Bright Channel Was Denver's Last Great Shoegaze Band

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Bright Channel was one of the most widely respected bands in the Denver underground scene during its relatively short existence. From February 2002 through the fall of 2007, the trio flooded small bars and large venues with its colossal sound. Though it would probably today be called a shoegaze band, its sound was more rooted in dark post-punk bands like Big Black, Joy Division and the Cure, post-rock ambient music as embodied in the work of Stars of the Lid and the more ambitiously atmospheric metal bands of the day.

It consisted of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Suthers, bassist Shannon Stein and drummer Brian Banks. The group played its first show at 15th St. Tavern in August 2002 and its final show was a gig opening for the Fray (at the latter's invitation) at Red Rocks alongside the Flobots. That the band was well regarded from the scene's most obscure experimental rock bands to Denver's most famous pop act should be proof of its impact whether or not that is yet fully realized in terms of direct influence. Witness Suthers in his new band Pale Sun at the hi-dive on December 27.

See also: 49 of the Hi-Dive's Most Unbelievable Shows

Bright Channel released only two full-length albums and no EPs. The first, a 2004 self-titled release, was recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio. The second, 2006's Self-Propelled, was recorded by Suthers at Flight Approved Studio. Both were issued by Flight Approved Records. There were some non-album tracks that were released on a limited basis on UMS compilations as well as to friends.

What follows are scenes from a few of the roughly 72 shows the band played during the course of its existence.

Myshel Prasad of Space Team Electra told me about Bright Channel playing its first show in August of 2002 at 15th St. Tavern, and I saw the show on the club's calendar but my first experience with the band was this show at the Climax Lounge during its first month of operation. BC shared the stage with Reverend Dead Eye.

This picture I shot at Suthers' and Stein's old house in Louisville. It was originally published in the first issue of my 'zine All Need Is Music, which came out in 2004. It included an extensive interview with the band, one of its first and one of the few.

These two pictures are from the Fox Theatre. At that time the venue periodically featured all-local shows.

Bright Channel played a show while Dicky Bosse was in town so Suthers, Stein and Bosse played a short set of old Volplane songs.

Bright Channel played a show while Dicky Bosse was in town so Suthers, Stein and Bosse played a short set of old Volplane songs.

This was from a show with some of the heavy hitters of underground rock at the time including as well Born in the Flood, Hot IQs and Woven Hand.

An image the hi-dive's second anniversary show. At that time I was still learning how to use flash properly and used the slow flash function far too often.

A close-up of Suthers at Larimer Lounge.

Another show of popular bands of the day with Monofog and Moccasin on this bill.

Like many bands, Bright Channel ended up playing New Years' Eve shows. Here Stein is looking placid as the music swirls around her.

Bright Channel had played with one of its big influences at The Fox Theatre, Dinosaur Jr, in April 2006 but it returned a few weeks later to share the stage with Hot IQs and The Swayback.

Before he put together Monolith Festival, concert promoter Matthew Fecher was part of The South Park Music Festival and this was the year several prominent local bands were on the bill including Bright Channel, which played in a room that looked like it normally hosted fancy dinners.

This Halloween show was probably the only time the band wore costumes.

Suthers was able to play a show on his birthday and it would be one of the last shows the band would perform.

The penultimate Bright Channel show happened at the Larimer Lounge wutg Cat-A-Tac, Hot IQs, Cowboy Curse and D. Biddle. The next night it played that Red Rocks show with The Flobots and The Fray. On stage, Suthers had a chuckle and said, "This is such a beautiful experience. Whatever!" Kudos to The Fray for risking alienating not-so-open-minded fans by including this experimental rock band to open but it was widely said that perhaps BC should have played one last show that wasn't opening for a pop band at Red Rocks but if you're going to go out, go out big.

*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.

• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS • - Seven of Denver's Most Underrated Bands - You'll Never See Another Show Like The One Chimney Choir Has Planned - Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene - DIY or Die: Why Denver Need Under-The-Radar, All-Ages Arts Spaces

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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