Cycles Jams With Game-Show Antics

Cycles will bring its improvisational style to Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on October 19.
Cycles will bring its improvisational style to Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on October 19.
Ali Jay Multimedia

Come on down! You’re the next contestant on...Cycles Presents: The Game Show?

Cycles, a freewheeling Denver trio that's big on improvisation, has plans to take the stage at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on October 19 to play two sets, the first of which will be a take on the classic game-show format. Think The Price is Right, if it were scored by a mashup of Phish and Primus.

“There will be musical themes,” says Cycles guitarist Patrick Harvey. “We will spin a wheel, and we will have to play these themes. … It’s going to be like 45 minutes of that — people going on stage and picking these themes while they play games, like Drew Carey on The Price Is Right, but with a band playing psychedelic music.”

For example, Harvey says, one of the twelve or so themes on the wheel will be “Satanic Death Metal,” and contestants, made up of people plucked from the audience, will play games while the band does its best take on the genre. The band, which draws from a wide variety of sources — jazz, fusion, jam bands, hip-hop and heavier rock, to name a few — loves to improvise for much of its sets. With that in mind, a sort of free-for-all game show seemed like the perfect idea.

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“We want to try new stuff every night and see where it goes,” Harvey says. “We play so many shows. You can only feel so good about doing the same thing so many times before you realize it’s just a trick. You don’t want to be a one-trick band. That’s our goal.”

Of course, Harvey says, the risk-taking doesn’t work every time, and the band can sometime fall on its face. That can be nerve-racking, for sure, but not as bad, he says, as having a boring, repetitive stage show.

“I’d rather be as original as I can when we go on stage,” he says. “We always want to keep moving forward. It’s nerve-racking a little. But the reason we want to keep improvising is because we don’t want to be still water. We want to be like a flowing river of music.”

Cycles guitarist Patrick Harvey says improvisation is a big part of his band's sound.
Cycles guitarist Patrick Harvey says improvisation is a big part of his band's sound.
Ali Jay Multimedia

The band formed in 2015 and is currently made up of guitarist Harvey, drummer Collin O’Brien and bassist and vocalist Tucker McClung. Cycles tours frequently, most recently doing some dates on the East Coast. The group will open for jam band Umphrey’s McGee at the Fillmore in December and play some West Coast dates early next year. For a band only about four years old, it's released a large amount of music available through its website and Bandcamp.

Although the band prides itself on no two sets being alike, the game-show idea sprang from a crowd-pleasing song called, aptly, “Game Show,” that has only four words in the entire song.

“It just goes ‘A Brand New Car!,’” band manager Evan Marks says. “That always sort of served as sort of a festive energetic highlight of the show whenever they plug that in.”

The band has played versions of a game show while on tour, mostly after shows and very informally. That could involve, for example, having someone chug wine while people counted down.

The band eventually decided on the spinning wheel of musical themes, one of which is “Old School Techno” and will involve Cycles playing something along the lines of “Sandstorm,” by Finnish DJ Darude. Should that theme come around, three contestants will have to crack open 3,000 glow sticks the band bought and toss them to the crowd while Cycles does a take on bad club music.

“There will be prizes,” he says. “It’s anything from merch to tickets to Cycles show or shows at Cervantes' or random things like trinkets we picked up at thrift stores to a six-month season pass to every show at Cervantes'.”

Unlike a TV game show, however, petty tortures exist for contestants who lose challenges or fail to complete them. Chief among them is the SoulCycle Zone, named after the New York exercise company, which Marks considers cult-like.

“We purchased three vintage ’70s exercise bikes,” Marks says. “If you get up there and refuse to do a challenge, like if you get up on stage and one of the challenges is chugging beer and you don’t want to do that, you go right to the SoulCycle Zone.”

After the game show, Cycles will play a second full set, and Marks says the band will bring along extra lighting and stage effects to make it one to remember.

Of course, no game show is complete without a host, and Dennis Craig, a friend of the band's, has offered to host. To prepare, Craig has been watching classics like The Price Is Right, Pyramid and Family Feud. He and the band have plans to go out and find tacky polyester suits for the occasion.

“Everyone who comes out is going to have a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s going to be interactive whether or not you get picked to be in the game. Everyone will be engaged, and it will be a good time. We don’t know what to expect as much as the fans, to a certain degree. There’s an element of surprise.”

Harvey says that the band has had several meetings to work out details for the game show but is keeping the affair fairly loose in the spirit of improvisation.

“Our training will kick in on this thing,” he says. "We will land on something we don’t know what to do and say, ‘Let’s take it,’” he says. “We really are a team. Touring is training us to be able to be on the spot.”

Cycles Presents: The Game Show, with Chompers and Zeta June, happens at 9 p.m. Saturday, October 19, at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. Tickets are $15 in advance plus fees and available at cervantesmasterpiece.com.

The band has partnered with Joyride Brewing for a beer called Partyboy Passionfruit Kolsch that will be available on tap at the show for one night only. A pair of tickets to every night of Umphrey's McGee's New Year's Eve run at the Fillmore Auditorium, December 27 to December 31, will be raffled off at the end of the game show set. Everyone who enters the venue will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win a pair of tickets for one night of the shows.

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