Over the past couple of years, a number of nationally distributed independent labels have taken root in Colorado, including W.A.R.?, Not Lame Recordings, Bohemia Beat and Records 420, a Hollywood Records spinoff run by David Frey. (A founder of the annual H.O.R.D.E. Festival, Frey is on the lookout for the next Blues Traveler. Talk about your worthy causes.) But while these companies get the lion's share of local attention, imprints that operate considerably further underground continue to pop up and keep the music scene fresh.
Blue Lamp, the brainstorm of John Meggitt, best known for his work with the now-defunct El Espectro, is an example of the latter. According to Meggitt, "I conceptualized it about five years ago, but I really started it last year. The idea was to try to bring a label to Denver that expressed more of the punk and weird pop that was coming out. It didn't seem like Denver had a label like that, and I felt like it needed one."
The operation's releases thus far reflect Meggitt's vision. The first piece of Blue Lamp product, a seven-inch single by Rope (an early Meggitt project), appeared in 1991. More recently, that slab of vinyl has been joined in the Blue Lamp catalogue by CDs from Boss 302 and Grimace; seven-inchers featuring the aforementioned El Espectro and Boss 302, Fletcher, recent Westword profile subject Sissy Fuzz and Texas-based Sugar Shack; and a cassette by Uphollow, which Meggitt describes as "a young, melodic punk-rock band from Castle Rock." Blue Lamp peddles these offerings through advertisements in local 'zines and national publications such as Fizz and Gearhead, as well as via word of mouth. "It works," says Meggitt, who picked up a great deal of his marketing acumen at Wax Trax, where he's worked for the past ten years. "We see it in sales, and we get letters from people around the country wanting product."
But what really sets Blue Lamp apart from the majority of indies across the country is the way in which the mini-company does business. Rather than make all the decisions himself, Meggitt invites the other musicians on the label to assist him. As Jody Schneider of Sissy Fuzz explains it, "The whole thing kind of evolved into a co-op. It's not one band that runs the label--it's run by a committee of bands. And all of the people in the bands get together once a month to talk about what direction we want the label to go."
"We kick around where we should advertise and what the art should look like in the ads," Meggitt elaborates, "but it's also an excuse to get drunk and to get psyched about what we're doing."
"Everybody helps out doing different things," chimes in Cincy Woods, Schneider's Sissy Fuzz bandmate. "Everyone's in charge of helping out with mailing and advertising, distribution and promotional stuff."
In addition, the various artists have combined forces for numerous Blue Lamp benefit shows, including a pair of Seven South dates in early February that brought a healthy bundle of cash into the Blue Lamp coffers. But although this infusion of capital is nice, what's more important to Schneider is the opportunity to be heard by more people. "Being on a label allows greater access for distribution," she says. "There aren't a lot of other labels interested in getting involved with bands at this level, so it's a great thing. Besides, there's total freedom on Blue Lamp. It's kind of, 'Whatever you're doing is cool' with these guys. There's definitely a big distinction between the sounds of the different bands, but that's okay."
Long-term planning isn't a major part of the Blue Lamp model; Meggitt prefers moving ahead slowly. But with the demise of El Espectro, which played its last gig at the February benefit, he has more time to devote to the label. "We're taking things one step at a time," he claims. "But I think Blue Lamp will definitely take on its own life eventually. Actually, it's already happening."
Those of you who are kicking yourselves for having missed filmmaker Joe Christ's recent screenings at the Asylum Gallery have one more chance to dive into his bloody, gory oeuvre. He's hosting another frightful evening on Thursday, April 25, at Rock Island--the second in what the club's management hopes will be a continuing series of "gothic" nights. Aside from running opuses like Speed Freaks With Guns, Christ plans to bring along an excerpt from his current project, Sex, Blood and Mutilation II. He's hesitant to give too many details about this clip, but he notes that it features his personal assistant, Heather Crane, undergoing "some pretty severe piercings." (Squeamish types are advised to keep a barf bag close at hand.) Christ is also scheduled to appear on an episode of twisted radio personality Bob Larson's new TV talk show, scheduled to begin airing nationwide on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in May. (Call your cable operator for more details.) "At one point, Bob told me I was the most morally vacant person he had ever met in his life," Christ recounts. "And I said, 'You don't have to butter me up, dude."
On Friday, April 26, Randy Handley, Two Tree Forest, Orpheus Rising and Quack Addict gather at the Mercury Cafe to raise funds for the Dragonfest Land Fund, which promoter/ Westword alum Renna Shesso describes as "an annual earth-based spiritual retreat seeking to acquire its own permanent site for future generations of reverent and celebratory land use." Thought you'd want to know.
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About this year's Summer of Stars schedule: For anyone enamored of Jurassic has-beens and overrated newcomers, this is the season of your dreams.
And? On Thursday, April 25, Mensclub, whose new Bar/None disc is called Comin' to Take You Away, congregates at the Bluebird Theater, and 7 Year Bitch howls at the Ogden Theatre, with Baldo Rex. On Friday, April 26, Neal & Landra play just plain folk at Swallow Hill Music Hall; the Feds bust into Pasquale's in Louisville; War Called Peace signs treaties at CU-Boulder's Club 156; My Blind Alley leads to the Skyline Cafe; Ace Butler and the Aces kick off a two-night run at the Key Club; and Terence Blanchard does the same at Vartan's. On Saturday, April 27, Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass record tracks at the Fox Theatre for an upcoming CD; W.C. Clark plays the blues at Brendan's; the Winstons smoke at Nederland's Acoustic Coffeehouse; and Los Cabos II hosts a danceable fundraiser for El Centro Su Teatro. On Sunday, April 28, the Ogden is the place to find "Y Call It Anything '96," a mini-fest starring Ld-50, Insight 23, Filmstrip, Christ Analogue and Seraphim Shock, and onetime Weather Report stick man Peter Erskine hosts a drum clinic at the Sheraton/ Denver West Hotel, at 6th and Union (phone 421-4515 for details). And on Monday, April 29, the Meices go to pieces at the Fox; MU330 plays by the numbers at the Bug Theater; and Gravity Kills lands hard at the Lion's Lair. Ouch.--Michael Roberts
Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@