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

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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)

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“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 Westword.com 

“Slow Is the New Fast” (Bicycle Times #39)

The new issue of Bicycle Times features my editorial “Slow Is the New Fast,” about embracing the moment rather than the destination in a town like Boulder, where there will always be someone (a lot) faster than you on a bike. Check out Bicycle Times #39 on newsstands everywhere now – from Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble to, preferably, your local bike shop.

Slow is the New Fast BT Feb 2016

SHOW REVIEW: Los Lobos at the Boulder Theater (Westword 1/29/2016)

Los Lobos Boulder 1-28-2016
photo by Adam Perry

SHOW REVIEW: Los Lobos at the Boulder Theater
by Adam Perry for Westword 1/29/2016

Remember that scene in the classic ’80s bio-pic La Bamba when Ritchie Valens, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, is blowing the roof off a late-’50s party in Los Angeles with both Latinos and whites dancing their asses off to Mexican-American rock and roll? That feeling of joy, abandon and possibility—just before Ritchie’s misfit brother stumbles in and starts a brawl—is what it felt like at times last night at the Boulder Theater with Los Lobos (which provided much of the music in La Bamba) on stage and cries of te amo! filling the marijuana-tinged air.

“We’re glad to be back in the land of weed,” cool-as-ice guitarist and singer Cesar Rosas said early in the band’s two-hour (mostly) acoustic set, which traversed roots rock, blues, psychedelia, hard rock and exuberant traditional Mexican. “But my ganja days are over now. I get all paranoid and shit. I get up here, like, ‘Why are all these people staring at me?’”

Read the rest of this article at Westword.com

Winter Bike-Commuting Guide (Boulder Lifestyle Magazine, November 2015)

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Winter Bike-Commuting Guide
by Adam Perry for Boulder Lifestyle Magazine, November 2015

This month in Boulder Lifestyle Magazine, I run through ten necessities for commuting by bike in the approaching cold, wet weather safely. It’s easier than you think to keep riding no matter the weather, and starting and ending your work day by biking through snow will make you feel like a kid again. You can read the piece here.

INTERVIEW: SERA CAHOONE (by Adam Perry for Westword 10/2/2015)

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Colorado’s Sera Cahoone Found Musical Success (and Love) in Seattle
by Adam Perry for Westword 10/2/2015

Sera Cahoone, a Littleton native and graduate of Columbine High School, now lives in Seattle, where she once played drums for Band of Horses and Carissa’s Wierd. But she quickly rose to critical acclaim as a singer-songwriter with the release of a self-titled solo album in 2006.

Cahoone’s dusty, welcoming songs feature mellow, beautifully delivered country rock that breathes depth into deceptively gloomy music. Her most recent release, 2013’s impressive Deer Creek Canyon, is both hopeful and dark, paying tribute to Cahoone’s Colorado roots and juxtaposing lyrics like “My heart is breaking/and I’m the one to blame” with tasteful, woodsy alt-folk.

Recently, Cahoone’s world — one in which the sounds of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and banjo abound — merged with one filled with soccer balls and World Cup trophies, when she and Seattle Reign FC (and U.S. Women’s National Team) star Megan Rapinoe got engaged. Cahoone, who is completing a new album, discussed that and more with Westword in an interview by phone from her Seattle home.

Adam Perry: You left Colorado in 1998. What’s it like coming back?

Sera Cahoone: I love it every time. I still definitely call Denver home. Every time I play there it’s special, because my family’s all there, and friends, and it always feels good.

Do you still carry Colorado in your songwriting?

Definitely. Deer Creek Canyon was based on Deer Creek Canyon Road there. My mom lives up on top of there, so that song is about my mother and going home. Colorado is a huge part of me. I miss it a lot, but it’s too hard to move. I was so excited to play the Fox Theatre, because it’s the one place in Colorado I’ve never played. I used to go there in high school all the time. I saw Radiohead and all these huge bands there, and I was always like, “I can’t wait to play here one day.”

What was the Denver music scene like when you were just starting out compared to what’s happening now?

I feel like it’s changed a lot. I know they have that great radio station with [102.3 FM] OpenAir; stuff like that is exciting. When I was living there, I was really young and didn’t have a full view of what was going on. But there are so many great bands out of Denver now, always. I always keep an eye out for Denver bands, because there’s such a great vibe going on there, which is super-exciting to me. I want to be involved in it, but I’m not, because I’m in Seattle — but I still feel like a part of it. I loved seeing Nathaniel [Rateliff] on [The Tonight Show]. That was amazing.

How did you decide to fully shift from being a drummer to being a singer-songwriter?

When I was in high school, I would kind of mess around with the guitar, but I was super-shy, so I kind of just did it on the side. I always wanted to play the guitar, because [with] drums you can only do so much, really. I started singing a little bit, and when I moved to Seattle I started to just force myself to play open mikes. I didn’t know anyone, so I would just kind of go out to open mikes and try to get over my awkward shyness of even singing in front of people. I think I just really wanted to do something different for a while. I never expected to be where I am right now with it.

You didn’t think you’d have a career doing your own songs?

I wanted to put out a record. I wanted to do all the guitar and play all the drums; that was my goal with my very first record. I didn’t have much money, but I wanted to just do the record for myself. I sent it to KEXP here, to John “In the Morning” [Richards], thinking that it would get played on a local thing. He played it on his show, and I was like, “Holy shit.” I think it was just the demo; my record wasn’t [finished] yet. Having the huge support of KEXP got it in people’s ears, and it’s kind of just gone from there, I guess. Of course I wanted to play shows, because I felt really excited about my songs and wanted people to hear it — but I also didn’t really expect to be where I am with it.

Deer Creek Canyon had a lot of difficult but necessary life lessons, like “You’re the only one who has control of what you need.” Do you find yourself trying to live by the lessons in your songs?

That’s an interesting question. Yeah, I guess in ways, of course, something like that will come out. Sometimes I surprise myself with the things that do come out. That’s something I love about the songs, is how they do affect people, and that’s why I do what I do. So I would answer yes.

If you Google “Sera Cahoone” and “sad,” you’ll find tons of articles about you. But “Might as Well,” for instance, has melancholy music with lyrics that are romantic in a positive way. Where does that mixture of moods come from?It’s funny, because people do put “sad.” Sometimes I have people asking if I’m okay [laughs]. I’m actually a very happy person, but I’m also a very sensitive person; I think I see a lot of hopefulness in relationships and in life. But I love sad songs in general. Whenever I put music on, I like to listen to songs that make me feel something, and I’ve always loved super-somber music. So I think when I write songs, that’s just what comes out, because I listen to that kind of music so much and that’s what really gets me.

Did you listen to music that was a little twisted growing up? The Carter Family?

Yeah, I loved a lot of old country music. My mother listened to old folk records. And I was super into heavy metal in junior high. But I think when I got really into music, it was more singer-songwriter, sad music that I wanted to sit with. Tracy Chapman, for example.

It seems like it was a huge surprise to most of your fans to suddenly see you on SportsCenter. Has that kind of mass exposure grown your fan base?

I definitely have a lot more Megan Rapinoe fans [laughs]. That could even be youngsters or gay [people], so of course…. Usually it’s more in the Americana world. But I also haven’t played a ton of shows [lately]; I haven’t put out a record. So it’s hard for me to really say. But, yeah, it’s been interesting.

What’s it like to be famous in one realm and then enter a very public relationship with someone who is famous in another?

I feel like ever since I met Megan, we’ve had this connection where we’ve understood each other in a lot of ways. I mean, she’s definitely [famous] on a much higher level than me, but it’s exciting because I get to live this completely “other” life and get to go see her play soccer and not have to be doing my thing. I feel like we understand each other in this way that’s been really sweet. But, yes, it is interesting. It’s just cool to see each other in, I don’t know, work mode.

So will the new songs all be happy?

[Laughs.] There are definitely some more sweet songs in there, but I think when I write, I just love writing sad songs, even if it’s not about me. If it’s too happy, it’s hard for me. Even when I start strumming a guitar part, it’s like, “Oh, that sounds sad.” I feel like it’s more natural for me to write sad songs. I can just go to that place; it makes me feel calm.

“Building a Home”: A Fringe Fest Interview (Westword 9/17/2015)

"Building a Home" rehearsal photo by Xavier Rojas
“Building a Home” rehearsal photo by Xavier Rojas

“Building a Home”: A Fringe Fest Interview
by Adam Perry for Westword 9/17/2015

Boulder resident Arrow Zoe Amelia, a 29-year-old Florida native and Naropa University graduate, was a key member of the now-defunct Language of Fish Collective Arts in Boulder from 2011-2014. LOFCA, as it was affectionately known, was a “performance company” that utilized the diverse talents of numerous young local women to create original long-form pieces, some of them site-specific, incorporating dance, theater and music.

Among many other works, 2013’s powerful Francesca found the members of LOFCA building a strange home inside Naropa’s Performing Arts Center, where they told the haunting tale of late Boulder photographer Francesca Woodman with their bodies and the music of Inner Oceans’ Griff Snyder. And 2014’s Wait, a comical Beckett-inspired piece of musical theater, saw Amelia—in partnership with LOFCA co-founder Adderly Bigelow—going back to her roots as an actor and playwright.

As part of this year’s Boulder International Fringe Festival, Amelia makes her post-LOFCA debut along Boulder Creek with the musically inclined play Building a Home Despite All the Bodies, in which she and fellow Naropa alum Lily Brown (under the name Our Skins) portray a couple making its way “through the boggy swamps of middle.” With the help of a four-member chorus, the couple traverses the naïve sparks of infatuation and the banal monotony of archetypal home life, reaching something resembling a happy commitment to continue “building something together.” In advance of performances this weekend, Amelia and Brown sat down with Westword to talk about Building a Home and what it’s like to spend so much time working on art that’s unclassifiable.

Adam Perry: Where did this piece come from?

Arrow Zoe Amelia: We were neighbors and Lily lived right upstairs. I had been sort of grieving Language of Fish and not creating anything, and then I started writing something and in a burst of excitement I ran upstairs and said, “I need to make something, and it would be so cool if we could work together.” I had always admired what Lily had done at school, in her thesis and just in our workshop moments in the classroom.

Lily Brown: I think both of us were in a space where creativity had been dead for a while. We were both kind of slogging around and it felt bad.

Amelia: As we started looking for a space and would have these long walks and talk about what was going on in our lives, what kept on coming was our questions, and our curiosities and our frustrations, around romantic relationship — the different layers and complexities, and also the similarities that we were experiencing, like “How am I myself with this other person?”

Perry: Inhabiting these two characters, is it like you started a relationship with each other?

Amelia: It’s funny, because I think what we’ve created is a combination of references to our relationships to other people.

Brown: We’re hopping back and forth between ourselves and other people who we’ve related to, being in their perspective, and then doing the same thing for each other. I could be some sort of dynamic that Arrow has been in the past, or she could be replaying these things and working them out—just feeling this mysterious quality of the whole thing, not being in control of who we’re attracted to and why, and the [discomfort] of following through with something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Perry: Does the play make you question why we enter partnerships at all?

Brown: I hold that strongly. I’m not in a relationship very often. It’s really easy for me to say, “This isn’t worth it” and throw things away. So for me, yeah.

Amelia: Mostly the second half, where it becomes a little domestic, is based on my experiences. It’s funny because I don’t question why we [enter into relationships]. It just seems like the reasons why I’ve learned so much about myself and about life is because of the experiences I’ve had in my relationships.

Brown: I remember this exciting day [when] we were hanging out in Arrow’s apartment talking about these different realms that seem to pop up in relationships, and one of them we called the “How was your day?” realm. Just this realm of not really having any spark with the person, or anything to say, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Amelia: The most generic communication.

Brown: Yeah, “What are we doing together? How do we communicate? What is this?” A lot of relationships hang on in that realm for eternity.

Amelia: Neither of us [has] been in a relationship yet past a certain stage. The end of [Building a Home] is sort of like our prayer for moving through the “How is your day?” phase and the muck phase, those layers we haven’t seen our way through yet. I think if you’re both willing and passionate about the work that you have to do to continue to walk together through all that you will face, you can do it. Also, you each as individuals have to find your own autonomous center and ground in order to continue to walk together.

Perry: What’s it like being an artist in Boulder?

Amelia: I guess what’s frustrating is trying to speak to people about it, because often the work is what’s speaking. What I usually say is “multi-disciplinary performance.” I could say, “My influences are Samuel Beckett, Pina Bausch and Meredith Monk,” and if you could put those people together, this is the type of performance I’d like to be making. To be based in San Francisco or New York, where there are a lot of different types of strange new things happening all the time, there’s just a different focus.

Brown: There’s something nice about there being almost no focus, that I can see, on art in Boulder. We don’t really have to be able to articulate as much what it is, because we’re not in an artistic community and people don’t really care; they don’t resonate with those words. We can just say, “Hey, we’re a part of your community and we did this thing, and we did it for you and for us.” We don’t need to get involved with what genre it is, and if we were in San Francisco we might have to.

Amelia: What’s interesting, though, is that being in Boulder as a site-specific artist I find myself inspired all the time by our environment—the mountains and the big open spaces. The creek, especially. It’s this place that is communicating so many things [and] I find myself inspired and sort of asked to relate to this place and share it. And there are so many things that can happen with site-specific performance. It could rain. There might even be a football game happening. You’re relating to a space that you can’t control, and that’s part of what’s really scary and really beautiful about it—there’s risk and there’s magic about it.

Perry: What is it about working in collaboration that seems so necessary, that you couldn’t get out of a one-woman show?

Amelia: I have definitely wondered that, because after Language of Fish I had gone through a breakup and I was just trying to change the way I thought about how I could be with myself. I thought, “Okay, this is my lesson. I need to be doing it all by myself.” But I just don’t have any interest in doing it all by myself. I’m inspired by other people and when you can be a reflection for each other, there’s something really special about having a back and forth. It makes it so much more rich.

Perry: How do you deal with writing these pieces, rehearsing for so long, putting together the little string of performances and then letting it go?

Brown: What I feel about Arrow’s pieces is that she hammers at the wall for a long time to break through this mundane world. By inviting an audience, it kind of breaks open all of that work that she’s done, to witness it. So it’s over, but it can whisper in your ear in a way that nature always does, this possibility of being playful with phenomenon. I don’t think a DVD would have the same effect.

Amelia: That’s the thing, also, with site-specific performance: It’s hard to get that sensation on film. It’s such an experiential situation. A part of what I’m losing is what it was to be inside of it. I’m not going to get that back from seeing [a DVD]. My shared experience with the people I collaborated with, that’s sort of a dream we got to have together and share with other people. But it is a practice of letting go.

Building a Home Despite All the Bodies will be performed at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 18 through September 20, and again September 25 through September 27, along Boulder Creek between Folsom Street and Grandview Avenue. Find more information here.