Music News

A Bad Rap

In the spirit of a surge of satirical acts performing around the area in recent and coming weeks (The Monsters of Mock at the Bluebird; the Aerosmith cover band Walk the Line at the Soiled Dove on Halloween; Neil Diamond impersonator Super Diamond at the Ogden on November 13) it seems an appropriate time to shine the light on a couple of local items that can only be described as downright silly.

First, the debut of a new local "recording artist" provided some insight into what it takes to truly motivate the Denver masses to take an interest in the local scene. As any local musician can tell you, filling a club on a Thursday night can prove arduous -- broke patrons lie at home in wait of Friday's paycheck, and what with all that "Must See TV" sitcom hilarity to contend with, it can be nearly impossible to amass a crowd that consists of more than a few friends and faithful fans. With that in mind, local artists might take a cue from the October 28 performance by an up-and-coming local rap artist: Simply land a spot on a two-time championship football team, make millions of dollars and a few appearances on a CD by another rapper, hire a gang-busting bunch of publicists to solicit your event to every media outlet from Entertainment Tonight to MTV and -- presto! -- you've found the formula for a well-attended live gig. Of course, it helps if you actually are a presently injured but nonetheless god-like millionaire member of the Denver Broncos; otherwise, those who show up to shake their collective booty to your music might be more inclined to gas you like Denver cops after a Super Bowl. In other words, you might actually have to be running back Terrell Davis to secure the kind of audience that last week swarmed the interior of -- and the sidewalk outside of -- the F-Stop and Wazoo's, a LoDo sports bar known more for its big-screen TVs and sports-simulation games than big-time live entertainment. Outside the venues, a Batman-style spotlight beamed notice of the event into the heavens. (As if that were necessary. Local news anchors on three major networks practically needed a barrel of baby wipes to clean up the mess left after their salivating coverage previewing the event. And inside the club, cameramen competed for the best vantage point from which the magic might be captured.) Flanked by red carpet, braided ropes and every imaginable variation on the stretch-vehicle concept, well-dressed VIPs and the plain old general public waited and waited in the cold October night for a chance to glimpse the ligament-impaired Davis.

Of course, no one seemed to mind that Davis, who also celebrated his 27th birthday that evening, was merely a guest performer in a concert celebrating a CD release by an altogether different artist, a man by the name of Legit who reportedly divides his time between Denver and Los Angeles. Seems Legit and Davis first hooked up after the running back saw the rapper perform at a Denver club. In the grand tradition of the Shaq Man, Davis offered his services as a fledgling MC and later recorded vocals for two tracks on Legit's coincidentally titled It's All in the Game. The well-dressed Terrell-watchers who managed to squeeze by Wazoo's stick-up-the-butt security staff soon found out that ol' Terrell wasn't gonna hit the stage until after a full set from Legit. And what a set it was. Following what appeared to be the first soundcheck of the evening -- at 10:30 -- Legit and crew (which, to its credit, included Earth, Wind & Fire saxophonist Andrew Wolfolk) hit the stage with rhymes that would make a five-year-old girl sound clever. Not that you could hear them. The abysmal sound led one observer to wonder whether Wazoo's was restricted by some sort of sound ordinance. When Davis finally did take the stage -- so late that it almost wasn't even his birthday anymore -- he was surprisingly stage-shy, visibly nervous or, perhaps, as one crowd member suggested, just tanked. Whatever the case, Davis grabbed the mike and endeavored to get the crowd to wave their hands in the air like they, ya know, just didn't care. And backed by seven or so additional vocalists (at one point, there were fifteen people on the stage), he unleashed his MC fury on the crowd, which, of course, lapped it up like feral dogs. Though the sound remained muddier than a Georgia pig farm, with Davis's vocals all-but muted by the mass of humanity surrounding him, his rhyming style was...actually not that bad. I couldn't understand a word he said, but he was relatively smooth; he had some style and energy. He's not gonna give Method Man cause for concern, but no matter: He's probably more of a Puffy person, anyway. Who knows whether Davis plans to continue rapping publicly -- he does, after all, have some time on his hands these days. And if he decides to pursue this side project with anything resembling seriousness, it's doubtful he'll have any trouble packing them into the clubs. Meanwhile, other local musicians will simply have to increase their audiences by using old-fashioned methods like word of mouth and getting better at their craft. That and never, ever booking a show on the same night as MC Davis.

Silly Item # 2: The premiere column from new Rocky Mountain News music writer Mark Brown (October 26) sure gave me a chuckle. And I don't often "chuckle," mind you; I'm more fond of sarcastic snickering. In his review of the Family Values tour, which recently made a Pepsi stop in Denver at that newfangled maxi-sports-music complex, Brown passed off a pretty good joke with such dry wit that it almost appeared that he was serious. But, naah, he couldn't be. While discussing the performance by Limp Bizkit -- the George Michael-ripping-off, Woodstock-riot-inciting, "stick-it-up-your-ass"-chanting musical scourge of our times -- he draws a parallel between frontman Fred Durst and the late Kurt Cobain. First he refers to Durst's oh-so-sensitive song "Rearranged" (which reveals Durst's Christ complex through lyrics like "Life is overwhelming/Heavy is the head that wears the crown") as "perhaps rap/rock's first true power ballad" -- as if that's a good thing. But, wait: This guy doesn't quit! "Beneath the rage," he writes, "you can still hear traces of the scared and insecure guy who wrote it; it rings with the same fledgling self-awareness that Kurt Cobain showed around the time of Bleach, with as much potential for the future." That's where Mark "The Kidder" Brown must have expected readers to call his bluff, for even my deceased grandmother, rest her soul, has more in common with Kurt Cobain than Fred Durst does. Durst, after all, doesn't even play an instrument, unlike the music-obsessed songwriter that Cobain was even before he got famous. Not to mention that the "potential" Cobain exhibited on Bleach was the result of a swanky $606 production job (a point made in Michael Roberts's interview with former Nirvana bassist Krist Novaselic). Limp Bizkit's million-plus-selling Significant Other, on which this heavenly ballad appears, was backed by the deep pockets over at Interscope Records. And finally, there's the irony that, for the most part, the kinds of fans who flock to tours headlined by bands like Limp Bizkit are likely the very same people Cobain spent his adolescence getting his ass kicked by. Mark Brown -- you, sir, are a real card!

All kinds of "Happy birthdays" and congratulations are in order to the good folks over at KVCU Radio AM 1190, the fabulous CU-based station that will enter its second year of broadcasting on November 4. (Indeed, Roberts takes care of the formalities in this week's installation of The Message.) To celebrate the event, DJ Andrew Murphy, host of the station's "Local Shakedown" program every Friday from 4-6 p.m., has organized a two-day concert that finds some of Denver's best sharing in the birthday festivities. The all-ages affair will be held at the Bluebird Theater, and begins Thursday night with performances from the Kalamath Brothers, the Down-N-Outs, and the newly formed O'er the Ramparts, featuring members of the Blast-Off Heads and the Boulder-based Letches. Friday night's fete features Space Team Electra, Munly, Hoochie and the Pin Downs. A heck of a show for a heck of a station. KVCU, in the immortal words of the Blues Brothers, we're so glad you made it.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond