The Mile High Makeout: Denver Does Denver - Reverb

The Mile High Makeout: Denver Does Denver

One of the words most frequently used to describe Denver’s music scene is “incestuous.” It seems every time you turn around, the frontman for this band is playing backup guitar in that band. Or the guy who drums in the hardcore band expresses his true passion in that avant-garde jazz outfit. Or the woman making the experimental electronic music is in a committed relationship with that dashing singer-songwriter. As Facebook might say, it’s complicated.

Perhaps nowhere will the complex multiplicity of relationships in Denver music be better showcased than in tomorrow night’s Denver Does Denver show. The event, organized by Illiterate Magazine, challenges local musicians to perform songs by other local musicians, in an attempt to stimulate dialogue and strengthen community relationships. This year, the creative folks at Illiterate have extended the challenge to visual artists as well as musicians, creating even great opportunities for collaboration and chaos.

“Illiterate intends to be an organization that interprets art in a plural sense,” says Adam Gildar, editor-in-chief of Illiterate Magazine.

While 2009′s inaugural Denver Does Denver event focused solely on the art of music, Gildar — who, speaking of incestuousness, drums in Denver electro outfitJonathan and BPro — is excited to branch out to visual forms as well, and hopes it will expand the minds of both the artists and those in attendance at the event.

Billed as “an event of creative promiscuity,” Denver Does Denver began as the brainchild of Yuzo Nieto, saxophonist, songwriter and frontman for Pink Hawks and leader of the now-defunct Yuzo Nieto and the Hand That Rocks the Dreidel.

“I was the music editor for Illiterate at the time,” recalls Nieto. “It came up because I had a friend, Mike Neff, whose songs would get stuck in my head, and I started jamming his songs as a warm up every day. I thought it might be a cool idea to do a whole set of his work, and it kind of just went from there.”

Where it went is as surprising to Gildar and Nieto as anyone. After buzz spread about last year’s event, acts around town scrambled to participate. This year’s roster is staggering in both scope and quality. A partial list includes Lumineers, Jason Cain, Married in Berdichev, Hideous Men, Oblio’s Arrow, Littles Paia, Houses and Flobots, as well as more than 15 other acts.

“We’re really blessed to work with some great bands,” enthuses Gildar. “Not only are Flobots playing, but they’re letting us use their space as well. A lot of it just comes from people enjoying playing this show. They got a lot of good vibes from last year. What better way to pay a compliment to somebody than to cover their song?” In addition to support from musicians, Gildar was delighted this year to collaborate with the Meadowlark’s Jonathan Bitz. “He’s really a promoter of the arts in this city,” says Gildar.

Nieto echoes Gildar’s enthusiasm. “Last year totally exceeded my expectations,” he says. “One of my old bands from high school got covered, which was embarrassing and awesome.”

The opportunities for awesomeness and embarrassment are bound to increase with the addition of visual artists to the event. “Someone can take a composition of another artist and use their own imagery within it, or they’re free to take an artist’s style and create their own compositions with it,” Gildar explains. “There’s a lot of room for expansion and creativity. Artists are often solitary — there’s a lot of aloneness — and it’s really interesting to pull someone out of the world they’ve created for themselves and ask them to consider someone else’s work. I don’t really know what it’s going to look like.”

“I just hope that it accomplishes good community building within the Denver arts scene,” Nieto says. “I’ve traveled a bit this summer around the U.S., and I think we have an amazing scene. I want this community to be stronger.”

Denver Does Denver will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Meadowlark Bar and at the adjoining Flobots.org Community Space. It will begin with a silent auction of the visual art created for the event, with musical performances beginning at 8. On the Meadowlark’s back patio, barbecue will be served until it runs out. Tickets are just $8, with proceeds going to support Illiterate’s current quest to achieve non-profit status.

Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Tuesday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.