Music Showcase, Take Three

Now in its third year, the Westword Music Awards Showcase is rapidly becoming a Denver tradition. But it seems like only yesterday that it was nothing more than an idea.

In 1995, several Westworders wondered what we could do to raise the profile of local music in Denver. From these musings arose the concept of a Westword-sponsored local music festival, at which the width and breadth of Colorado music could be put on display. It was not a new notion; other organizations had put on bashes of this type, but many of them had failed to attract audiences as large as the bands deserved. For the most part, these predecessors were either daylong spectacles at single locations or concerts at original-music venues that were so far from each other that it was difficult to hear all the music on tap without racking up a pile of speeding tickets. The latter approach compared unfavorably with the setup utilized each March by the planners of the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. But then again, these organizers had a geographical advantage: Austin's Sixth Street is lined with clubs so close to each other that patrons wearing SXSW wristbands can walk from one room to the next in a matter of seconds, thereby making it possible for them to see dozens of acts in a single night. If only Denver had an area like that.

As it turned out, Denver did. By 1995, the Coors Field-inspired boom in lower downtown (the longtime home of Westword) had resulted in a proliferation of nightspots within blocks of each other. If we could gain the cooperation of a handful of these joints, the result would be a mini-SXSW--except that the focus would not be on combos from across the country or around the globe, but on Colorado's finest. Thus, the Westword Music Awards Showcase was born.

Next came the decision about how to choose the acts that would be part of the project. We quickly came to the conclusion that rather than simply inviting groups we liked, we would assemble a committee of nominators from the music community--promoters, club owners, bookers, radio professionals and so on--and ask them to jot down their favorites in several different categories. We would then add up their picks and place the top five vote-getters in each category on ballots that would appear in several issues of Westword, as well as at venues on the evening of the Showcase, in order to determine favorite acts in each bracket. In that way, the people who mattered most--music fans themselves--would be able to have the final word.

For the inaugural event, we wound up with 55 nominees in 11 different groupings, and 30 of those played at 6 LoDo venues. No one involved in the Showcase--not Westword staffers, not the business owners, not the musicians--had the slightest idea how many people would turn out on the early October night in question. However, thousands did. Lower downtown was filled with everyone from rabid local-music fanciers and assorted groupies to nightlife novices and celebrities like the Colorado Rockies' Andres Galarraga, all of whom discovered that there's a lot more to Denver music than John Denver.

Last year's Showcase was bigger--60 nominees, 12 categories, 39 live acts, 7 venues--and better.

For the 1997 version, scheduled from 6 p.m. until midnight Sunday, September 21, we've upped the ante again. We now have thirteen categories, with the new kid on the block being Favorite Major Label Act. This in itself is a sign that the Denver-Boulder scene is gaining greater recognition from the world at large: It's the first time since the Showcase came into existence that there have been enough Colorado bands to fill such a category. We've also added an eighth Showcase venue. This year's lineup: Blake Street Baseball Club, Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the Great Room at Wazoo's, Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock, McCormick's Fish House & Bar, the Soiled Dove, the Sports Column, and Rock Island, an all-ages venue.

And because last year's private awards ceremony--where the winners of the readers' votes received their plaudits and then jammed afterward--was so successful, we've decided to do this year's gala at 7 p.m. Sunday, September 28, at the Bluebird Theater. Now the public can join the party. In addition to rubbing shoulders with the best musicians in the area, you'll get a chance to see a special acoustic performance by A&M Records artist 16 Horsepower and, obviously, hear plenty of other musical surprises.

Of course, the main attraction is the Showcase, and you can enjoy all of it for the cost of a $5 wristband (21 ID required), which will allow you access to all eight nightspots. (Under-agers will be able to attend Rock Island, the Showcase's all-ages club, for a $5 cover; if you have a wristband, you don't need to pay the Rock Island cover.) Showcase winners will be announced at the Bluebird Theater on September 28, and then again in the October 2 issue of Westword.

Will this year's Westword Music Awards Showcase top the two that came before? If history repeats itself, you bet it will--which makes us even more excited to see what next year will bring.

Turn the page for Michael Roberts's profiles of all the nominated bands, as well as a complete Showcase schedule. But you've been warned: Times and locations are subject to change.

Apostle was born Jeff Campbell in Decatur, Alabama, but at age three, he moved to Boulder. So how on earth did he get into rap? "There was a show on KGNU back around 1979 called 'Eclipse' that featured a lot of hip-hop and R&B--urban music in general," he says. "There was KDKO, too, which was a lot more in tune with things then than it is now. And I had a friend who had a little basement setup, with drum machines and some turntables. I made my first demo there when I was about fifteen. So, believe it or not, Boulder had hip-hop going on even back then." A few years later, his involvement in one of the city's best breakdancing crews, Captain Crunch and the Breakin' Bunch, helped him realize that hip-hop and showmanship go hand in hand. He pursued a musical career for a few years in California before returning to Colorado in 1994 and christening himself Apostle, a moniker he describes as "a challenge to myself, to bring knowledge with the lyrics." His debut release--Apostle: The Chosen One, on the Kut-N-Kru imprint--hit the streets later that year; it was followed in late 1996 by a CD, Days of Darkness, made for Apostle's own 7 Soldiers Entertainment firm. Recently, Apostle has branched out, signing on to manage the Arapahoe Trues, a veteran Latin hip-hop outfit, and Second Generation Mafia, which he describes as "straight-up hardcore gangsta rap heavily influenced by the West Coast." But that doesn't mean he's given up on his own music. "Break the Silence," a new Apostle single, is due to drop by year's end, and he promises that the lyrics "let some people have it--people who've dissed me." However, he doesn't see this message as a contradiction to his generally positive image. "I have to address the issue, because it's reality," he claims. "It's my way of saying that if we stop all of the exclusion and the player-hating and unify the hip-hop community within Colorado, we can all reap the benefits."

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
7:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

Keeping up with the Apples is virtually impossible. Band leader Robert Schneider--he of the boundless energy and fastest speech pattern in the Western world--has spent most of the summer holed up in his studio, Pet Sounds, tweaking the latest album by Georgia's Neutral Milk Hotel (see page 80). But the focus soon will be back on his own band. Tone Soul Evolution, the latest Apples CD to be released by spinART, is due this month, precipitating another round of national touring for the city's premier dabblers in psychedelic pop. (At press time, the combo was already on the road.) As Schneider told Westword in July, he's exceedingly pleased with the new disc, which was recorded in a converted munitions factory in Hartford, Connecticut, earlier this year. "Most modern records have a certain gloss to them, but not this one," he explained. "It's very warm and natural: modern minus the gloss. There's a lot of piano, horns, percussion and stuff on it, but there are also tons of guitars; it's a much more guitar-oriented record than we've made before. And best of all, it sounds really hi-fi. I wanted it to sound like a real record so that nobody could say, 'Well, it's good for the kind of record it is,' or 'It's good enough.' I wanted it just to be great--and I think it is." Capturing the excitement of the new songs live has been uppermost in Schneider's mind, and because of a series of concerts that found the Apples opening up for heavy-hitters like Pavement and Sebadoh--along with an ambitious regimen of practices that have tightened the act's musicianship and vocal harmonies--he's confident that this goal will be accomplished. Ask anyone who's seen the band lately, and they'll agree he should be.

Nominated in Rock/Pop

"We've been traveling," says drummer Brian Nevin, the musical backbone of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, from somewhere north of America's midsection. "We recorded our latest album [Beautiful World, produced by (Talking) Heads' Jerry Harrison and issued by Revolution Records] last summer, and then we went out and played in the fall and for most of this year. And we're not done yet. We're going to be out all of September, the back half of October and all of November. It's all about traveling for us." That's no understatement. The Monsters now have three major-label discs under their belts--Sister Sweetly and Strategem are the others--and all of them have sold briskly. But, as Nevin points out, "We've never gotten too much major media attention. So we have to take it to the people, which is what we've always done. We come from the live performance end of things, and we have that blue-collar work ethic. That's our mindset, and I wouldn't know any other way. And people seem to be really receptive to bands that can play. There's a lot of the business that is contrived, but they know you're for real when they see you up there doing it." He contends that he and his longtime bandmates, guitarist/vocalist Todd Park Mohr and bassist Rob Squires, have received a renewed burst of energy from the latest additions to the Monsters lineup: Corey Mauser, the former keyboardist for the Ugly Americans, and vocalist Hazel Miller, herself a Westword Music Award Showcase nominee. As Nevin puts it, "We all feel uplifted. We had been a three-piece for ten years, and I still love that format. But we all felt that it was a natural progression to bring in keyboards; it gave Todd a break, because he didn't have to carry lead and rhythm at the same time. And Hazel's given us another dimension, too. So we feel that it's the beginning of a new era for us in terms of what we can do musically." At present, the Monsters hope that a new single, "Please Don't Tell Her," will receive the airplay they feel it deserves (it's making some progress at stations with an adult-contemporary format). But even if it fails to break, Nevin isn't concerned. "We can still play--and that's what we love. We've had such a wonderful opportunity with this band. It's been so nice and fulfilling for us--and we'll continue doing it as long as it feels that way."

Nominated in Major Label Act

Blister may have recently celebrated its first birthday--it was formed in July 1996--but that doesn't mean its members are new to the scene. Guitarist Philo, vocalist Chris Dillinger, drummer Chris Reser, bassist Andy Pfeiffer and programmer/sampler Joe Sego have done time in outfits as widely varied as MF Groove Machine, Oscar and Psycho Holiday. This combination of influences results in a sound that Philo describes as "hardcore-rap-metal-techno, and probably some other things, too." Philo sees the group's first CD, Throw It In Dry, which came out a few months back, as a good introduction to the Blister universe. "It's got some things that are a little bit political, like 'Intolerance,' which is about fighting racism. But other songs, like 'Sick Little Mind' and 'Kick Me' and 'I Did Your Mom,' are just for fun." Because Sego came aboard only a short time before the completion of the disc, Philo looks forward to the band's next trip to the studio, set for October. "Now that we've started writing with Joe, I think we're completing the vision of what we want Blister to be. We're in a very embryonic state, because this is a fresh product. But we know we're going in the right direction. And we have one of the highest energy live shows you'll ever see."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial
11 p.m. The Soiled Dove

BOSS 302
"We were having a little trouble with our old bass player," reveals Garrett Brittenham, Boss 302's guitarist. "But, luckily, we knew a good one." The bassist in question, Matt Bischoff, has a resume that includes the Frantics, the Fluid and '57 Lesbian, and he's seen by a lot of folks as the best bassist to emerge from the Denver musical underground in the past two decades. Bischoff has been a Boss 302 buddy for a while now, engineering nearly all of its recordings to date, including Rock Songs, a first-rate 1996 CD that bears the 360 Twist Records stamp. Brittenham, Bischoff and their cohorts (vocalist Rich Goskopf, drummer Tony Weissenberg and guitarist Cheyne Bamford) have a slew of new ditties that they're eager to get down on tape. Brittenham feels that they're "probably better than anything we've done so far. They're still pretty garagey and punky--whatever you want to call it. But things are more cohesive than they used to be, and Matt definitely adds a new element to it. All of a sudden, there are real live bass lines in there." The musicians are in discussions with the folks at 360 Twist about financing the project, but according to Brittenham, "Nothing's firm yet, so we're looking around a little. We're not waiting for any kind of major deal or anything. I don't care if we put it out on Joe's Records. I mean, the main thing is that we get to play together--and with Matt here, that's been great."

Nominated in Punk
9:30 p.m. Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Corporations all over America love Brethren Fast. Guitarist Don Messina, bassist (and brother of Don) Mik Messina, and Courtie Barnes, who's held down the drum chair for eight months (making him what Don calls "the longest survivor"), are currently sponsored by Budweiser, among the nation's largest breweries. "The deal doesn't include free beer," Don admits. "Which is probably better for us." In addition, the boys have been working to promote the virtues of American Crew, a men's hair-grooming product; Don crows, "We're satisfied customers." And they've contributed their brand of twisted country and hillbilly funk to a couple of MTV videotape projects, one culled from a series of programs starring basketballer/role model Dennis Rodman and the other a workout cartridge due to appear in stores in November, just in time for Christmas giving. As a result, it hasn't been easy to find time to make a followup to their debut CD, Sideburns From Hell. They hope to get started next month, however. "We're taking three weeks off to do it," Don notes. "We have enough material now for a full CD, but we want to throw in some newer stuff and try to capture the live sound." If all goes as planned, these efforts should be available for public perusal as early as Thanksgiving. After that, Don claims, "We want to really try and concentrate on the ski towns this winter, because we're finally getting to a point where we're making better money on the road. That way, we'll be able to slow down a little bit." And watch those corporate profits come rolling in.

Nominated in Rock/Pop
8:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

An act that's as much a theatrical experience as a band, Cabaret Diosa has charmed uncounted Denverites since it germinated in the summer of 1995--and as the Showcase guide was being assembled, Cabaret members were in the midst of making converts in far-flung locations. "We're visiting the West Coast," reveals violist Miguel Ramos, "going up and down between Seattle and San Francisco and a few places in between." Taking to the highways isn't easy for an ensemble as sprawling as this one: Members include Ramos, vocalists David Sherman and Willow DuHamel, guitarist Darrin Feder, drummer Jon Rademaekers, percussionist Mendel Rabinovitch, bassist Paul Mrozek, trumpeter Grant Reider, saxophonist/flutist Ari Dvorin, keyboardist/horn player Kevan Brown and dancer Alyson Covert. But there's little doubt that those nightlifers who give Cabaret a try will discover an intermingling of Latin music, neo-lounge affectations and mid-century dance stylings capable of transporting them to another time and place. As Ramos told Westword earlier this year, "That's something we have been successful at achieving every performance: presenting a whole environment that people can come and be in. More than just it being a place where you go and hear some music or maybe you go and dance, you go and you're in this world where we're all dressed up, and we have plants on stage and candles, and we invite people to dress up and dance together."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing

When he was interviewed for last year's Westword Music Awards Showcase guide, Slim Cessna said that the Auto Club, an eccentric country outfit that features guitarist/accordionist Frank Hauser Jr., drummer Jon Killough, multi-instrumentalist John Rumley and pedal-steel player Glen Taylor, was looking forward to completing a successor to its much-admired self-titled CD. So it's only appropriate that, twelve months later, he's talking about the same topic. "Believe it or not, that's still the most important thing on our agenda," he says. "We're just trying to figure out how to finish it up." Local recording ace Bob Ferbrache is behind the boards again, and aside from a proposed cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," the material slated for memorializing is original in nature. "I have no idea what to say about the new songs," Cessna confesses. "But I think they're a lot more nuts. We've become fairly manic, I'd say. Frank has taken on a new role in the group as far as being absolutely insane." He adds, "The first CD was finished almost two years ago, and since then, I feel like we've really improved. We weren't really that good at the time, even at playing our instruments. So things should turn out well." Day jobs and family responsibilities have prevented the Club's members from touring outside the area as much they would like, but Cessna keeps his fingers crossed that in the near future, they'll be able to return to California, where a previous tour was well-received. Meanwhile, he says, "We're still playing, and we're still upbeat. We're having a really nice time."

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass
9:15 p.m. The Sports Column

Mike V., the human tattoo who directs Chaos Theory, hasn't forgotten the tongue-in-cheek charge levied against his band by the Hate Fuck Trio at last year's Westword Music Awards Showcase. "They said we stuffed the ballots to win" in the Hard Rock category, he says. "But that's a vicious rumor. We didn't cheat." Because Chaos Theory continues to be one of the stronger draws in Denver, his words have the ring of truth. Since taking the Showcase prize, the band--guitarist Dave Martinez, bassist Miles Marlin, drummer Psycho and the aforementioned Mr. V.--has completed a regional tour with the Urge, opened up for national artists such as Suicidal Tendencies, Biohazard and Fishbone, and won invitations to appear at KTCL's Big Adventure and the Colorado date of the Warped tour. On other fronts, the Theory is still pushing its self-titled 1996 CD--a video of its third single, "Wha'Cha Gonna Do," just hit the market--even as V. readies material for another opus. "We'll probably start recording in October," he divulges. "We're not sure if it's going to be a whole album or an EP right now. But the songs are a mix of heavy stuff with some things that are lighter. We have one song, 'Insurance,' that has nothing to do with rap or metal. It has a new flavor--sort of soul-sounding, with me singing on it instead of just rapping." He concedes, "It's hard for bands to keep everybody in line, but we're trying to stick together--and we seem to be doing a pretty good job of it." He pauses before adding, "We hope to win again this year. And we want to do it fair and square."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial
6:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

Any band that's been around for nearly twenty years is bound to undergo some changes now and again--and that's presently the case with Conjunto Colores. The Latin jazz/salsa mainstay, brought to life during the Jimmy Carter administration, has been fronted for as long as anyone can remember by vocalist/percussionist Gary Sosias. But with Sosias moving to Washington, D.C., vocalist/percussionist Francisco Mejias is taking the helm--and he doesn't expect the group to skip a beat. "Definitely," Mejias says. "This is a very good time for us." Indeed, the boom in dancing to big bands seems made for Conjunto Colores, in which Mejias is joined by bassist Jimmy Trujillo, pianist Justin Adams, trumpeters Rick Peron and Tony Rodriguez, trombonists Wade Sanders and Terry Verano, new singer Danny Olizola and percussionists Victor Nieves, Roberto Quintana and Jose Espino. "We've been getting a very mixed crowd, and they're very appreciative of the music," he declares. "They dance to every song." With its membership on solid footing, Mejias is eager to start working on the act's long-delayed CD project. He doesn't want to rush into anything, though. "We're still in transition. But we've got such good musicians that it makes everything easier."

Nominated in Latin/Tejano
6:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

The name of the new album by the Czars, The La Brea Tar Pits of Routine, was inspired by the area music environment. But the reference isn't exactly flattering. "It's something John [Grant], our singer, came up with," reveals Chris Pearson, who plays upright bass for the group. "It's like having something special, like a national monument, but having it stuck in routine--which is how he feels about us being in Denver. There are a lot of good qualities here, but the routine of being in a small city without a bustling music scene keeps you stuck in your own tar pit." Despite Grant's feelings, though, don't expect the Czars to be on the first train out of town. Pearson, drummer Jeff Linsenmaier and guitarist Andy Monley have convinced the vocalist to remain in these parts at least until they can gauge the reaction to the latest disc, which was recorded over a seven-month period with Bob Ferbrache. Pearson is pleased with the platter. "There are a lot of interesting things on it. We have a violin player, Matilda Song, who plays on five tracks, and we have a couple of Russian immigrants talking on one track, kind of whispering in your ear. It reminds me of Wings of Desire. And the whole thing sounds big and grandiose--very spacious." The players have garnered some interest from a handful of music pros on the coasts, and they see Europe as a market that might be receptive to the band's dramatic mood-pop. On other fronts, Pearson, Monley and drummer Smith continue to play under the Jux County moniker, and they're in the process of putting together a third project, Velveteen Monster, with a female singer to be named later. With so many balls in the air right now, it's no wonder Pearson says, "It's hard for us to just pick up and go. So I think we're going to stick around for a while."

Nominated in Rock/Pop
7:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

The disc that the Dalhart Imperials hoped to have out by now isn't, and the group's bassist, Kurt Ohlen, finds that disappointing. "A bunch of consequences arose that have slowed everything down," he admits. But aside from that frustration, 1997 has been a fine year for this collection of Western swingers (Ohlen, vocalist/guitarist Les Cooper, drummer Rodney Bowen, lead guitarist Pascal Gumbard and steel player Les Cooper). The outfit was a featured performer at England's Hemsby Festival, arguably the planet's premier roots-rock showcase, and enjoyed a successful jaunt through Holland, Germany, Switzerland and France. "We were booked into a lot of rockabilly venues, so we ran into people who were more knowledgeable about that style than Western swing," Ohlen says. "But they were extremely receptive, and more than willing to hoot and holler and have a great time." Back home, the second annual Denver Rock-N-Rhythm Billy Weekend, expanded this year to three days, was a smash, with bands such as Bill Haley's Comets wowing true believers who traveled great distances simply to bear witness. "There were a ton of people there," confirms Ohlen, who runs the Weekend with his wife, Karen. "And we were really pleased with the attendance, enough so to convince us to do the whole thing over again next summer." Ohlen feels just as strongly about the progress made by the Imperials. "Pascal, our newest member, is such a terrific player that he's kind of forced us all to take another step up on our instruments. I think we're sounding fantastic, personally." Now if they only can finish up that CD, everything will be perfect.

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots

Joe Vasquez, known to the patrons he entertains and occasionally bounces at the Cricket on the Hill as Denver Joe, apparently was not too impressed by his nomination for the Westword Music Awards Showcase. We asked him to perform. Didn't want to. We phoned him repeatedly in an effort to interview him for this guide. Didn't bother to call back. Crotchety behavior? Maybe. But Denver Joe's intractability--and his unwillingness to play any game other than his own--has everything to do with his appeal. So, too, does his music, a brand of drunken honky-tonk that comes a lot closer to capturing the essence of the country genre than the vast majority of sounds beaming out of Nashville these days. Most often accompanied by a trio that includes guitarist/pedal-steel player "Uncle" Dick Meis, bassist "Aunt" Lois Meis and drummer Graham Haworth, Joe essays a variety of vintage covers that he makes his own personal property. But he occasionally writes songs as well: In a rare profile that appeared in Westword last October, he presented his interrogator with the lyrics to a tune called "Song for Daddy (Whoever the Fuck He Was)" in the hope that it might serve as an adequate substitute for an actual interview. "I used to dream of seeing my name in print," he said at the time, "but now that's the least of my worries." That's telling 'em, Joe. Hope the fact that we wrote about you again doesn't piss you off.

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass

One of Colorado's best-known exporters of contemporary jazz, Dotsero is planning its next album for Ichiban International, an Atlanta company whose distribution is handled by the massive Capitol/EMI combine. Guitarist David Watts, who plays in the group alongside saxophonist Stephen Watts, bassist Michael Friedman, keyboardist Tom Capek and drummer Mike Marlier, says the recording process will be much different from the one used in last year's successful Ichiban release, Essensual. "Instead of doing the whole thing here, as we've done our past four records, we'll do it in Atlanta. Ichiban has a studio out there they want us to use. So we won't be able to take six months to do it. Instead, it'll be two or three weeks of eating, drinking and sleeping the project." David is the edgiest of his fellows about this shift in procedure. "I don't think it bothers any of the other guys, but coming from my standpoint, I need to try and put my guitar parts into nooks and crannies in order to make them special, and I'm not going to have nearly as much time to do that," he explains. "I won't have the luxury of trying twelve things and then settling on the right one. I'll have to find the right one right away and just go. But hopefully we'll wind up with a record that's going to have a more lively, immediate sound--a funky record that'll transcend a lot of different musical genres." After the as-yet-untitled disc's release, Dotsero likely will do what it's done during much of this year: tour. The act has traveled throughout the Midwest, East and South, concentrating particularly on several high-profile festivals in Florida. "That was really fun," Watts confirms. "It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing
7 p.m. The Soiled Dove

It's late morning, and drummer Kazushige Takaku, of the Denver-by-way-of-Japan group Electric Summer, has just been awakened by a ringing phone. But groggy he's not. Rather, he's intensely wired, answering questions in the declamatory voice of a wrestling announcer and guffawing at things whether they're funny or not. The source of his elation, aside from life in general, is the EP that Electric Summer (Takaku, vocalist Toshihiro Yuda, guitarist Makito Fukuda and bassist Takakumi Toyoshima, all students at Teikyo Loretto Heights University) is in the middle of making for Boulder's Soda Jerk Records, which recently signed the band. "Bill Stevenson from the Descendents, he producing the songs," Takaku exclaims. "We had a show at the Starlight up in Fort Collins and he just visit and come to see us. And he like us. He think we're good. And then he say we should do a recording. And we say okay." Eight or nine songs have been earmarked for the disc, which is being put together at the Blasting Room, Stevenson's Fort Collins studio. The folks at Soda Jerk expect the result to be available for purchase by mid-November, giving fans of Electric Summer's exuberantly punky sonic mayhem an opportunity to take a little piece of the quartet home for the holidays. After that, Takaku says, "We are going to tour with the CD, but we don't know when. Sometime." And he laughs again.

Nominated in Punk
9 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

Dennis Culp, trombonist for the ska messengers in Five Iron Frenzy, is with his comrades in the Bay Area, where a sequel to the group's slamming debut CD, Upbeats and Downbeats, is being willed into existence. Upbeats, on Cerebellum/Five Minute Walk Records (assisted, distribution-wise, by Warner/Alliance), has moved more than 50,000 copies since its release, and it continues to be a favorite on college radio stations all over the country; particularly prized by programmers is "Where 0 Meets 15," a single that was inspired by the bus stop at Colfax and Broadway. But this acclaim doesn't mean that Frenzy contributors such as drummer Andrew Verdeccio, bassist Keith Hoerig, guitarists Micah Ortega and Scott Kerr, trumpeter Nathanial Dunham, saxophonist Jeff Ortega and vocalist Reese Roper are trying to clone their popular bow. "I'd say this is an evolution," Culp says. "I think there's more diversity this time. We're still skacore, but there are a lot of pop hooks on the album. It's less punk rock, because we're using a lot more ska techniques as far as the beats and the guitar riffs go. The flavor is pretty interesting." Given the impressive sales figures that the octet has racked up, it's only natural that major labels have started sniffing around, but Culp is in no hurry to leave the Five Minute Walk family. "I'm really pleased with what they've done for us. They've got a small roster of six bands, and they're all outstanding. Besides, larger labels seem to use formulas for the music; it's not so much art as business." By contrast, Five Iron Frenzy is as dedicated to their Christian faith as they are to providing listeners with wild party music. "Some people want to hear you say 'Jesus' every fourth word or they don't approve, while some people shun the name," Culp says. "But I think our ministry is mostly who we are and what we believe."

Nominated in Reggae/Ska

According to Graham Haworth, the Denver Joe associate whose main gig is as drummer for the country outlaws in the Foggy Mountain Fuckers, "We've been writing sounds like crazy, and I'd say at least three quarters of them, if not more, have something to do with drinking whiskey." When he's asked if the goal of the Mountain men (Haworth, singer Pat Kincaid, guitarist/vocalists Robert Blue and Christian James, bassist Aaron Rettich and harmonicat Tony Mustoffa) is to advocate liquor consumption by their listeners, he responds, "Well, I guess we kind of encourage everybody to drink, but it's kind of sarcastic at the same time." A pause. "No, really, it isn't." The ubiquitous Bob Ferbrache is the man charged with recording the Fuckers, and Haworth marvels at the job he's done thus far. "We've already gotten enough songs for some vinyl, where we could put two cuts on each side. But we're going so strong that after we're done with that, we might just keep going and put out a whole CD." To him, "Our music gets back to real country music and real subject matter. It's not like how sappy modern country is these days. We just try to keep it raw, and our arrangements are pretty loose--and not only because we've been drinking. Actually, sometimes when we've been drinking, the arrangements get tighter." Haworth isn't sure when these efforts will be completed, in part because Blue has committed to playing bass for the La Donnas, a Westword Music Awards Showcase nominee last year in the punk division, on a forthcoming tour. But he feels confident that the final product will be worth the wait. "I think people will like it--because we're a good-time kind of band."

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass
7:30 p.m. Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Reed Foehl, lead vocalist, guitarist and alterna-folker Fool's Progress, should be enjoying some well-deserved domestic time about now. After all, he celebrated the birth of his first child, a boy named Jaden, this spring. ("He was eight pounds, seven ounces when he was born, and now that he's more than four months old, he's in the 100th percentile in every category," Foehl exults. "He's huge.") In addition, he and Jaden's mother, Jennifer Hutman, tied the knot in Boulder on August 23. But in lieu of a honeymoon, the family headed to the Midwest, where Fool's Progress had concert commitments to fulfill. Such is life for Foehl, multi-instrumentalist Tim Roper, bassist Curtis Thompson and drummer Matt Coconis, who've been beating the bushes for months in support of their self-titled debut on the Capricorn label. The disc has made considerable progress at Triple A radio thanks to its lead single, "Think About It," and even though Capricorn hasn't ponied up the money for a video yet, the band (formerly known as Acoustic Junction) has received considerable publicity through a series of events staged by the cable network VH1, including a charity bash in Boston that also featured Edwin McCain. Foehl is uncertain that VH1's support will convince the label to finance a clip for the group's next single, "East Side Story," but he notes, "I think it could make a really interesting video, because it's based on street people in New York and Boston, and we could use it to set up something to help the homeless. I've always wanted to be in the position to contribute in that way, so it would be great to give something back." In the interim, the four will make like road warriors, traveling from one end of the continent to the other before the end of the year. (Several of the gigs on their calendar will pair them with Leftover Salmon, another Westword Music Awards Showcase nominee.) Then, and only then, will Foehl and Hutman be able to consider a honeymoon. "We've talked about maybe going to Hawaii," he says. "But we travel so much that wherever we go, I'll probably just want to sit down and not move."

Nominated in Major Label Act

Since re-emerging in early 1995, the Freddi-Henchi Band has reminded plenty of people why the conglomerate was among the city's favorite acts during the Seventies and early Eighties. Led by singers Freddie Gowdy and Marvin "Henchi" Graves, the current lineup (guitarist Louis Chavez, bassist Jerry Krenzer, drummer John Olson, keyboardist Mark Rasmussen, saxophonist Harold Lee and percussionist Tony Bunch) is capable of evoking memories of the glory days. But the band has accomplished things this year that it never managed previously. "We've got our first CD out," Gowdy says. "It's called Get Up/Get Off It, and we recorded it up in Loveland. It's all original stuff that was mainly written by me and Larry Wilkins, who passed away earlier this year. Some of it was stuff that we'd done up at Caribou Ranch before it burned down--stuff that we redid. We're really proud of it." Gowdy's just as jazzed by the combo's appearances at numerous mountain festivals this summer, as well as by its turn at a Fourth of July bash at Folsom Field that drew more than 40,000 people. And then there was that gig at Currigan Hall in honor of President Bill Clinton and other world leaders who were in the area for the Denver Summit of the Eight. No wonder Gowdy says, "The excitement is still there. People know that we put on a show and we entertain, and we love it when they're having a good time."

Nominated in Blues/R&B

Boulder's Tony Furtado is a bit amused at his presence in the country/bluegrass category for the Westword Music Awards Showcase. "The music I'm making right now is influenced by Irish music and blues and old-time music, so I guess that could add up to bluegrass," he chuckles. In truth, Furtado, who made his reputation as a banjoist supreme, goes in so many musical directions that no pigeonhole is large enough to contain him. He's spent the summer bringing attention to his latest album on Rounder Records, the eclectic Roll My Blues Away, via appearances at festivals all over the U.S. of A. In doing so, he's managed to put together a first-rate band. "I've got Kester Smith on drums; he lives in Northern California but comes out whenever I tour. He used to play with Taj Mahal, and so did my bassist, Billy Rich. He's from Denver, and he's got an amazing background. He played with Buddy Miles and John McLaughlin, and he collaborated a bit with Jimi Hendrix. I'm really lucky to have nabbed them. And on lap steel we've got Sally Van Meter. She's from Boulder, and she won a Grammy for this album she was part of, The Great Dobro Sessions, on Sugar Hill. They're all incredible players." Aside from another round of touring, Furtado looks forward to writing material for his next album. But don't expect him to disappear from the Boulder-Denver scene while he's in this creative mode. "I'll pop out of the woodwork every once in a while with the band, or I'll duet with a drummer, Dave Watts, from the band Skin," he says. "Even the people who know me from the banjo albums have been totally into what I'm doing now. It's been a really nice thing. They've had an open mind about it, and I'm really happy about that."

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass
6:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

This year, Denver drum legend Bob Rupp isn't just the co-emcee for the Westword Music Awards Showcase--he's also a nominee as one-third of the Galactix, a neo-billy combo that in February became his three-millionth band. Okay, that's something of an exaggeration. But Rupp has been the driving force behind oodles of acts, including the Rumble, Fear of Sleep and Vinyl Oyster, the Galactix's immediate predecessor. In fact, Rupp describes the Galactix (which includes Paul Galaxy on guitar and vocals and Chris Rogers on bass) as "the same lineup as Vinyl Oyster, but with new haircuts." These changes took place after Vinyl Oyster had a falling out with a local label, Pro T.U. Rupp declines to provide details about that situation, saying only that "we started to write really fun, swinging songs, just to be trying different things. So all of a sudden, our set was half psychedelic pop, half swinging rockabilly. And when the crowds started liking our new material more, we said, 'Let's drop everything and write all new material.' At first it was a little bit of a shock--like, 'Wow, we're a rockabilly band?' But then we realized what a gas it is to play, and how great it was that people of all ages were coming out to dance and swing." Since the Galactix came out of the Oyster, Rupp says, "We've been booked constantly, and we discovered this whole scene that I didn't even really know existed." The Galactix are recording at Club Bob, Rupp's home studio, on analog equipment in an attempt to capture the rockabilly spirit that Rupp's already caught. "The change was definitely for the better, across the board. We're all happy, the work's coming in and the crowds are into it. That's all that really matters to me."

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
8 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

The 1996 CD Songs From the Hamster Theatre was put together by accordionist and guitarist David Willey all by himself, but even while making the album, he dreamed of finding musicians who could help him expand his challenging compositions. With the assembling of guitarist Mike Johnson, trombonist/keyboardist Jon Stubs, bassist Mike Fitzmaurice, drummer Raoul Rossiter and reedman Mark Harris under the appropriate handle Hamster Theatre, he's done it. Willey's truly alternative concoction mixes together, he says, "circus elements and film elements and a lot of other things. It's got a lot of similarities to some European rock bands from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, but it's still its own thing." Thus far, Willey has not captured the Theatre on tape, but he hasn't given up trying. "It would be nice to have something that represented the band instead of just something played by me," he says. "We develop a really good connection when we play. And it keeps getting better and better the more we do it." To put it mildly, Hamster Theatre doesn't traffic in musical predictability, but despite its quirkiness, Willey points out that audiences have been responding favorably to the band. "I try to believe that it's a myth that people only like the kind of music that gets crammed down their throats, and our shows bear that out. If they take the chance to go out and hear something that's not like things they've heard over and over again, and if they're not too cynical to enjoy music anymore, then they can get into it."

Nominated in Alternative
8:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

It's not wholly accurate to imply that the Hate Fuck Trio (guitarist Jon DeStefano, guitarist/vocalist Sam DeStefano, drummer Sean Weldon and bassist Peter Cassidy) isn't punk anymore. Suffice it to say, then, that they're not letting the genre's rules stop them from burning down other houses. Exhibit A is Ol' Blues Eyes, an EP on Seattle's Shaky Records that's credited to the Hate Fuck Trio Orchestra. "It's our slant on Frank Sinatra," Jon says. "We did it because we love the guy. My brother and I are Italian, and the other guys are at heart, and we wanted to do something for him." Ol' Blue Eyes isn't a simple valentine, though, and the impact it might have on its subject concerns Jon. "We hear he's pretty sick right now, and we're afraid that this might put him in the grave completely--which we say with all due respect, of course." The disc, which should arrive with the first week of October, contains several covers of songs associated with the Chairman of the Board, including "Witchcraft," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "I Get a Kick Out of You," but they've been vigorously reworked and occasionally retitled; for example, "I've Got the World on a String" has been transformed into "I've Got the Whole Fucking World on a String." There's also a new ditty, "Frankengasoline/(Sucker Fuck)," that's unlikely to log much time on the Sinatra family jukebox. Future Hate Fuck Trio material probably won't top Frank's hit parade either. "We're going to go out to L.A. over Christmas and start recording our next album," Jon relates. "We haven't totally figured out what we're going to do yet, but we've been thinking about getting back to our punk roots. You Know, For Kids [the trio's debut album] and Ol' Blue Eyes have a lot of random curves on them, so we might try to keep things pretty straightforward next time." He adds, with relish and a side order of sarcasm, "We just want to rock."

Nominated in Alternative
9:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

"We've been together for going on seven years now, which makes us the longest running reggae band from Colorado that I know of," says Mark Caldwell, guitarist and vocalist with the Healers. "But you can't go that long without people coming and going at various times in the band's history." At present, Caldwell is joined in the Healers by drummer Wayne Rhymer, bassist Scott Rich and keyboardist Larry "L.C." Clark, who came aboard after his forerunner, Jr. Alexander, moved his family to St. Croix earlier this year. "Jr. will probably still come up and do some guest appearances with us," Caldwell asserts. "But L.C. has been a great addition. I don't think things have really changed for us that much since he's joined. It's like the difference between one flavor of ice cream and another flavor. They're different, but they taste just as good, and in the end, they're both ice cream." The Healers, a CD issued in January, continues to garner sales and airplay, particularly in the Caribbean, prompting Caldwell and company to make plans for a followup. This mission, combined with a busy itinerary filled with club dates and festivals, makes this what Caldwell sees as a very good time for the Healers. "I think the amount of work we've done this summer and the responses we've gotten speak for themselves about how we're doing."

Nominated in Reggae/Ska
7:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

The question of how many songs are on the new Hectics CD, Everything I Need, throws singer/guitarist Juli McClurg for a loop. "I don't know," she concedes, sounding surprised. "Let me count them." As it turns out, the long-player, which bears the 360 Twist imprimatur, contains sixteen Hectics songs, all of which are marked by ebullient playing and the type of energy that even McClurg's fellow punks can seldom muster. The three-piece, whose membership is completed by singer/guitarist Anika Zappe and drummer Dan Tafoya, needs to be seen in concert to be believed, which is why the players have taken to the interstates. "We went out with [the now-defunct] Element 79 in February, and we played all over: New York City, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Lawrence, Kansas. And it was great. We never had that much fun." The band will be in parts unknown for a significant part of September, too, but McClurg insists that this should not be interpreted as a longing on the part of the Hectics to leave Denver permanently. "I don't think it matters where you're from. If you're really adamant about putting out records and going on tour, you can do it anywhere. It's not going to hurt you." With the Hectics picking up radio airplay in such industry meccas as Los Angeles, it's certainly conceivable that labels will begin dangling deals, but McClurg isn't holding her breath. "If some big record company came along and threw a check in front of us--and the chances of that happening are about one in ten million--we'd be tempted. But right now, we're really happy to be doing it"--she snickers--"for the love of music, man."

Nominated in Punk

To Chuck Hughes, guitarist, vocalist and main man for the Hillbilly Hellcats, the highway is the right way to promote his band. "I have toured over 24,000 miles, going east from Boston all the way down to Miami. We've also done the West Coast twice, and hit most of the major cities in between." Finding personnel willing to put the rest of their lives on hold for the love of rockabilly hasn't been easy, but Hughes thinks he's finally found two people with enough commitment between them to do the job. "Lance Bakemeyer, our original bass player, left his day job, and he's willing to tour now. And we just found a new drummer, Tim Theis, who we think can come close to filling Taz Bentley's shoes." Bentley, the drummer for Tenderloin, lent his talents and his name to Rev It Up With Taz, a Hellcats CD that was spun on nearly 200 radio stations and appeared for three weeks on the CMJ album charts, "which is a pretty decent accomplishment for a totally independent band not on anyone's label," Hughes contends. He has a treasure trove of new originals that he says "stretch the boundaries of Hillbilly Hellcats music. There's at least one with a Latin groove and another with a surf sort of vibe." He's looking forward to recording them, and has gotten so good at tackling all of the marketing chores himself that he doubts he'll do much contract shopping. "We're not going to sit around waiting for a deal. We'll just Ani DiFranco it and spend our time worrying about making the best music we can."

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
9:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

The talented Ms. Jackson is not one to mince words. In talking about her presence on the bill of the Furthur Festival, a sonic carnival built around former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, the violinist, guitarist and singer-songwriter says, "I was a token--the female minority fiddle player." But, she adds, "it was fun, and I learned a lot. If it had been a year, it would have been frustrating, but since it was just June, July and August, I could handle it. And I stood out. The tour got mediocre reviews, but most of them were like, 'The highlight was...'" Critics have been just as kind to Sherri Jackson, her first CD for Hybrid Records, a new independent attempting to muscle its way onto the musical landscape, and radio stations gave enough airplay to one of her ditties, "Maple Tree," that it charted in Billboard magazine, the industry bible. That she visited every radio outlet she could helped her in the latter regard, but she confesses that doing so wasn't the most fun she's ever had. "You'd show up somewhere, and there'd be one or another promo geek who would chauffeur you around to the station, where you'd do the meet-and-greet, and then you'd get back into the rental car and get lost three or four times trying to find where you're supposed to meet everyone for dinner. And after you'd finally eat, then you'd go right back to the airport and catch a plane to the next place. It was really draining." After a date at the Bluebird Theater on September 27, Jackson and her band (drummer Brian McRae and bassist Glenn Esparza) will in all likelihood hook up with another national act and hit the circuit again. She will take with her scads of excellent songs and some diverting Furthur Festival memories. "There were a lot of humorous stories--like Bob Weir forgetting lyrics that I had just learned ten minutes before. But luckily, I had the words written on my violin. It made me wish I played a cello. I could have fit hundreds of songs on there."

Nominated in Rock/Pop

If you're hoping to unearth a scandal in the nominating procedure for the Westword Music Awards Showcase, here's one that looks really bad: Marty Jones, who is both a Westword contributing writer and part of the Showcase's nominating committee, admits to voting for his own group, the roots-and-country band Marty Jones and the Pork Boilin' Po' Boys (Jones, guitarist Chuck Cuthill, multi-instrumentalist Dario Tuccarelli and drummer Eric Baker). But before you alert Kenneth Starr to this situation, you should know that Jones's vote played no part in their being recognized, since they were among the top ten vote-getters in any category. Much of the credit for this should be laid at the doorstep of Jones, who finds time to compose songs and play guitar, washtub and harmonica when not penning articles for this very publication and serving as the beer columnist for the impending Denver Sidewalk, an Internet service. Right now, the Boys are in the midst of completing a CD with the assistance of (surprise, surprise) Bob Ferbrache; in addition to originals by Jones, Tuccarelli and Cuthill, it will sport a hillbilly cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." With luck, the project will reach fruition in October, giving more people than ever a chance to compare Jones's physical voice with the one they no doubt hear in their heads as they read his reviews and artist profiles. "One thing that writing about music has reinforced in me is the idea that the best music doesn't come from major labels or Fiddler's Green," he says. "It comes from bars, local dives and the basements of people from the community who make music because it makes them and others happy. Money has very little to do with it."

Nominated in Country/Bluegrass
7:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

Rude One's Money Making Scheme, the first CD by Judge Roughneck, is doing its job by entertaining fans even as it exposes others to the joys inherent in the group's ska sound. "We've already sold out the CD's first pressing," says trumpeter Rolf Reitzig, who makes beautiful music with vocalist Byron Shaw (former leader of the Jonez), bassist Kyle Jones, saxophonist Jon Hegel, guitarist Chris Reidy and drummer Scott Seiver. "And we haven't even fired up our national distribution yet." Moon Ska, a ska-oriented distributor partially owned by members of the Toasters, is preparing to deliver Scheme to stores nationwide in October, around the same time that the Roughnecks are appearing at North by Northwest, a music conference based in Portland, Oregon. There's also talk of an industry showcase in Los Angeles, but plans for that have yet to be firmed up. However, A&R types who do check out the band will discover that Judge Roughneck has plenty of ideas about future recordings. "We may put out another disc soon," Reitzig reveals. "We've had the itch to do an old-school EP with four or five classic tunes, just for the fun of it." That's apropos, since having fun has been the musicians' goal from the start. Judge Roughneck began as something for Shaw to do while he prepared his solo album, but it's taken on a life of its own--and Reitzig is glad it has. "We're getting great feedback from everybody. And we're having a really good time."

Nominated in Reggae/Ska
11:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

Lonesome Dan Kase hasn't been nearly as lonesome as he expected to be when he moved to Denver three years ago: He's attracted a sizable fan base with his old-fashioned approach to the blues. "I do some of my own stuff, but mostly I do traditional blues," he says. "They're not really covers in a sense, because that's what the original blues guys did. They took the same songs and intertwined them and made them their own. That's what I'm trying to do--maybe with less originality than them, but I'm doing my best." For someone in his early twenties, he's got an encyclopedic knowledge of worthy precursors such as Robert Johnson and Blind Blake, and he sees no reason to fiddle too much with what they did. "It's kind of rough music. The words, the music and everything about it is rough, and that's the way it's supposed to be. It loses its roots if it gets too polished. Once the edge is gone, the heart goes with it. And you can't fake the edge. There's an ego thing in a certain style of blues, where people get a big head and try to play as loud and as fast as they can. But the blues was always slow music. If you play it too fast, it becomes rock, and that's not what I'm interested in." Blues aficionados in the area recognize Kase for the talent he is, but he responds to their compliments with becoming modesty. "I'm a young guy, and my whole life and my whole career is still down the road. So I've got time to get better. I'd just like to be able to give people some good blues music instead of all the crap that seems to be out there."

Nominated in Blues/R&B
8:15 p.m. The Sports Column

Because Kingdom, one of the Denver area's fastest rising rappers, is from Los Angeles, you might expect him to see West Coast hip-hop as the be-all and end-all. But he's not interested in boundaries. "My style touches everybody, every coast, every part of the U.S. It's a universal style, and that's what more people need to be going for. We really need to open our eyes and think not just about where we're from, but to think about other parts of the globe." That's ambitious talk, but Kingdom is an ambitious performer. At present, he's best known in Colorado for "Killing Spree," a tune on The Bizness, a popular rap compilation. But he's already completed a full-length, I Reign Omnipotent, and he claims to be entertaining offers for it from at least six labels. The songs were largely produced by Auto, an industry vet who has worked with entertainers as varied as Coolio and Vanessa Williams. As Kingdom tells it, they met by happenstance. "I was in Los Angeles for my grandfather's funeral, and he was at my friend's house. My friends told Auto about my capabilities, and me and him actually had an MC battle. And he was so impressed that he said he had to work with me immediately." The material on Omnipotent runs the hip-hop gamut, from "Black Family," which Kingdom says "talks about saving our race by strengthening the family," to "Letters From Lockdown," a narrative about "an old drug dealer who's running his empire even though he's in jail." He rejects complaints from moralists who seem to believe every song needs to be uplifting. "It's just entertainment. That's all it is. And I have a style that suits everybody. I talk about positive things, but I can get down and dirty if I'm tested." Kingdom views his CD as the spark the Colorado hip-hop scene needs to break out, and if it does, he and his partners in 3 the Hard Way Entertainment, a fledgling label, are ready to capitalize. "Hopefully, this will springboard Denver into the future."

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
8:30 p.m. Rock Island

Throughout the Nineties, Kizumba has been spreading Afro-Caribbean sounds across Colorado, and locals have noticed. The combo was the top vote-getter in the Latin/Tejano category at last year's Westword Music Awards Showcase. For Yamal Rima, the singer, conga player and leader of Kizumba, the reason for the band's renown is quite simple: "People like to dance." Rima and his allies (lead singer/dancer Magally Rizo Antuna, background singer/dancer Angela Espinoza, bassist Eric Thorin, keyboardist Mike "Miguelito" Turnbull, saxophonist Eric Dalio, trumpeter Chris Lawson, trombonist Eric Staffeldt, percussionist Jose Espino and drummer Scott Seiver, who's also part of Judge Roughneck) have had a busy summer, playing for a variety of festivals before crowds that have been anything but homogeneous. These days, they're attempting to increase the percentage of original songs they include in their sets. But to Rima, doing so is secondary to Kizumba's real purpose: to get people moving. "When we play, everybody dances. It doesn't matter how they do it, or if they know the right steps. They dance anyway."

Nominated in Latin/Tejano

Since signing with the Mountain Division of Hollywood Records, Leftover Salmon has played a staggering number of shows. So what else is new? "Nothing, I guess," acknowledges singer/guitarist Vince Herman with a laugh. The idiosyncratic combo's highest profile gig was a slot on the H.O.R.D.E. festival, which this year attempted to go beyond its neo-hippie origins with a roster studded with acts such as Morphine, the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Attendance declined as a result, but Herman says, "I think H.O.R.D.E. did a pretty good job of tapping into the diverse world out there. There's a certain kind of music that's associated with hippies, but hippies definitely don't come from a monolithic musical culture." An illustration of this concept came "at Jones Beach in New York, when Neil came out and played on a couple of songs, and everybody--even the hippies--went crazy. That was definitely a rock-and-roll-summer-camp highlight." As for "Better," the single from Euphoria, Leftover Salmon's Mountain Division-released disc, it's not being heard on a lot of radio stations, but Herman isn't about to sound the alarm. "Radio stuff is icing on the cake, and not something that we count on. Our focus is getting in the bus and playing live music for live people and making them sweat and have fun." He adds, "I think we're lucky to have Hollywood interested in us at all. We just hope they don't find out what we're really playing. I mean, we're playing bluegrass and Cajun music and polkas. We're not supposed to have major-label distribution. If they find out, we're in big trouble." At this writing, the Leftovers (Herman, bassist Tye North, drummer Michael Wooten and multi-instrumentalists Drew Emmitt and Mark Vann) are gearing up for a headlining tour of the South and East. "We like playing festivals," Herman declares, "but when we're out on our own, we can play the three-hour shows that we really like to do." But thus far, their dream concert has eluded them. "Someday we all want to play 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at Coors Field. Anything you could do to help us with that would be much appreciated."

Nominated in Major Label Act

If it wasn't for singer-songwriter Stewart Lewis, Acoustic Junction/Fool's Progress might never have wound up in Colorado. "I'm from Boston, Massachusetts, and I came out here about eight years ago to go to school," Lewis reports. "And Acoustic Junction followed me out." Lewis, who is Fool's Progress leader Reed Foehl's brother, was part of Acoustic Junction during its early phases, but, as he puts it, "I finally decided that I didn't want to be in a folk-rock band. Musically, I had so many ideas, and I wanted to explore other avenues. Plus, I'm kind of a control freak. I wanted to have total control of what I was doing." Lewis's vision took him in the direction of a solo career, and since making the break from Acoustic Junction, he's kept some tony company, touring with Shawn Colvin and opening up for what he calls "a who's who of Triple A acts, like Patty Larkin, Leo Kottke and Sheryl Crow." He has two albums to his credit--1993's Faces in the Crowd and 1996's Flip Side--and while he's fond of them both, he believes that he's entering a transitional period. "I've been sort of changing my sound lately, doing songs that are like poetry with weird electric guitar--sort of G. Love meets Soul Coughing. So I guess I'm moving away from the folk-singer thing into more of an alternative-folk or alternative-rock mode." Demos that represent Lewis's refashioned style are being completed now with an eye toward shopping them to music-business types. "I still love singing with my brother, and we've talked about maybe someday doing something together--something like the Finn Brothers album. But that will have to wait. My writing is getting edgier musically and lyrically, and I have to follow that and see where it takes me."

Nominated in Folk/Acoustic
6 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

Jamaica native Tony Lion left the Healers, the band that he had led for years, in January 1996. He has spent much of the time since then gathering a new flock of practitioners who specialize in his chosen musical form, reggae. Lion Zion, which brings together another Healers veteran, keyboardist Kathryn Harris, with bassist Chris Harris, drummer Joseph Skeet, keyboardist Ross Krutsinger and percussionist Ray Cruz, is the result of his toils, and since going public, it's been enticing growing crowds with its varied reggae styles. "Some people like dancehall and some people like classic roots reggae and others like lover's rock and rock steady," Lion says. "And we can deliver all of those things. We're not just stuck in one corner of the reggae-music bag." Lion, who issued a solo album, Nah Give Up, in 1995--shortly before his departure from the Healers--is aching to document the contributions of his latest group of collaborators. "Definitely, the most-asked question I get is, 'When is the next recording coming out?' And it's on the top of my list. We have a very nice sound, very upbeat, very lively, very positive, and I want to be able to make a CD that shows that. And we will--very soon, I hope." He also plans to raise Lion Zion's profile, so that those people who've lost track of him over the past couple of years will see that he hasn't gone anywhere. "Once we get some material together, we'll be beating a more heated path to the clubs around town. I think people will like what they hear."

Nominated in Reggae/Ska

Long has seen 'em come and seen 'em go during his two decades-plus in the Denver blues community, so it means something when he praises up-and-comers like Lonesome Dan Kase and Denver alum Corey Harris. "There are a lot of people out there with a lot of promise," he says. "I focus on my own career, but at the same time, I appreciate the other people who are carrying on the blues, too." In addition to regular appearances at Denver and Boulder clubs, this Mississippi native has been branching out of late, putting on concerts in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, and appearing at regional colleges, where the young listeners who come out to see him can immediately sense his deep knowledge of the blues. He's become increasingly selective about the venues where he plies his trade, noting, "I prefer to bring my following into places where they don't feel hassled--places where they can feel relaxed and get into the music, whether they want to dance or to just listen." As more than a generation of Coloradans know, the tunes Long plays work well for those interested in either pursuit.

Nominated in Blues/R&B

This summer, Theo Smith, aka Lord of Word, says that he was "pretty frustrated. It was the first time I really asked the question, 'Do I really want to do this?' Then I smacked myself in the head and said, 'Of course you want to do this. You've got to keep going.' And that's the way I feel now. We have no intention of stopping until we get to the point we need to get to." That's good news for the Lord's faithful followers, who've embraced the hip-hop, funk and R&B made by the Disciples of Bass (drummer Kyle Comerford, bassist John Hamala, guitarist Tim Miller, reed player Rick Demay and keyboardist/ saxophonist Jeff Lipton) for most of the Nineties. The unit has vigorously worked its 1996 CD, Positive, by touring throughout the West and Midwest, and Smith says, "Everything's been going really smooth. We haven't been making a lot of money, and we haven't expected to, but every time we go back to a place, the crowds have increased." The band has been the subject of numerous flirtations from record companies over the years, but none have borne fruit. Smith has no idea why. "Some labels say, 'We just don't get it,' and I'm like, 'What's not to get?' Our music is all about positivity and people having a good time. It's a happier alternative to all the negativity that's been going through the rap game. There are a lot of rap bands that are doing positive things, and they're not getting the push." However, he thinks that "we'll eventually catch on. We just have to keep pushing--us and all the other Colorado bands. Because one of these days, people will finally recognize Colorado for the music mecca that it is."

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
10:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

There's no longer any doubt about it: Trumpeter Ron Miles has come of age. His second album for the Gramavision imprint, Woman's Day, has been on the market since early in the year, but it continues to attract complimentary press, including a glowing review heard on National Public Radio last month. Similar kudos have been directed at Miles's band, which has been playing at chi-chi events such as this summer's New York Jazz Festival. For that gig, Miles's regulars were joined by guitarist Bill Frisell, whose current quartet lists Miles as a member. It's a relationship that's benefited both parties, Miles says. "A lot of people have come up to me at gigs I've done with Bill to tell me how much they like my record. Pat Metheny even stopped me in Montreal to say how much he liked it. So that's been really cool." On September 19, Miles appears at the Monterey Jazz Festival; then, on September 24, he begins a tour with Frisell that will take him around the country one more time. (Frisell and Miles stop by the Boulder Theater on October 3.) Upon the completion of that jaunt, Miles is apt to join up with nationally admired bassist Anthony Cox for another quartet project, and he may team with Ginger Baker for the drummer's next jazz recording. Also, he's keeping his fingers crossed that his band will be able to tour Europe in February. "I'm trying to write music for my next record, too," he comments. "It's really in its initial stages. There are three or four pieces written, but it's hard to say what kind of feel the album will have. I try to write tunes without any preconceptions at all, and then when I'm done, I hear the sounds in my head that I think will work best, and that leads me to the musicians who I think can help me get them out. I'm really looking forward to doing that--and I feel very lucky that I've gotten the opportunities I have."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing

Under ordinary circumstances, blueswoman Hazel Miller is pretty excitable. But as she speaks from a hotel room in Detroit, where Big Head Todd and the Monsters are opening for Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, she's so exuberant that you half expect someone to rush into the room and administer a sedative. "Isn't it amazing?" she all but shouts. "These boys have finally found gainful employment for a middle-aged woman." In other words, Miller has been made a permanent, full-time member of the Monsters. And while she does not intend to stop fronting her own group, the Caucasians, with whom she'll appear October 1-5 at the Little Bear, she's reveling in the rock-star life into which she's suddenly been thrust. "We were in Nashville this spring and a reporter wanted to talk to me about joining the band. Can you imagine that? I get asked for autographs sometimes, too, and at this one show in Kansas City for the H.O.R.D.E. tour, I stepped out onto the stage and about eight guys started cheering like crazy. Brian [Nevin, the Monsters' drummer] said, 'Look--Hazel's got a fan club.'" What makes her situation even more pleasurable, she says, is the atmosphere created by the band. "They're all young--they're all around thirty--which makes it even more incredible that they've found the answers so early. In a lot of bands that I've been in, I've had to cover my ears to block out all the arguments. But they never fight. They discuss any problems that come up, they work them out, and then that's it. Can you believe it?" While on tour, Miller has turned into something of an indulgent mom; she admits to having befriended the children of the Melody Makers by slipping them M&Ms when no one's looking. But she can't help herself. She's just so happy. "I've got to tell you--I'm having the time of my life."

Nominated in Blues/R&B
9:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

"I don't want to hear some Johnny-come-lately imitating the greats," says Stanley Milton, guitarist, vocalist and leader of the Mean Streak. "If I want to hear that, I can turn on my Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker records, which are better anyway." As is obvious from these statements, Milton has some strong ideas about artistic integrity in the blues, and he tries to live up to them every time he takes the stage. The Mean Streak--Milton, tenor saxophonist Ricky Abitbol, drummer James Leigh and bassist Larry Larraine--play the occasional cover or request (except for "Mustang Sally," which Milton describes as the R&B equivalent of "Free Bird"), but they concentrate on Milton originals that, he says, "tend to have pretty tough arrangements and to be a little screwy. I'm not trying to be typical. A lot of people who play the blues are so ingrained. They've gotten brain damage because they've accepted stereotypes, so they zig when everybody zigs. But sometimes it's more interesting if you zag." Milton has enough material for five albums, but don't expect any boxed sets from him; he's been struggling for the past year to complete a long-delayed single CD. He shies away from announcing an E.T.A. on the disc. "It'll be ready when it's ready--and it won't be the same old thing. Because the main thing that keeps me going is giving things a twist."

Nominated in Blues/R&B
7 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

As a member of the Elephant 6 collective, singer/guitarist Martyn Leaper, pop-rock-loving leader of the Minders, has had to learn that the organization moves at its own pace--and there's nothing much he can do about it. "Robert [Schneider, of the Apples] is producing a CD for us, but they're all so busy. We've finished up a demo on four-track, but when the whole thing is going to be done is anyone's guess." Fortunately for Leaper and his bandmates (bassist Mark Willhite, lead guitarist Jeff Almond and drummer Rebecca Cole-Leaper, who married Martyn last December), a sizable audience eagerly awaits the next Minders product. By virtue of two vinyl singles on Elephant 6, the most recent of which is called Paper Plane, the act has followings in locations as distant as Japan. (Rocket 58, a three-song vinyl EP, is due out on 100 GM, a Japanese imprint, by year's end.) Moreover, a just-completed tour of the West Coast turned out to be rewarding both musically and spiritually: "It felt like a vacation," says Leaper, a Brit who became an American citizen this year. The act hasn't played much in Denver lately in order to concentrate on a busy rehearsal schedule that, in Leaper's mind, has already started to pay dividends. "I would say we're growing and learning as musicians. We've been working very hard, mostly on harmonies, because I don't see too many bands doing that. Actually, harmonies have become the main focus of the band--and when that's executed in a successful fashion, it can become a very, very beautiful thing."

Nominated in Alternative
11:15 p.m. The Sports Column

"When I first came to Denver, I used to play the jazz clubs a lot," says Manuel Molina. "I'd play Latin jazz, because the Latino community wasn't that big then. But it got bigger, and when it did, I saw the chance to do other things." Today, Molina, who moved from his native Peru to Colorado in the Seventies, appears before the public under a number of guises. On occasion, he plays concerts accompanied by nothing other than his guitar. At other times, he delivers Latin jazz in the company of a quintet or a septet. And for special concerts, he trots out the Manuel Molina Orchestra, a jumbo-sized gathering whose swinging sounds appeal to audiences of every description. "We get Europeans, Latinos, black people, everyone," he points out. "It's wonderful to see everyone having fun together." For the past six years the orchestra has been the top attraction at March carnivals, and, as in the past, Molina promises that a significant part of the proceeds from Carnival '98 will be donated to Presbyterian/St. Luke's hospital, where Molina received a lifesaving kidney transplant in the late Eighties. He is in demand overseas, generally hitting hot spots in the Mediterranean and beyond on an annual basis, but he always enjoys coming back to Colorado. "I love Denver very much. This is my home."

Nominated in Latin/Tejano

Since their Eighties founding, the Jinns have been associated with country, roots-rock and rockabilly, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. But pianist/singer Pete Nalty, the man who makes the Jinns run, says that his latest batch of compositions are suffused with another important element that's frequently overlooked. "There's the typical Jinns signature guitar riff backed with a melody that's related to the signature riff, but a lot of it is leaning toward the Allen Touissant/New Orleans style. That's an influence that I think has always been there, because I've always liked listening to people like Professor Longhair and Dr. John. It's just more noticeable on the slow songs, and I've been into those lately." Nalty and fellow Jinns Gary Englund (lead guitar), Brad Lillard (guitar and vocals), Mike Mobley (bass) and Tim Molinaro (drums) will begin recording these compositions following what Nalty gingerly refers to as "a financial waiting period"; spring is targeted for their release. In the meantime, Nalty marvels at the robustness of the local roots-rock scene that, in many ways, the Jinns helped bring to life. "There are a lot of great bands. It's very consistent, and I think it's always going to be there. It's not going to go away--so if you don't like it, tough."

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
7:15 p.m. The Sports Column

Those who wandered into what was then called Flat Pennies during last year's Westword Music Awards Showcase and caught Nueva Imagen on stage received an earful of Mexican regional music, cumbia and romantic show-stoppers capable of thawing even the most frigid disposition. But eyes were filled, too. Charismatic, diminutive vocalist/bandleader Martin Bencomo, keyboardist/vocalist Mario Vega, bassist Alfonso Garcia, drummer Gabriel Camarena and guitarist/vocalist Jesus Ramos wore matching suits so flashy it was a wonder that the entire crowd was not blinded, and their moves were as flamboyant as the tiny stage would allow. With a CD (La Ultima Rosa [The Last Rose]) and numerous local television appearances to its credit, Greeley-based Nueva Imagen remains a live act to be reckoned with.

Nominated in Latin/Tejano

Jazzy saxophonist Laura Newman wears a lot of musical hats. A.O.A., which also includes bassist Dave Randon, keyboardist Bill Unrau, drummer Michael Berry and vocalist Crystal Collins, who, Newman says, "sings her ass off," began as a fusion band but has recently moved along a surprising tangent. "We're influenced by anything groove-oriented. It's more rhythm-and-jazz than anything else. There's even some hip-hop in there." This sound will dominate the group's fourth CD, which the musicians will begin recording October 1. In addition, Newman promises "a couple of original arrangements--by which I mean, we don't just cover a tune, but demolish it. We've completely regrooved 'Fire' by Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor's 'You've Got a Friend'--I think those will really turn heads." A.O.A. takes on another character when Newman and her assistants play corporate events and weddings: "We do kind of a Motown thing--and we make incredible money doing it." More satisfying from a creative standpoint are her regular Sunday and Monday appearances at El Chapultepec, where she makes unadulterated jazz in the company of Ellyn Rucker, Mark Simon and Paul Romaine. The combo, which is known by insiders as Chapultergeist, will get the CD treatment early in 1998, and the same players are set to support Rucker on a solo album. This kind of variety might make many musicians feel schizophrenic, but not Newman. "To be able to do originals with A.O.A. and to work with some of the best straightahead players in town is just a dream."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing
10 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

The experience of opening up a show by the Roots, a hip-hop group that also happens to put on fine live shows, made a strong impression on Reese (Maurice Smith), who with partner Dap (Robert Woolfolk II) makes up the Denver rap outfit nGoMa: "They're definitely the shit, man. They've been a big influence." To that end, nGoMa is in the midst of adding a keyboardist, an acoustic bass player and a drummer to the turntables and DATs that have provided the background music for the group thus far. Reese stresses, "We want to keep the emphasis on the beats and the bass. That will make us more flexible for shows. We can stop, expand and get crowd participation going." Collage Mindstate, nGoMa's extremely promising inaugural CD, is now being sold beyond Colorado's borders, but from an artistic standpoint, Dap and Reese have already moved beyond it. They've come up with a load of new material that reflects their fascination with danceability. But Reese insists that the sound's bigger bottom end will not overshadow the words. "The beats may be a little harder, but the lyrics are also a little deeper. We're learning about life and the business, and our new songs reflect that. It's not a radical change, but just growth. I don't think anybody will be totally shocked by it. Instead, they'll be like, 'Wow, look where they're headed now.'"

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
6:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

Tim Franklin, who sings and plays trumpet and guitar for Old Bull's Needle, says, "Music is so cliquey right now. You've got your pop-punk, you've got your ska and so on, and there's like one good band out of each of those scenes, and the rest of them suck." Old Bull's Needle (Franklin, lead guitarist/vocalist Russell Fahnestock, bassist/ vocalist Mike Molnar and just plain Kevin on drums) avoids being typecast in this way by merging a couple of compatible inspirations. "Everybody knows that Russ's solos are heavily influenced by Iron Maiden, and we all love metal. But even though we're as quick as a speed-metal band, we're not metal, because we love punk, too. We grew up on punk. So I guess you'd say our big influences are HYsker DY and Slayer." Of late, the boys in the band have been peddling their unholy aural brew to unsuspecting folks without Colorado licenses. "We just got back from touring Texas with the La Donnas. And we're probably going on a three-and-a-half week tour up the coast in about a month or so." The purpose of this last sojourn is to secure some record label interest; the band is eager to issue a six-song EP, but they hope to receive some fiduciary aid in doing so. But Franklin vows not to soften Old Bull's Needle in order to court favor. "We try to keep it fast, but with some integrity. Yeah--fast with integrity ought to be our motto."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial
9:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

When vocalist Jake Schroeder left the 17th Avenue All Stars four years ago to form Opie Gone Bad, he had what he thought was a fairly firm notion of what he wanted the new group to become. "I wasn't really happy doing the a cappella thing, and I had a strong background in rhythm and blues--I love Otis Redding and people like that. So my original intention was to create a modern band with the old Stax/Volt sound." Thus, Opie began as a sprawling, nine-piece ensemble. This goal changed after the musicians spent a not-entirely-satisfying year in Austin. "That was 1995, and when I came back, I didn't even know if I wanted to do music anymore. But then I just decided to go for it, but on a reduced scale. And that's how we wound up with this alternative-funk thing." Since moving down a more college-music-oriented path, Schroeder and his slimmed-down Opie (bassist Kirwan Brown, guitarist Randy Chavez and drummer Dean Oldencott) have become such a consistent live draw that Denver-based Celsius Records, part of a company that's released discs by Willie Nelson and Tim Weisberg, inked them to a deal. Opie Gone Bad, the CD that grew out of this union, has become a local favorite, and Celsius is working hard to win the disc greater exposure. Schroeder has no complaints about the firm's efforts. "As a musician, you're supposed to keep the label in an adversarial role in your head, but I'm having a really hard time doing that with these guys. They're well-funded, and they've been really smart about the way they've done business. This is not a situation where everybody's a slacker and nothing's getting done." Regional and then national touring is on Opie's calendar, but Schroeder doesn't want anyone to think that he has no allegiance to Colorado. "I was bartending at the Wynkoop when Big Head Todd was on Letterman for the first time, and everyone was so proud. It was like watching a rocket launch or a sporting event that everybody cared about. Everybody was really hoping that they'd do well, and they have. I hope that's the same kind of thing that happens for us."

Nominated in Rock/Pop
9 p.m. The Soiled Dove

The open stage that singer-songwriter Baggs Patrick oversees each Sunday night at Cricket on the Hill is a microcosm of music in Denver. "We get everyone from folk musicians to cross-dressers, and they all feel at home," he says. If so, Patrick deserves much of the credit. He's been a constant figure in local venues for a decade, helping out fledgling performers even as he constructs ditties of his own that usually exist on the far edge of sanity. Circus in My Head, his first CD (made with helpers dubbed the Baggs Patrick Band), contains "Wet, Sloppy Kisses" and "Please Don't Take My Penis When You Go"--which novelty DJ Dr. Demento has featured on his nationally syndicated radio program--as well as a multitude of efforts intended to get you chortling. The disc, which Internet users can sample at, also contains a few tunes that can't be categorized as gags, but they're few and far between because, Patrick admits, "when I sit down to write a serious song, I usually get so disgusted that I start tearing them apart, and then I start laughing at myself." Since forming the group, Patrick has increased the focus on his own performances. But he's keeping a watchful eye on other acts as well--and he likes what he sees. "I think the city is really cooking right now. And I'm not just blowing smoke on that. There's some really fine players that are coming out, and I think some of them have a real shot at doing some good work."

Nominated in Folk/Acoustic

Most Denver musicians thinking about touring have to consider the effect their absence will have on their employment situation. But Joel Van Horne, vocalist and lead guitarist for the punk/ska act Petrol Apathy, is more concerned with the potential impact on his grade point average. "I'm a senior at Bear Creek High School, and even though my parents have been really supportive about the band and all, they don't want it to interfere with school. So if we want to play in, say, L.A. during the school year, the rest of the band will drive out to the venue, but I'll fly in and then fly back, so I don't miss any school." Van Horne's ability to afford this mode of transportation likely says something about his parents' income level, but it also speaks volumes about the success that Petrol Apathy is enjoying. The group, whose other members (vocalist/guitarist Matt Whitesides, bassist Ryan McCutchen and drummer Jeff Soder) are all recent high school graduates, got its start in November 1994. But since being taken under the wing of local promoter Dan Steinberg, it's opened for outfits such as Fishbone and Snot, headlined tours of its own, and inked a deal with One Wipe, the indie company that put out Petrol Apathy's six-song EP, Heartless Society. As the disc's title implies, many of the group's lyrics have a political bent. "One of our songs is called 'Nation in Distress,' and it's basically saying that America is not a perfect country, and there are a lot of things that need to be changed. And our first single, 'Holiday?,' refers to Columbus Day. In the past ten years, people have turned Columbus from a national hero to a villain, and we really agree with the villain side." As Van Horne tells it, a few labels are looking at picking up Petrol Apathy and releasing its next recording, a full-length that the musicians are in the process of amassing--"but we're not in any rush. I mean, I'm in school until late May."

Nominated in Punk
10:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

Late August found Trevor Williamson, bassist for Denver's pop-punk Pinhead Circus, back in town--but one of the main reasons he was here didn't make him too happy. "Our van's in the shop. It's a 1983 Ford Econoline: Six cylinders, baby, 273,000 miles, second engine, and fucking ten miles an hour up the passes. Our last show before we got here was in L.A., and on our way back, it started whining really bad. It turned out to be the transmission, which I replaced myself last time it went bad. But this time, I just don't have time." If that excuse sounds suspect, take a gander at the road schedule staring at Williamson, guitarist/vocalist Scooter Wellensiek and drummer Otis. After having completed an August tour with Murphy's Law and Youth Brigade, they are committed to traveling the Midwest, East and South for more than a month. Then, after a couple of weeks back in Colorado, they'll travel for another six weeks alongside John Cougar Concentration Camp, Brand New Unit and Pezz. Along the way, the Pinheads will hype their new CD on L.A.'s BYO Records, the home of Youth Brigade, the Bouncing Souls, 7 Seconds and many other elite purveyors of punk. Called Detailed Instructions for the Self-Involved, it incorporates fourteen songs plus a bonus track--although Williamson says, "I don't know if you can really call it a bonus, because it's a Night Ranger cover: 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me.' But it's a fun song to play. It's all about the metal." Circus fans undoubtedly will know the track intimately by the time the three-piece finally returns to Colorado for an extended stay--although there's no telling when that will take place. As Williamson puts it, "That all depends on the van."

Nominated in Punk

Drummer Evan Eisentrager was a member of the 'Vengers when that group went down for the count. But he was able to jump almost immediately to a reggae combo that he enjoys playing with even more: Preacherman and the Congregation. "I was losing interest in the whole 'Vengers ska thing," he concedes. "But I'm really enjoying playing with Preacherman." Herman Winter, aka Preacherman, is a Jamaican who decided to jam with Eisentrager, guitarist Ash Kirby, keyboardist Dave Edgar and bassist Chris Wright on a lark, and no one was more surprised than he that the music they made in tandem sounded quite fine. They started playing together less than a year ago, and over that period, the band has gradually reduced the number of covers in its set, replacing them with originals that will monopolize a CD slated for pre-holiday release. Eisentrager is proud of the full-length's eclecticism. "We pretty much try to do every reggae beat that we've heard. We do little steppers, little rockers, a little dancehall--as much variety as we can beatwise. We just mix it up." Kirby and Wright are also members of Zestfinger, a Boulder outfit that is in the process of being resurrected, so balancing commitments could be tricky. But Eisentrager sees plenty of commitment to the Congregation. "Herman is so into the CD that he's talking about taking it down to Florida and Jamaica and seeing if anything comes of it. And if something does, I'd love to get down there in the wintertime. I'd quit my job in a second."

Nominated in Reggae/Ska
10 p.m. The Soiled Dove

Trumpeter Darryl Abrahamson has some news to report. The Psychodelic Zombiez, a funky collective that's been on the cusp of the big time more than once during the Nineties, is in all likelihood nearing a key point in its history--and perhaps its Waterloo. The Los Angeles band Weapon of Choice, which includes former Zombiez keyboardist Keefus, invited current guitarist/songwriter Josh Lopez to audition for an open slot, and he passed the test. Upon accepting the job, Lopez began making plans to move to Southern California, leaving Abrahamson and the other Zombiez (trumpeter Eric Schneider, saxophonists Dav Hoof and Kurt Moorehead, bassist/vocalist Chevy Martinez, singer Mike Friesen and drummer Jason "Hoju" Segler) in quite a quandary. "We'll be playing with Josh through October, if not longer, but somewhere in there, he'll be going, and that's why everything's up in the air. The band will carry on no matter what, but we have no idea if it'll be as the Psychodelic Zombiez, or under a different name, or what." Because Lopez was a founding member of the group and wrote songs that helped define its style, there's no telling what the band might sound like without him. As a result, the Zombiez feel some urgency to document as much as they can before the parting. "We've had a good portion of another album, Things That Are Brown, in the can for the better part of a year, and we're going to finish that up as quickly as we can. And we also want to do a live album--hopefully, a double-live album--so that we'll have a record of the band at its peak." Whether these efforts will be the start of great things to come or a last hurrah won't be known for a while yet. But Abrahamson is trying to look on the bright side of the situation. "Some of the people in the band have been talking about side projects for a while now. So who knows--we could end up with five great bands coming out of this one."

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
11:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

"I just got off the road with Bobby McFerrin," announces Boulder singer-songwriter Beth Quist. "We were in Europe in July doing a tour supporting the album Circle Songs, which I sang on, and it was incredible. There were twelve singers, and it was totally a cappella and completely improvised every night. That's a very challenging format, but I've never felt so much support and encouragement in a group." Not that Quist is unhappy with her musical situation back home. She is part of Sharese, a combo that plays traditional Turkish and Greek music, and has just written a dance-music score for The Women Who Took, a piece by choreographer Jerri Davis that will debut at the University of Colorado in Boulder during the middle of October. Furthermore, she's excited by the sound she's come up with in collaboration with guitarist Dave Beegle and bassist Mike Olson, both of Fourth Estate. "Dave is seen as a hard-rock player, but he's studied Bulgarian music and is really sensitive and listens well. And the same with Mike. They can both play weird time signatures like it was nothing at all." Quist, who decided not to seek several career opportunities dangled before her in New York City because "I grew up in the mountains of Boulder, and it's nice to feel that I can escape to them if I need to," will begin putting together demos with Beegle and Olson in October, with an eye toward making a CD, her first under her own name since last year's well-received Lucidity. "I'm trying to figure out the funding for it right now." She laughs. "Although maybe the easiest thing for me to do is to just apply for a bunch of credit cards."

Nominated in Folk/Acoustic
10:15 p.m. The Sports Column

This past year in the life of the Samples has been so frenetic that it required more space to tell it than was available here; other details can be found in Feedback, page 84. But to Sean Kelly, the group's lead singer, the upshot of this turmoil has been a strong new lineup (featuring bassist Andy Sheldon, drummer Kenny James, keyboardist Alex Matson and guitarist Rob Somers) and an expansive semi-live CD the W.A.R.? label will release on September 29. "It's called Transmissions From the Sea of Tranquility, and it has an overall theme of the first landing on the moon, which I think is really neat," Kelly says. "It's two and a half hours long, with 27 songs that we either did live or set up in a way that we learned them really quickly and finished them in one take, which is something that the other band didn't really do." Because departed members Jeep MacNichol and Al Laughlin appear on only one cut, a cover of John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels," the focus is on change. "We did a lot of older songs, but we deliberately did them differently, so that they'd seem fresh. And there are also some newer songs, like 'Flying' and 'Prehistoric Bird' and 'Sacred Stones,' which is going to be promoted to radio. We're really psyched about all of them." To some, moving from major label MCA to W.A.R.? might seem like a comedown, but Kelly thinks that the Boulder-based company will help the Samples re-establish their connection with the people who've supported them through good times and bad. As a symbolic gesture toward these fans, the Samples are including in Tranquility a printout of the loyalists on the group's mailing list--all 60,000 of them. "It's in alphabetical order, and we had to make the names so small to fit them all on there that your eyes will probably hurt if you look at it for too long. But that way, you'll be able to find your name on there and know that you had a part in making it happen." He concludes, "The album isn't just a new beginning. It's a celebration. And we want everyone to feel a part of it."

Nominated in Major Label Act

Charles Edwards believes that the time for his goth-friendly band, Seraphim Shock, has finally come. Last year, as a CD was nearing completion, a cache of equipment was stolen, delaying the project for months. But the equipment was replaced and the disc, dubbed Red Silk Vow, is in the can. Edwards, who isn't shy about blowing his own horn, can't say enough nice things about it. "It's a really good blend of goth, industrial and metal," he notes. "Metal's an ugly word in the industry right now, but to me, that's just silly. Everything comes back, and I think it'll be back sooner, not later." He swears that label interest, spurred in part by the presence of a Seraphim Shock song on Goth Box, a four-CD set put out by Cleopatra Records, remains strong. But rather than waiting for a contract, the bandmembers (including guitarist Greg Kammerer, bassist David James and a drummer to be named later) will release it themselves sometime in October. "We've started our own label, Requiem Records, to give us some more bargaining power," Edwards continues. "And the promotion for the album is going to hit like a wave. This city will never have seen anything like this." Also upcoming are a pair of cameos in low-budget thrillers, including Captain Howdy, based on a Twisted Sister song and starring Sister frontman Dee Snider. With the mainstream media full of stories about violence associated with followers of the goth lifestyle, Seraphim's cinematic excursions would seem likely to make Edwards a lightning rod for criticism, but he isn't worried. He puts on "underground goth functions" at a private residence whose location he prefers to keep secret for fear of police interference, and he insists that the kids he's dealt with haven't caused the slightest trouble. "The whole thing is ridiculous. Everyone has been terribly misinformed. And even though we aren't a typical goth band, I'm sure we'll be put into that category. But it may turn out to be all right. Obviously, the events are unfortunate, but the publicity may turn out to be favorable for us."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial

America may not have embraced 16 Horsepower's voodoo rock in great numbers yet, but audiences in Europe have. "We've sold 14,000 copies of our first album [Sackcloth 'n' Ashes] in France," reveals David Eugene Edwards, still suffering from jet lag after returning from an extended tour of the Old Country. "And we're doing really well in Holland, Belgium and Germany too." Given this strong reception, A&M Records, 16 Horsepower's label, decided to rush the release of the band's next album, Low Estate; it's already hitting London and other world capitals a full six months prior to its planned arrival in U.S. record stores. "It just made sense to release it over there first, and then later here," Edwards explains. "After all, we can't tour in both places at the same time. So the way it's looking is that we'll play a show here around the middle of October and then leave straight after that for another six weeks in Europe. Then we'll be off for Christmas. But once the record comes out here in February, we'll spend pretty much the rest of next year touring America." Executives at A&M recently purged the vast majority of rock bands from its roster: "They're mostly R&B at the moment," Edwards reports. For this reason, Edwards and the other Horses (Jean-yves Tola, Pascal Humbert and Jeffrey-Paul) see A&M's continued commitment to the band as a sign of enthusiasm for the new album, which was produced by P.J. Harvey associate John Parish. "Working with John was a really great experience. From the first time we met him, we felt he had a good understanding of what we wanted to do, and his input was very helpful. He played quite a bit on the record--percussion, shakers, rattles, guitar and some organ." Overall, Edwards believes, "there's more textures to the songs, what with the new bandmembers and Jeffrey-Paul's vocals and a lot of new instruments. I think it's more representative of what we sound like live than the first record. The first record, we tried to be as precise and clean as we could, but on this one, we did whatever we felt like doing." On a personal level, the players have undergone some changes: Tola has moved with his wife to Tuscadero, California, and Edwards and his beloved, Leah, are the proud parents of a four-month old boy, Elijah. But these events haven't lessened Edwards's dedication to his music. "We're having a good time playing together. And that's good, because we'll be doing a lot of it."

Nominated in Major Label Act

Like Seraphim Shock, Skull Flux is being called a goth band, much to guitarist Greg Stretton's confusion. "The hardcore gothers wouldn't call us goth by any means. We're generally dark, and there are definitely some gothic elements to it, but we're not like Sisters of Mercy or anything. We tend to be a little more loud and maybe on the more aggressive side as well. But if being called goth means that people will stop thinking we're a death-metal band, then I guess there are worse things." The goth tag will be further bolstered by the appearance of a Skull Flux song, "Three-Peat," on a soon-to-be-released goth compilation on Los Angeles's Triple X Records. According to Stretton, who joins singer Conrad Kehn, bassist Steve Millin and drummer David Hesker in the group, a representative of Triple X has been working hard to bring Skull Flux even more recognition. "He put us up in his house when we came out to do some shows in L.A. and Vegas, so that maybe some industry people could see us. He's shown us a lot of hospitality, and he's always been cool to us." In the four years since its formation, the band has managed to make only one CD, 1996's Ophelia, but Stretton would like to amend that situation soon. "We've got a lot of songs, and they've definitely got a different feel from the ones on Ophelia, which I think is great. I hate bands that put out an album, and then put out one that's exactly like the last one. We're not going to do that. We're evolving--and I hope we keep doing it."

Nominated in Hard Rock/Industrial
10:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

At this time last year, the signing of Space Team Electra (guitarist Bill Kunkel, singer Myshel Prasad, drummer Kit Peltzel and bassist Greg Fowkes) seemed a sure bet. But in Kunkel's opinion, the turmoil in the record industry has changed all that. "They're experiencing the crash of the marketing scheme called grunge, and they're panicked to find something new to sell to people. Obviously, the buzz words are 'electronica' or 'one-hit wonders,' and with our long songs, we don't fit either one of those. But, hopefully, someone will be into the music instead of just the whole marketing end of things." In a more perfect world, the Team would not have to deal with such questions. After all, its sound--moody, passionate, free-flowing rock that doesn't conform to simple structures--is compelling, no matter the trends of the moment. Kunkel says a tour of California with Mollies Revenge, an Atlantic Records signee, reminded the players of that fact: "By the end, we were really in tune with our set and our songs. It felt great to see what it's like to play out of town, and to really get the ball rolling." Right now, Space Team's disc, co-produced by Chicago heavy-hitter Keith Cleversley, remains in limbo, and while Kunkel doesn't want to provide too many details about it, he concedes that "it's powerful. For once in my life, I'm actually pleased with something that's been recorded." This sense of satisfaction keeps him going through the rough patches. "The talk A&R people give you--'We love you and we're going to do this and that, blah, blah, blah'--is really distracting from what's going on between the four of us when we play. And that's what I want to embrace."

Nominated in Alternative
8:30 p.m. Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Since their recent departure from Island Records--which issued Mississippi, their strong debut CD, a couple of years back--the rockers in Spell have been casting about for other options. "We've been contacted by at least one indie that said, 'We'll put out your next album. Whatever you want to do is fine with us,'" says guitarist Tim Beckman, who shares band membership with bassist/ vocalist Chanin Floyd, drummer/ vocalist Garrett Shavlik and guitarist/new recruit Tony Harsh. "So we're definitely going to be getting something out there soon. We need to--it's been a long time." Before leaping at the first pact that comes their way, though, the Spellers plan to test the waters. They've completed a five-song demo they're circulating to a few insiders, and Beckman describes the songs on it as representative of a new direction for the band. The inspiration for this shift was Nick Launay, a producer who's done a lot of work with Killing Joke and the Birthday Party. "Chanin had been into that kind of stuff before--she was into everything before anyone else was--but we all kind of rediscovered it. We found that we had an affinity for it, and it all came out when we started writing and recording again." Harsh, who works as a sound engineer at the Naropa Institute, proved to be a valuable asset when it came time to set up the microphones, and Beckman says that his guitar playing has added more depth and variety to the Spell approach. "He's a good friend, too, which is definitely a big plus." Onetime MC5 member Wayne Kramer has recently gotten chummy with Spell as well, which strikes Beckman as the ultimate proof that the band is on the right track. "He's become a real supporter--and that's the kind of thing we all hope for and thrive on. Getting the approval of someone we respected as we grew up is just really cool."

Nominated in Alternative

Tony Achilles has decided to step back. Sweet Water Well, the pop-folk act for which he sings and plays guitar, has absorbed all of his energy for so long that he feels he's lost perspective on it--and he says that singer/guitarist David Jackson, singer/bassist Molly Bowers and singer/percussionist Chris Helvey feel the same way. "We're trying not to take things so seriously right now. We had been striving for some sort of measurable success as opposed to just doing it for fun, and when we tried to harness that and give it a name, the music stopped being as free-flowing and enjoyable as it's always been. So we've decided to slow down a little." The musicians certainly deserve a break: They've spent most of 1997 pounding the drum for 1996's Watermelon, their debut CD on Denver's Alley Records. "We're pleased with how it's gone," Achilles claims. "It's been a big seller on the road, and a huge seller in town. Plus, Alley Records is really behind it. They're getting some national distribution, which is great." Since Watermelon is not yet long in the tooth, Achilles feels no urgency to cut a followup. "I love the studio, and I'm jonesing to get back in there. But we've got this new record that we need to work with a little more." So the bandmates are going off in their own directions for a while: Bowers is performing as part of Molly Universe, a group that also features Andrew Koch, while Achilles is focusing on his other vocation, fine art. As he puts it, "We're tapping other resources, so that when we come back together, we'll all have fresh ideas. The last thing we want to become is boring or monotonous. I don't know what the future holds, but I think that Sweet Water Well can be a fulfilling thing for everybody involved if we just take it easy."

Nominated in Folk/Acoustic
6:30 p.m. Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

A few years back, vocalist/guitarist/roots-rock pioneer Rex Moser led the Throttlemen. Then he became the central figure in Jetredball. Now he's with the Throttlemen again. What up? "Those guys in Jetredball wouldn't rehearse with me," Moser says. "That's basically it. It went good for a while, and then they wanted to stop rehearsing and just play at the show, which didn't cut it for me. But I didn't press it. I just went and got some younger guys who had more time." Presently, Moser's accomplices are drummer Mike Minnick, formerly of Aggression, and Tyson Murray, whose work on a standup bass floats Moser's boat. "It's so hard to get a good standup player in this town. There are a few who can play jazz, but that slappin' stuff is a whole 'nother ball game. And Tyson can really slap it." The skills of Murray and Minnick have allowed Moser to take the Throttlemen into virgin territory. "One of our problems was that we were kind of one-dimensional, but now we can work it all around. We've been doing a couple of swingy things and a few new surf songs, and we work in some jazz chords and a cheesy number now and again. I think that's good. The crowds appreciate it." A Throttlemen CD is in the works, and Moser would like to swear that you'll see it by year's end. Unfortunately, he can't. "It's the same old story--I really don't know when it's going to be ready. But we'll be out there playing. That I can promise you."

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
10:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

Universo Dos has been around for so long that even Denice Rivera, the group's spokesperson, has trouble figuring out the length of its life span. "Let's see--they celebrated their eighth anniversary in 1994. So I guess it must be eleven years, right?" Right--but Denice's husband, Jesus Rivera, who serves as Universo's accordionist, keyboardist and director, and lead singer Adalbarto Terrazas have been partners for even longer. They first paired up in 1984, forming Universo two years later. Since then, the group has appeared on television programs in Denver, Florida, Texas and Mexico, put together videos for the songs "Siempre Lloraba" and "Cuando Comprendas," and issued seven discs, including Greatest Hits, which became available earlier this month. Today's Universo, which finds Rivera and Terrazas in the company of bassist Marcelino Villarreal, guitarist Juan Gonzales and drummer Sergio Soto, "plays a little bit of everything," Denice says. "They play a lot of ballads, and they play what some people might think of as Spanish country, and Spanish rock and roll." Just as important, they show no signs of hanging up their hats--meaning that keeping track of Universo's age will keep getting harder.

Nominated in Latin/Tejano
8:15 p.m. Blake Street Baseball Club

Jazz bassist Paul Warburton isn't simply into making music; he's into making the instruments on which music is made. With Bob Ross, he's begun manufacturing custom basses--and beginning this month, the two are marketing their creations internationally. "They're such specialized things that you could never survive selling them locally," Warburton says. "You have to look beyond that." He's moving forward musically as well. His most recent disc, Speak Low, featuring the contributions of trumpeter/fellow Showcase nominee Ron Miles, has won considerable acclaim, and he hopes two new projects will receive the same reception. "I'm making both of them for the Synergy label. The first one is a duo CD I'm making with Eric Gunnison [who's also on Speak Low] within the next couple of months. And I'm also doing a solo project. The one complaint I heard about Speak Low is that there weren't enough bass solos on it. But on that one, I wanted to spotlight the interplay between the musicians, because that's so much fun. On this one, though, there will be a lot of soloing. The bass will function almost as a horn player." Between these studio visits, Warburton expects to maintain his busy performance schedule in the company of talents such as guitarist Mark Klastad and pianist Art Lande. After all, such shows give him a chance to show off his bass. "The one I'm playing right now is a five-string, but instead of a scroll on top, it has a dragon's head. It's a really beautiful instrument."

Nominated in Jazz/Swing

Angels in the Crowd, the first CD by singer-songwriter Wendy Woo, traces her development as an artist. "Some of the songs on there I wrote four years ago," Woo says. "And others are a lot newer. And it has a good mix of musicians, too. There are probably twenty people who play on it. I'm in a lot of different settings." For Woo, variety is the spice of her music. A Boulder native and longtime scenester (perhaps she's served you a drink while bartending at the Fox Theatre), she often fronts a full band--"bass, drums, keyboards, electric guitar and sometimes sax and trumpet if the venue calls for it"--but she's just as comfortable playing solo, or with one or two other musicians. "In October, I'm going to do a coffee-shop tour with a cello player, Hannah Alkire. It'll be just acoustic guitar and cello, and she and I are really enjoying it. It's nice to be up there with another woman." She snickers. "The boys don't care how they're dressed, but Hannah and I like to call each other up and decide what to wear together." Woo is eager to record in this more intimate format. An accomplished sound engineer who co-produced Angels with Paul Armstrong, she sees the studio as her home away from home. "I love it, and I'm really psyched to get back in there."

Nominated in Folk/Acoustic
8 p.m. The Soiled Dove


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