Music Festivals

Hi-Dive Hullabaloo: Your Friendly, Neighborhood Garage-Rock Fest

The Hi-Dive Hullabaloo will return this weekend for two days of music and festivities at the South Broadway venue. The small festival began in 2010 with the simple intention of bringing together bands made up of friends who held like-minded aesthetics but rarely got to play the same bill.

Tom Nelsen, then-drummer for the garage/punk band Vicious Women, and Chris Houghton, singer for the Velveteen Loveseat, reached out to Ben DeSoto, who was the hi-dive’s booking manager at the time, to plan the first Hullabaloo. The event — which featured bands from Denver’s garage-rock, punk and rock-and-roll scenes, including Dressy Bessy, Bluebelle, the Manxx, Lust-Cats of the Gutters, Conjugal Visits and Glass Hits — was a success that year and again the next. Cau$metic Ink screenprinted posters to commemorate the fest in 2011.

The event’s name is a reference to the 1960s musical variety television show Hullabaloo, and for Nelsen, it harked back to his early exposure to music from bands like Spirit, Led Zeppelin and Quicksilver Messenger Service, not to mention an era of dance crazes and stripped-down, unpretentious music.

Despite the success of the Hullabaloo, there were no grandiose plans to turn it into anything bigger. After that initial two-year run, Nelsen felt he had accomplished what he’d set out to do: bring the community together and share music. He focused on other pursuits and hasn’t been involved in the event since, but he says he has no qualms about the current incarnation using the name.

In 2015, the hi-dive’s owners revived the concept, but called it Garage Fest. It featured the same format, roughly the same kinds of bands, and the same goal of bringing a music community together under one roof. The name, however, just didn’t have the same ring.

“‘Hullabaloo’ sounds better,” says hi-dive booker Curtis Wallach, who plays in Hang Rounders. “I wanted to keep it local — one, because we have such diverse talent that it’s easy to do so. It costs so much to bring in a national act, and we could use that money to have a better party and pay the local bands more money.”

As in past years, the Hullabaloo will span two nights, but the bill includes a manageable number of diverse bands so that festival-goers won’t get burned out. For example, the unusual and ferociously energetic Ned Garthe Explosion headlines Friday night, and fuzzy, rootsy rock act Rootbeer and Mermentau headlines Saturday — proof that Hullabaloo reflects an anything-but-narrow conception of garage rock.

Friday Night Lineup
Ned Garthe Explosion
Best Creeps
The Plates
The Ghoulies

Saturday Night Lineup
Rootbeer and Mermentau
Trash Canyon
Major Sports
shiii whaaa
Holy Fear
The Natural Facts

The Hi-Dive Hullabaloo happens this Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18, at the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway.
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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.