Tag Archives: Warlock Pinchers

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Local connoisseur Andrew Novick collaborates with a delicious Turkey Leg (Photo: Jeff Ball)

The Denver County Fair offers a local music tribute, and plenty of food and fun, to boot!

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Local connoisseur Andrew Novick collaborates with a delicious Turkey Leg (Photo: Jeff Ball)

Local connoisseur Andrew Novick collaborates with a delicious Turkey Leg (Photo: Jeff Ball)

There’s not much that compares to a day at the fair, which is why Denver has rejuvenated the tradition. Well, actually the city just started the tradition last year, but it was based on plans from more than 100 years earlier.

This weekend brings the second Denver County Fair to the National Western Complex, starting Friday, August 10 at 10am, and finishing up on Sunday night, August 12th at 6pm. In between, fairgoers will be presented with all of the typical homemade, crafty, tasty and exotic traditions that fairs across the nation – and the world – are famous for: pie-eating contests, food and gardening competitions, arts and craft displays and plenty of fair-cuisine (mostly of the fried beer and food truck variety, we’re told – but that’s certainly not all).

But the Denver County Fair planning committee intends to deliver all of this down-home, wholesome goodness in a uniquely Denver fashion – just like last year’s fair – focusing on some of Denver’s local celebrity with the hopes of bringing a uniquely comfortable, metropolitan feel to the atmosphere, and that includes the choices for the fair’s all-day everyday musical accompaniment.

In an inspired move, local artist, entrepreneur, musician, producer and eccentric connoisseur Andrew Novick was named this year’s Entertainment Director and Breakfast Boss, and Novick has done the position proud. Already locally famous for his involvement in the legendary local Warlock Pinchers, his yearly “X-Treme Pancake Breakfasts,” art-centric barbecues, Peeps-inspired art competitions (and his overall, bona-fide Peeps legal expertise) and food- inspired art shows, Novick brought a uniquely keen and provocative – but completely sensible – aesthetic to his management of this year’s music.

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King Scratchie receives a comforting - and absorbent - hand from Jerk-O the Clown. (Photo: Joe McCabe, Reverb)

REVERB: Warlock Pinchers’ reunion show – There was blood, and so much more . . .

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King Scratchie receives a comforting - and absorbent - hand from Jerk-O the Clown. (Photo: Joe McCabe, Reverb)

King Scratchie receives a comforting - and absorbent - hand from Jerk-O the Clown. (Photo: Joe McCabe, Reverb)

Cheerleaders, men in diapers (one of them covered in blood) and a clown with a mohawk making balloon animals. That was the scene on the Gothic Theatre’s stage last Friday night.

All of that, and there was also a rock band — Warlock Pinchers, one of Denver’s legendary locals from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s — tangled up in there somewhere, celebrating a reunion after nearly two decades of separation, in front of a packed and ecstatic house. Nothing strange about that lineup, at least not if you’re familiar with the Pinchers’ history.

Read the entire review on Denver Post Reverb, and see more of Joe McCabe’s fantastic photography from the night!


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Warlock Pinchers together again, shown here at an L.A. practice. (Photo: Beth Herzhaft)

If you catch one show this year, make it this weekend: Warlock Pinchers are back!

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Warlock Pinchers together again, shown here at an L.A. practice. (Photo: Beth Herzhaft)

Warlock Pinchers together again, shown here at an L.A. practice. (Photo: Beth Herzhaft)

Band reunions can be troubled, harried and awkward events, often at best. They can also be disastrous, embarrassing and spiteful – hopefully at their worst – that lead to a ruination, or at least a re-imagination, of the band in question’s legacy. This weekend’s Warlock Pinchers’ reunion, taking place over Friday August 6th and Saturday August 7th at the Gothic Theatre,  holds all the potential to break that overwhelming stigma of typical band reunions, and promises to be more than simply a regurgitation of old tunes sung by aging hipsters.

In fact, these shows will likely go down in Denver history as two must-see, truly history-making shows – if only because of the almost Rimbaudian way in which the seminal Denver/Boulder punk band wrapped up it’s existence in 1992.

If you were anywhere around the scene in Boulder and Denver in the late ’80s, chances are you were not only familiar with the Pinchers, but you probably carried some of their merchandise with you daily – clipped to your backpack or in your pocket – or you wore out your shield t-shirt as you attended other local shows, PETA rallies, and the occasional CIA hiring protests. These boys – King Scratchie (AKA Daniel Wanush), and K.C. K-Sum (AKA Andrew Novick), EE-Rok (AKA Eric Erickson), DD-Rok (AKA Derek van Westrum), 3KSK (AKA Mark Brooks) and a drum machine – were tearing up backyards, basements, punk venues like Boulder’s Ground Zero and warehouses with a fusion of Faith No More and Beastie Boys‘ funk/punk/hip-hop, industrial and hardcore thrash, all wrapped up in intelligent and hilarious, tongue-in-cheek punk rock rage directed towards a spineless, shallow and directionless society.

Needless to say, their antics, which included 20 minute opening sets that often overshadowed touring bands, caught on over a few years. They played unforgettable shows that grew to include raw meat (usually in the form of hot dogs) being fired from cannons into the audience, frenetically sexy gyrating routines performed by their own dancers, deemed “Satan’s Cheerleaders,” and all manner of extreme performance art, until the band called it quits in 1992.

And, this year’s model features all original members, with a significant replacement: For the (now erased) drum machine the band used to use, The Melvins’ longtime drummer Dale Crover will be filling in, based on a promise he made the band years ago, when both were on Boner Records.

Since their prime, the Pinchers have passed, pretty succinctly, into legend – arguably as much for their sudden dissolution as for their legendary shows. To be clear, a few of the Pinchers’ members – Scratchie (Wanush) and K-Sum (Novick) – never left Denver, and are currently enjoying lucrative artistic pursuits. Novick is a successful artist and Peeps expert, while Wanush fronts Murder Ranks – currently one of Denver’s most exciting and promising local bands.

“This is really intended as our last hurrah, but of course, money is the bottom line.  We had a great time together practicing, reminiscing and just hanging out this past weekend and all old grudges are out the window.” – King Scratchie (Daniel Wanush)

More importantly, the merchandise never seemed to disappear. It’s a relatively rare local Denver show that you don’t find at least one Pinchers’ shirt in the audience, and rumor has it that there are still more than a few frisbees and commemorative plates still in circulation. And the band couldn’t be happier about it.

One of the aspects of Pinchers’ mystique – or conquest – that gets lost behind all the hype, hop and hilarity happens to be one of the cornerstones of their entire being: Warlock Pinchers isn’t now, and never was, merely another innovative punk band. This group of artists came together under a thought balloon shared by thinkers and artists such as Guy Debord, Alexander Trocchi and Situationist International, Andy Warhol and David Hockney, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, to create and perpetrate a Pop Art Spectacle – and they’re back at it.

Every aspect of the band – from the music and stage show, to touring, marketing and publicizing themselves, to the scads of merchandise – is all part of the piece. Using the language of popular culture, and capitalizing on crowd psychology and the mechanics of group mentality, these artists used their considerable, prescient talent to point out the ridiculous and pervasive reach of the “pop machine.” They not only produced the usual t-shirts, hats, posters, stickers and cards, but added such things to the Pinchers’ market as golf tees, lighters, keychains, yo-yos, water bottles and the aforementioned commemorative plates and frisbees. All of these items sold pretty well – even before the advent of e-commerce. Add to that their constant, tongue-in-cheek social commentary and you have a group of artists offering a not-so-unique, but oh-so-valid, perspective on the beautiful, often overwhelming and silly nature of our mercantile, material world – for those interested in looking for it.

Following in the footsteps of so many artists, the Pinchers created a virtual mercantile entity, and have fitted it with the ability to self-sustain for as long as they see fit, as long as their public will play along. I asked Wanush and Novick if there were any plans to carry on the band after this weekend’s festivities:

DenverThread: “Despite the success of the two dates at the Gothic, the high level of excitement at the UMS “treat” show and (from what I hear) solid sales of “Bomb the Franklin Mint,” is it still Warlock Pinchers’ intention to hang up the gloves for good after August 7th? Or will merch sales go on after the show? No consideration to do a new record?”

Wanush: “This is really intended as our last hurrah, but of course, money is the bottom line.  We had a great time together practicing, reminiscing and just hanging out this past weekend and all old grudges are out the window.  At this point, I don’t think anyone in the band would be opposed to working together once again.

However, the fact that we are based in two different cities and have our own different things (and some of them very profitable) going on, makes it nearly impossible to write new songs together unless we had some major label backing behind us with a bag full of money.

The conditions of the music scene in Denver make things great for a reunion show weekend, but not so viable for a full scale reunion.

Merch sales will go on regardless.”

Novick: “As Dan said, the merchandise will still go on.  I would like to re-release some of our old shirt designs, and maybe even do some from some of the amazing flyer art we have.  I also have a ton of live recordings that I would like to something with.  As long as people are interested in supporting it, those sorts of things will keep going.”

The "Bieber" t-shirt promises to be a hit. (Photo: Tammy Shine)

The "Bieber" t-shirt promises to be a hit. (Photo: Tammy Shine)

So the grand spectacle continues, and the promise for even more shenanigans continues with it. In case you haven’t seen or heard of it yet, Novick has produced another small ingot of brilliance with the “Bieber” logo – the Pinchers’ traditional logo with the face of Satan supplanted by an image of Justin Bieber. In the few times he and Wanush have worn their t-shirts adorned with the logo it’s proven tremendously popular (according to Facebook comments). The Bieber is a perfect permutation of the nature of the Pinchers’ social commentary, also. By taking advantage of the dubiously (at best) justifiable fame of the diminutive, super popular performer, the spectacle is asking fans to compare, and, perhaps, to maybe rethink their definitions of what makes stardom.

Or it may just be saying “Fuck it! We can all laugh at this, right?”

In any case, this weekend promises to be legendary, and won’t soon be forgotten. The shows are at The Gothic Theatre, tonight, Friday, August 6th (already sold out), and tomorrow, Saturday, August 7th – doors are at 7PM, and each show has special guests for the opening bands. Friday features longtime local stars Dressy Bessy, and Wanush’s current project, Murder Ranks, while Saturday’s show features local no-wave emulators Hot White, and a special version of Seattle’s Melvins, featuring King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover.

Not only is this a chance to see history in the making, and become a participant in the spectacle (willing or not), these shows present a chance to see a few of the most innovative and exciting bands now playing out around Denver. Murder Ranks offers up a brilliant and refreshing mix of hard dub and dancehall – straight out of Jamaica – swirling through a heavy street core influence. Nobody is currently matching this sound, and Wanush is the perfect front man for it. His antics – perhaps just a tad more staid than those of King Scratchie – are both extreme and unavoidably infectious. The band’s heavy bass and drums, along with the reverb-saturated guitar, forms a resilient, solid backing for the riddims and shouted lyrics.

In a similar arena – though nowhere in the same sonic country – is Hot White. This Denver trio may be the closest thing Denver now has to a true, New York No-Wave emulation (apologies to Night of Joy, its strongest competition). When the trio plays as a whole, their sound and personality is coarse and full of loud, brilliant noise, white hot screams that recall a young Lydia Lunch (from her Beirut Slump/Teenage Jesus tenure) and atonal rhythms (unlike their recent and extremely disappointing UMS gig) . Much of the band’s personality rests on lead singer and bassist Tiana Bernard, who supplies much more than enough charisma to overshadow her two bandmates shortcomings. Definitely worth getting to Saturday’s show early!


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The UMS: 4 incredible days, 300+ bands, memories that won’t soon fade

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Nathaniel Rateliff and his band performed a late day set as the UMS drew to a close - after the biggest weekend it's ever seen! (Photo: Joe McCabe/Reverb)

Nathaniel Rateliff and his band performed a late day set as the UMS drew to a close - after the biggest weekend it's ever seen! (Photo: Joe McCabe/Reverb)

One impossibly acceptable truth: four days and nights of anything might be just about too much. This is what I found myself thinking last night as I carried pieces of a guitar, smashed onstage at the 3 Kings Tavern by a member of the local band Gangcharger, from venue to venue at the end of the best rock festival in the west. After over 300 bands had played their hearts out to thousands of Denver’s music lovers, the effort at the end looked still unfinished, still full of promise, melody, pounding rhythms, desperate screams and wild howls. All of that formed the beginnings of memories that will never fade.

Read this entire review – and loads of more UMS coverage, including videos, interviews, slideshows and more – at Denver Post Reverb!!


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High-flying antics are in store when Lucha Libre Mexicana comes to the UMS! (Photo: giantbomb.com)

The UMS, Day 3 – So many bands, so little time! More pre-kus from DenverThread

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The UMS enters day 3! With more to see and hear than ever, look here for your DenverThread Pre-kus!

The UMS enters day 3! With more to see and hear than ever, look here for your DenverThread Pre-kus!

Now that we’ve got two, fat and sassy days of the Underground Music Showcase under our belts, the real monster is being unleashed. This weekend, as in festivals past, begins the real UMS proper, and there are more bands, artists, venues, drinks and awesome food today than both of the previous two days combined!

Today also brings out the two-day visit of Lucha Libre Mexicana – a wonderful experience by any standards – in the Groove Automotive Stage at 3:45 & 5:15. If you haven’t seen the masked luchadores before – don’t dare miss this act! You’ll definitely regret it. . . .

As always, here are some preview haikus – or “pre-kus” – for DenverThread recommendations for Day 3:

High-flying antics are in store when Lucha Libre Mexicana comes to the UMS! (Photo: giantbomb.com)

High-flying antics are in store when Lucha Libre Mexicana comes to the UMS! (Photo: giantbomb.com)

Lucha Libre Mexicana – 3:45 & 5:15 PM @ Groove Automotive Stage

Haiku:

A fantastic move,

the two-legged, all-in drop

kick shatters his mask!

RIYL: Wild, fast paced wrestling with a latino flare, think Jack Black’s “Nacho Libre,” on steroids, and watch out for sweat, spit and blood!

Slakjaw brings its own, Denver-drenched brand of alcoholic jugband blues to the Irish Rover this afternoon.

Slakjaw brings its own, Denver-drenched brand of alcoholic jugband blues to the Irish Rover this afternoon.

Slakjaw – 4:00 PM @ the Irish Rover

Haiku:

That fingerless glove,

soaked in whiskey and bloodied,

is my handkerchief.

RIYL: Tom Waits, 32-20 Jug Band, Denver Gentlemen, listening to drunken tales of heartbreak alongside a smoldering oil can fire.

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake - this year's UMS poll #1 band - play two shows today and Sunday. (Photo: Sarah Slater)

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake - this year's UMS poll #1 band - play two shows today and Sunday. (Photo: Sarah Slater)

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake – 7:30 PM @ Cartoys Stage @ Goodwill Parking Lot

Haiku:

Fog curling around

your feet might just as well be

electric jell-o.

RIYL: Grace Slick, Joy Division, dark psychedelic rock, a lost weekend magic mushroom binge

Maraca Five-0 have reunited this year to bring the sound of surf - and so much more - back to these shores. (Photo: MySpace)

Maraca Five-0 have reunited this year to bring the sound of surf - and so much more - back to these shores. (Photo: MySpace)

Maraca Five-0 – 8:00 PM @ 3 Kings Tavern

Haiku:

Open, desolate

desert highway, and the rock

is all in my dreams.

RIYL: Dick Dale, The Astronauts, Link Wray, pauses in high-speed chases behind burned out gas stations, miles from anywhere, and you’ve only got one smoke left. . .

Murder Ranks offers a brilliant brand of homegrown dancehall and punk/dub. (Photo: MySpace)

Murder Ranks offers a brilliant brand of homegrown dancehall and punk/dub. (Photo: MySpace)

Murder Ranks – 10:00 PM @ 3 Kings Tavern

Haiku:

What looks like dried blood

on the dancehall floor, turns out

to be spilled sloe gin.

RIYL: The Clash (Especially Sandinista era), Yellowman, Ranking Joe, searing, sex-charged and homegrown dancehall dub


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Murder Ranks plays a fantastic fun brand of dancehall and hard dub, welcomes the highly anticipated return of Denver’s beloved Warlock Pinchers

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Daniel Wanush and Murder Ranks take the Oriental Theater for a ride last Saturday (May 15)

Daniel Wanush and Murder Ranks take the Oriental Theater for a ride last Saturday, May 15. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Well, Denver – It seems everything that’s old is new once again! And it’s happening here, too. Case in point: legendary front range provocateurs and pranksters Warlock Pinchers are getting back together for a show in August, and they’re determined to cash in on the nationwide – worldwide – “remake trend.” Of course, unlike much (most? all?) of the other remake grout that’s been piling up in our entertainment culture for lack of bricks, these guys promise to offer premium, relevant and fun entertainment, chock full of their characteristic DIY, punk rock/hip hop/scramble-wave hybrid mayhem.
Odds are they’ll be among the few projects that will deliver – and deliver  over and above. And there will be plenty of merchandise to boot.
UPDATE!! A Second Pinchers’ show has been added, scheduled for Saturday, August 7th, at the Gothic! Tickets available at Wax Trax, or at the Pinchers’ website! Get ’em while they’re going!
The show, scheduled for August 6th at the Gothic Theatre, promises to hold numerous surprises – from airborne meat (likely as not raw) to go-go dancers to cellophane-wrapped band members, in the vein of past extravaganzas. Those legendary shows featured shenanigans like all of the above, as well as various liquids and solids being dumped, sprayed or otherwise unleashed upon their audiences – all in front of pre-recorded (on cassette!) drums and live bass, guitars, screeching, rapping and scratching. In a word, unpredictable. In another word, unmatched – maybe unmatchable. This time, though, all instruments will be live, as the band has taken on Melvins drummer Dale Crover up on a decades-old offer to play with them.
Warlock Pinchers are playing two "reunion" shows at the Gothic Theatre, Friday and Saturday, August 6th & 7th. (Photo: WarlockPinchers.com)

Warlock Pinchers are playing two "reunion" shows at the Gothic Theatre, Friday and Saturday, August 6th & 7th. (Photo: WarlockPinchers.com)

The Pinchers are poised and ready to continue what started as a punk rock band, but soon transmogrified into more of a pop art project, or even a social experiment. Hell-bent on “selling out” as quickly as they could, the group – by the time they actually broke up – had created a veritable brand in itself, with seemingly endless merchandising options. Not just t-shirts, hoodies, posters, cassettes and CDs, but there were lighters, keychains, water bottles, yo-yos and almost any other takeaway – or buy-away – trinket imaginable either for sale or in the works. All, of course, sporting the band’s black & white, Satan’s pirate-meets-Raiders logo.
So this summer’s show – one of the events that will certainly define the season for local music – is a sort of coup de grace for the whole, decades-long gig. According to K.C. K-Sum (AKA Andrew Novick), one of the band’s frontmen, there are intricate and exciting plans for more merchandising, including some limited edition reproductions of early Pinchers’ t-shirts that he plans to make available for order at some point, and other surprises in the mix.
Members of the Pinchers hosted a party last Saturday night, May 15th, at the Oriental Theater to drop a new CD full of rarities and re-takes (sorry – no new material, for those of you panting for freshies) and to sell tickets to the Gothic show. After a well attended party – also a kind of reunion of old Denver/Boulder punks – Daniel Wanush (AKA King Scratchie) led his current dancehall/hard dub project Murder Ranks onstage, along with local deejay Bobby C., for an hour long set of some of the local scene’s newest and most challenging sounds.
Murder Ranks, a four-piece that features Wanush on vocals, Nate Weaver on drums, Ben Williams on that oh-so-important dub bass and Mike Buckley on guitar, have built a solid, fun and unique sound based on the early roots of Jamaican dancehall music and their own punk rock leanings. Wanush led the band with Jamaican-styled dub/rap, layered on “riddims” laid down by the bass and drum rhythm section and accompanied by Buckley’s wickedly reverbed, underwater-punk reggae guitar riffs. The genesis of each of the songs they played that night was provided by Deejay Bobby C.Sound T.V., as he would lay a few tracks to which the rest of the band linked their next composition, forming a smooth trail of hard dub and dancehall excellence.
Murder Ranks offer up a challenging, fun and danceable hard dub mixed with original, honest dancehall, and add in just about the right amount of sexy punk and metal to make it work. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Murder Ranks offer up a challenging, fun and danceable hard dub mixed with original, honest dancehall, and add in just about the right amount of sexy punk and metal to make it work. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

As complex, and for many somewhat unfamiliar, as the style is, the audience was entranced. Wanush – thrusting from the helm as the band’s toaster – spouted out fast, sexy rhymes across the thickly reverbed distortion and sick drumming all night long. The mixture was intoxicating. Between original numbers like the infectious “Broadway” and “Soundboy Why,” Bobby C. Sound T.V. laid track after track in a seamless chain, and enhanced the vibe with great video mixtures behind the Oriental’s huge stage. The dancehall genre is sadly under-represented in American music, and Murder Ranks has done a brilliant job spreading the gospel – albeit a delightfully hard, new distorted and punky one – to many more-than-willing ears.
I spoke with Wanush briefly (over Facebook) about some of the magic behind Murder Ranks’ sound and vision, and what the band are doing with their music. Here’s what he had to say:
“ . . . the Jamaican music scene has way more singers and rappers (known as DJs in Jamaica) than musicians. So whenever a song gets popular, everybody wants to use the exact same instrumental track (known as a “riddim”) to lay down their own vocals/rapping or hybrid style. In some cases, there end up being over 100 different songs using the exact same music.
What Murder Ranks does is take those riddims and arrange them for bass/guitar/drums. We don’t use keyboards or horns, so usually we discard those parts. Sometimes, though, we have the guitar used to play those parts instead. And we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.”
Wanush delivers the goods, old-school dancehall dub-style. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Wanush delivers the goods, old-school dancehall dub-style. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

” . . . we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.” – Daniel Wanush
Bobby C. Sound T.V. mixed and played two or three songs on a particular “riddim,” and Murder Ranks would come in directly upon those with their own compositions, based on those “riddims.” The mix, at times swathed in just the right amount of distortion and reverb, remained smooth and enticing, and the audience loved it.
Murder Ranks' Nate Weaver creates the base for the band's dancehall sound from the riddims laid down by D.J. Bobby C. Sound T.V. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Murder Ranks' Nate Weaver creates the base for the band's dancehall sound from the riddims laid down by D.J. Bobby C. Sound T.V. (Photo: Tammy Ealom/SSO)

Don’t miss the chance to see this incredibly relevant and fun-as-hell Denver band, along with the legendary Warlock Pinchers, at the Gothic on August 6th. Tickets are available at Wax Trax now, as well as online at the Pinchers’ website. Dressy Bessy and Cap’n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals will open the show along with Murder Ranks.
And there will be plenty of merchandise, collectibles and love to go around.

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Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: MySpace/Ideal Fathers)

The “Denver Sound,” long dead, makes room for lighter, noisier, funner genres in the scene

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Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: Jerry Goff)

The world-famous “Denver Sound” has petered out.

Which is not to say that the beautiful, often over-the-top and heavy handed gothic alt-country sound isn’t significant anymore – not at all. That sound helped put Denver back on the musical globe in the ’80s and ‘90s, and still attracts its fair share of fans. It’s still appreciated world-wide, and many remain ravenous for it – especially  in Europe.

But it exists currently in a type of atrophy in Denver – it’s taken a back seat that has allowed an insurgence of more than a few different genres to begin to flourish, or re-flourish, as the case may be. Denver has a strong music scene – perhaps the strongest in the US (at the moment) – and part of its strength comes from its wide variety. So if the sometimes overbearing popularity of the “Denver Sound”  – indeed the often overweighted nature of the sound itself – is waning, it can only be good news for the lighter, the more pop-y, the innovative and indie, or the more aggressive and punkier genres.

And that’s exactly what’s happening in the bar, dive, club, backyard and warehouse scene right now.

From straight up power-pop, to country, to arty prog-rock, to freak folk, metal, noise,  thrash and punk, there are red hot and lukewarm representatives of just about every genre filling up the glut of venues our city currently enjoys. Out of those genres, the punk/metal/noise/thrash scene currently seems to be surging.

Even the Meadowlark, the basement/backyard venue that recently had been known for favoring more acoustic, indie and folk sets, has begun booking louder and more aggressive acts in the past few months. Git Some, probably Denver’s loudest band (with a sound akin to a cement mixer barreling out of control down I-70, and rapidly filling up your rearview) played for the first time at Meadowlark in January, to a nearly over-filled house. Titwrench, a local  group that holds an annual lady-centered rock festival of local acts, also books a regular show at Meadowlark that features brand new and emerging artists and bands called “Surfacing.” Thanks to the new Punk/Techno promoters in 43rd St. Zoo, the Lions Lair is booking Sunday nights with new acts with a punk feel, or high BPM techno roots. Other dives like Bar Bar and Old Curtis St. are thriving (musically, at least) on a steady diet of metal, thrash and noise bands – almost all of which are strictly local – adding to the already flush, loud and often metal schedules of bars like the Larimer Lounge and 3 Kings Tavern.

What follows is a few glimpses of some of the better punk, noise and thrash bands that have graced Denver venues over the past few weeks. Try and get out to see these bands, and start to wash the stale flavor of the old Denver scene out of your mouth. They’re perfect pallet cleansers, and promise to be main courses sooner than you might think:

Ideal Fathers, Makeout Point, Cadillacula, GlassHits at the Meadowlark,
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jesse Hunsaker of Ideal Fathers (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Jesse Hunsaker of Ideal Fathers (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Almost as if to prove our point, Meadowlark booked a show on Saturday, February 6th that exemplified a span of punky genres including metal/grunge with Glass Hits, roots-punk with Cadillacula, power-pop with Makeout Point and aggressively provocative postpunk noise with Ideal Fathers. The mixture of local bands proved volatile, fun and sometimes pretty explosive. It also tested the venue pretty ferociously. Glass Hits started the night with a set of sweeping grunge-core, mixing a noise reminiscent of Big Black mixed with Bleach-era Nirvana, and just a touch of PIL – particularly in the vocals. This band enjoyed one of the larger audiences of the night, showing that currently their popularity is on the rise. Next, Cadillacula  tore up a set of Cramps-meets-Danzig punk, in refreshingly sloppy style, for about 30 minutes, before Makeout Point entered and played sparkling power pop reminiscent of Throwing Muses or Breeders.

Headliners Ideal Fathers ended the late night with some brilliant slasher-movie metal that could be personified by a fictional youngster raised by Devo and driven to and from school by David Yow, with Shellac constantly on the eight-track. These boys – Jesse Hunsaker on vocals, Adam Rojo on guitar, Mike King on bass and Mike Perfetti on drums – know where their roots are, and show it. Rojo channeled  a lot of Andy Gill and more than a little East Bay Ray in his frenetic noodling, when he wasn’t crushing chords at hardcore speed, and was equally matched by King’s funk-punk bass lines and Perfetti’s chaotically synchronous drumming. Hunsaker tied it all together nicely with a scream that visibly thrust blood vessels out of both his throat and forehead, and encompassed the Japanese gore film ethos in many of the songs’ lyrics. Together, they played a tight, ultra-fun and danceable set that had a full house jumping, laughing and screaming for more.

Hunsaker and Adam Rojo onstage at a recent show (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Hunsaker and Adam Rojo onstage at a recent show (Photo: Jerry Goff)

If shows like these are a hint at where Meadowlark is heading in their overall booking, I’m excited, as we should all be – though I’m sure they’ll still feature plenty of Denver’s more traditional tunesmiths, without a doubt . The venue continuously shows a savvy familiarity with what’s about to be hot in Denver, and there are plenty of bands to fill the bill.

Smoothbore at Old Curtis St. Bar, Thursday, February 11, 2010
Leaning more into the noise side of Denver’s local scene, Smoothbore played a raucous set at Old Curtis St. Bar last Thursday night and showed off a penchant for  vital noise that recalled the “No-Wave” scene from New York in the early ’80s mixed with a touch of Runaways-ers Joan Jett.

Sonya Decman of Smoothbore plays one of two basses in the guitarless band (Photo: MySpace/Smoothbore)

Sonya Decman of Smoothbore plays one of two basses in the guitarless band (Photo: MySpace/Smoothbore)

The trio provided a varied set of truly innovative songwriting, as well as a solid grasp of noise, featuring no guitar, and instead relying on Matt Flanagan’s (formerly from Black Smiths and Boss 302) “lead” bass, Scott Lewis’s (also formerly from Black Smiths, as well as Derailed) drumming and Sonya Decman’s (formerly from Symptoms and Tar Mints – an old-school personal fave –  among other local bands) “bass” bass. Throw in Decman’s wild and powerful vocals, and the result is something close to ‘80s New York No Wave band Live Skull and early “Death Valley ’69” Sonic Youth, with Runaways’ Joan Jett tinted vocals. In a word, stunning. When Decman raises her voice from the typically smooth, forceful threat to it’s highest pitch, you almost find yourself cringing in fear of her wrath. Their lyrics were smart, sexy and provocative, and the delivery was perfect. This trio shows quite a bit of promise, poised to take top seating in the local scene – if they can keep up with themselves.

Smoothbore at a recent Lions Lair gig (Photo: MySpace)

Smoothbore at a recent Lions Lair gig (Photo: MySpace)

Murder Ranks and Veronica at Meadowlark, Saturday, February 19, 2010

Again, Meadowlark comes through with a few of Denver’s most exciting bands – though these two largely feature some pretty popular names from Denver’s punk past. Nonetheless, they’re playing some of the more innovative and truly fun rock you’re going to find on the club scene.

Veronica is the musical brainchild of Ted Thacker and John Call, both formerly of the legendary Denver punk troupe Baldo Rex, along with Andrew Kotch, formerly of Tiger Beat. They flooded the Meadowlark that Saturday night with an exciting, sloppy-yet-ultra-tight sound that mixed faster Television with he instrumentation of Meat Puppets – though that only approximates the total experience slightly.

Veronica plays some of the smartest, raucous rock in the Denver scene - and has for a while (Photo: MySpace)

Veronica plays some of the smartest, raucous rock in the Denver scene - and has for a while (Photo: MySpace)

Thacker’s wild gesticulations entertained a small crowd – complete with at least three drunken college newbies (I’d be tempted to claim they belonged to a frat, but heard no Greek callouts – although plenty of happily spooned out derision amongst the three) – while he masterfully manhandled an old style acoustic with a simple attached pickup. Meanwhile Kotch fingered through some complex rhythmic melodies on the bass and Call flailed characteristically on the drums. The mix had the entire bar hooting, laughing, bouncing – you name it – all in an air thick with adrenalized euphoria.

After Veronica, Murder Ranks took over the Meadowlark. Dan Wanush’s (aka King Scratchie from the immortal Warlock Pinchers) vision that draws on Sandinista-era Clash dub, punk and dancehall, proved both intoxicating and addictive. Joined by typically echo-drenched reggae guitar played by Mike Buckley (from Nightshark), super dub bass played by Ben Williams (from Ghost Buffalo) and thick reggae drumming from Nate Weaver, Wanush took that Brit-Caribbean musical zygote and formed a clone of something even more powerful, more fun, and imminently danceable. The four piece all bounced in unison through an hour-long set, in which Wanush rapped, dribbled, spat and warbled often hilarious lyrics, occasionally run through an echo pedal for the perfect added flair.

Murder Ranks is re-igniting a fire for the fun of hard dub and dancehall, full of humor, fun and style. (Photo: MySpace/Murder Ranks)

Murder Ranks is re-igniting a fire for the fun of hard dub and dancehall, full of humor, fun and style. (Photo: MySpace/Murder Ranks)

These shows are just a few examples of the type of entertainment the Denver scene is offering, as it continues to transform itself yet again. The elasticity of this scene,  its adaptability and the level of general talent in town is what makes this scene the strongest in the country. While it keeps getting bigger, better and more exciting, it’s us in the audience that truly get to enjoy it.

So get out and see these bands. They deserve it, and will probably change your mind about the music you’ve come to know Denver for – for the better.


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