Backwash

Goodbye, Dolly! COMA’s president steps down as a new guard moves in.

Dolly Zander recognizes the mailman making the rounds on the 1000 block of Sherman Street, where we sit drinking coffee on a recent morning: He's so-and-so, the former guitarist for such-and-such, a band that played around town for a while but dropped from sight years ago. In his regulation blues, he looks about as rock and roll as Bob Hope, but Dolly's got him pegged.

Zander has an uncanny ability to pick musicians out of a crowd, the way some people see spirits or spot turkeys squatting in the straw. She's not a clairvoyant; rather, her knowledge of Denver's musical who's who springs from a well of experiences she's acquired as the local scene's perpetual Girl Friday. Zander's spent more than two decades working in and around music in Denver -- collaborating with local promoters, helping baby bands craft the language of their first licensing contracts, and performing other tasks ad infinitum (including overseeing many of the organizational aspects of the Westword Music Showcase). Amazingly, she never seems to tire of it. Not most of it, anyway.

In 1999, Zander was the driving force behind the formation of the Colorado Music Association, the largest not-for-profit music organization of its kind in the state, now rolling with a membership of more than 1,000. For two years, she served as COMA's president, handling duties that ranged from hosting the group's monthly meetings (currently held at the Soiled Dove) to launching a benign guerrilla promotional campaign. If you spot a COMA sticker -- bearing that unmistakable black circle fashioned to look like an old '78 -- slapped on a newspaper box or in a shop window somewhere, chances are it was Zander's busy hand that placed it there. Her enthusiasm for COMA has no doubt contributed to the fact that the group has thrived while others, like the Rocky Mountain Music Association, from which COMA originally sprang, have dissolved.

But when COMA announced its new board of directors late last month, Zander's name was conspicuous by its absence. She had removed herself from the pool of nominees, leaving a vacancy that would be filled by David Barber, another prominent COMA member who handles PR for a number of local bands as well as Herman's Hideaway. But while the new board is six strong -- other members include Tommy Nahulu of LMNOP Colorado and Jeff Campbell, the rapper and activist also known as Apostle -- Zander's formal break is likely to cause some separation anxiety for local musicians who've come to regard her as a kind of musical den mother. Judging from her current projects, though, Zander clearly isn't going into hiding, just shedding the more mundane tasks of her former presidency. She's currently working to finish up COMA's long-awaited local-scene directory (expected sometime before the end of the year); serving on the Denver City Council task force that's reconsidering Denver's cabaret licensing (a committee organized after the recent debacle over all-ages concerts); working on both a "How To" section of the COMA Web site and a brochure detailing the group's offer of free bar codes to members; and coordinating MusicFest 2002, a conference of musicians and music-industry types tentatively slated for May. (Among other things, Zander is exploring how MusicFest could serve as an adjunct to the Westword Music Showcase.)

"Leaving [COMA] was the only way to get out from under all of the menial stuff," she says. "People don't step forward, and everything, everything, everything trickled down to me. When we first started, the idea was that it would be a great idea to have this source where people with practical questions could look for answers. 'Hey, I've got this great band name. How do I make sure it's not copyrighted?' 'How do I write a contract?' But instead, everyone would go to me as the source. More calls than before we started. This way, I'll have a chance to focus my energy more. It's a positive thing all the way around.

"I think I'm pretty cool about letting it go," she adds, "Right now I'm sorting through everything; we're transitioning. And the more you get into it, the more you realize how much you did, the more you respect yourself for your hard work. I think it's a door that can't be slammed. It has to be eased shut."

No doubt plenty of players will come a-knocking before it's finally closed. In the meantime, COMA carries bravely on: The organization will host its next meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, August 19, at the Soiled Dove, 1949 Market Street.


They say wine is fine, but liquor is quicker. And although "bourbon" doesn't rhyme with anything handy, it's probably the new beverage of choice for the five members of Battery Park. Last month the Denver band won the Northwestern regional finals of the Jim Beam Rock Band Search, an annual contest that's sponsored by the Tennessee distillery and overseen by such industry folk as Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens. So what does this mean for J. Brown, Kevin Linderman, James Reed, Chaz Smith and Joe Stone, the young lads in question? If Battery Park wins the national finals -- where it will compete against four bands representing various regions of the U.S. -- on Friday, August 24, at the Gothic Theatre, it will inherit a whole lotta goodies, including a $2,000 equipment budget, a slot in next year's South By Southwest showcase in Austin, and a gig on a five-date tour, opening for a yet-to-be-disclosed act. That's not a bad little booty; perhaps those Band on the Run folks should up their ante. And if history is any indicator, Battery Park has more than a fighting chance: Last year Yo, Flaco! took the prize. Maybe it's something in the water, er, whiskey?

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