Randy Ship's opponents have had enough.
Ship, the Paramount Theatre's leaseholder, launched a campaign earlier this year to torpedo CityLights Pavilion, the Kroenke Sports/Clear Channel Entertainment-operated venue that's slated to open in the Pepsi Center parking lot in June. Along with signatures on petitions -- which Ship hopes will land the very existence of the tented amphitheater on a Denver ballot perhaps as early as August, but definitely by November -- he's collected plenty of criticism, even from within the nonprofit organization that runs the Paramount.
The board of the Paramount Foundation, which rents the theater from Ship for $20,500 a month and shares booking duties with House of Blues Concerts, has taken pains to distance itself from Ship's argument that CityLights would destroy the Paramount's business. As the Paramount's landlord, boardmembers argue, Ship isn't involved in the concert-promotions aspects of the venue; rather, his role is to provide and maintain the historic building. And he's not doing an adequate job of that, they charge -- so a couple of boardmembers have organized to do something about it.
Last week, a five-person committee that includes two members of the Paramount Foundation stole a page from Ship's playbook and began planning an initiative drive that, if successful, would require Ship to make more than half a million dollars' worth of improvements to the 72-year-old building -- or run the risk of losing the Paramount's status as a historic landmark. (The Paramount's landmark designation, as well as its location within the recently created Downtown Historic District, protect it from demolition.) In an affidavit filed with the Denver Election Commission, which paves the way for the initiative process, the committee states that the Paramount requires modifications that include, "but are not limited to, the air-conditioning system, the carpets, electrical systems and general appearance."
According to Paramount Foundation treasurer Pierre Jimenez, who's working on the initiative project, the Paramount has deep-seated problems. Truly. "There are all kinds of things that go into the Paramount having this historic feeling, from the curtains to the organs," he says. "We've had people tell us that they really enjoyed the show but there was something wrong with their seats; they were feeling coils and springs in the you-know-what."
Kathleen Brooker of Historic Denver, the nonprofit preservation group that helped start the Paramount Foundation in 1979 and, later, secure funds for the theater's restoration, thinks the building is in pretty good, if not perfect, shape. "It's a wonderful and very important and significant structure," she says. "Certainly there are those in the community who would like to see it undergo some improvements, but I have no reason to believe there are serious problems." Brooker adds that both her agency and the city's Landmark Commission concern themselves with the exterior and structure of a building, not its interior: "We have some buildings that default on their historic status by virtue of neglect, but it's very difficult to enforce, and those buildings usually have to be in pretty poor condition. [The ballot initiative] is an unusual way to go about things. I've never heard of anything like this before."
For his part, Ship says he feels like he's getting kicked in the you-know-what.
"I'm stupefied," he says. "I've put hundreds of thousands of dollars into this building in the last couple of years, from the seats to the organ and everything else. Now they are trying to make me out to be some kind of slumlord." Ship insists he's tried to reach a maintenance agreement with the Paramount Foundation, but those discussions, like his relationship with the group, have run aground.
"We've tried every way we know to communicate with Mr. Ship," Jimenez counters. "If you rent a house and you have tiles falling down in your bathroom, is that something that you are expected to take care of, or do you call your landlord? We've tried to call ours, but he doesn't call back. We explored all of our options with our legal team to see what could be done. We decided to try to bring it before the public and see if, in the court of public opinion, it was agreed that the Paramount was a special place that needs to be protected."
"I think the beautiful idea about this petition is that it involves a very important part of Denver," says Jim Sprinkle, the Paramount Foundation's executive director. "The Paramount is one of the last old movie palaces that we've saved. We would like to say that it's a cherished building -- that's one of the words that we chose in describing it. The ballot initiative allows the citizens of Denver to assume a participatory role in preserving it. It's kind of cool, really.
"Ultimately, the building has been through a lot in its 72-year history, and the building will be here no matter what happens with this deal," he adds. "The place becomes more magic the more you learn about its history."
Sprinkle and the committee members are preparing to circulate petitions; if they collect the necessary 2,458-plus signatures, the issue of whether Ship needs to cough up the cash could be before Denver voters in November -- on the same ballot that may include Ship's anti-CityLights initiative. The committee has already enlisted the high-powered services of CRL Associates, a lobbying firm that's helping Kroenke and Clear Channel keep Pepsi Center neighbors calm over CityLights -- and is also trying to sink Ship's anti-amphitheater efforts.
Could the dueling initiative proposals be a coincidence?
"I think [Ship's] work against CityLights has had something to do with it," concedes Jimenez. "I got tired of hearing him complain about CityLights and competition and all that. The Paramount Foundation -- if you look at the books, we're exceeding expectations. We just need our landlord to pay attention to the building and treat it as something more than a business investment."
"We have no dispute with his right to do what he's doing politically," Sprinkle says of his landlord. "But we also know that what he's doing has got to require a lot of money. It's hard to reconcile when the Paramount needs so many things: some new carpet, a new coat of paint. We don't want to perpetuate an argument, but we have questions and we have worries."
Last week, the Aurora-based heavy-metal outfit Apathy learned that there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity -- especially when it involves a case of mistaken identity.
Following the arrest of Luke John Helder, the 21-year-old Minnesota man accused of dropping pipe bombs around the Midwest, newspaper readers and Web surfers learned that the troubled fellow was a fan of punk-rock music, "loved the grunge band Nirvana and was preoccupied with Kurt Cobain." (For his first court appearance, a defiant-faced Helder wore a black-and-pink Nirvana T-shirt that looked as though it had come from Spencer Gifts at the Mall of America.) Apparently, Helder has musical aspirations of his own: Prior to his smiley-faced bombing antics, he played guitar and sang with a punk band also named Apathy -- a fact that led several people to leave irate postings on that band's message board after news of Helder's arrest began to spread. The FBI eventually shut down the Web site, but not before more than 400 angry notes were posted.
Colorado's own Apathy has received a few explosive messages, too, in its digital mailbox as well as in its online guestbook. One, from a visitor identified as "none of your business," conveys the general tone (and grammatical acumen) of the missives mistakenly posted on the Aurora band's site (www.apathysux.homestead.com): "Wow...u guys must feel pretty good about yourself right now, you punk bastards. what the hell did u honestly think u would accomplish by placing bomb's in innocent people's mailboxes? u are the 2nd biggest pussy this world has ever seen. P.S.- be sure to spread those cheeks nice and wide for your new friends in jail."
Surely the Aurora band -- a hard-core four-piece that frequently appears in local metal spots like the Iliff Park Saloon and Sportsfield Roxxx -- wasn't the only apathetically monikered outfit to receive misdirected Helder mail. Currently, there are seven bands named Apathy -- not including Helder's -- registered on bandnames.com (among them ApaTHY from Colorado Springs), and more than ten others that make some sort of play on the word. Backwash is particularly fond of the United Kingdom's Apathy Brothers: If you must be bored, listless and without care, why not do it with your sibling?
We suggest all of the unfairly targeted Apathys change their names to the Really Pretty Butterflies in order to avoid any further confusion.
When Andy Ard and Rachel Simring, the acoustic duo formerly known as Rachel & Andy, divorced last year, no one partner got all the talent in the split. Simring, who is nominated in the singer/songwriter category of this year's Westword Music Showcase, has been keeping busy with Rachel's Playpen, backed by a lineup that includes players from a diverse array of local acts, including Hamster Theater and El Fiend. But her former hubby has adjusted to the musical bachelor life just fine: Ard's joined up with a band that includes former Eric Shiveley bassist Chuck Hwang and guitarist/vocalist Al Fitzgerrell in a new project known as Andy Ard and the Meantime.
While Simring's voice was arguably the dominant performance element in Rachel & Andy, Ard served as the primary songwriter and penned some fine songs for the duo: His style was harmonic, strummy and classic, with a Buddy Holly kind of pop sensibility and Americana-style melodicism. Though the Meantime has yet to commit anything to a recording (Ard expects to release a full-length album, Okay Now Really, in November), the band's live shows indicate that Ard hasn't strayed too far from the course he charted with Rachel & Andy, though he's filled out the instrumentation and roughened up the edges this time around.
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That roughness may come in handy this week, when his band participates in the latest Maris the Great-produced show at Sportsfield Roxxx: On Thursday, May 16, Ard and the Meantime will appear alongside Hat Trick, Centebury Lane, Man in the Shade and Taco as part of the perverse zombie's "Stupid Mortal Bands That Will Die" series. (See www.maristhegreat.com's "Noose & Abuse" section for more info on just how and why these bands will meet their doom.)
Not all of the bands that perform this week must die. Which is a good thing, considering there are so many of them. Some highlights:
City Park blooms on Sunday, May 19, when Charles Burrell, Purnell Steen and Le Jazz Machine appear alongside Marty Jones & the Pork Boilin' Poor Boys, Wendy Woo and David Booker as part of the City Park Festival of the Arts. The free outdoor fete also provides an opportunity for kids to play hand drums and dance with the righteously rhythmic drum ensemble Oyoyo. Sounds bangin'.... The Jazz Lozenges soothe your burning soul, if not your larynx, with Wednesday-night sets at the new Broadway lounge Blue Ice continuing through May. The Lozenges are a Denver sextet whose roster includes trombone player Alex Heitlinger, pianist Holly Holverson and bassist Artie Moore, among other notable locals. Pretty cool stuff.... On Monday, May 20, the Gothic Theatre hosts a heck of a going-away party for the Apples in Stereo, who play their last show at the Englewood venue before leaders Robert Schneider and Hilarie Sidney move to Kentucky. The Apples fill out a bill that might be more properly dubbed the 'Indie Rock Woodstock.' Dub Narcotic Sound System, led by Calvin Johnson of K Records/Beat Happening/Halo Benders fame, will perform to the delight of Wax Trax shoppers the city over. (Backwash knows several male indie-rock fans who confess to having a "man crush" on Johnson.) Also on the bill is Crooked Fingers, the still newish project manned by former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann. (Bachmann's latest Crooked Fingers release, Reservoir Songs, is a short collection of cover songs that include Springsteen's "The River." Considering he sounds quite a bit like Neil Diamond to begin with, the result can be unsettling. In a good way.) Thanks to the Gothic's liberal attitude toward all-ages crowds, the show is open to anyone who's twelve or older. Pull out your learner's permit and go.