Upon being hired by Channel 2 in 1990, TV-news videographer Jim Hucks was told to carry his camera with him wherever he went so that he could be ready at a moment's notice to capture breaking news — and he took the directive seriously. When he attended modern-rock shows, which he did frequently, his camera was at his side, and if he managed to get permission from the performers, he taped the mayhem — like, for instance, a 1997 Ogden Theatre gig by Guttermouth, whose loyalists expressed their love for the band by heartily expectorating on lead singer Mark Adkins.
"I'd never seen so many loogies in my life," Hucks says. "People spit on him the entire show. He had to take a break at one point just to wipe the spit off. Then somebody spit on one of the guitarists — because they weren't close enough to Mark, I guess — and during the break, the guitarist said, 'If you're going to spit, spit on the guy with the camera.'"
Suddenly, Hucks found himself staring down hundreds of "teenage skateboarder types" quickly gathering phlegm in the back of their throats, armed only with a Betacam that wasn't designed to be waterproof (approximate replacement cost: $40,000). "I was like, 'No, you don't! Don't you dare!'" he recalls — and he must have been convincing, because the crowd went back to hawking on Adkins, saving Hucks the trouble of explaining how all that gunk got onto, and into, his camcorder.
Over the years, Hucks, who's now on staff with Channel 7 and also runs his own company, Diamond-Star Media Productions, assembled a killer collection of live shows along these lines, and unlike stuff shot by sneaky ticket-buyers using second-rate or worse equipment, his efforts featured professional camerawork and impeccable audio; he always made arrangements with the folks running the sound board. But except for the VHS copies he sent to bandmembers, some of which may never have reached their intended destination (when he couldn't obtain home addresses, he was forced to ship tapes to labels, which probably didn't forward them), the footage has been largely unseen — until now.
Hucks recently created his own YouTube channel, accessible at www.YouTube.com/denco83. The platform overflows with exciting clips of acts such as Sonic Youth, the Jesus Lizard, the Gaza Strippers, Helmet, Nashville Pussy and Rocket From the Crypt, whose leader, John Reis, raved to Hucks about the quality of the imagery when he visited Denver in May with his new group, the Night Marchers.
In addition, Hucks is a major contributor to a new video storehouse spotlighting the Fluid, www.YouTube.com/user/TheFluidVideoArchive. The notable Denver band (profiled on page 61) was the first Hucks videotaped in concert, way back in 1988, and he plans to do so again at reunion dates in Denver and Seattle over the next several weeks. If all goes well, material from these shows, as well as scenes of the Fluid in action that Hucks captured at additional gigs preceding the group's 1993 breakup, will be important elements of a documentary by Michael Lustig, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who fell for the band while booking the Garage, a defunct Denver club. The prospect of such a flick thrills Hucks, who sees a direct link between his sideline and his day job.
"My natural instinct is to shoot everything that appeals to me and preserve it," he says. "That's what we're doing whether we're shooting a band or the cleanup of a tornado or a hurricane. We're preserving history."
Hucks's love of music played a big part in his choice of professions. As a student at Cherry Creek High School during the early '80s, he took advantage of classes offered by United Cable as part of its community-access program. He soon developed the expertise to assemble a half-hour program about a Cherry Creek battle-of-the-bands contest that screened on the system. "That was a big deal for a junior in high school," he notes.
From there, Hucks enrolled at the University of Missouri in hopes of earning a journalism degree — a goal he accomplished after transferring to Colorado State University. Following graduation, he settled in Boulder just long enough to videotape that initial Fluid show, at a venue called the Grove, before landing his first full-time TV gig, with an ABC affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho. He spent six months or so at that station and a year at an NBC signal in El Paso, Texas, prior to his return to Colorado courtesy of Channel 2. He stayed at the station for fourteen years, operating in the sports department for much of that stretch; he helped cover two Super Bowls, two Stanley Cups, a couple of Major League Baseball all-star games and more. But he also shot news footage, including stories that cropped up in the aftermath of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School — an event that became the career crucible for an entire generation of journalists. And since moving to Channel 7, he's run the gamut of newsworthy events, traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi, with investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski following Hurricane Katrina and recording the destructive force of storms that raced through Windsor earlier this spring.
Meanwhile, he's reveling in the opportunity to share his vintage videos in ways that once were impossible. "I pretty much stopped shooting live shows from 2000 to 2006 because nobody could see them," he concedes. "The bands didn't need the video, and it was a hassle. Nobody cared — and it's not easy to hand-hold a 26-pound camera for a ninety-minute show after a day's work." In fact, he admits that "when I cleaned out my closet space at Channel 2, I had all these tapes buried in my locker, and I was on the fence about throwing them out or saving them."
Fortunately, he opted for the latter, and thanks to the rise of YouTube, he's now got a cyber-place for his footage, not to mention a worldwide audience that's overjoyed to discover his treasures. "It's flattering to get an e-mail from Denmark or wherever saying, 'Oh, my God, Helmet is my favorite band. What a great video,'" he says.
There'll be more to come. On top of the upcoming Fluid shoots, Hucks videotaped a concert earlier this year by the Gutter Twins that will go online as soon as the musicians sign off. And because he has his own equipment now, having purchased it for his production company, he no longer has to worry about getting into trouble over damaged gear. But he'd still prefer that fans spit on someone else.
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Name game: Last month, the progressive news-and-information website Colorado Confidential changed its name to the Colorado Independent as part of a move by its parent organization, the Washington, D.C., based Center for Independent Media, to work the word "independent" into all of its online branches. For instance, the Minnesota Monitor, one of its six state-based sites, is now the Minnesota Independent. But publisher John Weiss sees the switch as more problematic here. He fears confusion between the Colorado Independent and his publication, the Colorado Springs Independent, an enduring alternative newsweekly. He's troubled by the similarity between monikers, which he feels is complicated by the fact that the Colorado Independent's editor, Cara DeGette, used to write for, yes, the Colorado Springs Independent.
Weiss is scheduled to discuss his concerns with Center head man David Bennahum (who referred questions to DeGette) later this month, and while he's consulted with an attorney, he hopes "we can work this out as friends." DeGette, meanwhile, would prefer to keep the focus on her site's clean new look and renewed dedication to in-depth reportage: Even as daily newspapers are shedding personnel, the Colorado Independent has added two new employees, including former Westword contributor Naomi Zeveloff. As for the possibility that some surfers may see a connection between the two organizations that doesn't exist, she points out that there are plenty of other newspapers with "independent" handles, including at least one more in Colorado, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
Happy independents' day.