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In the April 18, 1996, edition of this column, Kurt Ottoway explained why he was putting the knife to Twice Wilted, a seminal Denver band that he had brought into existence a full nine years earlier. "I think it was an inevitable slow kill," Ottoway told me at the time. "We had the band on life support and just kept plugging in new members. In the end, though, everybody just realized that we were sticking together out of loyalty--but as far as doing what we wanted to do as individuals, it really wasn't happening." He added that he would be moving to San Francisco because of the community's "vibrant" music scene and expected to put together a combo shortly after his arrival: "I've laid the groundwork for it, anyway. It's very formative, very larval at this point. But I'm definitely going to do something soon."

Today Ottoway, who's back in Denver, concedes that things didn't work out in quite the way he had envisioned. "I was there for a year," he says, "and I became so frustrated by the cliques and ruts and cliches. Out there it's basically do nothing, take a lot of drugs and then try and get your music played somehow--and I can't do that. Besides, being away helped me realize in a really big way that my soul is here in Denver. I've been part of this place for so long that I can feel this super-cool jolt of dark energy as soon as I step on the ground."

Our town had other advantages, too. Ottoway struggled for six months to assemble an act in the Bay Area without success, but within days of his return to Colorado, he already had the makings of a new group, which has been dubbed Tarmints! Featuring bassist Julie Schliebner, who goes by the handle Mint Julep, guitarist Robert Jamison (aka Class A Bobby J) and onetime 40th Day drummer Bryon Bean, the outfit is "more of an R&B, stripped-down, Tom Waits kind of thing than Twice Wilted ever was," says Ottoway. "I spent a solid year writing songs and putting material together, and what I was trying to do was to get away from what I was and innovate--just be different."

Of course, Ottoway realizes that Tarmints!, which opens for volplane on Saturday, November 15, at Seven South, will be compared to Twice Wilted. "That's just the way people are," he allows. "But they're not the same kinds of things at all. We're a pretty dark band, but we also have a lot of fun now, and we try to mix it up a little bit. We cover so many different kinds of tempos and different kinds of rhythms. It's like a raw nerve."

Thus far, Ottoway's enthusiasm about Tarmints! has helped prevent him from feeling any regrets over Twice Wilted's demise. Although he understands that starting over won't be easy, he's glad that the slate is clean. "Twice Wilted just got to be so much of a responsibility," he says. "Business, money, the whole thing: It got so huge and bloated that I just needed to get back to the reason I wanted to play music in the first place.

"I have a burning desire inside myself to play music. In a lot of ways, it's the death of a sane, normal life. But if I don't play, I get sick--literally. So I guess, so to speak, I'm just a rock-and-roll thug."

Pat Gill, a member of Westword profile subject '76 Pinto ("Spirit of '76," February 20), sent me a note about a couple of the shows set to include his musical vehicle: Thursday, November 13, at the Bluebird Theater, and Saturday, November 15, at Area 39, with Scroat Belly, a neo-country quartet from Kansas whose fine CD, Daddy's Farm, was released by Chicago's acclaimed Bloodshot label. At the bottom of the missive, Gill wrote, "Things have been getting weird with personalities in the band. This may be one of the last chances to catch us live." Can this marriage be saved?

E-Town, the popular National Public Radio program that tapes at the Boulder Theater, is getting into the CD business. E-Town Live, which includes performances by Lyle Lovett and other famous people, will be unveiled on Sunday, November 16, at a party that follows a Boulder Theater show starring Lisa Loeb and Taj Mahal. The public is encouraged to drop by. That surprises you, doesn't it?

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts