Little Clouds

american idol story
December 10, 2009, 2:20 pm
Filed under: article

Marissa Malouff for the Daily Camera
American Idol Auditions

Locals looking to become the next Carrie Underwood, may have their chance. American Idol is bringing auditions for the show to our backyard, at Invesco Field in Denver on Tuesday, July 14.
The auditions are known to bring thousands of people from all over the region and at least four singers from the Boulder area are participating. A good performance could land them a spot on Season 9 of American Idol.
They’ve also held auditions for next season in Dallas, Los Angeles and Boston. After Denver they’re headed to Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta. The auditions came to Denver once before, in 2005. Ace Young was one of many at the Denver auditions in 2005. Young, a Boulder native, made it to seventh place in the fifth season of American Idol in 2006.
Many, however, do not meet the same fate as Young, as there are two grueling rounds before you get a glimpse of the television judges. First, there is registration. Waiting in line for registration can take all day. Registration for the Denver audition begins on Saturday, July 12.
On the day of the audition, contestants wait in line again to sing in front of producers with two other contestants. Each sing a 15 second piece with no accompaniment. A majority of contestants eliminated in this round. This may seem chaotic, but according to 2005 Denver audition attendee Nicole Walker, it’s not.
Walker said, “It was a little overwhelming, but I was really surprised it was really well organized.”
Producers will also do the second round of judging, however, the setting is more intimate and with a lot less people. Typically, it is a few days after the first audition.
The third round of judging is in front of the four famous judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi. Typically, this round only has about 100 to 200 hopefuls per audition city.
The last round, before making it big time on the popular show, is the Hollywood round. All of the contestants from across the country rehearse and compete for a week in Hollywood, CA. After this round, those deemed able to become the next Idol, make it to the show.
While odds aren’t necessarily in their favor, Boulder hopefuls have been working hard to try and make it all the way, practicing, taking vocal lessons, and singing in front of everyone they know. So Simon Cowell be prepared, Boulder is heading your way.

A little bit about some Boulder American Idol hopefuls

Kari Han
Han is a 27-year-old, stay at home mother of two. This is her first time auditioning, and because American Idol only allows people between ages 16-28 to try out, it’s her last chance.

When did she start singing- According to Han, she’s has been singing since she could talk.
Musical Background- Han can read music and can play the piano. She has always loved to sing and performed in musical theater while growing up. She also has a background as a dancer. Her parents were very supportive of her artistic side and put her in theater and dance lessons. Han hopes to be the same way with her kids, and says that she already sees musical potential in her one-year-old daughter. “I swear she keeps a rhythm,” Han said.
How long has she watched American Idol- She has watched the last six seasons.
Favorite Idol Contestant- Allison Ihareta, Ace Young because he was from Boulder and Blake Lewis
Songs She will be performing- “At Last” made famous Etta James and “He’s a Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp.
Musical Inspiration- She loves Britney Spears, despite thinking that she doesn’t have a great voice. Han said, “She embraces that she’s a pop star and a pop tart, I think that’s pretty cool.”
If she won American Idol- She’d want to travel as much as she could, as long as she could bring her kids with her. According to Han, being away from her kids for too long would be a deal breaker.

Nicole Walker
Nicole Walker is a 23-year-old vocal instructor and session vocalist. Walker auditioned for American Idol in 2005.

When did she start singing- She’s sung since she was able to talk. She said, “You can ask my parents, I was always running around the house singing and they’d want me to shut up and I wouldn’t”.
Musical Background- Walker is vocal instructor and a session vocalist. She graduated with a degree in music theory and harmony from the Berkeley School of Music. In high school, Walker was in musicals and in choir all four years. She lettered in Choir.
How long she has watched Idol- She has been a fan of the TV show since its debut.
Favorite Idol Contestant- Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.
Songs she will be performing- “I Told You So” by Carrie Underwood and she is considering singing a song by The Wreckers. She is primarily a country singer . She wanted to choose a song that best showcases her vocal ability.
Musical Inspiration- Walker loves Carrie Underwood.
What she would do if she won American Idol- She just wants a successful music career, being able to sing and make a living doing so. If she doesn’t make it she will keep pursuing her dreams of a musical career.

Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown is a 16-year-old student at Frederick’s High School. She has never tried out for American Idol before.
has been her passion since she was a little girl.
Musical Background- Brown is in choir and drum line at her high school. She knows how to play the snare drum. She’s been in choirs since she was a child. She traveled with the Longmont Children’s Choral to New York City and performed at Carnegie Hall. Her high school choir performed at the Colorado Springs Cavalcade. For two years she was in Frederick Idol, her high school’s version of American Idol, and placed second both years.
How long has she watched Idol- The past two seasons.
Her Favorite Contestant- Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.
Songs she will be performing- “At Last” made famous by Etta James, “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse and “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Musical Inspiration- Beyonce Knowles, Christina Aguilera and the music of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
If she won American Idol- Brown would be a soul singer if she won Idol. She said, “I want to make people happy with my voice”.

Philip Rubinstein
Philip Rubinstein is a 21-year-old going into his fourth year at CU. He has a double major in philosophy and vocal music. He is in the a capella group Mile 21. He has never auditioned for American Idol.

When did he start singing- In fourth grade he was in his first choir.
Musical Background- Since elementary school, Rubinstein has always been in choirs. In high school he started his own barbershop quartet, and he joined Mile 21 his freshmen year at CU. He also knows the piano and the trumpet, and is learning how to play the harmonica. He composes his own music as well.
How long has he watched Idol- He’s watched every season, but primarily waits to watch until it gets down to the top ten.
His favorite contestant- Carrie Underwood
Songs he’ll be performing- “The Remedy” by Jason Mraz and “Second Chance” by Shine Down.
Musical Inspiration- Rubinstein’s musical inspiration is his late grandfather and one of his musical directors.
His grandfather worked as a musician, teaching and performing shows, to support his family. He played 9 different instruments. Rubinstein said, “My earliest memories are of him and me sitting at the piano.”
Jeff Hulf, one of his musical directors, said to Rubinstein something that has stayed with him since. According to Rubinstein, his director said, “Sometimes there are things in life that words cannot describe, and that’s where music comes in.”
If he won American Idol- Rubinstein is not basing his life on winning American Idol, but if he did win, he would make a few records and enjoy the moment. He said, “I’m doing this for the experience more than for the glory.”

Wet Pizza
December 10, 2009, 2:10 pm
Filed under: article

By Marissa Malouff
-This is a story I did for the Colorado Daily.

Gabe Stoll has never liked being told what to do, in fact, he notes this as the characteristic that led him to start local art endeavor Wet Pizza.
“I’ve been an angsty kid for years now,” Stoll said.
Wet Pizza is Stoll’s DIY entertainment company- and is the essence of Stoll’s independence. He handles business for local bands that he likes by setting up shows for them and releasing their music on a series of compilations.
“Business ruins art,” Stoll said, “by controlling the business aspect you’re controlling the artistic aspect too, and your integrity.”
According to Stoll, who has his own electronic act Mystic Bummer, it’s not that he’s against record labels; he’s just for the artist having their own work in their own hands, with no one to control or contort it.
Stoll and friend, Douglas Hawkison, created Wet Pizza three years ago. Frustrated with the art and music scene in Boulder, they decided to spearhead something to help their friends’ bands as well as their own artistic projects.
“It was with the focus of it being the fringe of the art scene,” Stoll said.
It started as more of a joke, or drunken rambling, than a serious idea. Over time, it grew into something more real.
In the winter of 2006, Stoll released the first Wet Pizza compilation, comprised of tracks from his friends’ bands. Only 20 copies were made, all on CDRs, each with unique artwork.
After the first release, more musicians and bands wanted to get involved. For the second Wet Pizza compilation, Stoll had an open call for submissions. In the mean time, Stoll moved to Portland, Oregon where he made new contacts with musicians, and continued the Wet Pizza project there. While away, he still worked with his friends in Boulder to promote their music.
In the fall of 2008, Stoll moved back to Boulder. Since then, Wet Pizza has expanded. He released 100 copies of the third Wet Pizza compilation in the spring of 2009, mostly consisting of local bands and bands he liked from the West Coast. According to Stoll, Wet Pizza now hosts one or two shows a week at house venues, bars, and clubs in Boulder and Denver. Each venue, according to Stoll, offers its’ own experience and helps expand their audience.
The music Wet Pizza represents is diverse, ranging from metal, to punk rock, to experimental electronica. Currently, Stoll is pushing The Gucci Boiz, a local punk band, DLZN, an electronic act, and Denver’s acclaimed Pictureplane. The diversity of Wet Pizza music makes for a unique audience each night.
“The audience is a mixed bag,” Stoll said, “and then there are people that support wet pizza through and through with every variation of Wet Pizza.”
Stoll himself has diverse taste in music. He cites his biggest influences as Dr. Dre, Slayer, DJ Funk, Kid 606 and “anything else that inspires.”
Since he was 11, he’s played music. He first picked up the bass, and quickly picked up guitar, drums and learned how to use a drum machine. He admits that his inspiration to pick up an instrument was early Metallica.
Stoll’s been in bands since he was a teenager, playing everything from garage rock to stoner metal, to the electronica that he plays now as Mystic Bummer. His first real band, however, was Hoochie and the first show he played was when they opened for Mojo Nixon at Tulagi in 1999.
Stoll recalls the late 1990s as a better time for art in Boulder, when Tulagi was open. According to him, Boulder has become a harder place to find shows for struggling local musicians that do not fit in with the popular idea of Boulder music.
“There’s not enough support for good artists in this community.” Stoll said.
Stoll, however, remains optimistic. With shows rolling in at local bars like Catacombs and the Sundown Saloon- Boulder is becoming more receptive by the day. This Saturday at Club 156, Stoll’s project Mystic Bummer will be performing with Sewn Leather and Pictureplane.
“Boulder’s always teetered on having a real music scene,” Stoll said, “like when garage rock was big here, or even the jam band stuff. There needs to be more action going on with everything. More walk–less talk.”

local music and technology: what is the future?

I filled out a resume for the Daily Camera today. In the process of filling out the resume I looked through some old articles.

This is an article I wrote for class in December of 2007.

Colorado’s Place in the Changing Music Scene

Indian Jewelry at Rhinoceropolis l photo by Sarah Slater

Indian Jewelry at Rhinoceropolis l photo by Sarah Slater

The living room at Rhinoceropolis would be pitch black if it weren’t for the Christmas lights strung from the rafters. The venue, which acts as a home in north Denver by day, could seem baron if it weren’t for the paintings hung on the wall. The building will get drafts of cold air, however, it’s hard to notice with each room filled with art, records, instruments and ashtrays. The body heat of dozens of young people crammed in the small living room acts as a barrier to the cold ridden outside. The audience sits still, watching in awe as a young man and woman sit on stools in front of them stroking acoustic guitars.

If music is dying, like many record industry officials have said, no one informed the crowd that braved the winter air to see the show. If music is dying, then local shows are making its last grasps powerful ones. Record industry officials say that the sky is falling, however, for local musicians and fans the sky is the limit.

According to USA Today, CD sales dropped 8% from 2004 to 2006, as downloaded tracks raised by 150%. In the first quarter of 2007 CD sales plunged by 20% compared to the first quarter of 2006. The sales drops have left record industry executives shaking in their boots.

RIAA president Gary Sherman told the San Francisco Gate, “”It’s obvious we have a very serious problem. Those are the revenue streams that have financed this industry, and they are shrinking.”

The record industry has done little to embrace the digitalization of music, in fact, record executives have fought to suppress it. Co-founder of What Are Records? and Vice President of Business Development for, a music streaming website in the works, Ted Guggenhiem, , believes that the industry’s stubbornness put major labels in the boat they are in.

“They said, ‘here’s how you listen to music’, and they spent years trying to get peer to peer shut down. They lost control.” Guggenhiem said, “They fundamentally tried to force people to listen to albums, and they lost it.”

According to Guggenhiem, record labels sinking sales aren’t the only thing record labels need to worry about. They need to worry about their role in general. Since Radiohead self released their album in a digital format, the function of record labels has been in question.

“The record industry is dead,” Guggenhiem said, “Major Labels will be gone and indies will be in a similar boat.”

Players in the local music scene have been faced with drastic changes in the industry that pays their bills. Local record labels, musicians and innovators are coming up with ways to weather the changing tide in music, to keep their businesses alive and to embrace the digital revolution.


Inaiah Lujan has been a local musician in Pueblo, CO for years. He has traveled across the country to play music multiple times, and played everywhere from bars in Athens, GA to sidewalks in Minnesota. Lujan has a long list of musical endeavors that include his solo work , his folk band with his girlfriend Desirae Garcia and sister Chela Lujan called the Haunted Windchimes, A Poor Substitute- his punk band and an electronic project called DJ Flow Nase.

Lujan, like many other local musicians, has used the Internet to benefit his musical projects. He said that his music has reached people beyond Colorado, in part because of touring but also because of myspace.

“There are people who contact me on daily basis that I don’t know and aren’t from here,” Lujan said, “I’ll ask them how they found me, and a lot of the time it’s through myspace, because they saw me on the friends list of a band they liked or something.”

Lujan recently played a house show with A Poor Substitute that brought 100 fans out to support his music. Lujan didn’t make a physical flier for the show, he just posted a bulletin on Myspace.

Lujan does see a downside to the exposure local shows are getting via Myspace. In his eyes, it has brought a lot of people into the scene that are not in it for the right reasons.

“There are two types of people at local shows. The type that are accustomed to word of mouth and go to see good bands and the type that sit on the internet all day and read bulletins. People are there these days that do not care about the music. It’s become bubblegum in a way,” Lujan said, “But it’s helped the scene by getting more heads in the show.”

Lujan continues to get bigger audiences and at the same time get more Myspace friends.

“There are things I am weary of with the Internet.” Lujan said, “Like where my music is going to and who’s in control of it. But I know that my music will always be in the good hands of people that appreciate it.”

the haunted windchimes

the haunted windchimes


Suburban Home
Local record label, Suburban Home Records is home to a multitude of local and non-regional bands. Avail front man Tim Barry, The Laymen Terms, Drag the River and Love Me Destroyer are just a few acts signed to the indie label. Suburban Home began in 1995 and acted as an outlet for Virgil Dickerson to put out ‘7 records for bands he liked. The first ‘7 inch he put out was for the Fairlanes, who are now signed to Suburban Home. Dickerson opened Bakamono, an indie record store, in the late 1990’s. At that point in time the label was mainly a hobby. However, the label was bringing in as much money as his business, so he closed Bakamono and focused solely on Suburban Home Records.

The headquarters of Suburban Home records is also the Edgewater, CO home of Dickerson, his wife and his toddler. His home has a backroom with a stock of all of the albums the label has released. Also in the backroom is a press to make t-shirts for Suburban Home’s t-shirt company, Super Fantastic Clothing. There is a bookshelf in the living room that covers an entire wall, filled with records that Suburban Home is carrying on their online vinyl store, Dickerson said that this is the busiest he’s ever been. According to Dickerson, at Suburban Home they are always trying to rethink their business model to answer to the changing industry.

“The industry is on a downward slope,” Dickerson said, “so we’ve been doing other things. Vinyl Collective is a big part of what we do.”

Vinyl Collective is an online store that carries vinyl records from a number of different artists including My Morning Jacket, Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes and the Shins.

“Digital is such a soul less format,” Dickerson said, “Music is just one part of the art of the album. We live in a fucked up, fast paced world and there is something therapeutic about sitting down and putting a needle on a record.”

Vinyl is the only physical music form, Dickerson said, that has increased since peer-to-peer sharing shaped the market at the beginning of the decade. Dickerson said that their digital sales on websites like iTunes, eMusic and Rhapsody have increased as well, however, digital sales have not yet made up for the revenue lost in sinking cd sales.

Next year Suburban Home plans to release all of their albums in a digital format. A few of their releases will be released on-line only.

“Peer to Peer greatly affects how music is purchased I’m all for it as a way for people to sample music. People listen to music now more than ever. People are excited about music now more than ever,” Dickerson said.

Despite the loss of cd revenue, in some ways the Internet has helped Dickerson’s label. The Internet has made it easier for Suburban Home to do press releases and send newsletters to fans. It also has leveled the playing field for indie labels and acts to compete with major labels.

“Digital Distribution has leveled the playing field. Majors always had the upperhand when it came to distribution, but now it’s all even,” Dickerson said.

The cheapness of recording technology and the exposure that the internet brings has leveled the playing field for bands with out a label. Increasingly, the necessity of a record label is being questioned.

“There are a lot of people saying that record labels are obsolete. I think about my future and it is possible that our bands could do their own thing,” Dickerson said, “However, we have a core audience, where a lot of fans check out a band because they’re on the label. There are things we can offer to a band that they can’t do on their own.”

Despite the changing industry Dickerson stays optimistic about his future in music. Suburban Home’s side companies act as a safety net to dropping sales and concerns about the role of the record label.

“It’s a scary time,” Dickerson said, “but I’m having more fun now than ever. I’m putting out records I love. In our own little way, we’re doing alright.”

What Are Records?
Boulder’s What Are Records was started by Rob Gordon 17 years ago. What Are Records was home to popular bands such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters and The Samples. W.A.R. now includes a number of musical acts and comedians. Artsits such as The Swayback, Zepperella and David Wilcox are signed to W.A.R.

W.A.R. has seen a shift in the industry and has heard the questions about the necessity of a record label in a digital world. In order to maintain an important role, W.A.R. is turning more to career development, something they’ve always dabbled in, signing 360 deals with bands. Many major record labels have been signing 360 deals, which give the label the responsibility of promotion, marketing and booking. In turn, the label gets a percentage of the bands profits outside of record sales. According to Jeff Palmer, W.A.R.’s media official, because of career development W.A.R. is more than a record label, and that’s how it will survive in the changing industry.

Palmer said that while physical copies of their albums make up for 70% of their sales, the ratio between c.d sales and downloads has decreased. To embrace the Internet, W.A.R. reaches out to blogs and online retailers that carry W.A.R. artists. In Palmer’s opinion, the Internet has not terribly hurt the label.

“CD sales are falling across the board,” Palmer said, “Majors are depending on one or two artists to sell millions of records that doesn’t happen anymore. The sky is falling, but it is falling a lot more for them.”

Palmer said that the internet has actually helped W.A.R. is some ways because it has helped expose the artists and given everyone access to a variety of music.

“The days of the superstar are over,” Jeff said, “Everyone has access to music and not everyone is looking at tastemakers like the radio and MTV. A band can come along that’s so great it becomes popular based on the strength of the music.”

According to Guggenhiem, who is working on a free music streaming website in Boulder, people ages 13-24 have a made a decision- and that decision is that music should be free. Guggenhiem’s website,, will have a huge library of music that people to stream for free on demand. Listeners will not be able to save the music to their hard-drives or iPods. Iggli will also act as social networking website for people to post record reviews and show reviews. The ad revenue of the website will support it and the artists and labels that are being listened to. Money will be distributed to bands based on how many times there song is streamed.

“Music has to feel like free,” Guggenhiem said.

According to Guggenhiem record labels have jumped on board with Iggli. Unsigned bands will be able to upload material onto the site, as well.

“Nobody knows how this will turn out. I think it remains to be seen,” Guggenhiem said, “Our company can play a role in the future of music, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

No one knows if websites like Iggli are the future of music, no one knows if the sky is actually falling for record labels and no one knows if the internet has helped or hurt music. Technology, is a double edged sword swinging away at the structures we once held as certain.

Thousands of miles away from the booming entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles, Colorado has been affected greatly by the digital music revolution. Whether the local innovators like Ted Guggenhiem, the record labels like Suburban Home and W.A.R., and musicians like Inaiah Lujan will rise from the wreckage of an industry that is potentially headed toward disaster is yet to be seen.

“Maybe our idea of what the music industry is needs to die,” Lujan said, “If so, rest in peace.”

-marissa malouff