Tag Archives: Denver

Denver Comicon Weekend ’16

First Comicon 
   Things worked out perfectly that not only was I going to be in town for the week of the Denver Comicon, but that I was also able to secure entry fairly last minute to be able to cover the event. 

    As a comic book/sci fi/fantasy nerd, Comicon has always been a bucket list item for me. Somehow I had always been in the wrong city at the wrong time for me to be able to attend one. I mean, grown people getting to dress up in costumes and celebrate all the wonders of nerdom without it having to be Halloween and without having to have a kid in tow? Sign me up!

   Denver Comicon was set up as a three day event with all kinds of celebrity speakers, discussion panels, vendors and artists, and all sorts of other activities all jammed into the halls, meeting rooms, and auditoriums of the Colorado Convention Center. It was so last minute when I found out that I was going that I wasn’t able to request any exclusive interviews with any of the celebrity speakers, so I planned my first day so it would be taken up by testing the waters and making a strategy for the rest of the weekend. I arrived in the afternoon so as not to get caught up in the opening rush and give all the rabid fans a chance to settle down a bit. In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect, so I just strapped on my boots and dove right in.   

   The convention center was packed. Everywhere I looked costumes people from every fandom or milling around, conversing, taking pictures, and generally seeming to be having a good time. I made my way through the words of always making mental notes on things that I wanted to stop and take time to look at closer. 

   I was honestly overwhelmed. After a few hours of walking around and taking in the sights I had a pretty good sense as to what I would do the next two days. Knowing it was set to be a long weekend, I headed back to my car and went back to get a good night’s rest.

En Garde!

Day 2: Undercover 
   For the second day, I dusted off my Jedi robes that I had purchased for my niece’s birthday party. I had a few friends who were going as well, so we all met up at the light rail station instead of driving. 

   We garnered far fewer side eyes than I thought we would, being that we were traveling in our costumes. Then again, I have seen some of the characters that ride Denver public transportation on the daily. 

   The train dropped us off directly outside the front door of the convention center. Not having to find parking was a huge bonus, so the day already felt like it was off to a great start. We entered the building and got to work straight away. 

   Day 2 I used as my interview day. My friend Danny and I spent countless hours walking around getting short interviews with attendees for my radio show, The Reset. We had the ultimate conversation starter, being that I was dressed as a Jedi and he was dressed as a red shirt from Star Trek. We met all sorts of interesting people, and even ran into some of our other friends that we had no idea were there. Beyond the basic questions of ‘who are you cosplaying’, ‘have you ever been to a Con before’, and the such, the one question that I really wanted to know was “What does Comicon mean to you?” The question seem to really hit home with a lot of people, in the answers that we got were very diverse. Some said they enjoyed the “second Halloween” aspect of it, some were there geeking out on the celebrity panels, others there for the memorabilia. The one that really got me was the response from a 20-something girl dressed as an elf. She told me that Comicon was the one place where she actually felt she fit it. She said that she had been to a number of Comicons across the country throughout the years and it always felt like coming home. She viewed them as her family reunions, Christmas, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one weekend. That same sentiment was echoed through a lot of people but no one else articulated it quite like she did.

   After a long and grueling day of pounding the pavement, we headed back to the train. I felt that I had gained quite an insight on the heartbeat of Comicon, but I was really looking forward to spending the next day just browsing around and taking it in a tourist fashion.

Interdimensional Peace Treaties 

Day 3: The Finer Things 
   For my third day I wore the most comfortable clothes I owned and paired them with the most comfortable sneakers as well. The endless was walking around while wearing boots had really gotten to me, so I was looking forward to at least a semblance of comfort. 

   The first place that I went after arriving was to the vendor area. I noticed that the days crowd seems bursar than the previous two days. It seemed as if Sunday was more of a leisurely crowd, comparatively. 

   The vendor area was a giant room with row after row of tables set up with everything from prop replicas to paintings to actual comic books. 

I spent a couple of hours combing the aisles, wishing that I had it in this amount of money to be able to spend on all of the I spent a couple of hours combing the aisles, wishing that I had and in less amount of money to be able to spend on all of the cool stuff that I was seeing. 

   To end the day I found a room that was doing a Jeopardy style trivia game. Seeing it is a good opportunity to rest, I took a seat at the back of the room. My true nerd colors showed as I knew 95% of the answers to the questions. 

   I left the building knowing that I had only scratched the surface on what was Comicon. I was already planning my next year’s foray, hoping that the stars would align again and allow me to be able to make a return. 

For exclusive interviews with Comicon attendees check out my radio show The Reset! Follow the link below to see how to listen worldwide!

Much thanks again to Jason at Dstreet PR for the last minute accommodation!

7/27/15: Imagine Dragons w/Metric Pepsi Center, Denver Colorado

7/27/15: Imagine Dragons w/Metric 

Pepsi Center, 
Denver Colorado
  Firstly, I really wanted to thank my friend Frenchie for the ticket hook up. He’s a back line tech for Metric (and works for a few other bands as well!), but unfortunately he wasn’t on this run with them. He’s actually one of the biggest reasons that I got involved in the music industry in the first place, but that’s a story for another day.
   I’ve been coming out to Denver for almost ten years and the Imagine Dragons show was the first time that I’ve been to the Pepsi Center. It was actually the first time that I had been to a huge arena show. I had been to smaller arenas, the biggest being the Mullins Center at Umass, but that venue is only 1/2 the size of the Pepsi Center’s 20,000 capacity. I also have been to huge outdoor amphitheaters that hold way more than that, but to be indoors, inside a giant concrete bowl full of screaming people, well, it was a slightly overwhelming sight. 
   The seats I had were super close, so binoculars weren’t necessary. I kind of felt for the people seated up in the nosebleeds, because to me they looked like tiny insects marching about, so I couldn’t imagine trying to watch the show from way up there.
   The stage was set up on one of the ends of the arena, with my seats a dozen rows up from the floor, in a section that was directly stage left, closest to the floor. Being that close to the stage was awesome, especially when it turned out to be such a fun show. On the flip side though, from that vantage I did noticed two very annoying elements.
   First off, and I honestly at the beginning thought it was because I was pretty close to side stage, the sound for Metric and the other opening act, a girl named Halsey, was absolutely horrible. In contrast, when Imagine Dragons came on the sound was as great as it was atrocious for the openers. Now, I’ve been involved with enough shows to know that often times big headlining bands have a soundboard and sound engineer specific to their set. Also, there are plenty of times where the openers aren’t allowed to utilize all of the channels on a soundboard or even to use all the speakers in the room. Another reason such a huge disparity can exist is because of either lack of the support bands having a proper sound check, or an inexperienced sound engineer working for them.
   Regardless of the reasons, the sound was mixed so badly for Metric and Halsey that I had an actual headache by the time Imagine Dragons started their set. The high end on the vocals was so shrill that it made it next to impossible to even distinguish them as words, even though I knew many of the songs. 
   I’ve seen Metric headline a few smaller venues and they completely blew my mind, so I had been really looking forward to seeing them perform their set on a huge stage. I was kind of pissed when it wasn’t as enjoyable as I knew it should have been.  
   I know that if I was a headlining act, I would insist on the sound being held to the highest standard. I understand if they limit the lighting and stage production, or even if a cap is put on how high the volume can be turned up, but honestly to someone who knows how it all works it makes the headliner look like douchebags to have such a night and day difference to the sound. To someone that doesn’t know the workings, it makes the openers look like they suck, and my question to that is why would you, as a headliner, want people to think you’ve taken out subpar bands on your tour?
   The second thing that struck me, had to do with the lighting. After learning to be a lighting director while I was touring with Man on Earth, the light show has become one of the most interesting parts of a rock show to me. The thing I learned about lighting from this show had to do with understanding your space.         
   There was a group of three spotlights that pointed across the stage providing a sort of ‘wash’ effect, keeping the band lit up from a slightly behind angle, that way most of the crowd could see them. What I’m not sure was taken in to account was, that in a venue where the seating was set up such as it was, the fact that the wash lighting, which tended to be constantly on, was blinding to everyone sitting in the first two sections of both sides of the arena. I saw numerous people wearing their sunglasses throughout most of the show. This upped my awareness as a lighting director for how what may look good on stage may not be the best thing for your audience. Being conscious of the crowd and how your lights affect them is an important part of the job.
   That all is not to say I didn’t have fun, all in all the show was absolutely great. Imagine Dragons had the crowd completely captivated, engaged, on their feet and dancing. Their sound, performance, lights and production easily shot them up to a top 3 show of 2015 so far for me. I just wish they’d show a little more love for their openers…

7/11/15: Channel 93.3’s Big Gig @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater- Englewood, CO

   I have a major loved/hate relationship with radio shows. On one hand, the typically all day events usually provide a wide variety of bands all playing a collection of their greatest hits with a smattering of new or rare cuts interspersed. On the other hand, the shows usually feel rushed, and the amount of logistics involved with pulling them off usually leads to something slipping through the cracks.
   I decided to check out KTCL’s Big Gig 2015 mainly because of Awolnation and also that earworm of a song “Cecilia and the Satellite”, by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. While I knew songs by the rest of the artists, those were the main deciding factors for me. 
   I had no luck securing a press pass for the show, (the referral chain led to the promoter, AEG, who apparently doesn’t check their email!), so I decided to just to bite the bullet and buy tickets. After a failed attempt to buy tickets at the Fiddler’s Green box office, (they were closed even though their posted hours said they were supposed to be open…), I rolled the dice on the show not selling out and went back to the box office on the day of the show. 
   Day of tickets were more expensive than the presale price, and even though I tried to argue that I should get the presale price because the box office had been closed the day before during their scheduled hours of operation, the ticket agent wouldn’t have any of it. Before I could begrudgingly hand over my credit card and pay full price, a stranger approached and offered a free set of GA tickets, no strings attached. Graciously accepting the change of fortune, I took the tickets and headed in to the venue. 
   I arrived just before the first band, Pandas and People, kicked things off. They are an local alt-folk band that won a contest through KTCL to secure the opening spot on the main stage. After a few songs I made my way to the “Locals Only” stage, which was located outside the main amphitheater. 
   While I think it’s cool that radio stations tend to have a stage promoting local artists at their shows, it hardly ever works out as well as it might seem in theory. Often times, like at Big Gig, the second stage is in an out of the way spot and the set times usually overlap the times of the main stage acts. I tried to split my time between the two stages, but as the show progressed it became a nuisance to walk back and forth and never actually  catch either bands full set. I gave up after the third round trip. I honestly think that a better system would be to have the local’s stage set up somewhere in the main area, have them play shorter sets, and have those sets be in between the sets of the main stage artists, with the locals playing while the nationals are breaking down and setting up. This would afford better exposure for the local bands, give the audience something better than house music to listen to, and also give the nationals a tiny bit more time to go about the business of setting up. Maybe one day I’ll be on a committee that plans such things, but until then I guess I’ll just have to hope that someone else has the same idea as me.
   A number of the bands that were on the bill are current up and comers. St. Motel, Banks, and Atlas Genius all have one song that everyone in the crowd knew, so there was a general blasé attitude during their sets until they played the well known radio song, at which point people got to their feet and acted like they were at a concert. 
   As is more common than you’d think with festival style shows, technical issues plagued the day. At one point the speakers that pumped sound to the lawn went out, making it feel as if we were watching the show from the parking lot and listening to it on the neighborhood boombox. The stage microphones seem to be having difficulty as well, and all the problems led to Banks set being cut down to only 3 songs. While I think she was the one act on the bill that I had no real desire to see, the three songs that she played did prove to me that she has an amazing voice. When she announced that her set was being cut, she seemed genuinely upset about it. While I may be a cynical ass, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.  
   The biggest surprise for me was probably how much I enjoyed the New Politics set. While I was on tour with Man on Earth, the band’s drummer would play New Politics on the regular while he was driving, so I had a decent sense of what to expect musically from their set. What you don’t get from listening to an album is the high energy, break dance riddled performance that got an otherwise docile crowd moving. New Politics brought that in force, commanding the crowd with a thoroughly entertaining experience.
  Andrew McMahon and Nate Ruess both played solid sets, covering their individual catalogues well. Both had plenty of material from their previous bands, with Andrew McMahon breaking out songs from his Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin days, and Nate Ruess playing enough Fun. songs that I feel like it might as well been a Fun. show. 
   All the day’s build up led to Awolnation’s headlining slot. Their set was obviously the one that the promoters were banking on being the show’s selling point, as evidenced by the fact that the level of production for Awolnation was miles above the rest of the bands on the ticket. They brought in their own lighting rig that, as a lightning director, I was completely jealous of. 
   The 11:15pm curfew meant that Awolnation only played for an hour, but they managed to put on an incredible show in that short time. At 11:15 sharp, the show was over and the sodium lights came on, cueing everyone to clear out, stat. After an 8 hour show, I was more then happy to oblige. 

6/5/15: Emily Kinney w/Dylan Gardner @ Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox- Denver, CO

   (Spoiler Alert!!!! If you’re not caught up on all the season 5 episodes of The Walking Dead, read no further!!!!!)
   I’d be a liar if I said that Emily Kinney was on my radar before The Walking Dead. Her character’s death was one of the more jarring in the series, and I admit that as a fan of the show I had a bit of morbid curiosity as to what ‘Beth’ was doing in the afterlife. A funny thing is, that her character was featured as another’s hallucination, postmortem, playing guitar and singing, with the bullet wound that caused her death gracing her head. It honestly was slightly distracting to watch her preform when a few weeks ago I had seen the back of her head explode from a point blank gunshot, and  her brain matter splaying out all over her friends… Albeit, it was only in a TV show, but it still was a bit odd. 
   The evening’s show was at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a fairly new and very diversely decorated smaller venue in downtown Denver. I arrived early enough to get a table and order some food off their eclectic menu. I ordered an ostrich burger, which they were out of, but they substituted it with an equally interesting yak meat. 
   I had secured a seat next to the soundboard, a place that I’ve found through the years to have some of the best sound because it is where the engineer mixes the room audio from. 
   The opener identified himself as the guitarist for Emily Kinney’s band, and that he would be playing a few of his own songs to get things started. His songs were fairly mellow, but he did some interesting things with his electric guitar. 
   Right from the beginning, the lighting director was having issues. He couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights that illuminated the front of the stage. For the first two acts he spent his time fiddling with the computer program and spending countless minutes on the phone with someone, trying to find out how to make things work. The computer program that ran the lighting setup at Ophelia’s was the same one that I had to figure out for a Man on Earth show in New York last year, so I had an overwhelming desire to step in and offer to figure it out for them. The downside, though, was not knowing any of the crew or how they would react to said offer, so I waited it out. They were able to get it sorted out in time for the headliner, so I’m betting no one got fired.
   The biggest surprise for me that evening came in the form of the other opening act, Dylan Garner. With the stage lights not working properly for his set, it was impossible to get a good look at him, but what I could tell was that he had great stage presence and his pop rock songs were catchy without being cheesy. It wasn’t until after the show when I was talking to him did I realize that he was just an 18 year old kid. Without a doubt, his performance was beyond his years. He is definitely someone I’ll keep an eye out for in the next few years. 
   With the lights working again, and the club’s manager noticeable relaxed, Emily Kinney took the stage. 
   Kinney’s music was diverse to say the least. What started off as almost country, continued on, weaving into folk and pop with a smidgen of blues thrown in. Her singing style was very reminiscent to me of June Carter, but a modernization, an almost playful indie rock vocals that you’d hear at a New York City coffee shop. 
   Emily Kinney’s family was there in force, so after the show I said a quick hello so as not to disturb, and then headed out into the night. 

6/2/15: Jim Jefferies w/Forrest Shaw @ The Paramount Theater- Denver, Co

  I’ve been to more music concerts then I can count, but I’d never been to a comedy show before. 
   I love a good stand up comedian. I’m always on the lookout for new artists that ‘get’ my cracked sense of humor and cater to it. I’ve found that the good ones are few and far between. So, when Jim Jefferies announced a Denver show, I caved and bought tickets straight away. Jefferies has been one of my favorite comedians for a while, so the fact that I had scored 8th row seats had me pretty pumped.
   There’s been a few reasons that I’ve always been leery about the idea of going to a stand up show. One of the biggest, though, was probably my fear of paying to see a comedian that I have heard of before, and then having them rehash jokes that have been played to death already on their specials. Which is an interesting thing to me, because with all the music concerts that I’ve been to all the fans WANT to hear the greatest hits recycled for their listening pleasure. 
   Comedy is a different animal. You can only laugh at the same joke so many times before it looses its luster. When you think about it, that puts a ton of pressure on a comedian. Every time they hit the road they have to have a whole set’s worth of new material… 
   I arrived at the Paramount Theater a bit early and made my way to my seat. The Art Deco design of the theater brought me back to all the concerts I’ve seen at NYC’s Beacon theater or my Massachusetts hometown’s Mahawie theater. As the usher led me to my seat I was most definitely feeling good about how close we were going to be to the stage…. until I actually saw the seats, that is. 
   Having 8th row tickets in a tiny theater sounds like a good idea, and in theory, it is. However, the plush cushioned fixed seats at the Paramount start at row M, and the first few rows of seating are populated by archaic leather cushioned folding chairs, the width and depth of which were equivalent to those found in an elementary school. To add to the experience, the people on either side of my friend Nate and I should have probably bought two seats each, and gym memberships. I’ve had more comfortable seats flying coach on economy airlines. I guess the average theater patron was a bit thinner back when the place was built. Plus, it was the 1930’s…. Who was really comfortable then?
   Jim Jefferies took the stage after a solid opening act named Forrest Shaw. I had never heard of Shaw before, but he did a great job of getting the crowd laughing, using self-deprecating humor to make jokes that the thin skinned would be offended at. But, as he pointed out, if you show up to a Jim Jefferies show expecting good old clean, wholesome humor, then you might as well leave. 
  The comedic stylings of Jim Jefferies aren’t for everyone, and as expected, his set touched on many topics that most comedians shy away from. Religion, dead babies, autism, gun laws, the handicapped, anti-vaxxers, rape…. The night was full of stories and observations that the politically correct would cringe at. As a matter of fact, if you’re of the school of thought that there are some topics that should not ever be joked about, then you probably would be writing a letter to your senator after the opening bit. 
While some comedians use vulgarity strictly for shock value, Jim Jefferies’ show, while crass, vulgar, and rude, always had a purpose to it use of ‘edgy’ material. Jefferies uses his ability to make people a little uncomfortable to drive his points home. 
  Jefferies was on stage for 2 solid hours, and much to my relief, he didn’t waste time on his old material. He occasionally referenced old bits, and since I’m familiar with the past material the nods added a greater depth to the stories that he was telling. 
   That’s the type of comic he is, a storyteller. His bits were all self contained stories, yet somehow he wove them all together, making it feel more like you were sitting listening to a friend that you haven’t seen in a while filling  you in about what’s been going on in their lives, rather than a stranger telling a bunch of jokes. 
   After his set, Jefferies did something that I haven’t seen many artists who sell out a theater do. He set up at the Merch booth, promising a free meet and greet to anyone who stuck around. Given that there was about 2,000 people at the show, the line of those deciding to stay was pretty long. 
   I’m fairly certain that if we’re friends that you’d like Jim Jefferies. Well, close friends. Ok, I take no responsibility for your conscience. But you should check him out, because you will laugh, and laughing is good. Or, you might be pissed off, which is still experiencing an emotion, so you should be happy for that!