Murder By Death Haunts the Stanley Hotel Again (Westword 1/17/2017)

photo by Brandon Marshall

Murder By Death And Its Devoted Fans Again Haunt the Stanley Hotel
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 1/17/2017

Walk the grounds of the Stanley Hotel before one of Murder by Death’s annual winter shows. A ghostly stillness will chill your bones. Frigid winds will greet you, along with a buzz of anticipation from the gothic-Americana band’s fans, who come from all over the world to see the group at the reputedly haunted hotel that inspired Stephen King’s novel, The Shining.

“We’re definitely doing this again next year,” said frontman Adam Turla, dressed in a vintage black tuxedo, early in his band’s two-hour Friday-night kickoff of a three-night run. Coincidentally, it was not only Friday the thirteenth, but also a full moon. The spooky Estes Park setting — with most in attendance dolled up in formal attire to re-create the iconic ballroom photo from Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining — could not have been more perfect for Murder by Death’s fourth-annual Stanley stint, when wandering the infamous old hotel in search of spirits, whether alcoholic or non-corporeal, is as much a thrill as the music.

Turla said that Murder by Death, which in 2014 became the first rock band ever to play the Stanley, rehearsed 52 songs for this year’s performances. Friday’s, which was very loud and often brought a punk-rock intensity to the group’s grim, poetic Americana, was full of deep cuts. The 26-song set featured the live debut of “Oh, To Be an Animal,” from 2012’s Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon. The quintet’s fiercely loyal fans sang along, word for word, with a few dusted-off fifteen-year-old obscurities that Turla said the bandmembers had had to relearn to perform.

As in past years at the act’s Stanley shows, it was more of a glass-raising, fist-pumping sing-a-long than a dance party. But that didn’t take away from the energy, which peaked with the jam-packed crowd screaming along to the line “Raise another pint,” from the song “Brother,” and, of course, “Spirits are restless/Can’t you hear them yell?” from “The Curse of Elkhart.”

Murder by Death fans had fancy — and, for some, frightening — fun at the Stanley once again.

Turla, saluting the lack of snow that made the journey to Estes Park easier than in some previous years, told the audience, “We didn’t know if anyone would drive all the way up here [the first year]. This is literally the most fun thing we do every year. I love it up here, and it’s a dangerous proposition every year.”

After the set, Turla and the rest of the band hung out with fans in the Stanley’s whiskey bar, past 2 a.m. The singer, whose thick voice and black attire make him seem like a smaller Johnny Cash on stage, said that the band has no plans to record an eighth album in the near future and that, in fact, he’s busy working toward opening a restaurant in Kentucky with his wife.

As for Murder by Death’s exceptional fans, who raised an astonishing $278,486 on Kickstarter for the group’s latest album, 2015’s Big Dark Love, and who travel — from the Stanley, to a cave in Kentucky, to a Wild West film set in California — to see the group perform, Turla was succinct in his praise.

“They’re amazing people,” he said, holding a book an admirer had just given him at the bar. “Some of them can drink a little too much, but they’re amazing people, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Absolute Vinyl’s 8th Anniversary (Westword 12/21/2016)


Absolute Vinyl – A Rare Record Collector’s Paradise
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 12/21/2016

Finding dusty record shops that cater to artsy geeks has never been so hard in Boulder, where the city’s eccentric charm has been diluted by a sky-high cost of living and an influx of techies from the coasts. Absolute Vinyl is one of the last spots where the college town’s once notorious weirdness still lingers.

Owners Doug and Annie Gaddy, a husband-wife duo, will celebrate the shop’s eighth anniversary and the sale of its 80,000th record next month. Absolute Vinyl carries new albums from labels big and small, and has the most diverse selection of high-quality vintage vinyl of any shop along the Front Range.

Annie, who began loving music as a child piano prodigy, is “really good at taking really nerdy, geeky guys with no social skills around women and putting them at ease,” says her husband. “We give incredible customer service before, during and after the sale.”

The couple moved to Colorado in 1997. Doug Gaddy, who’s originally from North Carolina, says they founded Absolute Vinyl when it became clear that Boulder was “shedding record stores” and that opening a shop would be a good business investment. The couple launched the store in January 2009 at the north end of Broadway; it has since relocated to a spot at Arapahoe and 55th Street.

“I learned from Andy [Schneidkraut, owner of legendary Boulder shop Albums on the Hill] that at its peak, Boulder had sixteen record stores,” Gaddy says. “I was trying to do a shop that was different from every other, and trying to move away from the jamgrass, the legacy of the hippies and that kind of stuff, trying to do something that was really different. I carry ambient and electronic music. I carry classical. I know a lot about jazz.”

Gaddy honed the craft of selling records while attending collectors’ shows in Washington, D.C., and New York in the late 1980s. Selling to “extremely picky Korean and Japanese buyers” influenced his store’s intricate and trustworthy grading system for used vinyl, he says. Absolute Vinyl is the only shop in the area that cleans and grades every used album it sells.

“No other shop is going to take the time to do that,” Gaddy says. “They don’t see the economic benefit. We get refugees who’ve been burned at other stores.” He says they become avid Absolute Vinyl customers because of the store’s generous warranty on records and vintage stereo equipment, which makes shopping virtually risk-free.

Basil Emmanuel, whom Gaddy calls his “MVP” employee, is known for greeting every customer with his signature salutation: “Welcome home.” But the Boulder native and his co-workers provide more than just a comfortable shopping experience; they also bring a wealth of knowledge to their work.

Absolute Vinyl has deep ties to the University of Colorado Boulder’s Radio 1190, where many of the staff work as DJs, giving them an edge on the record-store competition.

“They know so much about music and how it’s recorded and produced, as well as which current bands are worth noticing. I learn from them all the time,” says Gaddy, who has a weekly show on 1190 called Vinyl Obscurities.

Gaddy frequents Boulder house concerts hosted by up-and-coming indie label First Base Tapes, run by CU Boulder students and alums, many of whom have worked at Absolute Vinyl. He says he’s fueled by his interactions with the young musicians; they say the admiration is mutual.

“Doug is a staple in the Boulder music community,” observes 25-year-old Liam Comer. “He supports local musicians both by selling their music out of Absolute Vinyl and by building relationships with [them] and attending shows.” The store also recruits local artists to co-host album-release parties and concerts featuring Front Range musicians and touring acts.

Caden Marchese, a store clerk and Radio 1190 DJ, adds that “Doug also keeps vinyl alive in Boulder by doing stereo equipment right.”

Unlike Boulder’s two other iconic record shops, Albums on the Hill and Bart’s Record Shop, Absolute Vinyl has made its mark selling high-end new and vintage turntables, receivers and speakers.

“Vintage gear is an incredible value if it works and has been given a technical clean,” Gaddy notes.

Emmanuel has set up turntable-equipped stereos for at least 2,000 people in Boulder, including local celebrity pro cyclist Taylor Phinney.

“If I was going to buy used stereo equipment in Colorado and I was looking for it based on our sort of quality standards,” Emmanuel says, “the only place I would go is Absolute Vinyl — or Dr. Dan [Vintage Audio Repair] in Littleton — because I’d know what I’m getting.”

When it comes to record shopping, Gaddy laments, “there used to be a competency, but it’s getting diluted in Boulder. I don’t know who’s moving in, and I’m not sure who’s moving out, but the number of people who are fluent in walking into a record store and feeling at home and milling their way around — it seems like there are fewer people who are really good at that.”

Emmanuel says some of that homogenization of taste might have to do with the shocking sticker price of new vinyl, which can cost as much as four or five decent used records: “I think it’s throwing people off. They go, ‘Oh, my God — $32.99 for that new record? Well, if I can only buy one, I’ll just buy the one I want.’ And if they come in and you have it, they get it. If you don’t have it, they don’t look at anything else, and they just walk out. They don’t say, ‘Well, what do you have that would be just as good?’ or ‘Let me broaden my horizons.’ A lot of people come in only for a certain genre.”

“There are people who are looking for Neil Young’s Harvest who are happy to look for it on eBay and order it,” he continues. “But there are other people who want to go to the shop without knowing whether we have it and be excited if they find it, but not mind if we don’t have it because they found something else and are just as excited about that.” Gaddy agrees, adding that over the years, he’s seen a shift in the spectrum of what music customers want to buy, and he fears that customers have lost their willingness to check out new albums. He calls record buyers who go shopping just for the hunt — the experience of flipping through stacks of used vinyl to find curiosities and surprise treasures — an “endangered species.”

When it comes to musical taste, he says, “the palate is getting narrower. We don’t sell as much of the esoteric stuff as we used to.”

His commitment to rare records — even when unprofitable — is an inspiration to young record collectors.

“Doug isn’t only one of the most well-versed individuals in Boulder’s music community,” 21-year-old First Base Tapes associate Kenneth Prior says. “He’s a really important figure for a lot of us to look up to, one of the most genuine people I know.”

INTERVIEW: Grass (Denver Westword 11/4/16)


“Boulder Band Grass Is Young But Not Green”
by Adam Perry for Denver Wesword, 11/4/2016

The creative young Boulder trio Grass is indicative of the music being pushed over the last year by ambitious local cassette label First Base Tapes: gritty and experimental, but catchy, clever and (while ear-bleedin’ loud) deceptively pleasant.

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 band Tom Waits for No Man.

Dragwire, distributed by First Base Tapes via cassette and download, will have its official release this Saturday, November 5, in Boulder when Grass plays a house party featuring four other bands. Colussi says that playing relatively brief sets at house parties and warehouses with a slew of other acts on the bill is the only current option for a fledgling Boulder rock group, and he’s okay with that.

“It’s challenging, and there can be a feeling of competition, but we’ve learned to do well with them because it’s basically all we know at this point,” he says. “Short sets are just what we know how to do, so we play hard and pack up. We’re also a relatively new band, so we don’t have six albums’ worth of material to draw from.”

Read the rest of this feature at 

REVIEW: Riot Fest 2016 Denver (Denver Westword 9/5/2016)

The Misfits and their "fucking cool" pumpkins at Riot Fest 2016 in Denver.
The Misfits at Riot Fest 2016 Denver (photo by Jeffrey Perry)

REVIEW: Riot Fest 2016 Denver
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 9/5/2016

For the past decade, Riot Fest (a three-day festival that takes place each year in Denver and Chicago) has been the place where childhood punk-rock dreams come true. For instance, two years ago outside Mile High Stadium, I got to see the Descendents tear through Milo Goes to College, which I played so many times in my Walkman as a high-school freshman in Pittsburgh that the cassette was destroyed. Last year, when Riot Fest’s Denver edition moved to the National Western Complex, I earned a new appreciation for goth trailblazers the Damned and beamed, laughed and sang along with thousands of others to the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl.”

Riot Fest, which began as a multi-venue festival at clubs and theaters in Chicago, is mostly about reveling in raucous performances by edgy, legendary bands you had no idea were still around and making pilgrimages to witness long-awaited reunions. The most anticipated reunion in the history of heavy music, arguably, took place last night in Denver, but I’ll get to that in a bit. (Read the full article at

Beth Preston to Release New Album (Westword 6/1/2016)

beth preston.jpg

Beth Preston to Release Little Mirrors
by Adam Perry for Westword 6/1/2016

Beth Preston’s new self-released album, Little Mirrors, unleashes the musical and lyrical giant inside the diminutive Boulder alt-Americana songstress for the first time on record since 2005’s Inside Fire. Produced by Phil Parker, cellist for both Gregory Alan Isakov and Brandi Carlile, Little Mirrors is a deceptively gentle, love-affirming twelve-song collection. Preston will release it this week as she simultaneously plans her wedding and launches a vocal-coaching program. Mostly recorded in Boulder at Parker’s home studio after the producer happened upon Preston performing at a local bar last year, Little Mirrorstransforms the relatively wild, lo-fi spirit of Inside Fire — written and recorded when Preston was still living in San Diego — into the tender, lucid story of Preston’s life in Colorado. A gifted, tasteful guitarist, Preston makes the mellow “Wishing Well” and “Deep Cover” roll like ripples down Boulder Creek, but it’s her thick, captivating and malleable voice — which can dig down deep and bluesy or soar, Jeff Buckley style — that carries the material. Well, that and lines like “You put this mountain range to shame,” which make us look forward to Colorado romance as summer nears.

First Base Tapes Forges Boulder Scene (Westword 5/18/2016)

image3 (1)

First Base Tapes Forges a Boulder Scene
by Adam Perry for Westword 5/18/2016

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.

Kenny Prior, age twenty, and Donato Ruscitti, nineteen, met at Monarch High School in Louisville, but everyone else at First Base Tapes — which regularly puts on successful Boulder house concerts and warehouse shows (chiefly at the Forge) in addition to releasing tapes by Boulder and Denver bands — met at the University of Colorado.

“I came here [from Bryan, Texas] not knowing a single person, so the main friend group I built was around 1190,” says 21-year-old Colton O’Connor.

“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.”’

A record-store owner in Boulder said, matter-of-factly, “That’s cute,” when I told him about First Base Tapes’ frugal cassette-only vision, which stemmed from an 1190 in-studio performance by L.A.’s Death Valley Girls that Comer and O’Connor recorded over an old tape of bird sounds. But First Base Tapes’ connection with a vital, progressive local radio station — meaning access to “very, very expensive equipment” and networking and promotion opportunities — sets it apart from your average hipster dorm-room label.

Only one of the cassettes that First Base Tapes has put out so far — they’re usually done in runs of 100 and sold for $5 — hasn’t sold out, but the dudes in charge say the music will mostly be downloaded, and the point is more to get a Boulder music scene going again. Still, cassettes — and the memory of how touching it was when someone put the effort into making you a mixtape back in the day — are quirky and fun, and encourage listeners to check out album sides rather than fast-food servings of single tracks.

“The cassette revival is really ramping up,” Prior asserts. “You go to Urban Outfitters and see Lana Del Rey tapes. It’s really starting to get commercial.”

“And people our age drive old cars,” Ruscitti adds.

“Especially with Cassette Store Day, I knew it was a pretty big deal here, with Twist & Shout giving out all those cassettes,” says Adam Tammariello, age twenty and from San Diego. “And that Rolling Stone article about Burger Records [which also does cassettes] was pretty cool. That was a nice insight into what we do, actually.”

Read the rest of this article at here

SHOW REVIEW: Joanna Newsom (4/4/2016)

unnamed (5)
photo by Patrycja Humeniek

Joanna Newsom at the Boulder Theater
by Adam Perry for Westword 4/4/2016

Robin Pecknold, whose Seattle alt-folk band Fleet Foxes has somewhat vanished since 2011’s Helplessness Blues peaked at number four on the Billboard chart, made for an interesting opening act last night at the Boulder Theater. In 2008, at the age of 22, Pecknold struck indie gold with haunting, creative tunes like “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which was positively transporting when performed for a hushed, capacity crowd on Sunday night at the Boulder Theater. Juxtaposing that brilliant early-Foxes edge with somewhat cheesy new selections such as Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” and Pecknold’s uneasy, withdrawn stage presence — the silence between songs was broken only by a man shouting, “I want to hang out with you tonight!” — it was hard not to wonder when the talented Pecknold will find another songwriting groove and rise again.

Conversely, the 34-year-old California chamber-folk artist Joanna Newsom, who headlined the 850-capacity theater, was a beam of light from the moment she appeared on stage smiling around 10 p.m. and received a roar of excited applause when she plucked the opening notes of “Bridges and Balloons.” A young woman next to me started sobbing and convulsing, like Beatles fans who famously freaked out on the set of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

In front of a backdrop that resembled a foggy sky over the forests of far northern California, Newsom, a world-class harpist, held court for an hour and a half with her playful voice, cerebral and ambitious poetry and nimble musicianship. Her super-talented quintet of mega-instrumentalists, including a couple of her siblings, was on point from the start, delivering Newsom’s deep, intricate and challenging compositions with the kind of welcoming energy and mesmerizing dynamics it takes thousands of hours of practice to make look natural. Newsom’s band may be the most well-trained ensemble in the pop-music realm since Frank Zappa’s.

The Boulder audience was full of exhilaration and gratitude, shouting out thanks and compliments between every song. During a tuning pause after “Divers,” from Newsom’s 2015 album of the same name, the young woman next to me joined in, yelling, “You’re beautiful!” to Newsom’s amusement.I jokingly whispered, “Tell her she’s talented, too,” and the young woman, after careful consideration, earnestly told me, “Yes, you yell that now,” before saying out loud, “Oh, she’s perfect!”

The inspiring effect Newsom’s densely composed music and inventively feminist lyrics have on young listeners, especially women, was clearly the tangible story of the evening, beyond the absolute awe one can experience simply watching Newsom play the harp, which she virtually possesses, like a master potter manipulating clay or a climber grasping a sheer cliff.

“Go Long,” which Newsom played during her encore, was particularly remarkable in its successful combination of vital, disparate ingredients: depth, humor, insight, grace, honesty, romance and lament, to name a few.

“Go Long” would be an impressive and arresting work of art if it were only a poem, speaking of “the loneliness of mighty men” from the perspective of a thoughtful, strong woman. Along with many of Newsom’s best, “Go Long” is the veritable antithesis of the modern love song; when delivered along with the precision and intimate language of her harp, it made the evening feel as regal as an opera and as personal as a poetry open-mike at Innisfree.

Personal Bias: The seated audience made up mostly of music lovers in their twenties and thirties was a rarity for Boulder, which for the last four years or so has enjoyed many concerts by national EDM, jam-band and rock acts at its two major venues but struggled to support original local music or shows by innovative artists such as Newsom. It was great — especially after getting knocked into by sloppy, intoxicated young people at Dr. Dog’s Boulder Theater show — to see so many familiar local faces hanging on every note and word both Pecknold and Newsom put forth last night. It was often so quiet that the sound of my pen while taking notes was almost intrusive.

By the Way: Newsom, though a more accomplished musician, is in many ways the modern extension of Joni Mitchell’s important musical and lyrical accomplishments of the ’60s and ’70s, combining expert musicianship with a sweet, welcoming voice and wise, liberating and profound poetry. My first thought upon entering the Boulder Theater for her concert was a question: What would a singularly interesting and important artist such as Newsom would have for sale at her merch table? Joanna Newsom koozies, bottle openers and beanies would seem out of place. “What about handcrafted Joanna Newsom potholders?” my date joked. A young man nearby quipped, “Maybe she has taxidermy for sale,” and a friend of ours suggested that Newsom could sell sand from California beaches. It turns out she only had T-shirts, albums and tote bags.

Random Detail: Early on in the show, Newsom informed the audience that she and her band had almost been stranded because of vehicle trouble. Luckily, she said, they were “rescued by the kind people of Justin Bieber, who gave us bus parts. In the final reckoning — just keep that in mind.” Later, when she was frustrated with a buzz from her harp, Newsom joked, “Bieber! They gave us bus parts, but at what cost?”