Since I'm a music critic, all anyone ever wants to talk to me about is music. Which is usually fine: As luck would have it, music happens to be my favorite subject. But every now and then, someone insists on pushing my buttons, extolling the virtues of the Grateful Dead and that whole hippie-jam-band mystique -- you know, Phish, Panic and their ilk. When I politely say that I give less than two shits about that mindless crap, this is what I hear: "Dude, you just don't like it because you don't understand it. You don't get it, man." I think they mean that since I'm not stoned out of my gourd, burning pounds and pounds of the hippie lettuce, I'm just impervious to its charm.
But what's to get? What's to get about three-hour concerts and thirty-minute songs? What's to get about fanatical nuts who'll follow this act and its disciples to the ends of the earth? Step away from the organs and banjos, folks.
I remember seeing the Dead's skull-laden imagery on patches and T-shirts sported by my hessian buddies when I was a kid. Being a newbie in the metal realm, I assumed the Dead was a metal band. "What a cool name," I thought. "It must be a cool band." Then I saw the hand- holding teddy bears. And one afternoon, my curiosity got the best of me at my buddy Ira's house. He threw on American Beauty, a great primer for newlydeads, and the look on my face said everything: It was a mix of shock and dismay, the look you'd wear after finding out that someone in your family is a serial killer. I simply didn't get it.
Twenty years later, I still don't. But in the meantime, the multitudes of smelly, maniacal fans have multiplied, birthing a whole new generation of sheeple to ponder, "What would Jerry do?" I can almost understand the loyalty of those folks who grew up in an era of free love and weed; they were too stoned to know the difference. But the adoration by their progeny baffles me -- and what's worse, these young fans of music that still proudly waves the wankery flag seem to be concentrated in the Denver-Boulder area.
When I check my mailbox, it's jammed top to bottom with the stuff. And among the most recent arrivals is the latest platter by local pantheon String Cheese Incident, Untying the Knot. Until now, the only way I was able to stand listening to these guys was when DJ Harry remixed a bunch of the band's tunes, but Untying the Knot sounded surprisingly accessible. "Hmm," I thought, "maybe I've been mistaken all these years."
So being a dutiful journalist, I ran out and got a few of the act's live discs and gave String Cheese another shot. I closed my office door, sat down and turned that mother up. About forty minutes later, I woke up in a pool of my own drool and came to the realization that, no, it's not me; it's the music. I simply don't get it. While I appreciate the band's staunch do-it-yourself ethic and business acumen, I find the music -- that mutant hybrid of gospel, funk and bluegrass -- innocuous, meandering and menacingly mundane. And without good music, all you're left with is a room full of accountants.
Undoubtedly, all you trustafarians in the People's Republic of Boulder are now ready to rally around the members of String Cheese and their brethren and proclaim, "But they're incredible musicians!" Let me save you some time: I never said they weren't great players -- I'm just saying their music sucks. It's b-o-r-i-n-g, Sidney, boring! With all the amazing music that's corralled in Cowtown, this is what we've become known for? String Cheese? Leftover Salmon? I'll be goddamned if those bands represent the best this town has to offer.
Go ahead, prove me wrong. Keep those discs coming. Given the law of averages, sooner or later, some jam band is bound to blow my mind. Or make me lose it altogether.
Dreaming the impossible dream: Jay Bianchi -- an owner of Quixote's True Blue (ground zero for the Deadhead movement in Denver), as well as Sancho's Broken Arrow, Dulcinea's 100th Monkey and Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom -- confirms that Quixote's days at 7 South Broadway are almost over. While I may abhor jam-band music, I'll never celebrate the closure of any local venue -- especially one that keeps all those Deadheads and their tunes contained in one place far away from me. But fear not, true believers: While the Broadway space is indeed being sold, Quixote's itself is far from dead. According to Bianchi, the club will probably be resurrected early next year and given life at a new location.
But after running Quixote's for the past eight years, Bianchi says it was simply time to take a break and focus on the ballroom. "We want to concentrate on Cervantes for a while and kind of force the issue," he explains. "We think Cervantes is an awesome venue, and we just want to make sure people are coming to see that. So after we settle that, then we can reopen Quixote's."
The last show in Quixote's current space is slated for Sunday, November 9; it's a free "Superjam" featuring Crispy Critters, Purple Buddha and many other local jambozos.
And then, on Thursday, November 20, a brand-new bar called the Hi-Dive and its sister lounge, the Sputnik, will take over the 7 South Broadway address. According to Ben Desoto -- who will be handling booking duties for the Hi-Dive's owners, husband-and-wife duo Matt and Allison LaBarge -- the bar will have local punk and indie music on Friday and Saturday nights, with DJs and a variety of other events rounding out the week.
"We really want to reach out to local bands," says Desoto. "We want them to be treated well, and we want them to be happy to play our place. We really just want it to be a place where people go to hang out."
To survive in a town already pretty saturated with indie rock and punk clubs is going to be challenging, but the Hi-Dive has a plan: It's going to incorporate more diversity when booking its events and put more emphasis on the bar side of things.
"There really aren't any bar/venues in this town that are bars first and venues second," Matt LaBarge says. "They're all either venues or bars that are trying to be venues. So we're modeling it after a couple of places that we hung out at in New York, and at least there it seemed the more the merrier, to get people out and support the local scene.
"Plus, we have a kickass jukebox," he adds. "And we're also going to do more multimedia-type stuff and avant-garde theater. We're going to get more involved with a wider variety of things than just indie music and stuff like that. It's going to be a hodgepodge."
It's a jungle out there, part II: Last Friday morning, hours before most club-goers had finished sleeping off their collective hangovers, Regas Christou sat stoically within the clinical confines of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses' hearing room, waiting to exhale. Denver's most fabled nightclub impresario and his attorneys were all on hand for an unusual second hearing on the license for Serengeti, Christou's new club at 1037 Broadway (The Beatdown, September 25).
Dressed in his Sunday best, the usually outspoken Regas was reserved as he presented his case. He answered a few questions about the club's increase in square footage over original plans, and then Pat Tooley, his lead lawyer, called three residents of the Golden Triangle neighborhood to testify on Serengeti's behalf. Tooley asked each of them the same litany of questions: where they lived, if they were of drinking age, if they patronized dance clubs and enjoyed hearing live music, how they felt about the club's presence in the neighborhood, how it would affect the welfare and safety of its residents, etc. And after each one answered those questions, City Attorney Michael Joyce cross-examined each witness. But this was hardly a Kobe Bryant-level interrogation. Joyce's cross consisted of two questions: "Do you personally feel there's a need for the modification of the tavern license and the dance cabaret license?" and "Do you personally desire both licenses be modified?"
After the last witness was excused, Phil Baca, the hearing officer, asked if there were any dissenters to granting Serengeti's license. There weren't, and the license was approved.
With that, Regas breathed a sigh of relief rivaled only by those of the Yankee faithful the night before, after their team's eleventh-inning win.
Regas says he's still shooting for a Halloween opening. Once he passes all of his building inspections, he'll have cleared the last hurdle to finally opening Serengeti. The club's size isn't the only thing that's changed since Regas started working on it three years ago: Serengeti will now cater primarily to a gay crowd Thursday through Sunday nights, with straight "sections" of the club reserved. On Wednesday nights, the club will be entirely straight. That's the plan, at least.
What about the rumors that Regas is only catering to the gay crowd for its money? "I hate everybody," he replies, and laughs.
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But on Friday, he loved everyone.
Upbeats and beatdowns: The Lord keeps his word. On the third day -- of the work week, that is, meaning Wednesday, October 29 -- Theo Smith, aka Lord of Word, will be resurrected at a party at the Foundry in Boulder. In preparation for the unveiling of his highly anticipated solo debut, Lordgasm, Smith has been in rehearsals for the last few weeks, getting ready to bring the party back to the people. Although not as technically advanced as originally conceived (The Beatdown, June 26), the album is fantastic nonetheless, and this is one show not to be missed.
Great news for music fans -- especially local-music fans. Tim Brown and Ray Skibitsky, a radio pioneer previously involved with KBCO and the pre-Howard Stern-era Peak, have launched a brand-new signal at 1510 on the AM dial, which used to be occupied by KNRC (their talk-radio station, now at 1050). Billed as Colorado's Underground Voice, KCUV is a welcome contrast to regional radio's lackluster programming. "The purpose of the station is good music, good programming, supporting the Americana genre," says Brown. "And also live and local performers."
Air staff at the station, which is located in the same studio as KNRC, includes Radio 1190 alums Alisha Sweeney and Danny Birch (also the program director ), as well as Zac Phillips, who did time at both KBPI and KAZY. On the air, the station launched with "Grievous Angel," by Gram Parsons, and has a national playlist that will include such artists as Lyle Lovett, Los Lobos, Steve Earle, Uncle Tupelo, George Jones, Junior Brown and Wilco. Locally, Sixteen Horsepower, the Dalhart Imperials and Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams are on the playlist -- and KCUV is looking for more local vocals. Musicians are encouraged to submit their work directly to the station at 1201 18th Street, Suite 250, Denver, CO 80202.