The Beatdown

Kiss me, I’m a rock star -- at least for one night.

Welcome to my nightmare.

I'll admit it: I'm a buzz-kill of Ebenezer proportions. I've never been a huge fan of Halloween, not as a kid and especially not as an adult. It's just another stupid, man-made, commercialized celebration of nothing. Really, what good is a holiday if you don't get the day off?

Besides, I don't need fabricated fear when there are plenty of real things that send shivers up my spine on a daily basis. The Recording Industry Association of America, which files ill-conceived lawsuits against twelve-year-old kids and grandmas in an attempt to send a message. The fact that the recording industry is run by accountants rather than artists. The mere concept of corporate rock, all that sanitized and safe pabulum intended for SUV-driving soccer moms and stockbrokers. Rock wasn't meant to be pretty, with shiny shirts and leather pants; it was meant to be dangerous, more Stooges and Motörhead, less Creed and Nickelback. I'm terrified at the thought that people actually like that kind of shit.

So no, I don't need props to make my heart race. Still, there's one part of Halloween that I look forward to: dressing up and acting like someone else -- Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, whomever you please -- for an entire day. How freaking cool is that?

So of all the entertainment options this weekend -- and there are lots of them -- the one I'm most looking forward to has nothing to do with kids or candy, and it doesn't even take place on Halloween proper. But it will let me pretend -- if only for three minutes on only one night -- that I'm a rock star, baby, straight-up '80s style, rockin' it like Dokken, getting twisted like sister.

I'm talking about Suburban Home's Third Annual Monsters of Mock this Saturday, November 1, at the Gothic Theatre. In what has become almost a rite of fall, half a dozen local rockerstars will perform sets paying tribute to (or mocking) the giants of metal: Guns N' Roses (performed by members of Shogun, One Dying Wish and Contender), Van Halen (with members of Line of Descent, Endgame and the Tasty Thieves) and AC/DC (with members of Murder Scene Clean Up Team). And my Gene Simmons outfit isn't the only thing that will be pulled out of mothballs for this show: The cult classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot (filmed in 1986 outside a Judas Priest concert in Maryland) is slated to be screened. The night is capped by heavy-metal karaoke, performed by all the wannabe rockers in the house and backed by a live band, the Moor-heads. These amateurs will have nearly fifty songs to choose from, by the likes of AC/DC, Dokken, KISS, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Ratt, Van Halen and more, and watching them go at it will probably be ten times more entertaining than seeing this stuff the first time around.

For those who prefer a less interactive affair but still wanna rock, there's Riff Magazine's Rock in' Freak Fest at Fat City on Friday, October 31. Hosted by Uncle Nasty and Maris the Great, the fest will feature 24 of the best bands in the area (Yo, Flaco!, Drug Under, Carolyn's Mother, ION, King Rat, Rubber Planet, 8 Bucks Experiment, Rogue, Tyfoid Mary, Plastic Parachute, Dr. Neptune, Esovae, the Commodes and more) performing on three stages. And since the concert is all-ages, this is a great chance for younger fans to catch some of the acts that they've only read about until now. Oh, yeah, if you have the stamina to last the night, Columbia recording artists Union Underground are headlining.

Across town on the same night, the Oriental Theatre is ground zero for Halloween Bash 2003 -- a less raucous event -- with music by Love.45 and Ben Park Drive; an exhibit showcasing five area photographers and artists; and a screening of Torsion Trinity, the latest from the local filmmakers at Monkey Angel Studio. Creepmongers, take note: If you've fantasized about being photographed in a coffin, a funeral coach will arrive at 6:45 p.m. to make that dream a reality.

If you're more about the groove than the ghouls, there are shows for you, too, on Friday night. AtmosFEAR, at the Sherman Street Event Complex, features DJs Tony Faline from Tampa, Michael Myers (really) from Philly and Gumbee from Vegas, not to mention a slew of local turntable technicians: Alan Endorfun, Dragon vs. Trajikk, X-Static and Alxander. Not to be outdone, Funky Buddha and 2AM Afterhours are tag-teaming for eight hours of chaos that's billed as Basement Sessions: Insanity Takes Control. From 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., DJ Tyler Stadius (Vancouver) will be mashing it up at the Buddha in his first Denver appearance; he'll be joined by residents Little Mike and Ryan Jaqua. Then at 1:30, the party moves to 2AM as Stadius delivers more twisted beats right on into All Saints' Day.

Mute memories start talking: It was April 1994, and I was sitting in my cubicle on the 26th floor of Arco Tower, listening to a static-filled clock radio, when I heard the news: Kurt Cobain was dead at the age of 27. I went numb. It was one of those "Where were you?" moments, when you involuntarily memorize everything around you. I was 23, still a little wide-eyed, and I'd yet to experience the death of someone I was close to -- even if only through his music.

Nearly a decade later, more people have died than I care to count, and life's done a good job of rounding off my edges. I've become desensitized and jaded. With the exception of Johnny Cash and Layne Staley, few recent deaths have had much impact on me.

But this past Wednesday, when I heard of Elliott Smith's passing, I felt the same way I did when Cobain died -- although this time for completely different reasons. Smith's music, especially the earlier material on Roman Candle and Either/Or, was so intimate that every time he opened his mouth, it seemed like a close friend was pouring out his soul in my living room.

But Smith was also a friend with whom I'd lost touch. Unlike almost everyone else, I didn't care for the glossy production on his later albums, on XO and Figure 8. And I never saw Smith when he came through Denver, because by then I was busy devoting my time to other musicians. Besides, I'd heard horror stories of his lackluster performances, and I didn't want to tarnish my earlier memories. And now, sadly, all I'm left with is regret and the beautiful mess he left behind. For more on Smith, see Brendan Kelley's piece on page 96.

Upbeats and beatdowns: Believe it or not, there are some worthy shows this week that don't require a costume. On Saturday, November 1, heads will be bobbin' to the sounds of anticon when Sage Francis, Sole and Alias hit the Boulder Theater. On Monday, November 3, KRS-One will be back in D-town to drop some science at You Night at the Soiled Dove. And on Thursday, November 6, the Fray will unleash its new EP, Reasons, a disc that continues to push me over the edge (Beatdown, October 16), at the Climax Lounge, with Like Young, Raised by Tigers and For the Holiday getting things started.

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