DIY venues are a safe haven for the underground. Unwanted warehouses, abandoned churches, barns, and other unusual residences play home to artists. These places sweep us in off the streets, assuaging our disenchantment with large crowds and service fees. On these nights, we are not The Little Match Girl, left to freeze on Christmas Eve. No… we are beloved, accepted, and nourished with music as DIY as the spaces. And yet, as often as these venues host local artists, they also attract the more widely known. There are plenty of worthy bands who prefer a noisy house show with a cluster of scrappy kids to a more “formal” gig, knowing full well it is not the path to MTV Cribs.
This is the nature of the defiant. Though I don’t criticize bands for following more traditional routes, I admire the rebellion against conventional monetization. Who doesn’t love a band that refuses to sell out? Like music martyrs, they tread the dark underbelly of the industry to protect the sacred art of genuine music making. Music for music’s sake! However, the term “starving artist” did not arise unwarranted, even the resistant artist has to eat. What’s more incredible than the existence of DIY venues is their ability to sustain while supporting traveling musicians. The struggle is REAL, though, especially when outsiders impose their own agendas on these sacred spaces. Note: this will not be a political rant. It’s about the music, after all.
One of my favorite Denver DIYs is Juice Church. As the name indicates, the building was once a church. It still is, in a way, a religion and way of life for its tenants and visitors. The space is home to multimedia artists including sculptors, so I’m told. General hangs designated upstairs and general thrashing and sweating profusely down below. And so it goes, Juice Church serves up good times to a bunch of punks, sardined and wailing to the heavy fuzz orchestrating beneath the ground, until only residents remain.
There is a show worth seeing at Juice Church tomorrow, May 13, featuring post hardcore band So Stressed out of Sacramento. I was initially drawn to the event because of the Denver bands on the lineup. Mailman Land put on a saucy show when I saw them with Homebody and American Culture last November, and Chase Ambler out of Littleton is noisy pop punk I can appreciate. Total Goth played a decent set last time I was at Juice Church; not exactly captivating but they’re making progress. I especially dig their female bass player, because, fem power obviously, and she totally digs. Their Bandcamp reads, “total goth is the worst band in denver,” (no acknowledgement of proper nouns) making them somehow slightly better. Regardless, the headliner is what truly captured my vote, earning my virtual RSVP: a noteworthy "Going" on the Facebook event page.
After reading an I Heart Noise interview with Morgan of So Stressed, I found the band even more charming. However apparently inappropriate deeming a hardcore band charming sounds, I stand by my choice of adjective. I’ve found bands that completely shred your face off are filled with people who’d be the first to console you when the day hasn’t sorted out in your favor.
When asked why the name, So Stressed, Morgan explains it really had nothing to do with the music, that they weren’t trying to describe their sound. He says it makes him think of teenagers whining about being stressed over homework, or other times people say, “I’m so stressed,” about completely menial things, which is hilarious because he’s totally on point. The interview goes on to discuss the band’s influences, and in referring specifically to seeing Hella perform, Morgan says, “I had no idea you could make so much spastic noise that seemed out of control, but still start and stop together as a band. It was awesome. That was a cool realization for me to have.”
It makes sense why people assume the name is indicative of their sound, because these three rip. Pitchfork calls “Merv King & The Phantom” from their most recent release, The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art, brazenly hostile, and parallels their angst to their predecessors, including Bad Religion, Suicidal Tendencies, and other west coast herds of “disenfranchised suburbanites”. “Nervous Around Punks” is my favorite from the album. The song initiates with disjointed flashes of guitar and drums before transitioning into thick, murky guitar chords and screaming lyrics like “I just wanna stand right here / without getting bruises” and “I just wanna use my inside voice / when I’m inside”.
If you like hardcore, this is your show. I’ll be there, yowling and thrashing my jangly legs to So Stressed’s “White Juice” at Juice Church, a juicy combination! Come out and support Denver locals, Mailman Land, Chase Ambler, and Total Goth. Together we can keep the DIY scene alive, and have a good and loud time doing it.
Written by: Haley Midzor