The fourth annual Westword Music Awards Showcase, held September 20 in LoDo, featured music of virtually every description, as well as a special guest appearance by representatives of the Denver police department.
Let's get to the latter situation first. Concentrated Evil, a trio nominated in the Showcase's Metal/ Goth category, performed in the 10 p.m. slot at Tabu, the "martiki bar" in the upstairs room off Wazoo's, a restaurant at 1819 Wazee Street. I caught a song or two early in the band's set and witnessed fairly typical behavior on the part of bandmembers Adam Schell, Dan George and Kevin Ozias (they were energetic, emphatic and deafening), as well as by the fifty-plus folks on hand to witness the onslaught (ditto). But as the performance wound down, an altercation between Concentrated Evil fans and Tabu bouncers turned ugly. Schell and company were blamed for stealing a microphone belonging to the club; thanks to an anonymous tipster, the mike was subsequently found hidden near the stage. More seriously, two patrons, Ted Norfolk and Adam Lindsay (himself a member of a Denver band, L.S. Diesel), were charged with assaulting Tabu security staffers who they in turn charge with assaulting them.
Schell says that Tabu workers first showed signs of concern after he and George began spraying people in the crowd with beer and a number of those they hit responded by doing the same to them. Around that time, a listener who Schell insists isn't known to the band climbed onto the stage, then leaped off it. Seconds later, according to Schell, bouncers materialized, put the stage jumper into a headlock, and tossed him out. "That was no big deal," Schell says. "But then they just started yanking people out of there--innocents who weren't doing anything."
One of the Concentrated Evil faithful ejected was Lindsay, who says he was rousted after a guard knocked a beer from his hand and he complained about it. "The next thing I knew, a guy grabbed me from behind and dragged me downstairs," he adds. "At the bottom of the stairs, I told them to let me go--that I didn't want to make a scene. But the guy at the front door grabbed me by one arm, and the guy who already had me took the other one and threw me in the street."
Norfolk says that he tried to pull one of the bouncers off Lindsay only to become a target himself. As Norfolk puts it, "They smashed me into a fence, and two of them started kicking me, beating me, kneeing me. I got a shot to my kidneys and my ribs and a scrape behind my ear from the fence." Tabu employees called the Denver police, who responded within minutes. Before he could be thoroughly questioned, the man who'd jumped off the stage ran away; rumor has it that he has an outstanding warrant against him. As for Norfolk and Lindsay, they received assault citations that require an early-October court appearance. Both of them say they'll fight the accusations in court, with the help of numerous witnesses.
The version told by Tabu spokesman Johnny Hampton, who was there on the evening in question, is significantly different. He says that in addition to spraying beer on the crowd, Schell and George were smashing the empty bottles on the stage--an assertion Schell denies. When patrons began to mimic them, Hampton explains, the bouncers were forced to react. "There was glass flying everywhere, and they had to do something about it before someone got hurt," he says. "And that wasn't all. One of the guys our doorman escorted out cocked his arm back like he was going to hit him with a bottle. So of course he had to defend himself, and it did get a little rough; I don't know if he fell down the stairs or what, but the guy wound up with a split lip. And when the bouncers were escorting the band out, I saw another guy jump on a bouncer's back.
"Our club is basically brand-new, and we try to make everything stay looking brand-new," Hampton continues. "And it won't if you let people slam bottles down on the floor. If our people got a little over-aggressive, so be it, but they needed to do what they did."
Schell disagrees. "Our position is that this never should have happened, and we can't let this slide. It really was a blemish on a great night of music."
Oh, yeah--music. The thousands of locals who turned out to hear the Showcase nominees heard plenty of it, and so did I. The iron legs of Amy Siefert, the pedicab driver who carried me from venue to venue until she blew a tire, helped me to sample all 35 nominated bands that performed. Here's a brief rundown of the sounds I heard at the seven participating clubs.
Wynkoop Brewing Co.: The Flood Plain Gang kicked off the Showcase with a virtuosic blend of traditional and progressive bluegrass that couldn't have been more different from the punk anarchy of the 8-Bucks Experiment and the heaviness of Skull Flux that followed. After this assault, the crowd was in need of some soothing, and Wendy Woo provided it.
Trios Enoteca: A new room for the Showcase, Trios was jammed for most of the night. Steve Crenshaw channeled Stevie Ray Vaughan; Adrian Romero and Love Supreme displayed abundant technical skills; the Perry Weissman 3 found a way to fit a Sun Ra cover into its quirky lounge-jazz approach; and David Booker took his swingtet out for a ride.
The Soiled Dove: Many of the bigger draws at the fest gathered under this roof. Money Plays 8, the evening's sharpest-dressed band, milked the jump-blues trend for all it was worth, while Mary Flower proved that a single guitar and the blues can still satisfy. Conjunto Colores got wristband-wearers prepared for the arrival of Hazel Miller, whose appeal remains undimmed; she packed 'em in. Kingdom followed with an all-star rap-off that included cameos by Hydro Bass and fellow Showcase nominee Bumpy Chill, and Brethren Fast kept the party going; the boys' first number was a good-humored version of a Budweiser commercial.
The Sports Column: Matthew Moon sang sweetly, and Lionel Young found the blues inside his high-tech violin. Afterward, Tony Furtado put on an astounding display of finger-picking skill, and the aforementioned Bumpy Chill gave a hip-hop primer with the help of his group, the Don Kronicals (see page 74). Finally, Paul Galaxy and the Galactix rocked until their daddies took their T-Birds away.
Jackson's All-American Sports Rock: Marty Jones and the Pork Boilin' Po' Boys helped fill Jackson's for the Healers, who spooned out their usual dose of ultra-accessible reggae. Other styles of dancing were encouraged by the jump blues of the Shaken Martinis and the rockabilly frenzy of the Hillbilly Hellcats. Wrapping things up was Sick, which has graduated from punk-funk to melodic hard rock of an extremely commercial sort.
Lodo Music Hall: The reconfiguration of the hall made for a much better space than when it was known as the Blake Street Baseball Club. Yo, Flaco! threw some Latin spice on its soulful/jazzy originals, and Chris Daniels and the Kings showed that they can still inspire booty-shaking when they put their minds to it. Next came Blister and Electric Summer, furnishing disparate types of aural pugnacity, and Judge Roughneck, whose ska grooves keep going and going and going...
Tabu: Yeah, yeah, Concentrated Evil. But Tabu also lifted the covers on Wailer B. and Axiom (a worthy successor to Roots Revolt), Nyke Loc (Snoop-there-it-is West Coast hardcore), Zeut (a jaunty gloss on the Boulder sound), Latin Crossover (highly danceable stuff) and the Hate Fuck Trio (wonderfully daft, as usual).
Which of these acts will win prizes at the Showcase awards ceremony--slated for 8 p.m. Sunday, September 27, at the Bluebird Theater--is anyone's guess; at press time, some poor, overworked souls were still plowing through the thousands of ballots filled out by readers and attendees. But you're invited to drop by Sunday for the awards announcement, a performance by Nina Storey, a local musicians' jam session, and a chance to breathe the same air as some of the finest entertainers in Denver and Boulder. Doors open to the public at 7:45 p.m., admission is $5: Save a cubic foot's worth for me.
As you no doubt know by now, reports of Howard Stern's invasion of Denver turned out to be false alarms. On September 15, as last week's edition was heading to the printer, David Juris, vice president and general manager of Tribune Denver Radio, announced that KKHK-FM/99.5 (The Hawk) would not begin airing the Stern show the following morning, as had been previously announced. This public-relations catastrophe spawned unending speculation about what actually happened. Jim Bryan, a talk-show host at KNUS-AM/710, has claimed on the air that he helped spearhead a phone-and-fax campaign that scared the Hawk into backing away from Stern. But many area observers believe that the folks at Jacor Communications, the company whose stations would have been most impacted by Stern, were actually behind the anti-Stern responses--a hypothesis that Jacor's Don Howe rejects out of hand.
Still another theory holds that Juris planned the whole thing himself in a wild grab for publicity. Juris laughs off that suggestion, and there is no shortage of reasons to believe him. After all, he spent much of the September 10 edition of this column picking apart the weaknesses of the Hawk's current morning programming: "The show was clearly falling behind the ratings we were getting with the rest of the station," he said, adding, "We did surveys that showed that people want high entertainment value in the morning, and that put our more-music stance in the mornings into a secondary position...Our goal is to be the number-one rock station in the marketplace. And to get there, we needed to make some changes."
Today Juris is characterizing the Hawk's non-move as a sign that the station is responsive to its listeners: "They told us that there's enough smut on the air with Lewis and Floorwax and the Alice morning show and that the Hawk was a safe haven for listening to rock and roll in a clean and adult format." Instead of making other changes in the drive-time slot, currently overseen by Dan Mitchell, Juris says, "we are simply going to look to improve the Hawk's music and continue to grow the station, but in a non-offensive, music-intensive environment."
Will Jacor make a run at Stern? Jacor definitely tried to steal Stern from the Hawk in the days leading up to his station's decision, Juris says, predicting that the King of All Media will soon be heard on KBPI-FM/106.7. But Howe swears that's not the case. "Howard Stern is probably a better fit for KBPI than he is for the Hawk. But I've said for many years that the way we do things here is very local and very responsive to the pulse of the community." He adds a well-placed shot at his competitor: "He said in your newspaper that listeners had been telling them that they wanted Howard Stern--and now he says they don't. So either they had bad information or bad research or bad instincts or bad management. The whole thing is a mess."
It may not be over, either. A reliable source says that the Hawk signed a five-year, $3 million agreement with Stern for his show. Depending upon the pact's provisions, the station's decision to renege might well be considered a breach of contract. Stern spokesman Don Buchwald did not return calls in regard to questions about potential legal action against the Hawk, but a previous Stern-related suit against Chicago's Evergreen Media over a similar matter suggests that litigation is entirely possible. Stern could be roaring in Denver after all--but from a courthouse, not a radio.
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One last thing: Jay Marvin, whose final show on KHOW-AM/630 was supposed to be on September 18, isn't quite ready to leave Denver yet. Negotiations with his new outlet, WFLA-AM in Tampa, have dragged on for longer than he expected, and while he waits for them to be resolved, he plans to fill his regular 3-7 p.m. time slot as often as he can. His return will likely be for only a matter of weeks and is dependent upon his health, which has been shaky of late (he missed several shows last week due to illness). But if he's feeling up to it, he'll be back at his old desk for a while longer, dispensing his own special brand of justice. "With everything that's going on these days, I can't just sit around," he says. "There are things I need to talk about."
You can say that again.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.