Eminence Ensemble @ The Bluebird
I take the bus to Denver. On it I have a conversation with AJ, he’s an older guy, homeless, but has his own business. He’s going to Denver to visit his daughter and granddaughter but tonight he’s going to take an old friend out to a movie to cheer her up. I’ve never met a more high-spirited homeless person.
When I get off the bus I walk up into the new Chestnut Pavilion where the light rail sits in front of me. If I’m not too turned around I’d say it’s South. I’m obviously confused about where to head next because a tall handsome black man with dreads come up and asks if I’m lost. “Is this Chestnut Pavilion?” I ask him.
“Yeah it is, what are you looking for?”
“The path? My friend told me to follow the path.”
He spins around with me looking. “I don’t know if I know where that is.”
“No worries, I’ll just call her. Thank you!” I tell him. And like that he’s gone onto the light rail.
I get her on the phone and sort of make out directions through this new part of town. I remind myself that I once knew Denver really well. But so much has changed and grown and new buildings surround me on quiet sleepy streets. The bustle of the city has not yet come to life here.
She tells her story pointedly, like a song with sharp staccatos, the story of her night when Shpongle played Red Rocks. “I knew I wasn’t in hell because I was at Red Rocks with my friends. But I also knew I wasn’t in heaven because Shpongle’s not the kind of show you watch in heaven. So I thought to myself maybe it’s purgatory. And I remind myself that I need to feel this out. If the sun comes up than it’s a new day and I’ve made it out alive.”
It reminds me of the early mornings I’ve spent with my friend after long nights at shows. Sitting tired discussing the universe and all the strange things that have gone through our minds in the night, speaking quickly to keep up with the stream of thoughts.
We’re sitting in Hailey’s new apartment, chick’d out in cute furniture but still new enough that it’s not full yet. Not everything has found it’s comfortable spot. I sit with Joanna as we talk about her life during my year away. I can’t believe I’m cool enough to be friends with this girl. I mean she went on tour, on a real tour bus and then spent the months of June and July setting up and taking down Electric Forest. Yes, I’ve got some sick friends. She’s only recently returned and we find together that we have met back up on similar points in our lives. We talk about the lattice work of all the storylines our tribe together could tell and the perspectives we all hold on the same story.
A short Uber ride drops us off under the lights of the Bluebird.
The light turns me UV off stage. The floor still talks. It’s before Eminence has come on.
I’ve had discussions with a potpourri of people. I love them. I love the depth of their characters. The sureness of some. The other emotions that seem to revolve around others. It’s truly bizarre to be back. To see them. And to see the corrosion of other corners of the scene.
In the dimly lit bathroom, the sounds of sniffs and laughing, make it feel like sin. The laughs are more like cackles really. It all feels dirty. A similar sinister laugh hits me from here and now I’m thirsty. I must get water. I look for water. I can see a lot more drug use now that I’ve returned.
“It’s prevalent,” the woman in black and diamonds tells me. She’s got a beer. And she shouts to Taylor on stage as if she’s his aging lover. He does not notice. I look past him to Zac.
They open slick with lights all out and swingin. Oh my god, fuck, I love it. Swing!
I look around at the others as the green lights melt out and come back in deep and dark. Taylor shines. It’s really the band he’s been waiting for.
I stop and watch … It’s exactly the band I’ve been looking for too. And I remember Arise when they played and the field felt like it was empty all but dust and pebbles and me.
But something is amiss. I look around and the room feels compressed. Like it’s eating the sound and energy. Maybe it’s the layout of the building but I look back and don’t see the vibe reaching all the way back there. The guitar sings hollow, lonely, riding the scenery of the background of bass and drums , percussion, guitar, and keys.
I watch the crowd, catch eyes with a girl and move past her to the eyes of another girl standing peering up at the percussionist. She throws a piece of ice at him to get his attention.
The band quickly, chaotically, say hello and take off comforting. A journey we aren’t afraid to join on. He sings but I don’t hear the words. I love the bass line.
Shae stops by to send you good vibes. I catch her reading over my shoulder.
Back on stage Taylor does Yoga, dancing, happy, like a kid. Like you dance when you aren’t thinking about anything else.
But now I stop and …
… watch the bass pick it out of the song and hear it’s lines. Watch his hand on the neck. Know how he teaches you to keep your fingers down when you play.
The three sing together. “Rolling through time.” I pick it out. And I take in how each’s personality comes out while they sing. I can’t wait to K …
And I drop back in from the conversation with George which started with a, “What are you doing homework?” The heaviness doesn’t take me there not their anger or yells in the song. From what I know of these guys that’s not them at all. These are softies. Chill. Determined people.
“Look in my eyes, see what your missin’.” I can hear it and two girls, one the ice thrower, push through the crowd with something of an entitled attitude.
Writing on the road. He introduces the next song. This one playing for us now. Everyone is wasted. Okay, not everyone but the ones that would add the energy if they weren’t tripping over themselves and slurring their words. I’m being critical. But I think I’m onto something here. Damn. You know who can sing… The percussionist. Oh dang. Six feet high’s got some gangster singing in there. No not the gangster you call for your coke. The gangster you watch …
Our friend in a Hawaiian shirt joins us. I contemplate asking the girl beside me if I can use the picture she just took but then I don’t do it. I can’t think of what to say.
I take a sip of cool water and I’m drawn back on stage by the percussionists voice again.
I move into an open space in the light behind a girl and guy texting with their arms on stage. Le sigh.
George and I get back to speaking about journalism for the shortest moment until the music draughts in like Alice and Chains, billows in like smoke under a door. The lights go dark and bright on my page as a conversation about Steemit unfolds with the guy beside me.
Zac takes it slow and slappy on the bass. God do I love the steady beat of the bass, the way it makes up the earth. Grounds us. Sometimes grass, like now, soft grass. But other times more featured terrain. The guitar fills in the sky. The space and where it reaches out to. The drums, the rocking rolling speed of it all. And others trade off painting sound dancing into space… Imagine sound diving now into a thick swimming pool.
I get self-conscious and stop my flow. And they move, transition into a different beat. I move. I don’t feel it there. I join my friends on tier 2. There’s room to spare here. And we watch as these two guitar players twins-y each other to cheers. A new sound now that I’ve moved here.
They tell us about the Fillmore on December 30th. They’ll be playing. They thank people, play a familiar tune for a clip. They joke and are real with us. We connect and begin to learn who they each are. Until they move on to some R & B. Will and Amanda hold their fingers up and shake them as in, “Ah-Ah!” “Damn,” is right. They certainly seem like they can sing together now. Was that a different band earlier?
I watch people, some loving on each other to the rhythm and blues, some solo like the girl with big lips and a tight dress behind me, she reminds me of Roger Rabbit’s wife. You know Jessica Rabbit. In another spot tikis open their mouths wide and dance. Others eyes glaze over as they lean on the bars. Some grind and the song pulls out.
Joanna shows me her hat. Five Bucks she tells me and I leave quickly to grab one too. It’s in my bag now and I’ve successfully kept conversations short with people asking to read this . Should I care? Will they be mad about the drugs? About who I make them seem to be?
How could I ever judge or know. Here I am with my own friends each with their own quirks and ins and outs like the music. The music. They tickle their guitars who laugh and gasp.
Mick –vocals and percussion
Justin — vocals and guitar
Taylor — vocals and guitar
Johnny — keys
Tanner — Skins
Zac — Bass
Taylor pulls out his painted banshee, adorned by none other than Risha.
The Glezet brothers join them on horns. This is who Eric and Amanda told me to check out. The horns twiddle around in back for a moment. A familiar bass line drops in and the horns make it bright, the lights take their cue from them and go orange and yellow-like, they pull out some Ozzy, Metallica, with the horns.
You’re not supposed to talk to strangers. No more tears.
The keys make it creepy until a sudden wall stops them and like a roller coaster we come around the corner into a new room. They create it for us out of sound. The lights join them blue and truth rings from the guitars.
When they drop, who should show up? Zac.
Mick sings clearly, for once I might understand what Ozzy was trying to say.
Justin makes a stank face.
As Taylor lets loose on ripping at his guitar throwing it around.
The fucking drive man.
Strobes drop dark and red lights.
“If you don’t like Ozzy Osbourne than fuck off.”
We plod along and the scene opens up maybe we’re walking down a street. No, it’s a room of doors. I get back out to people dancing throwing each other through moves and drums. I meet Tanner’s dad’s girlfriend enjoying herself.
“You could get distracted and you could see the sun.” Couples kiss. And whistles from the crowd ring in our ears.
I drop a note for Taylor on stage.
The guy who wrote that (I think it’s supposed to say “Booty for days”) won’t drink water. And he needs it to sober up. They play and Jo and I… He falls over on me using his drunkenness as an excuse to hold me. We continue to try to listen to the music and I scold him, tell him off for grabbing me and wait for Joanna to finish her drink. He begs me to stop writing. I will not.
Justin and Taylor face off on stage.
And just now Joanna downs the last of her beer and pulls me out to the blinking lights outside the venue creating layers of shadows on this page. I laugh at memories of Sugaree’s, the donut wagon I tried to start outside of shows, and Joanna and Will. I love these characters. I left them only to return here now to see them all continuing to live. And I meet Crystal, “our tiny queen”, Will’s girl.
And then our Uber shows up and Joanna and I sink into the back seats touching on all the subjects one should be touching on in this day and age as we ride back to Boulder.
(The first photo is sourced from Eminence’s Facebook Page because… I’m a writer not a photographer)