Music News

Live From Denver

Almost six months after David Fox invited a couple dozen people -- and seven local bands -- into his Alley Studio space in Northwest Denver for an initial round of recordings, 2000: LiveDenverComp is ready to see the light of release. The compilation is the first offering from Fox's new Studio X label, and while his reputation as a local producer might lead listeners to expect an impeccable recording, to do so would be to miss the point. The release, which could have been called Cricket's Hideaway, or Herman on the Hill, captures seventeen Denver-based bands doing what comes naturally in a live setting without the aid of overdubs or studio airbrushes. The result is a mix of the good, the bad and the occasional ugly. In each case, though, 2000: LiveDenverComp provides an authentic sample of some of Denver's more visible acts (Brethren Fast, Love .45, Blister 66, The Indulgers, Blastoff Heads) and lesser-knowns (Petrol Apathy, the Wigfarmers, A-Town Click) in the wild.

Still, the seeming simplicity of the record's production raises the question: What the hell took so long? Fox says Comp's evolution from a mere daydream to a digital reality was a fairly slow one for a couple of reasons. After the first recording session, he left town for six weeks to sail the world as a big-band drummer on a luxury cruise liner. "It was wild," he says. "I saw monkeys. But those people who think that kind of gig is easy are wrong. Those players are serious -- they don't tolerate mistakes." Perhaps not coincidentally, upon his return, Fox realized that his notion of gathering a simple collection of live takes wouldn't be as easy as he'd thought. Four more sessions followed, with an average of four bands recording per night. And the sounds that made their way to tape didn't match up with Fox and his crew's usual studio-enhanced recording standards. "I was putting like sixteen live mikes in the room where the bands played, and all of the players would be in there, and they'd just do it. Normally when we record [at Alley Studios], we'll have the drums in one room, the bass in another, etc. It was difficult for me, because I tend to be so critical. I'm still not satisfied with many of the masters.

"But some of them are banging," he adds.

Less than two weeks prior to 2000: Live DenverComp's slated release, Fox is still fiddling with the mixes, trying to get them... just...right before having 1,000 copies pressed at a duplication company in Omaha. (It's ironic that Fox, who's been vocal on the importance of supporting the local music industry, chose an out-of-state company to do the job, but he says it's a matter of simple economics. "No one in Denver is doing this affordably," he says.)

Compounding Fox's obsession with sound, the life of LiveDenverComp was also threatened by the simple fact that musicians tend to be an egotistical lot. The thought of a raw performance forever committed to plastic and distributed far and wide gave some bandmembers a serious case of the willies. Each band was granted three shots at recording a sparkling rendition of one tune; after a few sloppy bar chords here and flat notes there, those giving less than perfect performances seemed ready to pull a beer from the keg and run for the hills. Fox, who's probably had to develop a keen sense of patience after all these years as a producer -- can you imagine how many drumchecks the guy's been through? -- eventually managed to convince everyone involved to stick with the project.

"It's gotten to the point where the bands seem excited. They want to release it," he says. "But it's hard for them to be behind it as much as they would have if I'd brought them in and done a massive studio production. It's hard to be naked."

LiveDenverComp will makes its debut at a party at the Gothic Theatre on Tuesday, February 29. After that, the compilation will make the rounds to area record stores and -- who knows? -- possibly the kind of folks who can make all the dreams of the bands involved come true.

"This album has what I feel is pretty well close to the biggest portion of the popular bands in town. I'd like to concentrate on marketing it correctly in Colorado: Denver first, Colorado after. Really, the likelihood of a compilation like this being of interest to anyone outside of Colorado is slim, but maybe someone local with connections will hear it and pass it on to someone else. I mean, if someone doesn't sign one of these bands from Denver sooner or later, it's just ludicrous. People don't think that there's talent out here, but give me a break. I think this CD proves there's some bands here who are worthy."

Fans and local-music industrialists can judge for themselves on Tuesday night at the Gothic, where Brethren Fast, Emilio Emilio, the Wigfarmers, Love .45, Rocket Ajax, the A-Town Click and Sick will each perform twenty-minute sets in celebration of DenverLiveComp's birthday.

Speaking of Sick, the band recently received the goody news that it has made it to the regional finals in the Musicland/Sam Goody Bandemonium competition sponsored by SFX, the concert-promotion monster company. The Brighton-based band will compete against Utah's Sand as co-openers for Oleander at the Ogden Theatre on Friday, February 25. (Apparently, the competition is limited to bands with one-word names.) Should Sick infect the judges, the band will be eligible for an upcoming final round in Panama City, Florida. While Sam Goody's publicist insists that the goal of the competition is to provide participants a shot at the rock-star fame they so clearly covet, he was also kind enough to relay Musicland's NYSE index code. Stockbrokers, it seems, like to rock as much as anyone.

More news of note: On Thursday, February 24, Scott Campbell of the 15th Street Tavern will wish a fond farewell to local scribe Jeff Stratton, who's leaving a post as the Denver editor of The Onion's A.V. Club to take the music-editor position with New Times Broward/Palm Beach in Florida. Yes, ol' Jeffy's been snatched up by the very company that owns Westword and will be making the big move to the coastal town any minute now. Stratton, who served as entertainment editor at the Boulder Weekly before becoming Onionized, is a man who knows how to go out in style: The free show at the Tavern, headlined by The Perry Weissman 3, will be one of his last stops before splitting.

And splitting off in an amoeba-like fashion are Gary Norris and Patrick Robinson, who might be best known to those who lurk in the dark at the Skylark Lounge as hosts of "Burn-Out," hanging around turntables and spinning a fabulously diverse mix of garage, mod, punk and '60s surf tunes. (Astute readers might also recall "The Vinyl Solution," July 22, 1999.) As part of Burn Denver Down Productions, Norris and Robinson have been doing Saturday nights at the Skylark for two years now. (Beginning March 1, however, Burn-Out will move to Wednesday night.) Last year, the pair expanded its spinning schedule to include "Heliotrope," an on-again, off-again engagement at the Streets of London Pub, at 1501 East Colfax. Most recently, the DJs decided to take their non-traditional stylings into the rest of the weekend with "Freak Beat," their new weekly gig Sunday nights at La Rumba. Since the beginning of the year, the pair has been spinning loungecore and swinger music -- "anything that you'd see on the old Stereophonic soundtrack albums from the '60s," as Norris puts it -- in the club's back room from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. La Rumba's choice in furniture -- huge, vinyl-covered couch/lounge-chair things -- seems perfect for the Freak Beat vibe, and though Norris says people have been known to do some dancing on the floor during their sets, he and Robinson have yet to encounter anyone attempting to salsa to the sound. "I think the word has gotten out pretty quickly that this night's a little different from the usual La Rumba stuff," he says. Sounds like a hell of a way to close a week.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond