Music News

So Long, Sugar

About a year ago, an editorial about a group of musicians appeared in the Tucson Weekly, a newspaper much like this one, in which it was suggested that prior to being allowed to form yet another local band, the players in question should be forced to take a written test proving a certain level of musical aptitude. The idea was that the ability to answer questions like "Who wrote 'A Love Supreme'?" and "How many guitarists named Steve can you name?" was as important as the ability to actually write, play and perform music. A weeding-out process needed to be instated, the author insisted almost seriously, so that the desert town's music community didn't suffer from the seemingly endless ebb and flow of bands coming together only to break up a short time later.

Along these lines, it might be wise for Denverites to form some sort of similar committee for bands on the verge of breakup or relocation, the way that certain churches require married couples to undergo counseling before they're granted a divorce. Heck, it might have kept Fluid, Negative Man, Register, Sticky 5 Pin, Chief Broom, Sizewell or Zeut together. It might have kept Fat Mama or Slim Cessna in town. And, just maybe, it might have saved Rainbow Sugar.

Those who rang in the New Year at Monkey Mania -- a central Denver warehouse performance/studio operated by Josh Taylor of Friends Forever -- were among the first to receive news that Sugar was dissolving, as the band canceled a show it was scheduled to play that night. Cindy Wonderful, the fiercely extroverted lead rapper for the all-female hip-rock and roll-hop outfit (nominated in the Hip-Hop category of Westword's 1999 Music Awards), soon quashed plans for future shows as well. Her reasons involve everything from golden showers to an escort service to plain old-fashioned creative differences.

On the first point, drummer and longtime Wonderful cohort Germaine Baca has joined forces with Los Angeles-based performance artist Maggie O and set out to videotape artful acts of urination across the country, according to Wonderful. Baca's vagabonding is an extension of a spiritual bond the bandmembers formed with the lady Wonderful describes as "a wild, wild woman."

"She changed our life; we followed her. She taught us a lot and gave us more of the rock-and-roll lifestyle," Wonderful says of O, whom the band met four months ago after she photographed them being questioned by police for hanging out on top of a LoDo building. "But she's very extreme, and Germaine has decided to follow her and go more in depth in this moodist thing. She's basically going to go around the country urinating on people and taping it."

Wonderful, a former member of bands like Shitbox and a founding member of the Ill Ten Hos Posse, is certainly no prude, but the pee-centric performance art just doesn't jibe with her vision of Rainbowness.

"I just don't get that whole thing," she says. "I once saw [bassist] Amy Fantastic urinate on Maggie O from the top of a building on Market Street. It doesn't bother me, but I just don't get it."

But the great pee divide wasn't the only creative chasm in the Rainbow universe. The recent addition of ex-Fox Force Five guitarist Sherri Hern, who replaced the band's former axwoman Miss Michelle, proved to be an imperfect fit. "Sherri is good, a great girl," Wonderful says. "But the sound was going to a place that I really didn't want to go. It was kinda like, um, bar rock," she says with a shiver. "I just couldn't deal with that."

Wonderful does foresee the day when Sugar might regroup -- perhaps after Baca's quest ends and Wonderful is able to pinpoint the kind of music she wants to make. But right now that day seems distant. Especially since "a lot of weird things have happened. I've discovered I have a doppelganger (Josh Taylor), and Amy's started an escort service with some of the other remaining Ill Ten Hos Posse members. It's a legit business," Wonderful says protectively. "Amy and I just work so that we can do other things we want to do. We don't get real jobs."

Meanwhile, Wonderful's keeping busy -- of course -- with both of her unreal jobs: a record label and a new warehouse space, Wonderground Records and Wonderground, respectively. She recently released Denver Wonderground, a compilation CD of eighteen tracks from local artists including Michelle Barnes, Carbon Dioxide Orchestra, the Hellmen, Noise Between Stations and, yes, Rainbow Sugar (available at Wax Trax). The warehouse will serve as a studio for the label, as well as a venue for bands worthy of playing the room. "You have to be really cool to play there," Wonderful says. "Or really fun. The Friends Forever guys are really helping us get the right vibe. It'll be like Monkey Mania, where if you want to come in after midnight, you have to be naked. If you're already in, you don't have to take your clothes off, but you are encouraged to. So it's that kind of place." Wonderground, located at the corner of Speer Boulevard and Zuni, will feature Bongzilla in its first show on Wednesday, February 2.

There's still time to rent the Stones' Gimme Shelter to practice those rock-star scowls before the very good people at Twist & Shout bring a real-life A & R person from Columbia Records in New York City to town. Dawn Greaney, the store's indie buyer and advertising person, has for two years moonlighted as the local rep for the label and has convinced one of the label's finest to come a-scouting in Cowtown. "I always send them reports and CDs from local bands, notes on shows I've seen and everything," Greaney says. "I guess we finally got enough interest for them to come check us out." The official checkout will happen Thursday, January 27, and Friday, January 28, at the Gothic Theatre, with performances from Space Team Elektra, the Czars and Twilight Motel on the first night, and Unsound, 3rd Degree and Slim Cessna's Auto Club on the second. But that doesn't mean local musicians not on the bill won't have a chance to be seen and heard. "I'll be taking her to other places around town," Greaney says. "The hope is that, even if she doesn't love the music, she'll walk away with a sense of how vital the scene is. I think there's a Radio 1190 showcase those nights, too." (Indeed there is: The station's Local Shakedown at the Bluebird will feature Perry Weissman 3, Acrobat Down, and Velveteen Monster on Thursday, January 27, and the LaDonnas, Hemi Cuda and SWD on Friday, January 28.) I want her to say, 'Wow, I should pay more attention to Denver.' Hopefully, that way we can get her out here more often." Play good, people.

He's definitely not a local musician, but Tito Puente has certainly shown Denver's salsa enthusiasts a thing or two about Latin music after 57 years in the business and repeat trips to town. Puente's performance at the Adam's Mark Hotel on Saturday, January 22, may be his last in the area, though, as after more than half a century, he's officially throwing in the old towel. A show not to be missed by those who've recently become fans of the music played at clubs like La Rumba or Sevilla, as well as those who've always dug his authentically worldly sound...Otherworldly might be the best descriptor of the audio emanated by Little Fyodor and Babushka, fronted by the host of KGNU's Under the Floorboards program. Earwig Spectre, featuring a "classically trained insectoid ranting maniac," will open the Little show at the Lion's Lair on Saturday, January 22...John Nichols and Van Leavenworth of Jules Verne Speedway return to Denver stages for a Thursday, January 20, gig at the Bluebird. The band's CD, Dang-o-Matic, comes with an instruction to "Play Loud," and happy is the listener who follows the order. Thursday is a good chance to see the tight and talented duo amplified without the help of headphones.

And because it's always good to face up to one's personal flubs, a sincere personal apology to the parents and friends and person of Alex Teitz, editor-in-chief of, an online magazine focusing on women artists. See, the name Alex is kinda like "Pat," or "Terri," and under the circumstances of the site's subject, I made an incorrect assumption. Let it be known that Teitz is very much a male person -- not female, as I identified her, um, him. Teitz swears he mentioned this during our e-mail correspondence. In any case, it's just not something that comes up very often. Sorry about that, man.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond

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