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Westword Music '96 Awards Showcase

Last October, the first annual Westword Music Awards Showcase treated listeners to the most successful local-music festival in recent memory. Over thirty Colorado bands, specializing in music ranging from rockabilly and jazz to country and funk, entertained thousands of people at handful of LoDo venues.

The only way to follow an act like that was to make the second annual Westword Music Awards Showcase bigger and better -- and that's exactly what we've done. This year's event features more bands at even more venues. From 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 22, 39 of Denver's best acts will take to stages across LoDo -- at Rock Island, the Sports Column, McCormick's Fish House & Bar, Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co., the Great Room at Wazoo's, Jackson's All-American Sports Grill and Flat Pennies. A $5 wristband, available at any of these venues (21 ID required), is your ticket to a night of great music and gets you into any and all performances.

To come up with this year's roster of performers, Westword asked four dozen denizens of the local scene to sound off about the area's best bands (acts signed to major labels were not eligible); the judges' mominations resulted in the sixty bands included on the Westword Music Awards ballot. Over half of these bands will perform Sunday -- so get out and listen, then vote for your favorites. The winners will be announced in the October 3 issue of Westword.

Below are profiles of all the bands nominated for Westword Music Awards (in alphabetical order). If a band is scheduled to play at Sunday's Showcase, the location and time (subject to change) are listed at the end of the profile.

Profiles by Michael Roberts
(Special thanks to Elisabeth Samudio)

ACOUSTIC JUNCTION
According to Reed Foehl, lead vocalist and guitarist with Acoustic Junction, "It took us a really long time to break through in Denver. We'd be really successful in Boulder and then we'd go to Denver and be staring back at thirty people. It took us five or six shows like that before anybody started coming--but now it's like the twentieth time, and we're starting to pack places." The same progression has taken place across the country; four years ago, when Acoustic Junction first started moving from town to town in search of welcoming ears, they found a lot of half-filled rooms. But now, the combo--made up of Foehl, multi-instrumentalist Tim Roper, bassist Curtis Thompson and drummer Matt Coconis--is a consistent draw as a headliner and an opening act of choice for the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic. A self-titled CD and an appearance at this year's South by Southwest music conference fueled industry awareness of the outfit, resulting in a prolonged flirtation with Atlantic Records and a relationship with Capricorn Records that Foehl predicts will be consummated in the near future. He sees this interest as a natural extension of the hard work the band has done: "We play between 160 and 180 gigs a year, and the figures we've been earning have been getting better and better. So I would think for an A&R person, it would be a real no-brainer." As Foehl understands it, Capricorn is interested in reissuing the band's CD early next year, but Acoustic Junction isn't waiting around for this to happen. Instead, the players will be sticking to their crazy touring schedule. "We're going to be constantly on the road," Foehl points out. "As usual."

THE ALLEYGATORS
David Booker, aka the Captain, has been at the blues-rock game for quite a while now. His previous combo, Captain and the Red-Hot Flames, earned a Best of Denver award as best blues band in the mid-Eighties. But the passing of time has not sapped his drive; ask him a question about his current combo, the Alleygators, and he'll chew your ear to bits. "We have our second CD out now," he begins. "It's called Mojo Alley, and of the ten songs on it, eight are originals--and even the non-originals are pretty original. One of them is a 1930s tune by Bo Carter, a member of the Mississippi Sheiks, and the other one is by Lou Donaldson--it's an instrumental from his Blue Note days. So we cover the whole spectrum there. Our music is very different: It's not the standard Howlin' Wolf-Muddy Waters-Chess sound. A lot of it is very funky. And so are we." Right now, the Alleygators consist of Booker on guitar, drummer Ben Makinen and bassist David "Snakebone" Martin--a lineup that has only Booker in common with the one that cut Mojo Alley. But that doesn't faze the main Gator--nor should it. He's seen them come and seen them go, but he's still keepin' on. "We're taking occasional sorties into Montana and Wyoming these days," he notes, "and in 1997, we're going to be playing in Holland and Germany. And as far as I'm concerned, we're sounding better than we ever have--which, when you've been around as long as I have, is really saying something."

9-10 p.m.
McCormick's Fish House & Bar

THE APPLES
Robert Schneider has just flown back to Denver from Japan, and boy, are his arms tired. "Japan was great," he effuses. "We've probably got our biggest audience there, for some reason. I think we've sold as many copies of our album [Fun Trick Noisemaker, on spinART] over there as we have in America. But because there are so many fewer people in Japan, we're like one-tenth of the way to gold there, and like one-hundredth of the way to gold here. Maybe." Obviously, record sales have little correlation to critical acclaim; if they did, Schneider would be on top of the world. The Apples have received nothing but glowing notices for Noisemaker, and Schneider's work on the latest album by Olivia Tremor Control (on Flydaddy) and the new disc by Neutral Milk Hotel (on Merge) just earned plaudits in a recent issue of Spin. No doubt reviewers will be equally pleased by the avalanche of Apples product that's set to descend upon them in the near future. "Our label in Japan, Trattoria, just put out a compilation of all of our EPs and seven-inches," Schneider says. "And we licensed that to spinART; it should be coming out on vinyl here pretty soon. We've also got a bunch of small labels who've been after us to do seven-inches for them, like Hep Cat Records from North Carolina, and Lissys Records and Jukebox Records from the U.K. But what I'm most excited about is a split seven-inch package that we're putting out on Elephant 6 [Schneider's Denver-based label]. It'll be in a gatefold package just like the original version of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour." Even as Schneider is putting these various schemes in motion, he continues to get calls from major-label reps turned on by the video for "Tidal Wave," which has been getting airplay on MTV and its sister network, MTV2. But the Apples remain committed to spinART for at least two more records--and the indie mindset for all eternity. "The coolest thing about the video," Schneider proclaims, "is that it's being played all over the country, but I know that I recorded it on my little eight-track board at my house."

9:30-10:30 p.m.
Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

BALDO REX
Watch out, academia: Baldo Rex's Ted Thacker has gone back to school. "I guess I'm going to be an English major," Thacker says. "I have 48 credits so far, but I need to finish the whole thing up. And I figured, 'What the hell.'" There's no need to worry that Thacker's quest for knowledge spells the end of Baldo Rex as we know it, however. The band is very much a going concern, even though it's undergone a change in focus of late. Recently, Thacker and co-frontman Phil Wronski have been playing shows as an acoustic duo in addition to more standard-issue Baldo gigs. "That seems to be where things are kind of drifting right now," Thacker notes. "When we're acoustic, it just seems like you can hear Phil's lyrics better, and there seems to be a responsive audience for that kind of stuff." Thacker--whose excellent side project, Veronica, remains as loud as ever--hopes the unplugged edition of the band will be recorded soon, particularly because I Eat Robots I'm So Sad, the combo's most recent disc, has gotten lost amid the difficulties afflicting its label, Boulder's Sh-Mow Records. "We can't even get ahold of our own CDs, which is kind of a drag," Thacker says. "It's a great album, I think, but unless something changes, it's going to have to be a CD in obscurity." Fortunately, the act remains a draw not only in the Denver-Boulder area, but in such far-flung locales as Seattle and Austin. "Once people like us, they really seem pretty devoted," he adds. "I even get fan letters every once in a while. Which is pretty weird."

9-10 p.m.
Rock Island

BOSS 302
This is a band that stands for truth in advertising. Its new CD, on the fledgling 360 Twist imprint, is called Rock Songs, a title that guitarist Garrett Brittenham says was conferred for a very simple reason: "It's just pretty straightforward rock and roll." Brittenham and the other Bosses (guitarist Cheyne Bamford, bassist Alan Miller, vocalist Rich Groskopf and drummer Tony Weissenberg) have been slugging it out since the spring of 1992, when, Brittenham admits, "our biggest goal was to play at Seven South. And the problem is, we haven't come up with a new goal yet." This alleged shiftlessness hasn't prevented the band from putting out a pair of seven-inches on Blue Lamp, a Denver label run as an artists' co-op, or from making numerous tours of the West Coast. Thanks to its participation in a recent garage festival staged at the Raven by 360 Twist's Michael Daboll, Boss 302 recently has been lumped in with the burgeoning garage-rock movement. "I don't know if we really fit, though," Brittenham allows. "I listen to a lot of that music, but there's a really specific style to garage--stuff that makes me think of the Count Five--that we don't really do that much. So maybe what people mean when they call us garage is that we catch the spirit of garage. You know--five guys who maybe don't play so well but try to write catchy songs."

10:15-11:15 p.m.
Flat Pennies

BRETHREN FAST
Of all the bands nominated for Westword Music Awards, Brethren Fast was the one judges placed in the widest assortment of categories. Some called them rockabilly, the division under which the band (guitarist Don Messina, bassist Mik Messina and drummer Ordy Garrison) performed in last year's Showcase. Some called them rock. Some called them punk. Some called them funk. Hell, someone even put them in the reggae slot. Don Messina isn't offended by this confusion; he sees it as one of Brethren Fast's strengths. "I think we fit a bunch of different categories," he says. "Most people call us funkabilly, or hillbilly funk. It's more funk-oriented than rockabilly, which people in rockabilly bands seem to understand. We got some bad vibes from some of the cats in that category last year." If that's true, said vibes were among the only negative ones to afflict the Brothers Fast in 1996. This past year, the band has expanded its fan base into the Midwest, where copies of its debut disc, Sideburns From Hell, are moving steadily. In addition, several songs from the platter are slated to wind up in the background of one or more upcoming episodes of Road Rules, MTV's latest attempt to cash in on the popularity of The Real World, its long-running faux-documentary series. "A couple of independent labels are looking at us too," Don Messina says. "We don't have anything down on paper yet, so we hope the whole MTV thing is going to help. But even if it doesn't, we're going to keep rocking. We've been playing four to six nights a week in and out of Denver--and that's the way we like it."

7:30-8:30 p.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

CHAOS THEORY
Rapper Mike V. is an excitable boy--and since the release of the band's new, self-titled CD, produced by Mike Nile and released by Alley Records, he's had a lot to be excited about. "We've got some good stuff going," he burbles. "Some good stuff." The disc, which does a fine job of bottling the hip-hop/metal-flavored rage that powers Chaos Theory on stage, has been well-received by local critics and fans, but Mike isn't satisfied with staying local. "We're trying to get as big as we can," he says. "We want to get on a bigger level." To that end, the four-piece, which also features guitarist Dave Martinez, bassist Miles Marlin and drummer Mike Psycho, is joining brief tours with national acts such as the Urge and the Phunk Junkees, and shopping Chaos Theory to the majors. "We're also looking at doing another CD, probably on Alley Records, in another eight or nine months," Mike continues. "We have about half the songs we need already, and we've been playing them live to see how the crowds are taking them. Since we've been doing a lot of our other songs for three and a half years, the newer things are refreshing for us. They're hot--and so are we."

8-9 p.m.
Rock Island

CHITLIN
"If you listen to nothing but the Grateful Dead all your life, you'll sound like the Dead," says saxophonist Ben Senterfit. "But if you listen to a wide variety of things, you'll end up sounding like yourself." This hypothesis is proven by Senterfit's band, Chitlin. Since its founding a little under two years ago, the combo (which also features Javier Gonzalez, Thompson King and Scott Collard) has merged a plethora of influences, including reggae, hip-hop, Latin music and jazz, into a style that speaks to those folks who love jam bands without alienating those generally allergic to them. "For a while we didn't have a distinct sound," Senterfit concedes, "but now I think we're on our way to creating our own niche--something that has its own sensibility. Harmonically, it's a pretty dark sound, but it's definitely dance-oriented, with a real edgy rhythmic foundation." Now that the Chitlin CD has earned good notices, the band is looking to expand its following by touring outside of the Denver-Boulder area. A recent jaunt to southwestern Colorado was a success, and future plans call for excursions to the Midwest and West Coast. In the meantime, the players are continuing to seek out new musical challenges. Gonzalez is involved in a regular jam session at Tulagi's in Boulder, while Senterfit participates in acid-jazz nights most Thursdays at Denver's Key Club. "The crowds haven't been huge, but the music has been fantastic," Senterfit enthuses. "The players all come from a fairly strong background, and we're doing groove-improv type of stuff. It gets you really sharp as a musician--and that's something that really pays off in Chitlin."

6:15-7:15 p.m.
The Sports Column

CONJUNTO COLORES
The guide to the 1995 Westword Music Awards Showcase revealed that Conjunto Colores, a Latin jazz/salsa band that's been going strong since 1978 (!), planned to release its first-ever CD in 1996. Well, it's dejà vu all over again. According to Jimmy Trujillo, the act's bassist, the disc is now set to appear sometime next year. "It's been a long process," he admits. "We had a really hard time finding an arranger who we wanted to work with. That was the main delay." However, the men of Conjunto Colores--Trujillo, vocalist/percussionist Gary Sosias, vocalist/percussionist Francisco Mejias, conga players Victor Nieves and Jose Espino, pianist Justin Adams, vocalist Bernard Alvarado, trumpeters Bob Gillis and Tony Rodriguez and trombonist Wade Sander--finally reached an agreement with an arranger they respect: John Callaway, who works frequently in New York City and the San Francisco area. The musicians are set to enter Colorado Sound studio in mid-October, and while the disc is currently seen as an independent project, that may change. As Trujillo puts it, "Some guys in South America have been talking to us about doing something, so we'll have to see how that turns out." If those negotiations fall through, however, don't expect any long-term damage to Conjunto Colores. After all, nothing else has fazed the band in its nearly twenty years of existence. And Trujillo promises, "We're going to keep plugging away until we get it right."

THE DALHART IMPERIALS
In the two years since bassist Kurt Ohlen rounded up the instrumentalists who make up the Dalhart Imperials, the band has endeared itself to rockabilly and roots-rock lovers all over the globe. Ohlen and his wife, Karen, put together the Denver Rock-N-Rhythm Billy Weekend this past July at the Regency Hotel; the event, which featured local, national and international acts, went so well that a blueprint for next year's edition has already been laid out. "It's going to be July 11, 12 and 13--three days this time--with fifteen bands, six DJs, a vintage fashion show, a dance contest, a car show and maybe even a talent contest, where anyone who wants to can jump up on stage and show what they can do," Ohlen details. At the same time, the Dalharts (Ohlen, vocalist/guitarist Les Cooper, guitarist Dave DeVore, steel guitarist Tim Whitlock and drummer Rodney Bowen) have extended their reach with a pair of recording pacts. Bloodshot Records, a well-regarded Chicago label, is including an Imperials song and a ditty by rockabilly legend Hardrock Gunter, whom the band is backing, on a compilation CD. Also, an English label, Crazy Gator, has asked the Imperials to make a full-length disc of their own material. "We've got a backlog of original songs that we would like to record," Ohlen says. "We're tired of some of them, having played them live for so long, so we want to put them down for posterity. I like the idea of doing originals, because some people dismiss us as nostalgic throwbacks. So this is our way of showing that the music we're performing is still vital and has a presence and an importance in this day and age."

7-8 p.m.
Rock Island

THE DENVER GENTLEMEN
Listeners who've been around the Denver music scene for any length of time know what an important band the Denver Gentlemen has been; Slim Cessna's Auto Club and 16 Horsepower are only two of the acts to have sprung from its loins. Yet the Gentlemen--Jeffrey-Paul Norlander, Dave Willey, Valerie Terry and Mark McCoin, occasionally supplemented by John Stubbs--have yet to receive their just desserts. For example, the combo has completed a recording made at the Bug Theater that Norlander describes as "very nice, very natural. I think it has a sound that I would appreciate ten years from now. To tell the truth, it's the only tape that I've ever been involved with that I'm happy with." Unfortunately, the recording is not currently available to the general public because "we're looking for money to make copies of it," Norlander acknowledges. The injustice of this good a band--one that sprinkles country and roots-music influences with the perfect amount of avant-garde eccentricity--still struggling to be heard is not lost on Norlander, but he remains committed to his vision. Now that the tape is finished, he will split his time between promoting it to various financial entities ("I'd rather somebody who wanted a cut from it to help me get them copied," he allows) and getting the Gentlemen back on area stages. "Prior to recording, we'd been playing largely the same set for a year," he says. "But now we're starting to put new tunes in there. Which I think makes it more interesting for everyone."

DOTSERO
In 1991 Dotsero released Jubilee, a jazz album that reached the top of the Gavin Report's adult-alternative chart and logged almost three months in the upper reaches of Billboard's contemporary-jazz roster. Since then, the various Dotsero instrumentalists (including guitarist David Watts, saxophonist Stephen Watts and bassist Michael Friedman) have had a rough time matching those feats; the act's 1994 offering, Out of Hand, garnered solid reviews but somewhat disappointing sales. Now, however, things seem to be changing for the better: Dotsero's latest platter, Essensual, was put out in August by Atlanta's Ichiban International, a corporation that's lately made a splash in the rap, blues and jazz fields. "Ichiban is distributed through Capitol-EMI," David Watts says. "So this is the first time we've had really major-league distribution." Having this kind of muscle behind the band is key, he believes, because the CD is something of a departure for Dotsero; it even features a guest appearance by fellow Westword Music Awards nominee Ron Miles. "We've ventured more into an urban sound," David comments. "In the past, we made a name for ourselves with our own sound, but after our last record, everybody was saying, 'That's not where jazz is going. You need to sound more like this or that.' So we tried to format ourselves a little bit while at the same time keeping our own personalities." To ensure that Essensual reaches as many ears as possible, Dotsero recently signed with Pyramid, a powerful New York City-based booking agency. As a result, the musicians will devote much of their energy to working the lucrative East Coast market. "There's lots of irons in the fire," David Watts says, "and we're following through on them to make sure they keep burning."

D-TOWN BROWN
For Shatta Mejia, job number one is education. Mejia is both a teacher who's dedicated himself to helping those Coloradans who've fallen through the cracks at the state's institutions of learning and the leader of D-Town Brown, arguably the most conscious of all the hip-hop combos in Denver. In this latter role, he and his comrades (drummer Kenny Ortiz, DJ Hen G and guitarist Raphael Tapia) have produced a tool to bring their message to the masses--a fine new CD, straightforwardly tagged D-Town Brown. The disc, which features cuts such as "Duck and Cover," "Superlyrical," "Respect" and "Messenjah to Da Masses," speaks persuasively against racism and in favor of possibility. That sounds like a heavy recipe, and it is--but the recording is slamming enough to avoid becoming an exercise in dogmatism. Simply put, these guys have something to say, and they're able to say it in an exciting and seductive way. In addition to promoting the disc, Mejia says, "I'm also doing a lot of solo projects right now--different things with people like Apostle, Renegade, who's a rapper from New York City, and DJ Fame from Deuce Mob." The other residents of D-Town are equally busy. Tapia is part of Evulsion, an edgy unit whose new CD should be available in the near future, while Ortiz, once of Phantasmorgasm and Cactus Marco, is also working on a side project. But the D-Town Brown CD remains at the top of the players' collective priority list. "We're really happy with how the disc came out," Mejia allows. "That makes it easy to keep D-Town Brown in focus."

FATWATER
When guitarist Erik Dyba is asked if he's been told that Fatwater is Denver's finest live band, he responds, "Yeah." Then, after an awkward pause, he adds, "I don't know what else to say to that." In truth, nothing more needs to be said. Fatwater--Dyba, vocalist Judson Harper, drummers Graham Hayworth and Peter Owen and bassist Kelly Dermody--has been around for only about sixteen months, but in that short period of time, the group has already given the local scene a good shaking. And that's likely to continue, given that the first Fatwater CD is nearing completion. "I'm producing it," Dyba says. "I think it's going to be a lot more in-depth than our live shows might be--a bit more in a trance-like direction than the way we were going. Before, we were doing a more industrial, straightahead rock thing. But now we're more concerned about movement--not in the sense of being dance music, but in the sense of making people move." The two-drummer lineup provides a rhythmic scope to Fatwater's sound that differentiates it from most other outfits determined to walk the heavy side of the street. So it's only natural that record firms have come calling. "We have a lot of interest from Caroline and a couple of other companies," Dyba points out, "but right now we're looking at putting the CD out by ourselves locally, and then maybe picking up distribution later. But we're not afraid of a national record deal. This time I think we would rather just do distribution, because we've gone so far with the recording ourselves. But it's taken us so long to get the record done that it would be nice to have a little support for the next time around."

6:30-7:30 p.m.
Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

FORESKIN 500
The Foreskinners have managed to avoid going down with several notable ships. A couple of years back, the combo (Mark "The 3 Kord" Scissor King, Diggie Diamond, Rolo and Fogboy) signed to Basura, a spin-off of the Priority Records label. When Basura foundered, Priority picked up Foreskin's option and released Starbent but Superfreaked earlier this year. Then, in a corporate bloodletting that took most industry observers by surprise, Priority simply eliminated its rock division, and every group that was part of it. Given that this happened only weeks after Starbent appeared, you'd expect Mark to be utterly miserable. But you'd be wrong. "Priority was really cool to us," he claims. "We got out of there really easy. We pretty much had no debt, so all we had to do to buy back our masters was pay them something like $10,000. Everybody else was like a quarter of a million dollars in the hole. And we still have the options on any new albums, so we can do whatever we want. We're free agents." To take advantage of this situation, Mark has formed his own label, Boom Boom; he'll license material that he puts out under this umbrella to Noise Records. Hence, Starbent, which is officially unavailable at the moment, should be back in stores by mid-October. (The soundtrack to The Fan, which features a Foreskin 500 tune, was unaffected by Priority's crash. "We own all our publishing," Mark boasts. "We're not dummies.") Aside from getting previously released Foreskin 500 epics into the right hands, Boom Boom will also present a heaping helping of wackiness from a variety of other sources. First up is a project put together by Mark and the former lead singer for the Warlock Pinchers: "He keeps changing his name," Mark reports. "It used to be King Scratchie, but now he's calling himself Legendary." There are several other projects in the planning stages, too, but Mark is loath to talk about them until they're confirmed. Suffice it to say that the man has a smile on his face. "It's funny," he remarks. "But maybe the whole Priority thing falling apart will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us."

12 midnight-1 a.m.
Rock Island

FOUR
Thank goodness George Fraska, the punky frontman for Denver's Four, is a prolific tunesmith; with the way his band is cranking out recordings, a lesser man would have run out of ditties by now. "I guess we have been kind of busy," Fraska concedes. "We're working on an album for Dill Records. They're from somewhere in California--I don't remember where. And we've just recorded four songs that we're probably going to put out on a compilation called Stewart's a Scumbag: It's named for this guy in Boulder who's not very cool--we don't like him at all. That might be on Beach Records, which is in California, too. And we're probably going to go to San Diego at the end of September to record a full-length for Mullet Head Records. That should be out by Christmas." Fraska, whose group's name adds up when you count him along with guitarist Matt Tinez, bassist Dave Paco and drummer Damien, takes a fun-loving approach to punk-rock that has loads to do with the popularity of several other Four recordings, including 1994's Album (on Fraska's own Red Ear label) and play with everything, a newer offering that supplements the ditties from Album with ten more recent compositions. "I just have a lot of songs in my head," Fraska explains. "It's pretty easy, actually. And as soon as we write them, we like to record them so they sound as raw as possible. They sound really good that way, I think. But since we never practice, the only thing I'm worried about is the rest of the band learning them quick enough."

FURIOUS GEORGE AND THE MONSTER GROOVE
The Groovers have put plenty of miles under their belts since this time last year. "We've been on a lot of small tours out of state," says James Elias, Furious George's percussionist and lead vocalist. "We've been to Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Idaho, Utah, and we did the North by Northwest music festival in Vancouver, which was really fun. We've been having a lot of luck in Arizona, too, and we've just been slaying the whole ski circuit. The way things have been going, we pretty much don't have to leave the state for the rest of the year." During these travels, the players--guitarist Jimmy Boardman, trombonist Abe Martinez, bassist/vocalist Luke Davis, drummer Scott Bergerman, trombonist Brian Mohr and saxophonist Aaron Schilling--moved the entire first pressing of 4:20 at My Place, a debut CD that appeared last year. Unflagging demand has convinced them to whip up another batch. "We're looking at doing another recording pretty soon, too," Elias adds. The next disc, he feels, should capture the small but noteworthy alterations in the band's music since 4:20. "The newer material we've been writing is a little quicker-paced as compared to the grooving funk tunes we used to do," he allows. "We're going more of the funky ska route, I guess. That seems to really go over well with our crowds. We just love the energy we get back live. For me, recording is a lot more terrifying than getting on stage in front of 600 people."

6:45-7:45 p.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

ERIC GUNNISON
Denver jazz aficionados have viewed keyboardist Eric Gunnison as a player to be reckoned with for years now--and his latest musical configuration, Wake-Up Call, has done little to change minds. Wake-Up Call is a five-piece, with Gunnison on keyboards, Bob Rebholz handling saxophones, Randy Chavez strumming guitars, Mark Simon plucking either electric or acoustic bass, and Mike Marlier pounding the drums. "For lack of a better term, I'd call what we do fusion," Gunnison allows, "but fusion in the best sense. Nowadays that's come to mean jazz lite, but this is something quite different. It's more in the vein of Miles Davis or Weather Report. We're heavily into grooves." Gunnison, who also plays acoustic gigs with bassist Simon that he says "draw on more of my Bill Evans side," is pleased with the evolution of Wake-Up Call's sonic signature, which he's been recording catch-as-catch-can. "We have a lot of stuff in the can," he relates, "and we're currently trying to mix it down to a CD that we want to release during the fall. I think people will like what they hear."

6:15-7:15 p.m.
Flat Pennies

HATE FUCK TRIO
"We made a rule that we had to use the F word in every single song so we couldn't possibly be considered commercial," says Sam DeStefano, guitarist and lead singer for the Hate Fuck Trio. "So I'm not really sure how we went from playing at parties to eating sushi with people from major labels." When asked to venture a guess about why so many A&R types have latched onto this Denver group (which includes rhythm guitarist Jon DeStefano, bassist Pete Cassidy and drummer Sean Weldon), Sam offers a verbal shrug: "I guess our name is even shocking in L.A." Whatever the reason, these punks have been besieged by offers from so many record companies that the upcoming release of a full-length recording the Trio has already completed is virtually assured. "We've decided to go with an indie. Now it's just a matter of deciding which one," Sam says, adding, "We're in the final stages of mastering and so forth. You'll probably be able to get it in Denver in November, and nationally around the first of the year." A single the act cut for Seattle's Shaky Records should be available even sooner: It features a cover of the Frantics' "My Dad's a Fucking Alcoholic" and "Me and Johnny," which, Sam explains, is "an acoustic song about drinking with Johnny Cash at the Lion's Lair. Actually, it's a true story. There was this clown guy who came in and chased a friend of mine around the bar. And we were kind of wishing Johnny was there to take care of business, like a good cowboy should." No doubt the Man in Black would be shocked by the behavior of Bob's Lawn Service, a group dedicated to destroying the Hate Fuck Trio even though it consists entirely of Trio members. "It's bad to have a band working against you like that," Sam deadpans. "They're pretty dedicated and they're pretty evil--and their evil is directed at us. It's a war: a great, postmodern war of music. But we're going to take them on. It'll be more fun to watch than going to a Broncos game."

9:15-10:15 p.m.
The Sports Column

THE HEALERS
Although Tony Lion, the most visible member of the Healers, left the band in January, the remaining members (keyboardist/vocalist Jr. Alexander, bassist Scotty Rich, drummer/vocalist Wayne Rhymer, keyboardist Kathryn Harris and guitarist/vocalist Mark Caldwell) haven't missed a step. Not only do they remain a top draw among reggae fans, they've also been called to serve as the backing band for national artists such as Jamalski and Rocker T., who visited the Fox Theatre earlier this month. Next on the agenda for the group is a new Healers CD, tentatively entitled Wait a Minute, that may be out as soon as November. "They're all originals," Caldwell says of the material on Minute. "I wrote and sing four of them, Jr. wrote and sings four of them, and one of them is a song that Wayne and I wrote together that he sings." He describes the tracks as "a mixture of reggae and dancehall that uses original beats as well as current sounds. Most of the people in the band are Caribbean, so we're all really interested in trying to keep stride with the current scene."

THE HILLBILLY HELLCATS
Rockabilly might seem antiquated to the uninitiated, but according to Chuck Hughes of the Hillbilly Hellcats, it's some of today's most happening music. "There's now a fairly major rockabilly festival every couple of months," he declares. "Depending upon what style of rockabilly you're involved in, there's also increasing support from many different kinds of listeners--even some crossover from generation X-ers." Hughes and Hellcats Chris Hofmann (on drums) and Lance Bakemeyer (on bass) are capitalizing on this trend with a full-on blitz of support for Rev It Up With Taz, a thoroughly enjoyable CD that features the participation of Taz Bentley, drummer with the neo-rockabilly band Tenderloin. "We just paid for college promotion for the thing," Hughes says. "It's going to be promoted to the top-300 college stations until Christmastime. Then, in the next six months, we're going to be touring the Northeast and the Southeast. We want to hit the top forty or so U.S. markets once or twice a year starting next month." In Hughes's mind, the premier Hellcats gig during this stretch will be the Seattle Rockabilly Ball, during which the band will share the stage with Texas rockabilly legend Ronnie Dawson. Nonetheless, Hughes doesn't see any reason to pull up stakes from Colorado. "We're inspired by the words of Son Volt," he claims. "They said, 'You don't need to move, but you do need a van and a cellular phone.' And we've got both."

SHERRI JACKSON
Lately Sherri Jackson, who emerged from four years as the frontwoman of Band du Jour to become a formidable solo artist, has been rubbing shoulders with an interesting group of performers. With her bandmates, bassist Glenn Esparza and drummer Brian McRae, she's served as the opening act for a pair of major-label artists, Rusted Root and the Tragically Hip, and appeared on the main stage for two dates of the Further Festival, featuring Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, both former members of the Grateful Dead. Their presence made Jackson a bit worried about the reception she'd receive for performing one of her most popular originals, a tune that concerns buying tickets outside a Dead show. "But they really loved it," Jackson says, surprise shading her voice. "You'd have thought they would have booed me off the stage." Not likely: Jackson is a compelling performer, and her compositions--many of which decorate Moments in Denial, her fine debut CD--perfectly balance tunefulness and thoughtfulness. With over 6,000 copies of the platter sold thus far, it's only natural that the music industry has started calling. "We're probably going to sign with somebody in October," Jackson notes. "It's a very scary thing. But I'm definitely going to hold out for creative control and try to go with somebody who won't put me on the shelf for two years--someone who believes in what I'm doing wholeheartedly." If such a contract comes to fruition, Jackson is ready to hit the ground running. She already has more than enough material for a sequel to Moments. "The songs are quite a bit more complex musically," she says. "I'm a little nervous about that, since simple things usually get the most press. But I think they're all really cool. Now it's just a matter of getting good enough on my guitar to play them. The songs are forcing me to get better pretty fast."

11:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

JETREDBALL
Rex Moser is a man of few words: Ask him a question about his music or his new band, Jetredball, and he'll respond not with a torrent of hype, but with a sleepy mumble. "I just love playing," he says, as if the mere act of answering such a query is almost more than he can bear. "That's when I enjoy myself the most--at a gig or practicing." Moser, who's also been the frontman for the Flatlanders and the Throttlemen (a band that appeared at last year's Showcase), does get a bit animated when discussing Jetredball, which he feels is less constricting than were his previous configurations. "Compared to the Throttlemen, it's opened up a lot more grooves," he asserts. "The Throttlemen was kind of a closed thing, where people didn't want to try much different, and that kind of limited me as a songwriter. But with Jetredball, I can get into country and jazz things that I've been working on--good stuff that I couldn't really get into before." In this regard, Moser is aided immeasurably by the assistance of bassist Marty Parrot and drummer Tim Kaesmacher, whose flexibility has already made Jetredball a must-see for a growing number of Denver clubgoers. Moser wants to get some of the group's material onto tape soon, but beyond that, his primary ambition is to keep on doing what he's been doing for years: playing and singing. "It seems to be working really good," he allows. "To me, that's enough."

10:30-11:30 p.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

MARTY JONES AND THE PORK BOILIN' PO' BOYS
Imagine what an awkward situation it was for us when our nominating committee rained votes upon a band led by Marty Jones, one of our contributing writers. (See his moving profile of bassist Jeffrey Marshall on page 73 of this edition.) We wondered: Would people assume that the fix was in, even though the music-scene veterans who participated in the election are completely independent of this newspaper? But as things have turned out, not one objection has been voiced--likely because it's so obvious that Jones and his band deserve the recognition. As Smokin' Uncle Rumley and the Pork Boilin' Po' Boys, the act earned a Showcase nod in 1995. But when bandleader John Rumley joined Slim Cessna's Auto Club, he left an opening that Jones, a singer, guitarist and washtub bassist from Norfolk, Virginia, filled perfectly. Since his arrival, the band has been performing a mixture of Jones originals and oddball country covers. Also in the hopper is what Jones calls "speed bluegrass--almost punky bluegrass." Within the next month or two, the combo will begin recording its debut CD with Bob Ferbrache, arguably the busiest producer in Denver. Jones hopes the disc that results will give him as much pride as does his status as the only musician in the country to be sponsored by the snack treat called Moon Pies. "It's a Southern delicacy," he declares, "and we used to give them out at shows in Virginia. So I called the Chattanooga Baking Company, which makes them, and asked if they would send me some. Well, they're still sending out 300 or 400 of them every so often. So I guess that's my claim to fame."

JUDGE ROUGHNECK
According to Byron Shaw, the main man in Judge Roughneck, "This band has become much more important to me lately. It's just as much fun and not nearly as much stress as anything I've ever done before. But what's more, we're making really good music." In short, Judge Roughneck (also featuring Jeff Mince, Kyle Jones, Chris Reidy, Ralph Reitzig and John Hagel) has gone from being a ska-based cover group designed to help Shaw heal following the breakup of his longtime outfit, the Jonez, to a combo on the cusp of releasing a CD dominated by original material. "We got a lot of flak for being a cover band," Shaw concedes, "but we're all writers, and we're giving that side of ourselves more validation now." As for the outside material, it's been given several inventive twists; Shaw is particularly pleased with a skanking version of Henry Mancini's "Theme From The Pink Panther" and a cut that interpolates the English Beat's "Monkey Murder" and a bass-line from "Skinhead Moonstomp," a Sixties-era ska oldie by a group called Symaryp. The completed Roughneck disc should be in stores within the next six weeks or so, with a pair of tours set to follow. These efforts will further delay Shaw's solo recording, which he's been working on with Jones for over a year, but he believes the results will be worth waiting for. "I'm in the overlapping and overdubbing stages now," he reveals. "We're going to have string arrangements, female backing vocals, and a lot of icing on the cake. But my whole idea on the album was to take my time. It could take another year, but I'm not going to pressure myself or worry about it. Because I've got Judge Roughneck, and that's coming along great."

10-11 p.m.
Rock Island

JUX COUNTY
The list of Jux County's recent projects is varied, to say the least. The band, featuring Chris Pearson, Ron Smith and longtime Denver icon Andy Monley, recorded music for a Boy Scouts of America commercial that won a Halo award (a prize doled out to the year's finest public-service announcements). Monley and friends also created sonic snippets for Twitch, a cable-television program that reviews new video games. And while plans to make the soundtrack for a feature film, Gin and Tonic, are on hold right now due to financing problems that are swamping the picture, the group has gotten under way on a new CD intended as a followup to the fine Simon's Eyes project. Pearson says of the new material, "I think we're more focused and more songwriting-oriented now. And we have what I call a nice versatility. We've always played all types of music--country, rock, pop. But now we've incorporated some surf music and some ballads, too. So I think we have more depth than ever." With the help of Michael Lustig, a former booker for the Garage who's now working in the music industry in Los Angeles, the players are in contact with a variety of labels interested in hearing the act's latest studio work. In the meantime, Monley is writing material for a proposed album of children's music (his son Simon, the last disc's namesake, is now four) and participating with Pearson and Smith in both electric and acoustic shows. "We just started doing some acoustic versions of our electric songs, and we've had a really good time with it," Pearson confirms. "The coffeehouse circuit is a nice change--and it's another way we can bring our music to people."

9:30-10:30 p.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

KIZUMBA
Although novices don't realize it, Latin music is just as diverse as American music. For proof, check out Kizumba, which for the past six years has dished up a stew of influences and inspirations from across the globe. "We play music from all over the Caribbean," says bandleader Yamal. "We play salsa, merengue from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico, soca from Trinidad, zouk from Martinique, and a lot of other styles as well." Perhaps the primary element linking these styles is a party mood; Kizumba is, first and foremost, a dance band. But there's also an educational aspect to Kizumba's approach. Lead singer Magally Rima generally precedes most songs with a description of its origins. "She'll usually say what rhythm the song is in," Yamal expounds. "And she'll tell how the song is danced and things like that. She'll show the steps that you should be using, and then she'll dance throughout the song." The band, whose membership generally hovers around nine in number, is in the midst of recording, but Yamal emphasizes that the tape is intended as a demo; a full-length album isn't on the drawing board. Which means that the only way you can enjoy Kizumba is to experience it live.

9:45-10:45 p.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

CELESTE KRENZ
When Krenz first went solo, she was clearly a country artist--but as time has worn on, some of her C&W attributes have receded into the background. Now in preproduction on an as-yet-untitled CD, she comments, "I think it's going to be a little less country than it's been in the past. I've been gradually going in the direction of contemporary acoustic folk-rock. Actually, I think it's going to wind up being a rootsy folk-rock thing, although right now I'm not really sure." What Krenz does know without question is that she's got a slew of new songs about which she feels strongly. Her co-writers for these compositions include accomplished Sugar Hill recording artist Tim O'Brien; Fred Koller, a Nashville-based tunesmith who's written with John Hiatt, Nanci Griffith and Shel Silverstein; and Kenn Hayes, who she says "originally started out doing children's books but has branched out into doing music in several different genres." Working with this threesome has expanded her horizons, she feels: "It's like getting a new color to paint with everyday. You get a new outlook on subject matter, music, and everything else." Krenz doesn't feel that her subtle musical shift will alienate either programmers at Americana-formatted radio stations, who've been regularly playing work from albums such as Edge of the Storm, or the A&R types at the handful of mid-sized imprints who've been courting her. In fact, she's so confident that a domestic label deal will come through with an offer that she's currently resisting bids from companies in Europe and Asia to rerelease her previous albums on those continents. "I'm happy with what I'm doing," she announces. "And that's the main thing."

7-8 p.m.
McCormick's Fish House & Bar

THE LA DONNAS
In a recent interview with Westword, Roscoe LaDonnahue of the La Donnas was quoted as saying, "I only like one band in Denver, and that's Boss 302." A few days after this piece appeared in print, a letter came into this office addressed to the band. It began: "We all got together to write this letter to tell you, 'Oh yeah? Well, we don't like you, either!!'" And the signoff? "Sincerely, All the bands in Denver (except Boss 302)." When he's told about the missive, Roscoe makes no effort to disguise his glee. "We got some calls about what I said, too," he reveals. "I guess honesty gets you nowhere these days." Actually, that's not quite right: The La Donnas' truth-telling brand of melodic punk rock earned the band a record deal with Scooch Pooch, a subsidiary of Seattle's Sub-Pop firm, and plenty of fans who are as allergic to baloney as the LaDonnas are. Shady Lane, the quartet's Scooch Pooch bow, is a blast of pure adrenaline that the La Donnas will follow up early next year. "We're going to record in February, I believe," Roscoe contends. "I think we'll be doing it with Conrad Uno at Egg Studio again. But that could change." There'll also be a three-week tour in October that will begin in Seattle and head south from there. "Other than that, nothing much is up with us," Roscoe suggests. "Except pissing off everybody in town, I mean."

11 p.m.-12 midnight
Rock Island

ART LANDE
Lande, the man widely acknowledged to be Colorado's best jazz pianist, is set to raise his consistently high profile to another level. The Russian Dragon Band, consisting of bassist Dwight Kilian, guitarist Khabu, saxophonist Bruce Williamson and Lande on drums, will soon release When Kentucky Was Indiana, the inaugural CD on a new Denver imprint, Synergy. "Mike Fitts is in charge of the label," Lande says. "It's intended for people who are doing creative and original music, which we are." The disc, according to Lande, "is from a live concert tour that we did last year. There are ten pieces that were recorded during six different shows in New York and Massachusetts, and they include a lot of improvisation--not just in terms of songs, but in terms of worlds of sound. It's pretty electric-sounding and kind of evocative of a story I wrote that's included on the jacket of the album." Because Khabu and Williamson live in New York, the official release of Kentucky likely will wait until December. In the meantime, Lande is set to begin work on another CD, this one featuring his piano playing and the flute and saxophone work of Mark Miller. "That will also be on Synergy," Lande reveals. "It doesn't have a title yet, but the music is more like modern classical. I've written a bunch of chorales which are entirely classical, but we also have some things that are completely improvisational. So the pieces are either very composed or not composed at all." As if these projects weren't enough to occupy Lande, he's also busy teaching at Naropa Institute; planning a special Naropa workshop on the creative process to be conducted in early October with California choreographer Candy Beal; preparing for November appearances in France, Switzerland and Austria; and maintaining his Wednesday gig at Boulder's West End Tavern and his regular Thursday stops at Vartan Jazz. About the last two items, Lande explains, "These are my ongoing weekly ways of expressing myself and sharing my music. And sharing my music is my life."

10:15-11:15 p.m.
The Sports Column

LAUGHING HANDS
Steve Mullins and his brother Brian, who each play mandolin (among other things) for Laughing Hands, like to keep matters all in the family. Most siblings who work together would be eager to collaborate with someone else in their off hours, but these two are an exception to this rule: They're making a CD together as the Mullins Brothers--and Mike, a third Mullins lad, is creating the painting that will serve as its cover. "The music uses a variety of influences, just like Laughing Hands," Steve says of the side project. "But I'd say it's a little mellower in general because it's not as big a sound. I hesitate to call it new-age, but it's closer to that market." By contrast, Laughing Hands is a brew of Latin American and Eastern European folk stylings that's becoming livelier thanks to some new Hands on deck. In addition to Steve, Brian, guitarist Ed Rudman and percussionist Ed Contreras, the combo has just taken aboard new bassist Mike Fitzmaurice and drummer Clay Bielman. These changes, in Steve's view, "are really exciting. I think with the extra drums and percussion, we're going to have a more powerful sound than ever, and Mike Fitzmaurice is just phenomenal." The band's recent CD, Laughing Hands (on Resounding Records), has done well enough locally to have attracted the attention of a European distributor with whom the group is in conversation, and Steve reveals that the recording of another Laughing Hands platter should get under way in the new year. "We have all the material already composed and ready," Steve says. "And I can't wait to start."

6:30-7:30 p.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

LEFTOVER SALMON
Sitting at a truck stop in Vallejo, California, Vince Herman, vocalist, guitarist and washboard specialist for Leftover Salmon, takes a moment to enumerate several of his band's latest road adventures. "We did a couple of weeks on the H.O.R.D.E. tour, which happened to be when MTV was there," he relates. "And we were at Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm Pignic in Laytonville, California, which was really hippie heaven: We got to play with Country Joe from Country Joe and the Fish, David Lindley and Manny the Hippie, that guy from San Francisco who's always on David Letterman. He gave the Pignic a 'diggity-dank.' And we played the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Winter Park festival and we put on our own festival, the Roam Festival, in the-middle-of-nowhere North Carolina. It was big fun--we had the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, the Hypnotic Clambake, Baby Gramps, McGraw Gap and Michelle Shocked, who are all friends of ours. It was like music camp for us; we lost our shirts, but we had a terrific time doing it." Oh, yeah--there's also that little matter of Hollywood Records' Mountain Division, which seems ready to sign the band (Herman, multi-instrumentalists Drew Emmitt and Mark Vann, bassist Tye North and drummer Michael Wooten). For Herman, though, business matters like these are "frightening"--and not nearly as conversationally entertaining as the trading of war stories. "It's weird for me to think about getting signed to a big label," he concedes, "because I still remember what happened at our first gig. It was 1989 at Taylor's on the Hill in Boulder, and after our first set, we were told to go home because we weren't playing 'college music.' Well, we tried to play our second set anyway, but they pulled the plug on us and things degenerated into chaos; somebody threw a pitcher of beer at the bar manager and the police came." He cackles. "That's where we come from, ladies and gentlemen."

JOHNNY LONG
Long has been playing lower-downtown venues for more years than just about any active Denver musician, and the changes have given him the blues. "Just because a restaurant has a liquor license doesn't mean that they have to cater to Neanderthals," he mutters. "I think there's still room in the area for members of the more enlightened public." To Long, a Mississippi native who came to Colorado approximately twenty years ago, folks who fit into the latter category are most likely to appreciate his deeply felt, extremely authentic approach to acoustic blues. The most receptive audiences he's found lately have been those who've attended various outdoor festivals at which he's been booked, including the recent LoDo Fest and a bash in St. Louis where he teamed with his brother Claude, with whom he writes many of his finest compositions. "I just enjoy performing for the rainbow people--those people who see the continuation of humanity in the music," he says. "They're the ones who find joy in living and support each other. I think Hillary Clinton put it together really well with her village concept. People have to pull themselves out of the Neanderthal period--where they can truly get that burst of fresh air."

6-7 p.m.
McCormick's Fish House & Bar

LORD OF WORD AND THE DISCIPLES OF BASS
"Even with all our membership changes and us stopping for a while, the fans have always stood by us," notes Theo Smith, aka Lord of Word. "That's really helped us out a lot. It's let us concentrate on writing music and ignoring whatever else is going on." The proof that the band has been able to get beyond the gossip spurred by the comings and goings of various players is a new CD whose title, Positive, was definitely not chosen at random. The disc, Smith discloses, "keeps pretty much the same flavor that people would expect, but it's a lot more groove-oriented--and it's funkier, too. We spent a lot of time on it, and we got in a lot of different styles; there's some harder stuff, but there's also a couple of mellow songs. We think the title song is going to do really well at radio." The platter, on Boulder-based Rabid Records, should be in the racks at area outlets on October 26--the same night that an album-release party is scheduled at the Fox Theatre. After that, the band heads to the Midwest for dates in Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Lawrence, Kansas. On the business side, meanwhile, representatives from several snowboarding and skiing manufacturers are negotiating with the Disciples for the right to use some of the outfit's songs in promotional videos--and folks from New Line Cinema are also trying to get their hands on Lord of Word tracks. "We've got a lot of things in the works," Smith points out. "Now's the time we need to keep our energy up."

10:45-11:45 p.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

MEANFACE
Vocalist Dan Berger--aka Rise Nine and a Half--of Denver's Meanface has never made music that could be characterized as mellow; it was appropriate that the band's self-titled CD on GSL Records was encased in aluminum sheets, because the sound was as undeniably metallic. So be warned, those of you with weak constitutions: Berger says that the latest Meanface recording, a seven-inch featuring the cuts "Torture Chamber" and "Secret Black Dot," is "a lot heavier than anything we've ever done. Just kind of more twisted." No doubt these qualities are what attracted Los Angeles-based Big Jesus Records, which is presently in discussions with Berger and the other Meanface members (guitarist Shank Portion and new drummer A-Ron) concerning the release of the 45. It's too soon to tell if Big Jesus will also be given a shot at bringing a new Meanface disc to a breathless public; while Berger has been impressed with GSL ("We've sold a bunch of CDs in Japan and Germany and Denmark and all that kind of crap"), he's keeping his options open. The only thing he's firm about is Meanface's commitment to stay in Colorado--at least for now. "We just got back from about two months on the West Coast, and in some ways it's better out there than it is in Denver," he concedes. "But I don't really see any reason to leave. This place is in the middle of the country--you can get anywhere from here. Besides, this is where all our friends are."

RON MILES
Following the long-awaited release of My Cruel Heart, Ron Miles's debut album on the Gramavision label, the trumpeter flew to New York City with his band for a showcase at an avant-garde landmark, the Knitting Factory. But what should have been a triumph wound up as a bit of a bummer. "Our plane was really late," Miles recalls. "We were supposed to play at eight o'clock, but we didn't wind up playing until one o'clock. And by then, there were only 25 or 30 people left." He laughs. "But those 25 or 30 people really liked it." This comment is emblematic of Miles's approach; he's building an audience one listener at a time. In this regard, he's got an important booster in guitarist Bill Frisell, a onetime Denverite who's invited Miles to join him in a number of intriguing settings. "We're playing the 25th through the 28th of this month at the Knitting Factory," Miles notes. "Then we go to Ohio, and we'll also play in Seattle, San Francisco and then Europe again in the spring. And I may be going to Europe on my own, too. I've had some invitations, and now it's just a matter of haggling over price." Who will be accompanying Miles on his headlining gigs is up in the air; he's recently shaken up his band. The reason, he maintains, is because "the music has changed dramatically over the past year, and so has everybody else. I've been listening to Sonny Rollins and Louis Armstrong a lot, because they play in such a beautiful, purposeful way. I wanted to try something like that, too, so I've been writing pieces that will allow me to do it." His next album, which he's just begun recording, will include songs "that are both harder and softer than My Cruel Heart. Some are pure bubblegum that's pure to my Archies jones; jazz people will listen to them and go, 'What is that?' But there are other things that are really demented. And I can't wait to see what happens with them."

HAZEL MILLER
Last year, vocalist Miller and her band, the Caucasians, were not only the top vote-getters in their category of the Westword Music Awards; they earned more votes than any other nominated act. Upon learning this, Miller is frankly blown away: "None of us are spring chickens. The youngest guy is 35, the oldest is 44, and I have two sons who are 24 and 18. So it's really gratifying to not only hold your own, but to win. My youngest son loves to show off the trophy I got. He even gave it a name; he calls it a 'Westie.'" Of course, Miller has achieved a lot more in the past twelve months than her Showcase victory. She continues to appear regularly on E-Town, the National Public Radio show recorded at the Boulder Theater, and she's set to guest on several tracks for the upcoming Big Head Todd and the Monsters CD. "Their album should be out in February," she says, "and I'm probably singing on six songs of it. They're recording now in Sausalito. And then, in the middle of October, I'm leaving to sing backup with them for a six-week tour. And I'm so excited. I'm a temporary Monster." During the period when Miller is on the road, the Caucasians won't simply be idling: Natalie Renee of AOA will be filling in for the act's main voice. "She's just so sweet, and that girl can rock and roll," Miller gushes. "People will love her." However, Miller assures fans that she'll still be around for this year's Showcase--and she hopes that one special listener will enjoy it as much as he did last year. "We had a huge crowd rocking and singing along," she remembers, "and afterward my oldest son came up to me and said, 'Hazel, they really liked you.' He was just so proud of me--and that's a rare and wonderful thing when your kids are proud of you. Because most kids think their parents are dorky!"

7:45-8:45 p.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

STANLEY MILTON'S MEAN STREAK
This unit, frequently cited as the finest rockin' blues outfit in these parts, has released two recordings: A Shot in the Dark and Wired Live. But while they made a solid hit with many fans, they disappointed Milton himself. "We just didn't get the kind of sound quality that I wanted," he says, "and I think part of the reason is because we went with digital instead of analog. I'd like to go back and remix a lot of A Shot in the Dark, especially, and reroute the tracks through tube amps." This project will have to wait, though, until Milton and his compatriots finish a more pressing task--a new CD. The material for the platter, which is being recorded in the old-fashioned manner that Milton now sees as superior, is all-original and, Milton says, "more imaginative than most blues songwriting. A couple of things even sound like mid-Sixties Phil Spector and are going to have horn-section parts, whereas other things are going to be really sparse--just guitar and voice." According to Milton, formal release plans for the disc are on the back burner; he wants to run it past a gaggle of recording companies before settling for a self-release. He admits to being somewhat frustrated by the Denver market and hints that if a contract doesn't materialize, he'll have to consider relocating to either Chicago or San Francisco. "If the CD goes national, it doesn't matter where you're located--so in that case, I'd probably stick around. Because, bottom line, I like it here."

MANUEL MOLINA
There's a very good reason why Beverly Molina must speak on behalf of her husband, Manuel: He's overseas as part of a Department of Defense tour. "He's going to Egypt, Israel, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey," she says. "He's been doing this for the past four or five years--and he just loves it." A truly international artist, Molina was born in Peru and got his musical start in that country; he collaborated with Peruvian artists such as Jesus Vasquez, Lacia de la Cruz and Aurora Alcala and played guitar with Chabuca Granda, a big star on the Latin-music circuit. He relocated to Denver two decades ago, and since then he's become renowned for performances with his fifteen-piece Latin-jazz orchestra and gigs featuring a jazz combo that specializes in Brazilian jazz. But perhaps his biggest contributions to the community are his annual carnivals, staged in March as benefits for the transplant unit at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital. "Manuel had kidney disease and had to have a transplant at St. Luke's seven years ago," Beverly states. "After that, he just decided that since they'd helped him there, he wanted to help people who couldn't afford the kind of care he got." The carnivals are such massive operations that Molina is already sketching out the details for the next edition, to take place March 15, 1997, at the airport Holiday Inn. It's not too soon to mark those calendars...

TERESITA MOLINA Y SU GRUPO
Teresita Molina, vocalist and frontwoman for this multifaceted outfit, may live in Denver, but she's certainly not averse to stepping outside its city limits. Her group, which includes guitarist/vocalist Antonio Aleman, drummer Carlos Molinar, keyboardist/vocalist Victor Gonzales, saxophonist Jessie, musical director Jeff Fajardo and percussionist/trumpeter Perry Martinez (who makes his first appearance with the band at the Showcase), has played in Mexico and in numerous cities in Europe during its four years of existence. Furthermore, stops in war-torn Bosnia and Croatia earned Molina a medal of acknowledgment from the United Nations. Closer to home, the Grupo has won a reputation among area fans for its adept handling of a slew of Latin-music styles, including cumbia, merengue, salsa and Caribbean/tropical. Too bad the CD the act was hoping to have available by now remains in a holding pattern. Recording was recently completed in Dallas, but the departure of a male vocalist from the lineup means that his tracks will have to be rerecorded.

8:30-9:30 p.m.
Comedy Sports at the
Wynkoop Brewing Co.

MONKEY SIREN
The latest Monkey Siren CD is called Liar because bassist Katrina Sibert briefly was one. Your explanation, Ms. Sibert? "My parents have a house up in Monument Hill," she says. "They were going out of town and asked me to house-sit. Well, we had talked about renting a lot of equipment and recording an album in a house rather than a studio, because that way you can have days and days to mess with the sound--which is a luxury you never really get in a studio. So we decided to try it while they were gone. The only problem was that I didn't tell my parents that we were going to do it, which made the rest of the band kind of upset with me. That's how the album got its name." Fortunately, this bit of familial subterfuge caused no real damage. Although the Sirens (Sibert, guitarist Lexxa Moffitt, multi-instrumentalist Mark Harris, drummer Scott Davies) tried to put everything in the house back exactly as it had been, Sibert's folks instantly knew something was amiss: "You can't really fool parents, can you?" Sibert notes. Still, the elder Siberts instantly forgave Katrina and even made a monetary contribution to the mixing of the disc. Better yet, the relaxed atmosphere on Monument Hill added up to what's far and away the best Monkey Siren CD yet. The band is still working the disc, and additional touring outside the state should help move even more copies. However, Sibert is already thinking ahead. "We'd love to do another album at my parents' house," she divulges. "I just hope they don't move before we can."

7:15-8:15 p.m.
Flat Pennies

MUNLY
Jayson Munly Thompson, who goes by his middle name, has found the perfect place to conduct an interview--a pay phone at a supermarket in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, a few feet away from the spot where employees round up shopping carts. The clanging of the metal contraptions is almost louder than Munly's laconic voice; he sounds like comedian Steven Wright working the assembly line at an auto-manufacturing plant. "I've been doing shows," he says in as lackluster a manner as possible. "I haven't been in Colorado for probably three months. I warmed up for a couple of pretty big names at some pretty big places--like, I played with Guided by Voices in Ohio. But mostly, I've been concentrating on my usual thing, which is playing empty coffeehouses." This last observation, one suspects, is comic hyperbole, a characteristic that imbues Blurry, Munly's debut CD for Top Notch, a subsidiary of Boulder's W.A.R.? imprint. Although closer to folk music than anything else, the disc is certainly not bound by its conventions; cuts like "Kidneys Running Dry" and "Baptists and Barbiturates" mark him as that rarity of rarities, a genuine original. Not that he's necessarily a reliable source about himself. "I'm not allowed to drive--because I only have one eye," he claims. "I lost it while running with a gang of Irish Catholics in Denver. We haven't really decided what color green to wear yet--but if somebody else is wearing green, they'd better stay off our turf." One gets the feeling there's more to this tale, but before Munly can deliver it, a beeping noise is heard above the clang of shopping carts. "I'm running out of time," Munly observes. "I'm running out of time. I'm running out of..."

10-11 p.m.
McCormick's Fish House & Bar

PETE NALTY AND THE JINNS
While former Jinns guitarist Brian Nalty was making headlines after being charged with multiple robbery counts, his brother Pete Nalty was doing what he's done so well for so many years--making rootsy, catchy, melodic rock and roll. The current collection of Jinns--Nalty on piano and vocals, guitarist Gary Englund, guitarist/vocalist Brad Lillard, bassist Ludwig Hnatkowycz and drummer Tim Molinaro--give the band an undeniable heft that Pete hopes to get down on tape soon. "The main focus right now is to make a full-length CD," he reveals. "It's just in the baby stages now, so it's a little hard to describe what it'll sound like. I think it will still have the roots influences but be a little more modern-sounding. It'll be less what people expect of me." Pete isn't ready to say when this package will be ready to deliver into the hands of Jinns followers. "At the rate we're going, it could take seven or ten months. I don't know. We're heavily into pre-production and rehearsing right now--learning new tunes that I've been storing up for the last year or so. But we plan on playing at least two or three times a month while all that's going on. Because that's what it's all about."

NUEVA IMAGEN
Ask any local Latin-music aficionado to list his or her favorite live acts and you're apt to hear the name Nueva Imagen pop up over and over again. Based in Greeley and featuring the contributions of lead vocalist/percussionist/powderkeg Martin Bencomo, keyboardist/vocalist Mario Vega, bassist Alfonso Garcia, drummer Gabriel Camarena and guitarist/vocalist Jesus Ramos, the band is versatile enough to move from cumbia to more romantic styles without the slightest strain. But the players especially excel at the approach defined by Billboard magazine as Mexican regional, a subgenre known for its energy and danceability. The group has attempted to capture these qualities on La Ultima Rosa (The Last Rose), a recording that's turning heads in Mexico but is currently unavailable north of the border. Bencomo has high hopes that the album will eventually make it into the hands of Nueva Imagen's Colorado followers. Meanwhile, he says, "we are grateful to all of the people and to all of the mediums of communication that make it possible for us to project our music."

11:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
Flat Pennies

PINHEAD CIRCUS
One of the most amazing things about Scooter, who plays guitar and sings for the Denver punk band Pinhead Circus, is that he's able to keep track of all the record companies with which his trio is associated. "We just got two compilations in the mail the other day--two of the seven or so that we're going to have out," he recounts. "One of them is called Victims of Hate and Violence--it's on Big City Bastard Records from Austin, Texas. A lot of the bands on it are really politically oriented and hardcore, but they still put us on there for some crazy reason. The other one is a regular punk compilation on Just Add Water Records, called I Can't Believe It's Not Water. And then there's something with Soda Jerk Records, out of Boulder, and Hopeless Records, out of Los Angeles. And there are some others, too." Clearly, Pinhead Circus, whose 1994 long-player, Nothing Groundbreaking (on Black Plastic Records), is a collection of hook-filled punk ravers, is a major player in the country's vibrant punk underground. The act tours so often that your chance of reaching any of the musicians on the phone is roughly equal to the odds of winning the state lottery. Yet the Pinheads (Scooter, bassist Trevor and new drummer Otis) are still able to spit out punky singles with incredible regularity. "We're working on our next album, too," Scooter affirms. "I don't know who'll put it out. We've been getting letters from labels all over the country. We never expected that--it's pretty cool." So, too, is another upcoming compilation to which the Circus has been asked to contribute. According to Scooter, "It's being put out by Coolidge Records in New Jersey, and it's going to have one band from every state in the country doing their state song. Colorado's song is 'Where the Columbines Grow,' which is pretty cheesy, but we changed almost everything except the words. So now I think it's a lot more interesting." He pauses. "Maybe people would like it better if they started using our version of it."

THE PSYCHODELIC ZOMBIEZ
While appearing at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, back in 1994, the Psychodelic Zombiez were spotted by a talent scout who recommended the band to A&M Records. The suits at the label were impressed by what they heard and paid for a series of recordings at the firm's on-site studio; however, the company balked at releasing the finished product. But if this decision was at all devastating to Kurt Moorehead, who plays saxophone in the group, he doesn't let on. "In the long run, I think this will help us," he says. "If they weren't that enthusiastic about us, they probably would have shelved us somewhere along the line, and it wouldn't have done us any good." By contrast, A&M's decision to give the Zombiez their unconditional release has allowed them to market the A&M-financed tracks themselves. The finished product, called S.A.C., will be officially celebrated during a CD-release party at the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, October 2. Then, a week later, the act hits the road for a West Coast tour that will stretch well into November. "We've been touring that area pretty consistently for the last three years or so, and each time we go out, it gets better," Moorehead divulges. "We have really good followings in Salt Lake City and San Francisco, and even in L.A., things are growing." Personnel changes have altered the group somewhat; horn player Jeff Gallegos and percussionist Dave Chegwedden recently left, and keyboardist Jeremy Lawton joined up. The nine players who remain produce a sound that Moorehead describes as "more mature than it was before. I guess we're more sophisticated in a way, but still really funky and danceable." He adds, "This whole thing has been a real learning experience for us--and I think it's made us stronger."

ROOTS REVOLT
"We're a unique hybrid," says Hardy, spokesman for Roots Revolt. "And it seems like we're a pretty popular one, too." That's no exaggeration: In only about six months of existence, Roots Revolt (featuring percussionist Grant, vocalists Wailer and Henry, guitarists Patch and Kit, drummer Hecktor, bassist Mike and soundman Cahalan) has wowed fans of reggae and hip-hop with its highly individual blending of the two genres. Suddenly, the band is in high demand both as a headliner--the group's at the top of the bill Thursday, September 19, at the Bluebird Theater--and as a warm-up act; the players will support Pato Banton Saturday, September 28, at the Fox Theatre. Roots Revolt has previously opened for other big names in the reggae field, including Burning Spear, and Hardy notes that being in close proximity to such talents has definitely had an effect: "It hasn't changed the style of our music, but it's deepened our spirit. Wailer is from St. Thomas, and his lyrics have a very socially conscious side to them that is coming out more and more. Also, playing with Burning Spear really reminded us how much a horn section can bring to a show." Brass players are in Roots Revolts' future; Hardy hopes several new instrumentalists will be on board when the combo begins recording its first studio album. (A live CD has been available for a month or so.) That's a lot for such a young band to tackle so soon, but Hardy thinks Roots Revolt is up to the challenge--"We're continually writing new songs. And this is going to give us a place to put them."

8:45-9:45 p.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

SERAPHIM SHOCK
A new CD from Seraphim Shock was nearing completion earlier this month when fate struck a cruel blow. "There was only a song-and-a-half to go," says Charles Edward, the unit's lead singer, programmer and keyboardist, "when I had $4,000 worth of gear stolen from me. And we have no leads about who took it or where it went. So we're kind of in limbo." What makes this turn especially frustrating is that Edward, guitarist Greg Kammerer and bassist David Hammond--the current Shockers--have lately been experiencing such a good run of luck. For one thing, Edward's club, Temple of the Morning Star (at 1553 Platte, directly behind Paris on the Platte), has been embraced by those members of the Denver music scene who can't get enough of the gothic sound in which Seraphim Shock specializes. "We've been booking things into there since May, and we've had several out-of-state acts come in and do well," he states. "We've been trying to specialize in bands that won't play in Denver because so many venues and promoters won't cater to gothic. And people have really responded." At the same time, the band has been making inroads with record labels. Next month, a Seraphim Shock song will be part of Goth Box, a four-CD set on the Cleopatra imprint that celebrates the gothic movement from the old days (represented by vintage groups such as Bauhaus) to the present. Companies have also expressed interest in putting Seraphim Shock under contract. "We have quite a few offers," Edward insists, "but we're looking to get a little more bargaining power. Once we get the CD finished, then we'll sit down and talk and decide whether to go with a major or an independent. All things considered, we're doing well. Or we would be if I knew where our stuff was."

SLIM CESSNA'S AUTO CLUB
The lineup of the Auto Club has undergone a bit of shuffling since the band's 1994 formation: Supplementing leader Slim Cessna, who plays guitar and sings, and longtime guitarist/accordionist Frank Hauser Jr. are John Rumley (former frontman for Smokin' Uncle Rumley and the Pork Boilin' Po' Boys), pedal-steel expert Glen Taylor and drummer Jon Killough. That the band's perspective has remained consistent despite these alterations is a tribute to Cessna, whose love of country music infuses Slim Cessna's Auto Club, the act's excellent compact disc. "People like to call what we do alternative country," he says, "but I tend to think it's just good country-and-Western, period. Which makes it kind of strange that country labels would be the last labels who'd want to have anything to do with us. And we couldn't play at the Grizzly Rose, either. But we can play at the Mercury Cafe--so there you go." The Auto Club has motored to San Francisco and Los Angeles a few times and found eager acolytes there, but right now the focus is on sticking close to home and getting to work on another recording with Bob Ferbrache, who produced the first platter. "We might even get going on that in the next month or so," Cessna speculates. As for the commercial prospects of the Club, he notes, "People like Junior Brown, who are outside the mainstream of country music, are enjoying a certain success these days. And his philosophy is one we agree with. We don't want to follow the rules of Top 40 country. We're going to do what we do best, and because of that, I think eventually there'll be a place for us. It's just a matter of when."

10:15-11:15 p.m.
The Sports Column

SPACE TEAM ELECTRA
For Myshel Prasad, lead vocalist for Space Team Electra, meeting representatives of major-record labels hasn't been nearly as disgusting as she expected. "We've been really lucky to come into contact with people who truly love music--and when something moves them deeply, they sincerely want to help." Obviously, the music made by Prasad and her Team (guitarist Bill Kunkel, drummer Kit Peltzel and bassist Greg Fowkes) has played a major role in provoking these reactions. Whereas a great many acts that are shoved into the alternative pigeonhole seem more interested in cloning the sounds of successful acts than in coming up with anything to distinguish themselves, Space Team Electra has followed its own path. The result is a musical sincerity that comes across to the listener. "That's why we don't want the business aspects to become intrusive," Prasad points out. "We really want to nurture and develop the music over time." Assisting in this goal has been producer Keither Cleversley, whose Chicago studio Prasad discovered while visiting a friend who was recording there. When Cleversley, whose credits include efforts by Hum, the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Spiritualized, responded favorably to a Space Team tape, he offered to work with the band. At the time, Prasad had no idea that she was dealing with a heavy hitter: "I just really loved his philosophy. So we were talking on the phone, and he said, 'What do you think of my work?' And when he told me he'd done Hum, I was like, 'Ah, I can't believe it.' Because that was the album we were listening to while we were talking to him." With a Cleversley-helmed album almost completed, Space Team Electra seems on the cusp of bigger things. But no matter where she goes from here, Prasad says she's going to stick to her ideals--"I only want to work with people who consider music to be as sacred and powerful as we do."

11:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
The Sports Column

SPONGE KINGDOM
Although this Boulder combo has been around for about three years now, the word-of-mouth campaign that's brought it into the upper ranks of local bands is of fairly recent origin. What spawned it, presumes vocalist/guitarist Bob Haldeman, was the Kingdom's improved quality. "We're just more comfortable with everything," he notes. "For example, our last CD [simply called Sponge Kingdom] was the first time trying the recording thing. Now we really have more of an idea what it's all about. And on top of that, it's a blast--and it's really good for the band. You get really tight with everything, yet it also forces you to try different things." Haldeman, who has the misfortune to share his name with a former member of the Nixon administration who was swept up in the Watergate scandal, is equally enthralled by how well he and the other Sponges (guitarist Robert Stephan, violinist Jessica Vanden Hogen, drummer Courtlandt Barnes, percussionist Timothy Jacoby and bassist George Wagner) are cohering in live settings. "We're able to do heavier stuff and more melodic, pop things, too," he says. "And everyone's growing together, which is what it's all about." The band took a month off after its close shave at the Atlanta Olympics--the players left the stage at Centennial Park only hours before a bomb went off there--but all concerned are ready to get going again on both a winter recording project and a series of appearances in mountain towns. "Come check us out," Haldeman lobbies. "That's all I ask."

8:15-9:15 p.m.
Flat Pennies

THE SPUDDNICKS
For the second consecutive year, Lewis Klug, aka Willie Lewis, has been a member of the Westword Music Awards nominating committee--and even though he's a performer of awesome authenticity, he was modest enough not to vote for himself. But plenty of our other judges did--enough of them, anyhow, to land one of Lewis's combos, the Spuddnicks, on the Showcase roster. The band consists of Lewis on acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals, bassist Mike Baird, electric rhythm guitarist Ed DeBoard and lead guitarist Mike Taveira of the Tennessee Boys, the Portuguese rockabilly band that took Denver by storm back in 1994. "Mike moved back here and got married," Lewis says. "The rest of the boys are back in Portugal, and I don't know what they're doing. Picking their noses, maybe." As Lewis tells it, the Spuddnicks mix up Lewis-penned gems and versions of tunes by other writers that they make their own. "I tell my boys, 'If there's something you want to play, bring it in. There's nothing you can name that I don't know,'" Lewis notes casually. "And when we do them, we don't compromise the integrity of the recording. We just put a little of ourselves into it. That's what I call doing a song justice." Lewis's label, Rock-A-Billy Records, has been on hiatus for a while, owing to his frustration with the music business in general, but he's getting ready to put out more product on the imprint. He certainly doesn't want for material: "I have over 700 Spuddnicks recordings I can choose from--there's about 125 originals and the rest of them are covers." He adds, "I've also had some of my stuff out on a label in Germany called Bop-Land--and there'll be more going on besides that coming up. I'll tell you more when there's something to say."

8-9 p.m.
McCormick's Fish House & Bar

THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival took place months ago, but String Cheese Incident drummer Mike Travis remembers it vividly. "It was a real honor to be able to play there," he points out. "The acts who'd been on there earlier were quieter, softer, a bit more introspective than we are, so the timing was really right for us. A lot of people got up and boogied--and I heard after it was over that we'd sold more CDs than any other act that weekend." The disc in question--Born on the Wrong Planet, released in June--has been an effective calling card for the group, which was formed a little over two years ago by Travis, mandolinist/violinist Mike Kang, bassist Keith Mosley and guitarist Mike Nershi in Crested Butte. The quartet (now performing with a keyboardist) moved to Boulder last year because, Travis says, "there was just more of a music scene--more potential gigs, more musicians to bounce ideas off." In short order, the outfit became a favorite of jam-happy Boulderites--and similar types in Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and California have proven equally susceptible to the combo's stylings. Right now, Travis isn't even considering the possibility of jumping to a national label: "I've heard that you make as much money selling 50,000 independent CDs as you do going gold on a major. So it just seems like it's more trouble than it's worth." The focus instead is simply on playing live music. "I've had a lot of people come up to me and say they see a lot of heart and soul in our music," he announces. "We're interpreters of the energy that happens when we all get together. They're incidents, and we love to create them."

7:30-8:30 p.m.
Comedy Sports at the Wynkoop Brewing Co.

SUGAR BEAR
The man who calls himself Sugar B.D. Bear (the initials stand for "Blues Daddy") doesn't beat around the bush. "I just finished my CD," he says. "I've gotten it back from production, and I'll be promoting it where I'm performing, as well as getting some distribution going." The recording, dubbed Guitar Playing Man, is built around eight songs--three remade from an enjoyable, cassette-only offering called You Give Me the Blues, and five fresh Sugar Bear items. "I play a lot more lead guitar on these than I have in the past," he elaborates. "It's in a blues flavor, definitely, but it's a funky kind of blues." The Bear, who consorts on stage with bassist Gene Horne, keyboardist Holly Holverson, vocalist/percussionist Clarence Cage and drummer Rob Chamberlin, has become a consistent crowd-pleaser at Central City casinos, and he's lately begun hitting venues in locations elsewhere in the state. "We've been from Glenwood Springs to Colorado Springs and back again," he reports. "And we went down to Durango this year for a Harley-Davidson rally. It was mostly bikers, of course, and I didn't know what to expect, but they really liked us." He chuckles. "That's like a whole new market for us."

SWEETWATER WELL
"We're finishing up our CD, which has been a really exciting project," says Tony Achilles, singer/guitarist for Sweetwater Well. "It's called Watermelon, and it's going to be released in November. It's a very diverse record--it goes all the way from our folk roots to a more contemporary sound that's tougher to describe. Maybe you could call it roots pop. But it's a very song-based, harmony-based record." This description pretty much sketches out the appeal of Sweetwater Well, which also includes vocalist/ guitarist David Jackson, bassist/vocalist Molly Bowers and drummer Chris Helvey; it's a band that concentrates on folk, pop and rock verities. The man charged with helping bring the group's delicate perfectionism to disc is Mike Nile, an owner of Alley Records (the company issuing Watermelon) whose credits include work with groups as varied as Fleetwood Mac and Alice in Chains. "At first we thought he was going to concentrate on giving us more 'oomph,'" Achilles acknowledges. "But instead, he's more interested in stripping us down to the bare essentials. There's a lot of guitar work on the album, but it's pretty much straight out of the amps--and the singing is straight out of the vocal chords. It doesn't sound all that produced, which I think is exactly what we wanted." Because the album has been almost a year in the making, the pressure of finishing it has contributed to frayed nerves on all sides, but Achilles feels that the simple act of performing will take care of that: "What we need to do is to get locked up in a van with each other for about a month and heal all our wounds."

8:30-9:30 p.m.
Jackson's All-American Sports Grill

SYMPATHY F
Doug Seaman, guitarist for Sympathy F, sounds wiped out. "In the last two months, we've had to go out to L.A. twice to play for producers and record-type people," he says. "And we're supposed to go back again in October. It's hard to believe." Indeed, Sympathy F has been on the industry merry-go-round for a while now; the band (Seaman, vocalist Elizabeth Rose, guitarist/vocalist Tony Morales, bassist Ron Nelson and drummer Eric Thiel) has been widely appreciated but hasn't gotten the break it deserves. But rather than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, the players are forging ahead with a recording at the Bluebird Theater. "It's coming out really great," Seaman notes. "We'll probably release some of that soon, maybe as singles or something like that. But they're more or less demos at this point." He goes on, "You can tell from listening to the tapes that we've definitely matured. The basic attitude has more of an edge to it, and it's a more conscious sound than it's been before. We're still trying all different styles, just like we always have, but now all of the music sounds like it's coming from the same band." Seaman also touts the brawnier vocal blend achieved by Rose and Morales, who perform as an acoustic duo on the side. "They've been doing some jazz covers and so on," Seaman reveals. "And aside from the extra money they've made from doing it, it's just made them a lot stronger singers--and Tony's playing has just quadrupled in quality." Will music-industry heavies recognize this improvement? "They have," Seaman states. "And we have, too."

7:15-8:15 p.m.
The Sports Column

THE 'VENGERS
For the 'Vengers, the rising interest in ska music in Colorado and beyond has made for a very hectic year. Last fall, the group released its debut CD, What Happens If I Push This?; since then, the album has moved over 3,000 units and is currently being distributed by companies in both New York and Chicago. To capitalize on this career momentum, the band plans to issue a follow-up platter before the end of the year. "It's probably going to be called Wet Jobs and Daydreams," reveals Chris, the England-born, last-name-challenged frontman for the combo. "And it'll be live, with some previously heard tracks and some unheard tracks. The whole thing should be slightly more psychotic than the last disc, as our live shows tend to be. People we spoke with about the last CD said it was nice, it was clean, and it gave off a good feeling, but it was nothing compared to the live experience. So that's what we're trying to capture." Assisting with the platter was a staffer at ABC Television Chris and company met when one of their songs was chosen to underscore a sequence from The City, a soap opera that stars the leonine Morgan Fairchild. "I was really psyched about that," Chris admits. "Ten years ago, I fell in love with Morgan Fairchild." The 'Vengers have also seen their work used in commercials for downtown Denver and a popular whitewater kayaking video, and they're currently composing a track for WAAM ("What Adults Are Missing"), a new children's television network. And, oh yeah--they've also been honing what's already a fiery onstage set. "We're trying to push Denver a bit more and cut back on Boulder," Chris points out. "Denver is a harder nut to crack, but I think we've chipped out a hairline or two."

11:45 p.m.-12:45 a.m.
The Great Room at Wazoo's

THE PERRY WEISMAN 3
Let's get this out of the way right at the beginning: There are more than three people in the Perry Weisman 3. Trombonist Rick Benjamin, guitarist Mike Serviolo, guitarist Brian Murphy, bassist Dane Terry and drummer Merissa Bissinger are the folks who operate under its banner--and according to Benjamin, the combo started out as a lark. "The band is really just a conglomeration of friends from other groups who thought it would be fun to get together, learn some standards and write some different kinds of tunes that would lend themselves to improvisation," he says. That the results of this hobby have impressed so many people speaks to the solid quality of the Weisman family tree. Benjamin, a former member of Big Foot Torso, and Serviolo, who fronts Iz, also worked together in lan; Murphy is part of Muffin Nine, which features the Apples' Eric Allen; and Terry, another Big Foot veteran, joins Bissinger for gigs with the Denver Gamelon. So what does the Perry Weisman 3 sound like? "Mike told me that we can describe ourselves as kind of a contemporary cocktail-lounge band," Benjamin offers. The quintet has recorded six tunes--five originals and one air from the songbook of Thelonious Monk--that may eventually be available for purchase. However, Benjamin doesn't want to make any guarantees: "This whole thing just sort of fell into our laps, so we don't know how seriously we should be taking it. But it's been fun playing together, and I hope it continues in the kind of relaxed, casual manner that it's been going in so far."

9:15-10:15 p.m.
Flat Pennies

WON LUMP SOME
"Here's the deal," said Clifford Parker III, saxophonist for Won Lump Some, during a late-August interview. "I'm leaving. Two of us are already in San Francisco. And the rest of us are relocating there as soon as possible." That's a disappointment to those music lovers who caught this combo during its handful of Denver appearances. The band, formed in Fort Collins and built upon the contributions of Parker, Jason Hyland Mather, Matthew Farina and Stephen Bartenhagen, truly defied categorization, thanks to its excursions into Zappa-fied experimentation, genre sampling and absurdist humor. These qualities made Clean Hits, an album produced by Kramer (the founder of New York's Shimmy Disc Records) and released by Sh-Mow Records, one of the tastiest surprises of 1995. But problems at Sh-Mow ensured that only a relative handful of folks got a chance to hear the disc. As a result, the players (all recent graduates of the University of Northern Colorado) decided to move on. "It was time to get out of the college life and stop lounging around here on Fantasy Island," Parker asserted. "We really like Colorado--everyone has been really great to us here--but things weren't fast-paced enough to see what the band can actually do. So we picked San Francisco--more for personal reasons than anything having to do with the music scene there. We just think it's a cool city." The group has been writing oodles of new numbers, and Parker hopes to create a home studio in the Bay Area where the instrumentalists can record them. He added, "We'll be touring in October, and one of the places we'll probably hit is Colorado. So hopefully we'll see everybody then."

WENDY WOO
You never know what Wendy Woo you'll find; the Boulder-based singer-songwriter doesn't like to limit herself to a single mode of expression. "Sometimes I play with a cellist," she says. "And sometimes I play by myself, just me and my guitar. But I'm also working with a full band--four to five pieces, with bass, drums, keyboards and either electric or acoustic guitars." As if that's not enough variety, Woo has also created her own home studio--"I just did some work with a guy named Ty Whiz, and also Band du Jour and a new acid-jazz band, Phat Vibe," she reveals. At present, the only recording out under her own name is a self-titled cassette, but that should change by the end of the year. In between visits from paying clients, Woo is doing pre-production on her first compact disc. "It'll be a mix of all the things that I do around town, from solo to duo to a full band. I'm hoping it'll be a nice way to pull together all the different things that I do." She's also maintaining her job at the Fox Theatre. She says this gig has been instrumental in helping her make connections on the music scene. "I've been there for four years, and it's great," she notes. "I mean, one of the first shows I ever did was opening for Sheryl Crow. So it's been a real boost to my career--and it's let me pay my bills.