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Why Front Page News Will Happen in Denver

Live music in Barcelona recently got resuscitated despite so many odds. Why stop there?


Every now and then, some town becomes the focal point of a big moment in musical history. Sometimes the town makes perfect sense, like when the two towns that became the important meccas of Hip Hop were New York and Los Angeles, or when Nashville, TN, became the city that country music happened. A lot of the time, though, it feels like there is a right way to react to hearing about the, as it were, Capital City of a movement in music, and that right way is, “How come?”

What about Seattle made it the petri dish where grunge could mold into existence? That seems weird.

How come Liverpool was the right kind of place for The Beatles to come into existence? Just sounds like a coincidence.

How come there are so many Celtic rock bands from Vancouver? So random.

Detroit was where both Alice Cooper and Motown happened. What’s up with that?

In a survey of history, we never have time to delve into the soup bubbling in that town making that particular explosion of culture possible.

Then you delve a little and discover that the precise balance—or, more usually, imbalance—of ingredients there have made a beakerful of something that makes the cultural explosion inevitable. Everything happening in Seattle in 1986, or Liverpool in 1959, or Vancouver anytime during the last forty years, or Detroit in the 1960s, that all the gummy, itchy things happening everywhere are just ingredients. Everything’s just ingredients all the time. We’re always waiting for catalysts to drop into these little worlds of abstract chemistry. “The Next Big Thing” just needs its Malcom McLaren to stir the goop together and let the world and the Sex Pistols collide and bring about a world where every high school junior with thirty bucks for a guitar and an angsty opinion can do Garage Rock. It’s all ingredients. Everything is ingredients. Cakes happen with a will and a catalyst.

I live in Denver. Denver is a town overabundant with ingredients, because it’s so young. If there’s a town with more of an attitude of “what’s a millennial…? Oh, I’m one? Oh, caring about giving a shit about my job is ‘entitlement’? Oh—oh, right. Got it. I’m glad I learned about that one. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.” If there’s a town with more of a culture of calmly and quietly having a good time doing the next right thing, I don’t know where it might be.

There are more breweries per capita in Colorado than any other state in North America, so we’re practically Great Britain.

Reasons for relocating here are pretty much limited to, “Yeah, I got tired of dealing with all the bullshit back [insert name of anywhere here].” It’s completely full of people who want to earn a good time.

But it’s hemorrhaging culture, which makes no GOOD sense, and plenty of sense in reality. It makes no good sense because everyone here loves culture. Good shows are always full. Art openings are crowded. No one needs to go anywhere else for good stuff.

And yet, “significant” culture isn’t allowed to happen here. Whatever significant means. You have to go somewhere else, somewhere people recognize as culturally relevant. The musicians and writers and artists I know are all either leaving town or considering it, because the careers are elsewhere. They don’t want to. They like it here. They want to stay here. But the work isn’t here. I know them. I talk to them and I ask them. They say they need to go to New York or Los Angeles or Nashville, where the work is.

There are musicians and writers and artists here. And there are millions of people eager to go and grab a microbrew and have a good time. The only thing missing in this cake, as far as I can tell, is Malcolm McLaren, bringing the people and the culture together.

There is no Denver Scene. Nobody talks about the Denver Scene. Not because it isn’t happening, though. It is happening. It just hasn’t exploded yet. It’s missing some vital catalyst.

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