Music Festivals

Curt Heiner Captured What's Left of Undiscovered Denver at Goldrush 2015

There were so many fine performances during both days of Goldrush Music Festival at the Savoy Events Center, it would be difficult to pick a towering standout. Despite the wide array of genres represented, the festival managed to feel like one, big cohesive experience.

The accompanying 'zine and cassette compilation were characteristically excellent. Sound engineers Xandy Whitsel and Carson Pelo made sure everything sounded superb. The staff of the Savoy seemed to help make things run smoothly in a subtle ways, as did the scheduling and Ryan Hall and Crawford Philleo emceeing each performance.

The Space Lady's moving set on Friday night, featuring mostly covers, transported the audience to otherworldly realms in a way few have since the late Trish Keenan sang for Broadcast. And some of us, who have seen Travis Egedy of Pictureplane play for nearly a decade, couldn't help but be struck by how much he has grown as a performer and songwriter, with songs that seemed more in the industrial vein but remain just as expansive and welcoming as his music has always been.

Lawrence English looked like he could have been a member of the Denver Gentlemen, all in black with a broad-brimmed hat, but he came off so friendly and witty that he got most everyone in the room to lay down for his set. 

Anyone who ran into Reed Fuchs of déCollage and Moon Magnet on Saturday night got to see one of his typically interesting outfits. But he had also been decked out by a woman he'd met recently who put stickers on his face and painted his nails, including googly eyes set into the paint — fitting for a guy whose wide-ranging creativity and vision seems to become part of everything he touches.

Yoni Wolf and DJ Northside Nick joked around a lot and loosened up the vibe of the performance a little. We won't soon forget getting to see Wolf perform music across his career, dating back to the first Clouddead record. The thoughtfulness, sensitivity, compassion and penetrating insight of Wolf's words seemed to strike a little deeper, even with all the humor of the performance. 

One thing that tied the whole Goldrush experience together, though not present for some performances, was Curt Heiner's work on the projections. Some may know Heiner as a kind of behind-the-scenes presence at most shows by the Kevin Costner Suicide Pact. He used sixteen-millimeter film in long cycling loops at those shows, like something from another century. Now he uses a more compact film projector as well as some digital video.

For Goldrush 2015, Heiner put together a special set of imagery for each room, complete with footage from northern parts of the Eastern slope and a neighborhood of trailers and older houses not unlike what one might find in Commerce City. This footage, he treated by putting objects into the frame and otherwise altering the film to make it look like something that had been shot forty years ago and buried only to be recently uncovered. In Heiner's hands, what might be merely artful seemed like a peek into secret Americana, the stuff of the 1973 television series American Family without the people depicted.

The sometimes washed out, sometimes enhanced footage was on hand for the Tiny Mixtapes stage and made the very intimate shows there seem wide open. They were particularly effective during the sets of Dugout Canoe, Guardian Alien and Benoît Pioulard, making already transporting music even more powerful and affecting.

For the larger Impose stage, Heiner captured industrial Denver in black and white and, through a method in which he is able to speed up and slowdown the playback, he was able to make it look like time was running forward, backward and non-linearly. Sometimes the image was bright, and at other times the white light blew out all details. The smokestacks of the industrial district on the west side of Vasquez Boulevard and the regular flow of commercial trains was Tarkovsky-esque. That taking one out of normal time really worked for Chicago's psychedelic prog band Crown Lark as well as the Connecticut-based shoegaze/post-rock ambient band Landing.

Below are many more scenes from both nights of Goldrush, but highlighted is the video work of Curt Heiner. During this most recent Goldrush, Heiner brought the outside flavor of gritty Denver and Colorado inside. It was like he found the essence of a Denver not yet conquered by redevelopment and made it part of the whole presentation.

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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.

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