By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Thus far, videotape shot during the aftermath of the punk-rock-show-turned-riot at a Denver VFW hall on May 18 (Feedback, May 23) hasn't caused the stir many attendees were hoping, in part because of its highly variable quality. Dave Paco, bassist for the band Four, says much of the footage he took was out of focus because "I was trying to figure out what was going on. It was pretty hard to pay attention to that with all the Mace and stuff." Still, Paco notes, clips showed "a pretty big-sized officer shoving a smaller girl across the room and then twisting her arm around her back and handcuffing her extra violently. And you could also see four or five cops roughing a kid up on the ground and another officer dragging someone around by the handcuffs." Some of these images popped up on local newscasts last week, but Paco feels the reports "turned the whole thing around on the kids--like it was their fault." Four's George Fraska is more complimentary about Erin Hart, a talk-show host on KTLK-AM/760 who played audio excerpts from the videotapes and "showed both sides equally." But Hart's evenhandedness was undercut by KTLK's George Weber, who used the sound bites to beat up on the ticket-buyers a second time. "He made everything worse for everybody," Fraska says. "I think he's the least intelligent guy I've ever heard."
Neither Paco nor Fraska intend to allow Weber to have the last word on the subject. They've spent much of their time since the altercation passing out police-complaint forms to people who were at the concert. And Paco attended a May 23 meeting of Denver's Safety Review Commission to underline his complaints to city officials. (At that assembly, the commission appointed a task force to analyze current police procedures as they apply to crowd control.) "I think they actually did listen to us," Paco concedes. "Although I'm not sure if they're going to do anything about it."
Would you listen to local CDs in a boat? Would you listen with a goat?
Sackcloth 'n' Ashes, 16 Horsepower's debut for A&M Records, has received across-the-board praise, and far be it from me to contradict the trend. The album, produced by Warren Bruleigh, is dark and ominous, evoking a backwoods feel that's utterly compelling. David Eugene Edwards's lyrics call to mind a Civil War-era abolitionist railing against the sins of the common man, while the spare music made by Edwards, Jean-Yves Tola and Keven Soll draws from American music of generations past without seeming anything less than contemporary. "Black Soul Choir," "Scrawled in Sap" and the rest are not novelties. Rather, they are the sound of three musicians baying at the moon, cursing the heavens and praying for redemption. Pop albums aren't usually so ambitious, and even those that are seldom achieve their goals. This one does (available in area record stores). Paul Dresher's Casa Vecchia, among the most recent releases on Boulder's forward-looking Starkland label, is similarly intriguing, albeit in a completely different way. The Los Angeles-born Dresher is generally lumped in with composers dubbed post-minimalist, in part because his experiments with electronic instrumentation and tape loops are extremely deliberate; there are melodies on hand, but they take their time showing themselves. Nonetheless, the soundscapes he constructs are powerful indeed. Particularly memorable is the title track, a fascinating construct (originally commissioned by the Kronos Quartet) that tugs and pulls at you for a full 22 minutes without ever seeming self-indulgent. Casa Vecchia provides maximal listening pleasure (Starkland, P.O. Box 2190, Boulder 80306).
The latest from Concentrated Evil, Run for Your Lives, finds the three-piece exploring that well-plowed punk-funk field. At times the players come across like a homegrown Rage Against the Machine: "The Hated," "DPP" and "Monkey" are thinly recorded preaching-to-the-choir screeds. More enjoyable are a handful of simple goofs, including "I Don't Live Here" and, especially, "RRR RR RRRR," a rant against, of all things, dog feces ("Evil loaf!/Evil loaf!/Leaving your shit for me to clean up"). Dogs of the world, unite. You've got nothing to lose but your pooper-scoopers (695-6013). Scramblehead's Valley of the Bugs brings you the wit and wisdom of Charles Manson; the cult figure/convicted killer provides the words, while six Denverites make music to accompany it. You're meant to be shocked, and maybe you will be. But more likely you'll be amused by this elaborate, beautifully designed attempt to get a rise out of the literal and figurative blue-hairs of the world. As for the tunes themselves, some of them are actually pretty good: I especially liked the contrast between Ang's megaphoned lead vocal and the chirpy female background singing on "Let Em Go" and the sing-songy "Git On Home." And Scramblehead's "Look at Your Game Girl" is considerably more interesting than the take by Guns N' Roses (Scorpion Inc., Box 481823, Denver 80248).
The appropriateness of segueing from Charles Manson to Boyd Rice will not be lost on those familiar with the local musician/ provocateur, known globally for the delight he takes in toying with Satanism, Nazism, white power and other things John Q. Public considers bad. Of Rice's two new CD projects, the most focused is Might, released by Mute Records under the name Non. The manifesto consists of twelve doomy backing tracks over which Rice solemnly intones excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right, described in the liner notes as "a work considered by many to be the definitive exposition of Darwinian law as it applies to man, his world and his nature." In spite of the intellectually suspect nature of these words, however, you've got to give Rice his due: The juxtaposition of the noise opus "Force" with "Deletion," which is built upon gentle chimes and a woman's screams, is genuinely creepy and repugnant. If that sounds like your cup of tea, belly up to the bar--or consult the nearest psychiatrist. Hatesville, a spoken-word compilation overseen by Rice and also featuring Adam Parfrey, Shaun Partridge and Jim Goad, is more discreet than the Non piece, but it's just as disturbing. Goad's "Let's Hear It for Violence Toward Women" may be the snippet most immediately capable of raising the average listener's ire, but Partridge's "Dog" (in which he describes laughing at a woman being torn apart by a cur) and Rice's "Mr. Intolerance," delivered in a calm voice that contradicts the extraordinary bitterness of its theme, are just as nasty. You can reassure yourself with the assumption that the artists are merely portraying characters who hold such vile thoughts, but you should do so at the risk of being completely wrong. Some albums are on the edge; Hatesville is the edge (available in area record stores).
Slowly, deliberately, Celtic music has taken over Pat McCullough's life. This situation seems perfectly natural to most of those who chat with McCullough, whose Celtic Events & Entertainment brings more acts with this specialty to Colorado than any other. (The latest is Nomos, which performs Saturday, June 1, at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl.) After all, his voice has a melodious lilt of the kind most Yankees associate with the Emerald Isle. However, his speech patterns weren't established overseas. "I'm from Minnesota," he explains. "I have a Minnesota accent with a speech impediment. Everywhere I go, people laugh at my accent. In Minnesota they laugh, and Irish people laugh, too."
McCullough never set out to become Denver's most prominent Celtic-music evangelist. Raised in St. Paul, he's from a long line of Irish cops, and at first he showed no signs of moving along a different path than the one taken by his elders. After moving to the Denver area in the late Seventies, he worked security for Fey Concerts for three years before joining the police force in Vail. In 1987 he returned to Denver and got into the risk-management field: "I dealt with police, safety and fire issues for festivals and other big operations." A few years later he and a friend, journalist Mike Stone, started what he calls "a little business working for attorneys. We located missing clients, that type of thing."
That's hardly the resume of your typical promoter. But even as he was spending his days involved in law enforcement and private investigation, McCullough was spending his evenings tickling his ears with the traditional sounds of his ancestral homeland. As a kid, he says, "I listened to rock and roll. Nothing unusual about that." But his parents played Irish music around the house, piquing his interest in the genre. A uilleann pipes album by Finbar Furey subsequently turned him into an aficionado of authentic Celtic sounds. "All of us Irish-Americans, we're surrounded by the green-beer-and-shamrocks music. You know, the 'Danny Boy' stuff that's been killed a thousand times in pubs across America. But I came to realize that there was more to Irish music than that."
By 1993, he'd also grown frustrated that so few Celtic artists made it to these parts. So when he heard that Phil Coulter was touring the States but had no Denver date, he called an agent and asked why. She replied that McCullough should promote a Colorado show himself--and he took the challenge. "It was November of '93 at the Paramount, which was a pretty big venue for my first time," he acknowledges. "But I survived it. I didn't lose money, and people loved the show. And I heard that when Coulter played Carnegie Hall, he started talking from the stage about how much he enjoyed playing in Denver."
Inspired, McCullough decided to try promotion on a more regular basis. He now brings between twelve and fifteen Celtic acts a year to Denver--enough to justify a full-time investment of his time. (His investigation business went on hiatus after Stone sold a novel to a major publishing house, Viking. The book, The Low End of Nowhere, features a Denver detective who'll be at the center of subsequent books Stone has contracted with Viking to write.) Still, McCullough doesn't want for things to do. He publishes a monthly newsletter, Celtic Connection, which is available by mail (call 777-0502 for more details) or at the new Tower Records branch in Cherry Creek. "They even built a rack for them there," McCullough enthuses. "And they asked my advice on putting together a Celtic section for their world-music room. We're going to completely redo it--and we're going to have room for local Celtic artists, too."
The upcoming date by Nomos, a fiery young Irish quintet whose new CD--I Won't Be Afraid Any More, on the Green Linnet imprint--is described by McCullough as "the Chieftains on acid," is also intended to help Celtic performers in the area; it's a benefit for the fledgling Rocky Mountain Celtic Musicians Association. The RMCMA (the brainchild of McCullough and Eileen Niehouse, best known for her work with the Mother Folkers) is being formed in part to assist a number of acts that lost money at last fall's Vail International Celtic Festival. "They got stiffed by the promoter," McCullough explains. "He went under, closed up shop and moved to Montana, leaving some of the musicians with bad checks and others with no checks at all." But McCullough also envisions the organization as an opportunity for artists to network and to spread the word about the glories of Celtic music farther and wider than he's been able to do on his own. "Nobody's guaranteeing that this will lead to gigs," he concedes, "but there's no harm in it. Only good things can come from it, I think."
That's been the case with Celtic music in general, at least as far as McCullough is concerned. "I have to tell you--I never sat in front of Red Rocks or any of these other venues when I was working security and thought, 'Someday I'd like to be a promoter,'" he notes in that geographically mysterious voice of his. "It never even crossed my mind. But I'm glad it's worked out this way anyhow."
The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art's Perforum series continues on Saturday, June 1, with two promising events. Between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Boulder Farmer's Market, near 13th and Arapahoe, you'll have the chance to hear Jesse Manno, Beth Quist and James Hoskins playing music from the Balkans; the Heuristic Ensemble, an improvisational jazz group led by Farrell Lowe; and Rhythm-n-ing, an Afro-Cuban act featuring Tom Myer and Gregg Dyes. That evening at the museum, 1750 13th Street, the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble, led by Fred Hess and featuring Ron Miles, is the main attraction. Call 443-2122 if this paragraph has confused you in any way.
As if the rest of them didn't. On Thursday, May 30, Hazard, a spinoff from the Samples, presents a threat to you and yours at the Boulder Theater, with eitherigo, and the Alan Frederickson Jazz Ensemble is joined by reed-man Brian Ogilvie at the Centerfield Sports Bar, 2936 Fox Street. On Friday, May 31, Fragile X appears with Crack Daddy and Scrump at Cricket on the Hill at a benefit for, appropriately enough, the Fragile X Foundation; Veronica and Sissy Fuzz get mythological at Seven South; DJ Keoki and the Crystal Method smoke at the Bluebird Theater; the 'Vengers pick up Crumb at the Fox Theatre; the Denver Gentlemen open doors for Shawn Strub at the Mercury Cafe; and the Zukes of Zydeco, the Dalhart Imperials and the Colorado Cajun Dance Band celebrate the birthdays of KGNU radio and Eco-Cycle at the Boulder Theater. On Saturday, June 1, the aforementioned Mother Folkers perform their final 1996 show at Chautauqua Auditorium; Clay Kirkland and Richard Reed join forces at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; and Dave Gershen warbles at Common Grounds. On Sunday, June 2, Linda Maich performs at the Mercury; David Wilcox makes his 300th local appearance this year at an E-Town taping at the Boulder Theater, with the Nields and Baxter Black; and LIKEHELL plays like, well, you know, at the Lion's Lair. On Monday, June 3, Chitlin is served at the Fox, with Buzz Harvest. And on June 5, Michael Hill's Blues Mob hits Brendan's, and the Amirs (an El Espectro spinoff) rule at the Lion's Lair. Anyone for a jihad?
Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@