Sometimes, the best things found in life are those that you found. That
you won for yourself. Those that came to you by word of mouth. Underground.
Sometimes the most interesting and precious things are those which are in
soft focus and require you to squint a little harder in order to see them.
Recently I queried a musician about the best local bands, the best local
venue. The response? "The best five shows I've seen in this last year
have been at Monkey Mania…"
An eclectic space that is altogether off the map, Monkey Mania (M.M.) is
poles apart from nearly any other venue in Denver. Now three years into
their reign, the name Monkey Mania has come to be synonymous with the
underground music and art scene in Denver. Part music/performance art
venue, part home - M.M. comes from a long tradition of collectives
together and putting on shows in warehouse spaces, across the city; all
across the country. Few, however, have been as successful as M.M.
How the current warehouse came to form the collective that it does, is
indicative of just what M.M. is about. After a joint tour with Friends Forever (immortalized in the documentary,
Friends Forever) and Rainbow Sugar (in Davis Coombe's film The Tornado Dream -
debuted at Starz in 2004, and will be showing again at Forest Room 5 on
November 20th), Josh Taylor, Amy Fantastic, Nate Hayden, Germaine Baca and
others moved into the first Monkey Mania, on Lipan Street. There, they put
on shows where they'd squeeze hundreds of people in their warehouse space.
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Then in September of 2001, the space on Arapahoe Street went up for rent,
and the collective migrated down into the warehouse that M.M. now resides
in. Since the mid-eighties, a multitude of bands and collectives have
inhabited this hallowed space. It has had many monikers: Twice Wilted, The
Purple Room (of which, remnants of the purple walls still bare their
existence), and The Arapahoe Warehouse.
From this unassuming warehouse on Arapahoe Street, Josh and Amy have been
running shows ever since. Dates for performances are random. It can vary
from once a week, to twice and three times a week. And then none the next
Every show is all-ages. There is no alcohol served and there's no smoking
in the warehouse. Ten people may show up on a given night. Or, if Sonic
Youth stops by; or one of the house favorites is scheduled, then over 300
bodies will pack it in.
But M.M. is not just a performance venue like the Larimer Lounge, or the
Skylark. No, in the tradition of this type of warehouse space, Amy, Josh
and others live at Monkey Mania. Initially, it seems one would be
cautionary about hosting large events in their living space. You enter the
warehouse, and walk into their kitchen. You'll stand in line and use their
bathroom. Yet, there have been little, to no problems. Amy recalled how
300 people will show up for an event and nobody will steal anything.
Just as diverse as the people who come to see shows at M.M., so are the
styles of music at M.M. shows. There's folk, and the incredibly talented
Rachel Pollard, who has long been a house favorite. There's Zombie, Zombie
who has likewise been a standard, until they broke up recently, into a
million divisions: Ultra Boys. Yamahama. Other house favorites are
Forever. Rainbow Sugar. Sin Desires Marie.
Some of the bigger shows that M.M. has hosted: Sonic Youth. Lightning
Planes Mistaken for Stars. Dave Paco's punk shows.
Simply put, Monkey Mania is a unique place where people can see
that they otherwise would not see. From obscure and new local bands just
getting their stage legs, to the mid-level touring bands. M.M. provides
these bands with a good reason to come to way out of their route to the
geographically isolated Denver.
But M.M. doesn't just host music. No, they've had their share of
performance art acts, like Costes' beautiful and sick menagerie of art and
mayhem. They host noise bands. And all over the warehouse you'd be remiss
if you didn't take note of the myriad of artwork on the walls. From Josh's
posters and flyers in the entryway, to Wesley Willis' prints over the
kitchen and Toshimi's gigantic and gorgeous paintings over the couch, to
whimsical murals in the performance space.
At base, M.M. is an underground venue. If it ever had to be legitimized,
Amy and Josh say that they wouldn't be interested in maintaining it. They
like keeping M.M. as it is: cheap, all ages, and aimed at a very specific,
forward-thinking community collective where anybody with something to say,
can get up and practice their chops. Or display some refined vulgarities
and curious oddities.
And in case you were wondering: No, Amy and Josh don't make a living off of
putting on shows. They put on shows because it is a passion of theirs.
And thankfully so.
When all is said and done, Monkey Mania is an invaluable resource for
Denverites and any creatively inclined person looking for a venue to
display their wares. M.M. is intimate, occupied by amazingly gracious people.
Nowhere else in Denver will you find a venue as precious and valuable as
For upcoming shows and information, visit Monkey Mania's website: www.monkeymania.net