Music News

Page 27's John Gross recalls angering a man with a peg leg at a show

At this point, John Gross and John Rasmussen are the godfathers of the Denver noise scene. Since starting their long-running noise project Page 27 in 1994 while still in high school, and running their old zine, Lady in the Radiator, Gross and Rasmussen have worked with various collaborators, including, in the last few years, Michael Nowak.

Inspired by weird sounds in general and bands like Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten and Negativland, as well as Japanese noiseniks like K2 and Merzbow, Page 27 has carved a niche for itself as a practitioner of well-sculpted harsh noise — grit-filled soundscaping and melodies in which the structure is sometimes stretched beyond recognition.

In 2010, Gross teamed up with Todd Novosad, another respected figure in the noise community, to put on the Denver Noise Fest, in celebration of the genre's multi-faceted sonic identity. We spoke with the guys in Page 27 about their reception by the general public.

Westword: What have been the most extremely positive and the most extremely negative responses you've received from audiences, seeing as what you do is probably fairly polarizing for people who are not prepared for what they'll experience?

John Gross: I would say one of the most positive things I remember of all time of Page 27 performances was the Dreamtime Festival near Paonia. It's very much like Apogaea, like a local Burning Man-type party, a weekend-long campout, hippie jam, rave or whatever.

We played at like six in the morning with our friend David Thayer and Xeno Volcano from Zurich, Switzerland, and we did a collaboration set. There was a really small group of people there, but it's in this valley, and they had a giant sound system that just projected throughout the valley. So everyone, even people asleep in their tents, could hear us.

Then the next day, at the breakfast, a bunch of people were coming up to us and telling us, "Yeah, that was great! That was so cool. It was the craziest thing!" Somebody told me that when they heard it, they woke up disoriented and went, "Oh, what's going on?" Then they got out of their tent and they saw a UFO. I was like, "That is awesome!" Our live set was the soundtrack to the witness of a UFO.

One of the worst would be when we played at Cricket on the Hill and there was this dude with a peg leg. Not a fake leg, but a peg leg. I don't know if this guy is still around, but he was really upset with us. He was really angry. He got in our faces, and he was screaming, "Turn this shit off! Turn it down! Get off the stage! What are you doing?" He complained to the sound guy and the bartender, and we just kept turning it up. Eventually the bouncer kicked him out. That was one of the more extreme negative reactions that I can remember, but there's been everything in between.

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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.