The Starz Denver Film Festival has become the crown jewel for the Denver Film Society and a cornerstone of Denver’s cultural community. Now in its 33rd incarnation, the annual celebration of cinematic superlatives has long been a meeting place for local and international filmmakers and artists of all sorts. The festival has even tacked on performances by some of our city’s best musicians in past years. This year, however, the musical component of the SDFF takes on a life of its own with the Exposure Music Lounge — four nights of live music that add a new artistic dimension to the event.
The Exposure Music Lounge is the creation of Lisa Gedgaudas — former Reverber and champion of Denver art and music — and Ben Desoto, the talent buyer for the hi-dive. The two had a vision for a musical component of the festival that would enhance the experience, attract a new audience and create opportunities for interaction among folks from different cultural and artistic communities.
“I think the arts community — especially the indie music community — can often be really isolated and cut off from other arts scenes, so I’m really excited for this to be a coming together of theater, film and music,” says Desoto.
That coming together will happen not only because bands will be playing while the film festival is occurring, but also because Gedgaudas and Desoto have selected unusual venues and noteworthy bands for the performances. The Exposure Music Lounge — now branded with a clever name and eye-catching logo — kicks off tonight at Denver Open Media at 700 Kalamath, with local music performances from jazz-rock-lounge weirdos Pawn Ticket Trio and indie pop ascendants Paean. The night will be capped off by the Exposure Music Lounge’s only out-of-towner, Chris “Sandman” Sand. In an inspired union of film festival and music festival, Sand is a cowboy hip-hop performer who is the subject of one of the festival’s featured films, “Roll Out, Cowboy.” Perhaps most remarkable of all, the event is open to everyone for a suggested donation of just $5.
Next week, on Thursday the 11th and Friday the 12th, the Exposure Music Lounge moves to the Denver Civic Theatre. Thursday night will showcase the progressive rock of 200 Million Years and the dramatic jazz pop of Bela Karoli, while Friday will feature dark, theatrical performances by Bad Luck City and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. Performances will be just $10 each, or $7 for festival attendees.
Located in the heart of the Santa Fe Arts District, and currently operated by El Centro Su Teatro, the Civic is a beautiful, historic performance space that hosts plays, musical performances and cultural events, but resides outside of the Denver music venue mainstream. This excites Gedgaudas and Desoto because they want the Exposure Music Lounge to do more than just expose Denver’s vibrant music scene to filmmakers and filmgoers. It’s their hope to expose Denver’s other arts, theater and culture to the music scene.
“Hopefully, we’re bringing in a few hundred people that have never entered the Civic Theatre,” says Gedgaudas.
Desoto agrees. “We wanted to show off how interesting, diverse and culturally significant Denver is,” he says.
The showing off will continue on Saturday, Nov 13, when the Exposure Music Lounge moves back to Denver Open Media on the eve of the festival’s last day. Experimental electronic music from Iuengliss and pan-cultural avant-garde jazz from Yuzo Nieto‘s Pink Hawks (reportedly performing as a 12-piece orchestra) will fill the air [full disclosure: Eryc Eyl’s alter ego, DJ Savior Breath, will also appear]. Once again, the music can be had for a mere $5 suggested donation.
Looking at the list of musicians playing the Exposure Music Lounge, a pattern emerges. All of these acts would make great film soundtracks. However, Desoto and Gedgaudas — while not opposed to facilitating mutually beneficial connections between musicians and filmmakers — insist that their vision is much less pragmatic.
“I really just want more people to come and mingle,” explains Gedgaudas. “There are a lot of people coming in from out of town who can intermix. We can show how supportive we are of our music scene, and I want all of our kids to come out, enjoy themselves in a different setting and feel like they did something really interesting and talked to really interesting people.”
“This isn’t about a specific band,” Desoto continues. “It’s about the whole Denver arts community.”
The Exposure Music Lounge occurs at 8 p.m. on Nov 5 and 13 at Denver Open Media (700 Kalamath), and Nov 11 and 12 at Denver Civic Theatre (721 Santa Fe). All shows start at 8 p.m. Denver Open Media shows have a $5 suggested donation, while Denver Civic Theatre shows are $7 with a festival ticket and $10 without. For more information, visit the Exposure Music Lounge website.
Check out a trailer for “Roll Out, Cowboy,” one of the films that will be screened at the 33rd Starz Denver Film Festival. Its subject, Chris “Sandman” Sand, will be performing at the kickoff of the Exposure Music Lounge on Nov 5 at Denver Open Media.
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.