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Boulder Rocks

Plans are in the works for a musical retrospective of the People's Republic.

As a former entertainment editor for Boulder's Colorado Daily, Leland Rucker is perhaps among a handful of people qualified to compile a thorough history of the town's rock-and-roll history. At least that's what the Boulder Arts Commission might have been thinking when its members approached Rucker and Channel 8 producer Don Chapman about creating a documentary to do just that. But to hear Rucker tell it, the reason that he's now serving as a co-producer of the tentatively titled Sweet Lunacy has more to do with a personality quirk. "I am really just the only person who is crazy enough to do this -- that's the bottom line," Rucker says with a laugh. What he and Chapman are endeavoring to do is chronicle the continuum of Boulder rock, beginning with clubs like Tulagi and bands such as the Astronauts in the early Sixties and continuing with current favorites, among them Wendy Woo. And though the arts commission originally intended the project to be broadcast locally on Channel 8, Rucker feels the video will ultimately appeal to anyone interested in music history. "If it works out right, it's going to be a microcosm of the rock era, from the Sixties to the Nineties," he says. "Listening to the stories of groups like Firefall, the Astronauts, Zephyr and the story of Caribou Studios, how it rose and fell -- these stories mirror what was going on in rock and roll nationally. There seems to be a story here for each of the rock-and-roll archetypes." Rucker and Chapman have relied heavily on interviews to fill in the holes -- and they've collected more than twenty, including chats with members of the Astronauts and the original Flash Cadillac as well as current luminaries like the Samples and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. And since this is, at least for the time being, a not-for-profit affair for public television, a fund-drive-style pitch will be made here: Rucker and Chapman are looking for visual material from the Sixties and Seventies to complement their own collected material, from concert fliers and posters to album artwork to photographs of the clubs and people of the era. Those of a packrat persuasion who might have a little Boulder-rock-memorial booty stashed in the attic are encouraged to contact Rucker at 303-494-6672, 303-963-7257 or via e-mail at lrucker@earthlink.net.


Even before taking on bass duty in Sarina Simoom, Chris Pearson was an unnaturally busy person. He's a founding member of the Czars, Jux County and Velveteen Monster, as well as the president of his own record label, Velveteen Records. Pearson also dabbles in film production (his current project, The Velveteen Movie, is a travelogue of "eerie places" in western Colorado and New Mexico) and Web design. (He maintains the label's fairly exhaustive site, www.velveteenrecords.com. Noticing a theme here?) Oh, yeah, he's also got a day job. So one wonders what possessed Pearson to join Simoom, an outfit that relocated to Denver in 1998 after a healthy infancy in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. The questions, though, end after a listen to the band. Pearson's first gig with Sarina Simoom was last Thursday at one of Radio 1190's two "Local Shakedown" showcases at the Bluebird, and it found Pearson in some mighty fine musical company -- specifically, Todd Bills on drums and East Coast implants Brian Balestrieri (guitar) and Jenna Herbst (violin, guitar and vocals). Most of Pearson's efforts lean toward the atmospheric -- from the roving soundtrack landscapes of Velveteen Monster to the often creepy crawl of Jux County -- a fact that means he's right at home within the lush auditory environs Simoom so gracefully pokes and prods. A onetime violinist for Twilight Motel, Herbst is simply a luminous talent -- a concise player whose elastic vocal style recalls Kate Bush, a more melodic Kristin Hersh and the elusive sirens of all those Greek myths. And though Herbst occupied a large portion of the spotlight at last week's show, the band's wisely understated, harmonic arrangements were a simple, sensual and sensory treat. Pearson may be spreading himself a bit thin with all of his many projects, but it's certainly understandable why he'd want to be a part of this one. Meanwhile, the Czars are still awaiting the release of the tentatively titled Before, But, Longer on Bella Union Records, as well as a rare live show in Denver on Friday, November 12, at the Gothic Theatre. Sarina Simoom, conveniently enough, will perform, as will opener Janet Feder. The following night, the clearly lazy Pearson and Velveteen Monster will serve as the opening act for Robyn Hitchcock at the Soiled Dove. (Hitchcock will be performing with a full band for the first time in nearly ten years. He'll also be joined by Kimberly Rew, a long-lost member of his original outfit, the Soft Boys.)


Those who don't know much about progressive rock might be surprised to learn that the genre has its very own holiday: ProgDay, it's called, an annual event held in North Carolina, where those who are fond of weird time signatures and King Crimson convene to get their experimental groove on. The prog-rockers in Denver's Thinking Plague have been known to celebrate -- and themselves be celebrated -- at ProgDay, having been named "Best Overall Performance" at this year's gathering. That's no small potatoes considering the band was in league with others from this continent and beyond. Thinking Plague has also been invited to participate in both the North East Art Rock Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in June 2000 and the Festival MIMI in Arles, France, in July. The band may in fact have a plague on its head, but that seems to be a healthy thing.

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