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Backwash

This band lives -- and performs -- in a van down by the river.

You can learn a lot while circling LoDo searching for a parking spot on game day. For example, Backwash heard this factoid on NPR just the other day: Colorado is the sixth most-visited state in North America, attracting tourists from far and wide who've heard tales about the splendor of our purple-mountain majesty, crystal-clear waters and friendly, ruddy peoples. Yet -- tourist or not -- one needn't carry around a field guide in order to glean certain anthropological tidbits about this region or the behavior and customs of some of its inhabitants. Nope, sometimes all you have to do is take a look around and let your eyes be your guide to the wondrous creatures that populate the Front Range. To wit:

When in lovely downtown Boulder, Colorado, it is not at all unusual to see a pair of young men banging on drums and making music inside some sort of large vehicle, typically a van. It is also not unusual for said van to appear as if it doubles as a home to the aforementioned drum-bangers/music-makers. And the observer should not be surprised to discover the presence of a dog, or to witness large plumes of smoke ascending from within the vehicle's cramped core.

It is, however, somewhat unusual if that music is being made with a full drum set (not the leather bound, hand-held variety favored by many van dwellers), an electric bass and a five-string guitar; it's stranger still if the sounds are then amplified via a makeshift PA system that's sucking power from a large, portable generator. If the smoke you smell originates not in a little green bowl but in a smoke machine, or if the vehicle is stationed in or around places other than parks, campsites, shops or bars with names like "Jack Straw's," proceed cautiously. For you are most likely in the presence of Friends Forever, a Denver-based duo that mainly confines its live appearances to the interior of its van/home. In the two years of the band's life, the members (known only as guitarist/bassist/sampler-man Josh and drummer Nate) have committed more drive-bys than the staff of Death Row Records -- assaulting the innocent with their often uninvited noise.

The Friends -- who got together after the breakup of the Secret Girls, a four-piece they formed after meeting in a California high school at age fifteen -- have terrorized fans of Hovercraft, the Boredoms and other indie must-see acts that frequent the Fox and Bluebird theaters, as well as the oblivious masses who shop at good, old-fashioned American institutions like megastores and toy shops. In rare instances, the bandmembers have lured nubile young women into their automechanical lair and enticed them to disrobe.

"We're fortunate that we can pick up on groupies really easily. We try to have as many naked ladies around as possible," says Josh. "I think it just goes along with the whole spirit of the band. I mean, how many bands can say they've played in front of a Kmart, with a big sign that says KILL!' on it?"

A pondersome question, indeed. (Maybe NPR has the stats.)

Friends Forever currently resides in the same mysterious musical realm as its sister act, Rainbow Sugar, and the other curio artists who have recently been observed smashing computer screens and manning kissing booths at the Wonderground warehouse at the corner of Speer and Zuni. Part-time Southern Californians, Josh and Nate are guarded about the strange force that drives their work. Is it a Ford or a Chevy? "Yes," they answer in unison. And do they obtain permission from venues before rolling up to a nightclub and conducting their own concert for the benefit of the people on the sidewalk? "We don't have a problem going over a venue's head, and I don't think there are many venues that would argue with that." As for the music they make, Josh and Nate are equally evasive, saying only that they enjoy making "wacky weird stuff" and are not at all opposed to playing any ol' style. "Sometimes, we'll do some teen pop," Josh says slyly.

Wacky, weird stuff is most certainly on the bill -- and the street -- when Friends Forever "opens" the show for the Melvins and Gat Hustle at the Fox Theatre on Thursday, June 8, a gig they swear is Melvins-approved. The Friends first established a minor palship with King Buzzo and the rest of the crew in California in 1989; later this month, they plan to hop on the band's tour route for impromptu performances along the way. Before they take their act -- and their home -- on the road, though, the band will reunite with the other former Secret Girls (Jen Keyser and Ben Brunton) for the first time in five years, for a show on Friday, June 16, at Casa Bonita.

Of course, no one seems to have told this to the people at Casa Bonita. A conversation Backwash had with a woman who answered the Casa phone went something like this:

"Hi, do you ever have live music there?"

"Yes, every night, absolutely. We have Mariachis."

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