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Denver's Punk Past Comes Alive in The Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2

Bob Rob Medina has written two books documenting the Denver punk scene in the ’80s and ’90s. The second,  The Colorado Crew, is being released this week at a series of shows and events around the city.
Bob Rob Medina has written two books documenting the Denver punk scene in the ’80s and ’90s. The second, The Colorado Crew, is being released this week at a series of shows and events around the city. Courtesy Bob Rob Medina
Bob Rob Medina knew he was going to write a followup to his 2015 book, Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks, the minute he got on the plane to return home after celebrating the first book’s release two days earlier in Denver.

The October party at Mutiny Information Cafe was a who’s-who of the Denver punk scene spanning at least a couple generations. To say the book, which chronicles the city’s punk history from 1982 to 1987, was well received is an understatement.

After driving to the airport together to return home, graphic designer and Denvoid contributor Sonny Kay, who also played in some of Colorado’s most heralded punk bands over the years, and Medina said their goodbyes and boarded separate flights. Medina soon learned his flight was facing a three-hour delay, as was Kay’s. He’d been passing the time by jotting down bands, venues and fanzines that were active from 1986 though the mid-’90s, but when the pair realized they were only a few gates apart, they decided to pass the time together.
click to enlarge BOB ROB MEDINA
Bob Rob Medina

“He walked on over and I sort of dropped it on him,” says Medina, “asking, but probably more like stating, that we should do a follow-up book. I’m sure he was just as exhausted as I was, and laying out another book was probably the last thing he wanted to hear at the moment. Either way, he politely agreed, perhaps to humor me in the obvious state I was in.”

That conversation led to The Colorado Crew, which will be released in a series of events in the Denver area this week. It tells the second half of the story of Colorado punk from 1982 through 1996. Together, the two Denvoid books cover the entirety of the time Medina was involved in the Colorado punk scene.

Medina says his first introduction to the subculture came in 1982, when a friend returned from a trip to California with a few mixtapes labeled “punk rock.”

“I didn’t know what that was, but I was hooked from the get-go,” says Medina. “I eventually met up with other kids who were self-described punkers, and this is how I got involved in the scene. I loved everything about going to shows, going to Wax Trax, meeting like-minded people. It was really a community — though sometimes dysfunctional.”

Medina says he also started to realize that other cities had their own, unique punk scenes and that celebrating and documenting those differences was important. After reading Cynthia Connolly’s 1988 book, Banned in DC, which details the rise of the hardcore/punk scene in the nation’s capital, he knew he wanted to write his own.

“It was my catalyst,” says Medina of Connolly’s book. “I think each punk scene globally is special to that time and place. I wanted to capture that. I wasn’t a writer and barely an artist, but I had a dream of capturing my youth through the bands I saw, the people I met, and the places I hung out at. I believed Denver had an interesting, wildly creative and provocative underground music scene.

Two decades later, the idea Medina had as a teenager has finally come to fruition with the release of the second half of his Denvoid series.

“I guess you could say I thought about it for nearly twenty years, then wrote most of Denvoid within an eighteen-month span,” he says.
click to enlarge The second and last installment of the Denvoid story covers the Denver punk scene from 1987 until 1996. - BOB ROB MEDINA AND SONNY KAY
The second and last installment of the Denvoid story covers the Denver punk scene from 1987 until 1996.
Bob Rob Medina and Sonny Kay
Kay, too, was interested in documenting the Colorado punk scene. What drew him to the book project was a fear that the story of the overwhelming creativity of the time might be lost to the ages.

“I got involved because I think it's important to document what went on in Colorado in the ’90s,” he says “It's not just the various bands and accomplishments, although there were plenty of both. The social fabric of the underground around the state, and the networking that went on pre-Internet, is fascinating now and would have eventually been forgotten altogether. The particular stew of bands and characters was unlike anywhere else, and I feel like that alone is worthy of investigation. The book stands as a reminder of what now seems like a golden age of spontaneous creativity and effortless community building, not to mention the reckless abandon that could be enjoyed before America became a surveillance state.” 

Kay says the memories of playing with Medina in their band Savalas in the early ’90s — driving to relatively remote cities like Glenwood Springs to play for throngs of kids who were desperate for any connection to the punk subculture — are some of his fondest. 

“We had no records out, nothing to buy and no songs anyone had ever heard,” he says, “but there’d still be 100 people going bananas. It was incredible.”

The festivities Medina has planned for the release of The Colorado Crew are more extensive than the single show he did for the first book, and there’s a key difference: no band reunions. Although the surprise performance by the Frantix at the 2015 release was fun, he says, this time around he is more interested in paying tribute to the people who made the scene what it was and still is. So he decided to get some of the old crew’s current bands.

“It would have been amazing if bands got back together,” says Medina, listing off a few of his favorite now-defunct groups. “In lieu of these sorts of re-enactments, I think it’s great that people interviewed in the book are still at it, playing music, and we thought maybe their current bands should be playing the release weekend. So that's what we did.”

And lest anyone think the bevy of pre-planned festivities was the end, Medina says there’s one more surprise in store.

“Sonny and I will play a Savalas song,” he says. “We haven’t played on the same stage since ’92.”

The first Colorado Crew: Denvoid Pt. 2 Book Release party takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 20, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, followed by a show with Emerald Siam, Echo Beds and Clusterfux at 9 p.m. at the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway. There will be another show from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 21, at Chain Reaction Records, at 8799 West Colfax Avenue, with Grimy, Cabron and Ted Thacker, another book release party from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 21, at Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway. That will be followed by a 9 p.m. show with Four, Cyclo Sonic, Mind Rider and Cabron at 1010 Workshop, at 1010 Closed Street.
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Oakland Childers has been a music journalist since he was sixteen.