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Monsters Ball

Furious George and the Monster Groove return after an eight year hiatus.

A lot has changed since Luke Davis and his bandmates in Furious George and the Monster Groove last graced a Denver stage eight years ago. Back then, a Democrat was in the White House, the idea of paying more than two bucks per gallon of gas seemed preposterous, and everyone was still waiting and hoping for someone, anyone, to break out of the Denver scene.

At the time, Furious George was one of the acts that could have been considered on the verge, along with such like-minded funk acts as Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass and the Psychodelic Zombiez. But in October 1998, the members of George decided to call it quits, playing one last farewell show at Herman's Hideaway, Alan Roth's classic South Broadway club. The evening attracted a standing-room-only, elbow-to-elbow capacity crowd that allowed the band to go out on a high, furious note.

"At the time that we split up, we were doing a ton of shows and touring a lot," Davis remembers. "We had just gotten really tired and didn't really take care of ourselves."

But after completing the bass program at Hollywood's Musicians Institute of Technology and working with a number of other local acts -- such as Orbiting Nubs, of which he was a member, and Valiomierda and Frontside Five, for whom he did some promotional work -- now, almost a decade later, Davis is ready to put his posse back together and get it on like sex on a wedding night. The reunited Groove's first show is slated for Saturday, December 23, at (you guessed it) Herman's Hideaway. Davis says the band has been rehearsing once a week since mid-summer and has an entire album's worth of unreleased material ready to be recorded.

Time, however, waits for no one -- particularly when it comes to music. So it will be interesting to see if a band like Furious George can recapture the crowds it once had. To do so, it must overcome a number of hurdles. Over the past eight years, the game itself changed; these days, players are stronger, faster and more athletic. And in the meantime, it's a safe bet that most of George's core constituency has packed up and moved to suburbia. A funny thing happens when dudes hit thirty-something: They get a wife, get a mortgage, drop a few pups and start working nine to five, living the white-picket life. And usually, that also means they've all but stopped going out (to clubs, anyway), except for one big night a year. You know -- they've become, like, grownups or something. All of a sudden, late nights of drunken debauchery give way to early-morning bottle feedings.

The group's upcoming gig at Herman's may indeed be a replay of that big night in October 1998, with much of the old crew hiring babysitters and reconvening for nostalgia's sake. But where do you go from there? If you're Furious George, you go back to square one and try to amass a whole new audience -- a daunting-sounding prospect that doesn't discourage Davis.

"It's not really all about how many people you're playing in front of," he says. "At this point, we just want to play. We're all young and in our mid-thirties, which isn't too old to still be out playing shows. After playing in a lot of other groups, you realize how hard you worked to get where you were before. When you start doing it all over again -- whether you're in a good project or whatever you're playing in -- and you're playing for crowds of five and ten people, you appreciate a lot of the hard work that you put in before. So it was real tempting to go back and play with those guys again and have some fun, which is why we started in the first place.

"The last time we played, we had over 800 people there," Davis continues. (I'm pretty sure the place doesn't hold more than 600, but I could be wrong -- a critic's memory can play tricks, too.) "We were one of the bands that were able to sell it out on a pretty regular basis. We're not expecting 800 people, by any means, but I think we'll have a decent show. We're kind of keeping our fingers crossed. We don't know exactly what to expect. If it's not that great of a success, you know, even if we have a small crowd, we'll be thankful as heck that Alan had us in and let us play, and we'll go over and play the Cricket the next time. Either way, we're going to play some shows around. We'll see what happens."

These days, there are more places to play -- but there's also more competition. "When we started, there were probably four or five clubs in the whole Denver area that were even doing live music," Davis points out. "Now I think there's somewhere around 21 or 22 venues that are doing live music. I think we have a great scene. We have a lot of talent here, but it's spread really thin. It's hard to get people out to see bands, because there's so much to choose from on any given weekend night. These newer bands are contending with possibly thirty, forty, maybe fifty other bands that are playing around town. We'll see. This town is hungry for good bands, and we're still a good band. And it's not like we're fifty-year-old guys. We're still relatively young."

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