Inevitably, in a music community, some of the people who write about music for local publications will also be musicians — and because of the conflict of interest, if you happen to fall into both categories, there's a good chance that your project or your band will not be covered during your tenure as a journalist. You also fall into a strange realm of being part of the music world while commenting on it and shining a light on music that you find interesting and noteworthy.
What favoritism exists seems to be based largely on who you know and the circles you run in and what a writer knows about. And, honestly, who wants to read an article by someone who has no clue as to what they're writing about? Those of us who are part of both the writing-about-music world and the music world itself naturally come to know the community and its virtues and pitfalls, the characters and the politics as well as the nuances and the richness of detail that exist. It's an invaluable perspective, but it comes at the expense of your own musical efforts being recognized, even if your project or band are doing something interesting, innovative and socially positive. That situation is further cemented by the fact that when your own publication doesn't write up your band, others tend not to, either. Your efforts can go completely undocumented and your existence largely whitewashed from the narrative of what's going on in your city.
As a gesture to correct this situation, I am offering photos of bands that some of Westword's scribes have been involved in since I started taking pictures regularly. It's certainly not
*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.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
- Seven of Denver's Most Underrated Bands
- Wolf Eyes' John Olson Talks About the Importance of Music Communities
- Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene
- DIY or Die: Why Denver Need Under-The-Radar, All-Ages Arts Spaces
If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.