Friday, May 20, 2016

A Young Boulder Scene in Old-School Style

“We got invested in the DIY scene — mainly the Denver scene, because the one in Boulder wasn’t as thriving — and our idea was initially to get a warehouse and start a venue,” Liam Comer, 24 and from Boulder, explains. “We had done some booking with house shows and at smaller venues with 1190 and wanted to look into getting our own space. Based on that idea, we thought about having a recording studio in the back [of the venue] and eventually thought, ‘Why don’t we start a label and put out music ourselves? We don’t need to put down a huge deposit on a location; we can do that from our homes.”’
For almost a decade, it's been pretty standard for Boulder-born rock bands to relocate to Denver to find regional and national success. That's at least partly due to Boulder’s lack of a small, music-focused venue that could serve as a bridge between cafes and bar-and-grills and headlining the Fox Theatre. Recently, though, Denver bands have started to make the pilgrimage north for gigs more frequently, largely due to First Base Tapes. It’s a cassette-only Boulder label that started releasing albums by interesting, edgy Denver bands like Male Blonding, Scary Drugs and Montoneros last year and is now greatly contributing to the cultivation of a local rock scene in Boulder.

When they arrive for an interview, the young guys (all of them current or former University of Colorado students and DJs at the tremendous Radio 1190) who run First Base Tapes seem more like an army than an indie label. And only five of the nine music-loving First Base Tapes dudes showed up to speak with Westword earlier this month.

Despite not having a small rock club — such as Denver’s hi-dive or Fort Collins’s Hodi’s Half Note — at which to nurture a local scene, First Base Tapes has put on house concerts and warehouse happenings that have been so successful that promising Denver bands are now getting in touch to be a part of what’s happening in Boulder.

Denver indie-rocker Scatter Gather, for instance, is playing a highly anticipated tour kickoff party hosted by First Base in Boulder this Friday, May 20.

“The reason we created this is because we had nothing to do in Boulder,” O’Connor says. “We started off as only going to shows in Denver and only knowing about bands from Denver. We were even mostly putting out tapes by Denver bands, but we’ve made a point of saying, ‘This is a Boulder label.’ We want to have Boulder stand on its own.”

So is there a Boulder music scene now?

“If you would’ve asked me just a few months ago, I would have said no,” O’Connor replies. “But the Forge has been good at helping a lot of Boulder bands come up. Now I know a good four to five that aren’t just the typical jam bands.”

“It’s sparse and it’s selective, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on underground, like Grass,” says Ruscitti. “They’re a crazy-good Boulder band.”

“It’s so hard for the Boulder music scene to grow because the Fox and the Boulder theaters just continue to book the same kind of music for the same kind of crowd,” Prior complains.

“Everyone is aware of that in this town, and it’s unfortunate that we don’t have a stepladder [venue],” Comer adds. “The demand is there, but we need that place for the culture to be centered around.”

Earlier this month in a Westword interview, powerful local promoter Don Strasburg questioned whether there is enough demand in Boulder for a small rock club to make it a financially viable endeavor, but Tammariello, in particular, says there is.

“We really want to invest in Boulder. We all feel that there’s a lot of potential here, so making something like a tape label and even doing stuff with the Forge, that’s a great thing. Promoting that kind of culture and getting that kind of stuff back here is definitely worthwhile. Gradually, as things like house shows and warehouse shows start popping up, it gives people an option; it gives people a reason to be invested.”

"Twenty-four-year-old singer/guitarist Michael Colussi, a University of Colorado student from Indiana, told Westword that Grass’s debut album, Dragwire, was recorded in just two days on a "beat-up" 2008 iMac, with minimal subsequent overdubs. Half of Dragwire was tracked at the band’s warehouse space next to the Bus Stop strip club in Boulder, and half at a warehouse in Denver also used by psychedelic Tom Waits For No Man."

More information:
» The Permanent Rain Press: "Grass Release New EP"

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