For the Love of Punk Exclusive by Ross Hostage
It seems like, these days, you can find a “Fest” in just about every city. Punk aficionados are spending bountiful amounts of time and monies, bouncing around the country with the opportunity to see some of their favorite bands gathered in one place. Well, we can now add Denver to the circuit and are closing out the summer with the SummerGrind Music and Skate Festival. Though the event does feature a few heavy hitters like Leftover Crack and The Dwarves, it’s comprised mainly of bands from the Colorado scene, a rad opportunity for said bands to intertwine their fanbases and party fucking hard. I wanted to learn more about the idea behind the festival, so I reached out to Danny Sax, the man who put this all together.
(Ross Hostage): You’ve been a supporter of Colorado and national bands for quite some time. What made you passionate for music? How did you transition from a fan to being active in the scene?
(Danny Sax): As cliched as it sounds, it was really going to punk shows that made me want to start my own bands and eventually get into promoting. I grew up in the Detroit ska/punk scene of the early ’00s, and most of the people in that scene were really supportive of the younger kids who were there. They instilled a really intense DIY ethic in all of us, which just made us want to do more with it. Watching bands like Mustard Plug, The Suicide Machines, Superdot or The Mad Note not only make awesome music but also build a really involved scene was an inspirational thing to be a part of. Seeing those acts go from playing in backyards to playing huge shows, being in movies, and all sorts of other things beyond that really gave us all a feeling like “These are real people. I could do that.” Going to those shows taught us that the best way to build a scene was to include people. If you weren’t in a band, no one cared. If you were there that was enough. When you see that at a young age, you want to be a part of it.
So, how did the idea for SummerGrind come about? What can people expect when they show up on the afternoon of September 1st?
SummerGrind started as an idea to do something really awesome for our local bands. With our main venues (The Gothic Theater and Moe’s BBQ) being so close to each other, we’ve always wanted to throw a badass “Block Party” event like this. To that end, I’ve always been really blown away by the level of talent and dedication the local punk/ska/hardcore bands in Denver have shown and, in the last year or so, I’ve seen a huge progression in the music and the scene. We really wanted it to be a rallying cry for the Denver punk kids and to give a chance to a lot of the bands that might not normally get to be on a big punk show. Only one or two bands (if that) get to say they opened up that one big show; with this, everyone is working together and everyone gets an opportunity to be that band. It will also hopefully help these bands get shows on tour, being able to say you opened for bands as legendary as LOC or The Dwarves gets people’s attention.
As for what to expect, it’s the first year of a new festival. I’m expecting folks to have a really great time and see some awesome bands. Beyond that, it’s really up to the acts. We have a couple of tricks up our sleeve, but I think the best part of a punk show, especially a big event like this, is that no one really knows what’s going to happen. But judging from the caliber of acts we have in town, I expect people are going to hear new acts and, hopefully, join together in a more unified way behind our local music.
Why a punk festival that showcases more Denver bands than “nationals”?
That really goes back to the point of the festival — we wanted to create an event that focused on Denver music but also gave people a chance to see something that’s not available to them everyday. It’s been a while since any of the nationals on the bill have been to town, and between Leftover Crack, The Dwarves, Stolen Babies, Knock-Out and The Atom Age, I think we have a pretty diverse cross-section of acts that all still fit within our scene. Keeping it 75% local was our goal, and we’re coming in just under that, again it’s really about making an avenue for our awesome local bands to take their music to the next level.
What made you reach out to Leftover Crack and The Dwarves as your headliners?
Both bands have some of the most dedicated fans out there. If you’re into LOC or The Dwarves, odds are you’re as obsessed as we are with them. These aren’t bands that have many fair-weather fans. They’re acts that attract kids that are really deep in scene. When I was growing up, getting my hands on my first copy of “Mediocre Generica” was a turning point. When we were looking at who we wanted to bring out, we kept hearing LOC and The Dwarves on people’s ‘all time favorite’ lists, so it seemed like a pretty natural direction to go in.
We knew we wanted the vast majority of acts to be locals, so we had to be very careful about our choice of national acts, to find bands that were special enough to pull die-hard fans out, the people who might not normally get to check out newer/smaller locals, but who would be interested in new acts in the right scenario. That’s the whole point of the festival — to help foster the already growing sense of what it means to be part of the scene in Denver.
You foster, not only the punk scene, but a wide array of genres so there’s a lot of different pulses to keep a finger on. What draws your attention to new bands? In what ways do you approach shows differently or the same, dependent on genre?
I think it’s really important to look at each show separately, based on the merits of each band on the bill. Sometimes you might have the greatest act playing, but their self-promotion is weak. Other times, it’s the opposite. I think a lot of bands don’t pay enough attention to how they promote themselves. They feel like a few posts online and a couple of handbills will get the job done, but most of the time that’s not enough. If you want your band to get noticed, you’ve got to work for it. Again, getting people involved, making them believe that what you’re doing is important and doing it in a way that reflects who your band is and what you’re about is just as important as the music you’re making. It’s the personification of your music; if you have that driving intensity in all your songs then why don’t you have the same sense of urgency in your promotions? Seeing a band that can really make people believe is definitely one of the most exciting things to watch live, regardless of genre. And if you can find your stride doing that, I highly doubt you’ll be playing to any empty rooms.
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