Go, Cat, Go!

Denver filmmaker Mike Olafson, enamored of the simpler sounds of '50s and '60s rock, set out in 2006 to make a short film about the local retro/rockabilly scene. "But then everybody said, 'You should talk to this person, or you should talk to that person,'" he says, "and it just took on a life of its own. I started uncovering some interesting pieces of Denver history."

That can of worms turned out to be a long, fascinating side trip into the world of hot-rodding and drag racing — which emerged here, as it did in many communities across the nation, riding shotgun with rock and roll along the back roads of youth culture. So Olafson suddenly found himself neck-deep in enough material to make Gears, Grease and Guitars, a feature-length documentary that not only follows the historical roots of rockabilly music (and later, early garage rock and surf music), but also studies the whole local cultural microcosm around the music, from its beginnings to the present day.

Ambitious? Sure, and a ton of fun: The movie includes vintage and contemporary footage of fifteen bands, as well as interviews with dragsters, music producers, car clubbers and musicians.

The film's world premiere, tonight at 7 p.m. at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, comes packaged with plenty of live entertainment and side shows. A pair of front-engine dragsters will be parked out front ("We might even get to fire up engines," Olafson says), and inside, there will be drag-racing photographs by Pete Garramone, a Wormtone Records table, burlesque dancers and live music in addition to the screening. Admission is $14; for information, go to www.vinvenmedia.com or call the theater at 303-455-2124.
Sat., April 26, 7 p.m., 2008

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