I just got my copy of Bob Rob Medina's new book, Denvoid and the Cowtown Punks. It's fucking amazing. Bob Rob conducted tons of interviews with people from the Denver punk scene of the '80s then added lots of his own incredible artwork, which makes the whole thing super vivid and eye-popping. Of course, there are also photos, flyers, and other bits of archival stuff sprinkled throughout. Bob Rob published this book himself, and it's such a labor of love, passion practically drips off the page. And the tone of the writing is perfect, a very funny and poignant and readable mix of fact and anecdote. Bob Rob's conversations are definitely nostalgic and fun, but he also sneaks in all kinds of insight and smart musical analysis. He doesn't white-wash shit either. It's an unvarnished, unflinching look at a time that was as violent and intolerant as it was creative and liberating.
If you don't know Bob Rob, he's one hell of a guy. He started playing in Denver bands in the '80s, but he was also involved in the punk scene here in the early '90s before moving out of town. I first got to know him in the '90s, when I got into the local punk scene. He'd been a member of Savalas, a great, Rites of Spring-esque band that he'd played in with Sonny Kay (later of Angel Hair and The VSS; by the way, Sonny designed Denvoid, and he deserves tons of credit for how beautifully the book came out). Sonny and Bob Rob were super supportive of the '90s scene, even snot-nosed little shits like me who were just starting to play in bands, put out zines, and put on shows. I'll always remember how kind and cool they were back then.
I got into the scene relatively late, when I was about 17-18, circa 1990 and '91. I already loved punk rock at that age (I'd take the bus down to Wax Trax to buy punk cassettes using the money from my after-school warehouse job), but I was a dirt-poor kid living in Northglenn, very introverted and shy, and I had no idea how to access the local music scene (or really what the local music scene looked like). I was yanked into it by my old friend and bandmate Johnny Seven, who was a few years older than me and much more experienced in the ways of punk. It was then that I dived into the local punk scene for the first time -- and I was able to experience the fading echoes of the '80s punk scene that Bob Rob writes about in Denvoid. In the early '90s I was lucky enough to see bands like The Fluid (of Sub Pop fame), Dead Silence, Choosy Mothers, The Rok Tots, Rope, and other local punk bands that either survived the '80s or featured members of '80s punk bands that had exploded long ago.
These bands blasted my eyes open. It wasn't long before I started a punk band of my own (with Johnny), called Crestfallen. I also started working at Wax Trax, the epicenter of Denver punk at the time. It was there that I got to know guys like Pete Flye, Mike Serviolo, the late Larry Denning, and my manager at Wax Trax, John Meggitt -- all of whom had played in some of these already legendary '80s punk bands. (Many years later, I even had the honor of playing music with Bambi Lee Savage, formerly of the '80s punk band Pagan Cowboys, who get a great little chapter in Denvoid.) I'm sure they would've all balked at being called "legendary." But they were. Back then, there was no way to instantly access, learn about, and listen to the local bands that came before you. You had to find the records, dig up the old zines, and most importantly, listen to your elders, hoping to snatch a few crumbs of history from them while never appearing too hungry. This was punk, after all, and you weren't supposed to have heroes. But all these guys, in their own ways, were my heroes, the ones who created the Denver scene that I -- along with the rest of the '90s punks -- had so fortunately inherited. What can I say? It changed my life.
Anyway, Bob Rob is having a release party for Denvoid tomorrow at Denver's Mutiny Information Cafe. You should go. I'm not much of a socializer these days, but I'm really looking forward to it. I'm sure I'll see a bunch of old friends, but mostly I just want to thank Bob Rob for pouring so much of his sweat and soul into this book. It's seriously a monument -- to a city, to a scene, to way of life, to an ethic, to a glorious neverending mistake, to motherfucking punk rock. I can only hope someone comes along to similarly document Denver's punk scene of the '90s. We should be so lucky.