Last year, scores of mask-wearing, partially clad Denverites converged on the Wonderground warehouse space to wish a bon voyage to Cindy Wonderful and her multi-hued Rainbow Sugar posse; following that last great fete, Wonderful, Amy Fantastic and Germaine Baca boarded up their art-and-performance space in northwest Denver and headed off for a two-month sabbatical among the medieval churches, stinky cheeses and quizzically short people of Paris. But the folks they left behind can now take heart: The Sugary ones have returned to the States, bringing with them a sweet message about transatlantic relations.
"Everything we heard about the French hating Americans -- it's untrue," Wonderful says. "It is customary that they feed you before, sometimes even after, you play. Not to mention they pay you. And it doesn't matter if they've never heard you. We played three shows being the only band there, and still, at least a hundred people would come out. And when we toured, we traveled in a huge Mercedes-Benz bus."
Wonderful is certainly not alone in her discovery that Europe welcomes artists with open arms -- and sometimes open wallets. These days, international gig-swapping sites on the Internet can make booking as easy -- and sometimes easier -- than orchestrating a tour at home, and that's without a European booking agent or any contacts whatsoever. As a result, local artists such as 16 Horsepower have found a level of success overseas that has sometimes eluded them at home, while even lesser known acts including (pre-breakup) Boss 302 and the La Donnas have discovered that once you've forked over the money for the long voyage out, you can expect to be well received on foreign shores. As Gertrude Stein and a gazillion Rough Guide writers have recognized, the French have a far greater understanding of how to live than Americans; you need only sample their wine, cheese, art or lingerie -- or attempt to find a business, besides a bakery, that's open before 10 a.m. -- to see the point languidly proven. So it shouldn't be surprising that a culture that puts images of artists on its currency also knows how to treat its musicians.
Backwash recently had the happy opportunity to experience some of this firsthand during a trip to France, where, in nightclub after nightclub, musicians were given breaks and beers after every four or five songs. They were fawned over, fed, praised and well paid, regardless of the actual quality of their music. (The quality, by the way, ranged from exciting -- in the form of weird little avant-garde jazz combos and futuristic DJ sets -- to sad: Ever hear a diminutive Frenchman try to sing "Little Red Rooster"? Complete merde.)
For Wonderful, the open Euro sensibility allowed Rainbow Sugar to more fully realize its performance vision -- or provide some nice views for the crowds, at least. "We had our usual stage antics," Wonderful reports. "Costumes. Nudity. Urination. They loved it. We loved them."
Though the Rainbow tribe won't be replicating similar shenanigans for local audiences anytime soon -- the band's taking its time in allowing a new era of the Sugar sound to "blossom" -- photos from its French performance can be viewed on the band's new Web site, rainbowsugar.bizland.com. Just remember that the Europeans have a more sophisticated way of looking at the nude form, so try to act accordingly, and don't giggle too much. The site also contains information on three new Rainbow recording projects: a Wonderground comp due this spring; a live recording culled from the band's tour, soon to be released on the NGWTT imprint; and a collaboration with the French band DIOZ, set for release next month.
Speaking of nudity for the sake of art, Burlesque As It Was, the local vaudeville-style dance-and-striptease outfit led by Michelle Baldwin, will be among the performance groups featured in It's Burlesque, a documentary on the A&E Network that debuts at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 4. Portions of BAIW's Around the World in Eighty Girls -- a production that sold out the Gothic Theatre last year -- will help document the revival of the old-fashioned approach to bumping and grinding. The show is one of two ostrich plumes recently placed in the company's sequined cap: In May, Burlesque As It Was will head to Tease-o-Rama, the National Burlesque Convention, in New Orleans. No, Backwash had no idea such a thing existed, either.
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Rap music has long been used as a conduit for social expression, to address serious racial/economic/class imbalances, among other things. Sid Fly, or "SupaStar PollyKing," as he is fond of calling himself, continues this politically charged tradition in his work as an MC.
"'I'm sorry. This call has been changed to ten digits.' Aren't you tired of hearing those words?" Fly asks. "We asked ourselves what could we do to help relieve the stress of ten-digit dialing." The answer? The first annual (303) Day on Saturday, March 3, during which Fly and a host of other hip-hop heads will vent their outrage at the current, sorry state of the telecommunications industry. DJ Architect, P.a.a.S., Dow Jones, Antl, Beaunanza, Ill Scott Heron, Smitty Foe, VooDoo Economics and Agent Double 00G are among the performers slated to entertain at the festivities, which will also include an open-mike session, prizes and a chance to sneak a copy of Fly's video, SupaStar PollyKing. You don't need a password to get into the event, which will be held at 2229 Larimer Street, but you might want to check the info line (720-234-5663) before heading there, as Fly promises "plenty of surprises" for callers.
Just save your irritation at having to labor over all ten of those digits for the party, where you can commiserate with other dial-weary hip-hop devotees.
However, should you prefer your live music to come vibrating and buzzing through a good old-fashioned guitar amp, check out Sour Vein and Cuda on Sunday, March 4, at the 15th Street Tavern. The rawkous Sour Vein is one of the bright lights of the local Berserker Records imprint, while Cuda -- which features former members of stoner-rock royalty Bongzilla -- is enjoying the kind of buzz that rich people pay good money for. Hell, yeah.