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When Doug Bohm migrated from Chicago to Denver in 1994, he quickly found a niche as a gothic industrial concert promoter, a gig that afforded him time to pursue an interest in electronic music with the bands Post-Mortem Stress Disorder and Fish Music. Today, as a director of Bands for Lands, he's become a different kind of specialist. Bohm and co-founder Jeremy Gregory are at the helm of the nonprofit environmental group, which aims to marry music and activism in one sonically charged package.
Bands for Lands is an organization with a serious mission: Its official statement of purpose cites preserving "pristine lands vital to sustain life" as its primary directive. Practically speaking, BFL aims to raise money to buy public lands before they fall into the hands of developers and others who tend to prefer resort towns to wilderness. And while the volunteer-driven group engages in the usual grassroots type of activities such as distributing literature and operating a membership program, its primary outreach method is through music.
Which is not to imply that a Bands for Lands-backed event is likely to offer a bleeding-heart-folksinger-on-a-wooden-stool variety of hippie protest music. After all, fans of punk and hip-hop and jazz rely on clean air and water just as much as those with a penchant for patchouli and falafel. Since its informal beginnings in 1995, when Bohm and Gregory produced concerts at locations around Denver and Boulder, Bands for Lands has put on more than twenty shows. And last year the group produced a CD titled Green and Red, which has since sold about 600 copies. (Green and Red is available at Wax Trax and Twist & Shout.) Bands who have supported said lands include the Garden Weasels, the Fabulous Boogienauts, Sketch, Wojo, the Disciples of Bass, and Toddy Walton, better known as the girlfriend of South Park creator Matt Stone. This Friday, Bands for Lands adds the United Dope Front, Urban Monks and former Skin drummer Dave Watts and the Hip Bop Workshop to the fray, with a show at the Fox Theatre to benefit the Coalition to Stop Vail Expansion.
"We didn't want to limit our shows to one genre or another. I'll put on whatever kind of show it takes to get as many people there as possible," says Gregory. "I'd put on a classical concert if I thought it would raise money." So whether the kids show up to rally around a good cause or just to rock out is less important to Bohm and Gregory than having them there. After all, what separates a benefit concert from a regular show is that, in the former case, it's okay to be overtly money-hungry. "I hate to be capitalistic, but money all spends the same, and I think its about time some of it spends in the direction of preservation."
Bands for Lands has not yet purchased any public lands with cash that it's generated in the four years of its existence, largely because the group has opted to donate proceeds to larger organizations like Colorado Wild and Colorado Open Lands. Friday's show will be BFL's first for the Coalition to Stop Vail Expansion, which, since forming in the spring, has put the "active" back in activist by organizing blockades and protests purposely--and effectively--disruptive to Vail Resorts' controversial Category III encroachment into public forests.
"With their organizational efforts, the coalition is trying to put a wrench in the wheel of what's called progress," Bohm says. "It seems to be working, because soon it's gonna start snowing up there."
Bands for Lands is a full-time gig for Bohm and Gregory, though both find time to devote to their own musical endeavors. Gregory fronts the cause-oriented Family of Dischordia, a band he describes as a kindred spirit to acts like Fugazi and Rage Against the Machine and one that spends more time playing outside of Colorado than in. As dBomb, Bohm still works in electronica, doing "big beat, drum-and-bass kind of stuff" and remixing and production for artists including Cindy Wonderful of Rainbow Sugar. Yet BFL is clearly a priority for Bohm and Gregory, who've recently drawn up a business plan and are poised to enter the real-estate market as buyers of public lands.
"Doug's a marketing genius, and we're going to be doing some things soon that will really reach a lot of people, lots of shows, lots of music," Gregory says. "We want to get people to the point where they realize that without land, without food, without water, we're not going to be able to worry about all the other stuff, and music has been the perfect platform for that.
"It's really a win-win situation for everyone," he adds. "Unless you're a developer."
Friday's lineup consists of United Dope Front, Wojo, Dave Watts's Hip Bop Workshop and Urban Monks. The show, for ages 21 and up, begins at 9 p.m. at the Fox Theatre. Tickets are $5.25--which, it goes without saying, is for a good cause.
Last week's exhaustive live-music platter plumb tuckered me out. Give me some valerian-root tea and put me to bed, because my ears are still ringing from all that high-decibel goodness.