The Mile High Makeout: The love-in begins - Reverb - Reverb

The Mile High Makeout: The love-in begins

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Denver musician Tim Pourbaix tunes up his act at the Meadowlark. Reverb file photo by Brian Carney.

“The love-in is over.”

So said a Denver musician to me, not long ago. I can’t quite remember who it was, so I won’t risk defaming some innocent artist’s character by misattributing the quote.

The fact that I can’t remember who said that reveals one important fact about me: I’m not a reporter. A critic? Sure. A journalist? Maybe. A liar? Trying to break that habit, but it’s hard. At any rate, I might be getting off track.

Though I don’t remember the source of the quote, I remember the point. The point was: while it’s easy to go around patting one another on the back, celebrating what a great little music scene we have here in our great little town, it’s also dangerous. It allows us — all of us — to grow complacent, to rest on our Big Head Devotchka Flobot FrayOH!3 laurels, and to stop challenging one another to get stronger and better. It’s hard to give good constructive criticism when you’re too busy making out.

Before we start making out, we should probably know each other’s names. My name is Eryc Eyl. The first name rhymes with “Eric” and the last name rhymes with “turnstile,” sort of. I was born and raised right here in Colorado, and have been writing about music for about nine years. For the past six years, I’ve been writing for another Denver newspaper, so thanks for finding me here.

Here, by the way, is a place I like to call the Mile High Makeout. It’s a shamelessly loving look at Colorado’s music scene, and the musicians, fans, promoters, bookers, engineers, bartenders, dancers, DJs, dilettantes and derelicts who bring it to life. I happen to think that we have something pretty special going on here, and I want to share it with you — whether you’re already involved, on the periphery, or just indulging your curiosity from a safe, hygienic distance. Berthoud, perhaps.

But just because I’m shamelessly loving does not mean, as my unidentified friend implied above, that I’m giving Colorado musicians a free pass. I believe we’re all here to make one another better — better musicians, better writers, better cashiers, better lawyers, better dishwashers, better people — and that means speaking the truth.

With the Mile High Makeout, I promise to tell you what I absolutely love about a local musician. I also promise to tell you what I think needs to change. And I promise it will all come from a place of love.

Recently, on a trip to New York with my girlfriend, I spent some time with Tim Pourbaix. Tim is another Colorado native who spent years making music in and around Denver, before he finally decided he needed to give life in Gotham a try. “I love this city,” Tim told me, “but it’s completely kicking my ass.”

When he was living in Denver, all Tim had to do if he wanted to play a show was call a friend. Maybe he’d call Jonathan Bitz at the Meadowlark. Or a local promoter like John Baxter or Sarah Levin. Or maybe he’d ring up his old pals from his band, Killfix, and put together a rock show. In New York, on the other hand, Tim put together his first show by convincing the owner of the venue to give him a night, then booking his own supporting acts, doing all the promotion and putting his neck on the line. You don’t have to tell Tim that Denver has something special going on.

In the past 10 years or so, I’ve seen Denver’s music scene grow so rapidly and so fervently that it can no longer contain itself. In the age of the Internet, when global notoriety is as close as your Facebook page, Denver musicians and music fans are torn between a nagging desire to proclaim our city’s musical prowess to the world and an equally forceful urge to erect a wall to keep our treasures safe.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s an exciting time to be a music lover here in Colorado — a time when we get to decide what “good” means, how we measure success and whether it all really matters. And that’s what this column is all about — looking at what’s happening all around us and trying to figure out what it all means, not just to the music business or the music scene, but to me and you and all the real people who love music for how it makes us feel and think and act. And because this is happening in a world of dancing ones and zeros, it isn’t just a monologue; it’s a conversation. It’s a chance for you, too, to share your thoughts, observations and insights about local music, local art and local life.

I can see you’re a little shy, so I’ll get the conversation started. Here’s what I’m curious about. When you hear the phrases “Denver music” and “Colorado music,” what comes to mind? Firefall or Warlock Pinchers? Hazel Miller or Cephalic Carnage? Ichiban or Meese? Or do you draw a total blank? Is there a particular flavor of local music you feel strongly about? Is there something you think is completely missing from the scene? Do you even believe there is a scene?

Come on in. Make out with me. Don’t worry. I flossed.

Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. For the past six years, he’s covered the scene for Westword, but we’re excited to welcome his knowledge, wit and questionable fashion sense into the Post’s folds.

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  • GG

    Eryc — who are your top 5 local bands?

  • maryjo

    welcome! i didn't even know you had left westword.

  • Thanks Eric

    This is the most sensible thing I've read on Reverb or Backbeat in a long time. In my opinion, there is way too much self-appreciation in this town. There is no discernible scene, other than mediocre indie pop…but let's not tell everyone about that (see Hot Congress, Hearts of Palm, Houses, etc). This is not to say there not great bands around. When I think of Denver music, I remember Moccasin and Bright Channel. Those bands were legit. There's some other great stuff emerging, however:IMO the best of this town:Moonspeed WoodsmanFissure MysticSnake Rattle Rattle Snake TjutjunaWidowersI dont' feel like these bands are part of any scene, but can stand alone doing their own thing…and they're good at it.

  • http://www.GoDonnybrook.com/ Angora Holly Polo

    Eryc Eyl, you make me wanna be a better cashier.

  • chase

    Eryc, it seems like Denver music scene is in flux right now, some of the highly acclaimed older bands are coming apart (Nathan and Stephen, Everything Abset, etc) and new ones are filling in … Intersting times. I tend to think of Denver as a singer/songwriter and pop town, perhaps that's why Flobots and 3/3 got such recognition, they broke the mold … I do love it. The Foot and another band I haven't seen, Slopeside, at Herman's tonight, interesting newcomers …

  • timpourbaix

    I do recall quite a bit of “scraping it” in Denver though… this is when Climax Lounge, Larimer Lounge, and Hi Dive and such, just started opening up (years ago) – but for the life of me, I didn't know how to go from playing Woody's Pizza in Longmont – to getting a show at the Larimer Lounge. – and then I remember.. oh yeah, I sucked! and I did. and they weren't having it. but as I would continually hang out at these said places to catch indie touring acts and the local openers – I began to see what “it takes” to play a cool spot. which Denver has, cool fucking venues – venues, bartenders, promoters/booking, club owners, local radio, festivals, free alternative weeklies, good soundmen/doormen, people who wanna hang out at bars and see music most every night…. BANDS!…. Denver has it all… all the pieces needed to make a great scene..Which I'm honored to be apart of. Thank you so much Double E for including me in your piece…. I owe you a beer..tim pourbaixpsHey Denver bands… come see me in NYC, well book a show and you can crash at my place!!!!

  • john_moore

    OMG you totally tongued me, and I liked it. … Do it again …

  • ErycEyl

    First of all, thanks to everyone for not only reading, but getting involved and getting the conversation going. This is what it's all about. After all, the audience for the bands – or for any artist – isn't the critic; it's the lover.@JMo – My tongue is but an instrument, a conduit, a vessel.@Pourbaix – Thank you for reading for your eastern outpost. We're all here to make each other better. Thanks for the inspiration.@Chase – One of the best things about what's going on right now is the continual churn and evolution of artists. Venues like Herman's provide an excellent forum for bands to hone and refine their work. You might have to sift through a lot, but the gems are in there.@Angora – As far as I'm concerned, you're Cashier of the Month, every month! People should go read http://www.godonnybrook.com.@Thanks Eric – Thank you for the kind words. The bands you mentioned are definitely up to something, and by the sounds of your favorite past bands, that something has a lot to do with a spacey aesthetic you enjoy. I'm so glad you've found bands to get excited about. In spite of your assertion that there is no discernible scene, it seems you've found one that you like. That, to me, is the best part of what's going on in Denver. If you like the Hot Congress bands (and, by the way, if you haven't yet, you should probably check out Hawks of Paradise and Pacific Pride for more in that general vein), you can track those down. If you like indie pop, there's a bounty of that. If you like hip hop, it's available in quantities. If you're into metal, punk, experimental electronic or pretty much any other genre, there are many choices in Denver. It's rich and fertile ground upon which we tread.@Maryjo – Thanks for the welcome! Yes, I didn't want to make a big to-do about the move, but I'm excited to be here.@GG – I'll show you mine if you show me yours! ;-) But seriously, that's a fair question, and one I'm going to refuse to answer. To be honest with you, my list of top five local bands changes on a weekly basis, and that's the beauty of it. With around 1000 acts working in this town, a new (to me, at least) intriguing and talented local act captures my attention and my heart every week – and I'm sure there are tons I've yet to hear. In fact, both “Thanks Eric” and “chase” mentioned local bands I've yet to hear, and I'm curious now. I'm not a fan of best-of lists because I feel that they're necessarily incomplete and woefully inaccurate. On the other hand, as a critic, I'm often compelled to make them, and I appreciate the value they can have in filtering the options a bit for those who wish to explore. To that end, I'd say just keep an eye on this column, as well as my Tuesday column, Steal This Track, where you can download music from local bands totally free. The music I write about is often music I think is worth paying attention to, even if it's music that isn't exactly to my liking. Now, how about revealing your top 5 for all to see?

  • mikesmith84

    You might like my band. We're called Space Rock Mcgee and the Reverb Squad, on drums we have Prog Rock Steve, three guitarists named Echo, Reverb, and Delay, a bassist called Groovin', and a singer named LotsaPot. From the sound of the bands you named you'd probably love us. Why don't you give your name when post trash comments like that? Some of the bands you named are in Hot Congress, and the other ones may be on the next comp.

  • Chris jim

    I'll vouch for Tim on the NYC shows. The jim jims played out in Brooklyn, and Mr. Pourbaix was nice enough to come down and have a drink with us. We all had places to stay, but it was nice to see a familiar face, and if I remember correctly he still offered a place to stay. There are plans to go back through again this summer.

  • mikesmith84

    You might like my band. We're called Space Rock Mcgee and the Reverb Squad, on drums we have Prog Rock Steve, three guitarists named Echo, Reverb, and Delay, a bassist called Groovin', and a singer named LotsaPot. From the sound of the bands you named you'd probably love us. Why don't you give your name when post trash comments like that? Some of the bands you named are in Hot Congress, and the other ones may be on the next comp.

  • Chris jim

    I'll vouch for Tim on the NYC shows. The jim jims played out in Brooklyn, and Mr. Pourbaix was nice enough to come down and have a drink with us. We all had places to stay, but it was nice to see a familiar face, and if I remember correctly he still offered a place to stay. There are plans to go back through again this summer.

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