It is known that there are still several hundred bodies somewhere beneath the surface of Cheesman Park, which was a burial ground during the late nineteenth century. Many of the dead were re-interred at Riverside Cemetery, but plenty remain. If there is a haunted place in the heart of Denver, this is likely it.
Sitting in the nearby Gypsy House Cafe, the members of Denver band Fingers of the Sun plot their attempt to connect with the ghosts that supposedly still roam the park. "I like to think there's more than what meets the eye to what's going on in the world," says singer and guitarist Nathan Brazil. "I always kind of hold out that there's something more than death and taxes."
On Saturday, July 5 at the hi-dive, the band is releasing What Is This Life?, an album that reconciles its earlier sound (rooted in '60s pop and psychedelia) with the lush arrangements and melancholic but hopeful undertones characteristic of the band's more recent live performances.
The vivid and layered sound should come as no surprise. The band recorded Life at EastWest Recording Studios in Los Angeles, in the same room in which most of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, as well as much of the Mamas & the Papas' oeuvre, was recorded. The group had hoped to capture the energy of this stellar musical lineage in its own recordings.
"I think it's about connecting to something that's right there in front of you," says Brazil. "It's like realizing that you're part of something bigger."
To date, Brazil has had no direct experience with paranormal activity, but he's always enjoyed TV shows about ghost hunting. Singer and bassist Suzi Bromfield, though, had some childhood brushes with things she can't quite explain.
"Growing up in my parents' house, I always had a sense it was haunted," says Bromfield. "A few times my mom heard weird voices or sounds coming from the vents when no one else was home."
The musicians' mission tonight is one they've considered before, but they aren't chasing anything tangible. "I just kind of want to be open to it and seeing it," Brazil says. "It's a nice night, so who knows what other kind of people are going to be out there?"
Brazil, Bromfield and their bandmates -- guitarist Marcus Renninger and keyboard player Jamie Bryant -- sit at Gypsy House and talk about what might be out there. (Singer Meghan Wilson and drummer Fez Garcia couldn't make it.) For the four going hunting tonight, "ghosts" are really the manifestation of the emotional investment of the individuals involved. So any experience, really, is a valid one.
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"Maybe we'll find a bone and smoke it, like Black Sabbath did," jokes Renninger. At Cheesman, there is still an eerie peace and silence, but it's frequently interrupted by revelers, bicycle riders and transients, not to mention low-flying planes. Cars pass intermittently, but the members of Fingers of the Sun are looking for a connection to something older.
This is a group that embraces the artistic spirits that run through its music. The band went rock-and-roll ghost hunting in California, not out of a morbid desire for quasi-religious sonic artifacts, but rather seeking a vibe and resonance. What Is This Life? achieves new coherence and power for a band that has long had both.
"I feel like it's hard to pick up on the energies of the bodies buried here, because there's so much else that has gone on," says Bromfield. "There is so much activity here all the time." She and her bandmates are attempting to sit in the recesses in the grass, which Brazil says may be where the removed graves were supposed to have been. They discover little in the way of the overtly supernatural, but the bodies are down there, somewhere.
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