“Porn and candy,” James Safechuck says with a sigh in the upcoming HBO documentary Leaving Neverland, recounting one of the countless sexual encounters he claims to have shared with Michael Jackson as a child. The four-hour film recounts his story as well as that of Wade Robson, another boy who says he was groomed to be Jackson’s secret child lover over a period of many years.
In each case, the film alleges, Jackson sought out children who mythologized him, slowly seducing their parents with vacations, houses, and money, while psychologically manipulating the boys into thinking they were liable accomplices in his sex crimes. The boys’ stage performances and sycophancy toward Jackson are endearing (what 80s child wouldn’t fall to pieces when gifted a “Thriller” jacket or “Smooth Criminal” hat?) which makes the graphic and detailed account of their sexual allegations against Jackson all the more horrifying to endure.
When Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin teamed up with a group of dumpster-diving punk artists to turn a bowling alley into an interdimensional funhouse, nobody could’ve predicted they’d end up sparking an economic revolution in the art world.
But that’s exactly what Meow Wolf is up to.
The Santa Fe company has somehow managed to walk that razor-thin line between commercial success and artistic freedom. Its immersive art installation/concert venue, House of Eternal Return (picture Yellow Submarine reimagined by Isaac Asimov), has brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to the New Mexico capital, generating enough revenue to pay its hive of DIY artists a livable wage with benefits, and to expand its mind-bending attractions to five new cities.
Capitol Hill’s Beauty Bar closing, Lipgloss dance night moving to Syntax Physic Opera
The Denver Post 4/25/15
The Capitol Hill dance club Beauty Bar will be permanently closing its doors next month, according to owners. “It’s been a great five years,” said co-owner Mike Barnhart, who added that Beauty Bar will play their final song on April 4. “We’d love to end Beauty Bar on a high note.”
Lipgloss co-founder Michael Trundle says their final night at Beauty Bar will be April 3, and after a brief hiatus will continue their Friday night schedule at Syntax Physic Opera on South Broadway. Syntax already hosts the monthly dance nights Weird Touch and Mile High Soul Club, the latter of which was a Beauty Bar staple until last December.
“I often take moments like this as a chance to reboot,” Trundle says. “Moving from La Rumba to Beauty Bar was a big change. We got rid of the EDM, house-music aspect of the night. I don’t know how drastically it will change, but it will change. “Syntax is just a beautiful space. When they first opened I thought, ‘I wish this had been around when we left La Rumba.’ It’s a very refined space. Capitol Hill has become a bit of a bro crowd.”
If Jenny Lewis were to be considered the voice of any certain slice of this generation, it would be those steeped in rock culture. Her set last night at The Ogden Theatre (her third Denver show this year) gave those in attendance the opportunity to experience her recently released The Voyager in its natural habitat: the drama and ecstasy of a local music scene.
“I was your silver lining, but now I’m gold,” Lewis sang, opening the show with a number from her previous band, Rilo Kiley, “Silver Lining.” For music nerds, it’s the song with the lead guitar that blatantly rips off George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” Yet for the twee dramatists in the crowd, it was the soundtrack for their gazes toward the ex-lovers who were surely there last night. Because if Jenny Lewis songs have any utility, it’s in the nourishing sadness of holding on to lost love.
Q&A: Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh Still Loves Fucking With People
Everyone pigeonholes Mark Mothersbaugh as a punk pioneer, but the Devo frontman has been actively drawing, painting, making prints, short films, rugs, and sculptures for decades. The guy who is responsible for revolutionizing music videos and writing the Pee Wee’s Playhouse theme song is having his first major gallery exhibition at the Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be open from now until April. The exhibit is called Myopia and it takes up the entire three floors of the museum, turning the massive concrete building into a cartoonish, beautiful war zone of witty politics and childlike nightmares. (The shows title comes from the eye condition that left Mothersbaugh legally blind until the age of eight, when he was given a pair of prescription glasses that opened the world up to him, which, he said, was when he decided to be an artist.)
Nathaniel Rateliff may look like tough-as-nails trucker out of a 1970s Burt Reynolds flick, but his music is as tender as a sleeping puppy. After establishing himself as frontman of the anthem-rock outfit Born In The Flood in the 2000s, Rateliff pursued a solo career of soft, heart-grinding ballads in the tradition of Leonard Cohen or Nick Drake. Following 2010’s In Memory of Loss and 2013’s Falling Faster Than You Can Run, Rateliff found himself the touring companion of bumpkin-darlings like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers, quickly becoming Bon Iver’s competition for the title of saddest lumbersexual alive.
Rateliff’s new EP, Closer, will be released on January 27, followed later this spring by a full-length album with his soul band, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats. We recently sat down with Rateliff in a Denver bar for an afternoon of bourbon drinking and chatting about music in politics, why German audiences are so respectful, and whether a successful career inhibits the creative process.
As far back as my pre-school years I was showing signs of an unhealthy obsession with both girls and music—behaviors that remain with me today at age 32. Before I learned to write, I asked my mother to transcribe love letters to my day-care crushes. Before my brain developed the coordination to run down stairs without falling, I learned how to place a turntable needle into the groove of a record for a specific song—and thus learned how to escape the dark trials of reality and mentally dissolve into a fantasy world of sound.
A few years ago I was diagnosed as a love addict, my therapist explaining that music was my trigger for addictive behavior. But as I began looking into the neuropsychology of listening to music, I found that the experience often mirrors that of love addiction, leading me to wonder: Can I be straight-up addicted to music?
We Talked To Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch About His Directorial Debut, “God Help The Girl”
If you’ve been wondering what Stuart Murdoch has been up to since his band Belle & Sebastian released their 2010 album Write About Love, the answer is writing and directing a musical based on characters and songs introduced in the 2009 album God Help the Girl. The film of the same name is a voyage through the melodic melancholy world of Eve, a fashionable nymph who breaks away from a hospital to seek out like-minded musicians in Glasgow, a plot that shares faint resemblances with Belle & Sebastian’s own origin story. (The band started when, after suffering for years with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Murdoch emerged into the world with an armful of songs and a hunger to locate people with whom he could collaborate to bring them to life.)
Even at its most basic level—a cinematic manifestation of a Belle & Sebastian song—God Help the Girl is terribly infectious and heart-meltingly sincere. B&S superfans wont be disappointed with Murdoch’s attempt to translate the precious landscape of his imagination into a musical film.God Help the Girl hits theaters in New York and L.A. tonight (it will be released nationally on September 12), and so Noisey spoke with Murodch about making the leap from the mic stand to the director’s chair.
Who owns a community music festival? The sponsors, the organizers, the ticket-holders, or the bands? And when you call your event an “Underground Music Showcase”—the title of Denver’s 14-year-old local music festival—are you obligated to adhere to all the weird rules and intricate politics of indie culture, no matter how big you get?
My city’s beloved Underground Music Showcase began in the early years of George W. Bush’s first term, back when Denver looked more like Detroit than San Francisco, and smoking marijuana could still land you in prison. In the eyes of the world, the Denver indie-music scene was little more than a footnote in a Neutral Milk Hotel biography; this was before DeVotchKa recorded the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack and Elvis Costello was Tweeting about Esme Patterson. Back then, the UMS hosted only a few bands and a couple hundred people. It was a modest affair co-founded by the Denver Post‘s music editor, Ricardo Baca.
Stuck in a hotel room one winter evening, Denver songwriter Esmé Patterson was learning to play Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” on her guitar, and as she learned the lyrics, she began to feel annoyed. “Her age is always 22… Loves me like I want her to” Van Zandt sings about a young bar-room girl he likes to hook up with whenever he’s in town. “Long and lazy, blonde and free… And I can have her any time.”
After learning Van Zandt’s song, Patterson felt inspired to write a song from the perspective of “Loretta,” informing this patronizing patriarch that she will “keep my dancing shoes on long after you’re gone.” Patterson then realized that pop history is loaded with songs addressed to female protagonists, all of whom never got the chance to respond with a song of their own. Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” the Band’s “Evangeline,” Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No,” the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” soon she found herself having written a whole collection of fan-fiction response songs, assembled in the album Woman to Woman, released this spring.
Colorado Public Radio 7/24/14
In the digital age, musicians typically get as many takes as they need to lay down a track. But instrumentalists and singers interested in experimenting with Denver guitarist Adam Baumeister’s straight-to-vinyl recording booth at the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) this weekend will be reminded of the days when musicians only had one shot to get it right.
Imitating the popular recording booths of the 1950s, Baumeister will set up a small studio in the back of Ironwood boutique store on South Broadway during the annual indie rock music event. And for $25, anyone can come in and record a song — or whatever they like — straight onto a seven-inch vinyl disc.
Morrissey’s Colorado Roots Run Deep — And Almost Became Deadly
As a clumsy and shy teenager, a pre-Smiths Morrissey began his first of many pilgrimages to the U.S. in 1976, visiting his sister in New York. “I manage three more trips to America before 1980,” Morrissey said in his recent memoir, Autobiography. “But by now Mary has moved to the less interesting Denver…The knee-high Arvada snow makes everything look bright and clean, and I rashly place a fruitless ad in the Rocky Mountain News in search of musicians as despair mounts upon despair.”
Had this ad bore fruit, Mozzer might have fronted an American band of square-jawed Coloradans. It did not, of course, but despite “crying myself back to intolerant Manchester,” Morrissey has spent a surprising amount of time in Denver in the intervening years (including this Saturday, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House), leaving a mark so indelible it inspired one resident to literally take up arms against a local radio station, demanding Smiths music be played.
One of the largest looming and most influential icons in the history of rock and roll, Lou Reed died on Sunday at the age of 71. No word has been received regarding the cause of Reed’s death, though the “Walk on the Wild Side” songwriter underwent a liver transplant last May that nearly cost him his life.
While the name of Lou Reed isn’t quite as universal as that of Bob Dylan, John Lennon or Elvis Presley, his artistic legacy is in league with those icons as the man who unearthed the seedy, urban side of rock culture and raised the bar of lyrical sophistication. Beginning with his Andy Warhol-sponsored ’60s group, the Velvet Underground, Reed made an indelible mark on music through his partnership with avant-garde composer John Cale, in which the pair fused visceral lyrics (inspired by the debauched writings of William Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr.) with commercial pop structures and experimental instrumentation.
Do drugs fuel creativity? Is an addled mind essential to making great music? Does sobriety cause creative impotence? What if Jimi Hendrix had suddenly decided to enter a twelve-step program? Would Are You Experienced?have sucked? To answer these nagging questions, you have to take a look at rock’s red-eyed history and examine both the music made under the dizzy spell of artificial chemistry and the sober work that followed.
“It’s absurd to think that because some famous rock stars were drug addicts that doing drugs has anything to do with being a musician,” counters Chris Adolf, frontman of Denver’s Bad Weather California, who believes one thing has nothing to do with the other. “But you do run into that kind of attitude sometimes where people think that being ‘really fucked up’ is being ‘rock and roll.’ To me that seems — for lack of a better word — kind of poseur-ish. I feel like it’s a bit of a fantasy that musicians need drugs to be creative. There are plenty of musicians that I know personally that have been a driving force in music who are basically straight. You gotta be able to leave your head without drugs.”
There’s nothing wrong with cover songs. In fact, before Sam Cooke and the Beatles shifted the established paradigms, singer and songwriter were two entirely separate professions. And there’s also nothing wrong with a musician recording a cover album in the twilight of his career (Johnny Cash’s American Recordings attests to that). Yet when you catch a once-great artist leaning heavily on their childhood record collection, you can be pretty sure their creative juices have gone dry and sticky.
When Belle & Sebastian released If You’re Feeling Sinister in the fall of 1996, the only music I was listening to was Christian rock and Weird Al Yankovic. (Naturally, I was the coolest kid in town.) Living in the religiously conservative Midwest, my being exposed to a twee-folk band from Glasgow, Scottland was about as likely as me having a conversation about intersexual art in the post-modern era. But a few years later, the internet began penetrating the hermetic farm-lands of Iowa, and soon Napster was pulling back the curtain on mind-blowing libraries of new music.
No one knows how to push buttons quite like Peaches. Whether she’s writing and directing her own autobiographical musical or organizing a Free Pussy Riot campaign, this electro-punk (aka Merrill Nisker) is always a few steps ahead of even the most radical of sex-positive visionaries. In advance of her DJ extravaganza at the Summit Music Hall this weekend, complete with her own East Berlin dancers, we checked in with the queen of queer to discuss M.I.A., humorous sex and why punks hate dance music.
In the early 1980s, a red-haired, Midwestern boy named William Bailey stepped off a bus in New York City. Clearly naive and over his head, Bailey was targeted by a psychotic homeless man, who shouted at the frightened ginger, “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby; you’re gonna die!” The moment stuck with the kid, who years later would legally change his name to Axl Rose, and appropriated the sociopathic line for his song, “Welcome to the Jungle,” and recreated the scene of a wide-eyed innocent being corrupted by the city for the hit music video of same name.
Trading one jungle for another, young Rose eventually moved to Los Angeles, fronting an early lineup of the band L.A. Guns, before being kicked out and forming Hollywood Rose with childhood friend Izzy Stradlin, who had moved to California a few years earlier. It would have seemed strange for two Midwestern boys to form a band named after a city they’re only recently acquainted with, if it weren’t for the inclusion of two other childhood friends: Steven Adler and Saul Hudson, also known by the childhood moniker describing his ADD sprightliness: Slash.
Bob Dylan doesn’t belong here. Not here, but here — as in 2012. And he’d admit as much. Throughout his career, Dylan has always had sentimentality for a world before his time, romanticizing the lives of Robert Johnson and Hank Williams. “I was born very far from where I was supposed to be,” he said in Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home.
In the music video for his latest single, “Duquesne Whistle,” Dylan struts about an urban sidewalk at night, looking aloof yet paranoid, with a posse of Latino gangsters, a drag queen and a Gene Simmons impersonator — a group of strange outcasts. And the scene is intercut with a story about an earnest boy’s attempts to woo a pretty stranger on the street.
In the early 1970s, a bespectacled English waif named Declan MacManus — later to be known as genre defining songsmith, Elvis Costello — was pulling off a con in am Elizabeth Arden cosmetics factory. “I read the papers all day long because… No one realized that the computer did all the thinking,” Costello told Q Magazine in 1996, speaking of his job as a computer operator in the factory. “I wore a white coat and everyone thought I was a rocket scientist because I was the only one who knew how to work the machine. Everyone thought I was a genius. It was brilliant. I just skived all the time… I took my guitar in. I’d stay late, sometimes work 36 hours just on coffee and write two or three songs and read the music press.”
By the summer of 1966, the Beatles sucked. Or at least that’s the way they felt for the band. “Performance, for us, it’s gone downhill,” Paul McCartney said of his band at the time. “Because we can’t develop if no one can hear us; so for us to perform…it gets difficult each time.” The pressures of being the generation-defining, teenage-girl-arousing, million-dollar-making, international entertainment sensation was beginning to weigh on the aging pop group, evidently. Touring was becoming a drag: Playing to screaming girls who didn’t care about the music, death threats from the KKK and Philippine soldiers, the bathroom being your only moment of refuge.
By the spring of 1971, the heroes of the ’60s were dropping like flies. The Beatles had broken up, Angela Davis and Timothy Leary were on the run, and everyone in California was becoming a born-again Christian. The previous autumn, Jimi Hendrix asphyxiated on half-digested sleeping pills and red wine, followed by Janis Joplin’s lonely heroin overdose two weeks later. It was a time for hiding, not necessarily for self-reflection, but hiding from the truth that the lifestyle of the ’60s either killed you or turned you into a sober religious nut making forgettable music — and which was worse?
Despite his own attempts at hiding, death would find Jim Morrison later that summer in a Parisian bathtub. A few miles to the south, the Rolling Stones were doing some hiding of their own, recording an album in the basement ofKeith Richards’s rented villa in the south of France. By that time, the band had already experienced its own casualty of indulgence — the first of the era — in the form of their booted blond guitar player, Brian Jones, found facedown in his own swimming pool.
Jimi Hendrix frightened white people. When he came storming onto the scene, Jimi Hendrix made weepy children out of the world’s best guitar players, bringing a primal sexuality and grace to his playing that only a true master of the craft could muster. Guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend had spent nearly the whole of their young lives attempting to be the most impressive, most proficient guitar players anyone in England had ever seen, and then along comes this shy Yankee to plug in and make them all look like rank amateurs.
Lester Bangs mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and his Father burned to death. Any biographer would be hard pressed to find a better metaphor for the man who, if not invented rock criticism, at least gave it its legs. Bangs was a rare experiment in courage, living his life and modeling his career off the irresponsible inspiration of rock music. He wrote the way the feedback-soaked music he loved sounded: Like breaking the rules. Bringing the Beat-style of loud, run-on sentences to the undeveloped world of rock journalism, his large paragraphs sputtered like the gun-fire words of a pulpit-beating minister.
Tony Wilson (the Andy Warhol of Manchester, England) once made the hackneyed statement “Morrissey is a woman trapped in a man’s body,” to which the dandified frontman of the Smiths eventually replied, “Tony Wilson is a man trapped in a pig’s body.” The two were friends and icons of the Manchester music scene, a city that had given us some of the best English bands between 1977 and 1995 (the Buzzcocks, Joy Division/New Order, the Fall, the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, Oasis, the Verve), not least of all, the Smiths.
Many would go on to consider the Smiths the most quintessentially English band of the decade — particularly their androgynous, uni-monikered frontman, with his Oscar Wildian embracement of art-for-arts-sake glamour, incessantly carrying around bouquets of gladiolas, wearing hearing aids for no reason and scribbling the word “BAD” across his neck in magic marker.
Prince’s Sign of the Times Turns 25
There is very little argument to make against the suggestion that Prince ruled the 1980s. The decade was jam packed with memorable pop artists making music to treasure for generations to come, but none came close to the eclecticism, the energy, and the downright strangeness that was Prince Rodgers Nelson. While Michael Jackson wanted to be the King of Pop, Prince was the king of sex. While Madonna pursued controversy, Prince breathed controversy. And while Bruce Springsteen wanted to speak for the average man, Prince spoke for God.
Prince, almost more than any other, consciously shaped what became the decade that integrated the visual with the audio. His pro-masturbation song, “Darling Nikki” inspiredTipper Gore to put “Parental Warning” stickers on controversial albums. Just before this controversy, Prince set an unprecedented record for having the number one album (Purple Rain), film (Purple Rain) and single (“When Doves Cry”) in the entire country. Even his next two album releases – Around the World in A Day and Parade — while not being recognized in the VH1/Time-Life sense of the word “classic,” sold very well at the time and stand up tremendously well in the subsequent decades.
“The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.” This quote has been attributed to both Brian Eno and Peter Buck (of REM) — no one is completely certain who said it first, but that’s not the point. The fact remains that The Velvet Underground & Nico stands today as a testament to one of the greatest truths in rock and roll: What the populace hates today, quite possibly will become the sound of tomorrow.
From The Ramones to Radiohead’s Kid A, the highway of rock music is littered with examples of a certain sound causing listeners of its day to cover their ears and grit their teeth, only to hear the same sound be repeated ad-nauseam by every other band five or ten years later.
It’s unfortunate that so many people assume that U.K. punk was all about politics. When Bill Maher interviewed Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong on his show Real Time with Bill Maher last year, he questioned the singer’s punk credibility for working to help elect Barack Obama in 2008, referring to The Sex Pistols when commenting “that wasn’t very punk rock; what about anarchy in the U.K?”
Bill Maher certainly wasn’t the first to question Green Day as a legitimate punk band. This primarily was the charge that Johnny Rotten — Mr. Anarchist/Anti-Christ — would’ve pissed all over a Green Day record. Supposedly in order to be punk your songs had to be about affecting social change. You couldn’t just write music for music’s sake.