Thunder Roll

The Volts have lit up Denver stages with their rock-and-roll power -- and caused a few blowouts along the way.

There are several versions of exactly what happened inside the Cricket on the Hill on Saturday, September 8, at 12:30 a.m., but the popular version goes like this: The guy from the Volts got on stage, threw beer bottles at people and then got beat up outside.

The Pin Downs, a local all-girl rock band, were playing a set when they called out to him -- the guy from the Volts, that is -- to join them on stage and sing "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by the Stooges. When the music started, he became so moved by the rock, as he is known to do, that he began jerking and vibrating across the stage. He kicked his feet out spasmodically in flares, waved his arms wildly at the crowd and flopped around on the floor like a fish in dirt.

Then he spotted a vacant cocktail table in front of the stage, topped with empty Budweiser bottles and glasses. He didn't like what he saw. Those glasses, he figured, had to go.

Now they're playing with power (from left): Brandon Richier, J.R. Spiegel, Carlos Becerra and Cesar Gomez are the Volts.
Now they're playing with power (from left): Brandon Richier, J.R. Spiegel, Carlos Becerra and Cesar Gomez are the Volts.

So he kicked the table out from underneath, turning it over and sending bottles and glasses flying into the crowd. Glass crashed on the floor and jagged pieces hit people sitting at the remaining tables -- people who were becoming very upset with this guy from the Volts. One woman grabbed an ashtray and flung it straight into his face, like a Frisbee.

Another person who got pricked by glass was a large jocko wearing a tank top. Jocko didn't care much for his new injuries. And so Jocko, not one to take the act of aggression lightly, tackled his enemy on stage and threw him to the ground.

But the guy kept singing, like it didn't matter one bit. He kept clutching his microphone, screaming into it even though he was getting slapped to the ground.

When Jocko finally let up, the guy from the Volts plunged off the stage -- still singing -- and into the seating area, which was mostly empty now (the crowd got had gotten wise and backed up to the bar). Then he grabbed their abandoned drinks and started lobbing them at the crowd.

Jocko and his buddies didn't find the bottle-tossing amusing at all. They were getting ready to kick some ass, right there, on stage. They waited for him to finish the song, though.

And again, this is where people tell the story a little differently -- some say he was thrown out, some say he was chased out -- but everyone agrees that the guy from the Volts left the bar immediately after he was done singing his song. Jocko and his drunk friends followed him, working the bar into a frenzy as they knocked over chairs, bottles, people.

As it turned out, when Jocko caught up to him in the doorway outside Gabor's, the bar next door to the Cricket, Jocko was too drunk to punch, and his target was too quick to get hit.

Now, the bouncers and bartenders back inside the Cricket didn't want to go through this again. Last year a bar fight had broken out during a Denver Joe show and left a man stabbed, and bloodied, on the floor. So the bouncers and bartenders immediately turned off the Pin Downs' amps, cleared out the boozers and closed down the bar.

The people who were forced out of the Cricket hoped to flow right into Gabor's. But like the Cricket, Gabor's didn't want to serve a surly crowd. With all the people, tension and confusion crowding the thin sidewalk in front of the two bars on 13th Street, Gabor's decided to shut their doors, too. Then the cops showed up and told everyone to go home.

It wasn't quite 12:45 a.m. and two of Capitol Hill's most popular bars were closed.

All told, the guy from the Volts was on stage for three minutes. Maybefour.


Now, the guy from the Volts -- his real name is J.R. Spiegel -- is getting a reputation for starting shit when he gets that microphone in his hand. And his band, the Volts -- they're getting a reputation for starting shit when they put instruments in their hands. And all of this is for a good reason.

In 1996, a guy named Carlos Becerra moved from El Paso, Texas, to Fort Collins. He didn't have a good reason to move to Fort Collins, just did. Becerra was a punk and played his drums hard, but he was also a family man. He supported two kids and a wife, and worked in a cabinet shop as a machinist. At night, he played in cover bands that he didn't even like. He just enjoyed playing his drums.

Becerra had kept in touch with a high school friend named Cesar Gomez, a guitarist. Gomez had left El Paso around the same time as Becerra, but Gomez headed for Tucson, Arizona. Again, there was no good reason for Gomez to move to Tucson, but after all, like Becerra, he was coming from...El Paso.

Becerra urged Gomez to leave Tucson and come join him in Fort Collins, but not because he wanted to start another band; it was just for friendship's sake. When Gomez arrived, he moved in with Becerra's family and slept on the couch. While in Arizona, Gomez had tired of playing in the aimless bands, doing all the songwriting,jamming with uninspired drummers and dime-a-dozen bassists. Just like Becerra, Gomez was burned out on being in a band. He came to Colorado for a change of life.

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