High Plains Underground Archive

A Look Back at the First Two Years of Titwrench Fest

The sixth edition of Titwrench Fest will be held at Dryer Plug Studios on October 3-4 this year. Last year found Titwrench overseas in Sweden rather than in Denver, taking the inclusive spirit of the event not just out of Colorado, but out of the United States entirely. The festival began in 2009 as a showcase for the talent of female-identified people and those in the LGBTQIA communities. When so much of radio and other music media is male-dominated and very middle-of-the-road in terms of music, Titwrench has been a great peek into an alternative to that world, with a well-curated lineup each year focusing on regional artists. What has made Titwrench noteworthy from the beginning is the premium the festival places on experimental artists, as well as a very inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.

Head organizer Sarah Slater has long been an active participant in the local music and art community, and when she and former Denver Zine Library volunteer Kristy Fenton came up with the name and the concept for the initial festival, it seemed like the natural next step for Slater's longstanding history of booking shows, local and otherwise. As we get closer to the date of this latest edition of Titwrench, I will share images from the two most recent fests in Denver proper. But for now, here are some scenes from the first two years of Titwrench.



*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.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.