Someone recently swore to Backwash that Aurora is the single worst place to live -- in Colorado or anywhere. Though the conclusion wasn't based on the sort of quality-of-life research that informs Forbes and other publications that regularly make such decrees, it seemed an authoritative one: The fella hailed originally from Yuma, Arizona, had spent time in Flint, Michigan, and had even navigated a long winter of discontent in Muncie, Indiana -- locations that don't bring utopian imagery to mind. So what's so bad about Aurora, we wanted to know? Mainly the smell, our self-appointed lifestyle consultant said with a shudder, noting that he'd be out of that suburban hellhole just as soon as he could fix the tranny in his truck. See, a man can only live so long with the ever-present aroma of cow manure and livestock that wafts in from more agricultural northern regions and just sort of lingers there on the fruited plain. Kinda like a gassy buffalo.
This man was a blue-collar type with rough, well-worked hands. He liked women, Pabst Blue Ribbon and country music (Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard -- none of the wussy shit). Poor guy. Had he been a fan of heavy metal, he might have found Aurora a more agreeable environ during his brief stay. He might have been able to trade the stench of cowpies for cigarette smoke, greasy food and cochlea-collapsing music at Heimmie's Pub, 3124 South Parker Road.
Over the past year, the Aurora club has provided a physical host for the city's metal-loving heart -- a collective organism that beats with the intensity of a basketball player on crank. Though Heimmie's functions primarily as a neighborhood bar with a sports-and-spirits theme and karaoke and live blues jams, Friday and Saturday have become a haven for a different kind of weekend warrior (the type that leaves the working week behind and rocks, baby) -- leather pants, feathered hair and all. Bands that might not find favor in tamer Denver-area clubs -- bileful, fire-spittin' outfits with names like Junker Jorg, Bleeding Faith, Gods of Pain and Colorado Springs's Filth Industry -- have been welcomed at Heimmie's, where it's okay if you suck, as long as you rock. Loudly.
Yet as of last week, the future of live metal at Heimmie's seems about as shaky as Rolling Stones bassist Ron Wood on a particularly rough morning after. The first indication of trouble ahead? The current state of the venue's stage, which, according to Pub owner Leslie Heimmermann, was reduced to a woody skeleton by her former business affiliates at Erebus Music -- a local promotions company that had handled the booking and engineering needs of the club since last November. In a scene befitting the gory album covers and artwork that often accompany the type of music that Heimmie's promotes, brothers Brent and Boyd Fox and Dan Rudnicki physically sawed up the club's stage after removing all of their sound equipment from the premises. Guess that's one way to send the message that a business relationship has ended.
"I guess it was a little bit vindictive," says Brent Fox. "We built that stage, we paid for it. We were just so hurt by things that [Heimmermann] had done to us. After everything we'd done for that place, we wanted to be sure that the bar couldn't benefit off of our work. We wanted to be sure that no one could play at that club and think that they were still playing on our stage."
Erebus, which provided a PA, a sound engineer, door personnel, Web site maintenance and booking and promotions services to Heimmermann during the eight months of its involvement with Heimmie's, cites "a general unhealthiness concerning the way business is done at Heimmie's Pub" as the reason for the rather rip-roarin' termination of the contract. Rudnicki and the Fox brothers allege that Heimmermann was underpaying bands who -- according to a longstanding verbal agreement between her and Erebus -- were supposed to receive a one-third cut of the door and 25 percent of bar sales. According to Fox, Erebus was the primary contact between Heimmie's and the bands that played on its stage; as such, the company worked to be sure that bands were treated -- read: compensated -- fairly.
Fox says Erebus's relationship with Heimmermann began to deteriorate rapidly after a well-attended benefit show for Throat Culture magazine on Monday, July 3 -- participating bands and the Erebus staff had donated their services in an effort to help the metal-centric publication recoup some of its production costs -- yielded disappointing numbers at the bar. The register tape reflected sales of a less than $900, even though show organizers were expecting a number well over the $2,000 mark (the estimate was based on the numbers from a similarly attended show in February, in which the bar netted $2,800, according to Fox).
"Everybody knows that heavy-metal crowds are drinking crowds," says Brent Fox. "I was there that night. That crowd was drinking -- a lot. There is no way that 150 people, metal people, drank only $900 worth. It's totally implausible."
Heimmermann, who has owned the bar for roughly two years and has hosted live music for just as long, says the register tape ran out that night, thus making it difficult to account for the discrepancy in sales, and adds that such an occurrence is very rare. Even she was surprised and disappointed by the low sales figures. "I don't understand why we didn't do better," she says. "But what did they want me to do? Come up with fake money? Sometimes you just have a bad night." Heimmermann adds that the Erebus staff was always free to inspect her records, and she maintains that there has never been any funny business in her methods of paying bands. And, for that matter, no perceptible problems between her and Erebus.
"I have no idea what happened," she says. "One night we were in here signing a contract about how we were going to work together in the future. The next day they are in here ripping up my stage."
They were also busy canceling shows. The day after the sawdown, the Foxes and Rudnicki got busy calling bands on the schedule and letting them know their affiliation with Heimmie's had ended. Heimmermann, meanwhile, was busy trying to call the same bands to let them know the shows would indeed go on. Without Erebus's sound system, engineers, booking experience or contacts. And -- oh, yeah -- their stage.
"I'm working on getting all of that stuff," she says confidently. "I'm buying a PA. I have lots of help. I love hosting metal here. The crowds are great. They always thank me and ask me when they can play again. I am positive we can continue to do this without those guys."
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While Heimmermann works to return the bar to a condition that's optimal for rocking out -- and the Erebus boys consider taking their services to another club -- heavy-metal fans lie in wait for a place to call their very own. If Heimmermann doesn't succeed in nurturing Aurora's love affair with metal, it's just one more reason to believe that the aforementioned Aurora-basher was right. Maybe the place does stink.
Those who feel that DJ culture and good old-fashioned country-and-Western are two musical forces that collide like tectonic plates might be shocked by a new weekly happening at the Streets of London Pub on East Colfax. "Country Gone Wrong" is the name of a new, free vinylfest at the Britcentric establishment -- an evening of music you're not likely to hear at the next rave or skratch show. Each Wednesday night, beginning at 9 p.m., DJs Stagger Lee and Chester Fields spin well-worn copies of country classics and curiosities; sometimes they'll spin four or five versions of the same song. (A recent session included five variations on "Ghost Riders," and four of Dimitri Tiomkin's "Do Not Forsake Me.") Although Streets of London is primarily known for its Limey-leaning jukebox and bangers and mash, Lee and Fields are turning it into the kind of place where folks can swill a cold one and listen to some twanging music played by a guitarist named Johnny -- Cash, Paycheck, and all the rest. The pair even heightens the Pub's rustic environment and adds some country goodness by showing an assortment of classic hick flicks on a screen behind the DJ "booth"; The Last Picture Show and The Dancing Outlaw were among recent selections. A good introduction for the uninitiated and an eclectic, even amusing, refresher for the seasoned fan, there's something very right about "Country Gone Wrong." Did I mention it's free? Yippie-i-ay!