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State of the Scene – The music scene in Pueblo

“The generation that should be out watching the shows have no care for local music. They’re all concerned about getting wasted and partying,” – Tre Bartell

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Pueblo is without a true venue, a major factor contributing to the ever-ongoing debate between those who recognize the musical talent in Pueblo and those who don’t believe one exists. 

The opinions about music in Pueblo seem to be diverse, much like the scene itself. 

Pueblo is home to a number of metal bands, a returning punk scene, hip-hop, Americana and folk artists, country and several singer songwriters. 

People, especially young people, often say there isn’t anywhere to go to see music and even that there isn’t any music in Pueblo but those accusations only scratch the surface. 

Pueblo Venues: They do exist

Tre Bartell, saxophonist with ska band the Ragetones, has his own theory of why people don’t turn out to shows.

He says there is some definite musical talent in Pueblo, but it’s wasted. 

“A lot (of bands) play, but they don’t make any effort to broadcast themselves. If you make an effort to show that you can play and you perform frequently, people will start to notice and maybe be more inclined to come watch,” said Bartell. 

He doesn’t think the number of venues in town contributes to the absence of a solid music scene; it is the lack of interest young people show. Bartell said the Ragetones have played several venues in Pueblo, including Phil’s Radiator, the Pixie Inn, the Broadway Bar and the YMCA, and it’s more about the interest in the music scene than places to play. 

“The generation that should be out watching the shows have no care for local music. They’re all concerned about getting wasted and partying,” Bartell added. 

There are places to play. All but one member of the Ragetones are under the age of twenty-one, yet the band regularly plays at bars around town. Bartell adds that bars will never have a good reputation, but they’re a good place to find music. 

The Ragetones are comfortable with the music scene. They’ve found a niche, a haven of punk rockers. 

It’s all about finding the right fit. 

Finding a fit among musicians and venues has been a major aspect of the Pueblo Performing Art Guild’s Creative Corridor, which runs throughout downtown. 

“A musician needs to be sophisticaed in promoting themselves. There are a lot of venues out there,” said Susan Fries, executive director of PPAG, who said that helping musicians develop their craft and getting their names out there is something very important to the organization. 

When PPAG picks musicians for their street beat performances its goal is to place artists with local businesses that would potentially hire the musicians. 

“We require (the musicians) to have Facebook pages (to build a following) and encourage them to carry business cards,” said Fries. 

For Fries, fitting musicians with the right venues is important. It’s not that there aren’t venues; it is that musicians don’t necessarily know how to draw people to the places that already exist. It’s the promotion aspect of the music scene that PPAG has being working on and she says it is working. 

Since the birth of the Creative Corridor, downtown businesses have reported an increase in revenue. Additionally, PPAG has found that local venues, mainly restaurants, bars and cafés, are suggesting musicians they would like to see perform. 

The Sangre de Cristo Art Center has been drawing bigger crowds than usual, proving that when you have a place for music, people will show. 

They cater to acts families would like to see. Recently, they have been seeing higher ticket sales for shows held in the theater. 

“(It has) allowed us to reach out towards more well-proven acts to bring them to our theater,” said Nathan Santistevan, marketing specialist at the Arts Center. 

Santistevan said that the center actively searches for acts that they feel will “hit home” with adults, kids, and families. 

A lot of the programs and acts brought in by the art center are actually the suggestions from the public. 

“We listen to what they ask for and take all of their feedback into consideration. We are always trying to bring in new bands but fans have their favorites and speak out to keep certain bands coming back on a regular basis,” said Santistevan. 

Festival Fridays, a bi-annual concert series at the center, is a mix of “fan favorites” as well as new artists. The center said they always put out an invitation to the public to submit names of bands and artists they would like to see perform at the festival. 

But We Need More

When people talk about venues in town or live music in Pueblo, they usually mean a bar or a coffee shop, never somewhere solely dedicated to music. 

Jonathan Leverington, a member of metal band Force the Trigger, sees the potential music can have in Pueblo if there was just a place to perform. 

“I do think if there were more venues in town it would inspire bands to play more shows locally because it’s a different environment for them every show rather the same place every weekend,” said Leverington. 

Since the Runyon Theater and Sports Garden closed, two venues Leverington said were hotspots in the metal scene’s peak, Force the Trigger has frequently played Phil’s Radiator, located on C Street downtown. 

The scene “really died” when venues started disappearing. He says the turnout eventually hit an all time low because fans had nowhere to go and the places they could go to see live music had a mistakenly bad reputation. 

Leverington said he could only really speak for the metal bands but it seemed like a lot of the acoustic artists in town experience the same problem. They are only able to play coffee shops and grab the attention of listeners who don’t go out to bars. 

A lot of musicians say the same things.  People are wrong to think that there isn’t a music scene in Pueblo, but for the most part they probably think that because there isn’t a definite venue, not anymore anyway. 

Local record label Blank Tape Records agrees. 

They say a majority of their Colorado Springs based musicians don’t play Pueblo very often because there are few places that are able to draw a crowd that is worth the drive. 

Inaiah Lujan, member of folk band The Haunted Windchimes and team member for the Blank Tape Records says the band and the whole Blank Tape crew don’t get to play Pueblo, their hometown, often enough because of the lack of venues.

“Usually bands are playing second fiddle to food and drinks, and become background music for chatting in most places,” said Lujan. 

The Haunted Windchimes have played their fair share of bars and restaurants but the atmosphere just isn’t the same as a venue. 

Lujan’s first experience with the music scene in Pueblo was house shows where punk bands would play for donations. 

“I’ve seen good scenes come and go, but what I know for sure is that Pueblo has a wonderful and resilient spirit when it comes to the arts,” said Lujan. 

He thinks the bands, the venues, the promoters and the crowd all have to work in harmony “to make the Pueblo scene awesome.” 

“I still see great potential as we haven’t lost that spark,” said Lujan. 

Bringing Bands to Town

Kevin Healey knows a lot about music. He had a touring band, worked in the music world and had a hand in the punk scene in Philadelphia. When he transplanted to Pueblo he realized the punk scene was impressive and felt the need to meet like-minded people. So he and wife Sophie Healey jumped at the opportunity to take over the Red Raven Studio in 2010.

“Everybody (would have) a hand in creating the place…that’s what I wanted to create,” said Kevin Healey. 

On Main Street, just off of Northern, the Red Raven sat on the top floor of an old stone building. A hardly noticeable door opened to a staircase, ornately painted by Sophie, which led up to what could have been a large living room, but instead it was open and faced a stage. 

The venue was built not only around music but art and the creative community in Pueblo. The two knew that Pueblo needed a venue but it could also be so much more. 

“Our best nights incorporated the arts,” said Sophie Healey. 

The Red Raven would often host gallery receptions in conjunction with shows, and not just shows of local bands but musicians they had booked from all around the country and the world. 

The two admit it was a lot of hard work running a venue but getting bands to come to Pueblo and play wasn’t one of them. 

“We’re in a crucial area,” said Kevin Healey. 

Venues in Denver usually include a radius clause in their contracts, meaning artists aren’t allowed to play another venue within so many miles of Denver. This usually keeps all of the big shows out of Colorado Springs and keeps the business in the capital city. 

This was a plus for the Red Raven. Pueblo almost always fell outside of that radius and bands wouldn’t hesitate to stop on their way to another city. 

“We got a lot of bands on their way (and back) to SXSW in Austin,” said Sophie Healey. 

They still receive phone calls about bands coming through town wanting to play a show even though the venue is no longer alive. 

“The Red Raven was great, but the building had major flaws,” said Sophie Healey. 

They estimated it would take around $500,000 to renovate the building. It needed major electrical work, among other things. 

There were also the noise complaints. It was decided, after dozens of calls to the police by neighbors, that they just had too much respect for the people living around them to continue at that location. So they planned to move. 

Downtown made the most sense but after exploring their options nothing panned out. 

The couple still believes Pueblo needs a venue; the music scene is here and though there are bars and coffee shops, nothing beats the atmosphere of an actual venue. 

“There’s that rush of sitting outside and waiting, buying your ticket, grabbing a beer and being there just for the music,” said Sophie Healey. 

Sophie and Kevin Healey have experienced what Pueblo has to offer in the music world. The scene is diverse and has followers even if people claim it’s not there. Kevin Healey admits that a venue wouldn’t change people’s minds. It’d help, but the only way to reshape an idea is if the people who want a bolder music scene do something about it. 

Where the scene goes from here is unknown. The desire is present but what’s needed are a sustained effort to grow the music scene that includes ment from the arts to bring larger and diverse acts, and artists to stay hungry to keep demanding outlets to show off their talents.

(Editor’s Note: At the time Kevin Healey was not involved with the current PULP. Kevin is now a writer with the PULP.)

by Kara Mason

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

Arts & Culture

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.

His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.

Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.

It was the aftermath of a breakup.

“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.

In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, were like that: recorded at home and more stripped down with the production and just making use of what we had. The last three albums were full bands or went to a really professional studio. This is how I made records way back.

Why did you decide to do it this way?

The songs mostly had an acoustic feel, and I sing in my living room a lot. I have this open, high ceiling. So I play my guitar and sing in my living room a lot. I think it sounds cool in there. I thought we could make a cool recording there. I liked the idea of making this intimate album in my home. It was a comfortable, cozy way to make an album.

So everything about this album seems more intimate that what you’ve done in the last few years.
Yeah. Definitely. Everything is. There’s only four musicians on this album, and one of those is my roommate who did knee slaps.

I also noticed on the album credits was an oatmeal container.

So I bought a plastic egg shaker because I thought I maybe wanted to some percussion. But it just didn’t sound that cool. I was like, well we have oatmeal around the house. There wasn’t much left in one container and so we shook it and it was a way better shaker sound, you know?

The inspiration for these songs were the feelings that linger after a break-up. Was there a cut-off point there since emotions always evolve, especially in these instances?

It’s a process. A relationship ends and we all go through the phases. Months go by and you change how you feel. The me that wrote those songs and recorded them months back is a different person. I’ve evolved in the process.

Did you have to simmer to write these songs or was it immediate?

I wrote the first song like a month after. I was trying to write again because I write in cycles. I had just put out an album at the beginning of last summer and when I’m in album release mode I’m not writing as much. But when that’s over I want to write. This time I wanted to write again and I had a fresh reason. I find it a little uncontrollable. I’ve never not written about any breakup I’ve ever had. It’s just part of the territory of being writer. I haven’t written anymore since I wrote those. I’m in album-release mode. I think I decided I’m done with these songs on this album. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to get it out. This part of my life is completed and now I will write a bunch of songs about U.S. presidents or something like that.

I noticed on your social media you like presidential biographies.

Yeah, I do. My friend Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter and he gave me a LBJ biography. I really liked it, so I thought I’d give George Washington a try and I just kept going.

How many are you up to?

I’m almost done with Grant, so 18.

So far do you have a favorite based off of biographies?

Grant has been really interesting. Lincoln was fascinating. Martin Van Buren. Great sideburns.

Back to the album. Do you think the listener can hear an evolution throughout the album?

Yeah, those songs were written at different times, so probably. I’d say it’s a snapshot of what somebody goes through, or at least what I went through. But I think what most of us go through after a breakup.I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

You can purchase Darkness in the San Juans at johnstatz.com. 

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet

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Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins

Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.


Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann

The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.


Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt

The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.


Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen

On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.


All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days

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There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

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