:: Big Head Todd & The Monsters :: Boulder Theater :: Jan. 12 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: Jan 13 ::
:: Sold Out ::
By Alex Samuel
Big Head Todd and The Monsters spawned from Boulder’s belly in 1986 and has gone on to be one of the Front Range’s most successful acts, taking over the venues and airwaves of endless cities globally.
Shortly after the band’s birth, Westword voted them as the best local rock band, calling them a “power trio worth its weight in hype.”
The Monsters lived up to the legend. In their early days they went on to have the top selling album in Boulder’s own Albums On The Hill, and in 1993 their album Sister Sweetly graced Billboard charts with three massive hits before going platinum.
Now, as they gear up to kick off yet another national tour, the University Hill heroes-gone-rock-ready road rebels are going back to the small local venues that cultivated their monumental start with back-to-back sold out shows at the Boulder Theater and Fox Theatre.
The Monsters will begin the tour at the Boulder Theater on Jan. 12 and then head up to the Hill for a show at the Fox Theatre the next night, a tour rarity in the Boulder scene but a logical decision to Mr. Big Head himself, Todd Mohr.
In an interview with The Marquee, Mohr said that the small but intimate Fox Theatre oozes Monster history and is among the band’s favorites, while the Boulder Theater is where 1994’s Stratagem was recorded and where the band played regular gigs in ’87. “Mostly, it was just fun to talk about doing two dates in a small town,” Mohr said.
The venues hold years of tradition but the Monsters try to present a different show every time they play. The band’s constantly growing catalogue of music is backed by over eight studio albums and by new, more eclectic music. The Monsters are currently free to explore different areas of music, including a more acoustic and folk-oriented arena, Mohr said. His raspy voice, — calloused as his guitar-great hands probably are — interrupted a thoughtful pause to say, “When you get older you don’t feel like you have to impress anyone.”
Since their first musical experiments in the Columbine High School Jazz Band to this March’s second-ever Big Carribean Cruise through the British Virgin Islands, the band has become anything but old.
In 1981, Columbine High’s Brian Nevin and Rob Squires started Intruder, a group that, according to Big Head Todd & The Monsters’ timeline, took pride in the “butchering of songs by bands such as Rush, Led Zeppelin, Billy Squire and whatever else was the flavor of the day.” The following spring, Squires graduated and took off to the University of Colorado, Boulder, where high school jazz band buddies Mohr and Nevin eventually followed.
After the local success of the pre-Monster rockers T.J. & The Twisters, the trio became more serious and dubbed themselves Big Head Todd & The Monsters as a play on flamboyant band names of the time. They bought an old Dodge van named “The Colonel” and hit the road running, leaving, what they did not know at the time, would be an undeniable mark on the music industry.
So while it may not be 1986 anymore and the mustard-colored Colonel has long since been retired, Mohr and the Monsters are far from old news. They spent the late 1980s and the early 1990s touring and recording, and released the platinum, three-hit-wonder Sister Sweetly in ’93.
In 1997, Big Head Todd and The Monsters released Beautiful World, an album that epitomized The Monsters’ capacity for collaboration. The trio combined producer Jerry Harrison’s Talking Heads history with Mohr’s lyrical grace, to create an album that settled in the 47th spot on the Billboard album chart, despite lacking a prominent single. The album brags an appearance by John Lee Hooker and a funked-out center with Parliament Funk veteran Bernie Worrell on the organ.
While later albums exploded with a little help from the radio, the roaring press buzz and even the video world, the band’s concrete fan base serves as the true fuel to The Monster’s fire. The early albums, Another Mayberry and Midnight Radio, were sold strictly through live shows and consignment and hit the 30,000 point without getting any of their elbow grease on the industry’s white collar.
In 1992, soon after the boys were signed on the spot by the president of Giant Records following a performance in Aspen, booking guru Frank Barcelona checked out a Chicago gig and signed The Monsters to his talent agency and began a frenzy of more-than-notable tours and appearances with both rock legends and soon-to-be-someones.
The same year, Don Henley personally invited the band to perform with Neil Young, Roger Waters and others at a benefit for his Walden Woods project. In ’93 the boys cruised on the road with Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic, hit up the David Letterman Show for their first of seven network appearances and opened for Robert Plant himself.
As if the Big Head boys didn’t get their fair share of gigs with greats from now and then, The Monsters played with future greats when Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band and Sheryl Crow warmed up the crowd for several shows. By 1994, the band toured with well-established gods and starry eyed up-and-comers, had a platinum record explode all over the States, and was only beginning its madness.
When The London Times said “American rock doesn’t get any more classy than this” in reference to the Boulder boys, they couldn’t have been more correct. Big Head Todd & The Monsters define rock class when the trio, after blinding successes, remembers their roots and stays true to the local rookies.
In an interview last year, Monsters fan and Boulder local Jake Sproul, relived his band, Rose Hill Drive’s, experience opening for the Monsters in 2004. “Big Head Todd rocks because he’s from here. He’s awesome. We’re really big fans of Big Head Todd, we’ve been to like 30 shows,” Sproul said glowing with excitement. “We really like him. We could recite his entire live show and how he did things differently from the record and stuff. We kind of grew up with that. So it was a big deal to learn how it happens, be a fan and play with the group.”
While the band keeps it local, they will also leave the area, and the country, again this year with a large core group of fans in tow. Big Head Todd and The Monsters will play with 170 fans during March’s 2006 Big Caribbean Cruise. The second-ever cruise will be on a 360-foot, four-masted mega yacht called the Star Clipper and will sail fans through a “fantastic part of the world,” Mohr said. The cruise begins and ends on St. Maarten and includes stops at various private beaches and out-of-the-way ports. Mohr, whose voice seemed to breathe excitement at the mere mention of the beach, said that last year’s inaugural cruise was a very private experience and one of the “funnest times” in his life.
Mohr may be a vintage cool voyager but he does roll with the times; he created the Todd Park Mohr Philosophy Blog (morephilosophy. blogspot.com) and in conjunction with iTunes he and the Monsters also have a Podcast called “The Big Head Todd Cast,” where they post mostly studio recordings. The Todd Cast brags nine previously unreleased tracks, including a “Kokomo”-esque version of “Bittersweet” that echoes Mohr and the Monsters’ laid back versatility.
Most recently, Big Head Todd and The Monsters entered the locally famed IMMERSIVETM Studios in early December to tape a pilot TV show with the legendary Alan Parsons. The band did a one-song session with Parsons in IMMERSIVE’s Studio No. 6 before heading over to IMMERSIVE’s live sound stage, Studio No. 7 to record a live version of the song.
The entire experience, including the studio session and the live performance, was shot on high definition by three cameras by Denver’s Moxie Media, with Mike Schrader directing. The purpose was to develop a pilot which would put different bands together with Parsons for one session, all of which would be recorded and broadcast in a behind-the-scenes kind of look at what it takes to record and produce a song.
Once the program is edited, the producers will be looking to air the show on a cable or network channel, or other alternative broadcasting realms that are available over broadband production outlets. The time frame on the airing of the program has yet to be decided.
Mohr said that the entire process was really fascinating to he and his bandmates. “It’s a whole different world and experience that he comes from — the whole English rock thing. There’s a lot of learning that I got done,” Mohr said.
:: Big Head Todd & The Monsters ::
:: Boulder Theater :: Jan. 12 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: Jan 13 ::
:: Sold Out ::
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