Music News

The Beatdown

"The reason I agreed to do this tonight was because there are a lot of people that are pissed off because this band is doing so well,"said Maris the Great, host of D.O.R.K. 's CD-release party at the Soiled Dove. "If someone has a problem because a local band is doing well, they can lick my skeletal gonads!"

At times, Maris -- the growling, pink-haired superfreak -- annoys the hell out of me with his zombie shtick, but this sentiment was dead-on. The local scene has a ton of haters who love schadenfreude and are just waiting for a band that's making its mark to step in front of a bus or, worse, break up.

In D.O.R.K.'s case, I've heard more than a few knuckle-draggers claim that the band "bought its way to the top." I'd like to know how, because I highly doubt that buying this kind of success is possible in Denver. And even if it were, so fucking what! These kids are making it happen, period. They're touring their asses off -- in fact, they're on the road right now -- and putting in the work, not sitting around waiting for something to happen and complaining when it doesn't.

So hate on D.O.R.K. if you must, but don't hate its members because they're turning heads inside and outside of D-Town. Hate the band for the insipid blend of banal, mall-rat, Hot Topic punk it produces; hate it for helping perpetuate the dumbing-down of a genre that shouldn't even be called punk anymore. But at least give D.O.R.K.'s members some credit for their hard work.

Their August 29 show kicked off what could have been a mind-numbingly dull three-day weekend. The last alcoholiday of the summer, a chance for sportos to guzzle buckets of beer at one of three major events while the less athletically inclined swarmed Civic Center Park for the eat-yourself-comatose fest known as the Taste of Colorado. And, of course, there was less formal feasting -- firing up those hibachis one last time in order to offer freshly grilled slabs of flesh to friends and loved ones. Since there was no shortage of unhealthy things to do, I fully expected the local club scene to look like a ghost town overrun with tumbleweeds.

But when my constant concert companions -- American Bigolo (or Eric, as his parents prefer to call him) and Jimi -- and I showed up at the Dove, we were stupefied to find an all-ages show packed to the rafters with curtain climbers not quite ready for prime time. As ION was wrapping up its set, several kids who looked like they were barely out of middle school approached Jimi and asked him to "buy us some beers," promising to pay him for his services. That's something you expect outside of a 7-Eleven -- but not at the Dove. Still, it wasn't half as weird as glancing to my right in the restroom and seeing a ten-year-old kid (at least that explains why the club has junior commodes). Even D.O.R.K. had noted the audience's juvenescence, prompting frontman Dylan Martinez to ask, "Are all of you over 21 getting fucked up tonight?" Although the band's on-stage enthusiasm was commendable, even live, its music -- which reminds me of second-rate, third-generation NOFX -- was as lame as its name. So after maneuvering the masses of adolescents for about five songs, we were off.

Next stop: the Blue Mule, to hear the Late Jack Redell. I'd been in the Market Street space that now houses the Mule about a million times when Brendan's Pub was there, but this was my first time back since Brendan's moved to its new home on Larimer Street. I was immediately impressed: The smell, that godawful smell that used to pervade the subterranean spot, was gone. Fortunately, my feet still stuck to the floor in the bathroom, and my arms still stuck to the table in the bar, which made me feel right at home. So did Redell's set, chock-full of his fierce brand of Americana/folk and highlighted by his rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues." "In twenty years, Jack Redell will be looked at in the same light as guys like Johnny Cash," predicted James Martinez, the Mule's sound guru and a knob-turner for various local acts. Martinez won't get any argument from me. All in all, the Mule's vibe was so laid-back and relaxed that it was hard to leave.

After a few less memorable stops, we finally landed in Aurora, at MVP's, where I would experience the most brutal assault on my senses since the warehouse shows in the early '90s at the Underground, a meatpacking plant by day and den of debauchery by night, where the soda machines dispensed beer. My pal Bigolo is a huge fan of metal -- in fact, I'm pretty sure he cried when Pantera broke up -- so he was delighted to discover that this club is all metal, all the time. As we walked through the door, the doorman insisted on branding the palm of our hands with what looked like an "SS" -- as in, that's Nazi-so-cool, man. But before any of us could ask "What the hell?," we were distracted by the crazed lunatic behind the mike, Joe Picket, lead throat for the band Angus Scrimm. Picket is one of the most intense frontmen I've ever seen, and I've seen more than I can remember. Bent over with his left arm behind his back, fist clenched, his right hand clutching the mike -- confining him to the stage like a rabid pit bull tethered to a stake -- he screamed at his shoes for the entirety of the set. I have no idea what the hell he was screaming, but the bulging vein on his forehead threatening to burst at any minute and paint the room with plasma indicated that he felt every word. The other members of Scrimm -- a Fort Collins four-piece playing for what probably amounted to gas money -- were just as entertaining. Axman Rich Perry's guitar, which he called "the excriminator," was shaped like a guillotine blade -- and it just doesn't get any more metal than that.

The crowd was mostly a sausage-fest -- Jimi, my newly divorced compadre, counted only half a dozen ladies -- but that issue aside, it was a scene worth duplicating. There were no bar stars, no egos, no haters. The people in the audience, as well as those on stage, were there for the music, and only the music. While Scrimm played, everyone on the floor -- including the next band up, Autopsy Commission, and Lenzig from Cephalic Carnage -- banged their heads in unison. And appreciation.

That's what it's all about. Although I still probably couldn't stomach a full set by D.O.R.K. (not when Dylan can sing, without irony, a line like "Whatever happened to punk and rocking with your cock out?"), I'll show up for their shows, pay my five bucks, and continue to support the music and the people who make it.

Upbeats and beatdowns: Michael St. James has officially left the Soul Thieves and is said to be working on a new Web site and a publishing deal with EMI; he also plans to start playing as a solo act very soon. ION is auditioning drummers to replace Davis -- who "was just not the right drummer for the band," according to guitarist Todd Schlafer. And finally, Commerce City's finest, the hard-rockin' hessians in Black Lamb, are looking for a bassist to replace Andy Phieffer. According to guitarist Ben Ryan, a fight between Phieffer and the band's other six-stringer, Billy Stewart, at the Larimer Lounge after Mile High Stonehenge inspired the roster change. Ryan wouldn't go into any more detail, but he did say the band probably won't play a few of its upcoming dates and may take a month off.

This Saturday, September 13, five decades of legendary pedal-steel playing and there's-a-tear-in-my-beer, foot-stomping country converge at the Zephyr Lounge in Aurora, as Uncle Dick Meese rides shotgun in a special appearance with Matt O'Neill and His Thrifty Combo. Elsewhere that night, Pacify, Tyfoid Mary, Sickbox, Ransom and Non-Hero will help celebrate the release of the 5,425 Ft. Project's twelve-track compilation spotlighting six of Aurora's best and brightest, at Pink E's Black Den in Westminster.