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Dave Bartz and I are best friends. We grew up in the same 'hood, went to the same high school (Bartz a few years behind me), share the same values. In the mid-'90s, we even played together in a band. We spent six months in a drafty Eastlake garage — me, him, Guv, one of my other best pals, and Dave Schmidtline — writing, rehearsing and just hanging out. That band played a few forgettable shows here, followed by a brief West Coast tour. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say it didn't end well. That whole notion about going on the road making or breaking you — it's all true. It broke us, and our friendship was a casualty of the split.
I started writing music on my own, while Bartz and Schmitty found some new cats and moved on. We didn't really speak again until three or four years ago, when we reconnected after Bartz broke his back snowboarding. By then, I'd given up on playing music and had become Westword's music editor. When Bartz and Schmitty later formed a new band, they asked me to be in it. I gave it a whirl, but after a few practices, I realized that those two had developed a fraternal-like chemistry over the years, and at this point I was a third wheel. I wished the dudes well and bailed.
As I watched them climb from being a baby band playing off-nights to making their own fans and building a scene with like-minded acts, I steadfastly refused to give them a leg up in print. I was the same way when I coached Little League: My kid rode the pine just like everyone else whenever he underperformed or smarted off. But all the same, I secretly harbored a lot of pride.
When No Plot Kill's first record came out, I thought it was really good. I was stoked when they started playing bigger shows at Bender's, the Larimer Lounge, 3 Kings and the hi-dive, and stunned when they were nominated on this year's Showcase ballot without my help. But I still didn't have plans to write about the band.
Fast-forward to this past weekend. Bartz came over to the house for a party I was having for my daughter. In his hand was an unmastered copy of a new disc: He, Schmitty and their bassist, Ray Hammer, had just spent two days tracking at Chris Fogal's new studio, Black in Bluhm, and this was the result. My jaw dropped as I listened to "Radio," the first cut. The guitars were huge, the drums even bigger, and Bartz's vocals sounded pitch-perfect. "It's so real, you'll never understand," Bartz sang with palpable passion and conviction. "What's the radio? I will never be that kind of man — on the radio."
Shit's good, man, really good. Even if I hated the guy, I'd tell you that. As it was, Bartz just shrugged off my feedback that the vocals could stand to be a little more up front. "That's how I wanted them," he fired back. "All my favorite records are like that." Fact is, he's made it this far without my input, and when it comes right down to it, he's not making his music for me or even for you; he's making it for himself. And that's when you make great music — when you stop worrying about what everybody else thinks and just do your own thing.
It's noteworthy that in a week that brought me music from TV on the Radio and Margot & the Nuclear So and So's — two of my favorite acts — all I wanted to hear was No Plot's new disc. Still, the words of "Radio" are rather prescient: The band's sound, a rugged hybrid of Dwarves-styled punk spiked with prog-inflected Euro metal, isn't the type of stuff that's going to win many friends in the media.
But that's okay. Because when you believe in what you're doing, friends like us are overrated.