Pete Bell's Rhinoceropolis documentary offers insightful look at Denver's underground culture

Sometime in 2011, a high-school student named Pete Bell started filming shows at Rhinoceropolis as part of a documentary project for his video class. Interviewing many of the people who made the place what it was and others who played there or documented the happenings of the last several years (including yours truly), Bell put together a unique and surprisingly accurate portrait of the most high-profile DIY venue in Denver of the last half-decade and more, called Neon Savant & the Silent Trajectory.

"It was tied between doing it about Rhinoceropolis or just Denver music in general," says Bell about the origins of the film. "But I thought doing the music scene in general would be a little too broad. I wanted to kind of narrow it down to one particular place and just a small set of characters that the audience could follow -- kind of tag along with their story."

A fan of adventurous cinema like the work of Takashi Miike and underground music, Bell discovered Rhinoceropolis after seeing that bands he had started to discover on his own, like Lightning Bolt and HEALTH, were playing there. "I was getting really bored of just conventional rock music," he recalls, "so I started looking elsewhere."

In a stroke of rare fortune, Bell was able to shoot the final Hot White show, some of which can be seen in the movie, alongside interviews with the band. From the first time Bell filmed and did interviews, it was obvious that he didn't have exploitative intentions, and that level of trust can be seen throughout the footage. Honest and audacious, Bell has created one of the definitive documents of Denver underground culture.

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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.