By: Mirna Tufekcic
At a coffee shop, “Take it Easy” by the Eagles plays over the speakers as I begin writing a piece about what the revival of rock and roll looks like from where I stand, and where I stand is somewhere around Boulder/Denver, Colorado. Like the age-old mathematical proof goes, IF rock and roll is dead, THEN it’s rising from the grave as we speak. But rock and roll never really died. It’s been in a lull; now reawakening. Hence why I’m choosing to use the word revival over resurrection.
The rock and roll revival is happening in the Boulder/Denver music scene. Not just because the music is hard, raw, and will make you sweat, but because people are living it heart first. Today’s rock stands on the shoulders of rock and roll giants, and that’s why I believe it has this potency and capacity to move you; to get under your skin. Boulder/Denver is the place to witness it firsthand, but you’ll have to seek it out before it’ll find you. Still fluttering its eyes from decades of sleep, rock and roll around these parts is slowly rising from underground, but underground it is still.
The recognition of this revival started for me a few weeks ago at Boulder’s Lazy Dog, when the BANDITS played their homecoming show after touring the country. Their hard rockin’ tunes injected a potent dose of “wake the fuck up, it’s rock and roll time!”, and I couldn’t help myself. Apparently, neither could the people around me, who found themselves rocking back and forth to the BANDITS music: reminiscent of the 70s, metal like the 80s, and with an in-your-face alternative flare of the grungy 90s; the latter you can partly, one-third precisely, thank the lovely LuLu Demitro for, the vocalist/bassist/keys of the band. As she sang, “Oh, baby, who’re we gonna kill tonight?”, I found myself remembering the days of women-led bands like Garbage, The Cranberries, and The Cardigans. Vocalist/guitarist John Demitro didn’t half-ass his presence on stage, either. Truly putting up a hard-rock performance, he jumped on the drum set, walked down into the crowd guitar-first, and played on his tip-toes at the edge of the stage, beckoning the crowd to move closer and closer to him.
After that night, rock and roll was in me; it was coursing through my veins. I remembered what I seemed to have long forgotten: rock and roll is life itself. I started fiending for another hit the very next day, where I found myself in Denver at the Hi-Dive for a Plum show, a rock and roll band based out of LA. But I was really there to see The Velveteers, a local duo who project some heavy, hard sounds right into your rockin’ soul. The Velveteers’ frontwoman Demi Demitro is nothing short of breathtaking. Not because she’s beautiful, which she certainly is, but because her guitar shredding and sharp lyrics ooze talent like raw honey off a fresh honey comb. (Warning: hearing them live will make your mouth water). There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a budding, 19-year-old female artist making music-lovers’ jaws drop. It’s powerful.
Witnessing The Velveteers perform in admiration, I told myself to keep both eyes and ears open for their next appearance around town. Lo and behold, the very next day my music-loving compadre hit me up to tell me about an upcoming event with Denver’s beloved Yawpers at Lost Lake. “The Velveteers are opening for them at the Sunday BBQ show,” he added. He didn’t have to say more. I hung up and went straight to the Google app on my phone to buy tickets.
Sunday’s BBQ show at Lost Lake was a more intimate setting than the Yawpers’ sold-out Larimer Lounge show the night prior, which you can read more about here. There were mostly “friends with the band” peeps attending this event, and it made for quite the view into real rock and roll. Nate Cook, the frontman of the Yawpers, led a high-level, party-on-a-Sunday energy with vibrant, ridiculous antics particular to Nate. #Nate exists for a reason (thanks for this, Pete Simatovic!). Just to give you an example: At 2:30 pm in front of Lost Lake, Nate walked out wearing cutoffs just short of exposing his balls with a vintage sweater straight out of the Cosby show, cigarette in mouth. His energy attracted those around him to start chatting about music and his show at the Larimer the night before. The conversation moved back to the bar, where all involved shot whiskey.
Outside, Blackfoot Gypsies, who had been touring with the Yawpers, congregated around their van in front of Lost Lake to take pictures. And if you didn’t know what year it was, you would have mistaken it for being 1971: the group was outfitted in tight bell-bottoms, long unkempt hair, aviator ray-bans, and flowery t-shirts unbuttoned to the chest and all. But it’s 2016 and these guys were making a statement: “We’re bringing back the true rock and roll!” And that they did. The Yawpers, The Velveteers, and The Blackfoot Gypsies revived the sound of rock and roll with every tune they played.
As Sunday funday at Lost Lake slowly rolled on, people got more involved in the music: they danced and sang along, feeding off of the rockin’ energy each band emitted. And that’s when I realized rock and roll isn’t just about the music: it’s a lifestyle. You either feel it, or you don’t. And to feel it, you’ve got to be there. It’s dark, it’s emotional, and it will take a toll on you. It’s irresponsible sometimes, and it’s about living in the moment.
This past weekend I went to Boulder’s Studio 700 to feed my soul with rock and roll once again. A long list of musicians were paying tribute to The Beatles with short sets. Boulder’s Whiskey Autumn headlined the event, with members of Cold River City, BANDITS, and other singer-songwriters contributing to the revival of rock and roll through Beatles covers. It was, like the rest of my recent adventures, a night to remember.
Rock and roll, from where I stand, sure has a palpable energy ripe with life. Hope to see you there.