Music News

Bums Rushed

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In time, the Bums' record pool overflowed; today it's being serviced by just about every major imprint -- from Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella and Sony to Virgin, Columbia and Interscope -- as well as numerous indies. For a $200 initiation fee and $100 per month, each member gets two copies of every single, usually before it's even broken on the radio -- something that only one other pool in the country (DJ Vice's team in Los Angeles) can claim. In return for this service, the DJs offer their critiques of the tracks: Every Wednesday, the group's feedback is posted on the Bums' website or sent to the labels via e-mail.

In addition to getting the jump on cuts that will heat up dance floors in the coming weeks, the jocks get an opportunity to network. "The Boulder kids tell us what's hot in Boulder," Jay says, "and we tell them what's hot in Denver. Even though we often compete against each other, it's like a union."

A big union. With his growing commitments, keeping a handle on things became too much for Chonz. So in 2002, he opted to have Jay, a classmate from the University of Colorado at Denver, take over the pool's day-to-day operations. Since Jay didn't have any personal connections with the other DJs, he could organize the pick-ups and collect dues without being accused of preferential treatment. And the fact that Jay had worked in promotions at Jammin' 92.5 didn't hurt the Bums' marketing efforts.

"He's a hard worker and has great work ethics," Chonz says. "I knew he'd be able to do the job that I needed to get done."

Jay's not the only one Chonz has given a hand up. Bedz, the pool's assistant director who compiles all the feedback, currently hosts the Saturday-night street party at KS-107.5. Sabotage holds the same slot on Friday night; Psycho and Dizzy-D are both on the air from midnight to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings. All were hired on Chonz's recommendation.

"I would give my left arm for Chonz," says Bedz. "He is single-handedly responsible for giving me almost every opportunity that I've had in this business. He is incredible. Not to sound like a dick rider or anything, but I'm in awe of him. I really am. He's one of the most genuinely selfless people that I've ever met in my life. It is second nature for him to hook up his boys and give people gigs and look out for the guys beneath him. He's in a position where he doesn't necessarily have to do that. He could just be the man and look out for himself and do just fine. That's just not how he's wound, though. There's just something about him that makes him want to reach out a helping hand. I pretty much owe my entire DJ career to him."

But Chonz is just returning the favors he enjoyed. Baptiste, his former KGNU cohort, brought him aboard to co-host the free-form Sunday-night mix show on KS-107.5, which led to Chonz's manning the weekend street parties. Before long, he had his own mix show, The Traffic Jam. Now during evening rush hour every weekday, Chonz is behind the decks when cars are stacked and the only thing moving is the gas gauge.

Back at Bums headquarters, nothing's moving, either. Two and a half hours have passed; any excitement over the standoff wore off long ago. Bedz is due on the radio in an hour, so he calls to give a heads-up that he may be late. Petey, T Luv and Chonz also have gigs they need to get to. It's starting to look like there may be a DJ blackout tonight -- or at least a brownout. Jay, Frank E and Sikkaflex just want to go home.

T Luv suggests turning on the news to see if anyone's covering the incident. As the DJs gather around the tube, someone spots a SWAT team in riot gear approaching.

Chonz is back at the computer in his office, unruffled, feet up, sorting through his private stash of songs, listening to snippets and bobbing his head. Although Chonz allows pool members to download tracks off the website, these are the ones he's kept for himself; he doesn't share everything. His cell phone rings again, and he starts telling the story. "We're surrounded by cops; we can't leave," he says with a chuckle. "I'm serious. We can't leave."

Finally, around 7:30 p.m., there's a knock on the back door. Petey opens it. "You guys are free to leave," says one of the officers.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera