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Courtesy of the Velveteers

How Denver’s DIY Music Scene Shaped the Velveteers

In advance of their EP release show on February 9, the Velveteers talk about the local venues that helped launch their career.

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The Velveteers are definitely not another folk band from Boulder.

The two-piece rock outfit comprising siblings Demi (baritone guitar/vocals) and John Demitro (drums) has brought a darker, heavier, and decidedly more fuzzed-out sound than what might be expected to come out of Boulder. But that didn’t matter when the Velveteers were just getting started. There was a network of DIY venues—usually small, vacant warehouses or repurposed bars/businesses that operate via community donations—where the Velveteers’ were able to play. Word spread. That’s how I found out about them. A buddy of mine pointed aggressively at my chest and said, “Dude, you gotta hear this band,” before launching into a story about seeing the Velveteers rock a live stage.

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On Friday, February 9, the Velveteers will release its debut EP with a show at Hi-Dive, and, well—you’ve got to hear this band.

Playing venues such as the Forge in Boulder (now closed), Denver’s Club Scum (also closed) and still-open spots such as Seventh Circle Music Collective and Hi-Dive (not a DIY space, but a small local bar with a modest stage), the Velveteers not-so-quietly garnered a modest following. And not just locally—about a year into playing regularly, the Velveteers knotted a United Kingdom tour with southern California’s Deap Vally, a rock duo that was impressed by Demi’s guitar skills after both bands opened at Larimer Lounge.

With its unrefined, dissonant guitar riffs and overall heavy rock/punk sound, John, 24, says that they have “always felt a bit on the outside” in Boulder’s music scene. Although Demi says she doesn’t quite feel like an outsider, she admits that their hometown is a hub mostly for bluegrass and electronic dance music. That’s what made DIY spaces like the Forge, where the Velveteers played one of its earliest gigs, so special. In these places, the Velveteers not only fit, but they also had a space to progress as a band.

The Forge shut down in August 2016 and a handful of other local DIY arts spaces followed suit. After Oakland’s Ghost Ship burnt down in December 2016, local authorities shut down popular spaces such as Rhinoceropolis and Glob in Denver, citing safety concerns.

“We were so lucky to have a space like [the Forge],” Demi says. “They were so supportive of young bands in that they provided a place to play, to screw up, and learn from those moments. When you lose a place like that, the biggest thing you lose is its community.”

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Sometimes, community is all these DIY spaces have to offer. Because so many of these spots stay afloat due to donations, a DIY venue can’t always offer much in the way of monetary compensation. But the Velveteers have often found a passionate group of fans willing to splurge on merch or even offer up a place to crash after an out-of-town performance. Some even pick up a meal for the band or provide home-cooked food (Demi says they tend to decline the latter). The managers of DIY spaces, says John, make an honest effort to promote their shows.

It’s a passion, the siblings agree, that’s in stark contrast to what they haven’t always found at what John calls “soul-sucking gigs” at random bars who just wanted to have a band—as opposed to their band. Now, as the Velveteers prepare to embark on a month-long Midwest tour after the band’s Hi-Dive release show, they look to reciprocate that passion everywhere they go.

If you go: The Velveteers EP release show will be on February 9 at 8 p.m.; Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway; tickets are $12

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