The Pajama Game

With its skewed approach to power pop, Sketch colors outside of the lines.

"It kind of depends on where we play," he says. "When we played in Wyoming, this chick came up to me after the show and said, 'It's great to see a heavy-metal band in here.'"

Outside of Casper, however, this isn't likely to be viewed as heavy metal. The band now reheats only a few leftovers from the days of hair and spandex. The sound is peppier, as the guys aren't ashamed of flaunting harmonious hooks. Okay, so it probably falls under the same umbrella as the power pop frequently seen on MTV, but Sketch makes sure that the fun outshines the formula.

(Quick note: While some of these tunes do have the sound of Buzz Bin fodder, Sketch has actually already made its television debut: "I Wish You Were Asian" and five other songs from Fight theDJ and 1997's Superhero were used on Shasta McNasty, UPN's short-lived Jake Busey/Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer vehicle.)

Badly drawn boys: Sketch gets ready to karate-chop listeners with its aggressive pop sound.
Badly drawn boys: Sketch gets ready to karate-chop listeners with its aggressive pop sound.

Sketch doesn't rely on sonic luster alone to engage an audience. "People don't only hear with their ears," says Parks. "People hear with their eyes." To that end, Sketch's members have not worn street clothes to a gig in quite some time. Allen began wearing pajamas to the shows before the move to Denver. Ames soon followed suit, and Parks corralled himself some nocturnal duds immediately after joining the band.

"It's interesting and it's different," Ames says. "We all started wearing them, and we thought, 'What can we do to make it more exciting?' So we put a chair up there with lamps and just created a kind of bedroom scene."

"We do a lot of nice bedtime stories," jokes Allen.

"We've had so many people heckle us and then apologize," says Parks. "'Sorry, man, but I just assumed you'd suck because of the pajamas.' People always change their minds."

One totem of the live Sketch show has gone by the wayside: the armchair in which the band invited audience members to park themselves and relax. "We've broken like three or four of them," says Allen. "I get up and jump on them. We retired the last chair because somebody was sitting on it and it was poking their ass."

Armchairs aside, Sketch has continued to broaden the scope of its on-stage act, investing $2,000 in a lighting setup last year. The band also has a box full of fireworks that were intended for a 2000 gig. Unfortunately, they never saw ignition, aside from the few that singed Ames's hand in a test that went awry. "I'm ready to blow shit up," says Allen of the dormant pyrotechnics.

When Sketch first got started in Colorado, the band targeted the under-21 crowd, aligning itself with high school bands and renting out venues for all-ages events. That chapter of Sketch's history is now closed. "All these kids on our mailing list moved away and went to college," says Ames. Additionally, local promoters didn't take kindly to the band's strategy, as it failed to contribute a dime to booze sales.

"I put too much pressure on every show," recalls Ames. "It just got to be a big headache, and that's pretty much when we started touring out of state." That was four years ago, when Sketch first started regularly booking gigs outside of Colorado. Today, thanks to hard work and flexible bosses at their day jobs, the band is able to leave town almost at the drop of a hat. (Allen and Ames work in sales at Nordstrom -- which is how the bassist was able to afford his new Suburban -- and Parks works with developmentally disabled people in Longmont.) "Whatever job you're holding at the time, you just have to bust your ass extra hard to earn that right to go out," says Parks. "I put in a lot of hours while I'm here."

Sketch's persistent touring has produced both positive and negative memories. A recent gig in Cripple Creek stands out as a poignant example of the latter: The venue provided the band with a complimentary hotel room and, from the sound of it, the management was expecting the Who.

"The room had no phone, no TV, no alarm clock," says Allen.

"The closets were all locked with padlocks," adds Ames. "We knew we were in trouble when we went to the bar to see if they had the keys and [the bartender] said, 'Oh, it should be unlocked.'"

Ames points to the band's festival gig with his stadium-rock heroes, Cheap Trick, as a highlight. "That was the best show," he says. "I was right on the side of the stage when they were playing." Parks also gives high marks to the Cheap Trick show, as well as to opening for Motor City Madman Ted Nugent in Denver.

With a plan to start recording a followup to Fight the DJin May, Sketch intends to keep peppering its schedule with one- to two-week road swings and the occasional local show. Sketch signed on with a local booking agent in March, heightening the band's ability to tour.

"I really think the road has made Sketch what it is," says Parks. "With the scene here, the attitude toward our music, we probably would have given up a long time ago."

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