For host Sid Pink and his helpers, Portia Needlewax and Professor Snarly, the Westword Music Showcase Awards Ceremony, held Thursday, June 20, at the Bluebird Theater, was fraught with peril: At one point, an unknown artist, frustrated that he wasn't among the sixty acts nominated on the Westword Music Showcase ballot, stormed the stage and attempted to steal an award in the Singer/Songwriter category, which later went to Wendy Woo. (Despite her ladylike figure and evening gown, Needlewax fought like a sailor and subdued the assailant with a chair as Snarly, sporting a Speedo and a turban, wielded a plastic gun.) Later, two jumpsuit- and helmet-donning members of Mr. Pacman (nominated in Eclectic) bounded toward Pink and pledged universal domination before being vaporized in a plume of smoke. The spaced-out pair was presumably miffed that Cabaret Diosa had taken the prize for a second year in a row. "It's nice to see good triumph over evil," a representative of the band (which was off playing a gig at the Denver Zoo) told the crowd.
Ah, yes, dangerous is the life of an awards-show host. Because throughout the evening, some audience members clearly wanted to hit the vaudevillian, zinger-wielding Pink with chairs of their own. (In an acceptance speech following a win in the Rock/Pop category, Tinker's Punishment frontman/singer/guitarist Mike Robinson exclaimed: "Sid, you are horrible," which drew a round of applause from the back bar, as well as from Robinson's visibly sauced bandmates.) Fortunately, most people survived the evening relatively unscathed, and all ten awards went to those who had a rightful claim to them.
Pink and an array of guest presenters, including Erik Dyce from the City and County of Denver's Division of Theatres and Arenas, Andrew Novick of the Warlock Pinchers, and Milkman Dan, host of Radio 1190's popular Hangover Brunch program, announced the winners. And those winners are: Otis Taylor, Blues; the Railbenders, Country; DJ Ivy, DJ/Dance/Electronic; Blister 66, Hard Rock; Yo, Flaco!, Hip-Hop; King Rat, Punk; Cabaret Diosa, Eclectic; Tinker's Punishment, Rock/Pop; Wendy Woo, Singer/Songwriter; Chris Daniels and the Kings, Jazz/Swing. Dyce presented Chris Daniels and the Kings, Dressy Bessy, Nina Storey and Lannie Garrett with special awards and the opportunity to perform as part of this year's Film on the Rocks Series at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Additionally, Rocket Ajax, DJ Ivy and Xiren each received one-year sponsorship packages from Coors, the event's title sponsor.
Adding to the audiovisual stimulation -- and the overall sensory overload -- was a video tribute to Brethren Fast. The Denver band, led by corn-fed brothers Don and Mik Messina, is a six-time Showcase winner and the second act to be inducted into the Westword Music Showcase Hall of Fame. (The first, Hazel Miller, was inducted in 2000.) The Brethren were honored with a five-minute photo-and-music collage that chronicled the bandmembers' careers, from childhood up through their current status as sideburn-wearing rootsy rockers (and motorcycle racers).
Congrats to all the winners -- and to everyone who survived the show.
Backwash attended the Warped Tour at the Adams County Fairgrounds on Sunday, June 23, and was pleasantly surprised to see that, unlike many companies gearing their music events to a teenage demographic, this tour's organizers took a tasteful approach to milking the spiky-haired congregants for their hard-earned allowance money. Tickets were just under $30, a modest price considering there were about a jillion bands playing on nearly as many stages; programs were free, while a Warped Tour T-shirt-and-hat combo went for $10. Even more refreshing was the carnival-like midway area which, with the exception of some pizza, beer and Yoo-Hoo vendors, was surprisingly bereft of the usual corporate imagery. Instead, many of the booths were occupied by indie labels and band representatives, music Web-site owners and zine publishers.
In fact, in spirit the tour more resembles vintage Grateful Dead parking-lot gatherings (with a different soundtrack, of course) and maybe even a little Burning Man (there were scores of nearly nude and mud-covered people roaming the fairgrounds throughout the day) than a mega-event aimed directly at the MTV demographic. We wish more promoters and tour organizers would take a similar approach to creating a cool environment, rather than assaulting the concertgoer with $50 tank-top prices and blaring Pepsi commercials.
A number of social groups and political organizations were present at the Warped Tour, too. Among them was a local action committee that's raising awareness about (and funds for) the West Memphis Three, the trio of heavy-metal fans from Arkansas whose controversial trial for the murder of three young boys was chronicled in two fascinating documentaries, 1999's Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and the more widely seen Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000). Both films have attained a kind of cult status for the sobering way in which they unravel the case and illuminate the shortcomings of the West Memphis justice system, and for their illustration of the ways in which kids who are different -- in clothes, in thought, in musical preference -- can become scapegoats for horrific crimes. One of the three, Damien Echols, received the death penalty and is scheduled to be executed later this year; regional groups that orbit the wm3.org Web site believe the three were unfairly convicted and are attempting to raise money for their appeals.
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Those efforts will get a local boost on Monday, June 1, with a benefit performance at the Bluebird Theater. As political actions go, this one's pretty rousing: Henry Rollins and his new band, Mother Superior, will perform, as will the MC5's Wayne Kramer. Free your mind.
Worm Trouble's Michael Trenhaile and Kat Ellinger return to the performance fray, briefly, before taking a hiatus to focus on the recording of the band's third album and the birthing of the couple's first baby. In what may be their last show of the year, the Wormed ones appear in a fine triple bill on Thursday, June 27, at the Bluebird. The lineup also includes What Tribe, an understated quartet that recalls San Francisco's spare, melodic -- and late -- band Swell, as well as still-active psychedelic hobbyists Olivia Tremor Control. Atmospheric space popsters the Lavellas, who celebrate their second release, My Talk With the Dead, headline the 'bird bill.