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A Rainbow in the Dark

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Pueblo has a much more storied and vibrant underground and alternative music scene than many even involved with said scenes in other parts of the country could ever know.

Now-popular alternative bands such as AFI and the Aquabats and so many others have come through Pueblo on their way up the ladder to eventual successes.

One of the most appealing parts of the Steel City is while you may not get the biggest acts coming through at their peak, there is a chance the next big thing is a local dive bar.

For decades, small, yet fierce, numbers of dedicated music fans have traipsed to venues all over the city for a fix of music that was, until the advent of Al Gore’s internet, hard to come by and even harder to keep active. With Phil’s Radiator’s dirty, dive-y walls now a distant memory, Pueblo had been struggling, needing a steady alternative-minded venue, one that didn’t shy away from the abrasive and loud — a venue that could serve as a new meeting house and playground for the scene.

The Rainbow Bar, at 309 North Santa Fe Ave, has since become this venue, as the new monarch in a long lineage of now-infamous Indie music spaces. Open for more than 70 years it wasn’t until this past decade, since Phil’s changed owners, has the Rainbow become the go-to for those that want something a little different or aggressive to see play live in a 30-plus mile radius.

That’s thanks to its new manager Justin Taibi.

Justin Taibi has taken over the helm at the Rainbow Bar, and in doing so has helped fill the void left in a growing local music scene. (Photo via author)

“My great uncle bought it in 1944 as the Rainbow,” Taibi says. A native of Pueblo, Taibi is quick to call himself “more of an overseer or operator” of the bar than an owner, adding he has full-time work all throughout Colorado as a CPA, but still comes back nights to manage the family business.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” he says. “I have a busy schedule, but I always like coming back to Pueblo. I mean, this is my hometown; so I always enjoy coming in and putting smiles on people’s faces and trying to bring some music to them.”

“We’re pretty much open to whatever here. We’re not here just to pack the bar and to have everybody here have a miserable time,” Taibi says of a typical night of music at the Rainbow.

“We’re here for pretty much any band to come in and get some playing time and exposure in; for you and your friends and everybody to just have a good time, drink a few beers on me if you’re playing that night, and to maybe sell a few t-shirts.”

“We’re a good stopping point between Colorado Springs or Denver and Albuquerque for bands,” Taibi says, noting “we’ve seen all kinds come through on tour.”

He says that this newfound swarm of bands and activity is in no small part due to a man named Sword.

Tyler Boyce of BRIDGES taking the high road at a recent show at the Rainbow Bar (Photo via Eyeworm Photography)

For almost a decade, Mike Sword, a Pueblo musician and an engineer of everything audio, had been twisting knobs and championed sound for bands as the resident soundman for Phil’s Radiator; But after its somewhat sudden closing, both Sword and the scene at large were left without a place to go.

“It was kind of nice at first,” he says of his break in-between venues. “I needed a break from the constant shows; my ears hurt, and my liver was shot.”

But that vacation soon wore thin as it became difficult to find places for his bands and projects to play out live. “It was almost like ‘What should we do?’ ‘Should we scrape together some house shows?’ The home team hasn’t seen us for a few months.”

“Justin has been very cool and very gracious about all of this crazy music coming into his bar,” Sword says of the new partnership that has blossomed at the Rainbow. “I’ve actually wanted to make shirts with a picture of his face superimposed over a saint, Because he really has saved the underground scene here. This is probably the only way we would be functioning.”

“A saint may be a bit too far,” Taibi laughs as we talk briefly about Sword’s canonization of him.

“I love people showing their appreciation for the bar, and whatever I can do to help out with the local scene I love to do,” he said. “I’m a music lover and consider myself and the bar a part of it.”

When asked about the recent string of rather successful events at the bar, Sword has an idea of why. Nearly all of the shows at the Rainbow Bar are no cover events, a move that Sword thinks is beneficial for attendance.

“Our economy sucks,” he states plainly. “I think the pressure of not having enough cash to get into a show can turn some people away. But having the shows free makes it so that even if you’re broke, you can still come down and be supportive and have a good time with your friends.”

This sentiment is echoed by local musician Shanon Sinclair, who plays in Might of Henry and the newly founded Last Reel Hero, both punk rock & ska/reggae groups.

“I love and appreciate the fact that the Rainbow never charges for entry to see the bands play,” he says via a quick message to an old bandmate (read: me). ”It makes itself stand out as a place where everyone can come in and enjoy a night of live music even if you can’t afford to.”

“Most of the venues in town are kinda genre specific,” he adds when asked about what makes the Rainbow different from playing at any other bar locally. “But the Rainbow transcends those lines much in the same way the late great Phil’s Radiator did. It’s absolutely integral to our music community.”

“It’s been a great team at the Rainbow, too,” Sword adds. “All of the bartenders are cool and supportive, even if they don’t exactly dig on everything that comes through the doors.”

Not that the Rainbow is all crazy music all the time. Not dead set on only offering up moshable music, the space offers up differing styles and genres when the opportunity presents itself.

Colorado local Black Sabbath tribute act HAND OF DOOM at a recent performance at the Rainbow Bar. (Photo via Eyeworm Photography)

“We have had some stellar outlaw country and western bands come through,” Sword says. And indeed, recent posters for indie-rock acts and singer-songwriters on the walls currently at the Rainbow add to the anything-goes attitude of the space.

Bands from the world over are starting to take notice of said space. With music acts and artists recently gracing the Rainbow’s stage (or floor as it were) from Europe and South America, as well as bands from all over the continental U.S., the Rainbow has put itself on the map for the underground touring circuit.

Most of these bands are usually only looking for a place to play and hopefully some gas money. “They never expect it when they walk in,” Sword says. “As far as venues go, the Rainbow is almost a closet. But plenty of bands walk out letting me know that we give some of the best sound and best shows they’ve had on tour. Because Pueblo has always been just ready for a good time. We try and take care to get the best sound we can out of it. I mean, my soundboard is probably as old as I am, but it still sounds great.”

“It’s not Madison Square Basement,” he adds, noting he borrowed the phrase from a friend, “but it is what it is, and we’re making it happen.”

The Rainbow is new a home for new and old bands alike in the local underground to hone a sound and build connections with touring bands in a way that is as unique as the Pueblo scene.

The bar itself has always been best at doing a lot with a little, doing its own thing while letting musicians do their thing, but first and foremost doing it for the love of music paired with the finest can of cheap beer.


More about the Rainbow Bar and their schedule of events can be found at facebook.com/rainbowbarpueblo.

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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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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Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.

But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.

PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.

Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.

Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.

IL: Business casual. (laughs)

I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?

IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.

Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?

DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.

IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.

For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.

DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.

IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.

DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)

When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally for a new project?

IL: I think it just presented itself that way; I had been toying around with some chords, and I had been trying to write a song and I didn’t know where to start with melody or lyrics, so I had Desi help me out and it came together really quickly.

In doing so, we realized that we hadn’t collaborated in that way with just the two of us since the beginning of the Haunted Windchimes. At that point, the ‘Chimes had already become four contributing songwriters and had developed a strong formula; in that way it felt like not exactly a departure, but something new that we could try and explore on our own.

DG: It came out really naturally and organically. And it didn’t fit anywhere, either with the ‘Chimes songs or solo songs.

Do you feel like fans of the ‘Chimes and your solo efforts are following you down this path?

IL: I think so. We are all taking a break with the ‘Chimes for now, but we haven’t officially announced that to our fans, so sometimes we’ll get messages asking where we’ve been and why haven’t they heard any news about the band. So maybe some people are a little resistant to it. I don’t know.

DG: It sounds different enough so that some people aren’t going to be into it, which is okay. The other day, someone left a comment on the Windchimes Facebook page asking about us, and another person commented back saying “you should check out in/PLANES and (Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark’s) the River Arkansas” and the first person commented back “We just like ‘Chimes’ style music,” which is okay! You don’t have to follow us everywhere.

IL: The great thing about being an artist and a musician is the ability to shift gears and follow rabbits down different holes. And with in/PLANES, we’re already trying to get out of our own box and comfort zone. But the common thread that ties it all is that we write all of the songs together, and we wear our influences on our sleeves.

So if you had to explain what you think in/PLANES sounds like, what would you say?

DG: That is my least favorite question, because it’s so hard to explain. The shortcut i usually go for is throwback, vintage pop with some rock tendencies. And if they’re listening after that, then I’ll just keep talking until they walk away, because it’s so difficult to answer.

But like to go with vintage-pop, because if someone says rock & roll, I don’t feel attached to that. We write pop music; all the formulas, the lack of formulas…

IL: It does feel like something you would turn on the radio and hear in the 50’ or 60’s to me, but our modern influences still sneak in; we’re both big fans of hip-hop and country music, and it all gets in one way or another.

DG: Digital drums are where we lose a lot of people. They’re like “WHAT? Is that a digital drum?” And I’m like, “Yup, it is.” (laughs) It’s those 808 beats.

The electronics are really subtle in your songs though.

IL: I think so too. I think we just want to be able to write a song without putting it in a box, you know? But at the same time, making sure to trim all of the fat; which may be contradictory.

We’re not trying to write complex songs. I don’t like to have any rules, but I do like to set limitations on myself; almost like limiting your color pallette if you’re a painter.

DG: Not to be pigeonholed, but also maintain some cohesion. Present yourself in a way people can understand. I don’t like to tell people what genre of music we are, but it is helpful for us; it makes us more focused.

IL: Knowing where the line or limitation is and knowing how far we can push it over causes a tension we like to work under. It’s good tension.

DG: You can’t put me in a box—only I can put me in a box!

“Radio Wave” from in/PLANES is out 5/3 on cassette via GROUPHUG records, with a slew of release shows and a digital release to come soon thereafter. For full dates and info, head to inPlanes.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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Music

CO Springs emcee Che Bong goes outer limits on new psychedelic full length

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Electro-Soul Hip Hop | Che Bong – From the dusty ‘Amen break’ heavy loop-gone-psychedelic of album opener Telescope to the lo-fi space rockin’ of album ender The Paradox of Time, CS emcee Che Bong (of Bullhead*ded) has really outdone himself and the genre itself on Telescope to the Heavens. With an album full of immersive and challenging-yet-chill hip hop musicality that owes just as much to free jazz and psychedelic rock as it does to hip hop and neo-soul, Che is on some next level stuff.  Get. On. It.


90’s inspired Alt-Punk | Hooper – “No Monument” from Denver Rock City punkers Hooper does a couple things very well; it provides stellar songwriting and momentum building, gives a healthy shot in the arm of indie-slathered 90s era punk rock, and in doing both provides a direct line to the sonic and perhaps more importantly workhorse aesthetic of the nascent indie punk heyday of the 90s. Trip out on that, holmes!


Blackened Sludge-Punks | Worry – The newest EP from Colorado Springs heavies Worry is not for the faint of heart, smashing heads on the punk rock with a bludgeoning mix of seething sludge metal and intrinsically intense hardcore know-how. Monolithic and absolutely monstrous, the seven raw cuts on A Celebration of Suffering are gloriously bleak, blackened and smolder with an actual extremity that most other “extreme” bands often lack.


Slow Burn Indie Rock | Wrinkle – Mind melding and photosynthesizing the big hook power-pop of early Weezer and the Rentals with the wide-eyed indie bend of Neva Dinova and Cursive, Denver’s indie rock supergroup of sorts Wrinkle are a slackers fever dream; a haze of unaffected yet disaffected indie-fed pop rock that first and foremost rules and that is more commercially viable than them nor I would care to admit on their newest offering A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies.


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.
Continue Reading

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