See comments from “Chad” here -- in which his close to 700-word diatribe calls into question a “thriving” Denver scene and forces me to put South Broadway culture into context.
I feel your frustration. As someone who has given his blood, sweat, and tears to the Denver music scene, it can be a struggle to not fall prey to the gut-reaction cynicism towards the pettier parts of a “scene.” It’s a natural inclination to question a scene’s worth. And it’s an important evolution too. However, it’s fool-hearted to assume that our “scene” can be boiled down to those that “hang out at the Hi Dive.” I can’t define what our scene is, nor will I even attempt to. What I can tell you is that because Hipsters are very savvy consumers/marketers, they can become figureheads for a music scene. You seem pretty susceptible to savvy marketing yourself—closet Hipster? Sorry, no fair taking potshots at my own. Maybe your reluctance to view Denver’s music scene as bubbling, thriving, vital, is directly tied to your overestimation of their (Hipsters) worth? What I know is that Hipsters in no way are the scene—they’re simply a fancy-haircut, tight-pants part of it. Just like people in bands are an egotistical-mouth, leg-kick, cymbal-crash part of it. And the shredding metal band at Wyatts Torch, and the jazz combo at Dazzle, and the singer-songwriter at the we-grind-em coffee shop…
Like the four-armed Indian god Vishnu, a music scene is not just the people who speak the loudest; a music scene is the essence of everyone in it.
What you’re missing is that “thriving” implies getting there, not already there. Denver isn’t a musical mecca. Denver is not a hub for major music business. Denver, in general, is not huge on the national radar. And the best part is, none of that matters much for a town that is still working it out. Bands can evolve into other bands; influence each other; forge their own path and, yes, even mimic musical styles that currently exist…all the while building towards something unique. You misunderstand. Art is an organic process and Denver is thriving within the context of that process.
If you’re simply basing success on units sold, you’re missing the point—not to mention that that sentiment is severely out-of-touch with the new business model; where it can be argued that labels are less important than a good booking agent and a PR firm. True, labels can bring local bands playing small rock shows to the Warped Tour. However, these days most labels over-promise, under-deliver, and are forced to drop bands while filing bankruptcy. Which brings us back to Vishnu and how we’re all part of the process. Even that Hipster girl who kind of looks like that Bollywood actress with her sultry lips and her amazing—er. Wait. Where was I?
If you assume the entire music scene is located at 7 S. Broadway, you’re as cynical as the people you decry. Granted, you’re likely not alone in that assumption. Look beyond what you hear on the street about “big” bands in Denver. You’re absolutely right about music being “complicated enough to find its way around that.” It does, and it has. Look beyond the awards and the venues to find it (yes I realize the post-modern quasi-irony of saying something like that from within a paper that has graciously recognized my band-let’s just move on, shall we).
As far as disproving your theory that nothing original has come out of Denver besides Devotchka—who deserve every ounce of success coming to them—I haven’t fully decided if I should use this column to promote bands I like. For now, I won’t spout a list of honest, pure, and original talent in this town (of which there is plenty).
Let’s just say some new bands will make waves nationally. The majority won’t. Yet most will play their hearts out in a dark and smelly club with poor sound and still savor the sweaty afterglow of being involved in an organic process of getting there. I invite you to overlook the petty parts of our scene and avoid the natural inclination towards cynicism long enough to partake in the essence of it all.
Bandicoots is a new column by Eli Mishkin of Hot IQs. It's written by the people, for the people, so to speak. It's a chance for the rank and file and musicians alike to ask questions about being in a band, touring and whatever else is on your inquiring mind. It's penned by someone who's in a band, touring and, well, you get the picture. Bandicoots appears every Wednesday, except when it doesn't. Got questions? Get answers. Hit Eli up via email here.