By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
The January 15, 1998, edition of this column introduced you to Big Pauli & Mr. V-Lo, a spinoff from the Denver hip-hop act Deuce Mob ("Join the Mob," February 14, 1996). The Mob's breakup, which took place after the group opened for the Ice Cube side project Westside Connection in November 1996, was acrimonious: Big Pauli (aka Paul Lopez) revealed that the situation "almost got violent." He added that the new duo sometimes appears as the Deuce Mob Originalz because "we're the ones who started Deuce Mob in the first place, and now we're going to keep it going with this project."
Fabian Garcia, who goes by the handle DJ Fame, has a different point of view. He was also part of Deuce Mob and served as one of its key creative forces. (In the January 15 column, Big Pauli complained that "Fabian wanted to run the whole show--we didn't have any say-so.") As such, he feels that he is the legitimate owner of the Deuce Mob moniker, which he continues to use when he appears live. "It's mine," Garcia says. "Those other guys may be calling themselves the Deuce Mob Originalz, but they ain't doing shit."
Garcia certainly is. As head of the local label Concrete Poetry, he's a mini-mogul, complete with a growing roster of acts and a handful of CDs that have made a big noise in the underground market. He's also a promoter, and he sees the hip-hop showcase he's assembled for Latin Jam '98, a twelve-hour bash taking place on Sunday, September 6, at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton, as an opportunity to introduce some of the talent he's assembled to a broader audience. The crowds who arrive to catch the "Latin Legends Live" triumvirate of Malo, Tierra and El Chicano will also get a chance to check out performers who either are signed to Concrete Poetry or appeared on Concrete Poetry: The Mile High Underground, Vol. 1, a compilation that hit stores last year. They include Garcia's Deuce Mob, G-Som, Loco Mente Clique, Arapahoe T.R.U.E.S., A.W.B. (the letters stand for "Average White Boy") and Felon (a former member of Deuce Mob who was in prison when the outfit's 1996 CD, Going Solo, debuted).
The presence of many of these groups at an event geared for families may seem surprising. After all, G-Som, profiled in these pages in 1992, set the standard for street-tough rap in the Denver hip-hop scene of the early Nineties. The combo's association with Trips Enterprises, a firm that the FBI later charged with running an interstate drug ring, raised eyebrows as well, even though none of the musicians were implicated in any wrongdoing (Feedback, September 7, 1994). However, Garcia insists that "a lot of the people in G-Som have matured, and they've gotten more insight into the business side of things. This isn't going to be a hardcore rap show. The songs that we do will be for everybody. It won't have any vulgarity or anything like that. This is going to be a professional show."
At the same time, Garcia certainly doesn't want anyone to think that Concrete Poetry has gone soft; he expects future albums to contain plenty of variety, but he says hardcore rap will remain an important component. Such a balance is struck well on Mile High Underground, Vol. 1, an excellent-sounding CD that places nasty stuff like G-Som's "What's Next?" and "Bangin 2 Da Fullest," by Araphaoe T.R.U.E.S., alongside D-Sharp's smooth "Can I Ride?" and Billie Jean's femme-friendly "Wise." Also made with an ear toward crossing over is Loco Mente Clique's "Summertime Maddness," a CD single with a cool, breezy feel that contrasts sharply with the bad-as-we-wanna-be verbal thuggery of another Concrete Poetry effort, GIX, by Gloc 9. The latter album features Salvino Martinez, who Denver police believe was the target in a gangland shooting that ended in the death of a young mother, Venus Montoya; some of the same gangmembers fingered in the Montoya murder were later implicated in the death of fifteen-year-old Brandy Duvall. Authorities believe that some of the songs of GIX touch on such incidents, including "Westword Hoes," which makes reference to this newspaper (for more details, see the Steve Jackson story "Gangster's Rap," November 27, 1997).
This kind of material may give the boys in blue nightmares, but it makes for extra credibility in the rap universe--which helps explain why Concrete Poetry products recently inked a national distribution pact. Garcia, who spent much of this year performing as part of a tour sponsored by Lowrider magazine, aims to capitalize on this deal over the course of the next year with a slew of new releases, including full-lengths by G-Som, Loco Mente Clique and A.W.B., plus The Mile High Underground, Vol. 2. "I've been really busy," Garcia says. "And I'm going to stay that way."
In April, Robert McMurray, whose nickname is Trip, dug into his own pocket in order to start a radio show--CPR, which stands for "Colorado Punk Radio." The program aired for two hours every Monday evening on KKYD-AM/1340, a tiny outlet that was in a transitional period; the station had dropped its previous format, which focused on children's music, and was broadcasting danceable sounds dubbed "Beat Radio" as a stopgap in anticipation of an impending sale. Well, the transaction finally happened: KKYD's owner, Minneapolis-based Children's Broadcasting, peddled the station to California's Salem Communications, which plans to turn it into a Catholic-themed signal. Since Trip didn't play many CDs by Pope John Paul II, he looked to be out of luck. But because of his persistence, he's managed to find a new home for his creation. CPR can now be heard from 7 to 8 Sunday nights on KRRF-AM/1280 (Ralph) immediately before another music program, Brian Pavlik's all-local Soundcheck.
The primary reason that KRRF, which is part of the Chancellor Broadcasting empire, picked up CPR is its grassroots popularity. KKYD was barely on life support during Trip's tenure there, but thanks to word of mouth, he says, "I'd get between 75 and 150 phone calls from around town every time I was on. The phones were so crazy that I actually had to get a phone screener to help me keep up with them." To ensure that CPR survived, Trip began negotiating with KRRF's Mason Lewis about two months ago, and eventually an agreement was struck. "It's really a great deal," says Trip. "The other studio that I had was falling apart, but the one at Ralph is beautiful--a nice, new, digital studio that has the power of Chancellor behind it. It's really exciting how far we're going to be able to reach now and how many new listeners we're going to be picking up. Now kids in Fort Collins and the Springs will be able to check out what's going on, too."
As before, Trip will dedicate approximately 25 percent of his program to local acts, and he'll also invite bands from Colorado and beyond to appear live in-studio. And although the length of the show is half of what it was on KKYD (a situation he hopes to rectify eventually), he's planning to branch out on other fronts. "We have a CPR skate deck coming out soon, and a whole new line of T-shirts, and we're also going to do some 21-and-over shows at Cricket on the Hill," he says. "We're just trying to keep this punk-rock radio thing alive for all the kids to listen to."
Toni Cook also has a program on KRRF; it runs from noon to 1 p.m. Sundays. But she's no punk-rocker. Instead, she's the pastor of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, at 1615 Ogden Street--and she's a controversial one at that. Her church is currently embroiled in a conflict with United Methodist's national leadership over the issue of same-gender marriages, which are sometimes called "holy union" ceremonies. "They say we can't continue to do it, even though they've been doing it at St. Paul's since probably 1980, and I've been doing it for the whole nine and a half years I've been there," she notes. "And we're saying we're not going to stop doing this. We think all relationships of healthy, committed love are blessed."
As these comments imply, Cook is hardly a religious traditionalist: "I grew up in the Sixties," she says. "I know what fun is." To that end, she's come up with a new-to-Denver concept in church services that's kicking off at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 8--and music is an important part of it. Dubbed "Wild Worship," the session will spotlight what Cook describes as "techno DJ sounds--and Hazel Miller will be there live. There's going to be a light show, too, and lots of dancing."
The theme of the first "Wild Worship"--"Rave, Rage, Reconnect"--offers a clue to Cook's goals. "People are looking for meaning, but they're turned off by old-fashioned worship, because it's boring," she says. "And even if we have a great message--an expansive message about healing and love--if it's presented in a deadening way, then it's not relating to the average person, or at least not to young people or the young at heart. It's a message that people aren't getting. That's why when a lot of people think of churches, they think of the ones that are filled with hate-mongers who are trying to squash the rights of gays and lesbians and promoting oppressive laws about abortion. They're not hearing the alternative voice that we're trying to get out.
"That's why we've come up with this experiment--an experiment to make the medium part of the message. We believe that life is vibrant and full of meaning and intensity, and we want to get that across in a worship setting--but not in any dogmatic way. This is open, it's in your face, it's multicultural."
Obviously, Cook has a lot to say, and she does so in a provocative way: The topic she'll be discussing on her KRRF program on Sunday, September 6, is, "Do all Christians have to believe in God?" But she promises that those who come to "Wild Worship" won't feel like they're at a debate: "There won't be any long-winded sermons. There'll be less words and more music."
A.J. Salas (see page 74) isn't the only local musician who'll be gigging at this year's Taste of Colorado, which runs downtown from Friday, September 4, through Sunday, September 7: Sketch, the Emergency Broadcast Players and plenty of others are also playing for your pleasure.
Herman's Hideaway is sponsoring its annual "Rock Out AIDS" benefit from Thursday, September 3, through Saturday, September 5. Over the course of these three nights, you'll have an opportunity to bid on goods up for auction, sign up for a September 13 AIDS walk and hear music by a boatload of local groups. Among those in the spotlight on September 3 are Tequila Mockingbird and Opie Gone Bad; Turnsol and Carolyn's Mother are part of the bill on September 4; and September 5 includes Matthew Moon, Yo, Flaco! and more, more, more. By the way, Herman's is also the site of a September 13 pre-party for the Westword Music Awards Showcase, a week to the day prior to the big event itself (turn to the Showcase ballot on page 110 for more details and your opportunity to vote). The appetite-whetting bash at Herman's features Showcase nominee Nina Storey, several other acts to be named later, and Showcase-oriented giveaways.
That's what's known in the trade as plugging ourselves--but I don't mind spreading the hype around. On Thursday, September 3, Fat Mama, with new bass player Jonti Siman, fills up the Fox Theatre, with the Big Wu. On Friday, September 4, Inferno burns up the 15th Street Tavern, with Fast Action Revolver; the Illbilly Boys take their medicine at the Skyline Cafe, with Buddy's Root; Bambœ grooves at Nick's in Boulder; and David Lindley and Wally Ingram pair up at the Boulder Theater. And on Tuesday, September 8, No Excuses, at 9262 West 58th Avenue in Arvada, inaugurates a new jam night hosted by Barley Pop and Torn Porn Queen. It all takes place behind the green door.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.