It's safe to say that Fancy -- a weeklong celebration of sound and style that kicks off in these parts on Sunday, April 21 -- has very little to do with Fashion Week, which is held in Paris each spring. Now in its sixth year, Fancy probably won't attract too many name-dropping celebrity types, nor will it feature toothpick-thin models with chiseled cheeks and amphetamine-laced blood. Held in the Snake Pit and largely inspired by local talent, this is a Denver thing; Gwyneth "Droopy Boobs" Paltrow and dear old Madonna just wouldn't understand.
Still, Fancy, the largest event of its kind in Colorado, will draw plenty of fashionistas and cultural tastemakers to nightly programs that acknowledge the inextricable link between fashion and electronic and dance music. After all, if all the regular world is a stage, then all the club world is a catwalk; outside of the Saturday brunch at Bump & Grind, where else but on the dance floor are you going to wear your latex body suit or twelve-inch lace-ups? For seven fanciful nights, Fancy will present fashion shows that highlight local designers (including Soulflower, Gino Velardi, Fashionation, Soul Haus) and salons (Babooshka and Planet Laboratories are among those doing the coiffeurs), as well as DJs from all over: Brian AKA Seed (of the Los Angeles-based Moonshine collective), San Francisco's Jeno, NYC's Adam X and Philadelphia's Tigerhook Corp. are among those scheduled to spin deep house, funky techno and Brit pop. As a happy side note for younger fashion hounds, Sunday's event -- with British DJ Frances James, clothes by Buffalo Exchange and hair by Evolution -- is all-ages. Even Burlesque As It Was, Denver's diva-tastic purveyors of good old-fashioned striptease and stylish smut, will join in. (See www.snakepitdenver.com for all the nightly lineups.)
"It's youth culture, dance culture, fashion, even hip-hop. Everything is just colliding," says Snake Pit promotions director J.R. Spiegel, who conceived this year's Fancy with partner Jessica Hydle. "It's an opportunity for people to see stuff that directly affects their lives. Stuff that normally used to happen just on the coasts, it's happening here now, and people can come and see it and be a part of it.
"Denver's always been a little bit behind," he adds. "People tend to dismiss us because the perception is that we're in the middle of nowhere. But I think we've got a lot more going on than what's happening on either of the coasts."
Spiegel, who is likely to be most familiar to non-Snake Pit crowds as the entertainingly spastic lead singer of the (sadly defunct) Volts, is nearly giddy when describing this pret-a-porter package. "Personally, I've always been on a rock tip," he says. "But I've always known fashion, too. Everything is now a hodgepodge, anyway. Our event lets them kind of sample stuff; they can see seven amazing DJs for a really cheap door price. That, really, is ridiculous."
Despite being dismissed by bespectacled scribe Truman Capote, the highway- and consciousness-traversing novel On the Road remains a cultural influence fifty years after Jack Kerouac wrote it on a single scroll of typewriter paper. Locally, the book's impact goes beyond the literary; Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty crossed the country to get here, after all. But even apart from Kerouac's novel, the Beat Generation's ties to Denver and Boulder are well-known and well-documented: Earlier this year, the City of Denver posted a walking tour of famous Beat haunts that's still available on its Web site, denvergov.org; it's a Best of Denver award-winning route that includes the Colburn Hotel and Charlie Brown's Bar. According to historian Andrew Burnett, who devised the tour, Kerouac, longtime D-Town resident Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg used to smoke so much pot on the grounds of the old Elitch Gardens that they referred to the activity as "Elitching" -- a fun factoid that provides local weed-centric hip-hop artists with a new verb for their light-up lexicons.
When it stops at the Mercury Cafe on Thursday, April 25, Beatfest 2002 will acknowledge Colorado's role in Kerouac's world. A fifteen-city tour inspired by On the Road, Beatfest 2002 began earlier this month in New York City's infamous bastion of cultural anti-establishmentarianism, the Knitting Factory, and combines spoken-word performances with live performances (from the NYC-based trio Vibes). The evening culminates in a poetry slam led by "slam champ" Gary Mex Glazner; audiences are invited to judge the work of touring writers whose work will center on a Beat theme.
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And while there's plenty of room to argue that the era of the slam poet officially ended the moment Mike Myers satirized it so perfectly in the cinematic classic So I Married an Axe Murderer ("Woman! Whoa, man!"), this traveling entourage seems more concerned with the evolution of spoken word as a modern, rather than nostalgic, form of expression that emphasizes spontaneity over pretense. And if the Beats had a central message, it was about the enduring value of freedom, a concept that may be more relevant now than ever. But please, leave the bongos in your pad, Daddy-O. Dig?
Colorado Springs's Jag Panzer has been around nearly as long as the Garden of the Gods. The thoroughly metal band began in 1983 and has since undergone multiple band-member-replacement procedures while still putting out a smattering of studio recordings for a wide range of record labels, including hard-rock stalwart Pavement records (1994's Dissident Alliance was released on the imprint). Earlier this year, the band returned with Mechanized Warfare on Century Media, a histrionic and full-throttle metal album full of screeching solos and Iron Maiden-style vocals. So far, the response has been positive: Metal pubs across the country have slathered praise upon it, and fans have issued a resounding chorus of "Jag Panzer rocks." See for yourself on Wednesday, April 24, when the hairy quintet appears at the Ogden Theatre with Iced Earth and In Flames.
Those of a less warlike persuasion can take refuge at a couple of other shows this week, including the Unified Theory of DJ MF, a three-hour one-man epic that "spans three decades of dance music." The performance, slated for Thursday, April 18, at the Bluebird Theater, will be recorded, so look pretty, you little treasure. Also at the Bluebird, Smooch Records presents another showcase of local talent on Friday, April 19, with Sparkles, Maraca 5-0 and Munly. According to Smooch's Andrew Murphy, this may be the Boulder indie label's last show for a while. Act locally.