High Plains Underground Archive

Rhino and Glob in Photos: The Lost Years

For a few years around 2011, it seemed like not as many touring bands were coming through on the DIY venues circuit as there had been. Many bands were going through booking agents at that time and most DIY venues aren't likely to give a guarantee, even though certain bands would do better from a financial standpoint outside the bar culture. This impacted the number and types of shows that happened at Rhinoceropolis.

Additionally, on a personal level, I felt like something had shifted in the local culture or the focus of what happened at Rhino from around 2011 to early 2013. It felt temporarily darker. It felt less like a place I wanted to spend much time in, even though several shows that cast off that vibe took place and plenty of creativity found expression there. After all, the multi-media event Fantasia started during that time. It seemed as though so many people were showing up not for the music, not for the art, but for the party and while that was not something at all mutually exclusive from what I loved about Rhino, it seemed to permeate the climate of several events in a way that often felt toxic to me. At that time more than a little of the artwork that adorned Rhino was destroyed and disposed of and that took away some of the charm of the place for me as well. Perhaps it was necessary for some reason but it just seemed puzzling. Maybe I was just in a bad place in my life and that clouded everything.

The infamous show I didn't attend where black ink or paint in balloons were thrown about and American flags decorated some of the walls sounded like a disaster. At that show, Sole nearly got into a fight with someone and another person punched Chris Westin in the face. It sounds amusing now to think about it, but at the time it reflected to me the darkness and chaos I felt sometimes at Rhino during those years. I also remember going one night after playing an early evening show and thinking the Rhino show couldn't possibly be over. Nothing was going on in the front room but I heard some people cracking up with laughter in the back room. A woman who was around the underground music world at that time had stripped down and was doing acrobatics and challenging people to get naked with her. I believe she tried to shame people into joining her by calling them “pussies.” At least one person made a half gesture. Other people seemed to not know what to do about the situation. It seemed like a good time to get out of there.

Nevertheless, despite incidents like that and rumors of Rhino ceasing to exist sooner than later, the people that were involved also made positive changes to the place. Chris Westin taking over the lease in 2011 meant he was also active in cleaning Rhino on a regular basis. No one else was able to step up and take on those responsibilities at the time, and when Westin left, John Gross picked up where Westin left off with keeping Rhino a relatively hospitable and welcoming place to come to. But more on that in the next and final edition of this photo retrospective of Rhinoceropolis and Glob. What follows are several photos from Rhino and Glob from 2011 to 2012.

*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.

- 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.
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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.