Backwash

Teetering on the edge of oblivion, COMA gets a wake-up call from its members.

Although the patient isn't comatose, its condition isn't particularly stable, either.

At a state-of-the-union-style meeting on Sunday, January 19, Colorado Music Association president Tommy Nahulu and the five other members of COMA's board of directors took the stage at the Soiled Dove to respond to questions and criticism and defend the organization's very existence. It was, at times, a staggering bore, with discussion topics ranging from bar-coding for CD releases to the tax policies that govern the nonprofit group -- not exactly sexy stuff for a rock-and-roll crowd. Many of those in attendance were first-timers, bandmembers who endured the session with the same stoic detachment normally found in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

But the meeting also gave COMA's board plenty to chew on. Over the past year, the group's membership has dwindled from over 1,000 to just 600. And at one point, a new member took the floor to pose this simple question: What is it that COMA does for musicians, exactly?

It was a fair inquiry, and Nahulu hesitated before responding. The grassroots networking group was founded in 1999 with a pretty clear vision -- essentially, to create opportunities for musicians to improve their lives and careers and learn from one another's mistakes and victories -- but that vision has become clouded in recent months. Nahulu conceded that COMA had blown the group's much-labored-over member directory, which was finally unveiled -- warts, typos and all -- late last year. But you can only expect so much from an all-volunteer organization, he said, making repeated appeals for members' empathy. And when fellow boardmember Russ Green told the crowd that COMA's primary goal was "to support local music, which is very general," it became very clear very quickly that this lack of focus is one of COMA's major flaws.

It also presents opportunity, however. As one longtime member suggested, COMA can be valuable even if it simply creates a social outlet for people who bond over more than just music. "All I ever do when I come to these meetings is drink," she said, laughing, beer in hand. Later, she assured unconvinced newbies that, sober or otherwise, COMA's monthly meetings are the best place to meet potential bandmates, booking agents, journalists and songwriters.

Reprising a suggestion from meetings past, some speakers brought up the idea of opening chapters in other cities, such as Fort Collins or Colorado Springs. (A well-intentioned but nearly laughable notion, considering the difficulty COMA's having with just one city.) Other goals articulated during the session also had the ring of the familiar: By now, we all know that COMA wants to put Colorado music on the map, whatever that means. But for the organization to survive and be at all relevant to the music professionals it was created to support, it has to come up with new reasons for its Denver members to stick around. Otherwise, the diagnosis is pretty grim.


Damnation. There's a lot happening this week. So let's get to it, shall we?

Jet Black Joy has refined the art of the ass-tear in its live show, with scorching hard-rock homages to iconic headbangers like Lemmy and Bon Scott. But on Friday, January 24, at the Lion's Lair, Jimmy Jet, the band's singer, turns down and straps up for an acoustic tribute to the late Joe Strummer, who moved from here to eternity on December 22. News of the Clash founder's death was somewhat buried in all those updates on the holiday hustle and reports on declining Wal-Mart sales; still, it's never too late to memorialize one's heroes. Appropriately, Jet will send him out with a strum....

Maris the Great proves that he couldn't stay in hiding for long. After a nearly three-month hiatus, Denver's reigning monster master and Webmaster emerges from the bat cave, or wherever the hell it is that gay zombies go to hide, refreshed and ready to present another "Four Stupid Mortal Bands That Will Die" bill. Tripcage, Brutal Infliction, Switchpin and Cannibal Sex Party take the stage at Sportsfield Roxxx on January 24, possibly for the last time: Maris has pledged to eat the brains of each player soon after they exit the stage, though hopefully not before they have the option of participating in the aforementioned sex party....Tinker's Punishmentwill take a three-month break from Denver audiences as well, but not in order to rest: The four-man pop quartet heads out for the second leg of its first big tour, a cross-country jaunt supporting the release of last year's Zero Summer. See the lads off when the band performs a warm-up show at the Gothic Theatre, also January 24....We're not sure whether to thank the gallery owners and museum curators, or the artists and musicians -- but a lot of Denver art spaces have been adding music to their exhibition programs lately. Both the Denver and Boulder museums of contemporary art have begun hosting performances, and more and more bands and sound artists have been invited to take part in First Friday-like festivities throughout the city. We don't want to jinx anything or reveal a cowtown-like naiveté, but this kind of thing has a thoroughly progressive feel to it. (Maybe it's just an accident?) The Cordell Taylor Gallery continues the happy trend on Thursday, January 23, when multimedia sculptor Zach Smith presents a batch of experimental and free-form pieces -- sprung from the Zachatronic Lab -- to complement his current exhibition, "Liquid Antibody." The revolving-door collective They Will Use Your Bones for Tools, led by former Blue Ontario members John Parks and Jason Heller (who also composes for Westword as a music writer), will perform in the gallery as well. Arté, arté....The Blue Mule, a trans-genred live-music club opening in the subterranean Market Street space formerly occupied by Brendan's Pub, found a donkey in its path on the way to opening. The venue's original launch date of Wednesday, January 15, was pushed back a week after owners were notified that their liquor license hadn't been cleared by the State of Colorado. (The 150 or so partygoers who turned up for the club's maiden voyage were entertained at Croc's, a "Mexican food restaurant" that sits above the Mule.) Fortunately, the venue seems to have its talent roster, if not its paperwork, in order: Former Herman's Hideaway/ Soiled Dove booking manager Sharon Rawlesis shaping the room's calendar, which so far includes shows from Wendy Woo, on Friday, January 25, and Potemkin Square (formerly the Ryan Tracy Band), which performs Saturday, January 26.

You now have absolutely no excuse for sitting on your couch.

 
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