Tonight, Violent J, one half of the horror-core hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, takes the stage at Mesa Theater.
While I seriously doubt there is a large Juggalo audience regularly reading The Daily Sentinel, this Violent J show and other recent headliners, such as Big Head Todd and The Monsters, P.O.D. and Mimosa, mark somewhat of a turning point for Mesa Theater.
Just a couple months ago there was serious doubt as to whether Mesa Theater would ever recover from a series of financial and structural issues that led to its closure for much of 2015.
Now that a new ownership group, C&E Productions led by Brett Strong, has purchased the theater, the club has shown signs of sustainable life and is poised for a return as a main entertainment attraction in downtown Grand Junction.
If you have yet to visit the new Mesa Theater, a couple new improvements will immediately jump out at you.
First off, both the men’s and women’s restrooms were repaired back to working order. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in the past the poorly maintained restrooms were a dealbreaker, primarily for women.
Second, and most importantly, the theater’s main sound system also has been significantly improved.
New to the main room is a Meyer sound system and Midas sound board. The total upgrade cost the theater about $170,000 and represents much more than a repair to the audio equipment. Both Meyer and Midas brands are highly coveted among sound engineers, and this upgrade in sound equipment equates to a huge upgrade in quality.
The old sound system was scaled down and installed for shows in the lounge area of the theater, which also is an upgrade for bands and fans coming out for smaller shows.
Working toilets and better speakers may not sound like much to someone who rarely, if ever, visits the theater, but both of these fixes go a long way toward rebuilding bridges with the local, regional and national music communities.
It cannot be overstated just how poorly the reputation of the theater had become. With the improvements and the new ownership group, Mesa Theater is starting to dig itself out from a very deep hole.
Perhaps most significant of all the recent changes is the fact the theater is offering more variety in genre. There is an appetite in the Grand Valley for live music beyond the EDM and hardcore scenes, and it looks like Mesa Theater is trying to tap into those audiences.
Just recently, the theater hosted country musician Olivia Lane, California punk rappers (Hed)PE and Texas indie rockers Purple with opening support from new local band Radicult.
Lined up for the next couple weeks are shows from Escape the Fate (emo-hardcore), American Culture (Denver indie rock), Contraband (reggae fusion) featuring local openers Zolopht and Tight Thump, Led Zeppelin cover band ZoSo, Hemlock (heavy metal), and Thee Commons (psychedelic) with Colfax Speed Queen (Denver indie rock), Panaderia (Denver indie rock) and local band Wavebaby.
This new version of the theater only has been open for a couple months, but if this amount of variety and consistency among shows continues, I expect we will see good things in the future.
I might not go as far as to say Mesa Theater is back, but it’s certainly headed in a better direction.
The commodities that once helped our community flourish are gone, perhaps never to return.
You can no longer call Grand Junction a regional shopping destination, nor the hub for Colorado’s energy industry. We’ve lost our influence over the Western Slope and how we figure in to a state that’s drastically changing from year to year is extremely unclear.
As we debate new ideas such as the proposed downtown event center, the Palisade Plunge bike trail, improved broadband infrastructure, and recreational marijuana, it’s time to ask ourselves, what is Grand Junction? What do we want Grand Junction to be?
The two projects currently vying to define Grand Junction’s future are the downtown events center project and the Palisade Plunge bike trail.
With backing both statewide and locally, the Plunge is tentatively moving forward. The events center, however, is shaping up to be a much more hotly contested project.
According to estimates, a downtown events center and Two Rivers Convention Center renovation would cost approximately $62 million, financed through a revenue bond or increased lodging taxes.
With the investment would come a more than 5,000-seat venue to attract higher tier performers and musicians, and (likely) a minor league hockey team.
In return, the expected community impact of the project is estimated at roughly $10 million a year for the next 30 years.
Looking at our current entertainment options, the area could easily benefit from a large modern facility. Right now, our best options for live entertainment are:
■ Mesa Theater, which is simultaneously too big for smaller regional acts willing to play in Grand Junction and too small for larger national touring groups;
■ And Avalon Theatre. But until the stage expansion is complete, the Avalon cannot accommodate many modern performers.
The proposed events center would fill a need in this area, however, I’m not sure if we are in a strong position to support it.
If, in fact, the project gets a green light and if it is run successfully, then the future economic impact far out weigh the initial investment.
Those are big if’s, however.
For one, I’d like to know who would book events at the center? To generate $10 million a year, that facility is going to have to be filled on a weekly basis.
Is the city going to take on the booking responsibility? Are we to rely on Sandstone Concerts or some other third party to fill the center?
More importantly, is it even reasonably possible that we could fill the center on a weekly basis?
Statewide, Mesa County ranks low on both average household income and job creation. The few jobs created in Mesa County tend to be low-paying, which lead me to think there isn’t enough disposable income in Mesa County to make it work.
The willingness and ability of our community to routinely fill an event center is a big unknown.
The center could improve our regional draw, meaning we don’t have to rely purely on Mesa County residents to purchase tickets, but on other Western Slope economies that are in just as bad of shape as ours.
Considering travel and lodging costs, whatever entertainment gets booked in the event center better be damn good to pull in neighboring communities.
Looking at this project, I love the idea of investing in our community, but I have some doubt about its long-term viability.
I would like to see more entertainment options in the Grand Valley, but right now the safer bet on the table is to go all-in on outdoor recreation through projects such as the Palisade Plunge.
Ultimately, if we move forward with the event center project, I would support it. The cost of doing nothing is far more expensive in the long run than the cost of investing in Grand Junction’s future right now.
No proposal is going to be completely risk free, but we have to take our future into our own hands. It’s time to forge a new identity for Grand Junction.
Whether that be through recreation or entertainment, I for one would be proud to live in a city that at least takes action.
We know what our competitive disadvantages are, so let’s make strategic investments to position the area for a chance to not only survive, but thrive.
For some reason, I’ve really been into film scores this year (probably because pop music has been soooo boring).
Naturally, I’m getting pumped up for the Academy Awards and this year I’m really cued into the Best Original Score category.
Up for the big award are Thomas Newman for “Bridge of Spies,” Carter Burwell for “Carol,” Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight,” Johann Johannsson for “Sicario” and John Williams for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
I’ve listened to all the scores, watched some of the films, and here is my breakdown of what to expect come award night.
“Bridge of Spies”
You could say music runs in the Newman family. The son of legendary Hollywood composer Alfred Newman and cousin to multiple Oscar winner Randy Newman, Thomas more than holds his own.
Newman has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including original scores for “Skyfall” (2012), “American Beauty” (1999) and “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994).
Despite working on some of the best films in recent memory, Newman has never won an Academy Award.
Newman’s score for “Bridge of Spies” does a good job capturing the suspense and spirit of the Cold War by mixing both classic American and Russian orchestral themes, resulting in genuine tension that is carried through the entire score.
“Bridge of Spies” is a fine score, but it never seems to reach the emotional heights of “Carol,” nor is it as memorable as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
I’m afraid it’s another fruitless nomination for Newman.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
John Williams is the man. Nominated for 50 Academy Awards and with five wins to his name, Williams literally has nothing to prove.
Williams’ credits go on and on: “E.T.” (1982), “Jaws” (1975), “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1982), “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001) and “Home Alone” (1990).
Oh, yeah ... he also did the music for a little film called “Star Wars” (1977).
Listen, the new “Star Wars” is great. I loved it and, let’s face it, Williams’ score helps elevate the movie, but he already won for basically the same score back in 1977.
There are better scores this year, not as legendary as “Star Wars,” but better.
Relative newcomer to the scene is Johann Johannsson, previously nominated for his brilliant work on “The Theory of Everything” — the Icelandic man is so nice, they named him twice — gets his second nomination for “Sicario.”
Now, let’s get this out of the way: Johannsson has no chance of winning. His score for “Sicario,” however, is straight up terrifying. Without knowing anything about the movie one might guess this is the score to a Stanley Kubrick-esque horror film.
Johannsson riffs off the inherently violent nature of the film, scoring tracks that march purposefully to a dreadful resolution.
The entire score is wicked and relentless, and while this is not his year, I suspect Johannsson will be a regular at future award ceremonies.
Few films have headed into the Academy Awards with more buzz and acclaim than “Carol,” the story of two women romantically attracted to each other in 1950s America.
Composer and first-time nominee Carter Burwell crafted an elegant and touching score of original work and jazz standards from the era.
The result is a work that, as Burwell says, gives Carol and Therese (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) “the ability to express and relieve emotional tensions that can’t be put into words.”
The main theme of Burwell’s score is both romantic and tragic. It’s optimistic but holds a tinge of sadness. Burwell has portrayed the emotions of forbidden love into a winning score.
Of the nominees, this is the score that works perfectly with the film and as a stand-alone composition. However, it is not the winner.
“The Hateful Eight”
If indeed Ennio Morricone wins, and I suspect he will, this will be an apology of sorts by the Academy for largely ignoring a prolific body of work that reaches back to the 1960s.
Morricone is legend who scored “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (1966), “Once Upon A Time in the West” (1968), “The Untouchables” (1986) and “Bugsy” (1991).
Ironically, the score for “The Hateful Eight” doesn’t quite live up to his past masterpieces, but it does have its moments.
Similar to “Sicario,” the score for “The Hateful Eight” is a foreboding climb, this time to yet another bloody crescendo orchestrated by Quentin Tarantino.
If anything, “The Hateful Eight” again highlights Morricone’s mastery as a minimalist. With just a few notes he is able to capture moods that other composers could only dream of.
The added bonus of a Morricone win is the unpredictable nature of Tarantino. He most definitely will do something crazy. Guaranteed.
In the past I’ve railed against the Grammy Awards calling them “soul-sucking, over-hyped, bloated, and music’s biggest fraud.”
With age though comes new-found maturity, and I’m now willing to admit the entire production has some merit.
The Grammys can profoundly change career arcs for under-appreciated musicians. Last year, for example, more than 25 million people watched the Grammy Award broadcast. Surprise Album of the Year winner Beck saw album sales for “Morning Phase” jump 36 percent thanks to the television broadcast. More people now know Beck’s genius thanks in large part to the show.
With the 2016 show right around the corner (Sunday, February 15), there are plenty of story lines worth following. Maybe someone such as Leon Bridges gets the breakthrough he deserves via music’s biggest night.
Instead of delving into those stories and the inevitable controversy that comes with the award show, let’s try something different this year.
With a marathon run time, the Grammy broadcast, sometimes entertaining, sometimes boring beyond belief, needs a little boost to remain watch-able. Instead of hate-watching the show, I propose turning the Grammy broadcast into a drinking game because let’s face it, 2015 was a pretty boring year for music. Taylor Swift is going to win every award, and the only real shock of the ceremony will come from which starlet can remain taped into her dress the longest.
■ Every time you see Taylor Swift.
Swift, Grammy darling, savior of the entire music industry and local hero, is going to be on camera a lot. She is nominated for seven awards including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. She’ll probably win them all because all the songs on “1989” are catchy as hell, and Swift’s good for business.
Remember, this is an entertainment TV show, and people love them some Swifty.
■ Every time someone makes a political joke/statement.
■ Any time you see someone wearing something you wouldn’t be caught dead in.
■ Every time host LL Cool J does the kiss into a peace sign hand gesture.
■ Any time someone shamelessly plugs their new album/song.
■ Any time a presenter flubs a line.
■ When someone you’ve never heard of wins an award.
■ When Kendrick Lamar name drops President Barack Obama and/or Drake.
Lamar, who earlier this year was invited to the Oval Office to chill with Obama, found himself square in the middle of a rap battle with Drizzy, aka Drake, thanks in large part to the president himself.
Obama, going way off message, said that Lamar would beat Drake in a rap battle. In classic rap fashion, Drake responded, calling out the president with a diss track “Summer Sixteen.”
Lamar somehow managed 11 nominations, including Album of the Year and Rap Album of the Year for “To Pimp A Butterfly,” and a couple additional nominations thanks to his collaboration on Swift’s hit single “Bad Blood.”
The Compton rapper also is scheduled to perform at the Grammys. If he uses any of his TV time to shout out POTUS or Drake, you must chug ... because this rap feud is as ridiculous as it gets and legitimizing it on national TV would push it completely over the top.
■ Every time you see a forced duet/group performance.
The Grammys love to pair random musicians together for award night performances. Ranging from truly terrible to occasionally great, these duets are headed your way whether you like it or not.
Already scheduled to perform together are singer/songwriters James Bay and Tori Kelly, pop artists Andra Day and Ellie Goulding, and country superstars Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood.
While these duets sound mildly interesting, don’t count out the Recording Academy forcing something truly terrible down your throat. Maybe The Weeknd and Tony Bennett? Ed Sheeran and The Chemical Brothers? Slipknot and Lee Ann Womack?
The sky is the limit on awfulness here.
■ If a male country presenter/performer/nominee is not wearing a cowboy hat.
■ Any time an official Recording Academy representative derails the show with a boring speech.
Finish Your Drink ...
When Meghan Trainor wins Best New Artist.
Trainor is neither the best nor is she a “new” artist. Her debut single “All About That Bass” charted June 2014 and was even nominated for a Grammy last year. If she steals this award from say, Courtney Barnett, a fresh young talent truly deserving of the award, then slam your drink with the hopes of whitewashing this debacle from your memory.
■ If you start crying during Adele’s performance (I mean, come on).
If the history of music has taught us anything, it’s that music will not be contained.
Music breaks free, it expands to new territories, it crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously. But it always finds a way through to our hearts and to our heads, to reapply a quote by Dr. Ian Malcolm in the movie “Jurassic Park.”
Music lives and survives in the most unlikely places. Think about a place like CBGB. Nobody could have predicted that the notoriously disgusting hell-hole in East Village Manhattan would be the epicenter for new wave punk and the home to legendary bands such as The Ramones, Pattie Smith, Talking Heads and Blondie.
No. This, like any hole-in-the-wall dive bar, would have been overlooked and a fleeting afterthought for most New Yorkers.
Nonetheless, the music eventually found a way through to the greater masses.
This example is not unique to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or any other music hotbed that might come to mind. Every town in the United States, no matter how big or how small, has its own unlikely bar, club, whatever, where music somehow, against the odds, thrives.
For our area that place might just be the Copper Club. We all know Fruita as a biking destination with good pizza. However, the Copper Club changes that narrative.
A 20-minute drive from downtown Grand Junction, the Copper Club is not so much a dive bar as a respectable craft brewery. But for all its charm and quality, it’s relatively unknown to most of Mesa County.
On face value the Copper Club is nothing more than a cozy space of mix and match furniture with a small bar in the far corner. A small batch, craft brewery known as “Fruita’s living room” is not exactly what one would picture as a hopping music venue.
But somehow, organically, it’s working.
The Copper Club has turned into one of the few, consistent places to catch a live show in Fruita.
Primarily showcasing the areas best singer/songwriter musicians, its space off of East Aspen Street has turned into a local hot spot.
Both bands are perfect examples of the type of music that suits the Copper Clubs’ space. Neither overpower the room. They embrace the smaller space by playing mostly acoustic instruments.
Tim+Richard offer a different take on the traditional guitar/percussion duo. Richard (percussionist) plays a Meinl cajon, a traditional Peruvian, box-shaped hand drum, that offers a crisper, Earthier tone than a traditional drum kit.
We Speak Imaginese might as well be the house band at the Copper Club. The band has played numerous shows there including its recent album release party.
Featuring mandolin, double bass, piano and acoustic guitar, We Speak Imaginese captures the vibe of the Copper Club as close as anyone.
The club’s three-year anniversary may grab your attention, but don’t overlook the events before and after that Saturday celebration.
Just a few days earlier, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Fruita guitarist Kyle Harvey will share the Copper Club stage with long-time friend and fellow troubadour Justin Lamoureux for a sneaky good show.
Lamoureux, who has been touring both State side and through Europe with folk outfit Midwest Dilemma, blends rich storytelling and layered instrumentation in an incredibly personal way.
On “Timelines & Tragedies,” Lamoureux climbs the family tree, tracing his ancestral roots from French Canadian fur trading, through the Great Depression, and eventually to his current life in Omaha, Nebraska.
Harvey and Lamoureux is the type of show the Copper Club has become known for. The club’s laid back, laissez-faire vibe makes you feel like you are kicked back in the safety of your home.
Once just a place to get a stout beer, the Copper Club is now a lively spot to catch a live show.