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.
When drummer James Barone told his friends about this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a show at a planetarium, the very idea fired up their collective imaginations. Luckily, his band, Mothership, was fully capable of meeting the expectations. The act had already written an epic song cycle in the vein of Hawkwind's classic Hall of the Mountain Grill, which seemed perfectly suited for presentation in such a venue. The story revolves around a space-faring young man who experiences the joys and horrors of interstellar travel and going where no human has gone before. Despite the high concept and sci-fi-movie premise, the tunes were visionary exercises in songcraft and the cinematic use of sound. And seeing the visuals projected onto Fiske Planetarium's curved screen was one of those experiences that burns itself into your memory forever.
When Sarah Lucey, Supply Boy's blazingly great guitar player, discovered she had songs that didn't really fit into that band's context, she decided to flesh them out on her own. One night last summer, she headed over to tHERe coffee shop armed with a handful of tunes, her
beautiful, unconventional voice and an acoustic guitar. The room that night was hot and the air was muggy, but it served as a perfectly intimate setting for Lucey to present her uncomfortably frank and honest songs. Miles from being a self-indulgent solo acoustic project, Lucey was simply revealing another layer of her already considerable talent.
Over the years, Jim Yelenick has fronted various outfits -- Jet Black Joy, Zillion Dollar Sadists, a Turbonegro cover band and, most recently, a band called Invasion. As a frenzied frontman, the guy's never been afraid to expose himself, if you know what we mean. And that punk energy spills over into his Friday-afternoon acoustic sets at the Larimer Lounge. A longtime Clash fan (he's even gotten drunk with Joe Strummer at the Lion's Lair), it's only fitting that that band's songs make up a majority of his happy-hour repertoire. When Yelenick's not rocking the casbah, though, he's performing his set staple -- an acoustic mash-up of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia" with Madonna's "Holiday." By the end of happy hour, you can count on a few things: that Yelenick will be as snockered as everyone else, and that he'll be making up lyrics, leading a sing-along of Irish drinking songs and playing tunes by the likes of Steve Miller, the Boomtown Rats and Britney Spears.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of