Herman's Hideaway
Eric Gruneisen
Scott Campbell and Jason Cotter, booking managers for the 15th Street Tavern, must have a psychic grasp of which artists are about to break out: Many of the bands that play their club wind up on the cover of the College Music Journal or headlining a showcase at the South by Southwest music conference soon after stopping in Denver. Fortunately for those who like to see bands before they get big, the Tavern's reputation as the local place to play guarantees there's almost always something worthwhile going on in the deliciously divey space. The sound isn't always great, and the room can get over-packed and thoroughly smelly, but, hey, if you like your rock and roll squeaky-clean, try VH1. For riotous live shows and an incomparable calendar, the Tavern is the down-and-dirty destination.
Getting more than 100 people into the Soiled Dove to discuss Denver's music scene with Monday morning looming is no small feat. However, the 1,000-member Colorado Music Association routinely does so on the third Sunday of each month. Popular features include member introductions and a free spread, courtesy of the Dove. Networking, panel discussions and industry news and advice make up most of the content. The programs are typically followed by Q&A sessions and the Dove's "Locals Launch" live-performance series. The organization has inspired a range of specialized, genre-specific subcommittees that regularly meet to hone in on specific musical and career goals. For musicians, COMA meetings are an inspiring and informative way to ease into a week of day-job grind.
The Nashville Songwriters Association International's Denver chapter meets the first Monday of every month at the Academy of the Arts. There, good ol' boys and girls explore the intricacies of songwriting in a friendly setting. Group members come to have their work critiqued by peers, a process that can generate heated line-by-line discussions but never loses the spirit of camaraderie. It's a great place for people to hang out and find out who's doing what in the music biz.
Take an oversized Ronald McDonald, Tron-inspired costume design, giant plastic lobster claws, low-budget martial arts and moon boots. Throw in some warped synthetic ditties dedicated to the Atari classic from which it derives its name, and you're just scratching the surface of the city's strangest multimedia phenomenon, Mr. Pacman. The ranting "No Ghosts" alone is worth the cover charge when the band appears in venues ranging from the Lion's Lair to artsy upper-Larimer Street warehouses. (Just beware of allowing this band around fire: The members of the cartoonish construct set their instruments alight during last year's Grim Productions Halloween party and nearly burned the ceiling as well.) This game is far from over.
Skulls, devils and pentagrams are not involved, but the Bobby Collins Death Metal Armada's fashion sense perfectly complements its spacey, nitrous pop. The Armada's revolving wardrobe includes jumpsuits, milkman duds, cardigans, cheesy Christmas sweaters, space-age fabrics, 3-D glasses and beanies. Rumor has it that bubble-wrap coveralls might be in the works. Fortunately this atmospheric pop combo puts equal emphasis on its music as well as its wardrobe. Death was never so much fun.
If Bio-Bitch doesn't pique your interest -- or at least elicit a chuckle -- then the terrorists really have won.
Moving from singer-songwriter-style pop to intricate noise rock, Worm Trouble bridges the chasm between wispy melodies and blistering riffs with ease. A typical set weaves dozens of radically different sonic threads into a slew of textures that range from delicate to explosive, melancholy to sarcastic. Despite its name, there's no trouble in this trio -- at least as far as the eclectically minded listener can tell.
Classically trained and jazzically inclined, Teresa Carroll knows her way around a song -- almost any song -- because she's lived a few lyrics herself. A graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, she studied opera in New York in the 1970s and early '80s, but she was always drawn to the Holy Trinity -- Billie, Sarah and Ella -- as well as Nancy Wilson and other jazz icons. You can hear the scatting, octave-leaping, brooding echoes of these immortals in Carroll's vivid mezzo-soprano voice, but her style's all her own now, and that's the essential thing. Every fourth Sunday, she sings at Shakespeare's; every other Tuesday, she's at the Manhattan Grill in Cherry Creek; and periodic gigs take her to the Sambuca Jazz Café, Enoteca, and Trios in Boulder. When she gets inside a ballad like "Love for Sale," she can break your heart.
Move over Hazel, Nina and Lannie. Though she's not exactly glamorous and hardly a diva, Madame Andrews is in possession of the city's most divine set of pipes. When the Heavenly Echoes vocalist and host of KGNU-FM's Gospel Chime sings her joyous, old-school testimonials to faith, she sends skin crawling and Satan heading for parts farther south. Andrews's current CD, (I've Got To) Make Up for the Time I Lost, is worth thanking heaven for.
Too many of the area's soundmen think a successful night on the job means causing tinnitus in the clientele. Shane Hotle knows better. He keeps the wattage in check and fills the Merc's glorious upstairs room with a smartly mixed, just-below-capacity sound. The result allows auditory indulgence up front and conversation in the back bar -- which is just as it should be.

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