What happens when your favorite local band breaks up? Sadly, they end up frozen in time
When Hot White broke up last month, it pissed me off. I loved that band. I loved that band too much, probably, considering the trio couldn't care less if anyone ever liked them. In theory, this is how every band should function -- as a unit that makes music whether anyone else is invested or not. Hot White played some higher profile shows during its five-year run, including opening for No Age at the Bluebird and of course, playing a night of the Warlock Pinchers reunion at the Gothic last year. But for the most part, the band worked best on the floor of its natural habitat, Rhinoceropolis, or Blast-O-Mat, or somebody's basement.
This probably accounts for why many people in Denver never saw the band play. When the trio did rise to the occasion for events like the Westword Music Showcase or the UMS, Hot White -- or some version of it -- would show up and not do what it was "supposed to." At the latter, for instance, instead of delivering it's usual harsh, screaming fits of post-punk insanity, drummer Darren Kulback and guitarist and vocalist Kevin Wesley wandered on stage and and did a faux-hip-hop routine instead. At this year's Showcase, only Wesley appeared, borrowing a guitar and haphazardly playing Weezer covers to a less-than-half full bar of mostly friends. Bernard was no where in sight for either show.
When I asked Bernard why her band broke up, she looked at me and said, "I don't know."
I said, half-jokingly, "Great, now all that is left in Denver are shitty bands."
She replied, "I know. That's why we broke up."
This is the epitome of what Hot White did best as a band -- they pissed other people off. And I loved them for it.
I think I had my own agenda for Hot White -- I wanted to see the group's trajectory take them outside of the Denver world. I wanted their music and erratic performances to incite the rattling in teenage bones that bands like Hole and gogogo airheart did to me a long time ago. I wanted little girls everywhere to see Bernard grind her bass and face into the floor, changing the course of their lives forever. But instead, Hot White will now be frozen in time as that band some of us saw, once upon a time. The group toured the South a bit and put out some material on Nail In The Coffin records, but other than that, not enough people outside of our little group got to enjoy them. At least, I don't think they did.
This fate is one of local bands everywhere -- whether together for ten months or ten years, when a line-up dissipates, their story lives on by word of mouth. It usually goes something like: Man, I saw (insert band) play (insert venue) in (insert year), and it was the best night of my life.
Maybe this is less of a sadness for what could have been for Hot White (and so many other bands) and more of an annoyance of the reality. The reality is there are several levels of national exposure/fame/whatever you want to call it, and there are different ways of getting there. Being a Denver resident my entire life, I feel defensive of my music community when it comes to the rest of the music world -- we all work hard to support each other, but that often doesn't mean our work makes it out of here.
When it does, it isn't often the bands I think of when I think of revolutionary or noteworthy acts existing in Denver. It makes sense, though: The music industry is just that. An industry. Personally, I think Married in Berdichev would make perfect music for documentary film-making. Hideous Men could revolutionize children's television with their hyper-positive messages and infectious beats. Lust-Cats Of The Gutters could probably be as big as the Ramones -- but I'm not the one with the money. I just happen to get the chance to write about the bands around my town that I know and love, all in the hopes that a few new ears will get to hear them.
I have remained consistently naive about the how the music industry works for most of my life -- which is probably why I still actually dream about a band Hot White making it big. "Big" is also subjective, I know. But I also know that the people with the money choose who and what the mainstream sees and hears. Of course, we dig deeper than what is given to us to find the bands we love.
Perception is everything. While mine may seem warped, it is true to the music I see happening around me on a daily basis. Hot White probably wasn't as easy for the masses to like as other bands. Hot White wouldn't be pliable. Hot White couldn't be shaped with correct hair cuts and better clothes. Hot White would be a public relations nightmare. But likeability wasn't on Hot White's radar. Just making music, playing mind-blowing shows and being total shit heads was.