Area Codes

Area Codes: 303 – Denver, CO

By Corban Goble / January 26, 2012 - 4:18 pm

Of all the Area Codes we’ve done so far, Denver is the biggest city, so it’s probably not a surprise that it has one of the richer histories of anything in the series. Before the jam band craze of the early-to-mid ’90s, Denver was long established as a friendly, scenic city conducive to folk acts (Judy Collins and John Denver) as well as jazz (Bill Frisell grew up there and Ron Miles is a mainstay). Now, the scene is kaleidoscopic and prolific, its components ranging from forward-thinking house music to exploratory psych-rock to jam to extremely left-field acts to straight-up garage and hardcore.

“There was a massive, booming jam band culture in Colorado in the 1990s,” says Colin St. John, a former Time Out colleague of mine who recently moved back home to Denver after spending several years in NYC and writes for a slew of Denver publications. “The String Cheese Incident and Yonder Mountain String Band emerged, and it seemed like Widespread Panic, Phish, Umphrey’s McGee, an offshoot of the Grateful Dead and so on were in town every other weekend. It all ostensibly stemmed from a potent desire to play the storied Red Rocks, as well as the smoky haze over Boulder and an atmosphere teeming with bluegrass (which culminated and still culminates each summer at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival).” Denver has some prominent indie rock roots, as well; “Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was recorded here after Robert Schneider got Apples in Stereo together here; that has to mean something.”

A fixture on the scene, at least with regards to alternative press, is the electronic artist Travis Egedy, who goes by Pictureplane. Egedy, for years, has been a scene stalwart and also one of its biggest enthusiasts. His arts and music collective, housed in a warehouse dubbed Rhinoceropolis and an adjoining space called Glob, is a pillar of the underground community and has been so for the last six years (he made this Rhinoceropolis mixtape back in 2009). Egedy asserts that, while it’s been relatively unrecognized, the Denver underground scene has been strong since the ’90s. “It’s a small city here,” Egedy says. “But at the same time there’s always been a defining underground in Denver, really good art and music being made and it hasn’t gone away.”

Regarding what’s new in Denver, Egedy mentioned the burgeoning DJ and house scenes in Denver. “There’s been a recent DJ culture that’s been popping off here in Denver that’s really neat. I have some friends that throw a really cool monthly queer dance party called Damn Gurl. That all happens in a warehouse next to Rhinoceroplis called Glob.” Egedy mentions people like like Narky Stares, Milton Melvin Croissant III, and Men In Burka as people on the forefront of that scene.

As for living in Colorado, it seems that Denver’s natural qualities definitely help the allure of the city as a creative hotbed. “It’s extremely cheap to live here,” Egedy says. “It’s very easy going. It’s a very friendly place to be. Very outdoorsy, a lot of healthy people, a lot of conscious people. The weather’s always nice. It’s its own thing, Colorado mountain style. It’s this whole kind of southwest Colorado feel. We’re completely landlocked and we’re really far away from any other city, so it’s kind of like an island. Which, in turn, because we’re sort of secluded, it’s able to breed it own style.”

“After living in New York for all those years, I think Denver drew me back for the same reason it draws great bands,” St. John says. “It’s reasonably inexpensive to live here but offers a large enough infrastructure to do your job, make your art. In music, that means some solid recording spaces, practice rooms and tons of venues to play in town and up in Boulder or Fort Collins.”

But, every town needs its visible champion, and to St. John, it’s pretty clear who Denver’s current icon is. “I think Travis not only makes great music but is exactly the type of person you need for a middle-sized town. You need a guy to wave the flag or, as Westword put it, be our “cheerleader”: someone who is proud of his town. Someone who is gonna rep Elitch’s (our amusement park) in his videos (“Post Physical“). I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve been to where a national act has thanked him. He is usually at the show and the band is probably staying at Rhino or under a bridge somewhere with Travis. He’s indispensable.”

VENUES

RECORD SHOPS + RECREATIONAL DRINKING

THINGS TO READ

JAMS

Force Publique – “Ache”

Gauntlet Hair – “Top Bunk”

Hollagramz – “4.44”

Pictureplane – “Post Physical”

Nathaniel Rateliff – “Laughing”

School Knights – “Prom Queen”

Tennis – “Baltimore”

Tjutjuna – “Collider”

Woodsman – “In Circles”

VIDEOS

Pictureplane – “Post Physical”

FaceMan – “FeedingTime”

The Knew – “Awesome”

PANAL S.A. DE C.V. – “You Knew I Was A Snake”

The Samples – “Feel Us Shaking”

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – “Pine Box”

MAP


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