Mouth House, located at 2858 California Street, was host to the most eclectic shows in the DIY circuit. From 2011 to 2013, it had a festival called Festibowl that included comedy and the kind of music you weren't going to often find playing in bars or more commercial venues. It wasn't just punk, it wasn't just metal or grind or noise or whatever. Mouth House welcomed all kinds of music without prejudice. Probably some locally popular band could have played there, but it seems like few tried to book a show at the place. In 2013 the Mouth House schedule slowed down, and toward the end of the year the denizens of the building had to vacate because there were other plans for the premises. The building is still there somehow occupied as a residence, but the only remnant left of Mouth House's former glory is Mouth Bomb Records, the recording and record label run in part by Clay Dehaan. What follows is not a definitive record of the bands that played and lived at Mouth House but rather a handful of the shows I got to see and play myself.
One thing that made Mouth House and the people that ran it unique was how it really did engage with the rest of the underground music community and worked with Rhinoceropolis, Seventh Circle Music Collective/Blast-O-Mat and even Carioca Café (Bar Bar) in making shows happen if something fell through or if some gear was needed. Here Alphabets performs at an early show. Colin Ward and Stefan Herrera both live (or lived, in Herrera's case) at Rhinoceropolis.
Cougarpants was an experimental pop band with some elements of jazz underlying its compositional sensibility. Jessica Hughes played drums and did some vocals and brought some art world perspective on the music. Robin Walker played various stringed instruments, often ukulele, and her brilliant and versatile vocals made the duo a real standout. Hughes also contributed greatly to Denver music culture as a curator of shows at downtown Denver location of the Dikeou Collection.
ZOO was a touring indie pop band. Good luck finding information on the group on the Internet unless you know where exactly to look.
Blue Valley Farmer was like a folk or old-timey music band from Oklahoma. It has since relocated to Baltimore.
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Claudine Rousseau was the electrifying singer and guitarist in Sin Desires Marie. She has also been known to sit in with other projects from time to time and also currently plays in the post-punk-esque band The Big Get Even. On rare occasions, as in this picture, Rousseau plays beautiful, atmospheric, moody music solo.
Before turning Jack's Smirking Revenge into an excellent full band, Alex Peliserro played some of the same songs solo with the same passion and humor. He once lived at a Boulder DIY venue called The Danger Zone.
It's only fitting that avant-garde pop songwriter and comic artist Sara Century appears multiple times in this list with various projects, because she sure booked a lot of shows at Mouth House and recorded one of her records with Mouth Bomb. Here she is looking mock (or not) horrified at the cat decorations that seemed to strewn all along the ceiling.
This is Sara Century's experimental post-punk band Night Nurses with Valerie Franz (perhaps better known as the talented vocalist and guitarist in NIght of Joy) and Tana Thornock.
Chuck Potashner had a handful of excellent pop bands while he was living in Denver. Originally from San Diego, Potashner was affiliated with legendary DIY venue The Ché Cafe. When he was going to college at CU Boulder he was involved with other DIY spaces including the Phallus Palace, Manatee Manor and The Outer Space. The band most people probably saw that he fronted was team AWESOME! Here he performs with Shaky Molars, his last full time band (Perfume Man aside--it didn't play as many shows) before moving out of the country to the UK.
Great White Buffalo is an L.A.-based melodic indie rock band. Seeing a band like this in the Mouth House living room was proof that bands with clear commercial potential could play this venue as well.
Gusher is an Albuquerque-based rock band that isn't short on an expressively ragged emotionalism.
Along with Triplip, Red vs. Black was one of the house bands of Mouth House. Clay Dehaan played bass and sang and comedian Sam Tallent played drums and sang as well. A bit like Minutemen and just as confrontational in their own way, Red vs. Black was one of the best non-cliché punk bands of that time.
BIRTH! was the confrontational post-punk/industrial/hardcore project of Douglas Halbert. The latter had been a member of the great Denver death rock band Radio Scarlet around a decade ago.
The great Seattle psych/prog band Midday Veil had been to Denver on a prior occasion but seeing the band at a house venue was something special. Check out the band's label Translinguistic Other and all the great music it's been involved in getting out there.
Experimental post-punk band Tollund Men mostly played DIY venues so it's not too surprising the band played at Mouth House.
Avant-garde ambient/folk/psych band 3 Moons has graced Denver stages every year for the last few and it seemed to fit right in with the Mouth House vibe.
Noise/doom artist Michael Amason spent some time exploring Denver during his wandering around the country and taking his sonic mayhem with him for the ride.
Architect might be considered something like an indie pop band but more experimental than that. It is now called Milk Blossoms and is currently working on its next record.
Between Youth is Valerie Franz's experimental guitar/soundscaping project. She was one of the main reasons the Meadowlark Bar's open mic got some of the weirder artists to come down and play once in a while. She is also a sound person extraordinaire who worked sound at Rock Island for a while before the club closed its doors including doing sound at a show with From First To Last, Skrillex's old post-hardcore act.
Crablab is the kind of noise/soundscaping project of Katie Taylor who now co-runs Hamsterdam and writes songs and plays/sings in Future Single Mom.
Finally, this is Sara Century performing her bizarro pop music at Mouth House. It was the final show I got to see at the place and I miss it already.
*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
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.