Michael Goodwin on Heavy Music in Denver and “The Metropolis Gasped”

Denver has been a metal hot spot for years. That’s partly because of the little bars and DIY music venues that are opening up to newcomers and lesser-known bands from Denver and beyond.

When music journalist and rocker Michael Goodwin lived on Capitol Hill, he could go to a killer show for a meager $ 5 – sometimes as much as $ 3 when the gods smiled at him. These affordable shows made the city fertile ground for emerging bands to attract new fans.

“There are also people there who are enthusiastic about music and like to go to shows,” says Goodwin about the city. “But so much of it was really about venues willing to put music on in an accessible and affordable way, every night of the week.”

Goodwin, an occasional Westword writer, took his camera and documented the sights and sounds of the Mile High Metal scene for several years.

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Last year he took a job in California and said goodbye to Denver for the time being. But with live music largely disappearing over the course of 2020, he began to think about how much time he’d spent here on shows and what a large part of his life it had become. He went through his thousands of photos and compiled the best of them for a zine he calls The City Gasped.

“I don’t live there and I miss it more than ever,” says Goodwin. “I know exactly what I have in mind and what I yearn for is not happening right now.”

But the zine is by no means his departure from Denver.

“If anything, it’s more like a love letter to the Denver scene,” he says. “It was a fantastic time and I know a lot of people thought that way and enjoyed it.”

click to enlarge Plack Blague at Hi-Dive 2017. - MICHAEL GOODWIN

Plack Blague at Hi-Dive 2017.

Michael Goodwin

The photos primarily document metal and rock and roll bands from Denver’s music community from around 2015 to 2019. Goodwin uses the term “rock and roll” broadly; There are a variety of genres and styles represented between the covers of the zine.

“There are some blues bands, there are things that have a retro feel, there are things that are hardcore,” he says. “But it all falls under this heavy music umbrella.”

Daughters, Weedeater, Wayfarer, Chelsea Wolfe, Disposal Notice, Satan’s Satyrs, Meth, Corky Laing, Speedwolf, Amplified Heat, Dizz Brew, Electric Citizen, Plack Blague, Toke, RMBLR and Sourvein all perform at the zine, which also includes local acts as well as bands from outside of Denver.

Goodwin has already published several issues of another zine called Ritual of Sin, which features accompanying stories and essays alongside photos of a resurgent rock and roll underground in the United States. Issues can still be purchased.

“I hadn’t published an issue in a few years,” he says of the new book. “It was kind of an itch to go back to the zine-making process and have this plethora of photos that I was sitting in [that] was, so to speak, the impetus for the whole project. ”

The City Gasped differs from its predecessor in that it consists almost entirely of photos, mostly live recordings of bands playing and a few portraits of musicians. Goodwin plans a brief introduction, but other than that, the only text will be band names, place names, and dates. The zine contains a mix of black and white and color photos, as well as traditional and digital photography.

Goodwin says he primarily selected footage from independent Denver venues like the Squire Lounge, Hi-Dive, Mutiny Information Cafe, and the former Streets Denver, although there are some images from non-independent venues like the Bluebird Theater. He ventured as far as the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park for at least one photo. And there are footage of a handful of venues that unfortunately didn’t survive the COVID pandemic, like 3 Kings Tavern, which closed permanently in May, and Tooey’s Off Colfax, which closed in December.

When he can, Goodwin prefers to shoot in small locations because it gives him more creative options than in larger locations, where photographers are usually led into a space between the crowd and the stage and have little time to take photos.

Although the images in The City Gasped focus on the bands, Goodwin says they are meant to draw attention to the importance of the venues to the community.

click to enlarge Bee Ayala from Disposal Notice to appear at the Thought Process in 2019 - MICHAEL GOODWIN

Bee Ayala from the disposal notification will appear at the Thought Process in 2019.

Michael Goodwin

“In a place where it becomes immediately obvious, there is the intimacy and the angles and perspectives that you can get in a nontraditional place,” he says. “I was hoping to remind people of some of these shows and the rooms that came to life and how important those rooms are to these shows.”

The City Gasped is most likely a one-off project to focus on the years leading up to last year’s closure, as a reminder to people of how rich Denver’s music scene was and can be again once we return to a sense of normalcy.

“I wanted this to be an impromptu collection of photos, given the time we are in, and not my opus of my best photographs,” says Goodwin. “I wanted this to be a spontaneous look back at how lively the scene was and what it was up to.”

The City Gasped can be pre-ordered from mid-February on michaelarthurgoodwin.com. The proceeds will go to Metro Caring. Copies of Ritual of Sin are still available on ritualofsin.com.

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