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It's time for Feedback's year-end clearance. All items must go.
The closings of (america) and the Tivoli Brewery Restaurant--both located in the Tivoli complex, which serves as a student center for the Auraria campus--are embroiled in a mystery that doesn't seem likely to be cleared up anytime soon. Rosemary Fetter, director of communications for the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC), which owns all the land on campus and functions as the de facto landlord for Tivoli tenants, insists that the club and restaurant (which shared a single liquor license) were shut down midday Saturday, December 7, because of "some violations under the lease. Security was becoming an issue as the club was expanding, and because we have a large student population--almost 34,000 students right now--our first priority is to protect their interests." However, she declines to mention any specific problems: "We're trying to work together for an amicable move-out," she notes. By the same token, neither chief (america)/Brewery stockholder Mike Seeley nor anyone else involved in the ownership or management of the ventures would comment about the situation. At least right now, those individuals who know what went on seem eager to keep the particulars to themselves.

None of which makes Michael White, a talent booker who runs Denver-based NBT Productions, any happier. He did a lot of business with the Brewery Restaurant (one of his clients, Yoda's Basement Band, provided the sounds there on December 6, the eatery's last full night), and he was planning to return to the Brewery the next night for an event dubbed "The First Annual Bella Ball." According to White, he'd put a great deal of effort into pulling together the bash, which was intended to benefit two charitable outfits--Santa's Toy Bag and the Adopt the Children program. On the bill were three bands (Bella Coyote, Fast Action Revolver and 3.0), a comedian (P.J. Moore), a jazz performer (Jack Wright), three belly-dancers (Letifa, Patty and Heidi), a poet (Tia) and a performance artist (Eric Rieger). Also slated was a raffle for which various merchants donated prizes. Understandably, White had high hopes for the ball. "We had figured to raise about a thousand dollars and collect a bunch of toys for some less-fortunate kids for Christmas," he says. But it was not to be. He received a phone call just five hours before the planned start time from Brewery manager Brad Vokac informing him that the restaurant and club had been shuttered.

In the weeks since the closure, rumors continue to swirl around the decision made by AHEC executives. Some suggest that the beginning of the end came a month before the plug was pulled, when shots were fired in the (america) parking lot. (No one was injured in the altercation.) Others argue that Auraria authorites were uncomfortable with the types of patrons the nightspot was attracting and were looking for any excuse they could find to lock its doors forever. Right now it looks unlikely that we'll learn which of these scenarios is most accurate--or if something entirely different was at play. What matters most to White, though, is the cancellation of his gala. "Unfortunately, there was no way to reschedule everything," he points out. "It just wasn't feasible--not in time for Christmas, anyway. But what I was most disappointed about was that we didn't get an opportunity to do what we wanted to do for the kids. Because that's what the whole thing was all about."

I just received a holiday CD that arrived too late for inclusion in last week's roundup ("Christmas Seasoning," December 12) but is too juicy and off-kilter to leave unreviewed: Christmas on Death Row (Death Row/ Interscope). Yep, it's an offering from Suge Knight and your friends at Death Row, the world's foremost distributor of gangsta rap--and if I'm not mistaken, it's also the first disc of its type to sport a parental-advisory sticker. The album's cover is wonderfully outrageous; it pictures Santa Claus, clad in trademark red suit and a black hood, strapped into an electric chair in front of a Christmas tree and a roaring fire. As for its contents, over half the songs are surprisingly traditional--Danny Boy's soulful but straightforward readings of "Christmas Song" and "This Christmas" are typical--while the remainder hilariously juxtapose sweet sentiments and hardcore dialogue. On the first track, "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto," Snoop Doggy Dogg delivers such classic couplets as "On the first day of Christmas/My homeboy gave to me/A sack of that crazy glue/And told me to smoke it up slowly"; during "I Wish," a member of Tha Dogg Pound verbalizes the hope that he won't die that night, because if he does, he'll "go to hell"; and at the midpoint of "Christmas in the Ghetto," the lead rapper for O.F.T.B. interrupts a Christmas reverie with reminiscences about the worst of his bad times ("When I think about those days/Shit was fucked up"). Put this sucker in a time capsule, because its strangest moments say more about 1996 than nearly anything else heard this year.

Furious George and the Monster Groove (profiled on page 82) isn't the only area band of note to be giving up the ghost: Also retiring from the Denver music scene is Spoon Collection, a pop-rock combo previously lauded in these pages ("Spoon Tune," June 7, 1995). According to bandmember Bill Wardlow (aka S'aint Willy), "I decided I don't want to be playing Cricket on the Hill when I'm thirty. So I'm going back to school to study entertainment law in San Diego--classes start January 2." He adds, "From there, I'll certainly have to move back to L.A. to practice, but I have no doubt that I will end up back in Denver at some point. I still think that Denver is one hit single away from becoming a real musical hotbed. My money is on Slim Cessna."

So there you go, Slim: A vote of confidence from one of your contemporaries. Who are you betting on?

My recent exchange with KBCO morning personalities Kerry and Ashton (noted in last week's column) was apparently only the first volley in a station campaign against yours truly. To wit: I received a message from KBCO music director Scott Arbough informing me that my failure to write a big article touting KBCO: Studio C, Volume 8, the outlet's latest compilation of songs recorded live at KBCO by touring artists, indicated that I knew absolutely nothing about the local music scene. In this last assertion, he's apparently correct: While I understood that the Samples (represented on the CD by "Did You Ever Look So Nice") hailed from these parts, I had no idea that Lyle Lovett, Ziggy Marley, Jewel, Keb' Mo', Emmylou Harris and the rest of Volume 8's participants had suddenly moved to town. Perhaps I'm also wrong in my belief that KBCO, which once made a point of regularly including songs by unsigned local artists in its playlists, has all but stopped spinning such work in favor of, say, "Then and Now" sets featuring John Mellencamp. (Then again, maybe he's a new Boulder resident, too. I'll be sure to check my phone book.) During a subsequent conversation with Arbough, he urged me to review Volume 8, even though all 20,000 copies the station pressed sold out in a four-day span. In lieu of taking his advice, let me instead take this opportunity to suggest that you send your tax-deductible donations directly to the Boulder County AIDS Project (the charity for which the CD's proceeds are earmarked), at 2118 14th Street, Boulder 80302, or phone the good folks there at 444-6121 in order to learn more about how you can help the organization. That way, you can do something good for the community and your fellow man without cluttering up your place with an album that implies that you occasionally listen to KBCO. (Someone who does occasionally listen to KBCO informed me that Kerry and Ashton denied hanging up on me during a recent broadcast and suggested that I should have come up with a more inventive way to denigrate them than to use the word "suck." I suppose they would have liked it better had I said that they "bite the big colostomy bag.")

By the way, if you'd like to clutter up your place with an album that implies that you went to the 1996 Westword Music Awards Showcase, you can do so by picking up a copy of a new disc cleverly titled Westword Music Awards Showcase '96. I can personally testify that all eighteen numbers on the recording are the work of locals: Included are tracks by twelve acts (Brethren Fast, Ron Miles, Chaos Theory, Kizumba, Sweetwater Well, Hazel Miller, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, the Hillbilly Hellcats, Jux County, Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass, Monkey Siren and this week's Hit Pick, the Hate Fuck Trio) chosen by Showcase attendees as the finest groups in their respective musical categories, as well as bonus cuts from six more esteemed Showcase nominees (Chitlin, the 'Vengers, Boss 302, Sherri Jackson, Celeste Krenz and Laughing Hands). In all, the platter includes well over an hour's worth of music from first-rate performers who've seen parts of Colorado other than the inside of KBCO. The discs are on sale now for $7.99 at Best Buy outlets. Please note that one dollar from the sale of each CD will go to AHA! (Artists Helping Artists), a Colorado organization founded by artists to raise funds for colleagues facing life-threatening medical emergencies.

Hank Crawford, a saxophonist who was profiled in last week's issue ("Soul-Jazz Power," December 12), suffered a stroke that prevented him from appearing alongside longtime collaborator Jimmy McGriff at his planned date at Dakota's on December 13 and 14. (David "Fathead" Newman filled in for him at the venue, where it was announced that Crawford is suffering from what was described as "minor" paralysis on his right side.) Keep your fingers crossed that this entertaining and erudite performer makes a speedy and complete recovery.

Brethren Fast continues its assault on television viewers everywhere. Music by the band can be heard as part of the soundtrack for Ski Prime, a program that will start airing on the Fox Sports network in January. (As a real TV reviewer would say, check your local listings for times and channels.) This is the second season for the show, and the Fasters hope that it does as well in 1997 as it did in 1996, when an estimated 68 million folks tuned in at one time or another. Let it snow.

And speaking of flakes, a bunch of them plan to fall into the aforementioned Cricket on the Hill (a place where performers of all ages are welcome as long as they're toilet-trained) on Saturday, December 21. That's the evening the venue hosts its third annual Children's Hospital benefit, featuring esteemed professionals Grandma Jukes Trio, Wrath of Sharon, Crack Daddy, Vinyl Oyster and Blister. The cover and a percentage of the bar goes to buy toys and clothes for needy tots.

As far as I know, a portion of the door charges at the following events will wind up in the pockets of those artists whose names appear in bold print in conjunction with them--but I wouldn't want to swear to it. On Thursday, December 19, the Garden Weasels and Monkey Siren greet other members of the animal kingdom at Herman's Hideaway; Sympathy F cares deeply about you at the Skyline Cafe; Muffin 9 provides nourishment at the 15th Street Tavern, with D Lava's Mama; the Vermicious Knids eat Oompa-Loompas at the Hornet; Sound Circle, an a cappella ensemble, performs a solstice concert at Fiske Planetarium; and Boss 302 takes charge of the Element 79 and the Ray-Ons at the Bluebird Theater. On Friday, December 20, LD-50 (whose DJ is profiled, in a manner of speaking, on page 10) plays some numbers at Seven South, with Zoon Politikon; the Idiots, Hell's Half Acre, Humanure and Kingpin strike at the Ogden Theatre; Rhythm Oil greases up for the first of two nights at Boulder's Outback Saloon; the Receders begin a two-night run at Patrick's in Aurora; Big Bad Freakies, Dog Like Man and Junkies for Neighbors star in a special show for bands with three words in their names at the Cricket; Jux County headlines at City Spirit; the Donny Scott Group hits Franklin's; and Nina Storey tells hers at Herman's, with Breedlove. On Saturday, December 21, Perpetual Motion is on the move at the First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams Street; Veronica chats with Mrs. Larvae at Seven South; Joanne DelCarpine and Beth Quist team up at Penny Lane; and New Country Boy and the AUTONO just say "yes" at the 15th Street Tavern. On Sunday, December 22, Chuck Pyle, John McEuen, Liz Masterson and Sean Blackburn play for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity, at the Fox Theatre. And on Wednesday, December 25, the Bluebird screens the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles for all you folks who'll be sick of your families by then. Talk about a public service.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com

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