Casey Prestwood Keeps It Real (Westword 3/1/2017)

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Casey Prestwood Keeps It Real
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 3/1/2017

Casey James Prestwood, veteran of Colorado country-rock band Drag the River and acclaimed Alabama emo group Hot Rod Circuit, is a country-music encyclopedia. Get him talking about legendary session musicians and he’ll spin a yarn the size of Texas. Discussing the earnest, emotional and sometimes downright depressing lyrics he sings over his backing band, the Burning Angels, however, doesn’t come so easily.

“I think I’ve kind of found a groove with when I should write and how I should write,” the Littleton resident says about his new album, Born Too Late, which drops in early March. “I lead a pretty happy life now. I’ve got a great wife and kids, and my band is awesome, so I kind of write when I’m down, because it feels like stuff’s more real. I pretty much keep it real in the songs story-wise, too. It’s almost always told from something that happened to me, so most of it is taken from earlier times, before I was settled down.”

For instance, “Jailbird,” from the new album, is about a family member who was incarcerated long-term and other references to Prestwood’s past, including somebody knocking his teeth out in Houston and spending time in jail himself.

“Sometimes you write a song because you’ve gotta get it out,” he explains.

On Prestwood’s first solo album, 2007’s The Hurtin’ Kind, he sang about being “passed out and kicked around” and “sleeping under the stars” — similar to the “blue, lonely and wasted” life he describes on Born Too Late, a crisp, lyrically deep and musically entrancing twelve-song trip through heartache and heavy drinking.

Prestwood’s most interesting recent travels include a month-long tour of Belgium, where, in true Johnny Cash style, the Burning Angels’ gigs included maximum-security prisons.

“About eighteen inmates came to see us, and they were, for lack of a better term, violent — serial killers and that sort of thing,” Prestwood says. “It was real clinical. They’re in the room with you, not shackled up or anything, and the guards didn’t have any weapons. They were real strange characters, but fascinating. We just did songs about prison and murder ballads.”

The bandmates — decked out as they almost always are in rhinestone suits made by the legendary Manuel Cuevas — played country gems about incarceration, such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Mama Tried.”

“The guy they call the Belgian Butcher, a big guy who was a schoolteacher and serial killer, he stood up while we were playing, and it kind of freaked me out,” Prestwood recalls. “He came up to me after and said, ‘Hey, man, great set. I really loved the tunes. Nobody really comes through here and does country music. But you guys don’t need to do “Folsom Prison” if you come back. Everybody who comes here plays that tune, no matter what kind of band they’re in. We’re sick of it.’

“I don’t think we’ve played it since,” Prestwood says of the song. “Maybe that’s the last time I’ll play it.”

Around the time the Burning Angels got together, in 2009, Prestwood — who has kept a side gig at Whole Foods for many years — thought maybe it was the last time he’d pursue a musical career. He says that bandmate Kevin Finn inspired him to keep going.

“Kevin was bugging me to get a band together, and I was kind of nestling in on my Whole Foods career, working up the ladder a little bit in that,” Prestwood says. “I’d cut my hair and was just, like, ‘Oh, man, I’m not gonna do band stuff like I used to when I was a kid.’ Really, if it weren’t for Kevin, I probably would’ve hung it up.”

Prestwood says it’s “wild” how many bandmembers have come and gone since the Burning Angels’ salad days, which are highlighted on a recent compilation disc called The Best of the Early Years. He calls Born Too Late “the most cohesive material I’ve written,” and bassist Jeffrey Martin seems equally pumped about the new record.

“Even though it was recorded in five cities, it all jells and sounds cohesive, like we did it as one session,” Martin says. “It features some of Casey’s best writing, and he’s really growing as a songwriter. The best is yet to come.”

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 Westword.com)

INTERVIEW: Murder By Death Hunts Ghosts at the Stanley Hotel (Westword 1/6/2016)

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MURDER BY DEATH HUNTS GHOSTS AT THE STANLEY HOTEL
by Adam Perry for Westword 1/6/2016

In January 2014, the gothic-Americana band Murder by Death played the reputedly haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, but singer-guitarist Adam Turla didn’t have any paranormal experiences. So when the quintet returned for three shows in early January 2015 — just before its seventh album, Big Dark Love, was released — Turla and company met with the Stanley’s resident paranormal experts, and shit got serious.

“We’re sitting in one of the most haunted rooms with them, and they’re telling us about the ghost that sometimes appears in that room, and then the door just slams shut,” recalls Turla. “I watched the door, completely by itself, slam shut. That’s crazy!

“It could have something to do with winds and drafts in an old building,” he admits, “but in that same room, later, our stage manager, after hearing that story, walked into the room and the lightbulb just immediately burned out. So she was alone in the dark in that room. She said, ‘I’m a cool-headed lady, but that scared the shit out of me.’”

When speaking with Turla in advance of Murder by Death’s three January shows at the Stanley, I shared my own brush with the paranormal from the audience perspective: When my partner, Irene, and I attended one of last year’s shows, we heard a strange voice a few steps outside the Stanley. Even stranger, after the group’s set had ended, we realized that bassist Matt Armstrong’s pick was in Irene’s coat pocket. The coat had been lying at her feet during the show.

Beyond the supernatural, Murder by Death’s now-annual residency at the Stanley is a truly distinctive concert event — a chance to hang out with the band in the bar of the hotel that inspired Stephen King’sThe Shining, after hearing Turla sing lines like “Spirits are restless/Can’t you hear them yell?” in a place where spirits are believed to reside. Turla says that such site-specific experiences are the reason that the Indiana-bred act has booked destination concerts such as the ones at the Stanley and others in a cave in Kentucky and in a Hollywood ghost-town saloon in the California desert.

“When we started this band, we talked about doing a lot of concept shows and non-traditional concerts, because being a band that’s a little weirder, that doesn’t have an automatic genre to fit into, we wanted to do something a little bit different than be a club band,” he explains. “Our aspirations were not to sell out Madison Square Garden or anything — that stuff’s never entered our minds. We celebrate the weird and the different, so the associations that people make with these shows and these places, it all kind of clicks.”

“You start to realize the opportunity for culture beyond ‘I went to a bar and saw a band,’” Turla continues. “These events link people’s lives. We get people’s imaginations stirred up a little bit. “

Murder by Death’s music is indie rock with a wicked Tim Burton edge and a smidgen of haunted antique Western rumble. Not every underground band with a cello and a macabre, deep-voiced frontman would fit as well at the Stanley, but Turla’s romantic tales of drinking, dreaming and the devil seem to raise the perfect kind of hell, one in which Jack is never a dull boy.

“I think it’s just the nature of what we’re trying to do, which is create this spooky but sing-along angle,” says Turla. “And it’s important, for instance, when you play a haunted hotel, to realize the lyrics that sort of got you to the show. I’ve read about paranormal stuff my whole life as a fun hobby, and here I am at this place that’s known for it, and I’ve created a party there, and how cool is that? Part of it is that it’s just fun for me to be in the song, doing my job, but then suddenly realize where everything came together and got me to this moment.”

Lately, Murder by Death has made an admirable habit of letting fans dictate where they want the band’s career to go. Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, the quintet’s 2012 breakthrough album, was funded in part by more than $180,000 raised on Kickstarter, and Big Dark Love had a Kickstarter pre-sale of $278,000. What’s more, last month Murder by Death released As You Wish Vol. 2, the second in a series of diverse cover albums full of songs picked by fans. With such a close connection to its biggest fans, it’s not surprising that Turla initially had some reservations about doing destination concerts.

“There was this worry,” he remembers. “We’re putting all the people who like us the most in one place. Could that be a problem? We didn’t think it would be so easy. There are some nights when you feel more famous than other nights, and I feel like the more famous you get, the worse it is. I don’t want to be a famous person; I want to be able to just hang out. And it turns out that in our case, people are just being cool. These are people who know your music and want to participate. It’s a party, and we’re the house band. I’ve had all sorts of great conversations as a result.”

Murder by Death Goes Ghost Hunting at Stanley Hotel

So far, neither Jack Nicholson nor Stephen King have shown up to any of the Murder by Death gigs at the Stanley Hotel. Not even Shelley Duvall. But the band, notes Turla, probably shows up with more energy and intention at the Stanley than at any other venue.

“It’s a way longer set than you’re normally gonna get. We’re practicing, like, 55 songs to have ready,” he says. “We thought it would be fun to pick some songs that kind of fell by the wayside. There’s gonna be some obscure stuff coming out of the woodwork, and this is the right audience to realize that’s happening. It’ll be fun. The three nights should be distinctly different. There’s not a show that I think about the setlist for more than the Stanley every year.”

Turla says that when Murder by Death played the Stanley two years ago, he drank so much whiskey that not only was he unable to tap into the legendary paranormal activity at the hotel, but “there could have been an earthquake and I wouldn’t have known it.” Now he’s got a new plan.

“I have more fun if I just really pace myself there, because there are so many people to meet and there’s so much going on. [Last year] I got kind of wrecked the first night, and then I thought, ‘You know what? This is a cool thing. I wanna be awake.’ And this time we’re doing a full-on ghost hunt with the paranormal investigator, with gear and everything. They’re gonna entertain the hell out of us.”

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.

SHOW REVIEW: Riot Fest 2015 Denver (Day Two)

photo by Adam Perry
photo by Adam Perry

SHOW REVIEW:
Riot Fest, Denver (Day Two)
August 29, 2015

Though one of the most iconic performances in the genre’s history–the Clash’s legendary set at Rock Against Racism in 1978–took place in a London park in front of 100,000 people, punk music is generally played at small clubs and, even better, in basements and garages. So it was wonderfully bizarre to see old-school acts like the Damned (whose scrappy 1977 debut Damned Damned Damned was the first-ever English punk LP), the Vandals and the Dead Milkmen playing on giant stages outside the National Western Complex on Saturday on day two of Riot Fest’s 2015 edition in Denver.

The Damned and the Dead Milkmen—the former hugely responsible for goth, Pennywise-style anthem-punk and horror-punk and the latter famous for juxtaposing punk with hilariously sadistic Zappa-esque satire—were in particular out of their element in the August heat at Riot Fest. The Damned’s ghostly frontman, Dave Vanian, came out in a leather trench coat, black pants and black motorcycle cap looking like a thousand-year-old vampire, but his group’s hour-long afternoon performance didn’t suffer from the intense, dry heat; Vanian’s ill-planned wardrobe; or even the big clouds of dust created by mosh pits all day.

photo by Adam Perry
photo by Adam Perry

Influential guitarist Captain Sensible—ironically more sensibly dressed in a white naval uniform—remarked as the Damned took the stage, “We may be old but we can still fucking rock.” And that was true, as the band impressed a diverse (age-wise) audience with blistering versions of classics like “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” and “Ignite,” slaying its way even through repeatedly technical difficulties that prompted the 61-year-old Sensible to crack, “We’re going professional next year.”

Dead Milkmen frontman Rodney Anonymous’ thick Philadelphia accent came through as he repeatedly stated his need for water (or “wutter”) during his band’s too-short 45-minute set, which brutally—for the not-so-healthy looking Anonymous—started in the blazing sun at 3pm. “You guys are fantastic,” Anonymous, in a black cowboy hat, told the Denver crowd, “and I look pretty fucking sexy for an old man. I’m married to a goth and don’t get out in the sun very often.”

photo by Adam Perry
photo by Adam Perry

As ever, the Dead Milkmen—like fellow Philly stalwarts Ween and Dr. Dog after them—used a two-frontman routine to make its whole way better than the sum of its parts. Big-time classics like “Punk Rock Girl” and “Bitchin’ Camaro” were sung through big-time smiles (by the band and its fans, many living out childhood dreams by finally seeing the Dead Milkmen in person) and there weren’t many in the audience who didn’t know every word to “Stuart.”

One of the strange things about Riot Fest’s 2015 edition in Denver—other than the indoor stage that would’ve been a great fit for older bands like the Damned but went mostly unused—was having two massive stages right next to each other (four total) on either side of the rodeo arena. As one band played—such the Damned, as Boston heroes the Mighty Mighty Bosstones sound-checked just feet away—thousands of people slowly gathered in front of the adjacent stage, interested in what was happening on the active stage but, because of proximity, only able to hear bits and pieces of the ongoing show.

At one point Vanian wandered to his extreme right near the end of the Damned’s set, getting the attention of the thousands waiting for the Bosstones, whose searing set (including a fiery “737” and Minor Threat’s “Think Again”) may have been the day’s highlight, and asked if they were enjoying his band. Thumbs up were given all around.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, by the way, showed they are one of punk history’s most underrated acts, unduly shrugged off because of a milquetoast mainstream hit released 15 years into a fine career mixing hardcore punk, ska and soul. The horn section was impeccable, the lead guitar sensational and charismatic frontman Dicky Barrett—with his trademark growl—bringing band and audience to a fever pitch.

The funny thing about the Bosstones in concert is the group’s dancer Ben Carr, a guy who skanks his way through every song like its biggest, most endearing fan, effectively sweatin’ to Bosstones oldies. Nary a better gig exists in rock ‘n’ roll, though one wonders what rehearsal for something like that entails.

After the sun fell, Run-D.M.C.—sans the talented Jam Master Jay, tragically gunned down in 2002 at 37—turned the dirt field in front of the Rebel Stage into an unforgettable dance party, hitting home runs with “It’s Tricky,” “King of Rock” and other ‘80s favorites. Run-D.M.C. is to rap what the Ramones were to punk, and the way the duo—with help from two DJs, including Jam Master Jay’s son—sucked in the tens-of-thousands-strong, mostly white crowd played perfectly into what Riot Fest is all about: legendary bands with an edge proving they can still pull off what made them famous.

The “edge” part was superior to last year’s festival. The 2014 edition of Riot Fest included great performances by Social Distortion, the Cure, the Descendents and others, but everywhere you turned there was the stink of emo. Saturday, however, the heavy Chicago post-punk band Meat Wave opened the Roots Stage with gusto, and whatever whiny scraps of emo I heard floating around came from the indoor Radicals Stage, which—again—was for some reason (maybe concerns over the dirt floor?) basically used as a place for over-heated concertgoers to buy beer, charge smartphones and relieve bladders.

As day two of Riot Fest neared its end, the Pixies—surprisingly powerful even without the recently departed Kim Deal—played a dark, no-nonsense set as thousands gathered at the adjacent Riot Stage for Modest Mouse. Modest Mouse opened its hour-plus set with a slowed-down, deconstructed version of version of the left-field hit “Float On,” after which lead singer/guitarist Isaac Brook complained about breathing being “a fucking task” in Denver, led the band through a couple more tunes and launched into the trademark version of “Float On.”

Though Modest Mouse quickly showed why it’s been one of the most interesting bands in American pop music for the last 20 years, missing Rancid’s run through its breakthrough album …And Out Come the Wolves and a few lively encores at the Rock Stage simply wasn’t an option.

Guitar slung low as usual, Tim Armstrong—transformed from his Mohawk days with a shaved head and big beard—looked out over a sizable mosh pit with pride as Rancid got a young, excited crowd moving to East Bay punk.

The best Rancid mixes copious amounts of Clash influence (chiefly “Capital Radio”) with early Social Distortion and of course Armstrong’s time with ska pioneers Operation Ivy. Rancid is often counted out by hardcore punks because of the quick fame the group enjoyed when the East Bay became for ‘90s punk what Seattle was for grunge, but—like the Bosstones—just a few moments of Rancid’s live show tells you why it’s a great band that hasn’t gone away.

Armstrong, whose street drawl in makes him sound like California punk’s Shane McGowan, also finished Rancid’s inescapably energetic set by treating the enormous Riot Fest crowd—many with bandanas over their faces to fight off the moshing-induced dust clouds—to the evening’s most apropos and important lyric: “When I got the music / I got a place to go.”

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photo by Adam Perry

Synesthesia and the Growth of Psych Rock in Denver (Westword 8/13/2015)

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Synesthesia and the Growth of Psych Rock in Denver
by Adam Perry for Westword, 8/13/2015

When Synesthesia debuted in Denver’s RiNo district a couple years ago, it was a Spartan affair at the Meadowlark and Larimer Lounge, attracting just 200 people. Now, the Larimer’s Bart Dahl says he’s happy to see what was formerly called Denver Psych Fest “flourish in our neighborhood” — this year’s synesthesia will feature 36 bands on five stages, including those inside the Larimer, Meadowlark and Dateline, along with outdoor stages courtesy of the Savoy and the Big Wonderful.

Festival founder Ray Koren, who enlisted organizational help from local psych-rock stalwart Jordan Hubner last year, started Denver Psych Fest for selfish reasons that proved auspicious.

“I had wanted to throw a festival [and] was excited to book my band [Thee Dang Dangs] alongside bigger acts but we broke up before last year’s festival. It was at that point I realized for me it’s more about bringing in bands we love that don’t play here much, getting them in front of a good crowd in Denver.”

Koren says the name change is aimed at shedding stereotypes.

“It’s all just rock ‘n’ roll to me,” he says. “I do enjoy the particular sounds and sonic styling of a lot of the psych bands, but I like to book a broader spectrum of artists. I by no means am only interested in psych-rock, which is why we are moving forward as Synesthesia.”

Hubner, who has also begun to work with the Black Angels-founded Levitation [which puts on Austin Psych Fest and similar festivals internationally], is on board with the effort to avoid turning Synesthesia into twelve hours of Warlocks clones.

“We just have to like their music,” Hubner said when asked what qualifies a band to get booked for Synesthesia. “It doesn’t have to be tripped-out, reverbed-out psych music. There are so many people who ask ‘What is psychedelic rock music?’ and maybe for some older folks they think of the Dead and that whole scene, but I think of all the bands that transpired from Brian Jonestown Massacre and everything like that, modern psychedelic music.”

There is a punk element at this year’s Synesthesia, with Denver favorites Colfax Speed Queen and Dirty Few playing the Meadowlark’s patio. Euforquestra, a Ft. Collins staple that could be called a world-beat act will play an afternoon set outside at the Big Wonderful.

“We really like to break bands that are up and coming locally,” says Hubner. “There is so much good local music, especially in the psych realm. We’re looking to support that and provide a really good time, and expose people to national acts that they maybe haven’t heard of. We could spend all our money on two bands that everybody knows and go home with a fistful of cash, but that’s not where we’re at. It’s always about breaking new artists.”

In years past, Denver Psych Fest exposed bands like Vacant Lots and the Cosmonauts to wider audiences, and this year Moon Duo – a Wooden Shjips spinoff – headlines the Savoy with a highly anticipated midnight set.

“I learned a ton last year,” says Hubner, “what works and doesn’t work. But mostly we’re trying to keep our own thing; that’s why we chose a venue like the Savoy, which doesn’t do a lot of events like this. We’re able to take that space and make it our own, off the beaten path. And the Curtis Park/RiNo District is my favorite in Denver. I love being over there. Josh [Sampson] from the Big Wonderful has been really helpful, too, so we have this outdoor element and if you want to bring your kids and check it out you’re not just in a stuffy rock club. We’re trying to make it appealing to all audiences.”

Interestingly, the festival formerly known as Denver Psych Fest will not include jam bands, perhaps the artists most closely associated with psychedelic music if you ask the general public.

“I think the jam [and] psych crowds do not mix for a couple reasons,” Koren muses. “Bands like Widespread Panic and Phish all have roots in the Dead’s extended jams [but] I just stop caring about 20 minutes in as meandering, noodling solos become annoying. In my opinion, newer psych-rock bands have more in common with the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, Hendrix and the Doors, who had a bit more focused song structures and get into darker territory, which I like. That, I believe, is the disconnect between the scenes music-wise. There is also a decent gap culturally, hippie vs. hipster.”

It’s hard to argue with Koren’s assessment that it’s more likely to see Phish fan getting turned on to the Black Angels and checking out Synesthesia than a Fresh and Onlys devotee hoola hooping at a String Cheese Incident show. Hubner, for his part, flatly responded “no” when asked if he’d ever book a jamband.

“I guess a lot of psych bands do play three chords and do play for longer than a pop song, and kind of go off on that and make it big, make it a wall of sound, like My Bloody Valentine. I just feel like it’s two different things, jam band music and modern psych music. If I was gonna go see Phish I’d say, ‘I’m going to see a jam band tonight,’ which would probably never happen.”

Not that Synesthesia needs to recruit the jam band audience. The festival’s growth has been remarkable.

“The majority of [concertgoers] are from Denver,” Hubner says, “but we’re really bringing people from all over the world, which is exciting. This year we’re expecting three thousand people, and we have this projection art team behind us and so many people who have come forth who want to be a part of it. We’ve got 20 volunteers and all these people who want to help out, because it’s still a small festival, so it’s a lot of work. We have so many people willing to help, which has been a real blessing.”

Austin Psych Fest is no doubt the model, or at least the inspiration, for Synesthesia, but with the rise of modern psych-rock it was a matter of time before Denver played host to such an exciting lineup of psych bands.

“If you look at other cities – Seattle, L.A. – everyone’s got their own Psych Fest, which is really cool,” Hubner says. “You can see the infiltration of psych music more so now, even in pop music. I think it’s a growing scene and more and more people want to be a part of it.”