Singer/guitarist Michael Daboll loves garage music. He loves to play it in his band, Element 79, and he loves to listen to albums by other artists who love it, too. Which goes a long way toward explaining why Daboll has created Treble Fest! '96, a celebration of all things garage that takes place Thursday through Saturday, August 1-3, at the Raven--and why he's also starting (yes, you guessed it) his own garage-oriented label, 360 Twist Records.
"Denver has been mysteriously quiet on the garage front for a while, which is why I'm so excited by all this just as a music fan," says Daboll, who spent time in Minnesota and Washington state prior to his mid-Eighties arrival in Colorado. While attending high school in Grand Junction in 1988, he began working as a DJ at KMSA-FM, the adventurous station affiliated with Mesa State College. After three years on the air and an extended period spent hanging out, he moved to Fort Collins and started Element 79 with his brother. Daboll's sibling is no longer in the band; the lineup currently consists of bassist Michael Gilligan and drummer Jeff Learman. One night last year, these three began lamenting the difficulties of being a Nineties garage act. "There are so many bands out there, but not many that have a chance to put out records," Daboll affirms. "So we decided that we should start a label and try to rectify that situation a little bit."
Fortunately, Daboll and company had some experience in the record-making game. They'd self-released a three-song vinyl EP, Upstairs, in 1995, and collaborated with a German company, Screaming Apple, in the pressing of a four-songer titled My Love that hit stores last month. Moreover, the players had made connections with garage rockers across the country, and these relationships paid dividends when the newly dubbed 360 Twist Records contracted to issue full-lengths by three groups. Fifty Thousand Dollar Hand Job, by Philadelphia's Mondo Topless, a self-titled offering by Marshmallow Overcoat, a Tucson, Arizona, outfit, and Rock Songs, by Denver favorites Boss 302, should be available for purchase for the first time during the Treble Fest! weekend. Future releases by Fest participants such as the Albuquerque-based Drags and Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats are in the planning stages.
The event itself is intended to serve as 360 Twist's kickoff, but it means much more than a simple marketing opportunity to Daboll. Rather, it's a chance to carry on in the tradition of Garage Shock, a garage festival born in Seattle four years ago. Aficionados from as far away as Japan traveled to the annual Garage Shock get-togethers, but when the bash outgrew the bar where it had been held since its inception, organizers decided to forgo staging a 1996 version. "That was a shame," Daboll says. "So we thought, 'Let's have something in Denver.'"
Performers responded enthusiastically to the Treble Fest! idea; as a result, Daboll was able to construct a roster that should make garage-rock fanciers happy. The bill on Thursday, August 1, consists of Denver's the Hectics, Mondo Topless, Sugar Shack (an Austin project that previously shared a split single with Boss 302) and the Henchmen, from Michigan. In the spotlight on Friday, August 2, are Element 79, Orlando, Florida's own Hate Bombs, the Drags, and the Swingin' Neckbreakers, a Hoboken, New Jersey, project that Daboll describes as "one of the best new garage bands. They're a really great band to see live." For the grand finale on Saturday, August 3, Daboll and company present Boss 302, Fortune & Maltese (born in Kalamazoo, Michigan), the Woggles, from Athens, Georgia, and Man or Mono Mann?!, a configuration put together just for this date. "Mono Mann" is actually Jeff Conolly, the leader of an especially noteworthy East Coast unit, the Lyres. "He's a legendary wildman," Daboll enthuses. "The Lyres have had something like 25 different members over the years; Conolly is the only original. That's how he got his nickname--by throwing all these people out of his band." The Swingin' Neckbreakers are slated to serve as Conolly's back-up musicians for Treble Fest!; they'll be followed to the stage by Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats (see Critic's Choice, page 80), which Daboll sees as the spectacle's biggest fish. "Billy Childish has put out tons of vinyl, he's done a lot of art and prints--he has a couple of coffee-table books out--and he's a poet on top of that. He does everything."
If Treble Fest! goes over well, Daboll intends to bring more garage bands to the area; tentative plans are in the works to promote a September appearance by the Monomen (named in tribute to Conolly) and Sweden's the Nomads. In the meantime, he's hopeful that 360 Twist will help induct a great many more listeners into the garage-rock cult. "All these bands have rewritten 'Louie Louie' a hundred times," Daboll says. "But you've got to admit, it's a pretty great song."
On the record.
The new vinyl single by the Dalhart Imperials finds the band expanding upon its rockabilly vocabulary. The A-side, "There Ain't No Place Like the Panhandle," an ode to Texas, is a bouncy slab of Western swing made especially charming by the contributions of steel guitarist Tim Whitlock. But don't worry, bop cats: The flip, "Me, Myself and I" (written by Whitlock), is reassuringly speedy, proving that the Imperials aren't about to leave their roots behind (Wormtone Records, 3339 West Moncrieff Place, Denver 80211). The most valuable player in C-Ment Gypsy (represented by an EP dubbed 1996 Promotional Compact Disc) is Robert Adkins, whose trombone adds needed juice to "Love and Tolerance." The former is far and away the most enjoyable track on the package, which is otherwise filled with your ordinary, everyday neo-hippie-style cuts. Which is not what you'd call the most unique approach for a Colorado band to take (771-0824).
On the Reliable Records release Hail Satan, Dude: Music From My Goddamn Movies and More!!!, Joe Christ, the iconoclastic filmmaker and goremonger who spent the first half of 1996 in Denver, proves a pretty decent rocker, albeit one with little interest in moon-June-spoon. Standouts among his oldies include "Your Daughter Died a Virgin," featuring guest guitarist Chris Spedding, and the theme song to Acid Is Groovy Kill the Pigs, a miniature that will have landlubbers looking for a surfboard. More recent efforts recorded at Time Capsule studio are less worthy because they're more one-dimensional, but many of you will still enjoy "Satan's Whore Theme" and "Murder Time" (instrumentals both), as well as the catchy/apocalyptic "I'm Your New God." A good time will be had by some (available in area record stores). The self-titled CD by Idle Mind is the most commercial work yet from the folks at Boulder's sh-mow imprint. These sincere acousticians play college-crossover rock that's sugary and delicate. The excellent engineering touch of Kirby Orrick helps (dig that bass line on "Try" and the harmonies that grace "Someday"), as does the undeniable prettiness of Patrick Park's lilt. A modest offering that will grow on you if you give it enough time (available in area record stores).
Munly, whose CD blurry has been released by Top Notch (a subsidiary of Boulder's W.A.R.? imprint), comes across like a less tortured Vic Chesnutt; he yokes his shaky yelp of a voice to warmly absurdist rhymes served up under monikers like "Virgin of Manhattan," "Baptists and Barbiturates," "Kidneys Running Dry" and "Stupid Is Forever." There's not a lot of blurry that's logical, but Munly is a valuable commodity, anyway. His odd slant on life helps you appreciate parts of it you may not have previously considered (available in area record stores). Red Demo, by Alien Chrome, came to me wrapped in aluminum foil, perhaps to protect it from interplanetary radiation. The music itself is melodic pomp-rock that takes you back to the days when English power trios ruled the earth. Folks enticed by that description may find Alien Chrome out of this world. Didn't do much for me, though (442-6489).
Sometime Coloradan John McEuen doesn't exactly get down to the nitty-gritty on his new Vanguard offering, Acoustic Traveler. Unlike the fare in which he specialized while with the Dirt Band, instrumental efforts such as "Gypsy Knights," "Fisher's" and "Turki innastra" showcase picking and sawing over hooks. McEuen nods to his best-known group with "Mr. Bojangles (suite)," but his rendition, featuring the lead guitar playing of his son Jonathan, is much more esoteric than previous versions. Which is a good thing (available in area record stores). Also a good thing is the new CD by the duChateau-Ehle Duo, out of Fort Collins. Relations is chamber music of an especially ambitious stripe, with one piece, "Petroglyphic Sonata," dedicated to John Cage, and another, "The Living Reed," inspired by a story from the canon of Pearl Buck. No matter the stylistic approach, the playing of cellist/ pianist Charles duChateau and violinist R. Todd Ehle is irreproachable (Living Reed Music, P.O. Box 271582, Fort Collins 80527-1582).
The four-song cassette named after the Novembers is okay college rock dominated by the reedy vocals of Darin Grasmick and the guitar strums of John Metcalfe. Nothing here will cause your heart to stop, but neither will "I Won't Be Here" and the rest provoke your wrath. If you love R.E.M., you may like this. But I'm not willing to offer a money-back guarantee (698-1496). The latest from Neil Satterfield hardly recalls his work with 40th Day, and little wonder: Moss Beach is subtitled A Collection of Classical Guitar and Piano Pieces. As advertised, the tape finds Satterfield surveying flamenco fragments, taking a voyage into the Afro-Cuban realm and trying his hand at the creations of Frederic Chopin and Erik Satie. Although the recording's production is thin, it establishes Satterfield as a multifaceted player worthy of greater notice (available at the Denver Folklore Center and the Swallow Hill Music Association). Another 40th Day alum, Shawn Strub, has recently come out of her self-imposed cocoon and sent along an affecting sample of material that should appear on a CD in the not-so-distant future. It's not yet available for purchase, and my package even lacked song titles. More important, though, is the music's style (an arresting variation on the atmospheric, structurally diffuse 40th Day sound) and its quality (very high indeed). More stuff like this would be much appreciated.
The recording career of the Subdudes has been plagued by the combo's inability to re-create the essence of its boisterous live shows in the studio; its discs have been too tidy, too cautious to linger in the mind. On Primitive Streak, from the High Street company, the 'dudes don't completely leave this problem behind them, but they come closer to succeeding than they have previously. The production, by Clark Vreeland, is more energetic than on past Subdudes packages; particularly fine are "Love Somebody," featuring the bluesy guitar howl of Willie Williams, and "Too Soon to Tell," in which Bonnie Raitt guests on vocals and guitar. Primitive contains a few numbers so vague that they evaporate even before they've run their course, but the improved percentage of those that don't is cheering (available in area record stores). Lynn Skinner has a silky voice that doesn't seem ideal for the jazz-fusion melodies she writes. However, it's actually a fairly flexible instrument that she uses well on her self-titled CD. When Skinner gets didactic, as on "These Are Our Children," the results can be scary--and even some of her relationship rhymes, like the ones in "A Dangerous Game," are far too on-the-nose to work. The recording is best appreciated, then, for its sound. Assisted by a pile of local jazz figures, Skinner comes up with a creamy mix that reaches its apex on the cool, insinuating "Keep Your Distance" (available in area record stores).
Purely Piano, by Jordan Oliver, is accurately titled; these ten songs are played entirely by Oliver on a Steinway concert grand. A musical romantic whose style has George Winston written all over it, he's a fine player, and no doubt a lot of moms and dads will find his CD quite pretty. You young folks out there may have a different opinion (Unipeg Records, 2888 Bluff Street, Suite 6, Boulder 80301). ELI is being advertised by the folks at his label, Beverly Hills' Chartmaker Records, as Denver's "karaoke king," and who am I to argue? After all, my versions of "New York, New York" and "Copacabana" sure as hell aren't going to knock him off his perch. On the disc When You Fall in Love, ELI specializes in amiably bland R&B ballads and mid-tempo seducers of the sort that call Lionel Richie to mind. He sings well, and the production on Love is accomplished, but the album won't win any awards for originality (available in area record stores).
Mirroring metal's transition to post-grunge, Skull Flux has dulled its serrated riffs into a blunt instrument that clubs rather than slices. On Ophelia, Conrad Kehn shouts out his gloomy words (like "Don't mind me feeling just a little dead/Don't worry, I won't bite/I'll just stick my tongue straight in your head," from "Manipulate") while guitarist Greg Stretton peels off licks that recall numerous volumes in the Soundgarden library. Derivative, yet still pretty powerful in its own right (Skull Flux, 2075 S. University Blvd., Suite 161, Denver 80210). Dramatically peppier is Out of the Picture by Abdomen (which has dropped the "of Hypnosis" portion of its original moniker). "Probably," a dollop of trebly pop with a guitar solo that's jolting and reassuring at the same time, lays the groundwork for the remainder of the recording, in that it eschews the sometimes atonal experimentation for which the band was once known in favor of comforting accessibility. Hell, some of this might even put you in mind of Matthew Sweet. But not to worry: Mike Jourgensen and his associates are still subversive enough to toss a few sonic shards into the meal. Guess that's why they call it the cutting edge (D.U. Records, P.O. Box 18677, Denver 80218).
Blatant plug time: Computer types who haven't yet checked out Westword's new Web headquarters (at www.westword.com) will find an enhanced Backbeat section waiting for you. The site includes sound samples of most of the artists profiled or reviewed in these pages; for example, you can read about Golden Smog (see page 65) as you listen to snippets from the album Down by the Old Mainstream. Ain't technology grand?
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Driving downtown recently, I saw a city bus enveloped in an ad for KOSI-FM that featured Godzilla-size renderings of Michael Bolton and Rod Stewart. Which is my way of saying I'm sorry I hit that phone pole, but I have a good excuse.
Get your motor running. On Thursday, August 1, Melissa Ferrick finds her way to Boulder's Round Midnight, and William Crist plays for his own sake at Cricket on the Hill. On Friday, August 2, Sketch doodles at the Sink; Jeff Wahl and the Explosion wreak havoc at Penny Lane; Carolyn's Mother and the aforementioned Novembers combine forces at Herman's Hideaway; Slim Cessna's Auto Club gets into gear at the Mercury Cafe; Clutch, Orange 9MM, Fu Manchu and Core hit the Ogden Theatre; and Weapon of Choice fires at the Bluebird Theater, with the Psychodelic Zombiez. On Saturday, August 3, Happy Lizard appears at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art; Sister Machine Gun fires at Area 39; Zuba ventures to Herman's Hideaway; Geggy Tah visits the Fox Theatre; Drill powers up at the Aztlan Theatre; and Shammah and Echo Bay play a benefit at the Boulder Theater. On Monday, August 5, the Voodoo Glow Skulls light up at the Ogden. And on Tuesday, August 6, the Jades shine at City Spirit. Dig?
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@