High Plains Underground Archive

Denver Does Denver Proved the Lack of Barriers in the Local Scene

In 2009 and 2010, Yuzo Nieto of Pink Hawks and Adam Gildar put together a festival of a different stripe: The concept was that Denver bands covered songs by their own favorite Denver bands. The result was an eclectic and affectionate affair featuring obscure and more well-known artists.

The covers were only sometimes faithful, but the larger point was something like expanding awareness of local music and cultivating a greater sense of community and solidarity in the Denver scene generally, the final two years of which is preserved in part in the snapshots here. The Flobots, Mike Marchant and Houses participated in the 2010 Denver Does Denver, but I wasn't able to shoot pictures. Also not pictured is Slight Harp, which covered Pictureplane. (For the sake of posterity, Marchant covered the Pseudo Dates).

See also: Seven of Denver's Most Underrated Bands

Denver Does Denver 2009

Pictured here is Brittany Gould, whose experimental, vocal sound-scaping project Married in Berdichev was well-regarded in that realm of music. She did covers of her friend Milton Melvin Croissant III, with whom she once lived at Rhinoceropolis. Croissant's music was then largely vocals, loops and guitar, and Gould's reinterpretation of his music was actually fairly faithful.

Pictureplane was, at this time, on the rise to being known nationally and internationally and he performed some 3OH!3 songs with a sense of humor and a bit of respect for the songcraft involved. One of the songs he performed was the tongue-in-cheek "Punk Bitch."

Safe Boating Is No Accident, no strangers to inspired live music pranking, did covers of older Pictureplane songs including "Day Glowwed." No other theatrics, for which the band was notorious, happened this night.

Weird Turns Prose collaborated with the Tanukis and performed each other's songs in a kind of joint set. It was a bit different from the usual order of things for this event but also fairly original. Denver Does Denver 2010

A Setting Science was one of Mark Shusterman's side projects. At that time he was the talented keyboard player in Widowers. For this show he didn't cover another band so much as provide an alternative soundtrack for a black and white film about a circus in Denver in the 1930s.

Oblio's Arrow was an excellent Americana band of that time. These guys covered songs by the like-minded Los Dos and the New American Ramblers.

Hunter Adams performing as Hunter Dragon used some hip-hop beats and a vocoder to cover Dominic and Arthur Play The Hits and Friends. The latter was an old project of Bald Eagles' Dominic Esparza. Adams treated us to a "hidden" track by covering 50 Cent with his voice pitched chipmunk high.

Jason Cain performed solo shows as well as with his experimental rock band Astrophagus at that time. For Denver Does Denver, Cain covered songs by his friend Hunter Dragon as well as good-humored take on a John Denver song.

Aenka free-jazzed-up some Laura Goldhamer material beyond the recognition.

Night of Joy was going to cover either Hideous Men or Lust-Cats of the Gutters. It ended up being the latter, but instead of something straight ahead it was a more doom or grunge or at least heavier, anyway, versions of "Cemetary," "Revenge Bikini Body" and "Nothing Cool Ever Happens On Dates." Also, the band played a cover of T. Rex's "Cadillac." But who's counting?

Hideous Men got a little ambitious and did covers of both Night of Joy and Milton Melvin Croissant III. Feigning messing up on NOJ's "Concrete Jungle" and MMCIII's "Blizzaga" and "Books On Tape," Hideous Men peppered its synth-based covers with sardonic humor.

*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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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.