Music News

The Beatdown

Since I'm a music critic, all anyone ever wants to talk to me about is music. Which is usually fine: As luck would have it, music happens to be my favorite subject. But every now and then, someone insists on pushing my buttons, extolling the virtues of the Grateful Dead and that whole hippie-jam-band mystique -- you know, Phish, Panic and their ilk. When I politely say that I give less than two shits about that mindless crap, this is what I hear: "Dude, you just don't like it because you don't understand it. You don't get it, man." I think they mean that since I'm not stoned out of my gourd, burning pounds and pounds of the hippie lettuce, I'm just impervious to its charm.

But what's to get? What's to get about three-hour concerts and thirty-minute songs? What's to get about fanatical nuts who'll follow this act and its disciples to the ends of the earth? Step away from the organs and banjos, folks.

I remember seeing the Dead's skull-laden imagery on patches and T-shirts sported by my hessian buddies when I was a kid. Being a newbie in the metal realm, I assumed the Dead was a metal band. "What a cool name," I thought. "It must be a cool band." Then I saw the hand- holding teddy bears. And one afternoon, my curiosity got the best of me at my buddy Ira's house. He threw on American Beauty, a great primer for newlydeads, and the look on my face said everything: It was a mix of shock and dismay, the look you'd wear after finding out that someone in your family is a serial killer. I simply didn't get it.

Twenty years later, I still don't. But in the meantime, the multitudes of smelly, maniacal fans have multiplied, birthing a whole new generation of sheeple to ponder, "What would Jerry do?" I can almost understand the loyalty of those folks who grew up in an era of free love and weed; they were too stoned to know the difference. But the adoration by their progeny baffles me -- and what's worse, these young fans of music that still proudly waves the wankery flag seem to be concentrated in the Denver-Boulder area.

When I check my mailbox, it's jammed top to bottom with the stuff. And among the most recent arrivals is the latest platter by local pantheon String Cheese Incident, Untying the Knot. Until now, the only way I was able to stand listening to these guys was when DJ Harry remixed a bunch of the band's tunes, but Untying the Knot sounded surprisingly accessible. "Hmm," I thought, "maybe I've been mistaken all these years."

So being a dutiful journalist, I ran out and got a few of the act's live discs and gave String Cheese another shot. I closed my office door, sat down and turned that mother up. About forty minutes later, I woke up in a pool of my own drool and came to the realization that, no, it's not me; it's the music. I simply don't get it. While I appreciate the band's staunch do-it-yourself ethic and business acumen, I find the music -- that mutant hybrid of gospel, funk and bluegrass -- innocuous, meandering and menacingly mundane. And without good music, all you're left with is a room full of accountants.

Undoubtedly, all you trustafarians in the People's Republic of Boulder are now ready to rally around the members of String Cheese and their brethren and proclaim, "But they're incredible musicians!" Let me save you some time: I never said they weren't great players -- I'm just saying their music sucks. It's b-o-r-i-n-g, Sidney, boring! With all the amazing music that's corralled in Cowtown, this is what we've become known for? String Cheese? Leftover Salmon? I'll be goddamned if those bands represent the best this town has to offer.

Go ahead, prove me wrong. Keep those discs coming. Given the law of averages, sooner or later, some jam band is bound to blow my mind. Or make me lose it altogether.

Dreaming the impossible dream: Jay Bianchi -- an owner of Quixote's True Blue (ground zero for the Deadhead movement in Denver), as well as Sancho's Broken Arrow, Dulcinea's 100th Monkey and Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom -- confirms that Quixote's days at 7 South Broadway are almost over. While I may abhor jam-band music, I'll never celebrate the closure of any local venue -- especially one that keeps all those Deadheads and their tunes contained in one place far away from me. But fear not, true believers: While the Broadway space is indeed being sold, Quixote's itself is far from dead. According to Bianchi, the club will probably be resurrected early next year and given life at a new location.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera