High Plains Underground Archive

Gorinto Helped Unify the Denver Experimental Music Scene

When Corey Elbin started Gorinto in April 2010 at The Mercury Café, it was already an extension of his life as a cook at the Denver institution. He had also played in various experimental bands prior to that time and wanted to have an event that would incorporate the worlds of food and music and other art forms into one event. The name Gorinto suggested itself when Elbin was asked for a name for his proposed event to put on the Merc's calendar by the end of a workday, and his co-worker Jeremy Bishop suggested the word as a concept that was even difficult to track down on the Internet. It referred to Japanese Zen garden art made up of stones organized into symbols that stood for the five classic Chinese elements, human enlightenment, virtue, community, creativity, mind expansion and openness. That was a perfect description for Gorinto, which ran for almost two years under Elbin's stewardship as a showcase for innovative music and art and quality food for a reasonable price in the beautiful upstairs room of The Mecury Café, which boasts some of the best sound in the city.

During the nearly three years of its existence, Gorinto was a monthly, high profile outlet for avant-garde music, video art, other visual art and poetry. There were nights when all the musicians came to perform with homemade instruments. Other nights were dedicated to noise and affiliated music. Often analog synth artists were part of shows as well. But it was always a diverse offering and Elbin and the staff of the Mercury toiled above and beyond the call of duty to provide the food to be had. It was undeniably a place where experimental musicians and artists from the peripheries of the Denver scene came to perform together. And it was that spirit of openness that brought the usual suspects, but also those curious to get a taste of the most overlooked and under-appreciated realm of music in Denver at a place that wasn't difficult to find and at which the sound system allowed the artists to be heard as they were meant to be. Here are several scenes from those last two years.

*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.

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.