It's funny," says Keith Curts of Glass Hits. "It's been said a million times, and I know it's completely trite, but punk totally did save my life, because I found people somehow, the people that became my friends, that came from broken homes or were latchkey kids."
Growing up in Dallas, Curts had a troubled home life, and in the late '80s, he moved to Longmont. "It was the first time I was able to live without that fear," he recalls. "I kind of got into a lot of things, and drugs was one of them. But I also got into all kinds of different music and skateboarding and all kinds of things I had never experienced before. Back then, skateboarding and punk went hand in hand."
Curts ended up moving back for a short spell to Dallas, where he lived with an aunt and uncle. He caught his first real punk show there, at Deep Ellum Live, where he witnessed Fugazi up close and personal. That band provided an introduction to a variety of music beyond the realms of punk rock, and it was through that music that Curts was able to forge the kind of healthy relationships that some people can take for granted in their lives. He ultimately moved back to Longmont, where he graduated from high school and formed a band with Andy Rothbard called So Far Gone. While Rothbard moved on to bands like the VSS, Slaves and Pleasure Forever, that early high-school group served as a starting point for Curts and his friends to become involved in the Boulder scene of the early to mid-'90s, which included outfits like Small Dog Frenzy, Bell Jar and Angel Hair.
Glass Hits record-release show, with Cadaver Dog, No Stairway, Negative Degree and Cannons, 9 p.m. Friday, February 24, Rhinoceropolis, 3553 Brighton Boulevard, $5, 303-641-9809.
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"I think that was one of the pivotal moments," says Curts. "I remember standing next to my friend Dan and saying, 'This has to be the angriest band I've ever seen in my life.'" From that point on, he became friends with everyone in that small but vibrant scene, many of whose members went on to impact not just punk-rock bands in Colorado, but, especially with Sonny Kay's GSL imprint, underground music in general from the '90s until the label dissolved, in 2007.
In 1996, there was a mass exodus from Boulder of many of the bands that made up Curts's circle of friends. Curts took the opportunity to store his possessions indefinitely at his father's house and go on a road trip with friends, including long-running underground-culture supporter Sarah Slater. He landed in San Francisco with just a backpack of his things and a pair of shoes hanging from the bottom. In the Bay Area, he found his way to Epicenter, a volunteer-run record store. "I opened the door, and it literally creaked," Curts remembers. "There's a record going, it stops, and everyone's looking at me." Curts asked if they needed any volunteers, and one of those volunteers, Brian Willson, mocked his words to his face. But in the end, the two became fast friends, sharing a love of the same music as well as similar rough and sometimes nomadic pasts.
For his part, Willson was originally from northern New Hampshire; his parents, in trouble with the law, had moved the family all over the country. He ended up in the Bay Area, working at Epicenter. Growing up, he'd played in bands, too, and before long, he and Curts were playing together, most notably in a group called P.S. Burn This Letter. It was through that connection that Willson and Curts wound up in Colorado in the late '90s: The drummer's father lived in Denver, where all of the future members of Glass Hits would eventually converge.
Around that same time, a younger bassist named Greg Daniels was becoming immersed in the fraternal realm of punk, cutting his teeth in a Denver band called Fifty Degrees. Despite the fact that that band "was garbage," Daniels says, Fifty Degrees played with the Promise Ring at the now-defunct record store Double Entendre, which was owned and run by Paul Kane, who served as a mentor of sorts to Daniels and his friends. For them, Kane's store became a gateway into the world of underground music.
Daniels eventually formed a group with some friends called Eiffel, which caught a break early on when they played a snowboarding-related event in Boulder: A friend of a friend got them hooked up with Volcom Entertainment, which financed the band's early releases. Volcom later convinced Eiffel to change its name because of French eurodisco phenoms Eiffel 65, and so the act changed its name to Vaux and, through the efforts of the band's lawyer/manager at the time, signed to Atlantic Records. "It was really surreal, actually," Daniels notes, recalling how the band ate a lot of free sushi and hung out on top of the Capitol Records building before inking its major-label deal.
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After spending a summer in Seattle writing what would become the 2006 album Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice, the group was flown to England for five weeks of recording with Garret Lee before mixing with Dave Sardy in America. Vaux was subsequently dropped when Atlantic's management changed, but was left with the rare option of releasing the album it had poured thousands of dollars into producing. The band remained intact for another year or two, then parted ways with a final show in the summer of 2007.
During Daniels's run with Vaux, Curts had moved back to San Francisco to be involved in various musical projects, while Willson stayed behind and played in the band Midcentury with his wife, Yoon Park of Sin Desires Marie, and the short-lived Warsaw Surrenders with old friends Jose Piza and Dave Beckhouse. When it came time to replace the bass player in that band, Willson recruited Daniels, who was freshly without a project. In a stroke of good fortune, Curts had moved back to Denver just then to go to school and was playing in various bands. When he got ahold of some demos from what would later become Glass Hits, the sound clicked immediately with him, harking back to the post-hardcore of his past. After some prodding from Willson, Curts joined the band, and from the start, the chemistry was immediate, as was the sense of belonging.
"I feel a real support from them that I've never really felt in a band," Curts points out. "There have been times in bands where you kind of look around and judge by their responses, but these guys just always seem really into it, so it's cool."
Punk rock must have saved their lives, too.