High Plains Underground Archive

Cricket on the Hill Was the Great Equalizer of the Denver Music Scene

From 1963 until March 15, 2008 The Cricket On The Hill (located at 1209 East 13th Avenue) was a dive bar that hosted bands of pretty much every conceivable genre and level of notoriety. Denver's godfathers of noise Page 27 played there -- so did nearly every other band in town over the years. It wasn't fancy, although the sound system, when properly operated, was better than you would guess.

It was a staple, and if you played and people showed up and drank, you got paid. Which is more than can be said of many other venues of the time or even today. I first went to Cricket in January of 1999 to see Rainbow Sugar, S-Fro-7 and Orbit Service. But I didn't really take many pictures then, and the photos presented here come almost entirely come from the club's final year of existence.

See also: The Aztlan Theater Once Hosted Slayer, Run-D.M.C. and More, but Now It Needs Your Help

The Emmas were punk without the scene baggage. Similar bands like Wanker and Pin Downs used to play the Cricket. The latter's Heather Dalton helped to put together the Stars of Cricket On The Hill compilation. This photo is from Lisa Cook's 34th birthday celebration. In the foreground is part-time backing vocalist Anne Schummer.

My Sister Outlaw was one of the bands Suzi Allegra from Fingers of the Sun and Ancient Elk was in for a few years. Everyone in the band switched up instruments and sang lead and played bass and guitar. Also in the band were Jocelyn Holst (who lives in the Netherlands now with her husband Martijn Bolster, former drummer of The Swayback), Andrea Allen and Sophia Throop, who had also been in Catatonic Lydia with Allegra.

Slim Lizzy was a Thin Lizzy cover band that actually got it right.

The Bronze is still around and making '70s style sludge rock the way it was meant to be -- with passion and conviction. The bill for this night was a typically eclectic mix for the club, with the Bronze, Slim Lizzy and my old shoegaze/post-punk band Tornado Alley.

Seraphim Stitch was fronted by Charity Mudd, and her incredibly powerful voice kind of made the band. But overall it was an enjoyable goth-industrial band with some metallic elements. It was short-lived and never really put out any music you can get a hold of. Hopefully no one mistook the group for Seraphim Shock. Charity now does vocals in electro-ambient project Mingo.

Into the Ether was the sort of punk, sort of psych, sort of prog outfit that featured future members of the Pollution, Ed Marshall and Jay Fox. It played shows all over town and was certainly no stranger to the Cricket. The Silver Cord, at this time, was a four-piece band that included Heather Hemming on bass and Dane Bernhardt on keyboards. Still in the band (though it almost never plays shows) are singer Ken Keifer and guitarist/vocalist Karl Haikara. Kind of an abrasive black metal/Goth band, it felt like the real thing. Bernhardt later went on to play keys in The Don'ts and Be Carefuls for a several months, and Haikara and Keifer released a great, scary album called Hate in 2010. Keifer also does a radio show called The Upstairs Room on Green Light Radio on Wednesday nights from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m.

The Skivies probably still exist in some form, but they haven't played live in a good long while. Their music was a brilliant combination of prog and Butthole Surfers-esque psychedelia. DJ Von Feldt manipulated his voice through a device called the Brain, inspired by the device that Gibby Haynes often uses on his own vocals. Von Feldt and guitarist Zahari Tsigularov were the constants from the beginning, with the final line-up including bassist Sean Boyd and drummer Ryan Purebar. For this show, drummer Christian Schwaed was still in the band along with bassist Steve Mercer. One of Denver's most unique and interesting and underrated bands, the Skivies were a core part of the Denver Art Rock Collective.

New Ancient Astronauts combined some kind of stoner-rock thing with the avant-garde. Think Chrome with a similar sense of humor. The group even opened for Chrome at the Bluebird. Guitarist/vocalist Kasey Elkington was one of the core organizers of the Denver Art Rock Collective, and he now plays in the revamped Superbuick and perhaps the Cattle Axe.

Amphibious Jones was pretty much impossible to classify beyond the broad term of rock. Though if that means someone in the band was into some weird '70s metal and Frank Zappa. Jimmy Curtis now performs solo as well as with Dust Stompers.

*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.

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

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.