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Photos: Get to know the people (and tattoos) of Denver's DIY music scene

In a world where you can buy a Dead Kennedys T-shirt at Urban Outfitters, the "punk" label has lost some of its ability to describe anything at all. We spent the past couple of months going to the shows that still embody the genre's original spirit, the ones that now define themselves as DIY and certain kinds of metal as well as punk. We talked to people we met there about how they view their musical community.

And it was rare that we found someone without a tattoo, so we asked about those, too. Some were nods to literary classics or political opinions. Others were memorials to lost loved ones, and more than a few honored the Misfits. We found that the range of tattoos matched the range of people at the shows.

"If you're not accustomed to 'alternatively' dressed individuals, this scene appears intimidating and unwelcoming, but it's the opposite," says Diana Bagdasarova, a student at the University of Colorado Denver. "People will surprise you. Going to DIY venues for shows definitely isn't for everyone, but I believe everyone needs to experience this at least once."

Denver has a number of DIY spaces, including Mutiny Information Cafe, Seventh Circle Music Collective and Rhinoceropolis. Or just ask a punk -- ideally, one who isn't wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt. Below are portraits from the scene; check back in this space tomorrow for close-ups of the tattoos.

Marissa Shevins: Is there a story behind your tattoo?

Megan Dalbey, student: The snakes on my left arm were the first tattoos I got from Karen at Elemental Ink. I literally showed up at her door five years ago or so with a massive Tupperware container with my biggest red-tail boa, Silas, and said, "I'd like this on my arm, please." I think her eyes bugged out, but she was excited about it. The rest of the snakes are variations of my smaller albino red-tail, Skittles, but I had her do them in some random colors to mix it up.

What would you tell those who don't attend shows about the Denver DIY scene?

Whenever I drag friends with me that usually don't attend stuff like this, I usually just tell them to be themselves. Though we can look like a rather intimidating group, we also can be some of the nicest, most accepting people you'll ever meet -- and any of us worthwhile prefer the real you to anything you might think we want to see.

Is there a story behind your tattoo?

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Tyler Ryan, musician: My tattoo is the scribe and initials of J.R.R. Tolkien. As a kid, I did nothing but read Tolkien. Middle-earth was a place where I could escape from the real world, where I felt alienated, alone and misunderstood. It wasn't until I discovered punk music and the DIY scene that that loneliness subsided. Tolkien and punk go hand in hand for me, because they are the only things I can understand, and they make me feel not alone in the world. I still write punk songs about Lord of the Rings, and this tattoo is only the start of an entire LOTR back piece, so suck it!

What would you tell those who don't attend shows about the Denver DIY scene?

The DIY music scene is filled to the brim with people ready to support and help in any way possible with what you are passionate about doing, regardless of the genre. This is not our day job; we don't do it for profit. We do it because we are compelled to. We create and support music because it's what we love to do, and we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves otherwise. If you feel alone or scared or angry or different and don't know what to do, pick up an instrument and write a song about it. Then go to some party and play those songs loudly. People will listen, and it will change your life.

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