Because of a ticket snafu, a representative of Universal Concerts led me through the bowels of McNichols Arena just before the start of the Family Values show on October 6. While she searched the box office for my passes, I was left for a few minutes in the trauma-care room, where five stretchers were laid out on the floor, just in case. Clearly, the medical staffers at McNichols were ready for mayhem, and as it turned out, there was plenty of it. The arena was not even close to full (the half-house setup was used due to advance sales of around 7,000 tickets), but the floor area was jammed--and because no chairs were placed upon it, swirling mosh pits bubbled up throughout the concert. Most of these seemed no more dangerous than your average Oktoberfest celebration, but there was at least one notable exception: A refugee from The Hill Has Eyes and a blond-haired, bare-chested, storm-trooper-sized killing machine turned one area into a war zone. Fortunately for me, I was a few rows above the action--meaning that what was seriously dangerous for some of the more slightly built pit participants was wonderfully entertaining for me.
So it went with the gig as a whole. The acts on the Family Values tour--Korn, Rammstein, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit and Orgy--didn't pump out consistently interesting music. Most of it, in fact, was loud but predictable. However, the sheer spectacle of the event helped compensate for such weaknesses. Hardly any of the songs played during the festival are likely to stand the test of time; by next week, even fans may have forgotten them. But if you were a sixteen-year-old boy with no girlfriend and too much airplane glue (or if you remembered what it was like to be one), a lot of them sounded just fine.
The first clever notion hatched by Family Value's organizers was the hiring of DeeJay Punk-Roc to spin before and between sets. Punk-Roc isn't the most innovative turntable jockey to rise to prominence of late, but he's ultra-accessible and consistently diverting--and if his mixing and scratching were often better than the acts that followed it, that was okay, too. While watching Orgy, a brainless Nine Inch Nails ripoff whose clunky cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" was only marginally more tolerable than its own crummy material, the knowledge that Punk-Roc would be up next was practically the only thing that kept me going.
Limp Bizkit, which followed Orgy to the stage, was another matter entirely. To put it simply, the band is less original than what's emitted by a photocopier. Musically, the performers' touchstones are the Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine; lyrically, they're primarily inspired by anti-intellectualism and misogyny. The title of Bizkit's best-known song, "Counterfeit" (which its record company, Interscope, turned into a hit via a Nineties variation on payola), is an apt description of these guys. But--and it pains me greatly to admit this--the energetic way they put across other people's sounds occasionally worked in this context. Their Mars Attacks set (a nod to Parliament) was eye-catching, and the performances by guest breakdancers provided a nice change of pace from lead singer Fred Durst, who's the asshole that all the other assholes in the world aspire to be. At one point Durst asked for women who wanted to get "freaky" to join him on the stage. Within minutes, several victims of low self-esteem were brought to him as if they were virgin sacrifices, but after the women danced through a song, Durst expressed his thanks by calling them "ugly," "stupid" and "trailer trash."
Ice Cube didn't have a lot of nice things to say about females, either; he uses the word "bitch" about as frequently as most of us say "the." But what stood out most during his time in the spotlight wasn't his proclivity for gender-bashing but his capitulation to live hip-hop cliches. In "Father Cube," a profile that ran in our October 1 edition, he claimed, "I'm not a person who's going to repeat himself over and over again," but his show was essentially the same one I've seen twice since 1991. All the old chestnuts were there, including his angry departure during the second song, his return a few minutes later in response to a "Fuck you, Ice Cube" chant by the easily led crowd, the my-side-of-the-arena-is-louder-than-your-side gambit, and so on. The only real surprise was his delivery of "Ghetto Vet" from a wheelchair--but the track's incisive lyric, which concerns the aftermath of paralysis, left the attendees mystified. They didn't want to think; they wanted to holler, pump their fists and run into each other. Repeatedly.
Rammstein gave them a chance to do just that during one of the most enjoyably moronic displays I've seen in ages. Think of the band, led by Till Lindemann (who bears a striking resemblance to Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List) as the Deutsch Kiss--a group that's more about Teutonic imagery and stage gimmickry than music. As the other bandmembers (clad in leather-bar gear) churned out Kraftwerkian metal that ran out of ideas after about a song and a half, Lindemann abused himself for our pleasure. He wore a flaming overcoat during the first number, which initially seemed like a miscalculation: He's not likely to top that, I thought. But the hardworking Till managed it by pounding himself in the forehead with his microphone until he started bleeding, repeatedly slugging himself in the thighs, tromping around in spark-throwing boots and more. The most charming moment involved a plastic penis attached to a high-pressure hose; Lindemann removed the phallus from the stuffed crotch of his trousers and used it to simulate anal sex with his synthesizer player. When his faux johnson wasn't spraying jets of fluid onto his bandmate's caboose or the fans below him, it was squirting into his own mouth. That I found the entire stunt hilarious is proof that I haven't been seeing my psychiatrist as often as I should.
Korn, on the other hand, provided something entirely different: musical substance. Most of the band's set was culled from Follow the Leader, its latest album, and tunes such as "It's On!" and "Dead Bodies Everywhere" proved to be as fierce and effective at McNichols as they are on disc. The group remains overly fond of a structure that calls for a melodic introductory phrase followed immediately by a chug-chugga-CHUG-chug-chugga-CHUG hardcore workout that causes listeners to stoop their shoulders, round their backs and wag their heads like a yes-man on crank. But lead singer Jonathan Davis is a charismatic frontman (albeit one who's a little too enamored with his own agony), and his fellows provide enough textural variety to prevent tedium from setting in.
The men of Korn haven't yet figured out how to be simultaneously aggressive and theatrical: They stuffed dozens of fans into cages behind them on stage, then failed to interact with them even once. But given a little more time, Davis and company should emerge from their shells and achieve the Metallica-like breakthrough that's already within their grasp. After all, this generation's male teenagers produce just as much testosterone as their predecessors--and if they don't use it like this, they'll find another way to spend it. Which constitutes another sort of family values.
As you may know by now, Jacor Communications, the mega-corporation that owns eight major stations in the Denver-Boulder area (KOA-AM/850 and KBCO-FM/97.3 among them), has been swallowed up by an even bigger fish, San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel Communications Inc. If the multi-billion-dollar stock-for-stock transaction is approved by the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission (two agencies that have given the nod to practically everything since the communications industry was deregulated a few years back), Jacor will become a subsidiary functioning under the Clear Channel umbrella.
Together, Jacor and Clear Channel control a staggering 454 radio stations in 101 domestic markets. Because of FCC rules limiting companies to the ownership of eight stations per market, some of those outlets will have to be sold once the deal is done; two communities in Ohio (Dayton and Cleveland), three in Florida (Tampa, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville) and one in Kentucky (Louisville) will be most affected in this regard. Moreover, Dallas's Chancellor Media, which owns several Denver outlets, including KALC-FM/105.9 (Alice) and KXPK-FM/96.5 (the Peak), will remain the largest radio enterprise in the nation thanks to its recent acquisition of another rival, Capstar Broadcasting. Don't cry for Clear Channel, though. Counting Jacor properties, the business is affiliated worldwide with 625 radio stations, 19 television stations and approximately 220,000 outdoor advertising displays. The company also controls 29 percent of Heftel Broadcasting, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States; 50 percent of Australian radio (the country uses a setup similar to the BBC); 33 percent of New Zealand radio (ditto); major chunks of Grupo Aeir and Radio Bonton, two international media firms; and 8.6 percent of a radio-tower company, American Tower. They probably own quite a few ballpoint pens as well.
Don Howe, vice president and general manager of the FM stations owned by Jacor in Denver, insists that locals won't notice major changes as a result of the pact. "The Jacor management team will stay intact and on-board. That was part of the deal," he says. "Life as we know it will change very little." Howe also doubts that additional syndicated material will turn up on his stations following the finalization of the agreement. After all, Premier Broadcasting, which controls programs featuring Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlesinger, is already part of the Jacor portfolio. "We don't really have any syndicated programs on the FMs," Howe adds, "and this growth shouldn't change any of that. We'll continue to operate the stations as we have been doing."
In other words, Jacor (whose official headquarters is in Covington, Kentucky, a community that's considered to be part of the greater Cincinnati area) will continue to dominate the Denver airwaves for the foreseeable future--and speculation that Clear Channel, a rather conservative company, will put the kibosh on the ribald programming like that heard mornings on KBPI-FM/106.7 and KRFX-FM/103.5 (the Fox) is exceedingly premature. However, it's not too early to lament the growing homogenization of radio in this country. With fewer and fewer companies dictating the programming of more and more stations, the losers are anyone who looks back fondly to the time when regional radio still existed and creativity and quirkiness were two of the medium's most important elements. In an environment where mergers like this one are happening more and more frequently, those days are becoming a distant memory--and that's a shame.
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Last Saturday, while Cabaret Diosa's Darrin Feder was playing a gig, his home was burglarized. Among the items stolen was a rare blue Gibson Les Paul guitar that may be making the rounds at pawnshops this week. A reward is being offered for its return and/or information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. If you can help, call the Fox Theatre at 303-447-0095.
Nutritious, delicious, and kids like them, too. On Thursday, October 15, the Wild Canadians, a recent Westword profile subject, rip up the Bluebird Theater, and the Cosmic Soul Surfers play selections from their new disc at Herman's Hideaway. On Friday, October 16, Curbside, featuring survivors from Zestfinger, park at 'Round Midnight; Clever, the pride of Omaha, joins Blister at the Aztlan Theater; and Genghis Angus cons its way into Cricket on the Hill (the band also joins Arlo Guthrie for an E-Town taping on Sunday, October 18, at the Boulder Theater). On Saturday, October 17, Mollie O'Brien introduces her new CD, Big Red Sun, at the Swallow Hill Music Hall; England's Swingle Singers sing and swing at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5000 East Alameda; and Jimmy Cliff crosses many rivers on the way to the Boulder Theater. On Sunday, October 18, Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff finds the Soiled Dove. And on Wednesday, October 21, the Heat fires up at Herman's Hideaway. Ouch.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com.