime as The Alarm, The Gun Club, and epic obscurities like Squirrel Bait.

So much more than your typical garage-rock duo, guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse wield an anthemic onslaught that could fill stadiums, let alone smaller venues like The Gothic, and they pack each one with an abandon that explodes with passion like no other offering in Rock. Since they busted out of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2006, the duo have developed an inimitable style, sharing passionately howling vocals, singing about the ecstasy of youth, partying, happiness, and the full-on beauty of life. Unbound, each song raises your blood pressure and optimism at the same time, while forcing you to thrust a fist in the air in triumph – regardless of the day you’re having.

Their latest release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, dropped in late January, and is destined only to add more to their prowess – and their live performance promises to be unforgettable. Don’t miss their show at The Gothic on Tuesday, March 7 – doors at 8:00 p.m., show begins at 9:00 with openers Craig Finn and the Uptown Controllers (a spinoff of Finn’s The Hold Steady–also a great bet). In the meantime, check out the title track from Japandroids’ latest, below.


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Mykki Blanco & Cakes da Killa at Lost Lake

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Photos: Sandisz Thieme, Sanjana Stein

While Lost Lake has seen its share of excellent rock, rap, soul, and other acts, I kinda doubt the still-fresh venue has seen anything quite like the recent Stunt Queen Tour, featuring Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa. In front of a packed 16+ house, Blanco filled the night with her own brand of hardcore-styled, fluid-gender rap/performance art, after Cakes da Killa kept the crowd warmed up and hyped.

Blanco played a set a little heavy with material from her latest, “Mykki,” but didn’t fail to play earlier material from “Gay Dog Food” as well. The all-ages crowd ate it all up, constantly and sweatily pogo-ing, jerking, and slamming in front of the low stage, while Blanco furiously spat out tomes about our fucked-up world in punk influenced raps. At one point she belted out some acapella musings that almost sounded more like poetry slam than rap.

The audience was there for two reasons: the music and Blanco’s strong, beautiful personality – and they got what they came for. She ensured the younger crowd that they were in for it because it’s not every day that they’d get to see art explode into life like this, right in front of them. Too often lumped into the  NYC gay rap “bucket,” Blanco actually has more in common with Andy Warhol’s Factory and the Riot Grrrl movements, and she excels at standing out. Not just because she’s often in drag – she wore an impressive long black wig for most of the performance, and a leopard-skin-textured mini skirt as well – but because her attitude is constantly in-your-face, aggressive, provocative, and extremely intelligent.

Unwilling to be confined to the small, constantly red-it stage, Blanco migrated at one point through the crowd to take a spot on top of the bar on the other side of the lounge, drawing half the crowd into the much smaller room along with her. The fact that most of the crowd was under 21 was a sign, too – music has no age limit or preference, and Blanco is fully on board with all-ages shows. Two visits ago, in fact, Blanco played at Rhinoceropolis – the legendary all-ages DIY venue – and loved it.


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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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