By Brad Lopez
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By Noah Hubbell
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Talk is cheap.
Well, not that cheap, according to Brice Hancock, guitarist for Rubber Planet. He just bought DenverMessageBoard.com -- lock, stock and flaming posters. And while Hancock won't divulge the actual purchase price, he does say that in order to close the deal, he had to take out a business loan. (The drama on that site is so priceless, I'm guessing he paid just under a gazillion dollars.)
For the uninitiated, the DMB -- as regulars refer to it -- is a local-centric web board where musicians and fans alike interact with one another in unmoderated conversation. The site, which receives 3,000 unique visitors a month, was launched in November 2003 by former-Denver-resident-current-Beantown-denizen Al Brown, Josh Churnick and Westword's very own clubs editor, Jen Padgett, when its digital forebear, DenverLocalMusicScene.com, abruptly went dark nearly two years ago ("Lost in Cyberspace," November 20, 2003).
For fans, the DMB is like digital crack, a daily must-read; detractors insist that the board is nothing but a mean-spirited libel suit waiting to happen. Still, both sides show up there in force every day. The reading can get so juicy that we gave the site a nod in the Best of Denver 2005 as the Best Online Equivalent of Peyton Place, where scenesters "vilify one another for sport -- anonymously, of course."
Padgett, who designed the first version of the DMB, was the only one associated with the site who actually lived in Denver when the message board went live. By then, Brown had already relocated to Boston; Churnick, who previously oversaw DenverLocalMusicScene.com, was and still is a Las Vegas resident. In the summer of 2004, Padgett parted ways with Brown and Churnick, who were then tasked with managing the board remotely. A year later, they decided that hosting a site dedicated to a scene from which they were estranged didn't make much sense. So a few weeks ago, Brown started a thread on the site's secret board -- accessible only to those who've registered -- announcing the pair's intention to sell off their little creation.
"Amazingly, despite the fact that neither Josh nor I drop by this board all that often (in fact, I haven't in months), traffic has stayed consistent. Cool," Brown wrote. "Nonetheless, I do feel kinda bad that the board's basically been policeless for some time now. Not that we ever actually did much of anything other than try to get people to chill the hell out, but still. These things (eventually) happen when both the owners of a local site live in completely different areas of the country. So…Josh and I are considering selling the joint. It worked out fine at first for us to run it from off-site, 'cause we were so invested in Denver and its scene anywaybut over the last coupla years (yeah, it's been a while, huh?) we've kinda drifted off. Which is good, honestly -- if we were both still heavily invested in the Denver scene it'd be kinda sad in a way. At this point, I don't even know half the bands folks're talking shit about. Okay, that's not true. It's actually the same old bands getting the same old shit. But for all I know they're actually bad by now. So I'm gonna open it up to y'all, the Special Secret Board crew, first. Any ideas on people we ought to contact who might be interested in this baby?"
Hancock tentatively expressed interest "just for shits and grins," he says. To his surprise, Brown and Churnick came back with a number that was realistic. Soon after, he and the pair negotiated final terms and, after securing a loan, Hancock was given the keys to the kingdom -- provided, of course, that he keeps true to the site's original mission.
"After looking at several offers from nameless corporations that would immediately have started spamming the shit out of the DMB's loyal constituents, Josh and I are thrilled to be able to leave the board in local hands," Brown says. "We've known and respected Brice for a long time, and have complete faith that he will continue to maintain the core philosophy of DenverMessageBoard.com, which is 'Rubber Planet sucks.'"
Actually, Al, I believe the phrase is "Rubber Planet is gay."
Hancock and his bandmates are just one of the popular targets of the DMB's faceless dissenters. Now, as operator of the site, Hancock will be privy to who's talking shit about Planet by looking at a poster's IP address. Question is, will he drop the dime?
"People get really emotional when you even mention the message board," says Hancock. "And my trepidation, as you can probably imagine, are my friends wanting me to use the board for their own designs. I'm very nervous about people wanting to know who's bitching about who. I'm not going to tell anybody. Honestly, I'm not concerned with all that shit. I never really have been. And I've been hated on just about as much as anybody. I've already told my band: Don't ask me, because I'm not going to tell you. Now if a judge says I have to tell, then I'll tell. Otherwise, the board is just going to stay exactly the way it was."
That's great news for the DMB's mudslingers, whose bladers brim with Haterade; they still won't have to register to dump their vitriol on the world at large -- a buzzkill for the prissier, thin-skinned posters who think everyone in this town should just hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." Nonetheless, Hancock holds firm on the importance of anonymity to keep things interesting. "There's a board like this in every city," he points out. "And any board that makes you log in -- it's just not as cool. I think what I'm going to do is change the name of that secret board to the 'safe board,' so that way you can go on there and post safely if you don't have to worry about somebody calling you names or being mean."
While Hancock has no plans to make the DMB kinder and gentler, he does have ideas for stepping up support of the scene. For starters, he intends to set up and sponsor monthly DMB showcases at various venues, as well as feature different bands on the site each month. But he has another goal, too: to start turning a profit.
"There are expenses in running this thing," Hancock admits. "There's hosting. I'm going to have to hire a web designer, because I don't know anything about all that shit. And I want to make money. I'm not going to lie. I want to make money. I bought the goddamned thing; it's not like it was given to me or anything. So I feel entitled to make money."
That's putting your money where your mouth is.