Electronic-music promoters have had a tough go of things in Denver for the last couple of years, ever since a statewide crackdown on clandestine events pushed most parties up from the underground and into more conventional venues. Today's club events may lack the spontaneous, kitchen-sink-and-disco-ball thrill of the golden age of raving, but at least they ensure that the parties can go on. Which is a good thing, because so many kids like to get down to all those down-tempo, breakbeat, house and jungle beats.
Proof that the local counterculture had swelled to stadium proportions came in 1999, when Channel 93.3 (then known as KTCL) began hosting its multi-artist Rave on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. But while radio listeners reveled in the fact that the KTCL concert assumed the vibe-laden atmosphere of, say, an illegal party in an airplane hangar, the City and County of Denver (which owns and operates the Morrison venue) was less enthusiastic about the connotation of the event's title -- which conjured bureaucratic hallucinations of spacey kids staring at glo-sticks while wallowing in a drug-induced haze.
Last year, when the city's Division of Theatres and Arenas requested that the station rename the event, the station responded by christening the 2001 gig, a two-day bill, the "Weekend of E." "The 'E' was for Electronic," Channel 93.3 promotions director and jock Nerf offers innocently, just in case you were thinking of the nickname for Ecstasy. Ticket sales slumped with the new name -- whatever it stood for -- and this year, the station endeavored to solve the problem in a different way. So now "The Event Formerly Known as Rave on the Rocks" will be held at Red Rocks on Saturday, July 13. The station has played up the clever solution on-air, goofing on the prohibition of the dreaded word "rave" while repeating it over and over in station promotions and ticket giveaways.
"The city made it clear that they had an objection to anything called 'rave,'" Nerf says. "Back when we invented 'Rave on the Rocks,' it was before it was such a buzzword with such a stigma. We felt that we'd developed a heritage with the event; we had to figure out how to play fair without taking a financial loss."
But the city hasn't exactly saluted the sly semantics of the new title. For the date, the Red Rocks Web site lists only the name of headliner Paul Oakenfold, omitting any reference to the radio station or other artists on the bill, including Max Graham and George Acosta. Theatres and Arenas director Fabby Hillyard says the name swap may actually end up costing the station's parent company, Clear Channel, as the city will now be providing more security than it had initially planned -- and sending the station the bill. "The word 'rave' creates an expectation of what type of event this will be," says Hillyard. "Our job is to keep things safe."
Further proof that no one likes a smartass.
Denver's disdain for the R-word doesn't come as much of a surprise to longtime members of the local electronic-music scene, who by now are accustomed to hearing their genre maligned by those who associate it with little more than pretty lights and potent pharmaceuticals. Still, they continue to insist that theirs is a community of like-minded individuals who come together for the music -- and for good causes.
An event held at the Church on Sunday, July 7, gave some weight to this assertion. When Denver's dance contingent gathered at the Lincoln Street nightclub to get busy, get sauced and give generously, more than twenty DJs showed up, crates in tow, to do their needlework. Hipp-E and Halo, Charles Feelgood, Skunk, Fury and Ivy were among the local and international house and jungle artists who donated time in the marathon-style event, which managed to roll like a party despite the somber reason for its being.
The fundraiser was held for two of the club culture's own, DJs Miss Audry (Aguilar) and Vitamin D (Derrick Daisey), who were both injured in a car accident in mid-May. While Daisey, who broke five ribs and was diagnosed with epilepsy following the crash, made an appearance at the benefit, Aguilar wasn't so lucky. The singer and spinner -- a lovely young lady who, as one of the city's only Latin female DJs, is a maverick in her own stylish way -- was paralyzed in the accident and hospitalized until early June. Friends say she is determined to make a full recovery, though she faces a long, difficult -- and pricey -- trek back. Sunday's fundraiser (presented by the Church, the Funky Buddha and local rave-and-club promotions company Together) helped put a dent in both Aguilar's and Daisey's expenses. Those interested in making a donation can call 303-832-5075. The beats go on.
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Some things don't lose their comedic value with the passage of time, such as a particular planetary handle that's been inducing snickers in elementary-school students and fully grown adults since around the time of the Big Bang. Four musicians carry on the juvenile tradition on Sunday, July 14, with the presentation of Men From Uranus, at Trilogy Wine Bar in Boulder. The cheeky title is a spoof on Women from Mars, a long-running series that showcases female Front Range songwriters such as Wendy Woo and Nina Storey. There's more to the Uranus show than satire, however. The quadruple bill marks the release of solo albums from Theory of Everything/Ron Miles guitarist Ross Martin, as well as from Chris Soucy, a longtime member of Sally Taylor's band. DeVothchKa's lead wailer Nick Urata and United Dope Front sax player Ben Senterfit will also perform material from their forthcoming solo albums.
Rainville, one of Denver's finer countrified-rock bands, doesn't hail from space or your nether regions, but it does have a new album on its way into the world. On Thursday, July 11, ever-solid songwriter John Common and the band headline at Herman's Hideaway, where they'll play tracks from Rainville's sophomore effort, The Longest Street in America. Thursday's show is the first chance for fans to hear material from the new album (the title of which is a reference to our beloved boulevard, Colfax Avenue), a followup to 1999's excellent Collecting Empties. Let it rain.
Leftover Salmon makes an in-store appearance at Twist & Shout on Friday, June 12, the same day as its gig with Bruce Hornsby and His Band at CityLights Pavilion. The decision to jam in the store's aisles might have something to do with the fact that the band's just-released album, Live, is on sale there. Looks like you can have your fish and buy it, too.