This Friday Minneapolis hip-hop group Atmosphere and special guest Brother Ali will play a free (to CMU students) outdoor show at Colorado Mesa University. Community tickets are only $20, which makes this a rare, affordable opportunity to see national touring hip-hop in Grand Junction. It's hard to put in perspective just how big of a show this is for Grand Junction but for perspective Atmosphere and Brother Ali headline at Red Rocks in September. For those unfamiliar with these well reguarded artists, here is a quick intro into what you can expect Friday night.
Rapping about everything from hangovers to the death of the American dream, Atmosphere and Brother Ali can be anything from party starters to introspective poets. With over 13 studio albums between the two groups, and countless side projects, Atmosphere and Brother Ali content rich, which should make for an eclectic and fun concert experience. Here are a couple key tracks that speak to the heart and soul of each group.
Burger Records is a small, independent record label based out of the Los Angeles community of Fullerton.
Founded in 2007, the Burger Records label specializes in laid-back garage rock and pop music and releases most of their material via cassette. In the past, they’ve worked on special limited run releases with highly notable bands such as The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dave Grohl, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Beck and Ryan Adams.
The label has released music from more than 350 bands, and currently their roster includes a collection of today’s most adored garage musicians including Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Black Lips, and JEFF the Brotherhood.
Now, this mildly interesting background information about a record label 766 miles away from us may seem to have little relevance in our day-to-day life, but thanks to a passionate local DIY scene and some well-placed contacts, Burger Records has a pretty strong connection with the Grand Valley.
In fact, this unofficial partnership has resulted in steady stream of new bands playing shows in Grand Junction.
Over the last couple years bands that are either on the Burger Record label or have an affiliation with the label, including The Growlers, Allah-Las, Broncho, The Blank Tapes, The Knew, Pearl Charles, Bad Weather California (now American Culture), Pizza Time, Dirty Few and Thee Oh Sees, have all played shows in Grand Junction.
This Saturday, Burger Records sends us two more bands to add to the list. Playing an all-ages show at Mesa Theater are Burger Record artists Thee Commons and Panaderia (formally Pizza Time) with opening support from fellow rippers, Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen, and local duo Wavebaby.
Both Burger Records bands bring a decidedly Latin flavor to the proceedings. Brothers David and Rene Pacheco make up two thirds of the east L.A. group Thee Commons. Combining cumbia (a form of Latin dance music) with old school punk psychedelia, the band has a sound uniquely its own.
Denver’s Panaderia on the other hand brings a collection of simplified garage pop songs to the table, most of which are sung completely in Spanish.
It may seem odd that these bands keep showing up in Grand Junction, but it’s not as big of a mystery as you might think and it actually makes a lot of sense if you know a little about our music history.
Coincidentally, the Burger Records sound — it’s raw, energetic rock ‘n’ roll interspersed with memorable hooks and melody — fits pretty well within a section of our own music scene. The lineage of local bands embracing aspects of the “Burger sound” is quite prolific and runs from the Heavy Drags, through Dreamboat and Bronco Country, to currently Wavebaby and Radicult.
In fact, through the years I’d say our DIY scene, while small, has been one of the most passionate and consistent subgenera groups in our music community.
For years the Grand Junction tight-knit DIY community where a number of our bands originated lived at house-show venues such as the Pop Up House, Le Garage or Casa Coyote. Now, thanks to more consistent downtown venues, the bands that grew out of that scene are out in the open and accessible for more people to enjoy.
The benefit of coming from such a supportive community is that when these bands play out they have a built-in, ready-to-travel fan base. They also have contacts throughout the independent music community and who willing to help set up and promote shows for other bands touring through the area.
Grand Junction’s DIY spirit is why Burger Record bands keep showing up. We have a dedicated audience and a collection of bands willing to put in the extra effort to put shows together.
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.