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Backwash

Wishing for a perfect world.

Ah, well, another election come and gone. Come January, Mr. What's-His-Name will start having his L.L. Bean catalogues forwarded to Pennsylvania Avenue and commence boring us on TV. All in all, the campaign was a generally dull affair, but it had its moments. We got to see George W. Bush talk about snorting coke and driving drunk; we got to laugh at that embarrassing photo of Al Gore's perceptible package on the cover of Rolling Stone; and we got to watch Ralph Nader's appearance at the Paramount Theatre last week -- a rally that positioned the quintessential punk-rock politician on the same stage that Tom Waits and Lou Reed have both graced recently. Ralph worked the crowd into a foamy lather with his impassioned speech as he presented the Green Party line -- a platform with enough anti-establishment sentiment to suggest that, had life dealt him another deck, Nader would have been a member of the Clash.

Alas, Nader didn't get the job. While there are a few people in Boulder who find this truly surprising, for the rest of us, it's just another grim reminder that it ain't a perfect world. And it ain't a just one, either. If it were, Britney Spears wouldn't have enough money to power a small island while brilliant musicians accept their fates as counter boys at Der Wienerschnitzel; Nader would be president (or at least available as a dinner guest); parking would be free and abundant; FM radio wouldn't create a feeling of abject terror; beer would flow like water; and someone would figure out a way to use the gaseous emissions of prepubescent boys to fix the hole in the ozone. While we're at it, the following might also happen:

NGomA, the excellent Denver hip-hip duo led by Robert "Dap" Woolfolk IIand Maurice R. "Reece" Smithwould receive a personal phone call from Russell Simmons, wherein the Def Jam founder (who drives a big-assMercedes, by the way, as Backwash discovered after a chance sighting in New York City) would offer to be their personal manager. With Simmons at their side, the band would receive a fat recording contract from Rawkus Records, the label of artists such as Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek (see story, page 86), and offers to tour with its peers in the underground hip-hop world, not as a warm-up act -- which nGomA will proudly be when it opens for Common on Friday, November 24, at the Paramount Theatre -- but as a headliner.

It could happen. It should happen. Since it was formed in 1996, nGomA has proven that it is a legitimate part of a musical movement that transcends its zip code. Its debut CD, Collage Mindstate, was selected as one of 1996's finest recordings by Westword.The band then proceeded to top that disc with its new release, Do U No?, a fine, fine full-length CD produced by Smith (who demonstrated a real aptitude as the engineer of Apostle's Last of a Dying Breed, which featured more production tricks than a trolley tour of Universal Studios). The recording, which does a fine job of encapsulating the individual charms and variations of each MC and the palpable energy between the two, can quite honestly stack up against offerings from national and buzzed-about hip-hop groups like People Under the Stairs, the Jungle Brothers and Dilated Peoples. Same goes for the band's live performances, where the pair's rhymes have recently been augmented by a live band that includes a stand-up bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer and a scratch DJ named 120. And though nGomA has yet to be fully assimilated into Denver's hip-hop culture -- in part because what they do falls outside of its alternately gangster-influenced and jazz-fusiony-rockish splinter groups -- it's started to get some of the attention it deserves: Last March, nGomA was one of the few hip-hop acts invited to participate in the SXSW music fest in Austin, Texas; a few magazines and radio stations around the country have taken note here and there; and the band has been invited onto the bills of major touring acts like the Roots and the Spitkickers crew. So slowly, surely, things are happening, including this: On Friday, November 10, nGoma will host a CD-release party at the Soiled Dove. Admission is $5, and it's worth it. Be there or be sorry.

In a perfect world, you might also have heard more from Eric Shiveley and the Shive-Tones, a fine new outfit that has just released Everything Is Good, a moody, understated and emotive effort that recalls everything from Toad the Wet Sprocket (though the Shiv's take on sensitive-man melodicism is infinitely more enjoyable than those reptilian rockers), the Byrds and Eponymous-era REM. Shiveley's a fine songwriter, and he's helped in his efforts by an able band: drummer Kenny James ("yes, the Kenny James," Shiveley notes in his press materials), guitarist Al Fitzgerald (ex-Doghouse Daddies), bassist David Sweeney (ex-Doppler Circus) and keyboardist Rob Flatland (who comes with the most unique recommendation we've heard in a while: He played for years as part of a burlesque outfit, in Alaska). The Shive-Tones will perform on Wednesday, November 15, at Herman's Hideaway as part of that venue's New Talent Showcase.

Finally, in a truly perfect world, Backwash wouldn't even have to make the following announcement: Friends and peers of Cynthia Stahl, the well-known and well-liked local jazz singer who was recently diagnosed with cancer, are hosting a benefit in her honor on Sunday, November 12, at the Manhattan Grill in Cherry Creek North, located at 231 Milwaukee Street. Food will be provided by a variety of upscale Denver eateries, and music from some of the area's finest jazz artists, including Ellyn Rucker, Lannie Garrett, Eric Gunnison, Mary Ann Moore, Rob Henry, Jodi Janek and more, will run from noon to midnight. A minimum donation of $20 is required for admittance. Those who can't attend may send their wishes -- and money -- to the Cynthia Stahl Faithful Trust, c/o Paine Webber, 370 17th Street, #4100, Denver 80202. Checks should be made payable to Catherine Stahl Scheuber.

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