Two Bands no Self-Respecting Venue Would
Book Under Any Circumstances
First of all, the Lion's Lair is not a self-respecting music venue. Often referred to as Denver 's best Punk Club, it's not. Located in the heart of Denver 's charming East Colfax weirdo zone, the Lion's Lair is an awful hole in the wall whose men's room toilet stall has no door, no toilet paper, and is covered with six layers of goop. As an old man, I find it necessary to use the toilet several times over the course of an evening. It's very inconvenient for me to walk next door Walgreens every time nature calls, but that's what I must do. The Lion's Lair is awful also because bands are stuffed into a corner of the room on the other side of the bar from the drinking crowd. To the audience, the band is a sideshow. To the band, the audience is a hazy blur of drunken hecklers who've staggered in off the street.
Which brings me to the Mystery Children. Halfway through their set at the Lion's Lair in Thursday, November 9, a drunken heckler began shouting, “You suck!” over and over again. One brave Mystery Childrenhead shouted at the heckler, “If you don't like it, then leave asshole!” At which point the heckler left. Which is strange because a good heckler will almost always stay (no matter how bad the music is) because heckling is a very rewarding activity. He takes the spotlight away from the band, he gets a reaction out of the crowd, and he gets to interact with musicians.
This unfortunate man left because the Mystery Children are so unlistenable that all the residual benefits of heckling aren't worth sitting through an entire set of their avant garde acid jazz mush unless you are close friends with at least two people in the band, or very drunk. I was guilty of the latter last night.
According to Conrad Kehn, the Mystery Children are the brain child of Conrad Kehn, the worst DJ in America . Here's their schtick: Conrad plays a record (How to Be An Episcopalian, a 33 of African chants played at 45, a jingle sampler, or maybe a record that's been shredded with a knife) and then the band improvises around that record. The drums, bass, guitar, and saxophone are augmented by a clarinet, a keyboard, a violin, and a tuba. The group never practices but you'd never guess. Although they usually play random noise, the sound occasionally becomes bearable.
When this does happen--probably a result of pure chance--the group instantly recognizes it and veers off in six separate directions.
So that's the Mystery Children. They weren't too loud, which is important because I have tinnitis.
The opening act for the Mystery Children was Judith Priest. They are two people. Robert, who improvises poetry, and Andrew, who drums and drums and drums. The second they began their show, everyone on the bar froze. Conversations stopped, Cigarettes stopped burning. For fifteen minutes Robert said stuff and people drooled. His delivery is very similar to that of Jim Morrison in poet mode. But he isn't a drunk. And he doesn't take himself seriously. And, although he did use the word ethereal, he didn't once resort to the stupid west-best-rest rhymes Morrison fell back on when he forgot to think. Robert kept his back to the audience, he wandered off the stage and let the drummer solo for five minutes, he whispered, he shouted, he laid down. He and Andrew kept the Lion's Lair in suspended animation for the duration of their performance. The poetry itself wasn't half bad, being ad-libbed and all. In reference to the giant neon Qwest signs that turn everything within a six mile radius of night time Downtown Denver a sickly blue color he said, “US West is now Qwest. It will be reflected on your next bill.”
After they finished everyone in the bar exhaled and then said, in unison, “I wanted so bad to throw something at them, but I couldn't.”
Neither Judith Priest nor the Mystery Children will ever be successful. That's almost a shame because they actually do things that aren't done fifty times in thirty bars six nights a week. They aren't rock and roll, they don't make you dance. But they make you put up or shut up without being assholes about it. That, however, will not make them rich. When they play, most of the crowd leaves. And the people who stay don't get terribly drunk because they want to think about what's going on. If nobody drinks, the bar won't make money. If the bar doesn't make money, then the bands won't be invited back.
Except, this is the Lion's Lair we're talking about. God bless that shit hole.
Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2000 12:09 PM
Subject: Bad Taste
I think we are going to have to tone down the "These guys suck and so does the venue" angle. We can't completely piss off the bands and the venues. They're our bread and butter and the reason we started this mag. Talk to Dan. See if he could rework it a bit.
Talk to you later,