Concert Reviews

Titwrench in Its Eighth Year Was an Oasis of Creativity and Mutual Respect

The eighth edition of the Titwrench music festival was like many festivals that happened in Denver this past year — seemingly more low-key than usual even if well-attended. That is not to say there was a lack of enthusiasm — there was plenty of that — even for acts that weren't especially energetic on stage. What was striking in that regard was the fact that, for instance, during Victoria Lundy's set, people were attentive and still enthusiastic. Kurva Choir also enjoyed a fairly reverent treatment from everyone in attendance. Not hearing people babble about ephemera between or during Lundy's and Kurva Choir's songs was almost shocking in itself because it's such a common occurrence at Denver shows now. But it wasn't just Lundy and Kurva Choir that commanded that respect; it seemed that that respect was paid to every act, and this seemed to fit with Titwrench's goal of inclusivity.

Who isn't put off by some aggro idiot who wants to make the show about them even if only for a few seconds? Of course, attention is paid to different artists in different ways. During the Corner Girls' set, for example, there was dancing and excited movement, but that's because the band plays punk music. But there was none of that windmill, tough-guy stuff, because the music is also not that kind of punk.

The contrast in musical styles and moods, unified by a sense of establishing a creative space of mutual respect, is what made this edition of Titwrench noteworthy. Not that Titwrench hasn't created that environment in the past; it just felt like an oasis in the midst of this age of rampant anomy and incivility.

This year's festival also featured performers from a wider range of ages. At noon the Girls Rock Denver Jam happened with Click Clack, which included young women who aren't yet eighteen. Girls Rock alum Aleeya Wilson played at 1:30 p.m. as Death in Space, making a special trip back to Denver after starting graduate school in the Bay Area last month. The aforementioned Lundy is one of the O.G. avant-garde musicians of the Denver experimental music world, as a member of Carbon Dioxide Orchestra in the '90s. She's currently in the Inactivists in addition to her participation in musique concrète series Concrete Mixer. Her compositions with her primary instrument the theremin and synth stretched not just her own boundaries as a musician, but also the range of musical ideas you could experience at Titwrench this year.
As in years past, a strong contingent of musicians from New Mexico brought unique flavors to Titwrench. Early in the day, you could catch Lady Uranium, Star Canyon and Anna Mall, but you might not have suspected that these acts came from the same place because the music is so different. The Milch de la Màquina created an immersive musical/experimental set with members of the group standing at various places in Glob so that no matter where you stood, you were surrounded by sounds from vocalists performing in what looked like dark veils. In the beginning, it felt like being in the middle of a forest with birds and other animals vocalizing non-verbally. Later, members of Milch performed in the “glam insect metal” band Chicharra with its alchemy of a drummer and three singing bass players creating the kind of epic harmonies many prog-metal bands wish they could but don't pull off with even half the creativity.

It seemed as though the art installations of this edition of Titwrench were more elaborate than usual, but were also done with great subtlety and taste. The inside of Glob looked like some kind of sacred cave, with multi-hued stalactites made of paper and fabric. It's not the kind of detail you see much at other music festivals, to say the least. For example, Lisa Cook from Naako Deesko wore a feathered mask with the individual feathers in bright colors attached to her face individually. During daylight hours, the Mayday Experimental stage was in artist Lauri Lynnxe Murphy's tiny house sitting in the alley with the inside draped in a mixture of silver mylar and fabric. These touches, plus the air of mutual respect among performers and listeners, made the whole event stand out from every other music festival in Denver this past year.

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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.