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The Beatdown

We built this city on rock and roll.

Roll call at Denver City Council on Monday, April 5. Charlie Brown. Check. Jeanne Faatz, Rick Garcia, Michael Hancock. Check. Doug Linkhart, Kathleen MacKenzie, Judy Montero. Check. Rosemary Rodriguez, Elbra Wedgeworth and the Dalhart Imperials. Check.

What the -- ? The Dalhart Imperials?

Yessir. Among those present and accounted for on the fourth floor of the Denver City and County Building were Les Cooper and his boys, git-fiddles and accordion in hand, ready to start rockin' like a hurricane.

But first, a few words from the man who made it possible.

Cooper, like the rest of us, had been summoned to the council meeting by Marty Jones, Westword scribe, Pork Boilin' Poor Boy, sometime PR flack and full-time local-music evangelist. And Jones himself had graciously been granted floor time by council president Wedgeworth. So after we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance -- which I flubbed, since I haven't recited it since I was a Malley Mustang -- Wedgeworth introduced Jones, and he got straight down to business.

In his speech, which lasted what seemed like six seconds, Jones shared figures culled by music maven Dolly Zander that estimate that local music puts more asses in the city's seats than national acts at Red Rocks -- ten times as many. Local music outdraws the Broncos three to one and is nearly on par with the Rockies. But local music doesn't get the kind of respect in Denver that it does in Austin, where it's proved very lucrative.

"Thirty years ago," Jones reported, "a group of civic-minded musicians got together and said, 'What can we do to bring in more tax revenues and create a better life for our musicians?' One of the things they came up with was branding Austin the 'Live Music Capital of the World.' Thirty years later, Austin, Texas, is the live-music capital of the world."

While his speech before council was short, Jones is long on evidence backing up his proposal. According to "Texas Perspectives: The Role of Music in the Austin Economy," a report presented to the City of Austin in September 2001, the music scene there has created more than 11,000 jobs and generates $616 million in economic activity and over $11 million in city tax revenues annually.

"The reality is, local music is a far bigger economic engine than many of the things the city has celebrated forever," says Jones. "I'm just trying to shed some light on the fact of just how big the local music scene is. Because it does seem kind of silly, well, not silly -- but there's a disconnect when millions and millions of dollars get spent on things that draw a fraction of what local music draws. Imagine what local music could do with a little physical support."

Jones has crafted a fairly extensive proposal, suggesting little things the city could do to support local music. One of his ideas targets the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, which could actively market our music to out-of-state businesses, conventions and tourism groups. To help the bureau get started, Jones has even come up with a couple of slogans: "Music Capital of the Rockies," "We Put the Rock in the Rockies." (He may need to revisit the latter, since KBPI already "Rocks the Rockies.")

Other parts of the proposal call for featuring live music at Denver International Airport, city council meetings and other Denver events, as well as on local cable-access broadcasts (Channel 56 has already agreed to drop its DMX feed in favor of playing homegrown tunes, he says). Jones would also like to see the city produce a directory of local artists and music resources that would be distributed to film, TV, advertising, convention and event-planning companies. These ideas require a minimum investment for maximum return, he says: "If you look at it right now, there's all these bands in town that are essentially entrepreneurs of the finest sort, who collectively have this huge power. And they do it all without the support of the city."

In contrast, the Mayor's Office of Music Business Development in New Orleans actively promotes the scene in that city. New Orleans is helping musicians improve their business skills, providing tax incentives to support the recording industry and increasing its number of music-related conventions, among other things. And Jones isn't stopping with city governments, either. A Louisiana-based nonprofit called the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, founded in 1998 and sponsored by various charities and the LSU Health Care Network, is dedicated to offering "comprehensive health care to our community's most precious resource: our musicians." So far, it's offered such care to over 800 musicians. Jones would like to see the same concept repeated in Denver.

"If the city did some of these things, musicians would make more money, and people like Mary Flower wouldn't be moving," he says. "They'd get some health care, and it would also lure more musicians to town -- which might be a thing to fear among some of my peers, but I don't think so. If you're good, the cream rises to the top."

And Jones started at the top, approaching newly elected mayor John Hickenlooperat a concert last summer. "When I met Hickenlooper, he shook my hand and said, 'I'm going to be a foot soldier in your army,'" Jones recalls. "I'd seen him at the LoDo music fest; he was there to see X -- another very encouraging sign -- the night before his inauguration. He's all over it, and that's exciting."

A few weeks ago, Jones met with Wedgeworth to ask about having live performances at Monday council meetings. So far, she's agreed to feature local music once a month. "On the one hand, you could say, 'Well, that's not that big of a deal.' But I disagree," says Jones. "I think this might be the most dramatic, and by far the biggest, gesture that the Denver city government has ever made in honoring and recognizing local music. Part of the point of getting the music into city council is that that's where the politics take place, and there ought to be a shift in politics that recognizes and supports local music. The bottom line is that it pays for the city."

In the case of the Dalhart Imperials, it paid off with a delightful blend of heartbreaking honky-tonk for a group of citizens assembled to hear the usual zoning droning. And don't think Jones's jack move got past me: He made a shrewd choice in selecting the Dalharts, and I couldn't help but wonder if the message would have been as well received had Mike V. and Alien Pimp been throwing down.

As it was, with the exception of Wedgeworth and Brown, who sat back in his chair tapping his fingers together in Mr.-Burns-like delight, the rest of the councilmembers had that old deer-in-the-headlights look. Either those folks are the most stoic people on the planet, or they were as bored as fourth-graders during a reading of War and Peace. Maybe next time, Jones should pick Mike V.

Losing my religion:Last Saturday night, despite many invitations to sin, I attended midnight services. And I wasn't the only miscreant trying to get in touch with my soul; the inner sanctum was packed tighter than a can of sardines. Okay, so maybe we weren't at this Church for a midnight mass -- just a midnight massive, hosted by porn stars Ron Jeremy and Tiffany Holiday and featuring sets by DJ Portia Surreal, renowned turntablist DJ Rectangle and local stalwart Jonas Temple.

Since the event was officially dubbed Sexxxtravaganza, I fully expected to witness gratuitous acts of hedonistic debauchery that would guarantee I'd need to seek absolution Sunday morning. But the night was about as titillating as watching a Shannon Tweed double feature on Cinema-X with a few hundred strangers.

First up behind the decks was Surreal. The Gotham-based erotic-fetishist-cum-table-jockey, who donned knee-high stilettos and a painted-on corset for the occasion, spun a capable but mostly flaccid set. Fortunately, the twin sisters she unveiled a little later were far more bangin'. And she wasn't the only entertainer whose endowments eclipsed her act. Before Jeremy, clad in his trademark sweats and a Funky Monkey T-shirt, introduced Surreal and her subsequent go-go exhibition, he effectively reduced himself to the dick everyone had already assumed he was. "I'm living proof that anyone can get laid," Jeremy said sagely.

And then, when Surreal commenced to grope/spank the Church's resident divas to Temple's grinding, fiery beats, Jeremy added a little play-by-play: "You wouldn't see Penn and Teller scratching each other like that." Summarizing Temple's stimulating performance -- the best offering of the evening -- Jeremy offered this lame quip: "How'd you like Jonas Temple? They call him that because he spins religiously."

Next up was Rectangle, the cat I'd really come to see. Although he's normally a master blaster behind the tables, Rectangle's set here was downright square. Kicking things off with Usher's "Yeah," an undeniably hot cut that's a no-brainer for lighting up the dance floor, he then cued up House of Pain's "Jump," followed by "Walk This Way," the Run D.M.C./Aerosmith collaboration. Unless your DJ title is followed by the name Z-Trip, it's never a good idea to mess with this type of material. If Rectangle had mashed it with some other tracks, I might have given him a pass, but he played them straight up. And it got worse. Rather than dig through the crates, he threw down joints by Sean Paul, J-Kwon and the ever-popular but way-played-out "PIMP," by 50 Cent. As that song, with its "I'm a motherfucking P-I-M-P" refrain, gave way to "Magic Stick," I was thinking that if you exchanged the P with a G, you'd have an apt description of Rectangle's set: minimal turntable dexterity -- save for some errant scratching and a cheesy echo added to the chorus of "Tipsy," which jilted J-Kwon's cadence -- with segues that were choppy as hell.

Despite this gimpy performance, somebody kept getting on the mike every few minutes to yell, "Make some motherfucking noise for DJ Rectangle!" I gotta tell you, if I were spinning a set as wack as that, I wouldn't want someone beating my name into people's heads. I'll give Rec another chance; after all, he's a DMC Champion. But if I were to base my opinion solely on Saturday night's display, I'd recommend a moniker change -- perhaps to something like SupercalafragilisticDJWackadocius.

I'll be praying for his recovery.

Upbeats and beatdowns:On Friday, April 16, Danya River celebrates the release of its new disc at Avogadro's Number in Fort Collins. On Saturday, April 17, Maris the Great premieres his new family-oriented variety hour, Dead As Fuck, at the Soiled Dove, with the Commodes, D.O.R.K. and Saving Verona. And finally, last Saturday's CD-release party in honor of Tyfoid Mary, which was postponed because of water damage at the Ogden, has been rescheduled for Friday, May 14. Tickets for the April 10 date will be honored.

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