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Turnabout Is Fairplay

Footloose and fancy free, South Park proved to be a gay old time.

"You a faggot?" demanded a mouth-breathing redneck of diminutive Photo Atlas frontman Alan Andrews.

"What?" Andrews responded, flashing a look of complete bewilderment.

"Your hair and the way you were dancing," Hoss continued. "You're a faggot, right? You like to suck dick?"

Watching this exchange unfold in the gymnasium of Fairplay High School this past Saturday night at the South Park Music Festival, I could've sworn I'd stumbled onto the set of Footloose 2.

"Is that dude for real?" I wondered aloud to Dan Rutherford from Morning After Records. The fancy-haired, purse-toting label head wasted no time finding out. Rutherford headed straight for the Carhartt-clad cretin and his shit-kickin' buddies, only to be met with the same query.

"You a faggot, too?"

Leave it to Rutherford to pour gas on the fire.

"Yeah, man, I'm all about the cock," he fired back sarcastically.

Heh. The balls on that kid.

Members of various Denver bands filtering in to hear a set by Vaux joined the discussion. After several heated minutes filled with angry stares and futile pleas for apologies, the knuckle-dragging mountain men headed for the door, off to spew their Haterade elsewhere. So we got to enjoy Vaux -- brilliant, as usual (how's it feel to be the best band in the world, boys?) -- in relative peace.

The next time I saw the O'Doyle Brothers was later that night outside of the Fairplay Hotel. One of them was being led away by Park County's finest in a pair of metal bracelets -- reportedly earned for assaulting Magic Cyclops.

Fortunately, most of the other locals were friendly. As were the cops, who were out in force but extremely cordial, not to mention informative (thanks for the tips on overcoming altitude sickness) and entertaining (props to the man in blue who pulled off the board stand at the skatepark).

But if those rednecks got riled by some pillow-combed hairdos, they would've had a gay old time had they been on hand to witness Machine Gun Blues (which, as it turns out, isn't breaking up after all) Friday night at the hotel, when the act put on a notably homoerotically charged set. The Gunners really brought the manimal out in dudes like no other.

Resembling Iggy Pop fronting the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, singer Aaron Collins led MGB's propulsive come-ons as he made his way into the crowd, parting it like the Red Sea, then proceeded to writhe on the floor like an injured animal. Before long, Collins was back on his feet -- but without pants. Clad now in a pair of powder-blue nut-huggers, he urged the crowd to join him -- which prompted Cowboy Curse's Tyler Campo to rip off his tweed jacket and tie, then pull his button-down shirt over his head and throw it at the band. As Campo gyrated manically, Born in the Flood's Nathaniel Rateliff joined in, taking turns flashing his bare chest and threatening to whip out his junk before tackling MGB guitarist Josh Terry. Despite being dry-humped by Rateliff as the two were intertwined on the ground, Terry somehow managed to maintain his composure and keep playing. The set ended with Collins hurtling himself into drummer Everett Wayne Mansfield's kit. It was a sweaty, sloppy good time from one of Denver's most compelling live acts, and easily South Park's breakthrough performance. Hell, even Detroit's mighty Paybacks had a tough time following MGB.

The rest of the fest wasn't nearly as titillating, but it was plenty entertaining -- with a few speed bumps. For example, finding the house where the panels were being held -- in the middle of the woods, and accessible only by dirt roads -- was an exercise in frustration, just as it had been last year. One wrong turn and you were smack-dab in the middle of some twisted variation on the Blair Witch Project. Needless to say, we made sure we found our way back to town before sunset. Another downside was missing all the showcases in Alma, which is six miles from Fairplay. We'd opted to take the fest shuttle from our hotel in Breckenridge, but that made it tough to see a lot of the shows.

On the plus side, the majority of the performances I did catch were on point, some sound issues notwithstanding. Highlights included a set by New York's Ladell McLin, whose blistering fretwork suggested Jimi Hendrixreincarnated. But it was rivaled by a frozen-yet-turbocharged performance by the Queers, who played what must've been something like 200-plus songs from their expansive catalogue. For added spark during their set, Joe Queer gave a shout-out to Tim from Stoli and the Beers and threw in a couple of covers of songs by the Ramones and the Mr. T. Experience. Also excellent was Austin's Scott H. Biram,who convincingly invoked the spirit of Delta blues with his rustic, mud-smeared guitar lines and foot stomps.

As good as those imports were, though, it was the homegrown acts that stood out the most this year. Although they had a meager turnout, the members of Deuce Mob -- who professed to killing Kenny -- absolutely shone during their gig at the skatepark. Meanwhile, folks gathered on the South Park Library Lawn gobbled up the Trampolines' buoyant ear candy by the fistful. A little later, Pee Pee played an exceptional batch of tunes that made its grin-inducing moniker all the more perplexing, and P-Nuckle lit up the American Legion Hall with its impassioned set of reggae-scorched rock.

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