This weekend, the hi-dive is celebrating eleven years of existence, with two years under its current ownership. When the club opened for business in the old location of 7 South and Quixote's True Blue, it represented a sea change in places where one could see original, underground music. In its early years, the focus was mostly on local music, with occasional national acts coming through. But by the middle of the decade, buzz bands and up-and-coming indie acts graced the hi-dive's stage on a regular basis. What follows are some highlights from the era between 2006 and 2010.
Octopus Project | April 6, 2006
Austin's Octopus Project came through Denver prior to its appearance at the 2006 edition of Coachella. The experimental pop band has gone on to even more ambitious multi-media shows and a 2010 Moog Innovation Award.
Carla Bozulich's Evangelista | July 28, 2006
Carla Bozulich's '80s band Ethyl Meatplow played with Denver's own Warlock Pinchers in the early '90s. But Bozulich is perhaps best known for her various projects with Nels Cline, including the art-country-punk band Geraldine Fibbers. Bozulich's creative career is rich and well worth exploring, but it was this tour, with her Evangelista project, that is still the subject of conversation in some circles. This past year, Bozulich shared a tour bill with Swans.
Die!Die!Die! | April 1, 2007
This noisy post-punk trio from Dunedin, New Zealand, made a rare U.S. appearance at the hi-dive in support of its 2006 EP Locust Weeks and played to a small audience. There were a lot more people next door at Sputnik. It happened. It may happen again.
Dirty Projectors | September 4, 2007
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Before he went on to greater fame and fortune, David Longstreth released his solo debut record on Chris Adolf's This Heart Plays Records. By 2007, Longstreth's group, Dirty Projectors, was gaining steam as a hip band that played much larger rooms with the release of 2008's brilliantly eclectic Bitte Orca. For this tour, the band was performing some older songs but mostly selections from its 2007 album, Rise Above, a collection of Black Flag covers. Because the music was rendered in the group's signature style, it actually worked.
The High Violets | June 14, 2007
Before it became a curiously trendy phenomenon in the mid-2000s, Portland, Oregon's, High Violets were part of the early phase of what might be called the shoegaze revival. Though the Violets haven't released an album since 2010, the group still exists.
The Ladybug Transistor | August 14, 2007
Affiliated with the Elephant 6 Collective, Brooklyn's Ladybug Transistor was touring in support of its 2007 album "Can't Wait Another Day when it played at the hi-dive. Though Elephant 6 as a creative force had lost most of its steam, its legacy of ambitious pop songwriting continues to be represented by this group.
Saturday Looks Good to Me | February 27, 2007
Ann Arbor's Saturday Looks Good to Me never really made it into the bigtime of indie pop, but its well-crafted, soul-inflected songs and joyous performances were always fun. The band went on a four-year hiatus starting in 2008, but is now back to being at least semi-active.
Skeletons | May 14, 2007
Skeletons, from Oberlin, Ohio, performed under various monikers over the years and over the course of a show. Part performance art, part noise jazz, hip-hop psychedelia, this band mostly played DIY spaces, but played a rare venue show in Colorado this night.
Xiu Xiu | April 17, 2007
Still not a household name because raw, honest, emotional expressions and experimental music, no matter how accessible, is not selling in bulk, Xiu Xiu is one of those bands that is making an impact on other musicians and songwriters but even now mainly plays small clubs like the hi-dive. That is, when it's not touring with bands like Swans. 2008
Asobi Seksu | October 24, 2008
For twelve years, Asobi Seksu from New York City performed high-energy dream pop, and it brought a dreamlike quality to the hi-dive for this show. Though the band split in 2013, it regrouped at the request of Slowdive for its reunion tour, and opened for the legendary shoegaze band on its October 26, 2014, date in Boston.
Beach House | March 22, 2008
One of the few Baltimore bands that didn't have a direct link to Rhinoceropolis, Beach House has gone on to become one of the most popular of the new wave of dream-pop acts that have cropped up over the past decade or so. The band was touring this date in support of Devotion, and you could tell there was something otherworldly and larger than life about it, both at this show and at its next appearance in Denver, a sold out date at the Bluebird.
The Brothers Unconnected | June 8, 2008
Alan and Richard Bishop are the surviving members of legendary avant-garde rock band Sun City Girls. With the 2007 passing of Charles Gocher, the Bishop brothers couldn't tour as Sun City Girls but wanted to honor their friend's memory with one last tour playing the band's music. With a stripped-down presentation, acoustic accompaniment and Gocher's films projected in the background, some of us were lucky enough to bear witness to what was clearly an affectionate farewell.
Dead Child | August 18, 2008
When Slint got back together in 2005, some of its members -- David Pajo, Todd Cook and Michael McMahan -- formed a heavy-metal band called Dead Child and embarked on a tour. They downplayed the connection to their old band, so while the show was well-attended and impressive in general, it still felt like an undiscovered gem.
Dead Science | September 21, 2008
This rock/free-jazz band from Seattle included Sam Mickens and Jherek Bischoff, who both played with Xiu Xiu at various points. Bischoff also played with the most recent Amanda Palmer project. The group played the hi-dive more than once, as well as DIY spaces like Monkey Mania and Rhinoceropolis.
Dengue Fever | March 26, 2008
This Los Angeles-based band was inspired by Cambodian pop music from before the years of Khmer Rouge genocide. It was the subject of a 2005 documentary film, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, which follows the band on a tour of Cambodia itself.
Eef Barzelay | August 4, 2008
Before alt-country became something of a parody of itself, Eef Barzelay was fronting one of the best bands out of that milieu, Clem Snide. While that band was on hiatus from 2007 to 2009, Barzelay seemed to tour as regularly as one can through Denver and played the hi-dive.
Gravy Train!!! | July 16, 2008 An early electroclash group, Gravy Train!!! was always a bombastic live act that seemed both a celebration and a lampoon of the music and culture of queer dance clubs. Though not as active these days, Hunx has gone on to be a figure in the national garage-rock scene with his band Hunx and His Punx.
Indian Jewelry | April 30, 2008
Getting the clue about this show from Mario Zoots was one of the best musical suggestions of my life. Not many people were there, but Indian Jewelry turned the hi-dive stage into a swimmingly hypnotic and unforgettable performance, with strobes that made it feel like a psychedelic version of tribal music intended to induce a mystical experience.
Papercuts | March 22, 2008
Papercuts is essentially Jason Quever with various collaborators. The San Francisco-based indie-pop project enjoyed a bit of popularity around this time, and for this tour, Quever was joined by Beach House's Victoria Legrand on vocals.
Shearwater | August 31, 2008
When not playing in Okkervil River, Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff wrote music for the psych-folk act Shearwater. Sheff left the band in 2009, but for this tour in support of Rooks, he was still in, along with Thor Harris, who now also performs in Swans.
Triangle Forest | July 16, 2008
From time to time, the kind of band that would normally play at a DIY venue would play a small club, and this might have been the only time that electro band Triangle Forest, from Providence, Rhode Island, played the hi-dive.
Wolf Eyes | June 24, 2008
Though it legendarily opened for Sonic Youth at the Ogden Theatre on July 26, 2004, and then jammed with SY for a fifty-minute noise extravaganza at Monkey Mania at 2 a.m., Wolf Eyes played one of its two shows in the last decade at the hi-dive.
Wye Oak | August 31, 2008
Touring with Shearwater and contributing some to the latter's live show, Wye Oak made a strong impression in the middle slot of this show. Jenn Wasner was an imaginative guitar wizard creating layers of sound and putting some real physical presence behind her playing. Andy Stack somehow made playing multiple instruments look easy. But really, it was just impressive compositional planning. The two-piece has gone on to playing headlining shows at the Bluebird. 2009
Damon & Naomi | October 16, 2009
Damon Kurkowski and Naomi Yang were two-thirds of pioneering slowcore/dream-pop band Galaxie 500. After that group split up in 1991, Kurkowski and Yang formed their current project, which melds dream pop and folk to make the kind of music that suggests tranquil landscapes and evokes a dreamlike quality that matches the aesthetic of Yang's films. Curiously, Damon & Naomi were the middle act opening for Hawk and a Hacksaw at the hi-dive. After the show, the couple were down to earth and accessible in a way you'd hope that people from a legendary band would be.
El Ten Eleven | April 20, 2009
This Los Angeles-based post-rock act was already making waves at this time, partly because it had music in the 2007 documentary Helvetica, but mostly because its evocative, intricate instrumental music didn't sound like it could be made by just two people. Opening the show were two local bands, the like-minded Lion's the Brave and my own shoegaze/post-punk band 900 Ancestors. When he took the stage, Kristian Dunn said, "I don't know what that was, but okay." Fair enough. El Ten Eleven has gone on to play much larger rooms in town.
Grand Ole Party | May 24, 2009
This San Diego-based trio seemed to have a pretty productive four years as a band before breaking up in the summer of 2009. The group's singer and drummer, Kristin Gundred, can now be seen fronting dream-pop outfit the Dum Dum Girls, in which she also plays guitar.
Grant Hart | November 8, 2009
One expects that a former member of Husker Du or anyone who survived the '80s underground punk thing intact would be playing larger venues, but fortunately, we still get to see them at places like the hi-dive. Hart played extensively from his solo back catalogue, as well as songs by Nova Mob and, of course, Husker Du. After the show, he was surprisingly accessible and engaging, and so not a rock star. Good on him.
LSD and the Search for God | September 29, 2009
Based in San Francisco, this group had a bit of buzz in various circles in Denver before this, its debut, and only show in the Mile High City. Its sound straddled shoegaze and modern psychedelia. Turns out some of these people knew Steve Kennedy, whose band Sciflyer I had befriended in the early 2000s and told us that Steve even played drums for LSD and the Search for God early on.
Mika Miko | June 26, 2009
One of the main bands that played the Smell in its heyday, Mika Miko was punk and garage rock in a way that seemed to come from an idiosyncratic aesthetic like these people didn't get some memo about how that stuff is supposed to sound. Unfortunately, the outfit broke up in 2010. Jennifer and Jessie Clavin have gone on to greater commercial success as Bleached.
Miniature Tigers | October 27, 2009
Though championed by Rolling Stone and Spin, this indie-rock outfit fronted by Charlie Brand hasn't yet emerged much beyond playing smaller clubs, despite excellent songwriting and a compelling combination of sound experimentation and accessibility.
Ponytail | May 6, 2009
This show and many in 2009 and beyond signaled the point at which bands that once played at DIY venues all seemed to get booking managers and publicists because, well, they wanted to keep doing music for a living, and DIY venues can't often offer guarantees. Nonetheless, Baltimore's Ponytail never disappointed, and its relentless energy was as forceful as a Gang of Four show. Unfortunately, the band parted ways in 2011 following the release of its swan song, Do Whatever You Want All the Time, the cover art for which was designed by Yamantaka Eye of Boredoms. On the left, smiling at the camera, is photographer Kyle King, who sadly passed away a few years back. He was a tireless documentarian of underground music of various genres in Denver and in his home town of Fort Collins. Some day his excellent photographs of shows at Rhinoceropolis will see the light of day.
Scout Niblett | September 22, 2009
From England, Emma "Scout" Niblett has since moved to Portland, Oregon. But before that, Niblett was writing spare, idiosyncratic songs that don't fit the folk title pressed on a lot of her music. Especially not when she was listening to a lot of Black Flag and Rollins band as influence on her latest record, 2013's It's Up to Emma.
Season to Risk | November 30, 2009
Season to Risk is the respected noise-rock outfit from Kansas City that could be seen performing music in the film Strange Days. Though well known in underground rock circles and all but legendary in Kansas City, Season to Risk toured heavily in the '90s and regularly stopped through Denver. This was a rare late-era tour that firmly established that it still had the fire that informed its earlier music.
Strange Boys | June 26, 2009
Just as garage rock and psych garage was becoming a popular style of music in underground circles, Strange Boys started playing its early tours. There was something decidedly off-center about the way this band played its music, thus making what might be more prosaic music just a little bit unusual. This was the lineup before former Mika Miko singer/saxophonist Jenna Thornhill DeWitt toured with the group. 2010
All Leather | April 28, 2010
This side project of Justin Pearson of The Locust is a bizarre electroclash sort of thing. Hot White opened the show, and Pearson got Darren Kulback to come on stage to play some drums later in the set.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow | March 5, 2010
This Philadelphia-based dream-pop/soul act garnered a bit of buzz around this time, but before going on to play bigger rooms, it was like any other indie band touring the U.S. the unglamorous way.
Azure Ray | November 1, 2010
Touring with Tim Kasher of Cursive, Azure Ray put in a charming and warm performance at the hi-dive. This show probably could have and should have been in a larger venue, but seeing a band in a place as small as the hi-dive is always a treat.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone | September 11, 2010
Owen Ashworth's long-running, experimental indie-pop outfit had toured the country for years, early on performing at Denver's 15th St. Tavern. But this would prove to be the project's final tour. Maybe in ten years, someone will rediscover Ashworth's brilliant music and appreciate it for what it is and coax the affable songwriter into another tour.
Depreciation Guild | October 12, 2010
Kurt Feldman of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart had this side project going on in which he sang and played guitar rather than drums. He used a Famicom to provide chip-tune electronics, resulting in an entrancing live act that anticipated the kinds of sounds that the so-called chill-wave artists would perfect in the next few years.
Entrance Band | February , 2010
Somehow, Guy Blakeslee has been making a bigger impact touring under his own name. But this still-extant project played at the hi-dive as psychedelic rock was rapidly increasing in popularity. Bassist Paz Lenchantin is no stranger to larger stages as a member of Zwan, A Perfect Circle and, most recently, Pixies.
Film School | October 12, 2010
Singer/guitarist Greg Bertens of Film School sure hit it hard in developing a strong hybrid of post-punk, shoegaze and psychedelic rock. From 1998 to 2011, the band released excellent album after excellent album and toured regularly through Denver. The current state of psychedelic rock in America and a rediscovery of shoegaze music by a younger generation is something of a vindication of what Bertens tried to do.
Greg Ginn and Texas Taylor Corrugators | April 4, 2010
Greg Ginn is best known as the founder and lead guitarist of legendary hardcore band Black Flag. But he has toured through Denver with what some describe as his jam band -- really a blues rock band he plays in called Texas Taylor Corrugators. Even though it was blues rock, Ginn brought imagination, power and finesse to his bass playing. Also, he's one of the most down-to-earth musicians you'd ever care to meet.
High Places | March 31, 2010
High Places had established itself a bit playing at Rhinoceropolis in previous years. This was the phase of the band during which it experimented with guitar textures and atmospheres over the kind of dub-tropical-pop sound that garnered the band a bit of a buzz for a few years. Of course, the act's 2010 release, High Places Vs. Mankind, was a fascinating mixture of ideas that the group was able to make happen live as well.
Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs | April 27, 2010
Holly Golightly was once a member of Thee Headcoatees with Billy Childish, but has had a solo career since around 1995. She is dubbed as garage rock or rockabilly, but there is plenty of folk to her sound, too, as well as an intense if friendly energy.
Moonhearts | August 19,2 010
Before parting ways with the band to perform and release records under his own name, Mikal Cronin was a member of Moonhearts. You could tell there was some real talent there, because it was the standout performance of a night that included sets from the Royal Baths and Ty Segall.
Red Pony Clock | March 29, 2010
This sprawling indie-pop outfit from San Diego with ties to Elephant 6 often played DIY venues in Denver on tour, but graced the hi-dive stage for this show. The lineup shifts regularly, but somehow singer/leader Gabe Saucedo keeps it going and keeps putting out good albums.
The Prids | July 6, 2010
Originally from Missouri and then Nebraska, the Prids moved to Portland before it became a kind of cliche for artists and musicians. Though lumped in with the post-punk revival of the 21st century, the Prids seemed to embody that music but didn't adopt it, because suddenly everyone seemed to be into Joy Division. The band established friendships and fans across the country, and its highly energetic and haunting live shows were definitely not on the downbeat.
Tune-Yards | March 27, 2010
Merrill Garbus was someone you'd hear about from hipper friends who knew people in New York. Her looping and organic percussion was masterful, and she has since turned what was really pretty eccentric stuff into something accessible. Certainly a sold-out show at the Gothic this past summer indicates that she's garnered an audience larger than the one that can fit into the hi-dive.
Ty Segall | August 19, 2010
It wasn't much more than a year or two after this performance that Ty Segall, kind of the godfather of modern psychedelic garage rock, was selling a lot of tickets at a place like the Gothic. But even at this show, you could tell he was destined for bigger things, because it was never sloppy, and the songwriting had already reached a pretty sophisticated level.
*Author's Note on the High Plains Underground Archive: In the late 1990s, I started going to local shows on a regular basis. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I didn't know there was such a thing as local music worth checking out.
But I was drawn in after seeing a band called Rainbow Sugar (an all-female punk/hip-hop/experimental guitar rock extravaganza) opening for Sleater-Kinney's first show in Colorado at The Fox Theatre in October 1998. Next, I learned about a show at the now-defunct Rebis Galleries. From there I went to the first Monkey Mania show, and there was no looking back.
Rainbow Sugar was the first local band I photographed at Herman's Hideaway in 1999. But it was in 2005 when I got my first digital camera that my extensive photo archive started. In this series, called High Plains Underground Archive, I will share a small fraction of the tens of thousands of those photos, focusing on specific venues, bands, time periods, movements and whatever else seems to make sense. The title of this series comes from the working title of my book on the history of underground music in Denver 1975 to the present.
BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS - Seven of Denver's Most Underrated Bands - You'll Never See Another Show Like The One Chimney Choir Has Planned - Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene - DIY or Die: Why Denver Need Under-The-Radar, All-Ages Arts Spaces
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.