Trends come and trends go--which means, no doubt, that the current swing revival is likely to become the dead-and-forgotten swing revival before too many more flicks attempting to exploit it can stiff. (Did you see Blast From the Past? Me neither.) Still, James Glader, 24, is confident that this craze is built for the long haul--and even if it's not, it's been good to him thus far. All Swing Events, Denver's most comprehensive guide to the movement, began in February 1998 as a single piece of paper with a circulation of a hundred, which Glader photocopied himself. By contrast, the April edition of the free publication, which is available now, fills 24 pages, boasts a circulation of 15,000, and is distributed in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. But while Glader is appreciative of the response All Swing Events has received, he's even happier about the changes swing dancing has had on his personal life. Why? Because before he was a publisher, he was a drunk.
"I used to drink a lot," Glader admits. "When I quit drinking, I had five extra hours a day."
Glader's journey from alcoholic-in-training to successful entrepreneur began after he hit a roadblock while pursuing his initial career of choice, art. "I used to make my living as a portrait painter, using watercolors and pencils," he says. "Then I decided to try oils, and it was a big ego thing: I figured that I was good enough with watercolors that oils would be a natural. After that, I got hired to do a whole series of reproductions of this famous portrait by John Singer Sargent for this fellow, and I worked on them for a couple of months and just about lost my mind. The best way I can describe it is that it was like that movie Shine. It was just too much."
Reeling from the discovery of his limitations, Glader attempted to booze his way into oblivion. But an epiphany got in the way. "It was July 9, 1997," he remembers, "and I was at the Rock-N-Rhythm Billy Weekend dance contest. I had to stand on two chairs that were stacked on top of each other to see, but it was worth it. I knew right then that I needed to stop drinking and start dancing--and that's what I did. Beginning the next night, I danced every night for three months straight."
Although Glader had gone swing dancing a couple of years earlier, he was essentially a novice when he embarked on his mission. But by the following year, he was an expert, winning the very Rock-N-Rhythm Billy competition that had inspired him. "I'm a lot healthier now," he points out. "I've lost forty pounds, and I'm at, like, marathon weight. I can dance for six hours straight. I dance as hard as I used to drink."
All Swing Events is another offshoot of Glader's newfound passion. At first, it was simply a calendar that he put out with his partner, Victor Ward, but within two months it had graduated to flier status--and before long, its pages were multiplying at the same rate as the swing festivities it was founded to celebrate. Today, it's a full-fledged 'zine that Glader and Ward get into the hands of fellow swing junkies with the assistance of several lindy-hop troupes, including Boulder's Jump 66, Colorado Springs' Sidecar Swingers and Fort Collins' Jumpin' Jive Cats. Issues can be found at assorted CD stores, swing-oriented clubs, vintage-clothing stores and dance studios across the Front Range, as well as online at www.allswingevents.com. Subscriptions are also available for $12 per annum.
Naysayers claim that swing has already plateaued, but Glader sees no sign of that. "This summer's going to be the biggest swing summer since the Forties," he declares. "Last year at this time, there was usually only one thing to do a night, so everyone who was into swing would congregate in the same place. But now you can find swing in a lot of places--and the dancers are getting really, really good."
Part of the credit for this improvement in technique goes to Glader and Ward, who have become two of the most sought-after dance instructors in the area. But Glader has ambitions that go beyond helping the left-footed among us perform aerial stunts without winding up in the emergency room. He co-produced Brother Tied, an independent film by local director Derek Cianfrance that was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998, and he hopes to dive back into the cinematic arena soon. "I'm thinking about doing books, too," he says. "But right now, All Swing Events is a really good platform for me to get in front of people and showcase my talents--and it'll grow as my talents grow. And that's good, because I'm a terrible employee. That's why I figure other people will have to work for me.
"The only reason this magazine isn't four-color and on glossy paper is because I'm just learning how to run a business," he continues. "Even writing invoices was totally foreign to me before I started this. But my timing was good. The vacuum was huge, and I'm trying to fill it. I'm just lucky that someone who knew what they were doing didn't step in front of me."
For the (local) record.
The men of Splitter, whose CD is called (Miss), understand that post-punk music should be loud and sloppy, but they haven't yet figured out how to write songs good enough to benefit from these qualities. A couple of the tunes ("Gina Lyrus" and "Jesus Never Had a Girlfriend," to be specific) show some promise, but "Boys Are Cool," "Grating" and "Suntan Lotion" are done in by weak execution and the rather lousy vocals of Billy Kermisch. I was in a high school band that sounded a lot like this one--and, unfortunately, that's not a compliment (Splitter, P.O. Box 3797, Boulder, CO 80307-3797). The Interim Album, by cHUCK dA fONK Fishman, lives up to its name: "Acoma Aroma," "Interim Album," "Download It" and others resemble work tapes that were put out before they could fully crystallize. It's not that Fishman and his associates lack material; for instance, several funky grooves and intriguingly druggy patterns pop up in "What You Doin Witch U?" and "Full Birth of Spring" (in which Fishman repeatedly yelps, "It's the full birth of spring/And I love you!"). But in the end, The Interim Album is too shapeless to either free your mind or convince your ass to follow (303-837-9864).
Venus Diablo, a sort-of-alive/sort-of-not New Mexico band, has no shortage of Colorado connections: Its disc, Beautiful Curse, is on Denver-based Velveteen Records, and five numbers on it were recorded live at the Bluebird Theater in 1997. (These cuts are dropped into the midsection of the material, and the difference between their sound quality and that of the studio tracks around them is rather jarring.) In addition, Venus Diablo's fondness for atmospherics recalls the Czars, who are also on the Velveteen imprint. Aficionados of the latter will find a lot to like on Curse, which is sparked by Steve Mickelsen's spooky guitar and basso profundo vocals that are more Glen Danzig than Louis Jordan, especially on an unexpectedly dark rendering of "Goldfinger." The CD is aptly named, if more than a bit erratic (Velveteen Records, 720 16th Street, Suite 210, Denver, CO 80202). I'm going to go out on a big ol' limb and guess that Raina Ayres and Wendy Clay, the transplanted Texans behind the Dear Marsha offering Woo-Hoo!, have heard an Indigo Girls CD or two: The mix of folk and rock on "The Lie," "You" and "Don't Ever Let Me Go" comes from pretty much the same place. But at least Dear Marsha isn't phobic about electricity. "Sensation" enlivens the usual strums with some edgy (and amplified) guitar, and "Lookin' Thru You (Chicken Song)" and "Baby You Drive Me Crazy" sport sections that can actually be described as rock. That wasn't quite enough for me--I prefer a bit more originality in my diet--but maybe it's enough for you (dmarsha@AOL.COM).
TIME'S ELEMENTS, BY MARTHA'S WAKE, COMES COURTESY OF KINGDOM RECORDS IN SOUTH CAROLINA, BUT IT'S A LOCAL PRODUCT. The disc was cut at the Dog House Studios in Denver under the supervision of Hapi Skratch's Dave Beegle. The disc's sound is predictably pristine, but more important, the songs on it are more accessible and well-structured than the ones that appeared on the act's earlier disc, 1996's Coloring China. "Razor Blade Girl" has a sharp edge, "Wait" and "Everything" aren't afraid to use their plentiful hooks, and "Sacred 'Earth'" is better than its icky title thanks to an imaginative quasi-Celtic arrangement. There are still moments when the vocals of Lori Penzien and Melody Nichols are too histrionic (they make the otherwise stimulating "Different" a chore to sit through), and the musicians sometimes let their art-rock leanings get the best of them. But overall, Time's Elements represents a big improvement for the band (Martha's Wake, P.O. Box 101766, Denver, CO 80250). The demo tape by the Alligator Zydeco Band has a title---Allons Danser!--but no listing of songs. So beyond the opening number, a cover of "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie," I can't tell you much about the origins of the tunes. I was able to discover, however, that these guys sound like a zydeco bar band that's probably available to play your next party, wedding or business function (303-499-5517).
South of Eden by Zuba supplements the best songs from last year's Zuba Demo disc--"Sunrise on the Road," "Schmuck," "I Like the Feeling" and "Speed Queen," which turns up on the soundtrack of There's Something About Mary--with numbers that mark the band's continuing growth. The group takes some missteps (like the half-rap that mars "Trippin'") and occasionally dips into generic hippie-funk ("Keep on Movin'," "Planet of Love"). But these gaffes are minor compared to those that decorated previous releases, and they're counterbalanced by "South of Eden," "Pink Flamingos" and a handful of other pop offerings that are sunny, easygoing and casually catchy. A band on the right track (Ariel Publicity, 303-443-0083). Chemistry, whose new CD is called In the Desert, certainly has a sound to call its own. With a handful of exceptions (such as the comparatively peppy "Brown Bottle Blues" and "Remember"), the tracks are moody, windswept pieces dominated by William Lokatys's dreamy, langorous singing and background vocals several layers thick. "You Walked Away," "Natural Desire," "No Time for Tears" and the rest are sometimes pleasant and always inoffensive, but they're not especially grabby; they naturally gravitate into the background. Just like me at parties (available in area record stores).
The Exit, a recording by Pamela Robinson that appears on Fort Collins' Kiva Records, sports first-rate packaging; rather than employing a standard CD liner, the folks behind the project sprang for separate cards that feature striking artwork on one side and information about a song on the other. The music, however, makes for some mighty heavy plowing. The compositions are mainly decorative folk drones over which Robinson lays overtly poetic lyrics such as "I am a lonely eagle/High desert to mountain range/Watching the river's end" (from "The Exit"). The Native American flavor of many arrangements occasionally creates some interest, and the saxophone work on "New Sax City" is impressive. But throughout most of The Exit, I was looking for the door (Kiva Records, 1828 Orchard, Fort Collins, CO 80521). On Disorder, its new CD, Enzyme, featuring Sean Chavez and Art Bodin, is a professional piece of work aimed at suave adults. "E-World II" is a highly percussive slice of Brazil-influenced pop, "Stranger" sounds like George Michael turning Simply Red, "Country Disco" is a modest dance track spiked with synth-horns, and "Thousand Times" figuratively strands the Enzyme pair outside a broken phone booth with money in their hands. While there's nothing especially gripping on Disorder, the platter is consistently listenable. And these days, that's saying something (Sean.Chavez@MCI.COM).
VENA KAVA'S BIONICA IS PRETTY SCREWY STUFF. "PURE EVIL" RAWKS OUT IN DOPEY FASHION, "THE SERF SONG" ZOOMS ALONG ON A BURST OF ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW ORGAN OCCASIONALLY ACCENTED BY WEIRD SPACE BURBLES, AND "BACK OF THE BUS" IS AN EXTENDED PIECE THAT MAKES ROOM FOR A PIANO SOLO STRAIGHT OUT OF A LOUNGE--AND THAT'S JUST THE FIRST THREE TUNES. THE ACT'S VOCALS ARE AN ACQUIRED TASTE THAT I STILL HADN'T BEEN ABLE TO CHOKE DOWN BY THE OFFERING'S CONCLUSION, AND NEAR-NOVELTIES LIKE "BEGINNING IS THE END" DON'T PORTEND A LONG SHELF LIFE. BUT GOOFINESS COUNTS FOR SOMETHING, AND VENA KAVA'S GOT PLENTY OF IT (VENA KAVA, 1242 GAYLORD ST. #104, DENVER, CO 80206). HATHAWAY SMILES BY MARCY BARUCH IS PROFESSIONALLY RENDERED EASY-LISTENING, SINGER-SONGWRITER DIVISION. I WAITED IN VAIN FOR A GENUINELY UPTEMPO TUNE, BUT THE CLOSEST BARUCH COMES ARE "BREAKDOWN OF THE WALL," "23 TEARS" AND "I SAW THE WRECKING BALL," WHICH DON'T MOVE VERY QUICKLY BUT ARE ARRANGED IN A WAY THAT ALLOWS THE DRUMS AND BASS TO AT LEAST BE HEARD ON OCCASION. ALTHOUGH HER LYRICS FOCUS ON ROMANCE, SHE MOST OFTEN GOES FOR EITHER OVER-THE-TOP WORSHIPFULNESS ("YOU") OR INTENSE PAIN ("EVERY TIME"). I FELT QUITE A LOT OF THE LATTER WHILE SPINNING HATHAWAY SMILES, BUT DON'T LET THAT SWAY YOU--I HAVEN'T ATTENDED ANY SENSITIVITY-TRAINING SEMINARS LATELY (BIG N' BRASH MUSIC, 3528 W. 24TH AVENUE, DENVER, CO 80211).
As March 28 dawned, everything was wonderful in the world of Uphollow, a Westword profile subject ("Uphollow Victories," February 5, 1998): The band had a gig at the Bluebird Theater that evening and was preparing to head out for a tour the next day. But upon returning to their van following the show, their mood changed. "Everything was stolen," says Ian O'Dougherty, a vocalist and guitarist for the group. "Everything." That's an exaggeration, but not by much: The list of equipment the thieves spirited away includes a gray Premier bass drum, three blue-marble Rogers toms, a natural wood Squier Telecaster, a black American Fender Jazz bass, assorted Carvin, Orange and Peavy amps, a Boss phaser pedal and a pair of Shure SM-58 microphones. Thanks to the kindness of several fellow musicians, who loaned O'Dougherty and friends their gear, the outfit's tour didn't have to be canceled: Uphollow will be on the road until the last half of April. But O'Dougherty urges anyone who happens across any suspicious items to e-mail information to him at uphollow4@AOL.COM. "I HOPE PEOPLE CAN KEEP AN EYE OUT," HE ADDS. "THIS IS $12,000 AND FIVE YEARS OF OUR LIVES."
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THE FOLKS AT JIM BEAM, WHO DON'T WANT ALL THAT MANY OF YOU TO FOLLOW JAMES GLADER'S EXAMPLE, ARE BEHIND THE "BAND SEARCH ROCK EDITION," INTENDED TO DISCOVER THE BEST UNSIGNED MODERN-ROCK ACT IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. THE FINALISTS IN DENVER--32, ACCIDENTAL SUPERHERO, EIGHTH DAY, MOONSHOT AND THE INDULGERS--MAKE THEIR BID FOR THE FINALS ON THURSDAY, APRIL 8, AT THE HARD ROCK CAFE. IN THE MEANTIME, THE FINE FOLKS AT YOO-HOO, THE CHOCOLATE BEVERAGE BELOVED BY ONLY THE MOST DISCERNING HYPERACTIVE CHILDREN, IS BEHIND THE WARPED SPEED BATTLE OF THE UNSIGNED BANDS. WINNERS HAVE BEEN PROMISED AN ARRAY OF GOODIES, PLUS A STAGE APPEARANCE AT THE WARPED TOUR VENUE NEAREST THEIR HOME BASE. ENTRANTS ARE ASKED TO SEND A DEMO AND A 3-BY-5-INCH CARD FEATURING LINER INFO AND CONTACT NUMBERS TO ALTERNATIVE PRESS MAGAZINE, C/O YOO-HOO WARPED SPEED CONTEST, 6516 DETROIT AVENUE, SUITE 5, CLEVELAND, OH 44102-3057.
LIQUOR MAY BE QUICKER, BUT YOO-HOO IS DANDY. ON THURSDAY, APRIL 8, PETER CASE, WHO'S ONE OF THE BEST SOLO PERFORMERS ON THE SCENE TODAY, DROPS BY THE SOILED DOVE; THE FUTURE PRESIDENTS INTERVIEW INTERNS AT THE CRICKET ON THE HILL; AND THE PIN DOWNS POKE ABDOMEN AT THE 15TH STREET TAVERN. ON FRIDAY, APRIL 9, BREEZY PORTICOS (FEATURING MEMBERS OF SISSY FUZZ, WHICH RECENTLY FOLDED ITS TENT) HELPS DRESSY BESSY CELEBRATE THE RELEASE OF ITS NEW DISC, PINK HEARTS, YELLOW MOONS, AT THE BLUEBIRD. ON SATURDAY, APRIL 10, WENDY WOO HEADLINES AT HERMAN'S HIDEAWAY; THE NEWSBOYS DELIVER AT THE DENVER COLISEUM; THE SAMPLES KICK OFF THEIR LATEST TOUR AT THE FOX THEATRE; FAT MAMA AND THE CREIGHTON HOLLY BAND TEAM UP AT THE MUSIC HALL AT LODO; UNWRITTEN LAW IS PASSED DOWN AT THE AZTLAN THEATRE; AND SALLY TAYLOR JOINS PETER OSTROUSHKO AND DEAN MCGRAW AT TUFT THEATER. ON SUNDAY, APRIL 11, GREAT BIG SEA WASHES INTO THE BOULDER THEATER, AND THE DENVER RECORD COLLECTORS EXPO IS STAGED AT THE HOLIDAY INN, NORTHGLENN (CALL 303-455-8408 TO LEARN MORE). ON TUESDAY, APRIL 13, TEENBEAT RECORDS' OWN ADEN VISITS THE 15TH STREET TAVERN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED DRESSY BESSY, WHOSE NAME CAN APPEAR IN BOLD PRINT ONLY ONCE PER COLUMN. I DON'T MAKE THE RULES; I JUST ENFORCE THEM.
BACKBEAT'S E-MAIL ADDRESS ISo Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@.