Music On The Goe

David Goe on music

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KAFM’s Zombie Prom is Deadly Fun

By David Goe
Friday, October 30, 2015

It’s once again time for beats and brains, aka Zombie Prom.

Over the past seven years, KAFM Community Radio’s annual Halloween fundraising event has grown into a massive money-making costume dance party, hotly anticipated by Grand Junction’s young and old.

An effective and critical fundraising tool for KAFM, Zombie Prom has become bigger, bolder and bloodier each year. Moving to Two Rivers Convention Center, this Friday, Oct. 30, event is set to be the biggest Zombie Prom yet.

If you haven’t already, shred up some old clothes, bathe yourself in blood and stagger your way to Downtown Grand Junction for what might be the best costume party in town.

But for local DJs and electronic musicians, Zombie Prom represents something else entirely: Zombie Prom is a dream gig. It’s the biggest local showcase of the year and a rare chance for DJs to play in front of a large audience ready to get down and party.

The first iterations of Zombie Prom were KAFM parties designed to help evening radio shows raise money during fund drives. After a couple years those parties grew too big for KAFM’s space, prompting Zombie Prom founder and DJ, Ryan Stringfellow to move the event to the Mesa Theater and Club.

That move amplified Zombie Prom into what it is today: an undeniable force, infecting Grand Junction with its bite.

“When we started, all DJs were KAFM radio programmers. We were live broadcasting the party, and the music was a mix of world dance music, trance, pop and EDM,” Stringfellow said. “As the event grew, it happened to be the same time that EDM was really taking off globally, so Zombie Prom was able to mirror that enthusiasm for EDM on a local level.”

As the event has grown, new demographics and a new wave of DJs have expanded Zombie Prom well beyond the EDM box.

With six local DJs on the bill this year, expect to hear everything from old school cuts by the likes of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Black Sabbath to fresh pop tracks from Drake, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Fetty Wap.

Part of what makes Zombie Prom so fun, is the diversity amongst the DJs. Each DJ brings his or her own style to the event, and with only 45 minutes to work with, they tend to play only their best and most energetic tracks.

Crafting a killer Zombie Prom set list is more work than one might think. DJs spend hours preparing for the night. For Stringfellow, that means cycling through hundreds of songs trying to find a perfect mix that gels well and brings a high energy level to the night.

“I may really be attached to a certain sound or song but if I keep trying to jam it into my set and it just doesn’t sound good I need to leave it behind,” Stringfellow said. “Intuition is another important element. I tend to drop lots of mashups for Zombie Prom. While two different artists may match up well, others may not. For example, Dusty Springfield and Cypress Hill actually go really well together, but you may not think the same about Tune-Yards mixed with Rihanna.”

In addition to Stringfellow, who DJs under the name Strangefellow, playing this year are DJs Selector Trev, Denim Party (yours truly), Watchman, DJ Jettt and Crumbwave, a new DJ playing dance classics and deep cuts from the 1960s and ‘70s.

As it happens, Crumbwave’s appearance also marks the first time a solo female DJ has played the event.

Locally produced from top to bottom, Zombie Prom is a feast of local talent. From the zombie photo booth to the costume contest, the event is deadly fun.


Selector Trev's Zombie Prom Spotify Playlist


Local’s Choice Friendly to Local Musicians

By David Goe
Friday, October 30, 2015

Photo by Sally Boyd


Well done GJ.

I finally got around to reading the Grand Junction Free Press’ annual Locals’ Choice and the winners pleasantly surprised me. It’s nice to see that national chains were locked out of the top spots and Grand Junction selected the shops, restaurants and entertainment that make our slice of Colorado unique.

Although small, this year two music categories popped up in Locals’ Choice: Best Local Musician/Band and Best Live Music Venue.

Superstar Mix 104.3 weekend DJ and singer/songwriter Shea Bramer took the top spot followed by Zolopht, Jack+Jill and Wavebaby, respectively. Not a lot of surprises there but each are well-deserving of the honor.

From Bramer’s crystal clear vocals to Wavebaby’s energetic indie beats, the stage is where these bands excel and win over blocks of fans. Much could be said for each group as they really are the pillars of our music community and what all young local bands should aspire to be.

There are reasons why these four are so popular: They write original music and practice their craft endlessly, which shows in their 2015 releases (Jack+Jill, Zolopht) and live shows (Bramer, Wavebaby).

While “best of” lists are fun to read and fodder for gossip, they undoubtedly overlook plenty of talented people. There are a number of local bands that should be included, however two really stand out, having had great a year worthy of recognition.

Perhaps the most talented and under-appreciated musician in the region, Billy Pogany (pictured above) deserves praise for an excellent 2015 campaign. Pogany’s exceptional song-writing and dizzying finger style guitar work makes his latest album, released under the name Mount Orchid, a must listen.

In just 11 tracks, Pogany’s managed to create an indie pop album that sounds unlike anyone else in the region. A unique and heartfelt performer, Pogany’s work draws comparisons to a young Elliot Smith. He can capture and hold your attention with his complex guitar playing and charm you just as easily with his voice.

Major props also should be given to DJ Trizz. From weekend sets on Magic 93.1, to DJing the Summer and Winter XGames, and most recently the Street League Skateboarding Championships in Chicago, Trizz has been a very busy man this year.

There have been few musicians, if any, who have started in Grand Junction and found success on a national level. Trizz is making a career for himself, a rare feat for any musician, let alone one from western Colorado.

Moving on to Best Live Music Venue, Avalon Theatre, Cavalcade, Edgewater Brewery and Sabrosa were all honored with the Avalon taking the top spot.

The Cavalcade always has hosted an eclectic collection of touring and local groups, Edgewater is a nice outdoor venue, and Sabrosa is really the best place to see local bands and DJs play. Great choices.

The Avalon, however? Don’t you need to regularly host concerts to be considered a music venue?

Since phase one of the remodel was completed and the Avalon hosted several grand opening events such as George Thorogood and Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, the theater hasn’t stacked the schedule with music events at all.

I feel I likely go out to music shows more often than the typical Grand Junction resident, and I’ve been to the theater just once. It was for a fly-fishing film festival.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with the Avalon, maybe we’ll have to wait until phase two is completed for it to reach its potential. I just know that it hardly qualifies as a consistent music venue, let alone the best in the valley.

Instead of the Avalon, I might slide one of our outdoor concert venues in its place, maybe Riverbend Park for the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival.

This is Colorado after all, and we love being outdoors. 


The Hip Hop Guide To Success

By David Goe
Friday, October 30, 2015

Pimpin' ain't easy... unless you're Jay-Z


Surf the web long enough and you’ll inevitably land on a click-bait link too irresistible to ignore.

“Eleven High School Classes That Should Exist Right Meow.”

“Twenty Six Truly Incredible Things To Do With Ice Cream.”

“Seventeen Things You Should Know Before Trying to Get A Bigger Butt.”

As you’re well aware, just about anything passes for online journalism these days, and while I am very interested in what I could do with ice-cream other than, you know, eat it, articles such as these offer little beyond causal entertainment.

Most annoyingly are the lists of habits of highly successful people. Have you seen these?

“Morning habits of successful people.”

“Weekend habits of successful people.”

“Productive habits of very wealthy people.”

“Habits of exceptionally successful people,”

Beside offering no-brainer tips such as “eat breakfast” and “go to bed early,” all these lists have three things in common.

1) They present broad generalizations as if they were life-changing facts.

2) They fail to point out that successful people don’t waste time reading or articles. They work really, really hard.

3) They are all written by unpaid interns and 20-somethings with little life experience.

I’m all for self improvement, however trying to glean information from an article purely designed to drive web traffic is not the way to go about it.

Having said that, I actually did find one “success” article from interesting: “10 Start Up Tips From Hip-Hop Lyrics.”

Using lyrics from the likes of Drake, T.I. and Nas, the article offered more than surface-level amusement.

Take someone such as Dr. Dre. Born into one of the worst neighborhoods in America, Andre Romelle Young used music as an escape route to greener pastures.

Along with being a hip-hop pioneer and super producer, Dre made savvy business decisions with his partner and fellow record producer Jimmy Iovine, and has become one of the most successful modern businessmen in recent history. After selling his headphone company Beats by Dre to Apple for $3 billion, Dre’s estimated net worth sits right around $700 million.

If you want to learn how to be successful, listen to his classic album “The Chronic.”

While you’re at it, pop in Jay-Z’s “Vol. 3 ... Life & Times of S. Carter” or 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.”

Both Jay-Z (estimated worth, $550 million) and 50 Cent (estimated worth, $155 million) are self-identified street hustlers turned businessmen. Both rap moguls grew up in New York City boroughs peddling drugs. While that activity is illegal and not an advised means to a successful end, what can by admired and mirrored is their insatiable hustle and drive to build something from nothing.

An entrepreneurial spirit has allowed both men to reap massive financial rewards. From owning minority stakes in Vitamin Water (50 Cent) to owning part of the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team (Jay-Z), both are beyond successful and have albums full of lyrics more thoughtful and insightful than anything you’d find in a Lifehack article.

Hip-hop lays out a blueprint for going from rags to riches better than many “success” lists. Listen to the lyrics and glean what you can from these titans of the game, because not one of those lists will tell you what you really need to know.

There are no shortcuts or magic tricks to financial successful. Work hard, keep your hustle tight, and pad your roll.


Weekend Shows Dominated by Local Musicians

By David Goe
Friday, September 4, 2015

In the almost four years I’ve written this column, I’ve noticed considerable change in our music community.

Once reserved for a smaller, fringe audience, local music has spread into the general population.

Our little music scene now travels well beyond the four-block radius of downtown Grand Junction. On any given night, it’s not unusual to find shows at any corner of the Grand Valley. From Cruisers Bar on Horizon Drive to Barons on Colorado Avenue and from the Palisade Brewing Co. to The Hot Tomato in Fruita, there are more options than ever to see live music.

Outside of traditional bar venues, places such as Colorado Mesa University have grown to include local music. The Point, the university’s new coffee shop and pub, is wise to the musicians playing around town. Hosting everything from open mic nights to live request club nights, The Point is another option for college students and the public to see live music.

The campus radio station, KMSA, has changed formats and now pumps local music out over its airwaves.

The same goes for KAFM. As the only community radio station in the valley, KAFM is still dedicated to providing local musicians access to a local audience.

From our agriculture, restaurants, mountain bike trails and now to our music scene, Grand Junction has put an emphasis on local.

Once the dominion of weekends, local music has expanded to weeknights. Local performers have kept the Thursday Downtown Farmers Market lively all summer. Touring groups, such as the country and roots band Carson McHone, are finding weeknight homes at places like Cruisers, which is a sneaky good venue bringing in a wide variety of national acts.

This weekend, Sept. 4–6, is a perfect sampling of what our music community has evolved into. There are shows across the valley in a wide variety of genres, offering a little something for everyone.

The talk of the town has been New York City Cops, a local music supergroup comprised of members from Wavebaby and Mount Orchid. (Full disclosure: I play guitar for New York City Cops.)

Playing a note-for-note cover of The Strokes’ classic first album “Is This It,” New York City Cops brings its raucous act to The Hot Tomato in Fruita at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5.

After packing out Sabrosa during its first show, don’t be surprised if it is standing room only at The Hot Tomato. Get there early and stake out a spot, for modern rock fans or fans of the Strokes, New York City Cops is worth the wait.

Playing at 10 p.m. Friday night, Sept. 4, at Barons are local funk heroes Tight Thump and the Denver band Branded Bandits.

Brought to you by Skylark Productions, Branded Bandits fits right in with past Skylark shows. If you liked In the Whale or the Yawpers, then you’ll most likely be into Branded Bandits.

Prepare for a blitzkrieg of hoots and hollers as this guy/girl power trio channels the likes of early Black Sabbath, Jack White’s Dead Weather and Queens of the Stone Age. (This show is 18 and up.)

Also playing Friday night at The Local are guitarist Tim Jennings and percussionist Richard Crespin, who teamed up for a new project called — you guessed it — Tim+Richard. The duo plan to record the entire performance.

With Will Whalen playing the First Friday Art Opening at The Art Center and Chris Epic holding down his usual Saturday night DJ spot at Sabrosa, this weekend again proves that there is more going on in Grand Junction than we give it credit for. 


Will Whalen’s One Man Band

By David Goe
Friday, August 21, 2015

photo by Mike Muench

One of the more exciting developments in the Grand Junction music scene is the trend of new artists creating original music.

Just over the past year, there has been a flood of new releases. From old favorites such as Zolopht, Jack+Jill and We Speak Imaginese to newer bands such as Mount Orchid, original music from local musicians is easier to find than ever.

With KMSA and KAFM pumping local music over the airwaves and venues such as Sabrosa and The Local filling their schedules with local performers, it finally seems like the area is receptive to new, original voices.

One such voice is singer/songwriter Will Whalen. As a multi-instrumentalist solo artist, Whalen has performed around the area for the last five years.

Once strictly a cover artist, Whalen has spent the past year writing and recording an album that is fully his own. “Right Away,” his new modern rock album, features 11 tracks about a variety of topics from girls to social activism.

“The ideas for some songs had been complete for a long time, others needed polishing, and a few didn’t even exist yet,” Whalen said. “For instance, ‘Sense’ was written about a girl I admired several years back, while ‘Cross Your Fingers’ was largely inspired by the August 2014 Ferguson protests. I liked being all over the map like that, because it keeps me interested and engaged.”

Listening through the album, you can hear Whalen’s wide range of influences. From bluesy indie rock to electronic drum patterns, Whalen meticulously has pieced together a variety of modern rock sounds that, in the wrong hands, could easily have been interpreted into a jumbled mess. Instead, “Right Away” gives you a complete picture of who Whalen is: a complex musician with an appreciation for all types of music.

On “My Full Attention,” Whalen delivers lines with the sass and attitude of an agitated Jack White. The influence of the former White Stripes front man is all over this album. The guitar tones on “Supernatural Blues” sound like White Stripes outtakes. Whalen also goes as far to cover “The Denial Twist” from the White Stripes 2005 album “Get Behind Me Satan.”

“Stray Season,” on the other hand, is influenced by the complex electronic drumming patterns from Radiohead’s latter albums such as “Hail To the Thief.”

Whalen wrote, played, recorded, mastered and promoted the entire album by himself, partially because he is still pinning down his style. Working solo on “Right Away” not only helped Whalen develop his sound, it also has given him valuable insight into the business side of being a musician.

“I saw each step of the process, like learning another instrument. Mixing and mastering audio isn’t just a skill, but a talent. The same goes for promotions, graphic design, booking and social media maintenance. I feel like if I know the complexities and difficulties of each job, I can hand over the reigns to someone on a professional level and truly appreciate their talent in the future,” Whalen said.

An industrious self-starter, Whalen is taking “Right Away” on the road, and is booked out through October. Starting with Friday night’s, Aug. 21, show at our very own hidden beach oasis, Volley’s (a bar, volleyball and barbecue joint off of North Third Street), Whalen will play 16 shows across the entire western slope.

Touring on an album that has been a year in the works, Whalen has added another valuable voice to our local music scene, and is proving that it is a good time to be a songwriter in Grand Junction.

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