[Editor’s Note: Thanks to my site’s servers going kablooey a while back and my lackadaisical approach towards preserving my work, I’ve been searching high and low for my site’s archives. Luckily, I’ve been able to find almost all of it. Here is a very long article about the 2010 Underground Music Showcase, my most divisive work to date for some reason. Notable only for being the last article about the Alan Baird Project, since they, along with their fans and friends, decided that I was the biggest no-talent in town after writing this. Read it for yourself and see if they were right (PROTIP: they weren’t)!]
I, along with Alan Baird and Joel Matthews, are standing front row center, baking under the merciless stage lights directly above our heads. We had been drinking the entire day. I had also popped some painkillers while Alan and Joel smoked themselves silly. Full of booze, drugs and excellent Asian cuisine, the three of us were on an expedition this night. Our current stop was a warehouse that was empty save for a stage, a couple of fantastic cars (I didn’t get close enough to see the make and model, sad to say) and a surprisingly large crowd.
A few blocks down, the Flobots, one of Colorado’s many musical embarrassments, were playing an outdoor show that no doubt sucked. We weren’t here to see the Flobots. The Flobots are for the fools, the schoolkids in the midst of struggling to find their own identities let alone their taste in music and the Melissa Lovelies of the world. While the ‘Bots are playing to the Web 2.0 Generation, the three of us packed ourselves into this toaster oven of a building to see Air Dubai. Air Dubai are, to put it in simple yet backhanded terms, the Flobots done right. A blend of hip-hop and rock and roll topped off with freakishly energetic performances, they’ve more than earned their spot as being one of the hottest acts in the state. At least good enough to impress a group of apathetic judges at the Hard Rock Cafe and win a one night battle of the bands contest.
The stage is set. It’s show time. With barely even a hello, the six members of Air Dubai immediately rock out, to everyone’s delight.
Unfortunately, being front row for Air Dubai also means, I guess, that I get the honor and privilege of finding myself surrounded by a bunch of fucking jerk-offs who probably got kicked out of the Flobots show for trying to date rape the underage teenage girls in attendance. One song goes by. I applaud. The sound system here is so awful, it’s hard to figure which song is which, or what anyone on stage are saying. I feel a tap on my arm. Looking behind me, I see a clearly intoxicated middle aged man grinning at me, eyes squinted with the telltale sign of making my night a little bit harder.
“HEY MAN! YOU GOTTA DANCE!”
“WHAT!? DUDE, YOU GOTTA MOVE YOUR FUCKIN’ FEET!”
“I don’t dance.”
Another arm nudge. My right eye seizes up as only someone as high-strung, as pilled up as myself possibly can. I can’t ignore this guy. He keeps fucking touching me. I can’t move away either. I’m front row center for Air Dubai; I’m surrounded by windmill dancers sporting unfortunate white guy afros and Heineken-wielding Masters of the MySpace Camera Angle. If I were claustrophobic, I’d probably suffer a breakdown from the sea of humanity I’m floating in.
“Fine. I’ll try and move my head a little bit, okay? Please don’t touch my shoulder.”
I check to make sure my wallet is still in my back pocket (it is) and I bob my head in time with the beat.
Here’s my “deal.” My “thing.” I don’t dance. I have never danced. I’m a product of nineties culture. Depressing, moody alternative music runs through my veins. I never grew out of Generation X. Please, don’t fucking tell me to get my freak on. Especially not when you look like a serial rapist and you put your hands on me and attempt to order me around the same way my abusive father would after downing a bottle of Jack Daniels. Slamming his leathery hands on my young shoulders, he’d try to get me to do some sort of menial task. I would never get around to doing whatever task this was. It didn’t take more than a couple minutes of whatever I was doing to be interrupted by him screaming at me, throwing things around the house like a toddler having a temper tantrum and referring to me using every possible synonym for the term “loser” in the English language. The difference being that then, I was a small, frail scared little boy. Now I’m a grown man pumped full of all kinds of shit trying to enjoy a rock concert. He nudges me again. I turn and yell, “WILL YOU FUCK OFF!?” Of course, I was blessed with a voice that can’t carry for shit in a loud, crowded room, so he must have assumed I said, “rock on, dude!” and not “I swear to Christ, I am seriously contemplating spending the rest of my natural life in prison for murdering you if you don’t stop pissing me off!” I’m seriously getting mad at this stranger! I guess that’s what happens when a head full of unresolved issues is confronted with a facsimile of the catalyst for said issues.
Air Dubai eventually finishes. I’ve never been so happy to hear the end of a song since the infamous Colorado Music Buzz competition. Alan turns to me and asks if I’m ready to go.
I get one last slap on the shoulder, followed by a, “FUCK YEAH!” before I leave.
My eyes roll around in my head while my brain gives me a simple demand.
“I need a fuckin’ drink…”
-SEVERAL HOURS EARLIER-
The first day in at least two weeks I’m not drugged up or feeling under the weather was, coincidentally, the same day as Colorado’s Underground Music Showcase. Well, one of them at least. The UMS was a week long event devoted to the state’s local scene. Rather than the traditional bar/concert hall set-up that is the norm, various bands would play, simultaneously, just about everywhere. Several small time, family owned pizza parlor, day care center, hair salon and porn shop found itself host to clumps of wild-eyed dreamers reaching for the stars. I would’ve been a fool or a masochist (redundant) to attend every single day of this showcase, let alone scramble to listen to every group (considering that several of them would be playing at the exact same showtime would have made that impossible anyway, unless I had the ability to clone myself and gamble on whether or not those clones would have a good time). Instead, surprise, I chose to go the day The May Kit would be performing. It would be disingenuous for me to say that going to hear Max play and subsequently hang out with him was the only reason for me to show up. After all, one day at the UMS costs twenty dollars to even stand around for a few minutes. I do believe I can spend time with him for much less. I had actually come to discover new acts; maybe the handful of good Denver bands would increase to, like, almost two handfuls. I also came to see what is My New Favorite Band At The Momenttm, Consider The Raven. More on them later.
Earlier, I had alluded to not feeling well for some time. I’ve been spending the last several weeks getting some dental work done. Because there is no God, the anesthetic I’ve been given causes violent biological reactions in my body, so no more anesthetic for me! This naturally means that I get the pleasure of spending my mornings up close and personal with several intimidating dentistry tools and feeling every single second of it. I haven’t been in the mood to do much of anything other than power my way through Lost Odyssey (according to a post I left at a video game website, it is, “the most fun a person can have running around in circles”) and sleeping that wonderful pain-induced slumber.
Max was to perform at a church. I believe this bears repeating. Max Winne would be in a house of God. We were all sinners here. I would like to say that he, as always, gave an excellent show to the crowd huddled in the pews before him. I would like to say that he managed to outdo the quality of the other acts that day. I would like to say that there were probably a couple other musicians on the card who opened my eyes to them and their quality. I cannot say these things, however, because I showed up to the festival an hour late and missed his whole gig. An hour late on the second to last day of a music festival. Good thing I don’t get paid for this.
Eventually, I’d run into Max and his girlfriend Catherine, who would go on to show her true colors later that night (more on that later, too) at a bar down the road. The three of us would also run into Alan (Baird) and Joel (Matthews) here (paranthetical asides courtesy of the American Education System for hammering home the point that I must be nothing if not skull-splittingly anal about making sure to explain who everyone and everything is, even if it’s been previously established). The five of us would head down to a parking lot converted into a sound stage, just in time to watch a wrestling ring get disassembled and a few straggling luchadores aimlessly wander about. I did not know that there would be an outdoor Lucha Libre event taking place. I was so mad and so disappointed to know that not only did I miss my friend’s performance, I missed some luchadores in action (there is never not a good time for some Lucha Libre!). My consolation prize was to stand in a crowd of fat teenage girls cheering their hearts out for a group called the Heyday. According to notes I left on my twitter account, they are, “trying way too hard and accomplishing nothing.” I can’t say that I hated them and that their music was SO BAD or anything like that. They were just…there. Harmless, generic, technically proficient music that left me bored and left this rotund young lady behind me in tears. The kind of tears that are normally reserved for The Beatles or the Backstreet Boys. The fact that their lead singer had something of a resemblance to Brian Crecente didn’t exactly win me over, either.
This was not a good start. To be fair, I didn’t really expect it to be. With as many bands as there were on as many days as there were, I would be stupid to assume solid gold quality every nanosecond. Or even every other nanosecond. Especially, as I’ve bitched about enough in the past, at a festival showcasing Denver music. Fun Fact: in addition to being responsible for the Flobots, the Fray and 3Oh!3, we also hold the largest population of Juggalos in the entire country. Moreso than Detroit, even. I for one would like to apologize to the rest of the world for that.
The next act, I was informed, was currently riding a Japanese bullet train of hype and good press who’s destination was bound for this stage at this very moment. The band was called Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. A really, and I mean really bad name, to be certain, I still held out hope that they had enough talent to overcome that. At times, I tend to forget that hype means fuck-all in the long run, and that the mainstream press tends to be full of jackasses with an I.Q lower than the average age of their readers (in that I mean that said I.Q is less than twenty). Ten seconds into Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, I loved them. I thought that they had some real potential. Eleven seconds into Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, I hated them. I thought that they had some real problems. It was less a musical performance and more of a spastic act of nihilism directed at musical theory. Chords and vocals and drum beats were all over the place and out of sync with one another. I thought the only way I would hear something this bad ever again would be to invent a time machine, travel back to my high school days and attend Smoky Hill High School’s Battle of the Bands competition, “enjoying” the sounds of every hardcore (code word for “terrible”) act with dreams of stardom that would eventually become unfulfilled.
Fuck it, the five of us had shared within our collective hivemind. We left the fat-bottomed girls and the wrestlers and the droll atmosphere to investigate the rest of this eight block clusterfuck. We split up into two groups: I joined up with Alan and Joel to grab drinks while Max and Catherine went off to do whatever. The three of us proceeded to walk around downtown Denver, passing by the slightly muffled sounds of some braying dickbutt behind a microphone every few steps. At some point, we stopped into our apparently favorite haunt, the Hi-Dive. The reason was simple: Joel and Alan had some sort of stupid bet in place. The bet was to see whether or not Joel could survive an entire Power Hour. For those not in the know (which is probably like, three of you), a Power Hour is when a person takes a shot of beer every sixty seconds, ending at a full sixty minutes. Joel lasted eight of these sixty minutes. While Joel drank himself stupid and Alan paid for my drinks, I caught the tail end of an act called Porlolo. Porlolo fall into a new genre of music I have made up during the pre-planning stages of this article: “Gorgeous Music For Gorgeous People.” GMFGP (or Gumfgup) is that final half-step into full-on emotional maturity. Softly spoken, heartfelt lyrics accompanied by masterful melodies that helped me to forget, at least for a moment, that I spent twenty dollars for the privilege of walking down a series of public sidewalks in downtown Denver.
Joel and Alan succeeded in their plan to get sloppy drunk before seven p.m (general mountain time). We left the Hi-Dive and Porlolo behind to discover more uncharted waters in the sea of local music, hoping we didn’t collide with an iceberg along the way.
But first, we needed to get something to eat.
I pointed to a nearby Asian cuisine. Fusion Asian Cuisine, to be specific. Right across the street from the Hi-Dive, I figured that it would be the right place to be. I was right. Their spicy-as-hell Dan Dan Noodles have to be the best example of fine Asian dining since the tragic closing of the Imperial Cafe over half a decade ago. I no longer cared about the music; this plate sitting in front of me made this whole night worth it. Three drunken men eschewing responsibility in favor of one night in the entertainment district, as happy as fate would allow, pigging out on a meal that would shorten our expected lifespans by at least ten minutes. We made it the best ten minutes of our lives.
Something I made a wisecrack about, only to realize that it was a factual statement moments later, was that the music in this place was better than at least eighty percent of the garbage outside. Which was funny, because this music was simply dreadful; the kind of thing that could only come about if Paul Oakenfold had a career in making elevator music (one could argue that he does this already).
At some point in time, we remembered that there was a music festival taking place and that, oh man, we need to go see Air Dubai STAT!
We all know how well that turned out.
It was a shame, considering that Air Dubai are pretty much the only rap/rock combo that I can stomach. Hold on, that sounds like backhanded praise, let me try again: Air Dubai are pretty much the only rap/rock combo that I can enjoy. The other crap conjures up awful memories of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Talented kids with an energetic stage show that can even make cynical ol’ me crack a smile instead became talented kids with an energetic stage show and Goddammit I need to get out of here NOW!
We left the warehouse, me with a massive lead over the other two, and through a chain reaction of pure luck and braindead passerbys, ran into Max and Catherine again. At this point, Catherine bared her blood-sucking canines, put me into the dreaded Von Erich Iron Claw and stole the Tofu out of my styrofoamed leftovers. Well, okay. It wasn’t exactly that exciting, but I did indeed run into Catherine and I did indeed lose the Tofu mixed into my leftovers. I was kind of, not mad, but somewhat miffed that the best non-noodle part of my meal had disappeared. That bitch! Perhaps the next time someone asks to sample some of my food, I should just punch them in the ear instead? She’s a nice kid, though. I would later on, through the use of Bourbon-laced fingers, spill a drink all over her, making us even. And yeah, it should be pretty obvious that I’m only joking here; it’s not like I’m going to slowly kill her because oh no some food items of mine are missing or whatever.
With the night beginning to wind down, we ducked into a nearby coffeehouse, if for no other reason than to duck into a coffeehouse. Except for Joel and Alan, who both left after claiming that they were, “totally starting to feel hung over” at eleven at night. With those party poopers out of the picture, the three of us enjoyed the small coffeehouse band, Science Partner. Admittedly, I hated them. At first. They opened with some shit novelty song about Miley Cyrus and something about an octopus with nine tentacles. After the absolute debacle that was Air Dubai, I was certainly not in the mood for another awful performance. Song two kicked in and song two changed the tone. Holy Hell, I thought, this is pretty good! Science Partner are a three piece set, with a young man on vocals and acoustic guitar, with two women providing backup vocals. Think along the lines of a minimalist Joe Cocker, and you get the right idea for their set-up. Of course, it would be disrespectful of me to compare a band to another band, so let me put to you this way: Science Partner are a band that gets it. Some time ago, I asked myself, rhetorically, what the motivation was for so many kids starting up so many bands. Science Partner make music for the simple reason that they want to. Certainly a step-up from the endless list of attention whores seeking validation in the form of, “you totally killed it tonight, bro!” This is where I insert a lame joke about them, “certainly killing something, alright.” These guys looked to be having so much performing: doing things like improvising mid-song and joking with the small crowd to running to the coffeehouse counter, grabbing a drink and getting back in time to nail the chorus. It was fun and it was genuine and the music was a sobering example of purity in music-making. ADDENDUM: it seems that Science Partner are actually a five-piece band, with a bassist and a percussionist, neither of whom were performing that night.
The long reach of exhaustion eventually reached out to Max and Catherine as well. Once Science Partner finished, the two of them bid me farewell. Now alone, it was time for me to walk about eight blocks in a bad part of town in the middle of the night. My destination was a BBQ joint where the final acts of the night would play.
Surprisingly, I made it to my destination without incident. The destination wasn’t such a wonderful place to be. I guess the air conditioner or the ceiling fan were out of commission, because standing in this crowded restaurant felt as though Richard Nixon was playing with Hell’s thermostat. My black Voltron: Defender of the Universe t-shirt had suddenly become a moist, skin-tight nightmare and my glasses were beginning to slip off of my ears. I waited, impatiently, for this no-name band to finish up and take a hike. My reason for being here was to see Consider the Raven (remember, they are My New Favorite Band At The Momenttm). I had seen them once before, at that Godawful underground bunker that is the Meadowlark; the claustrophobic, criminally understaffed hellhole responsible for exposing me to Something Something Teflon. It was a fun night of hearing these young men and women play only the best examples of Gorgeous Music for Gorgeous People and then trying to talk to them after the show due to having dental work done earlier in the day, leaving a bunch of shit in the back of my mouth brushing against my tongue, making it sound as though I had an embarrassing lisp.
But that was then. Science Partner had lightened my mood and now I was ready for what was coming. Again, pulling pretentious quotes from my Twitter, I had described this act as such: “like an interdimentional campout in your own backyard.” It’s funny now that I think about things. Three years ago, when I got the idea to make this site, I had nothing but angry and rebellious punk rock pumping through my veins. Maybe it was because I was working a really shitty job alongside tiny-dicked assholes with textbooks examples of passive-aggressive behavior and my life was basically work followed by a couple hours of Call of Duty on my Xbox followed by a few hours of sleep followed by waking up at four a.m just to repeat the pattern and dammit, I needed something to relate to; to feel even remotely human. That time has long since passed me by and now I find myself with a lower blood-pressure and a taste for soft vocals and sweet melodies alongside the finest Shibuya-kei to come out of Japan. Consider the Raven, along with pretty much any band I have said good things about in the last year, have fit this to a T. Although I think CTR may have an edge over everyone else. And even if it meant squatting in this crowded sweatbox to hear them, then it would have been worth it.
Of course, because I seem to have acquired a nose for this sort of thing, I was right. It was completely worth it. Even though the crowd had quickly dissipated the moment Frank Fuckhead and his No-Talent Bums left the stage, it didn’t seem to really bother these guys. It really only served to make the show a bit more intimate. At least, as intimate as a place serving sauce-soaked spare ribs can possibly be. One thing I can never not notice is the contrast between the dual-lead vocalists, Connie and Ali. Connie, despite her friendly demeanor, always looks so determined on-stage, as though every show is her last and that dammit, she had better make it count. On the other hand, Ali can’t seem to help but crack a smile and keep herself from giggling, as though being in a band is a surreal, dreamlike experience that she refuses to believe is real. The guitarist and drummer, Fletcher and James (respectively) more or less fade into the background, instead forming the musical backbone to their collaborative sound. It’s the musical equivalent of a midday Summer rain; It is a thing of beauty.
How appropriate it was, then, that the last act at the Underground Music Showcase was the best. The streets and bars and clubs more or less emptied after the show, leaving Downtown Denver look and feel like the creepiest of ghost towns. It was a wonderful end to a terrible night. The only evidence that anything happened that night were my terrible cell phone camera shots and my twenty dollar wristband. It was scary like that; a major show, complete with a nationally known band, took place here and not a single thing on these streets were out of place. No garbage. No begging homeless. Not even a grocery bag tumbleweed. Everything was back to normal. It was morning in Colorado.