High Plains Underground Archive

Remembering The Last Night at the Great Monkey Mania

The warehouse venue at 2126 Arapahoe Street continued to be called Monkey Mania well into 2006, and fondly continued to be referred to by the name even as it was re-named Kingdom of Doom. But the last show under the leadership of Josh Taylor, Amy Fantastic and their roommates happened on December 3, 2005. It was a celebration of everything that made Monkey Mania a legendary DIY space, not just in Denver but in the national and international underground music scene. Though it was anticipated that the next group of people living at the venue would continue the legacy of Monkey Mania as it was, this final night was essentially the end of that era.

In attendance were Travis Egedy and Warren Bedell, who had founded Rhinoceropolis that spring, along with Milton Melvin Croissant III who then fronted dance punk / noise rock band Ultra Boyz, one of the handful of bands that played that final blowout. Many of the people who would go on to form future significant bands and significant underground labels either performed or showed up to get to see what no one really knew would be one of the last shows the place would host under the name Monkey Mania. It was a cross-section of the music and the community that made the place special and significant and still has a place in the hearts of anyone that got to experience one of the many great shows at Monkey Mania and its spirit of openness, creativity and taking chances with art. You could see noise shows at Monkey Mania. You could also see indie pop, punk, metal, unclassifiable music, pop, performance art—anything outside the mainstream. What follows are not images from across the venue's history from its November 1998 inception but, rather, some scenes from that final night before Josh and Amy moved to Los Angeles.

*Author's Note on the High Plains Underground Archive: In the late 1990s, I started going to local shows on a regular basis. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I didn't know there was such a thing as local music worth checking out. But I was drawn in after seeing a band called Rainbow Sugar (an all-female punk/hip-hop/experimental guitar rock extravaganza) opening for Sleater-Kinney's first show in Colorado at The Fox Theatre in October 1998. Next, I learned about a show at the now-defunct Rebis Galleries. From there I went to the first Monkey Mania show, and there was no looking back.

Rainbow Sugar was the first local band I photographed at Herman's Hideaway in 1999. But it was in 2005 when I got my first digital camera that my extensive photo archive started. In this series, called High Plains Underground Archive, I will share a small fraction of the tens of thousands of those photos, focusing on specific venues, bands, time periods, movements and whatever else seems to make sense. The title of this series comes from the working title of my book on the history of underground music in Denver 1975 to the present.

- Seven of Denver's Most Underrated Bands
- Wolf Eyes' John Olson Talks About the Importance of Music Communities
- Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene
- DIY or Die: Why Denver Need Under-The-Radar, All-Ages Arts Spaces

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.