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You don't have to be young to love Crestfallen--but it helps. In fact, most of this Denver band's biggest fans are barely able to drive, let alone drink.

"For some reason, our music appeals to younger people," says bassist Jason Heller, 23. "We play all-ages shows whenever we can, even though they pay like one-tenth of what other shows do."

Why? "People are pretty apathetic at 21-and-over shows," Heller explains. "It seems like they're just there to get drunk. It's like, `Oh, cool, there's a band playing, too.' Crowds are way more into it at all-ages shows. Plus, it's kind of nice when everyone there isn't totally plastered."

Crestfallen's popularity among pubescents comes as no surprise. The music made by Heller, guitarist John Mather, vocalist Olivier Denizot and drummer Don Ogilvie is tight, rhythmic and melodic--in a phrase, pop punk. And in an era when bands with similar styles, such as Green Day and the Offspring, sell millions of records--mostly to teens--Crestfallen seems to have the right sound at the right time, even if the players don't think they have much in common with the aforementioned acts.

The band got its start last spring, when Mather, a onetime Babihed comrade whose tastes run to Seven Seconds and Minor Threat, decided that he "just really wanted to do a pop-punk band." He soon found a soulmate in Heller, with whom he worked at Mile High Comics. The pair placed an ad seeking musicians into outfits like Superchunk, Seaweed and Jawbreaker.

Denizot was the first to respond. A native of France, he says he grew up listening to the Adolescents, Agent Orange and other American hardcore bands. He adds that Original Disease, an act he formed in France, once opened for All, the kid-friendly punk band that relocated to Fort Collins last year.

Shortly thereafter, Ogilvie completed the lineup. He originally hails from Chicago, where he was weaned on what he calls "'77 punk bands," including the Buzzcocks and the Clash, as well as Eighties standards by Husker Du, the Replacements and Black Flag. He subsequently collaborated in several Illinois outfits with John Porcellino, whose Denver band, the Felt Pilotes, also counts Ogilvie as a member.

Together the four quarters of Crestfallen produce a distinct, memorable, energetic sort of punk. Mather describes it as "just catchy and poppy. We've got a lot of energy to burn off."

In an effort to capture some of that heat for posterity, Crestfallen recorded the songs "Stride In" and "Kings of Bab Eloved" (about a village near Denizot's French hometown) at Denver's Time Capsule Studios in February. The tracks are slated for inclusion on a seven-inch that should be available at area record stores this summer. The band has also prepared a track for the next Rocky Mountain Arsenal compilation, to be issued by Denver's Black Plastic Records. In Mather's view, Black Plastic founder Brian Circle, who obsessively promotes a sense of community among local bands, has the right idea about improving Denver's musical environment.

"We'd like to see a better scene here," he says. "We'd like to see people go to see more than just their friends' bands. When nobody goes to shows, bands don't play, and then everybody complains. But when more people go to shows, more kids get inspired to go out and start bands. And then there are more bands.

"Where are all those 5 million people who buy Green Day's records when there's a local show with four bands for $4?" he wonders before answering his own question. "When somebody like the Offspring or NOFX comes to town," he notes, "it's two bands for $20, and everybody goes."

Where can a musician find an alternative to this sad state of affairs? According to Crestfallen, Casper, Wyoming. The combo made one of its first live appearances there, at a roller rink called the Wagon Wheel, and Heller says, "In Casper, every kid in town comes to shows. There's nothing else to do, and they're so into it."

Still, the Wagon Wheel gig wasn't perfect. While the band readied for the date, Heller remembers, six-year-olds were allowed to skate only a few feet away. But when showtime came, management threw them out.

Mather feels that the rink's owners should have let the tots stay. But it's Denizot who takes a real stand for the kids of America.

"No," he says. "They should've given them all roller skates for the show.

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