My ongoing commitment to the young adults I parent is strong. Occasionally, it leads to weekends like one late last month, which included 30-plus hours of driving to and from Denver to help my daughter, who lives in nearby Boulder.
Errands aside, my wife and I had about six waking hours in the Mile High City, which wasn't much, but was enough to check out the music scene. It was a perfect weekend for that, since the Denver Post was holding its annual Underground Music Showcase. Better known as "UMS," it brought together dozens of Denver's best local acts, plus regional and national artists, like People Under the Stairs and Blonde Redhead.
The event turned Denver's club scene into a high-altitude SXSW. One venue's marquee even proudly read "Let's Show Austin What's Up." Live music wafted out onto the streets, which were crowded with music lovers.
Always looking for opportunities to tout Houston music, I saw this as the perfect chance to get some local artists some out-of-state exposure. I ran to my car and grabbed every CD I'd been given at a local show recently to hand off to someone else who loves music.
No need to thank me, folks, just doing my job.
JONAH I knew ESE had played Seventh Circle Music Collective before. It's one of the country's best, most recognized DIY venues and a perennial winner of awards doled out by Denver's own alt press -- and Houston Press sister publication -- Westword.
But, I had no idea I would actually spot an ESE poster while walking down South Broadway. The familiar band logo caught my eye from a venue window. I also didn't expect that the very first person I approached would actually know about the "Pride of the North Side."
"ESE?!" Jonah said excitedly. "I'll take this one."
For a Denverite, Jonah had a pretty good handle on Houston music. He said he'd also heard of some of the city's ska bands and, of course, knew about H-town's rap scene. Jonah made it clear he is a serious music aficionado, the kind expected at an event like UMS. He said he listens to everything from opera to swing music to Dethklok.
According to the poster I saw, the band plays 3 Kings Tavern in Denver on August 15 during its late-summer tour. According to Jonah, he has a standing invite from ESE's Carlitos Whey to get in the next Denver show for free.
SAM Sam heard someone was passing out free CDs on the street corner and found his way to me. He chose the Grizzly Band's Lost and Found, which was still in my car from the release show at Clear Lake's Union Tavern a few weeks ago and still warm from the spins I gave it that afternoon. I listened to "Onward and Westward" at least three times on the trip. It's about as good a song as one can choose for a drive from Houston to Denver.
Sam said he's from Pittsburgh and that he enjoyed underground rap, punk and rock music. He was attracted by the CD's artwork, which has some rural charm to it. I assured him he'd enjoy the CD and to try "Play Me a Song" as a sampler, since it has a country-punk vibe and closes with the refrain "I drank all night 'til I passed out."
Sam said he was traveling onward and westward from UMS. I told him if he decided to head north, he could catch The Grizzly Band at South Dakota's Sturgis Buffalo Chip music fest. They played last Sunday in advance of bands like The Cult, Zac Brown Band and fellow Houstonians ZZ Top.
Story continues on the next page.
NICK The last time I listened to Spettro's La Pista mix before handing it off to Nick, I was driving 45 miles per hour through Clarendon, Texas, population 2,626. The Houston house-music producer's mix made for an amusing soundtrack while passing signs for Joe Bob's Handy Man and The Cowboy Church. If only I could leave a hundred copies here, I thought. I imagined returning to find farmers shopping for feed at Cornell's Country Store with Spettro in the background. Cornell's -- hottest spot from Claude to Pampa.
Clarendon's main drag features a series of bleak End Times signs that read "REPENT" and "A Tragedy Worse Than 9/11 Is Coming!" If ever a town needed house music, it's this one, I thought.
I didn't share these odd thoughts with Nick, who was on the street promoting his own cause, New Era Colorado. He said his favorite music is reggae, but he enjoys house music and would give the mix a listen. Then he tried talking to my daughter about her responsibilities as a young voter and she shooed him off.
RICHARD Richard's not a stranger I met on the street. He's actually a musician friend of the family who has crashed at my house and allowed me to cook some vegan enchiladas for him while his band, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists, passed through Houston.
We had a couple of beers together and he snagged the last CD I had, Jodii B. Basik's HIGHtivities. The mixtape is filled with ridiculously ribald lines like "Li'l mama is a rider, like Winona" and the scandalous proclamation to the ladies that "as long as your drawers are clean, you're on the team."
Richard said he was up on his Houston rap history, which is gloriously recalled on the CD's track, "Trill Shit." He's a drummer and trumpet player who keeps up with new stuff and said he'd also heard some Kirko Bangz and liked it. Then our discussion on rap music devolved into the age-old argument of Biggie versus Tupac.
I wanted to hold onto HIGHtivities because I rather enjoy it, but it seemed wrong not to give it away -- with its weed-leafed cover -- to someone in Denver.
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