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.