Best All-Comers Jam 2007 | Tantrums Jam | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
As if musicians needed another reason not to make it into work. The Tantrums Jam, hosted each Wednesday night at Kokopelli's by Tempa Singer and her Tantrums bandmates, has become the mid-week gathering place for local players to get loaded and get down. While guitarists currently make up a majority of the jammers, a fair share of drummers, bassists and singers also make it out for the impromptu performances. So whether you're itchin' to unleash your pipes on jump-blues cuts like "Caldonia" or jonesin' to shred on tunes like "The Sky Is Crying," there's bound to be someone who's willing to throw down. And if that weren't enough to entice you, catching an eyeful (and earful) of the fiery Singer should seal the deal. The stunning homegrown diva has shared the stage with legends like B.B. King and Jeff Beck -- and she might share it with you, if you've got the chops.
The drummer is the backbone of a band, holding everything together, and the Denver Drum Collective wants to make that spine stronger. Think of it as a chiropractic session for any drummer interested in sharing ideas and gaining new skills. The DDC has already brought legends Stanton Moore and Zoro to the Walnut Room for clinics, and future events are in the works. DDC also welcomes bass players, guitarists and anyone else to stop by and feel the beat.
Hard to believe, but as recently as nineteen years ago, very few of the ski bums negotiating the slopes of Aspen and Telluride gave a damn about Phish. Hence, some of the mountain-town club gigs documented on Colorado '88, a three-CD set available at, were attended by fewer than ten people, as is obvious by the paucity of clapping at the conclusion of epic jams like "The Curtain With" and "You Enjoy Myself." Despite the small crowds, though, Trey Anastasio and his fellows exhibit so much youthful exuberance that even Phish haters may find themselves grudgingly giving props. Throughout, the sound is much better than typical '80s bootleg quality, and the liner notes, complete with a shot of the players mugging beside the rustic road sign that marks the state's border, will spur instant nostalgia among local fans -- not to mention regret that they missed these shows the first time around.
In punk-rock years, 8 Houses Down is like a dinosaur. The recording studio, headed by engineers Jeff Merkel and Matt Van Leuvan, has been a staple in the underground scene for over a decade. Its client list reads like the index to a scenester yearbook, with such alumni as Planes Mistaken for Stars, Pinhead Circus, the Gamits and a long, long list of others. Just about every notable punk/hardcore band that has ever called the Mile High City home has banged out a couple of tracks at the 8 Houses studio at one time or another. With a recent move from its longtime digs in Five Points to a shiny new space on Walnut Street, 8 Houses shows no signs of going extinct anytime in the near future.
Needlepoint Records is less of a label than a collective of bands and friends working together to produce top-notch rock and roll. Based in Denver, the little label that could has chugged out a number of stellar local discs by acts as varied as Everything Absent or Distorted, Rabbit Is a Sphere and Cat-A-Tac. Employing the basic principles of a utopian communist regime, every bandmember acts as an owner, operator and financer of the label. On its MySpace page, Needlepoint sums up its musical objectives in one concise sentence: "Art should never be about competition." Damn straight.
For the past five years, a local indie label has been quietly filling its mantel with Grammy awards for its Native American recordings. Last year, Boulder-based Silver Wave Records took home a Grammy for its compilation Sacred Ground -- A Tribute to Mother Earth, while this year, the multi-talented Mary Youngblood picked up a statue in the category of Best Native American Music Album for Dance With the Wind. Founded two decades ago, Silver Wave has carved out a niche with its Native American music, issuing recordings by artists such as Peter Kater, R. Carlos Nakai, Joanne Shenandoah and Robert Mirabal, among others. And while those recordings remain its bread and butter, the imprint also offers a number of world-music and new-age recordings.
Although Born in the Flood's debut full-length was one of the most hotly anticipated local discs in years, few expected the quartet to top the watermark it had already reached with The Fear That We May Not Be. The act had all but cemented its renown by delivering
transcendent live shows with stunning regularity, and most listeners predicted that Flood had peaked. If This Thing Should Spill, released this past February on Morning After Records, proved them wrong by being the band's finest work to date -- fit to be included in the pantheon of all-time greatest local albums. Yeah, it's that good. Spill's guitars careen and caress with equal abandon, and together with the robust bass lines, dynamic drums and vibrant keys, they form a solid and captivating foundation for Nathaniel Rateliff's enthralling, emotive vocals to reach skyward. These days, "brilliant" is a word that gets thrown around indiscriminately -- but in this case, the term couldn't be more apt.
It wasn't that long ago that the idea of an all-local bill filling a venue as large as the Gothic seemed outrageous. Nowadays, it happens pretty frequently. Still, few shows over the years have reached the excitement level that surrounded this four-band superbill. Each of the acts slated to perform that night -- Meese, Nathan & Stephen, the Photo Atlas and Born in the Flood -- are bona fide headliners in their own right, which accounted for much anticipation in the days leading up to the show. That chilly February evening, the Gothic was brimming with local luminaries -- and though the performances weren't completely flawless, they were inspiring. Billed as a dual CD-release party, the show felt more like a coming-out party for Morning After Records, the imprint responsible for three of the four outfits, and Denver's indie-rock scene.
Coming off a well-received outing at Coachella, Tool opted to play a series of rare, intimate theater shows, one of which happened to be at the Buell. Almost as soon as the show was announced, 2,000 rabid Tool fans eagerly parted with $66.66 for a chance to get up-close and personal with their idols. The band didn't disappoint as it tore through material from 10,000 Days, the record it had released the week before, as well as select songs from its catalogue. Although Maynard James Keenan and company were mostly lifeless in terms of overall stage presence, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single audience member who doesn't recall it as one of the most memorable concert experiences of his life.
Beat Happening, K Records, Dub Narcotic Soundsystem and so much more: Calvin Johnson is a living legend in the world of indie music. Over the years, he's never seemed to lose sight of what makes the music and art special, including the intimacy of performing. So when it was announced that he'd be at Chielle instead of one of the bigger venues in town, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Although it was forbiddingly cold that night, the store was packed with people whose lives Johnson's music has touched, along with a smattering of curiosity-seekers. He played only music from his solo records, and the endearingly imperfect performance was warm, fragile and amusing.

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