Area musicians understand all too well that getting publicity in this burg ain't easy. What with the daily newspapers and the majority of the city's commercial radio stations apparently under the illusion that there are no bands based in Colorado, acts are left to find other ways to get their names out. Enter David Barber, Turbo and Dan Byars, each of whom oversees a Web site dedicated to telling folks in Denver and beyond about local acts big, small and in between.
Barber, the man behind the site for Herman's Hideaway (at www.csn.net/hermans), makes his living as a chemist, not a musician. But he's followed music in these parts since the mid-Eighties, often from a bar stool at Herman's--and as time has passed, he's become more and more interested in spreading the word about the sounds he hears. To that end, he started e-mailing updates about happenings at Herman's to various people in the music community, including Jackie Selby, formerly a DJ with KXPK-FM/the Peak (she now works for KALC-FM/Alice). When Selby suggested to Barber that he start a Web site, he decided that it was a concept whose time had come. As he puts it, "I thought, geez, instead of just sitting around drinking beer, I should do something productive."
Although Barber initially had no clue how to build a site, he proved to be a quick study. By January 1997 (with the permission--but not the active participation--of Herman's management), his creation was on the Net. The site sports information about the club and its schedule of upcoming events, as well as an extensive links page. "I'll link up to any local band with a Web site," Barber says. "All I have to do is find out about it."
What's most impressive about the Herman's site, though, is the avalanche of show reviews surfers can access. Even Barber has lost count of the dates he's critiqued. "All I know is, it's been a hell of a lot," he says. "I think it averages out to about six shows a week." Although the majority of his notices range from positive to kind, he claims to be under no pressure to praise everyone. "I have disclaimers on the reviews pages, so it's clear that these are just my opinions or the opinions of other reviewers," he points out. "They have no bearing on the opinions of Herman's management, and they don't have anything to do with whether or not a band will be booked again." Some acts have been unhappy about Barber's assessments, with one even asking that he remove a slam from the site--and although he declined to do so, Barber did agree to add a review by someone chosen by the musicians to counterbalance his words. He's done much the same to himself. "I've seen some things that I didn't care for that much the first time," he concedes. "But after hearing them again and seeing that they'd made some adjustments, I've changed my mind. So my opinions can change, and I let people know about it when they do."
Around 150 people a week are visiting the Herman's address these days, and its success has convinced folks at other clubs to create their own sites. (Just up is one for the 15th Street Tavern, at www.15thsttavern.com.) In the meantime, Barber continues to send updates to dozens of people every week via e-mail. "Herman's is thrilled that I'm doing this," he says, "and most of the bands are, too. I think it helps everyone."
Unlike Barber, Turbo has a computer background; in fact, he asks that the name on his birth certificate not appear in print for fear that his high-tech employer would be miffed about his side project, Denver-Rocks. As in the case of the Herman's site, however, Turbo's pride and joy (which can be found at www.denver-rocks.com) has a watering hole to thank for its November 1997 birth. "I had done a Web page for [Denver singer-songwriter] Dave Delacroix," Turbo says, "and afterward, I was sitting in a bar when I got this bright idea that the Denver music scene needed a place to find all these bands with pages."
Assisted by fellow Web-master Skippy and so-called cyber-dominatrix Danielle, Turbo has expanded Denver-Rocks rapidly in a short period of time. "For a while, the only pages on there were Delacroix's and Moot's," he says. "But now we've got over fifty local bands, and we've broken things into categories: alternative, modern rock, rockabilly, swing, country--and I've just made a new techno category. It may be called Denver-Rocks, but you don't have to be rock to be on it." The site also features band interviews, reviews of heavy-metal acts and a column written by onetime Babihed member Bill Houston that's titled "Denver-Sucks.Com." (Houston writes from Los Angeles, where he recently moved.)
Turbo, who also maintains sites for Teletunes and Ralph Cafe Radio Soundcheck, a program on KRRF-AM/1280, charges $60 a throw to create pages for bands, but he doesn't view Denver-Rocks as a moneymaking venture. "I use that money to keep the server up and for general upkeep," he says. His goal, he adds, "is to promote the Denver scene. I'm not in a band or anything. I'm a lot older than most of these guys; I think I'm trying to stay young by hanging around them. But I go to a lot of shows around town, and I'm interested in these folks. I'm trying to do anything I can to help them get more attention."
Dan Byars echoes these sentiments. His site, Colorado Rock (at www.coloradorock.com), has been in existence since late last year, and at present, he says, "there are about 150 links to other bands and everything else that I could find in Colorado. There's even an add-a-link page, so that if someone finds the site and wants to be on it, they can do it themselves. And I've got a lot of pictures on there. I bring my camera everywhere, so I'll take pictures of bands and put them up." The site also includes lyrics and a musicians' referral service that attempts to help like-minded performers get together. Byars knows the latter works: He used it to put together the Babysitters, one of his two groups (Beast is the other one).
Byars spends the majority of his week keeping Colorado Rock up to date, and the only compensation he receives is when someone who visits the site hires one of his bands to play at a bar or a wedding. Nonetheless, his only complaint is that more people aren't computer savvy. "Sometimes I tell musicians about this, and they don't know what I'm talking about," he says. "I can't wait until everybody buys a computer and gets on the Net."
The Red Aunts, which has been one of the planet's best punk groups for several years, is breaking up; its last visit to Denver takes place on Friday, July 17, at the Bluebird Theater. In other news, a lot of terrible bands are still together. Typical.
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From this point on, Phantasmorgasm's Big Mike wishes to be known as Cactus Marco; he's switching monikers, he says, because there are "too goddamn many Big Mikes in town now, as opposed to ten years ago, when I was the only Big Mike in the state." He's also formed a new company, Oblio Entertainment Group, that will specialize in publishing and production. Musicians interested in learning more should call 615-3314.
Tell 'em Little Mike sent you. On Thursday, July 16, Alison Brown colors her world at Quixote's True Blue. On Friday, July 17, Feeder plays for free at the Ogden Theatre with Opie Gone Bad, voted the best rock band in Denver by you, the Westword readers; Pierce Pettis croons at Corona Presbyterian Church; and Austin's 8 & 1/2 Souvenirs do an in-store appearance at Twist & Shout. On Saturday, July 18, Sandpaper Love rubs you the right way at Grandma's Area 39, with Anne Frank on Crank and Cunnilingus; the Winstons smoke at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Nederland; and Paul Galaxy and the Galactix go into orbit at the Skyline Cafe. On Sunday, July 19, Westword profile subjects Kingdom and Nyke Loc appear at "Buttafest 98" at the Fox Theatre. On Monday, July 20, Scared of Chaka does a Khan job at the 15th Street Tavern, with Brand New Unit and the Family Men. On Tuesday, July 21, Michael Hill's Blues Mob hits Brendan's. And on Wednesday, July 22, Vicki Taylor warbles at Swallow Hill Music Hall; Charlie Hunter stalks prey at Herman's; Gravity Kills falls to earth at the Ogden, with Pitchshifter; and Drugstore is open for business at the Mercury Cafe. Make mine a double.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.