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Road Kill

Outrageous gas prices threaten to slow down touring acts.

I've been thinking about getting a scooter. Quit laughing. My friends — perhaps mortified at the thought of seeing a gorilla like me straddling such an inferior vehicle — have all been urging me to buy a motorcycle. (Whatever, dudes. Badass doesn't live here anymore, and cool quit taking my calls a long time ago.) A scooter just seems more sensible. In my perpetual state of absolute brokeness, even I can afford one. Whenever that alleged stimulus check I've been hearing about this spring comes, I'm all about a scooter, broseph.

I gotta do something, man. This gas sitch is killing me. Seriously. If I have to keep shelling out $20 every other day, there's a very good chance that I'm going to have a massive coronary right there in the middle of the Phillips 66 island, with one hand over my ticker and the other clutching the pump. Times are desperate. In fact, last week at the Diamond Shamrock across the street from our office, a guy tried to pay for his gas with a bag full of pennies. Of course, he got the gas face from the clerks.

Four bucks a gallon, my ass.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised; analysts have been forecasting this for years. Nonetheless, those cats always struck me as scare tacticians, the same breed of loons who believe in UFOs and swear 9/11 was manufactured by the government. But here we are, brother — four bucks and rising! I honestly never thought I'd live to see the day.

Likewise, I never thought I'd see the day when bands couldn't afford to tour anymore. Just the same, here we are. Last week, former I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House frontman Michael Dean Damron fired a shot that reverberated through the rock world when he and his band, Thee Loyal Bastards, canceled their date at the hi-dive and the rest of their summer tour, due to inflated gas prices.

"Michael was really bummed, because he hates canceling shows," says Alex Steininger from In Music We Trust, Damron's publicist. "But the bass player's actually a finance major, and he was like, 'It's not going to work. It's just not going to work.'"

God knows I'm no mathlete, but even I can crunch the numbers on this one. Most mid-level indie bands tour on their own dime and live off whatever guarantees they're able to negotiate with clubs, along with any merchandise they manage to move. It's a simple equation, really: If your overhead exceeds your income and you're spending more than you earn, you need to make adjustments — muy pronto.

If this trend continues, it's likely that more and more bands will follow Damron's lead and forgo Denver altogether. You can't blame them. We're kind of isolated out here, at least ten hours from the nearest decent-sized city, and that's a long haul between gigs.

While in other towns this might signal a drought of affordable music options — the one thing that can help us forget our penny-pinching existence for a few hours and remind us that we're working to live, not living to work — fortunately, Denver isn't most towns. And folks will see just how good we've got it here when local music becomes the top draw. What's more, the places where you'll find that music are in the urban core, accessible by bus, bike and rail.

Oh, and scooter.


Upbeats and beatdowns: Props are due to my man Yonnas Abraham and the Pirate Signal, who've been tapped to headline the Skullcandy hip-hop tent for the whole Warped Tour. "Wild, right?" says Abraham from his place in Brooklyn. "One week you're just chilling, trying to get a bartender job, and the next week you're packing up to leave."

The opportunity came about thanks to Hangar 18, an act on the Def Jux imprint that Pirate Signal warmed up for at the Marquis Theater last year. The rapper stayed in touch with the crew, as well as with Adeem from Glue, and after Hangar 18 wasn't able to fill a Warped Tour slot and Adeem couldn't fill in, both of those outfits suggested Pirate Signal. And after pulling together financing through private investors, Abraham and company were able to commit to hopping on the Gorilla Fist RV to do the entire tour. "It's been cool," says Abraham. "A lot of the opportunities we've had have come from us opening for guys and then the artists reaching out to me."

In fact, P.O.S. is slated to produce the Pirate Signal's next album, One Alone, which Abraham has been working on for some time now and plans to finish after the Warped Tour. "This is really like a masterwork," Abraham declares. "It started in a very feverish heat, and it kind of stopped because that feverish inspiration...didn't necessarily die, but it shifted gears. I knew what was coming out was genuine, and when it comes, it comes, you know what I mean? So I'd go nine, ten, eleven months without writing anything for the album, because I wasn't feeling it." It wasn't like Abraham wasn't working, though; in the interim, he stayed busy producing records and writing beats for other artists. But now it's the Pirate Signal's time to shine.

"It's really hard to say what's going to happen after this tour," Abraham allows. "I don't want to jinx myself, but I have this feeling in my gut that something big might happen."

 
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