Backwash

A wake of high decibels.

It might have seemed like a mini-metal marathon last week, when an unusually dense lineup of some of Denver's more hard-hitting bands took the stage at Sports Field Roxxx, the East Colfax venue that has become one of the city's metal meccas: One by one, the musicians assaulted crowds with screaming guitars, bombastic drums and lyrics that, more often than not, reflected confusion, even rage. In the crowded venue jammed with musicians both on and off the stage, the sets from A Band Called Horse, Rogue, Blister66, Tirade, Full Circle and No Particular Orderwere ferocious -- angst and aggression at very high decibels.

If the bands played with increased intensity, it was because the evening itself had taken on a higher purpose. It was a kind of wake for a music scene trying to make sense of the loss of one of its own: Vince Stott, the 31-year-old vocalist and lyricist for TyFoid Mary, who was killed in a car accident on Friday, July 20. It was music as catharsis, music as tribute, music as a way to grapple with some of life's larger questions. For Stott's friends and fans, there were still plenty of those. Such as, What caused the single-car accident on Highway 85 that night? What will become of TyFoid Mary, an ambitious young band that seemed poised to join the upper ranks of the city's heavy-music scene? And, what happens to a community when one of its own is suddenly disappeared, just...gone?

The first question can be answered -- as such things can be found in reports, witness accounts, evidence -- but not fully. Stott was driving alone on Highway 85 in Commerce City following a show in Brighton. Stott had left the gig early and was headed home when, just after 11:30 p.m., his Nissan pickup veered to the left of the southbound lane, struck the median and flipped over. He was ejected from the truck and killed instantly. According to a spokesperson in the Commerce City police department, Stott was not wearing a seat belt. Though friends and supporters initially said they suspected Stott had fallen asleep at the wheel -- he was tired when he left the venue -- paramedics and police both reported smelling alcohol on his breath. In a single-car accident, authorities usually don't perform tests to determine blood-alcohol levels, and they didn't in this case. But as anyone who attends shows knows, it's sometimes all too tempting to just get in one's car and go when it's time to head home. Shows start early and end late, alcohol is consumed to pass the time and sometimes served to bands as payment. Occasionally we take the risk, brave the road. Screw the seat belt, roll the window down and turn the tunes up. Maybe this was Stott's thinking as he pulled his truck onto Highway 85. Maybe not.

It's probably too soon to even venture an answer to the other questions. TyFoid Mary had recently completed the recording of its first album, Symptoms, and signed a distribution deal with the Loveland-based indie label, Hapi Skratch Records. Since forming in November, the band had started appearing on bills with some of the city's most popular hard-rock bands, coming up quickly as a kind of ambitious younger brother act to Blister66, A Band Called Horse and others. Much of the band's appeal, fans say, came from Stott, a physical, energetic performer who crafted a kind of searching poetry in his lyrics; samples can be found on the band's Web site at tyfoidmary.com.

"He was my favorite new rock singer in Colorado," says Hapi Skratch head Morris Beegle. "He was a very thought-provoking lyricist and I can see people pondering and dissecting things he said for some time to come." Beegle says that his company will pursue the album's promotion with even more vigor, distributing it for free and donating all proceeds to Stott's family in Montana. (The album is now available via hapiskratch.com, and it will soon appear on cdnow.com and bn.com.) Last week's show at Sports Field Roxxx was a benefit for the family; another benefit is scheduled for Saturday, August 4, at the House of Rock in Thornton. (At press time, the lineup was not available.) Stott's bandmembers are exploring ways to publish or release some of his writings collected over the past eight years.

Who knows if Stott would've found success in music, however it's defined these days: an audience outside of Denver, a recording contract, etc. The overwhelming number of acts, in his genre and all others, with their eyes on the very same prize suggests probably not. But it could've happened. As the charismatic heart of a local band in its infancy, Stott was a part of something perhaps more important -- more human -- than all that. He was part of a scene that demonstrates a somewhat unusual tendency toward unity, support. Maybe it's the shared understanding that metalheads sometimes have to scrape along and band together for respect. Whatever part Stott played in the local heavy-metal realm, it's clear -- in the Web sites constructed by fellow musicians in his honor, in the money donated to his family, in the crowd that showed up at Sports Field Roxxx to show their respect -- that his death hit unexpectedly and painfully, like a wall of distortion. It's clear, also, that he will be missed.

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