I swear, I just about inhaled my juice box when I heard Aaron Collins from Machine Gun Blues unload that banana clip of F-bombs at the Westword Music Showcase this past Saturday. Denver's notorious bad boys had just finished up the first song of their set on the outdoor stage when Collins spewed his acidic invective, presumably inspired by the parade of compulsory shout-outs read by Hyphen — our gracious emcee known in other sewing circles as What's So Funny — prior to introducing the Gunners.
I happened to be standing in the VIP tent when Collins let loose with his filth-flarin' filth. Sitting a few tables away from me was a burly gentleman with an arm full of tats, looking none too pleased. As the members of MGB rocked out with typical abandon, my man made his way back to the food vendor, who didn't appear too stoked himself, and put an arm around his shoulder, vowing to make Collins apologize. But rock and roll, as it turns out, also means never having to say you're sorry — unless you happen to offend the delicate ears of your bandmate's mother, that is.
"Sorry to Holland's mom for cussing," Collins offered at the end of the song. "But the rest of you can fucking suck my dick again."
While that last remark got a chuckle from the crowd, the boys in blue from the Denver Police Department weren't quite as amused. "They told me if I cussed anymore, the police were going to arrest me," Collins exclaimed a few songs later. "Power to the people, huh? First Amendment...what? Naw, we threw it out. No, sorry. Fuck the First Amend... Oh, there he goes again!"
And with that, Collins and the boys tore into another song, titled — wait for it — "We Fucked It All Up," then finished the rest of their dependably raucous set. You'll be happy to know that rock and roll didn't end up getting arrested, but it was given a stern warning for its dirty little mouth.
"It's come to our attention that it is for real that we're not supposed to cuss up here, because it bothers some of the neighborhood yuppies or whatnot," Gared O'Donnell, the otherwise reserved Planes Mistaken for Stars frontman, offered before the last song of his group's brooding, ominous set. "And, uh, usually, I'm not one for voicing political opinions — and I'm not sure if this is political — but I'll tell you, a lot of these people, they want to live the urban lifestyle, they want to get down in the thick of it, but then they can't fucking deal with it. They can't deal with rock and roll; they can't deal with the street people; they can't deal with it. But I'm more than happy to build their fucking atrocious buildings around us all. So just think about that once in a while." O'Donnell and company then launched into a thunderous version of "Say Not a Word," which in-cluded a brief but memorable interpolation of "When Doves Cry."
Besides the salacious moments, there were plenty of other highlights at this year's Showcase, most of which we managed to capture (stop by our Backbeat Online blog to view slide shows and read complete coverage). Thanks to the efforts of a cast of talented scribes who helped cover the event, I didn't have to spread myself so thin. In years past, I've run around the Golden Triangle like an idiot, trying to catch everybody's set and winding up with nothing more than snapshots. This time around, I was able to move at my own pace and was lucky to catch a number of brilliant performances. The most memorable belonged to Nathan & Stephen, who kicked off the afternoon on the outdoor stage, clad in full summertime regalia of cutoffs and tank tops. Thanks to Andrew Vastola, who intervened when he heard a lopsided mix, the outfit sounded flawless, the best I've ever heard it, and made a stunning case for why this act should be considered quintessential festival material. Nathan & Stephen looked amazingly at home on a bigger stage. And the new songs, which I wasn't sold on when I'd first heard them a week or so earlier at a poorly mixed date at the hi-dive, were fantastic. I found myself singing along as I watched the band through the viewfinder of my camera.
Rachael Pollard was equally stellar over at the Acoma Center. Bathed in red light, she drew a few laughs from the otherwise stoic crowd when she crooned the lines "Waiting for you to leave the room so I can fart," from her song called "Waiting." At the end of the set, Pollard's darling little girl stole the words right out of my mouth: "You did the most perfect job," she told her mom. Indeed.
A pair of fantastic back-to-back sets at the Acoma inspired one of the more humorous eavesdroppings of the day. "I'm heading to the Acoma for something," I heard a guy say. "I don't know, Cowboy Ghost or something." In fact, Ghost Buffalo showcased its new lineup, holding its own with a bunch of new material. And Cowboy Curse freaked a few neophytes out. I'd encouraged one of my colleagues to check out the band, which she liked — although she was a bit weirded out by the guy with the "creepy mustache" who sang the ultra-high girly harmonies. Uh, that would be bassist Tyler Campo — and handlebar mustache notwithstanding, his backing vocals and the way his mellifluous harmonies blended with guitarist Ben Bergstrand's voice and augmented his melodies were worth far more than the price of admission. Whether live or on record, they're what make these songs soar. Add to that some fantastic drumming by Erin Tidwell and lyrics that are actually quite literate, and you have a band that just can't miss.
Every year, one of the thing I enjoy most about the Showcase is catching awestruck expressions as casual fans discover great music. While I would have been even more stoked if a few of my other favorites — Vaux, Drag the River and Slim Cessna's Auto Club — had been able to play, I was jazzed to hear that Tifah, a new act I've been championing, was so well received at Andrew's on Lincoln, and that the singer-songwriter bill I put together at Sutra Room was also a hit. The most inspired performances of the entire Showcase, however, surely belonged to Black Lamb at Two AM and The Pirate Signal at DC 10. I have absolutely no idea what got into either of these outfits, but Lamb played like its life was on the line, and Yonnas Abraham rocked the mike like a man possessed, with a palpable sense of passion. Lamb is clearly firing on all cylinders these days, and backed by lauded Crunk Bros. DJ Cysko Rokwel, Abraham has set his rhymes to stun both listeners and the industry.
All in all, the Showcase was a fucking earful — and worth getting arrested for.