DENVERITES GET THEIR KICKS AT MEADOWLARK
One of Denver’s most popular bars, the Meadowlark, is home to many of Denver’s deejay nights. One of the most recent and beloved additions to its slew of deejay nights is Teenage Kicks, hosted on the first Thursday of every month, playing vinyl punk and garage rock all night.
Teenage Kicks, which initially started at Lion’s Lair in the summer of 2014, is the brainchild of Denver’s Michael Sechman and Bodhi Melnitzer.
“Bodhi and I are graduate students in the same departments at CU Boulder,” Sechman said. “We were hanging out in the graduate student lounge talking about shit that definitely wasn’t punk-related when I had mentioned Nikki Sudden and the Jacobites. This got us talking about our mutual affection for punk, post punk, and 60s garage. We came to the conclusion that we should start a deejay night in Denver where these genres were the focus.”
Along with creating a space where the “outsiders” of Denver’s bar and club scene can have a haven, Sechman was inspired by his home of California and its burgeoning night-club scene. “Where I grew up, just outside of Las Angeles, nights like Teenage Kicks, while not exactly commonplace, were accessible even for a teenager,” Sechman said.
Teenage Kicks is certainly a one-of-a-kind in Denver. While most bars play relatively well-known music, Teenage Kicks is guaranteed to introduce its patrons to something completely new.
“The long-running deejay night, Part-Time Punks in LA, served as a model for me of how to do a proper deejay night,” Sechman said. “While the night wasn’t billed as a danceparty, it would regularly turn into one. At the same time, there is an expectation that you were going to hear something new: something exciting. So, sitting back and listening to the music was as rewarding as being on the dance floor. That’s the sort of night that I wanted to cultivate with Teenage Kicks.”
“This got us talking about our mutual affection for punk”
The most recent Teenage Kicks on Jan. 7, entitled “Incredibly Strange Dance Party,” hosted resident DJ Bodhi Melnitzer, the other Teenage Kicks creator, as well as the thrilling guest DJ Jello Biafra. Biafra is widely-known as the frontman to one of Northern America’s most notorious punk bands: Dead Kennedys. A veteran of the punk scene and well-versed in alternative music or really anything that isn’t Top 40, Biafra curated an evening of boneshaking rock ‘n’ roll.
“I sent Jello a goofy email, mentioning that I was an acquaintance of Larry Boothroyd,” Melnitzer said. “Larry is a member of Victim’s Family, one of the classic Alternative Tentacles acts, and also a member of Jello’s peerless Guantanamo School of Medicine. Larry gave me a thumbs up and it went from there.”
One can only imagine what working side by side with a punk rock legend may even be like, but Biafra’s appearance and set at Teenage Kicks was more than satisfying. “It was basically out of a dream,” Melnitzer said. “He took me out record shopping ahead of time and basically just had crates of records to listen to that he had culled from the stacks, anything he didn’t know. It was awesome. He has such a vast knowledge and love of music. It made for a killer deejay set.”
The Meadowlark is housed on the edge of downtown Denver and Five Points, a well-known bar to Denver locals but often an enigma to those who aren’t familiar with the Denver scene. On a dreary Thursday evening, snow had began to fall, but that did not stop Denver’s residents from filling the Meadowlark to the gills.
Biafra, dawning a “Satan is Real” t-shirt, commenced his set with Wesley Willis’ song entitled, ironically, “Jello Biafra.” He eased his way into songs from the early 1960s rock ‘n’ roll scene to more eclectic and esoteric picks. Regardless of the song, Biafra certainly knew how to get an audience dancing and moving.
Spinning tracks from musicians like The Sonics, Little Richard, Steppenwolf, Ministry, The Ramones, and even Hank III, Biafra curated an evening of not only listenable, but danceable and lovable tunes to outline the roots of punk rock and rock and roll.
The intrigue of the evening was not only hearing Jello Biafra play the roots of punk music but also the fact that the evening itself offered an excellent place to get a good drink and listen to good music and dance if you want to.
Teenage Kicks has evolved immensely since its outset in 2014. From Sundays at Lion’s Lair to Thursdays at Meadowlark, the venue played an important role in the evolution of Teenage Kicks.
“We started out at Lion’s Lair on Sundays, and that was awesome because it’s a genuine punk dive bar, not some faux dive bar with a punk aesthetic,” Melnitzer said. But they would only give us Sundays, and it was tough to get people out and dancing, especially because I think the owners only saw it as a venue. So, moving to Meadowlark, a space that wound up being more conducive to that, was big.”
Most recently, Sechman has become more of a peripheral component of Teenage Kicks while working on different projects. “I left a central role in Teenage Kicks in October,” Sechman said. “I just couldn’t make Teenage Kicks fit with my demanding teaching schedule. In my place, though, we got Michael Scott Howard, aka DJ Howweird, another Denver legend who once hosted his own vinyl punk nights, What We Do Is Secret. He’s a fellow obsessive when it came to music, so he was a natural replacement.”
As with most bands and deejay duo’s, the members as well as their venues bring their own sound. “This also changed the sound of the night, somewhat,” Sechman said. “I specialize in post-punk and 60s garage. Bodhi is definitely a punk rock and hardcore specialist. So there is definitely a stronger emphasis on punk and hardcore than there was in the year and a half that I was involved. But I think it’s just what Denver needs.”
As Sechman continues to establish a slew of deejay nights around Denver and Melnitzer acts as the anchor to Teenage Kicks and continues to host its bustling patrons at the Meadowlark, the duo insists that there is far more in store for the Denver outside. “I’m also helping to conceptualize every sixth Thursday at the Meadowlark,” Sechman said. “I’m currently working on getting several underground rock ‘n’ roll legends to DJ these nights. I’m hoping I can get some influential touring acts in the mix as well. I can’t say more about who or what we’re planning for fifth Thursdays but they’ll be big. I can guarantee that.”
Sechman now hosts Denver’s newest night from the duo, called Disco 2000, on the first Saturday of every month, also at the Meadowlark. Akin to Teenage Kicks, Disco 2000 is all vinyl but leaning towards genres like British punk, northern soul, 1980s indie rock, glam, as well as 1960s garage and post punk. Teenage Kicks hosts their deejay nights every third Thursday of the month. The duo plans to continue walking the road they have paved and to include more guest deejays, some theme nights, and in Melnitzer’s words “lots of getting trashed.”