Hellgrammites and Creature Canopy Bring You Puppets on the Rocks

The Jelly Pupps is a band on the brink of implosion.EXPAND
The Jelly Pupps is a band on the brink of implosion.
Troy Ten Eyck
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Crippling fruit-snack addiction has precipitated the demise of more bands than we’d like to admit. Well, at least bands whose members are puppets.

That’s one of the central conflicts among members of the Jelly Pupps, a fictional band that will “share the bill” with the Denver punks in Hellgrammites and electronic outfit Creature Canopy during a livestreamed concert and in-person watch party on Friday, June 18. The two bands — both made up of actual people — will play a few songs broken up by scenes of puppets dealing with the drama befalling them.

“There is something about having a punk-rock puppet,” says Hellgrammites member Lehi Petersen. “They can say things normal puppets can’t say. The script handles a lot of classic struggles that bands have.”

Creature Canopy's Cody Troyer confirms that one of the puppets is hooked on fruit snacks; in addition, not everyone in the Jelly Pupps is in love with the band’s name or the direction the band is headed in. Chaos ensues. The Jelly Pupps will break up during the course of the concert.

“All of the puppets — all of their differences of opinion are presented in the same song in a dream of the lead singer,” Troyer explains.

The idea for a puppet show/concert arose out of a desire for continued creativity during the kind-of-over/still-in-progress COVID pandemic, says Petersen, who admits to having developed a keen interest in puppets during last year's lockdowns. He had too much time, little to do, and kids in the house who demanded entertainment — and that fascination eventually morphed into the idea for the show.

“We weren’t able to play out live,” he says. “We saw some other bands putting together livestream events. We wanted to put one on that was unique, that offered more to the audience and something that would be challenging to us.”

The members of Hellgrammites enlisted their longtime friends in Creature Canopy, and the puppet show turned into several months of rather intense stagecraft.

“We're still in the midst of it,” says Troy Ten Eyck of Hellgrammites. “Literally all my time has been dedicated to this. [Troyer] and I are in the industry. I’m the cinematographer, and Cody does sound design. So after we spent a long day on set, we would go home and literally play with puppets until 11 p.m. at night.”

It was a physically demanding project, with members of both bands crouching into myriad uncomfortable positions so they could work the puppets. There have been reports of mild carpal tunnel and tendonitis from at least one participant. To hear the musicians describe it, the production sounds like an ongoing game of Twister from hell.

“If there were four of us talking in the scene, we had to block it and figure out how to keep all of our bodies out of it,” Troyer says. “We had feet in each other's faces and heads and armpits and stuff.”

They didn’t have the budget to construct puppet-sized sets, so everything was done with full-sized couches, tables and what have you. A lot of the action was filmed at the Oriental Theater, where the bands also recorded their sets.

“We kind of just kept doing the next thing in front of us,” Troyer says of the production. “It’s been a lot more of a project than we thought it was going to be. We're all pretty proud of it.”

Petersen says the bands wanted to give people the option of watching the event from home or going out into the world if they feel comfortable doing so. Kuma's Corner in RiNo is hosting the live-watch party and cooking up a Hellgrammites-themed burger for the occasion.

The pandemic revealed livestreaming to be a viable medium for bands, adds Petersen, and Hellgrammites and Creature Canopy want to show that it can be done in a very DIY manner.

That's not to say it was easy.

“It’s a lot of fucking work,” he says. “It’s a lot of late nights. But this is the future of music, and we are trying to help guide music in that direction. And that’s what punk rock is: It’s thinking about what no one else has ever done before and going the next step.”

The Hellgrammites, Creature Canopy and Jelly Pupps concert livestreams at 7 p.m. June 18; tickets, $10 plus fees, are available at hellgrammites.ticketleap.com. A live watch party will take place at Kuma's Corner, 3500 Delgany Street, from 6 to 9 p.m. the same day; call 720-500-5077 to reserve a table. Hellgrammites drop their debut LP, I am Omega, on July 16 at the Oriental Theater, with Sharone and Valdez. Tickets start at $10 and are available at the Oriental Theater website.

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