It's the not-so-distant future, and that digital dial in your self-cleaning car is pumping in nothing but corporate radio 24-7. Megalithic corporations like Clear Channel and AM/FM have succeeded in acquiring all of the nation's FM and AM stations. Aided by Recording Industry Association of America president Hilary Rosen, Congress has passed legislation to ensure that micro-radio forever remains an illegal operation. AOL chair Steve Case and his Time Warner pals control Internet radio media, and free MP3s have been completely banished from the Web. (The good news is that the children of Everclear frontman Art Alexakis are spared the life of poverty threatened by at least five unauthorized downloads of "Heroin Girl" in 2000.) You hear nothing but shit: fake rap, fake pop, fake rock and the Call's "I Still Believe" (which somehow manages to maintain regular rotation on all major stations).
You can relax now, little camper. Because even if such a scenario were to take place (to a large extent, it already has), chances are the operators of KVCU-AM/Radio 1190 -- the student-run, University of Colorado at Boulder-affiliated station -- would refuse to go down without a nasty fight. They are, after all, leading a virtual mutiny against corporate radio -- a stance they've maintained during the tender years of their broadcast life and the "AM revolution." Radio 1190 shows up in these pages quite a bit, but rest assured, Backwash is not on the Radio 1190 payroll (as if there were such a thing). Nope, the all-volunteer station gets perennial props for the simple reason that it rocks -- not just as a conduit of new, underground music, but also as a champion of this area's artists.
Consider Andrew Murphy. About a year ago, the nineteen-year-old history student founded Local Shakedown (4 to 6 p.m. Fridays), a specialty show devoted to playing music from local bands of all genres and exposing students to a scene that is often out of reach for the underage set. Last November, Murphy took the show out of the booth and into the Bluebird Theater with the first in the Local Shakedown all-ages live series, a two-night affair that paired familiar names like Munly with then less-well-known acts like Sarina Simoom; a second followed in January, and Murphy is planning another for July that tentatively features the Czars, the Apples, Tanger, the Breezy Porticos and Eiffel. And just what has young Master Murphy -- who also works at Boulder's Wax Trax and local publicity firm Fanatic Promotions -- been up to in his spare time?
For one thing, he's kind of been stalking Jello Biafra.
After all, Murphy knew that it might be a good idea to get the Dead Kennedys/Alternative Tentacles guru, who was born and raised in Boulder (possibly the coolest thing about that town -- second only to Mork and Mindy), involved in the Local Shakedown CD project he was then in the midst of compiling.
"I knew that he was in town visiting his parents over Christmas," says Murphy somewhat slyly. "I knew his real last name, and I went through the phone book and found him. He said he might be into it and that he would come to the January Bluebird show, because he likes the LaDonnas and Hemi Cuda. So I waited outside all night for him to show up, and when he did, he agreed to record something."
What Biafra recorded -- upstairs in the Bluebird office, with Murphy holding the mike and hoping the noise from the stage and an oddly whirring Coke machine wouldn't interfere too much with the sound -- was an extemporaneous litany on the Boulder/Denver music scene back in his day. "All there was was Firefall and people who wanted to be Firefall...We'd get parasitic scientologists like Chick Corea or Al DiMeola or some other jazz-fusion dweeb," Biafra says. "Local music? Forget it. They all just wanted to be signed to major labels so they could hang out with Firefall." The screed ends with praise for Radio 1190 in particular and a reminder of the importance of tuning in to local artists.
The two-disc, 45-track set then proceeds to demonstrate just why people should heed Biafra's call.
Lots of good local comps have been released lately: David Fox's LiveDenverComp (recorded in a series of Studio X sessions), Denver, from Wonderground Records, and Mike Jourgensen's Noise Tent Spring Sampler 2000 are among the more notable recent offerings. But Local Shakedown is unique in its scope and its spot-on selection of the area's finest. From Slim Cessna's Auto Club's "Earthquake," which follows Jello's intro, to the Gamits' "All Wicked," a track that rounds out more than two hours of music, Shakedown is an exhaustive look at a wide variety of artists, with plenty of surprises along the way. Folks from the more established local canon make their appearances -- the Apples on "The Oasis," Jux County on "Wowow," the Kalamath Brothers on "Only Son" -- as do fine treats from acts like the Cherry Bomb Club (the irresistible dance-floor soul concoction of "200% Machine") and the Volts ("Scandal" -- how do you say? -- fuckin' rocks). Refreshingly, the selections are clearly not dictated by genre. Sound artist J. Frede's atmospheric "Without" has little in common sonically with Ted Thacker as Swingwobble's lyrical, hilarious "I'm in Trouble," for example; and when the Geds' raucous "Burnt City" is followed by the thumping, rootsy charm of the 32-20 Jug Band's "Mama," it's clear that quality is the only common denominator here.
The majority of the cuts on Shakedown are culled from individual bands' own recordings and are tracks that Murphy's radio audience is likely to recognize through their repeated play on his show. A few -- including Acrobat Down's "The Trunk" and Sarina Simoom's "Hey Angel" -- were recorded live at the Local Shakedown Bluebird showcases by prodigal area producer Bob Ferbrache. Ferbrache, a longtime supporter of 1190 who has donated cash to the perpetually strapped station, took his involvement with the project a step further by donating his services at his Absinthe Studio; credited as "Big Bad Bob" in the liner notes, Ferbrache performed the comp's final mix, which partially explains its consistently excellent sound quality. Big Bad Bob also helped Murphy hook up with local heavyweights like 16 Horsepower (who donated the song "American Wheeze.").
Murphy, who spearheaded the project with help (read: funding) from Radio 1190 and some of his own cash, released Local Shakedown on his Smooch Records label, yet another endeavor of his.
"It's really just a continuation of my efforts to promote local music," he says. "If you were to ask me, like, when I was in high school what I wanted to do, this would be it. I want to show people how much good music there is here, that Denver does have a scene."
Shakedown-- which Murphy plans to sell through local retailers and outlets like USA One Stop -- was released in a relatively meager pressing of 1,600 copies. For their involvement, all bandmembers got a copy, and Murphy and Radio 1190 and Fanatic cohorts have started mailing the release to like-minded radio stations across the country. Chances are, nobody's gonna get rich off the thing (any proceeds will benefit the station directly), but who knows? It might be the release that gets a couple of bands noticed outside of our city.
Whatever the outcome, Local Shakedown is a gem -- and not just because the artists involved are likely to get their rice milk at the same King Soopers. It's a gem because there really ain't a bad song on the whole dern thing. And how often do you get to say that about a CD? Vive la (AM) révolution!
Had they stuck around rather than making a move to Oregon in 1998, chances are good the Minders would have been involved in the Radio 1190 compilation. Since their Northwest passage, frontman Martyn Leaper and the band have maintained a connection to D-town musical happenings, however; last Autumn, the Minders released Cul-de-Sacs & Dead Ends, a collection of previously unreleased and out-of-print singles (as well as new material) that catalogues the band's early and continued experiments with classic British pop sounds. Many of the tunes were recorded at Denver's notorious Pet Sounds Studios, the hub of the Apples' Robert Schneider and the epicenter of much of the Elephant 6 collective's recording activity. (Cul-de-Sacs was also released on spinART, the longtime imprint of the Apples.) Yet when the bandmembers return to town for a live showing this week, it's a Portland -- not a plains -- boy they'll be supporting: The band opens for Elliott Smith on Monday, May 29, at the Ogden Theatre (see "Man Out of Time," page 84). The Minders may not be coming back for good, but they'll be here just long enough to remind us why we miss them.
The reptilian jump-blues stalwarts in Boa & the Constrictors aren't leavin' town for good, but they will be slithering across the water in a couple of months. The band has been selected to play the Nice Jazz Festival -- named for the French city, not the type of jazz performed -- along with such heavyweights as Herbie Hancock and Lou Reed. You can still catch them before they get all European and famous on us: The band performs Friday, May 26, through Sunday, May 27, at 1515 Market.