The Beatdown

“Nothing Else Matters,” especially when it comes to local music.

James Hetfield is a has-been. A washed-up, second-rate Lemmy.

You heard me. And Metallica is the metal equivalent of U2, which time has rendered as obsolete as pager technology. If you're still buying that shit that Hetfield and company are selling, you've been Metallipunk'd.

Sure, when I was a fresh-eyed doe, I used to Ride the Lightning between classes. Who didn't? Back then, I would have mowed every lawn in Northglenn for a chance to see Metallica. But something happened along the way: I grew older. So did the band, unfortunately. And instead of going out on a high note, it enlisted Bob Rock and continued making a Load of shitty coasters.

So on March 31, when my cell was blowing up with each of my friends posing the same question -- "Are you going to Metallica tonight?" -- I gave each the same terse answer: No. One of my friends was so incensed when he heard I wasn't already at the Pepsi Center, he dismissed me with a flippant "Oh, okay then, never mind. I'll talk to you later." Click.

He hasn't called me since.

There's no doubt the Metallicats can still play -- but that doesn't mean they should. And while I'm told they put on a pretty good show, pretty good is hardly worth dropping almost a C-note to see. Yeah, they played for nearly two and a half hours. Blah. Blah. Blah. Seriously, though, unless Robert Trujillo somehow managed to channel Cliff Burton and the band played Kill 'Em All through ...And Justice for All in their entirety, who really gives a rat's ass? Not me. At this point, going to see Metallica is a lot like showing up sober at a high school bash long after the keg has been drained. Party's over, Chief. Go home.

As a grownup, I've learned to appreciate the value of a dollar, especially when it comes to music.

Which is exactly why I was at the Fox Theatre last Wednesday night to see the Very Hush Hush, Tin Tin, Bright Channel and the Swayback. That was a bill worth seeing, and it didn't cost any eighty bucks. There are so many killer acts in Mootown right now, I'd much rather see indigenous talent than some overpriced, over-the-hill import. And I'm not alone in this sentiment.

At Rock Island, promoter Mike Barschhas put together a monthly series called "Soda Jerk Presents: Bands You Need to Know," which features all local outfits. The concept was birthed out of frustration, Barsch says. He's been booking shows since '96 and has seen firsthand how well national shows sell compared to local ones. "There's so many clubs, and they're all doing local bands," he explains. "And they're just sort of throwing these shows together and hoping for the best. Our goal with it is really to take the local show to another level."

Booking an all-local bill in a midsized venue is hardly a new concept -- Nobody in Particular has been putting together all-local shows at the Ogden, Bluebird and Gothic for years, as have the Atzlan and Oriental -- but Barsch is taking a different approach. His is a monthly showcase, with every band handpicked. "It's like all the shows we do; the attention to quality is there," he says. "We really want to give the ticket-buying public their money's worth. We answer to the fans, really." The fans, although few in number, certainly got their money's worth a few Fridays ago at an indie-themed night: The lineup of Black Black Ocean, Red Cloud, D. Biddleand the Royal Wewas nothing short of brilliant. (Barsch says previous shows have drawn upwards of 300 kids.) The next show, slated for Friday, April 23, will feature all female-fronted groups: Hemi Cuda, Matson Jones, the Affairs and Eyes Caught Fire.

Now Barsch's old friends at the Fox are exploring a similar concept in Boulder. Last Wednesday's show was the first in what Fox publicist Aimee Follette hopes will become a regular event. "I have a passion for seeing this kind of music come through," she says. "I pleaded with Eric Pirritt, the talent buyer up here, for three months: 'Give me a night to put this showcase together.'"

Follette's persistence paid off. The Fox was as packed as I've seen it in a long time -- although it probably didn't hurt that the show was free.

"I'm great friends with those guys," Barsch says with a laugh. "It sounds like maybe they took a page out of our book."

Indirectly, he's at least partially responsible for the Fox's local focus. Follette joined the venue late last fall, around the time that Tulagi, the room that Soda Jerk had been booking exclusively, was shuttered for unpaid taxes. Barsch's exodus from the People's Republic in search of a new home base left a gaping hole in the Boulder scene. Follette noticed how often she was coming down to Denver to see shows and realized that the Fox was in the perfect position to fill that void, especially with the support of Radio 1190 (which Barsch is working with, too.)

Follette's hunch was right. The crowd last week demonstrated a real demand for homegrown music. "I ended up going up to the Sundowner after the show with Bright Channel," she says, "and people were coming up to them saying, 'Wow, that show rocked.' People were thrilled."

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