Tonight, May 26, 2018, at 5 p.m. (and running until 11:15) several of the Denver area’s most sonically adventurous musicians will assemble in the basement of Bar Max for 102 Wires. The event was organized by Kevin Richards who is known in local underground music circles for his most recent experimental guitar and electronics project Equine, which has been very prolific of late with the release of a handful of 2018 albums so far including White Majick, Der Howling, Equencing and Twins. In years past, Richards brought his knowledge of jazz chord theory to the too-post-hardcore-for-noise rock/too-weird-for-post-hardcore band Motheater, the quasi-performance art Hogsplitter, noise project Epileptinomicon and solo guitar drone band Temples. We recently sent some questions Richards regarding 102 Wires, it’s inspirations, aims and what Richards hows will be the aftermath.
Queen City Sounds: What inspired doing an event like this? Have you seen anything like this before putting the event together? Perhaps one of the late Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra events.
Kevin Richards: I don’t know that I’ve actually seen something quite like this before, although I have heard of somewhat similar festivals. The large ensemble aspect was definitely inspired by Branca and Rhys Chatham. Generally speaking, I was hoping to gather as may atypical guitarists (or guitarists doing something atypical for themselves) in one room with minimal instruction and see what happens. This fest is curated in a form, but has been intentionally fairly hands off as far as what people are bringing to the table. Hopefully this yields surprises for us all.
What will the show look like/be like and what kind of logistics and gear did you need to bring together to make it happen?
I am hoping to have people around the perimeters of the room performing, and the audience in the middle. there may be people performing solo sets, Steve Reich repertoire, original compositions, perhaps some prepared guitar, ambient loops, large ensembles, and some things that even I don’t quite know what they will be like. This should be six hours of guitar-centric musical fascination. As for the gear, I will of course be bringing multiple guitars and amps. We have performers who don’t generally play guitar and so there is a bit of borrowing happening. Logistics wise, this came together much more smoothly than I had anticipated. Max at Bar Max was great about letting us use the space for the event and all of the performers are putting in a decent amount of work to help this thing all come together. So in the end I can barely take credit for this team effort, as it should be.
With a diverse set of talents, skill sets, aesthetics and so forth, did you put any rules on how things will go and if so why so?
]The general concept/rules of the things were one, you must do something either atypical for how the instrument is generally approached, or you had to do something a bit out of your wheelhouse. Two, as much as possible this should be guitar only, so no drums, or other instruments. I think this event will for the most part adhere to both of these rules, with a couple well-reasoned exceptions. I tend to like working within musical restrictions myself as a means to foster creativity, and I was hoping this had a similar effect on others in this setting.
Why did you think bringing together a broad spectrum of musicians and guitars and whatnot would prove interesting?
How could it not? I have a certain love of the creative chaos that this type of gathering could bring. The joy from this will come from all of the things I didn’t anticipate.
What do you hope is the outcome of this show for both the people there and what might happen in post with you and other participants?
I hope that the primary outcome of this show is that we all gather together and enjoy each others company and creativity. I do hope that this gathering spawns other creative endeavors among the participants. Many have never met each other and may not even know the other exists in the same town, so that aspect should foster some interesting encounters at the very least. For the audience, I hope they see something that they have never seen before, and leave rethinking the instrument in some way.
The official schedule of events
Drew Miller 6-6:30
Large ensemble 1 6:30-7:00
Russ Callison 7:00-7:30
Large ensemble 2 7:30-7:45
Julien Miller/ Kevin Richards collaborative set 7:45-8:15
Vahco Before-Horses 1 minute set 8:35
Sean Patrick Faling doing Glenn Branca memorial solo set 8:35-8:40
Large ensemble 3: branca memorial ensemble 8:40-8:55
Farrell Lowe 8:55-9:15
Aleeya Wilson 9:15-9:9:35
Joe Mills 9:35-10:00
Never Kenezzard Lite with Ryan Peru 10:00-10:15
Jacob Isaacs 10:15-10:35
Equis Sub Templum – 2 large ensemble compositions 10:55-11:15
Who:Seraphim Shock 20th Anniversary of Red Silk Vow w/Euphorbia and DJ Rockstar Aaron When: Friday, 11.24, 9 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Seraphim Shock started in the mid-90s during, despite what late-comer-commercially successful genre fiction like Twilight might seem otherwise, the height of the vampire craze in America. Anne Rice’s vampire novels with Lestat as a main character were enjoying a bit of a renaissance and Vampire: The Masquerade had become a popular role playing game (in 2018 the 5th edition of the game is due out) with a spin off television series produced by Aaron Spelling for Fox. But Seraphim Shock formed in Denver at a time when LoDo had become a thing that hadn’t dominated all of downtown and plenty of urban decay was a feature of the central part of the Mile High City. Its particular flavor of Goth-industrial music included the musicians performing as vampires with theatrical make-up and garb. What could have been silly instead came off as creating atmosphere and putting on a show rather than the image eschewing late alternative rock underground.
1997’s Red Silk Vow was Seraphim Shock’s debut album coming at a time when the mainstream music world in any sense was having zero to do with the Goth subculture so it seemed an anomaly as vocalist Charles Edward, who performed shows at that time looking Victorian vampire chic including a top hat and cloak, crooned for long lost loves and alternatively raging against cultural conservatism and against a repressive society in general—liberally using the image of Satan as not just the opponent of the Christian god but as a totem against the perverted use of religion to oppress human nature and impulse to creative endeavors.
After the 90s, Seraphim Shock’s music and image transitioned into an even more cartoonishly Satanic glam rock/Goth-industrial hybrid. Arguably the music was better and more developed it was hitting at the wrong time and long before the resurgence of the popularity of glam rock, Goth, industrial and related music of the last few years. But with this celebration of Seraphim Shock’s first album, maybe Edwards can capitalize on this moment.
Who:Sgt. D’s List, ROAC, Almataha When: Friday, 11.24, 5 p.m. Where: Chain Reaction Records Why: Early grindcore show at Chain Reaction Records. Sgt. D’s List is an S.O.D. cover band fronted by Alton Schoonmaker of Doperunner and Aberrant. So it’ll be pretty legit and you can check out one of Denver’s best record stores.
Who:The Sehkunts last show w/Smokestack Relic and The Blackouts When: Friday, 11.24, 8 p.m. Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café) Why: The Blackouts is an all-female hard rock cover band whose members are veterans of the local punk and metal scene. The Sehkunts never played many shows but the people in the band have contributed to Denver’s local culture and music world for decades. The reason it’s the band’s last show is that singer Lisa Cook is moving out of state. Might have something to do with Denver having become a playground for the moneyed at the expense of everyone else. Sounds like all “cool” American cities these days. Cook is perhaps best known as the charismatic frontwoman and guitarist of the punk bands The Emmas and Turbo Knife Fight. In the latter she played with drummer Karen Walton who some may know from her days in the all female punk band Rabid Ragdolls. Walton and Cook played together in the short-lived punk duo Naako Deesko before playing with noteworthy punk and rock guitarist, Sherry Hern. Hern has played in various Denver bands over the years, and having guested in The Emmas now and then, including the all woman punk band Pin Downs and the hip-hop/noise rock phenoms Rainbow Sugar. Primarily an accomplished visual artist these days, Hern can still rock with the best of them. Because there are no real recordings this may be the last time you get to see or even hear The Sehkunts.
Saturday: November 25, 2017
Who:Steve Gordon Benefit featuring Animal / object, Lynn Baker – Miguel Espinoza Flamenco Jazz Duo, David Dinsmore, Gordon Gano, The Noise Gallery and Perry Weissman III When: Saturday, 11.25, 7 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: This is the benefit show for artist Steven Gordon of Animal / object, with whom we recently conducted an interview about his life in and out of art and music. Tonight the aforementioned musicians will perform including Steven’s own band. Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes will perform a solo set, free/experimental jazz group Perry Weissman III will treat us to some of their own weirdness and an all-star case will perform as The Noise Gallery. You can donate to Steven at this link during his time dealing with pancreatic cancer pre-early 2018 surgery while he has to take a leave from his job. Because cancer is exhausting in a way that goes beyond the usual ways most of us experience.
Sunday: November 26, 2017
Who:Textures: Synth Drone Collective When: Sunday, 11.26, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: This will be the final Textures Ambient Showcase of 2017 hosted by Wesley Davis but it’s all heavy hitters in the Denver/Boulder synth world with a collaborative set as Synth Drone Collective from bios+a+ic, Mark Mosher, Chris Sessions, Sean Faling, Kuxaan-Sum and Chris Frain.
Monday: November 27, 2017
Who:Purity Ring w/Oko Tygra When: Monday, 11.27, 9 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Ever since the release of 2012’s Shrines, Purity Ring has exerted an influence on pop music production with its imaginative soundscaping born out of their idiosyncratic songwriting style. While still a member of Born Gold, Corin Roddick immersed himself in the art of beatmaking during the downtime that comes with touring and asked Megan James to perform vocals on some of his initial material. The bright, ethereal music sounded like pop songs influenced by hip-hop production. Subsequently the band has worked with Danny Brown and Angel Haze, it’s done numerous remixes, production work on a Chance the Rapper record, recently co-wrote/co-produced three songs on Katy Perry’s 2017 album Witness (whether by chance or otherwise, Katy Perry performed last night at Pepsi Center). But collaborating with massively commercially successful artists aside, Purity Ring’s core appeal is that its work is the product of cultivating their own imaginations and touring with the unique lighting rig designed by Roddick and making music that seems like as great an attempt to express dream imagery as has come down the pike in recent years. Opening the show is the great Denver dream pop band Oko Tygra whose own vision of transcendent sonic beauty will fit in perfectly with what follows the rest of the night.
Tuesday: November 28, 2017
Who:Mogwai w/Xander Harris When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: For 22 years, Mogwai has proven that you can write highly expressive instrumental only rock songs that convey a mood, a sense of place, a non-verbal story better than many bands with lyrics. Early on, Mogwai accomplished this with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. But following 2011’s towering epic Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai has changed direction a bit of incorporated more synths and production into its sound for an effect like soundtracking an experience rather than what could be seen as cinematic vignettes on its previous albums. Mogwai were no strangers to movie soundtrack work at that point but it seemed to take that method and apply it to crafting its music independent of someone else’s creative vision. 2017’s Every Country Sun demonstrated that Mogwai’s gift for humorous, enigmatic, poetic song titles is still as strong as their ability to write evocative, imaginative music even as they no longer seem tied to having to rock.
Opening is analog synth style artist Xander Harris. His work is often compared to that of John Carpenter with good reason—his dark, brooding synth work evokes a sense of claustrophobia and menace while at the same time creating an expansive emotional atmosphere. Often his music seems inspired by dystopian, horror science fiction though in 2017 he did an alternative soundtrack to the Hoichi the Earless section of 1965 Japanese horror anthology Kwaidan.
Who:Hockey Dad w/The Frights and Vundabar When: Tuesday, 11.28, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: If Hockey Dad is a “surf rock” band then surfing in Australia must fit with the marketing clichés used by Foster’s in the 90s. Except that rather than some weak beer, Hockey Dad is a rock duo inspired by 90s punk and garage rock circa The Sonics and The Wailers—melodic, a little rough around the edges and crackling with youthful energy. On the recordings either Zach Stephenson or Billy Fleming must play bass so maybe live they’ll bring on a third member for the tour. The band released its debut full-length, Boronia, in 2016 and its follow-up, Blend Inn, is due out on February 9, 2018 on Kanine Records.
Who:Kanga w/Adoration Destroyed and n810 When: Tuesday, 11.28, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Kanga makes the kind of industrial music certain artists aimed for in the 90s but ended up making sometimes clumsy industrial rock with a short shelf life. As an artist who did music programming for prominent horror films like The Conjuring II, Insidious III and The Devil’s Carnival, Kanga DuChamp has proven to have a real ear for a hook that works in a variety of contexts. Her 2016 self-titled full-length sounds like something from that 90s era of industrial music if the limiting sonic fetishes were shed such as over processed, crunchy guitar, alienating aggression in any aspect of a song, the distorted screaming that got old immediately after Trent Reznor took it in interesting musical directions while many just settled for being monochromatic vocalists. DuChamp actually sings. Her songs are still dense, edgy and dark while not shying away from pop songcraft. Maybe you could compare her music to that of Curve. Catch her at a small club like 3 Kings before she moves on to bigger venues.
Wednesday: November 29, 2017
Who:Ashley Koett, The Corner Girls, Schapero and Terremoto When: Wednesday, 11.29, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Ashley Koett isn’t yet well known anywhere but her sophisticated, jazz-inflected, soulful pop songs are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse had Winehouse come up listening to a lot of indie rock like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, bands that are no strangers to fully incorporating electronic sounds in their own music. The Corner Girls are a surf rock band with a feminist punk edge. Schapero’s new single “Freaking Out” sounds like a combination of flamenco guitar and emotionally fragile ambient pop—spidery guitar, echoing, ghostly cloaks of sound around the vocals. Terremoto is a band whose sound harkens to that branch of early 2000s emo and post-rock that employs slow, fragile dynamics that reflect an introspective state of mind better than a lot of abstract, chill, ambient music.