Among the winners at the 35th annual Downtown Denver Partnership awards presentation earlier this month was the Spot, at 2019 Stout Street--an operation to which few people over the age of twenty are hip. And that's good. Because unlike most public-private efforts to do something for urban youth, the Spot (founded in 1994 and named "Best Official Teen Hangout" in Westword's Best of Denver issue last year) is actually cool enough to appeal to the very people it was designed to assist. "What's wonderful," says David DeForest-Stalls, the Spot's program director, "is to see a lot of kids who normally would not be considered to have a lot of positive possibilities in their future learning and doing incredible stuff."
DeForest-Stalls, known as just plain Dave Stalls until his recent marriage turned him into a hyphenate, was once head of recreation for the City of Denver under Mayor Wellington Webb, but he gave up the post because "we didn't quite agree on some priorities." Afterward, he came up with the concept for the Spot, which was initially funded in part by a grant made available through the state's Youth Crime Prevention Initiative.
At first, the Spot was primarily a safe room for folks between 14 and 21 who had nowhere else to go. But over the last couple of years, the space, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 6 p.m. until curfew, has become a great deal more entertaining. When not painting murals the old-fashioned way, graffiti artists from the area can now create works on the Spot's computers. Other Spot regulars are contributing writing, graphics and who-knows-what to Inner 303, a magazine that's published on-site. And an impressive sound system allows those who want to make their own tunes to follow their muses. "We have a lot of kids into hip-hop," DeForest-Stalls says. "You can come in here and find kids sitting around rapping--and this is the only place where they can do it for free. On Thursday nights, they really jam--we have people bring in some turntables, and we always get a good crowd of kids who come in to listen and participate."
As good as all this sounds, the Spot's continued existence is not ensured; the current year is likely the last for which the venue will receive government funding. In addition, the Spot's proximity to the federal courthouse where the Oklahoma City bombing trial is to be held may precipitate a move to a new, as-yet-undetermined location. Still, DeForest-Stalls is optimistic that the Spot will survive. "Working with teenagers is a risky business," he asserts. "But we're finding individuals who understand that the more risk you're willing to take, the higher return you receive."
Last week's suspension of moronic KBPI morning teamers Dean Myers and Roger Beaty (plus their equally idiotic associate, Joey Teehan) following an on-air prank pulled at the Colorado Islamic Center in Arapahoe County received plenty of derisive press coverage, and deservedly so: The decision to disturb the peace at this house of worship by blaring the national anthem and otherwise ridiculing Denver Nugget Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf smacks of religious intolerance, not-so-subtle racism and stupidity on a cosmic scale. But what the reports didn't emphasize is that this type of behavior is utterly typical at the station. As recently as last Thanksgiving, KBPI personnel were in trouble with the law over a stunt directed at former KNRX-FM program director Bryan Schock (Feedback, December 13, 1995)--a fact that made the contrite act offered up by KBPI operations manager/apologist Jack Evans on KUSA-TV/Channel 9 and other media outlets seem even more specious and hypocritical than it would have otherwise. Obviously, the suspensions would not have happened if the Federal Communications Commission and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department, which later pressed misdemeanor charges against the principals, hadn't gotten involved. For proof, note that Dean and Rog were on the air the morning after the Islamic Center incident, delivering their usual brand of "sophisticated" entertainment as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. (While bantering with Scott Hastings, they likened Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin's penis to a Tootsie Pop and speculated about how many licks it would take to get to its center.)
With most other rock stations in town trying to out-VH1 each other, KBPI is the only outlet where one can hear hard-edged modern R&R--which makes the insulting, anti-intellectual tone of Dean and Rog (and many of their compatriots) especially annoying. So consider this a request to managers at other local stations: Please toughen up your formats and knock these scumbags off their perch. It's far from an impossible task; after all, 92X nearly did so with no money and a weak signal. If given a halfway-decent alternative, listeners will switch off KBPI in droves, thereby making Denver a safer place for anyone who uses his or her brain on a regular basis. Which I assume includes you.
Only months after being profiled in these pages, Bleecker Street has called it quits over those demon creative differences. Founder Ben Stevens has already started performing solo and plans to release a Charles Sawtelle-produced CD later this year.
Meanwhile, the rumor that the Felt Pilotes have broken up is unfounded. So why has the band been canceling appearances, including a gig featuring Low, Munly and the Christines set for Monday, April 1, at the Fox Theatre? Because of an ear ailment that's stricken bandleader John Porcellino. Right now, Porcellino is so sensitive to sound that even watching TV is a painful experience. (Maybe he should try something besides Family Matters.) While he heals, the other Pilotes are finishing up Wonderful Summer, a new disc that should be available in about a month. Whether Porcellino will be healthy enough to perform at his own album-release party is another question.
That Urkel sure is a riot. On Thursday, March 28, our own John Jesitus is on pitch at the Blue Note Cafe, and New Mexico's Todd T. Band makes its initial appearance at Brendan's. On Friday, March 29, Chris Duarte plays Dirty Pool at the Fox. On Saturday, March 30, Spell and '57 Lesbian get fluid at the Bluebird Theater; Charlie King meets his subjects at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; and Juhl, Maraca Five-O, Tomfoolery and Slow Children get special help at Boulder's American Legion Hall, 4760 28th Street. On Sunday, March 31, the Denver Gentlemen headline the Bug Bottom Ball at the Rock Bottom Brewery. On Tuesday, April 2, the mighty Grifters sneak into the Fox, with Rex; Jerry Gonzales and the Fort Apache Band jam at Mount Vernon Country Club; and Maria McKee seeks lone justice at the Bluebird, with James Hall. And on Wednesday, April 3, the Reejers return to the Boulder Theater, with special guest Sherri Jackson, and the Bogmen open for Barenaked Ladies at the Paramount Theater. Clothing optional.--Michael Roberts
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