On Monday night, the Denver City and County Building reeked of teen spirit.
During a meeting at which they were finally to vote on a much-belabored bill allowing for a new class of cabaret license -- one that would allow patrons over sixteen years of age to mix with grownups in certain venues that serve both alcohol and live music -- the thirteen members of Denver City Council received an impromptu lesson in the ins and outs of angst, adolescence and club life.
"When you go in, they put these markers on your hands," said one young bandmember, describing the club owners' system of identifying minors by branding them with a huge ink X. "This one on my hand is from Friday. Even with repeated washings, it's really hard to get the marking off."
Another young player made it clear that he had tried, on numerous occasions, to gain access to the Ogden's bar from the underage section, although not for any contraband Coors. "I just wanted to get the cheaper water," he said, then added that every attempt was foiled by Ogden staffers. ("I'm a little choked up to hear how well our staff keeps beer from kids," Nobody in Particular's Jesse Morreale joked later.)
The public hearing was designed to ease any residual uncertainty over the bill, which came together after six months of deliberation by the thirty-member Cabaret Task Force, helmed by Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth. The all-ages issue has been on the city's radar screen ever since a string of Ecstasy-related arrests and accidents last winter caused Denver officials to look more closely at the potential dangers lurking in the public corners of youth culture, provoking discussion about everything from the potential ickiness of allowing older men to mingle with young girls to the possibility that gang members would view all-ages shows as recruitment opportunities. But throughout all of this adult angst, young people have repeatedly made the point that music is a healthy, creative and necessary alternative to the everyday dregs of teenagerism.
"Suburbia is boring, and no one talks about that," said sixteen-year-old Kaitlyn Miller. "A concert is one of the few places where you can let your true self show." Should Denver City Council fail to pass the bill, she added, she fears that "a group of very lost people will be created."
And in the end, councilmembers seemed to agree. When it came time for each member to voice his or her opinion about the issue, the comments were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. And while a few raised concerns about the city's ability to enforce the parts of the bill intended to keep alcohol from kids (Excise and Licenses director Helen Gonzales pointed out that the city has about seven vice cops assigned to keep tabs on more than 250 establishments), those concerns were ultimately regarded as worth the risk. The bill passed twelve to one, with only Deborah Ortega voting against it.
"Whether you think it's music or not, these kids are motivated by a real love for it," said Councilwoman Happy Haynes. "I would hate to think that we kept it from them just because we won't trust them. What we are saying with this bill is that we do trust them."
Happy New Year.
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You must ask the art.
Though it is not generally associated with music, Capitol Hill's Gallery 13 is actually one of the city's most rock-and-roll establishments. Tucked between a vintage-clothing shop and a couple of funky bars -- the Cricket on the Hill and Gabor's -- Gallery 13 is the only art studio that can boast regular visits by Denver Joe, who kills time before his Cricket gigs by perusing the minimalist space, whiskey in hand. Sporadically over the past year, the understated spot has been transformed into a performance arena, with shows by Austin's Golden Arm Trio and the occasional local band. But according to current owner Steve McDole, the show(s) will not go on -- at least not for a while. Come January, McDole will hand ownership over to sculptor Stephanie Hill, who at the moment does not plan to use the visual-art locale for much beside, well, visual art. So on Friday, December 21, the current incarnation of Gallery 13 will throw itself a proper farewell with a performance of A Winter WandaLand, the latest production from Mystery Sandbox Theater, the visionary puppetry company helmed by artist Roger Beauchamp and poet John Ankerport. And, yes, we're talking puppets -- but banish all thoughts of Big Bird. Beauchamp's creations border on the fantastical and surreal, designed more for grownups than the rugrat contingent.
As for the happy-freak contingent, some of the city's more irreverent culture jammers come together to celebrate the season in their slightly sinister way this weekend. Bringing a little taste of the Black Rock Desert -- where the nihilistic, the subversive and the silly converge for the Burning Man Festival each year -- to the Bluebird Theater on Friday, December 21, the Denver Cacophony Society hosts Santacon 2001, a multimedia mindfuck that will surely quash whatever latent affection your inner child still holds for dear ol' Saint Nick. Last year the Cacophonists amassed a group of artsy, drunken revelers who donned full Santa suits and wreaked havoc among 16th Street Mall shoppers -- as well as redneck inhabitants of a hotel-lobby karaoke bar. This time, they'll kick off a weekend of naughtiness with performances from local accordion toter Little Fyodor and his matronly sidekick, Babushka, as well as the Space Ape Experiment, Winona Righteous and Miss Cybelvis Monroe -- an Oregon-based Marilyn Monroe impersonator who sings Elvis songs. You know, the kind of thing that keeps the kids entertained in Portland. Anti-Santa rants will fill the space between each set.
If you feel like plunking down twenty bucks for a Claus suit of your own, you can get in for free; the non-thematically dressed will have to cough up $5. And please don't try to set this Santa Man on fire at the end of the evening.