Friday night's DIY or Die Fest was a first for dual venues Astroland and Drala in Boulder, but the smoothness of this Halloween operation said otherwise. I had yet to be a visitor to either space for recent shows, but my first impression was a beyond pleasant one. There was a simple five-dollar cover for the two stages, smoking directed outside, drinking inside. The fluctuation of bodies stayed tolerable throughout the night, the bands ruled, and the vibe was celebratory and silly -- by all accounts, a total success.
I wandered in just as Lust-Cats of the Gutters were setting up -- guitarist/vocalist Robin Edwards was dressed as Pippi Longstocking, and drummer/vocalist Alex Edgeworth donned a well-worn blood-stained bunny suit with an antique diver helmet on top.
The crowd barreled toward the Lust-Cats, and the duo pushed back with newer tracks like "Psychic Safari," "Toxic Pool" and "Oh Archie," from their upcoming, yet-to-be titled album. Sweaty, shirtless Draculas smashed cat people and sexy-whatevers together, and a crowd surfer or two even made it up, sandwiched between hands and ceiling fans.
Early on in the set, Edgeworth tore open a pint of fake blood and poured it down her face, saturating the remainder of her furry suit before taking the lead on a droney doo-wop version of The Misfits' "Some Kinda Hate."
The Drala side where the Lust-Cats were playing was quite a different scene from the neighboring Astroland -- haphazardly decorated like the set of a lost Lisa Loeb video, bunches of dried roses were strapped to the walls with tape, airy panels of fabric dripping down the sides.
Colorado Springs' Conjugal Visits were next, ditching their usual jail garb for bloody mummy attire. Beer and asshole remarks flew from the band, but as usual, it was all in good fun. "Goodnight" and "Monica" came spliced with plenty of crowd insults, inciting laughter, howls, and fists in the air.
I wandered over to Astroland to catch part of Gangcharger's set, pushing to the front to catch a glimpse of the band I had yet to see live. I couldn't find myself to be interested in anything but Paige Peterson's sparkly plastic locks hovering over a toy Barbie guitar -- an instrument she swapped periodically with another sound-manipulating contraption. Gangcharger's sound filled the room, rising much warmer and brighter than their recordings, but remained heavy and haunting and most importantly, loud.
The Omens closed my evening, the crowd inside Astroland now at full capacity, heaving in towards the quartet's microphones. There couldn't have been a better end to the garage-centric Halloween fest -- The Omens veteran status came through in the quake of their presence, costume-less but draped handsomely in black.
Songs like "You Can't Come Back" enabled the band's psychedelic horror sound to take over, given big legs by punctuated organ and a chugging guitar. From the smart assemblage of bands to the well-run door and inclusive vibe, Astroland's DIY or Die Fest proved to be a strong start to the holiday weekend, and hopefully a sign of rad fall shows to come.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Like many bands in Denver, Lust-Cats of the Gutters are friends and contemporaries -- and hands down one of my favorite local acts of the last decade. In the dozens of times I've seen the Lust-Cats, Edwards and Edgeworth are work with the weird energy thrown at them from audiences, but they always handle it with positive sonic feedback and grace. Random Detail: As promised via Facebook, there were, in fact, tacos for sale at the show. By the Way: My favorite costume of the night (aside from Alex Edgeworth's bloody bunny) was her boyfriend, Goochi Boiz' bassist Francis Carr -- dressed as Gallagher.
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