The last gulp.

There's a lot of thrilling talent in this town. But there's also a lot of mediocrity, and a lot of myths. Despite the contentions of a whiny minority, the truth is that with nearly 200 places to play, any halfway decent band can get a gig. And if no one shows up to that gig, it's probably the fault of the artist -- not the club owner, not the vast media machine, not the fates, not even Clear Channel. Some very worthy music is overlooked, and that's a shame, but there's also a lot of music celebrated that's contrived, uninspired and lazy. Hardworking bands figure out ways to make things happen: For example, Colorado Springs's Accidental Superhero now sells thousands of its own records after building a huge fan base through the Internet. Some artists who were local just a few years ago have recently scored national coups: Dianne Reeves won a Grammy; Otis Taylor won the W.C. Handy Award, the blues world's equivalent of a Grammy; Dressy Bessy signed to Kindercore; Cephalic Carnage signed to Relapse; Open Road signed to Rounder; the String Cheese Incident built an empire; 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand leader David Eugene Edwards got even bigger in Europe. But some bands that looked like they'd get better never did; some that swore they were on the brink of a breakout in 1999 are still swearing. Other bands that were hugely popular when I started writing Backwash are still hugely popular -- and I still can't stand to listen to them for more than five minutes. John Denver and Big Head Todd remain our most familiar musical exports -- and John Denver didn't even start out in Colorado. Or with that name.

One of my best friends is getting ready for her second show with a band she formed this spring. I never see her anymore; it's worse than if she'd found a new boyfriend. She practices constantly, has already recorded and mixed a demo, and spends her evenings printing out tickets, designing fliers, working out chord progressions and sending out gig announcements. She knows the odds, but she's determined to make a successful go of life as a musician. I know the odds, too, but I can't help rooting for her. So I'll go to all of her shows, stand up tall in the crowd, nod to the rhythms and clap loudly when each song ends. I've got a sticker for her band on my refrigerator, next to a postcard painting of George Jones, a photo of Bob Dylan and a banner that reads "My Daughter and All My Money Go to the Larimer Lounge." I've come to the conclusion that these small gestures represent the best things anyone can do to support local music and the people who make it, personal friends or no.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I discovered that some of the employees in that bar on Colfax live together. They met each other in bands. In clubs. Bonded over hundreds of beers and thousands of conversations and a million vital questions: Could the MC5 (in its prime) take Kool and the Gang (in their prime) in a fistfight? Could Joan Jett beat up Chrissie Hynde? Music is the gravitational force that pulls them all together, the stuff of almost every exchange. It's more than what they listen to. And it's more than what they make when they sit down with a guitar, an amp and a notebook full of lyrics.

I've got my own opinions on who could take whom in the local ring, but I'll keep them to myself. Next week, Westword's new Backbeat editor, Dave Herrera, will be the one to weigh in on such subjects. I'll be writing for another section of the paper, because I know that there is more to life than music. There has to be, right? But at the time of this writing, with a cat on my lap and Dylan on my stereo, I can't imagine what, exactly, it might be.

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