Music Festivals

Titwrench Is Setting a Higher Standard for Music Festivals

The seventh edition of the Titwrench festival worked well in its new single-day, single-venue format. In fact, one of Denver's most thoughtful festivals set a strong logistical example in many ways. The entrance at Dryer Plug Studios made it easier for people coming in and out and for bands to load in through the side door. The whole festival had a relaxed feel. As the evening went on, someone even started a fire pit outside, where people could hang out, warm up and talk to each other between sets.

Titwrench has always tried to bring together generations of artists from a broad spectrum of musical styles. You might see metal, noise, electronic, rock, folk, punk, dream pop, hip-hop, uncategorizable performance art and whatever female-identified and LGBTQ people are making. 

Attendees got to see emerging artists like Surf Mom and re-emerging artists like Molly Zackary play alongside veterans like Julie Davis of Bluebook and Yoon Park and Claudine Rousseau of Women and Men. Davis had played out as Bluebook a decade or so ago, a project that morphed into Bela Karoli before Davis played with one of Nathaniel Rateliff's bands and with Joseph Pope III in the Seven Hats. Rousseau and Park were in the legendary — if largely local — post-punk band Sin Desires Marie.

Baily Rose did fashion stuff for years in Denver, and she now lives in Red Cliff. For this festival, she did a performance piece in which she took habits written on pieces of paper and set them on fire. Titwrench has never been limited to just music. Milch De La Måquina's inspired performance challenged boundaries between sound art, music, performance art, visual art and conceptual art. Wheelchair Sports Camp changed up what it was about in an all-covers show with Luke Leavitt of Cop Circles on keyboards/synths and Michelle from the Milk Blossoms on vocals. 

Titwrench founder Sarah Slater has been involved in music in Colorado for the past two decades, and her knowledge and connections were in evidence in this seventh edition of the fest. And it wasn't just the music. Vendors included Zoe Williams, who has been an activist in Denver for many years, artist Katy Zimmerman and tarot-card reader Erica Adams. It was a truly holistic effort from top to bottom, beginning to end. 

Titwrench also made a wide variety of artistic expression seem to be not just accepted but celebrated in no small part due to Piper Rose's exuberant enthusiasm between sets. She framed the festival with introductions and urged people to get excited and to get out of their comfort zones. Even if you didn't always play along, you had to give it to Rose for keeping the focus where it belonged: not just on enjoying the art, but on being alive and among people who appreciate similar things. There was a spirit of nurturing at a time in our national and international history when empathy is essential but too rarely employed. 

What follows are several images from the seventh edition of Titwrench. 

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: I've attended every Titwrench since its inception in 2009, except for the sixth edition, as it was held in Stockholm. It's always been one of the best festivals in Colorado.

Random Detail:
 I ran into a higher percentage of friends and acquaintances than usual at a show, including Lance Stack, whose The Flat Response website is, bar none, the most extensive archive of live local band recordings readily available from a pretty wide range of musical styles reflecting Stack's own broad yet refined taste in music.

By the Way:
Experimental hip-hop artist Bianca Mikahn performed at Titwrench in Stockholm.

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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.