Monday, June 17, 2024

Denver Band Velvet Daydream Drops the Perfect Summer Single

Music fans know summer doesn’t officially begin until that first new groove of the season. Beyond the last days of school, Memorial Day parades, pool openings and barbecues, summertime is captured in those songs that remind us to relax, unwind, ease back and embrace the halcyon days of our youth. Of course, party songs, whimsical melodies and rock anthems can all become the song of the summer. But as temperatures rise in Denver this year, classic-rock fans with an ear for harmonies dripping in sunshine and relaxation need look no further than “Sunflower Sky,” the new single from local band Velvet Daydream.

“Sunflower Sky” dropped the first week of May, and the standalone single follows up the band’s self-titled debut LP, released last October. The new acoustic-sounding rock melody with a psychedelic vibe is enveloped in warm nostalgic feelings that pull up summer memories, and the story behind the song is as sweet as the sound. Heading east to Nebraska last summer on Interstate 76 to record demos for the first album, the band was struck by a calm pastoral image outside. Within the only car on an open road, the bandmates found themselves surrounded by fields of sunflowers, and guitarist Kaeden Keys felt himself “wanting to capture that image into something people can hear.”

Read the rest of the story in Westword ...

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Denver's DJ Williams Is a Musical Tour de Force

When a virtuoso guitarist whose sound is rooted in rock, soul, jazz and funk releases a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” and cites the orchestral influence of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson in the arrangement, it’s time for music fans to sit and take a listen.

Denver musician DJ Williams is a musical tour de force, and with his summer tour and a new EP, he’s bringing the noise and the funk to growing legions of fans with numerous stops around Colorado, including a show on Thursday, June 13, at the Velvet Elk Lounge in Boulder, before kicking off an East Coast run in New York City on June 19.

Williams says his latest album, By Way of the RVA, is a "love letter to the town of Richmond, Virginia,” the same place where he discovered his passion for music. The recording has a little bit of something for everyone, and that’s a testament to all the influences that coalesce in Williams’s cohesive sound. His style is a treasure chest of musical history as the sounds of ’60s Motown merge with ’70s soul, filtered through ’90s grunge and hip-hop and a healthy dose of jazz to create a velvety smooth blend of melody and rhythm.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Governor's Art Show 2024

For the third consecutive year, I had the pleasure of attending the Governor's Art Show for the opening weekend artist meet-and-greet. I've written a show preview for Westword.

In the often chaotic business of contemporary art, the Governor's Art Show at the Loveland Museum "makes sense to me," says landscape painter Scott Maier, who came to the opening-weekend artist meet-and-greet on May 11. "It feels very direct and a tangible connection,” helping us “intuitively understand the role art plays in a community.” Maier was there speaking with fellow landscape artist Kelsey Kopp and wood sculptor Ron Schleiger about the special connection artists and patrons feel during the annual philanthropic event, which runs through June 9.

These first-time participants in the long-running celebration of Colorado artists embraced the opportunity to connect with the communities that support them. “We have twenty first-time artist participants in this year’s show,” says Ruth Scott, the show’s director, describing the lineup of 62 Colorado artists. “And they just keep getting better and better."

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Bricheros: Peruvian punk rockers making their way in Denver

There’s a trio of “Bad Hombres” making badass music on the Denver punk scene. Bricheros, a Peruvian punk trio, rockin’ clubs from Denver to Lima since 2017, will join The Prozacs for a three-night run down I-25 with shows at HQ on May 16, Surfside in Fort Collins on May 17, and What’s Left Records in Colorado Springs on May 18.

Most music fans don't know that punk rock can arguably trace its roots to Peru in 1964 with the band Los Saicos, or “The Psychos,” a decade before the London and New York scenes. No less of an authority than punk writer and historian Legs McNeil says if you look at the history of music and Los Saicos, “You have to say they invented punk rock.” While Los Saicos burned fast and faded quickly, the legacy of Peruvian punk rock is alive and moshing in Denver with local band Bricheros.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Another Fond Farewell

I was honored with another tribute at the end of my high school career, this one for The Villager, where I've written a weekly column for three years.

Villager columnist Mike [Michael] Mazenko is moving on. “The time just seems right,” he told us.

Julie and Mike Mazenko came to Colorado in 2003 for an opportunity to teach at a high school he was told would be a great fit. Former Cherry Creek High School Principal Kathleen Smith agreed. That began a 21-year career that included shaping the academic future of over 2,000 young people, including several whose last name is Miklin, as a teacher and administrator in a school he wrote about in his last regular column for The Villager that appeared on page three on March 28. He called it, “The Creek Mystique.” It included some great success stories of Creek alumni.

In addition to the attraction of teaching in a high school where kids were eager to learn and had families who supported that goal, the Mazenkos fell in love with Greenwood Village as a place to raise a family. Now that Austin and Chloe, Julie and Mike’s offspring, are attending college in New York and Washington DC, that mission has been accomplished. Chloe is still in her undergraduate years at American University and Austin will be pursuing a Ph.D. in math at New York University. Neither is likely to be back in Colorado soon. Like all parents, the Mazenkos want to be near their children.

Read the rest of the story ...

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

New Music Venue Lot 46 Opens in Old Edgewater Inn

A new spot for live music is opening in Edgewater. I did a sneak peak preview for Westword:

What's old is new again in Edgewater with the arrival of Lot 46 Music Bar at the Edgewater Inn.Lot 46 comes to the neighborhood courtesy of longtime Denver entrepreneurs and music venue owners Niya and Grant Gingerich. The couple established the popular Local 46 music venue and beer garden in 2012 after taking over the Music Bar, which had been an anchor at 46th and Tennyson for decades. Niya and Grant seem destined to provide live local music to a close-knit community in the spirit of the classic public house. As Niya always tells friends and neighbors, “I want this to be the locals' spot, the home away from home.”

The Berkeley neighborhood was reeling two years ago when real estate development closed Local 46, a beloved music venue and watering hole. Niya and Grant quickly found a new location, buying the historic Edgewater Inn, a 75-year-old pizza institution founded by Denver legend Ben DiPietro. “I grew up going there for pizza,” Niya reflects. After purchasing the Edgewater, it wasn’t long before she was itching to expand and provide local music again.

Conventional business wisdom is to find a niche and not try to be everything. But that never really sat well with Niya. “I want to be the place where there’s something for everyone,” she says. That idea reflects a sociological concept known as a community’s third place: After home and work, there’s the gathering place, often the pub or local watering hole, and any place Niya runs will inevitably showcase live local music.

... Read the rest of the story in Westword ...

Saturday, April 20, 2024

FoCoMX 2024 - Day 1

From Michael Kirkpatrick on the patio at Equinox Brewing to the indie rock of Menyuska at Moe’s BBQ to the Dave Beegle Duo at the Visit Fort Collins sitting room to 10 Cent Stranger and Alex Dunn at Equinox to Soy Celeste at The Art Lab to Pep Squad and Bleak Mystique on the rooftop bar of Illegal Pete’s to the groovy sound of Slow Caves at Wolverine Farm Publick House to the incredible sounds of Violet Pilot on the Old Town Square to a raucous set from Horsebitch at The Aggie …, our minds have been properly blown on the first day of FoCoMX 2024 in the heart of downtown Fort Collins.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Looking back on 21 years

I was so honored to be featured in Cherry Creek's award-winning student newspaper, The Union Street Journal. As I bid farewell to a place I've called home for twenty-one years, one student asked if I would be open to story on my career there. Of course, what a wonderful send-off.

When Michael Mazenko started teaching English 31 years ago, the top charting song was “Whoomp (There It Is)” by Tag Team. The NBA champion was the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan. The NFL champion was the Dallas Cowboys led by quarterback Troy Aikman. Now, after a career of classroom teaching, admin work, guest writing, and mentoring students, he plans to retire at the end of this school year.

“It’s definitely melancholy, but I also know it’s time to move on. It’s time for me to go to the next place on my journey,” Mazenko said.

Mazenko has filled many roles in his time at Creek, and his impact has spread far beyond his English classes. As an administrator for eight years, he helped with planning events like speaker assemblies and hosting the talent show.

“Working with Dr. Keogh on graduation for eight years was just one of the true joys of my experience here because our graduation is so special. I loved working with the performers,” Mazenko said.

Read the rest of the story at The Union Street Journal

Thursday, April 18, 2024

FoCoMX: The Biggest Little Music Festival in America

Loved writing about this event for Westword, and I can't wait to embrace the indie music scene in Fort Collins at FoCoMX:

Every year in downtown Fort Collins on a weekend in late April, “the streets are alive with the sounds of local music.” That charming assessment comes from Greta Cornett of the Fort Collins Musicians Association (FoCoMA) as she excitedly discusses FoCoMX.

Started “for musicians by musicians,” according to Cornett, FoCoMX is a locally organized event from the Fort Collins Musicians Association (FoCoMA); this weekend will mark its sixteenth iteration, on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20. Growing out of the nonprofit’s FoCoMA Peer Awards, the event began in 2009 as a DIY showcase for local talent, complete with handmade tickets. The first year included four locations with four bands in each spot, but it's now expanded to nearly 350 acts across 35 to 40 venues.

The festival is a well-oiled machine that keeps its small-town vibe by being volunteer-driven, and is, Cornett notes, “intentionally inclusive of all genres and musicians." While the festival originally focused on Fort Collins artists, planners later opened lineups to all of Colorado. "The best way to build our scene is to share our scene," Cornett says. "We want to showcase Colorado music.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Thinking About What Comes Next

Even though I’ve been teaching English for three decades, I still tell people that when I grow up, I want to be David Brooks of the New York Times, or an essayist like Chuck Klosterman or Dave Hickey, or perhaps an author like Geoff Dyer or even Michael Lewis. In reality, I am first and foremost a writer with a talent for sharing information, ideas, and insights via the written word. Now, as I wrap up a cherished career in public education, I am pondering the life of a writer.

I’ve been freelance writing for many years, serving as a Colorado Voices columnist for the Denver Post, and for three years I've written an education-focused column called “Unpacking the Backpack” for The Villager, a small suburban newspaper. As a commentary writer, my beat has been "education, parenting, politics, pop culture, and contemporary American life." A common theme of my writing is issues in public education, such as advocating for reforms on career and technical education. Additionally, I've been an enthusiastic advocate for gifted education, and I've spoken on numerous panels at state and national gifted education conferences. I am an education policy geek who has testified several times before the Colorado Senate Education Committee, and I’ve presented to both district and state boards of education. As a lifelong educator and writer whose mom was an editor and feature writer, the worlds of education and journalism are embedded in my DNA. I am a writer with vast experience in public education, and I am an experienced educator who can write insightful, informative articles about schools.

For several years I have also been writing about music, arts, and culture in the Denver area, specifically arts pieces for 303 Magazine and music writing for Westword. That interest and focus grew out of my writing on the people and culture of schools. My articles have sung the praises of high school mathletes, praised the brilliance of speech and debate competitions, reviewed high school productions such as musicals and jazz concerts, and profiled cultural events like our school’s Ethnic Fest and the district poetry slam. Creative non-fiction, including personal narrative, social commentary, and pop culture criticism, is my jam. My writing and research style has developed over the years as a sort of Robert Fulghum-esque, David Brooks-ian, Malcolm Gladwell-like stew of intellectual pondering with an accessible bit of pop culture philosophizing.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Cheap Perfume Takes Colorado Fem-Core on the Road

Cheap Perfume, a Denver riot grrrl punk band, blew me away the first time I saw their live show. Now, they're heading out on tour, and I got the chance to talk to them about the trip:

As anyone in Denver’s punk scene knows, a Cheap Perfume show is a sonic blast of guitar chords, big drums, quick and heavy bass, and scathingly sharp yet sardonically poetic messages of social justice and empowerment. It’s also a helluva lot of fun. That’s the appeal of a band that is, as it calls itself, “fun, foul-mouthed and unapologetic.” 

Now fans outside of Colorado will get the chance to experience Cheap Perfume’s sound and attitude as the band embarks on its first-ever tour this month. The self-described "fem-core punk" group will join the Atlanta-based rockers of Sarah and the Safe Word (SASW) for a West Coast run starting on April 24 at the Nile Underground in Mesa, Arizona. Then Cheap Perfume will be back to its Denver stamping grounds on Sunday, May 5, for a victory lap at the hi-dive.


Friday, April 5, 2024

Denver Band Broken Record Takes Its "Stadium Emo" Sound to the East Coast

A new piece on the Denver indie scene for Westword:

If you don’t yet know what “Denver Stadium Emo” is, then you need to check out Denver’s own Broken Record, a mainstay on the Denver scene since late 2017 that just won a 2024 Best of Denver award.
“Our good friend Jay came up with that description,” laughs Lauren Beecher, lead singer and guitarist for the band. “We’re obviously an emo band, but we’re also not afraid to make our songs sound big, or to add a grander rock element.”

That approach has built a trusted fan base in Denver, and, despite the band mostly playing clubs, the term came to fruition in December when Broken Record’s “See It Through” filled Ball Arena during an Avs game.

Broken Record's sound is distinct, but its ’90s threads are clear with the deep post-punk, indie-rock and emo vibe that marked the decade. While Jimmy Eat World is “obviously a huge influence,” Beecher’s soulful lyrics and crisp melodies amid post-punk power-pop guitar chords hint at Gin Blossoms, too. “I basically learned to read off the lyrics book of New Miserable Experience while riding in the car with my mom,” Beecher adds. The jangly guitar and lyrical storytelling defined that pivotal Gin Blossoms album, which Rolling Stone described as “marrying world-weary lyrics with ebullient melodies.” Similar emotion comes through on Broken Record’s second LP, Nothing Moves Me, released last August on Really Rad Records and listed in UPROXX’s best emo albums of 2023.