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Hot Congress is what happens when kindred musicians pool their efforts

Hot Congress doesn't function as a musical collective so much as a support system between friends and compatriots in one strand of the underground music scene in Denver. Beginning in January 2009 with members of a handful of bands, the Congress convened its first meetings and discussed the vision for what its members would accomplish together. A central goal of the group was to release a compilation featuring the bands involved, and from that point, the membership increased to include other bands, poets and visual artists.

The member bands played shows together to raise funds to release that compilation, and the fruit of those efforts culminated in Hot Congress Vol. 1 — surely a representative slice of the scene if ever there was one. We spoke with some of the core organizers about the compilation and the role the group plays in motivating its members.

Westword: Many compilations with similar goals focus on a specific genre of music, but yours seems more diverse, even though it's heavy on indie rock.

Lucas Johannes: That was a happy accident. None of us really sound similar to each other. We've talked since then about going forward in keeping with the eclecticism.

Crawford Philleo: The reason we picked a lot of the bands we did — there were bands we felt that didn't actively promote themselves as much as a lot of other bands, and they weren't getting a lot of press around Denver. All of a sudden you get a lot of awesome musicians together and put a name on it, and people pay attention. We'd like to have an electronic artist on the next comp.

What role does Hot Congress play beyond putting out a compilation and booking shows?

LJ: We officially support each other and push each other to write better songs and put ourselves out there. Give ourselves goals.

CP: That's one of the reasons we picked a couple of bands. For instance, I love Fissure Mystic, but that band drives me crazy because they rarely release anything and they have more songs than most bands in Denver. I thought it was cool to invite them so they kind of had to release something. I wish more people from Denver would put themselves out there and be proud of what they're doing. A lot of people want to shoot each other down.

LJ: What we're doing is helping to provide a positive way for friends to express their joy about each other's music. There's a lot of unnecessary cynicism around.

CP: We're trying to say that's not the whole story about Denver. There is that, but then there are also a lot of cool people doing great stuff like the Long Spoon Collective. I saw a blog comment that called Hot Congress a "crummy, mediocre pop collective" or something. It didn't make any sense to me at all. It just sounded to me like a cheap shot founded on nothing.

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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.

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