Music festivals are no joke. On the extreme bad end of the spectrum, there’s Woodstock ’99, where bros rioted after overindulging on drugs and alcohol, getting sunstroke and listening to nu-metal, which science has shown rots the brain.
But even a non-catastrophic, super-fun music festival can leave one feeling depleted the following day. Bear Redmon of Denver soul-tinged Americana outfit Bear and the Beasts
had to take a week to recover from the Underground Music Showcase in July. He’s fine, but some friends weren’t so lucky.
“I know a couple people who just went a little hard and ended up having to go to the hospital to get re-hydrated after a while,” Redmon says. “I didn’t have it that bad, but I think I’m just getting a little older, so it took me a little longer to recover.”
Undeterred by exhaustion, the Denver indie-rock outfit, currently made up of Redmon, Sarah Ault, Noah Zinter, Justin Peterson, Trent Farchone and Gary Russell Jr., plays the Westword Music Showcase
on Friday, September 9, at RiNo Beer Garden
Bear and the Beasts, previously part of the Salt Lick Denver
collective and its Salt Lick Records label, has since become independent after what Redmon says was an amicable split.
“We're doing a lot of stuff on our own,” he says. “We're working on a new album right now and getting a lot of things ready and doing stuff. UMS is over now, so it’s like, new year, new us — let’s start getting back into motion and back on to things now.”
The band’s most recent single release, “Some Beasts Cannot Be Tamed,” springs from Redmon and guitarist Zinter’s time selling honey on the Colorado farmers' market circuit. Zinter met a woman from Georgia (the country, not the state), who told him that she was a rock singer in her home country.
“Her parents didn’t want her to pursue music,” Redmon says. “They wanted her to study, go to school and get a good job, follow that path.”
The woman defied her parents and did what she wanted instead, sneaking out to sing with a band that started to play shows around town. Eventually, the band booked a big festival gig where she knew her parents would be in attendance, and the gig was up. She sat with her folks in the audience before begging their pardon, then hitting the stage and belting out a song. Fortunately, her parents loved it and ended up being supportive of their daughter’s vocation.
“I believe it was the grandmother who says...an old Georgian proverb: ‘You can feed the wolf all you like, but she still turns to the woods,’" Redmon recalls. "The idea is you can try to make someone into a different thing, but in the end, there are some things that just can’t be changed.”
Redmon has taken the proverb to heart. “Some Beasts Cannot Be Tamed” emerged from a friendly contest between Redmon and Zinter in which they select a proverb and see who can spin it into a better set of lyrics. The song was written in 2020, which Redmon recalls as a time of self-reflection and self-betterment. It was a rough time for many musicians: The band's trumpeter, Peterson, draws half of his income as a musician and saw that all dry up with the pandemic lockdowns. At the time, Redmon was a stockbroker, but he became disillusioned with the job when he saw how much money was lost that year. (He now works as a financial adviser and helps his clients build environmentally conscious portfolios.)
The tough times even made Redmon and his bandmates wonder whether they should continue as a band. “'How do we survive?'” Redmon recalls thinking. “'Can we do this?' We had this dream that we were going to play music. We just wanted to play music to the point where we could just make a living, just keep the lights on. That was enough for us.”
The bandmates took a break for about three months to ponder the future. They opted to continue, and when they started playing together again, “Some Beasts Cannot Be Contained” began to come together. Redmon says the song encourages listeners to accept themselves.
“Despite me wanting to be a teacher or a chemist or whatever, this music aspect of me is always going to be there,” he says. “It’s a big part of me, and rather than running away from it and trying to do everything else other than it, I should just embrace that part, learn to love it.”
He adds that no one in the band has any illusions about making a living as a musician. It’s a tough proposition at best, but that’s not what’s most important to them. Their core principle of wanting to express themselves through music and share it with others remains the same.
“‘Hey, I’m right there with you,’” Redmon says to an imaginary audience member. “'I have a 9-to-5 job and I just got off work. I feel you, but we have this connection.’ I think that, for us, really cemented that this is what we do. This is who we are as humans, and this is what we want to continue to do.”
The Westword Music Showcase returns to RiNo on Friday, September 9, with free performances by dozens of local bands at nine venues in the area; Bear and the Beasts plays RiNo Beer Garden, 3800 Walnut Street, at 9 p.m. On Saturday, September 10, more local bands will join national headliners the Flaming Lips, Saint Motel, the Main Squeeze and Cannons at three stages at the Mission Ballroom Outdoors. Tickets for the day are $55-$85; get more information at westwordshowcase.com.