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The Beatdown

Kid Rock is a tool. But like a broken watch that's right twice a day, every now and then he displays the wisdom of King Solomon. In one recent television interview, for example, the Kid revealed why he started rockin' in the first place. "Chicks," he said, cutting to the quip before acknowledging that rock's also about, um, the music.

Rock was right: A lot of cats form bands in hopes of doing rails off the hind ends of high-priced hookers. Or because they want to see their names up in lights. Whatever leads most dudes to a life of music, though, it's a safe bet that they're not on a "mission of peace through inner work and world patriotism."

But that's exactly what drives Dr. Kurt Smith, founder of the Wild Divine Band, a group that debuts a one-of-a-kind multimedia extravaganza incorporating a similarly named 3-D video game Saturday, July 31, at the Boulder Theater. And just in case that "mission of peace" line wasn't enough to tip me off to what kind of hippie-dippy, tree-hugging shit the Wild Divine will be pushing this weekend, the press kit for the event (www.wilddivine.com) reveals that proceeds will benefit Earthdance, an organization that promotes world peace through dancing and a "synchronized prayer for peace." (I wasn't aware that dancing could elicit anything other than token arousal and a few laughs, but maybe Savion Glover, Crazy Legs and Justin Timberlake should be nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.)

Despite the event's goofy-sounding premise -- or maybe because of it -- I left work early last Friday to head up to Eldorado Springs to visit with the good doctor. I certainly couldn't argue with Smith's credentials: In addition to fronting the Wild Divine Band, he has a Ph.D. and is a noted authority in biomedicine. He's also an extremely successful entrepreneur who's helmed six high-tech companies, including one that created the Journey to Wild Divine, the new role-playing video game that's already been lauded by Wired and Discover for its innovative technology that integrates biofeedback technology for the Everyman. The game, three years in the making, comes with a "Light Stone" device that attaches to your fingers and measures your tension and heart rate. Normally, such a device can't be had for under a thousand bucks; Journey retails for $160. To navigate the game, a fantasy-based mountainous landscape that essentially puts you in the role of yogi apprentice, you have to learn to control your breathing and heart rate. Throughout Journey, you're charged with levitating rocks and shooting arrows at targets in the distance simply by using your own energy. The biofeedback mechanism gauges your body's reactions and gives you aural and visual feedback; in the process, you learn how to employ ancient yogic breathing and meditation techniques, which in turn helps you deal with stress in a more productive manner.

Considering how much caffeine and nicotine I take in on a daily basis, I assumed my ticker would register something like the pounding of Dave Lombardo's kick drum. But according to Journey's co-creator, Corwin Bell, who acted as my personal yogi ambassador as I test-drove the game, I'm ready to handle any stress that comes my way: My lungs can levitate with the best of them. If that's the case, the Wild Divine Band deserves a lot of the credit.

I'd had plenty of time to familiarize myself with the band's disc, Soul Flight, on my forty-minute, white-knuckle hellride through the I-36 corridor. In the opening strains of the record, which samples the sounds of whales jabbering in the ocean, initially I heard more Enya and trace elements of the Moody Blues than the promised Pink Floyd-like tunes. But as I approached the Flatirons, which were appropriately obscured by clouds, the ethereal sonics kicked in. Much to my chagrin, the disc -- whose production is as crisp and steady as anything I've heard recently -- was already working; I could feel my blood pressure dropping with each mile. By the time I pulled up to Smith's spacious spread, a stunning two-story stone house nestled among the shacks and shanties at the base of the canyon, I'd completely decompressed. Smith led me directly into the Crucible, the lavish hardwood studio where he and the rest of the Wild Divine Band -- guitarist Andy McEwen, bassist Chris Wright and drummer Brian Dillan -- created the Soul Flight concept album.

"The concept is the experience of a soul coming into this life and then experiencing it and leaving," Smith explained. "It's sort of that Celtic notion that everything's intertwined. That everything's divine and everything's wild at the same time. Once we've gone through our deconstruction, our panic time in life, then all of a sudden we get that discovery that, 'Oh, there's this neat mixing that's going on, and I'm a part of it.' It's not about me anymore; it's like, 'What can I do in this world?' So the whole album is an inner journey of the individual. It's a metaphor for every one of our journeys."

 

And that includes the unlikely trajectory of Smith, a punker from St. Louis who originally studied musical engineering. "The punk scene was really about community," he said. "It was counterculture saying, 'Hey, something's fucked. I don't know what it is, but something's fucked here.' You're naive enough to not know what it is, but you get it. And you're like, 'How am I going to express this?' That was when I was young and naive. As you get older, it's fine to stand on a street corner and say 'Fuck you all.' But that doesn't do anything. So I wanted to do something meaningful that induced some kind of shift or change. And that required having resources."

Smith found those resources in the medical field. Working as a biomedical engineer, he launched numerous companies and used the profits from them to realize his dream of creating something entertaining that also contributed to the betterment of people.

While I'm still not sure how wild or divine Smith's Wild Divine Band is, I know that after spending almost an hour in the Crucible, I'd never felt more relaxed. Smith credited some of that feeling to the studio's design: The building, constructed over six years, consists of sacred geometrical shapes.

And Smith pays the same attention to detail in everything he does. The band's been rehearsing for weeks in preparation for this Saturday's event, which he described as an "immersive listening and visual experience that most people haven't experienced." While most bands rehearse before gigs, this particular show will be presented in quadraphonic sound -- something only Herbie Hancock has done in Colorado, Smith thinks -- so the act has been working feverishly to get a handle on the finite details. Because of the complexity of quadrophonic, the mixer must be set in advance, leaving little margin for error. The show will be mixed entirely in surround sound. Those curious about the game will have a chance to take the video journey themselves; demos will on hand at the venue. After the Boulder date, Smith is taking his show on the road.

That sounds all well and good, I said. But what about all this dance for peace malarkey?

"The way you achieve world peace is through inner peace," Smith replied. "The Earthdance is more a celebration of people coming together. Does that do anything for what's going on in the cosmos? Who knows? Who cares, really? It's having a common brotherhood. A common intent for a worldview that has a sense of unity to it. A respect of diversity and recognizing unity."

In other words, even if you're like me and don't subscribe to the new-agey spiritualism that surrounds the Wild Divine project, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

"You may hate the music I'm into," Smith concluded. "But you're going to say, 'That's cool; I know where this person is coming from. I'm going to respect it in the way I need to.' Which may mean you say, 'I don't associate with that.' And that's fine, but that doesn't mean you go in and piss all over it."

Not even if you're a devil without a cause.

Upbeats and beatdowns: The Swayback is currently drummerless. According to Eric Halborg, last weekend the group's most recent timekeeper, Nolan Aldridge, pulled a Ricky Williams and quit -- via text message, no less -- the night before a gig. Needless to say, the band is anxious to move forward and fill the slot. Interested beatkeepers can contact Halborg at www.theswayback.com.

The Roadside Profits' renowned DJ, Musa Bailey, is back in Mootown to help launch a brand-new studio. Bailey, who relocated to London a while back after being part of Saul Williams's touring band, will host an open house this weekend to show off the new digs at 1430 Delgany Street, in the space formerly occupied by 5280 Records and LoDo studios. Bailey and his partners, fellow Roadside luminaries Ra Bailey (his brother) and Derrick Brown, say that their goal was to create more than just another recording facility. They want to foster an environment where artists can hang out, vibe off each other and network -- not to mention give back to the community. Musa is currently working on the financing to provide a recording vehicle that would allow kids from the Spot, an inner-city youth program, to record their material for free. The Roadside Studio open house gets going this Saturday, July 31, at 7 p.m.

 

On Thursday, July 29, River returns from the road for a gig with Filthy Children at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom. On Friday, July 30, Ain-Matter drops its new disc at the Gothic with Assisted Suicide Assembly, Blissful Beating Spree (which released a new album earlier this month) and Out for Blood; Bright Channel, the Symptoms and Oblique Addict check into the Lion's Lair; Wendy Woo, Xiren, Liz Clark, the Trampolines, Todd Lieberman and Devon hit the Soiled Dove; ESP and 802 join the Mercury Project at Herman's Hideaway; and Brethren Fast celebrates its ten-year anniversary at the Blue Mule with Buford T. Justice. Then on Saturday, July 31, Slim Cessna's Auto Club drives back into the Larimer Lounge for a gig with Nashville's No Justice and Local 33; the Last Seen issues its debut album with the Treatment and Carolyn's Mother at Herman's Hideaway; the Soiled Dove will host its annual Summer Rockfest, featuring performances by Step Short, My Sick Friends, More Than Medium, Sad Star Cafe, Love .45 (the band's last local appearance for a while), Drug Under and Alien Pimp; the Swingin' Neckbreakers, Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee and the Foggy Mountain Fuckers drop by the Bluebird for the Vespa-centric Mile High Mayhem; and Marcy Baruch, the Melanie Susuras Band and Danya River leap over to the Toad Tavern.


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