By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
Cabaret Diosa -- the nine-piece extravaganza of guitars, horns, mambo, swing, jazz and, of course, dancing -- is a band that exudes more drama than a late-night Springer marathon. It seems fitting, then, that director Erich Toll of Boulder's Big World Productions enlisted the musical diaspora as soundtrack providers for Traveler's Gin, his short feature film to debut in a Friday, May 19, screening at the Fox Theatre (Cabaret Diosa and the Boulder-based surf revivalists the Beloved Invaders -- Dick Dale riffs, skinny legs, matching outfits and all -- will also perform live).
According to Diosa vocalist/guitarist Darrin Feder (aka Dario Rosa when carrying on Cabaret-style), Toll approached the bandmembers early last fall and asked them if they'd like to become involved in the project. Filmed in Boulder using a largely local cast and crew, Gin is a kind of Christmas Carolfor the Oughts: The lead character, a money-grubbing lawyer, drinks a magical concoction called Traveler's Gin and is transported to three different nightmare scenarios in which he must pay for the consequences of his greed and stupidity. It's a modern fable that involves -- among other things -- Italian mobsters, the Moroccan countryside, lawyers being thrown from buildings and a definite retro aesthetic. And oh, yes, plenty of music.
"Erich was trying to go for this '60s mod kind of feel for the whole film," says Rosa. "He was a big fan of surf music, spy music -- all the great soundtrack stuff from the past. Obviously, Cabaret Diosa is very heavily influenced by all those types of styles -- we have a lot of surf in our mambo. Our music was definitely complementary to his script, and I've been obsessed with soundtrack music for like twenty years. So the chance to do this was very welcome."
Though most soundtrack providers are normally given a rough cut of scenes on which to base their scoring, Feder and fellow Cabaret members Miguel Ramos, drummer Juan DeLaSelva, horn players Arturo Sabado and Don Grandissimo DeLaMisconcepcion had only the script to work with -- and three days in which to record their music. The five holed up in Boulder's Roble Studios -- the audio workshop of United Dope Front's William Yale-- and went to work brainstorming ideas for the thirty-minute celluloid fantasy. The result was more than twenty short pieces that find the bandmembers experimenting with sounds and instruments that fall outside of their normal Diosa duty. The product of that recording, The Traveler's Gin Soundtrack, will soon be available as one of two debut recordings from Outmode Records, a label Yale and Feder have launched with the express intent of releasing what Feder describes as "kooky '60s projects of all kinds." (Yale's solo recording, The Man From Yesterday Has Just Arrived Today, is Outmode's other release. Both albums should be available at the Fox show on Friday.)
"We basically just improvised the whole thing," Feder says. "It was great to be able to do that. The script would call for, say, Japanese music, or Arabic, or Italian. We used a variety of instruments that might not be the exact thing that you'd traditionally want for that style, but what came out were really great ideas that were defined very quickly. In the end, we found that the first thing that came into our mind was really the best.
"Really, Cabaret Diosa has been making soundtracks for movies that don't exist. So this opportunity was just a natural for us."
Matt Need, host of last Sunday's Westword Music Showcase awards ceremony, pointed out how spiffy-looking the event's crowd was. Bedecked himself in a Graham Parson-esque rhinestone-studded cowboy jacket, Need remarked that for once it was safe to be downwind of a group of musician types who, in many cases, are more at home inside smoke-filled taverns than the chandeliers-and-martinis type of joint that the Fillmore Auditorium became that night.
"This is the nicest place I've ever been," said Rainbow Sugar's Cindy Wonderful. Throughout the large room, there was the distinct sense that the local community relishes its annual opportunity to play Hollywood. And though showcase planners de-emphasized the competition aspect of the event -- using the phrase "readers' choice," in lieu of "winner," for example -- the venue was full of a lot of nervous musicians who fidgeted and smoked their way through the forty-minute set from the Hazel Miller Band that preceded the award announcements. And so, ladies and gentlemen, the winners/ picks/whatever are: Nina Storey in Blues; Slim Cessna's Auto Club in Country/ Bluegrass (A mysterious Mr. Pink accepted on Slim's behalf and credited the band's continued success to a history of Club members bedding women in the backseat of a Chevy); Vitamin D in the first-ever DJ/Dance/ Electronica; Yo, Flaco! in Eclectic (the band also grabbed the Best of Showcase write-in award); Dotsero in Jazz (I suspect Ron Miles's feelings won't be toohurt); Brethren Fast in Rock/Pop (Brethren -- which has won in Rockabilly and other categories in years past -- expressed relief that it was finally properly categorized as a rock band; its grouping with other popular rock/pop acts like Opie Gone Bad and six-time Showcase nominee Space Team Electra made the category a pretty formidable one); the Hillbilly Hellcats in Roots; Blister66 in Punk/Hard Rock (the band's acceptance speech included a pledge to be as unapologetic and disgusting as possible -- no wonder they're such crowd-pleasers!); Wendy Woo in Singer/Songwriter; and Rainbow Sugar in Hip-Hop (a surprise win that seemed to miff some audience members who had presumably anticipated that Kingdom would again sweep the category). Hazel Miller was honored at length as part of her induction into the Westword Music Showcase Hall of Fame -- an award she received for being a five-time winner in the blues category. With their wins this year, the Hillbilly Hellcats and Brethren Fast are eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. We might have to erect a pyramid soon to house this thing.