This week's gargling fodder includes some welcome returns, sad departures, happy developments and untimely closings. Backwash leaves it to you to determine which is which.
Uphollow has returned to Denver stages, and this time the band is working without a script. While some may recognize Uphollow's name from bills and marquees around the country -- the band has played with Fugazi, the Make-Up, Jimmy Eat World and many other critically lauded brand-name groups -- locals are more likely to recall An Imaginary Life, the ambitious, thirty-minute, way-high-concept musical saga that came to define Uphollow's live performance in the late '90s. When that particular bit of theater failed to take the world by storm (and Uphollow failed to hold on to its instrumental booty: All of its gear was stolen in 1998), the bandmembers knocked around a bit, spending time in far-flung locales and making intermittent returns to this fair city. Eventually, says vocalist/guitarist Ian O'Dougherty, "we quit playing and sulked."
The lads did not sulk forever, thankfully: Guitarist/vocalist Whit Sibley moved to Spain, and O'Dougherty went to Australia, where he contemplated wallabies, played a couple of solo shows, composed and recorded a new album and decided it was time to return home. Sibley joined him, bringing his own batch of fresh tuneage. The two snagged a new drummer, relearned some old material and prepared to reclaim their hallowed spot in the local echelon. So far, they've done admirably: The band opened for indie luminary Pedro the Lion at the Bluebird last week. Look for Uphollow dates in coming weeks and months; in the meantime, O'Dougherty will dish out some of his solo material (under the name Ian O) on Thursday, September 13, at the Gothic Theatre. He's opening for Tim Reynolds, the guitarist who moonlighted with the Dave Matthews Band but shines more brilliantly as a solo artist. O, you pretty thing...
The perennial Jux County will dismantle before the audience's eyes in a farewell show at the Bluebird Theater, on Friday, September 14. After what must seem like a million years of toiling on local stages (but is, in fact, just about thirteen years), vocalist/guitarist Andrew Monley, bassist Chris Pearson and drummer Ron Smith have decided to get the heck out of Jux. Once the trio disbands, Monley and Pearson will concentrate more fully on the Czars, who are ready to release a new album, The Ugly People vs. the Beautiful People, in early October. This year alone, Pearson has dropped from a four-band man to a mere mono member: He left Sarina simoom, the lush combo led by vocalist/violinist Jenna Herbst and Brian Balistrieri in March; his Velveteen Monster has also called it quits. A Monster himself, Monley has also dabbled in some solo projects and recorded an as-yet-untitled CD that should be released sometime in the next couple of months.
"I think we're all thinking of Jux as a long marriage that has just kind of fizzled out," says Pearson. "It's bittersweet. We gave it a shot; we had some great times. But we decided it was best to know when to walk away."
Jux County, which released four full-length albums over its decade-plus history, will live on in wax, if not in the corporeal world: This week, the band is slated to release Junk Country, an effort Pearson describes as "the best thing we've ever done, with a great sound and really solid songs." The band will play selections from Junk Country during Thursday's show, a fete that will include cameos from pals and former Jux members alike, including (ex-Perry Weissman Three guitarist) Mike Serviolo and Jason Smith. And because it's just not a party if only one CD is released, openers the Kalamath Brothers will unveil a disc of their own, while the members of Velveteen Monster (including Shoveltongue keyboardist Denise Rick) will reunite for their first live performance in over a year: Velveteen Monster will also introduce its soundtrack for the independent film Circumstantial Evidence. Action!
Is it written somewhere in the Magna Carta that every American city must have a club named the Roxy? If so, Denver has been in full compliance for the past couple of years. Our own version sits on 26th and Welton streets, in a grand old building that once served as a movie theater and meeting point for the Five Points neighborhood. Under the guidance of music (not shoe) man Steve Madden, the space has been hosting live events; for a time, it was one of the Denver rave world's better-kept secrets. Currently, it's home to all-ages hip-hop nights every Saturday. And thanks to a seemingly fateful encounter between Madden and a couple of young punks with big ideas -- he met aspiring promoters Shane Morrison (ex-BlastOff Heads) and Eddie Miller at a light-rail station last month -- the club will soon transform into a punk-rock club, at least one night a week.
"We got to talking over there on Welton, and they asked me if I liked rock and roll," says Madden. "I'm into every kind of music, and for a while, we've been wanting to make the Roxy a little more multicultural -- get some different groups of people moving through here and discovering what a great venue this is and what a great area Five Points is. I told them they could have Thursdays and, if it works out, they can have it from here 'til Doomsday."
The club is indeed a great venue. Built around the turn of the century, it feels like a pleasingly ramshackle cousin to the Bluebird and the Ogden, smack-dab in the part of town that recently hosted the Cat and the Raven. Inside, there's a sort of harlequin-art-deco theme, overtly groovy murals and plenty of space for swilling and slamming.
"I think when all of the punk-rockers and the rock kids see this place, they are just going to freak out," says Miller.
"They've got all of this great stuff here," adds Morrison. "There's like lasers and spotlights. There's a film projector from the old theater days that we can use to make it kind of multimedia when we want to. We want it eventually to be more than just beer. We've got to take all of this stuff and utilize it in the service of rock."
Morrison, Miller and partner Mykel Martinez (of the Otter Pops) will give the place a trial run on Thursday, September 13, when the Roxy will introduce the aptly titled "Punk Rock at the Roxy." The show features a roundup of some mighty fun bands: Gina Go Faster, Sweatpants and Fruitboots (Morrison and Miller's new project), the Otter Pops and the Dinnermints are all slated to perform. The trio will continue hosting mostly local shows each week, with the goal of eventually snagging some bigger touring acts. For now, hopeful Roxy rockers can call Eddie at 720-435-8599 or Mykel at 720-949-0799 for booking information.
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Neighbors in the vicinity of Tracks 2000 might have heard beeping and blipping late into the night last Saturday as throngs of the faithful flocked to the club at 29th and Fox streets to shake, shimmy and pay their final respects. Over the years, the gargantuan venue has become Denver's most progressive (and biggest) gay dance club, a pulsing mecca open every night of the week. But Tracks managers say the club has "outgrown its current location" (translation, according to some scenesters: They've grown tired of trying to keep up with rising costs in the increasingly developed Platte Valley) and so they shut the club's doors early September 9 while they ready a new spot, The Factory, which will open in an as-yet-unspecified location, probably around New Year's. But don't despair, all you divas-in-waiting who fear you'll be relegated to unseemly LoDo nightspots for the duration of The Factory's construction: Tracks' staff and popular DJs, including Norm, Mike Rich and Gary Gavant, will begin hosting a new dance night called Interim every Saturday night at Club Onyx on 13th Avenue. Now, that's something to snap about.
It seems everyone is trying to come to town before the snow falls, the highways get slick and all of the taps at local taverns freeze over. At least, that might explain the rather chunky selection of live offerings this week. Some highlights: The Australian blues wunderkids in the John Butler Trio perform Thursday, September 13, at the Fox Theatre with Jive; Friday, September 14, at the Fillmore with Gov't Mule; and Saturday, September 15, at the Fillmore with Taj Mahal. Butler's a twelve-string-slinger of some repute, which should make for a mighty g'day. Fantomas, the slightly scary, symphony-style metal monstrosity led by Mike Patton (the simian-looking fellow from Mr. Bungle and Faith No More), takes the Bluebird stage on Thursday, September 13. Fantomas features Melvins bassist "King Buzzo" Osborne and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, all directed by quasi-conductor Patton. It's fascinating, pretty macho stuff. (Judging from Backwash's view of the crowd at Fantomas's show here last year, the Ogden staff might as well close the ladies' room for the evening.) Two artists who hail from opposite ends of the musical universe round out the week's picks: Good ol' Merle Haggard returns to the Grizzly Rose on Thursday, September 13, while MTV's DJ Skribble beams into Club Sanctuary for an evening of spinning (and mugging for the network's cameras) on the same night. That's a lot of shows, people. Choose wisely.