Contests: We're chock-full of them.
When the members of the Reejers decided to enter the Jim Beam One Shot to Stardom contest earlier this year, none of them had the slightest expectation that doing so would lead to anything; as guitarist Nick Iurato notes, "We didn't think we had much of a chance." But after submitting a demo tape put together this summer, the combo--which also includes vocalist/guitarist David Houghton, drummer Kyle Comerford and bassist Bug ("He doesn't need a last name," Iurato points out)--was chosen as one of five finalists from the Denver area. The nominees, who included X-Lulu and Sketch, performed for a sizable crowd and a panel of judges at the Church in August. "They scored you on different things," Iurato recalls. "It was kind of like The Gong Show."
The Reejers weren't gonged; instead they were chosen to represent Colorado at the One Shot national finals, held in September at the House of Blues in Chicago. Also competing were winning outfits from Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina--the survivors from over 600 contestants nationwide. Says Iurato, "They flew us out there and put all the bands up in the same hotel. So all of us hung out together. We made a lot of friends there; it was like summer camp." This sense of camaraderie came about despite considerable differences in the bands' musical styles. Iurato says, "Everybody else was a lot poppier than we were. We were definitely the weirdest, hardest band there."
That may have been an advantage. On the big night, the nominees were herded into the House of Blues and paraded before judges who included, Iurato divulges, "A&R people and a guy from ASCAP and the manager of Sugar Ray and somebody from the David Letterman show." Fifteen minutes was all the quartet got to prove itself, but that was enough; when the votes were tallied, the Reejers emerged victorious.
What did you win, Nick? "The next day they rushed us into a studio with all rented equipment, and we banged out three songs with a producer from New York. They're putting those on a CD and making 500 copies of them that are basically ours. They're also putting us on a three-week tour with a major act to be named later. It's going to start in San Francisco at the end of October and go all over the nation--ten cities. Plus, they're giving us a bus to use--a big rock-star bus with a driver and everything. And they gave us a whole lot of free whiskey." Without much prompting, he adds, "We heartily endorse their product."
The timing of this exposure is perfect for the Reejers. The players had moved from Boulder to Chicago a couple of years back, but late last year, Iurato explains, "our old drummer retired and we picked up Kyle, who had a house in Boulder. Then, around the same time, the building where we were living in Chicago was sold, so we were sort of homeless." As a result, the players returned to Boulder in January, but while they've toured along the West Coast a couple of times in 1997, their profile in their home state has been fairly low. Now, however, they're benefiting from a new set of connections that they hope to exploit when they finish up their latest batch of recordings. "It's been great, especially since we never expected to win," Iurato allows. "It's still a little shocking to me."
Also a winner is John McKenna of Evergreen, whose original song, "The Unchose," took third place in the rock division at the seventh Annual Billboard Song Contest, sponsored by Billboard magazine. This news dovetails nicely with details of the eighth annual version of this competition: Contestants will be judged in eleven categories, including a new bracket for performances, and prizes include guitars, recording equipment and stuff like that. The entry deadline is December 15; for more information, dial 405-523-4817.
There's no need to contact anyone else in order to learn who topped the various categories at the third annual Westword Music Awards; the victors are listed on page 84 of this issue. Of course, folks who were part of the packed house at the awards ceremony, held September 28 at the Bluebird Theater, already know who took home prizes in the thirteen categories being contested. But for those of you who were unable to tear yourselves away from the Minnesota-Philadelphia game long enough to check out the festivities, here's some of what you missed:
The ceremony's first-ever heckler. Didn't get a very good look at the guy, but he seemed to have a problem with the performers who took the first several prizes. In the name of unity in the music community, representatives from Westword's business department had him expelled. As he was being escorted out, the man reportedly asked, "Is it against the rules for me to have an opinion?" Not at all, pal--but next time, keep it to yourself, okay?
The first Westword Music Awards winner to thank God in his acceptance speech. To be specific, Kingdom, who triumphed in the hip-hop/funk bracket, gave props to "my Lord and Saviour, for all the talent," as well as to his family, his friends, his fans and showcase organizer Dolly Zander, "for taking all my phone calls." (When I arrived at the Bluebird that evening, Zander had asked me, "How many times have you talked to Kingdom today?") The rapper's enthusiasm was mirrored by the hip-hop runners-up; the first to congratulate Kingdom and his crew were members of Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass and nGoMa, who seemed legitimately excited for their musical peer. If there had been trophies for good sportsmanship, each of them would have deserved one of their very own. By the way, Francisco Mejias also cited God while accepting a plaque for Conjunto Colores, the top vote-getter in the Latin/Tejano division. A trend is born.
The first band to announce its breakup at the Westword Music Awards. The four entertainers in Sweet Water Well looked chummy enough as they took the stage to accept a bauble for besting their competitors in the Folk/Acoustic grouping. However, the comments of Tony Achilles and Molly Bowers hinted at a decision that cohort David Jackson made explicit; he said that he felt a bit conflicted in accepting, since this was the last year that the combo would be in the running. Afterward, the players confirmed that they've chosen to go their separate ways. Look for more details about this decision in a future edition of this very column.
The first major-label act to play at the Westword Music Awards. After the last accolade was dispensed, David Eugene Edwards, Jeffrey-Paul and Pascal Humbert of 16 Horsepower offered up a stirring acoustic presentation. Drummer Jean-yves Tola, who recently moved to Tuscadero, California, was unable to appear, but the remaining players didn't use his absence as an excuse to walk through the thirty-minutes-plus set. Far from it: Edwards attacked songs such as "Black Soul Choir" with his customary intensity, tearing at the words with a dark ferocity that called to mind PJ Harvey. (It's no wonder that John Parish, a longtime Harvey collaborator, was picked to produce the act's next album, already available in Europe and due for release in this country by A&M Records next February.) Because Edwards's singing, banjo and guitar was supplemented by Humbert on guitar and Jeffrey-Paul on background vocals, cello and violin, the music was imbued with even more depth and mystery than had been the case in its previous trio format. To put it simply, 16 Horsepower is among the most adventurous and compelling bands in this great land of ours, bar none. That Edwards and company are still so accessible and so willing to give back to the local scene from which they sprang bodes well for the future.
The first appearance of a new musical genre: rockabilly hip-hop. Well, maybe not, but the jam session at the end of the evening found Chuck Hughes of the Hillbilly Hellcats, who kindly provided his equipment for use by the assembled masses, sharing the spotlight with Lord of Word and Mike V. from Chaos Theory, among many others. The resulting sound is unlikely to shoot to the top of the charts, but it demonstrated that it is possible for Denver-Boulder artists with a wide variety of likes, dislikes and backgrounds to pull together for the common good. That heckler probably wouldn't have been cheered by such symbolism, but plenty of other people were. And besides, he wasn't around by then anyhow.
The Trash Hawks are hosting a benefit for Ricky Rodriguez, a local musician whose guitars and assorted musical equipment were stolen recently. The show takes place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 5, at Enoteca, and the Hawks' Paul Niemiec promises that it will include "a jam open to all players and a raffle of local CDs, weird gifts and edible condoms." Marv Albert will see you there.
A couple of widely varied events take place at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art this week. On Thursday, October 2, the venue features "Nothing Sacred," a comedy extravaganza advertised as "dangerous and offbeat." Given the participation of MusicLink host Bill Amundson and a house band called the Tawdry Lambs, that might not be hyperbole. Two days later, on Saturday, October 4, Art Lande and Mark Miller offer up a series of improvisational duets on piano, flute and saxophone. Call the museum at 443-9788 to learn more.
Jackopierce, presently in the midst of its farewell tour, plays what is described as the quartet's last-ever Colorado date on Friday, October 3, at the Bluebird Theater. Since I've always hated this group, I couldn't be happier.
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But Marv Albert could. On Thursday, October 2, Cabaret Diosa celebrates the release of its new CD at the Boulder Theater, with Gordito; Buzz Bomber and the M80s strafe the Skyline Cafe; Natty Nation begins a three-night run at Jimmy's Grille; the Humpers do the nasty at the 15th Street Tavern, with Old Bull's Needle and the Down-and-Outs; Michael Rose, of Black Uhuru fame, flowers at the Fox Theatre; and Jason Bonham puts on a drum clinic at Rupp's Drums prior to an evening performance at the Bluebird. On Friday, October 3, Furious George and the Monster Groove temporarily reunite at Herman's Hideaway; Petrol Apathy gasses up at the Snake Pit, with Gestapo Pussy Ranch; Linda Maich leads a quartet at the Mercury Cafe; Salamander Crossing slithers to Cameron Church; Dave Greenwald gets bluesy for the first of two nights at Sheabeen's Irish Pub, with Terry Dalton and Skip Grabow; and Skull Flux uses its head at Cricket on the Hill, with King Rat and Junis Ponds. On Saturday, October 4, Phantasmorgasm has one at Area 39, with Tribangha, Sanskrit and Dove; Shade Seekers take cover at Seven South, with Wigamazoot and Bill Bohling; and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama open eyes at the Bluebird. On Sunday, October 5, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince struggles to fit his new moniker on the marquee at Fiddler's Green for the final show of the Summer of Stars season; Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Calvin Krime, the Demonics and a whole bunch of Mexican-style wrestlers face off for a grudge match at the Snake Pit; Marie Beer bubbles at Penny Lane, and KEZW-AM's Rick Crandall emcees the Fifth Annual Battle of the Big Bands, a benefit for the Colorado Elks, at Lakewood Elks Lodge No. 1777, 1455 Newland Street (call 238-1307 for details). On Monday, October 6, Paul Weller, formerly of the Jam and Style Council, joins ex-Concrete Blonde frontwoman Johnette Napolitano at the Ogden Theatre. And on Tuesday, October 7, Robert Fripp and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are among the string-stranglers at the Mammoth Events Center for the G-3 Tour. I think those of you who attend will get a chance to hear some guitar solos, but don't hold me to that.