Punk Rock is alive and well in Colorado

The Colorado Switchblade

Plasma Canvas rehearsing - Illustration by Jason Van Tatenhove of the Colorado SwitchbladeJason Van Tatenhove

Punk Rock is alive and well in Colorado. Ok, so it may not be strictly 'punk rock,' But it's pretty damned close. I am talking about the Fort Collins-based band Plasma Canvas. Whose origins were born in the Phoenix flames of transition. 

Founding member, lead vocalist, and guitarist Adrienne Ash, on her 24th birthday, came out to a 500 person audience and the world as a trans-woman while playing with her old band Naked Strangers in St. Louis. 

Ash had already written one of her break-out songs, ' Lipstick Revolution,' but it just was not working, having written the song pre-transition. 

"I couldn't understand why it wasn't making sense to me, but then she changed the line 'when you're a man you got to walk alone' to 'baby-girl sometimes you have to walk alone' it clicked. 

From there, she started writing more songs about her experiences as a trans woman. 

Ash lived in the St. Louis area for another year, where she wrote most of her self-titled first album. During that time, she was often afraid for her life. After having enough of living in fear, she decided to talk herself into the lineup of a show being organized in Denver that her cousin's band was booked in. 

She landed the gig and hopped in her cousin's van with $60, a basket of clothes, and a couple of guitars and headed to Denver. 

Once in Denver, she hit the ground running. Shortly after, Ash moved to Fort Collins and immediately began searching for a drummer. She found one in Dave Sites. She says, "He was cool enough to help track the first record and adds, "I played everything else besides the piano and some of the finer instrumentation." 

Sites and Ash wound up playing together for the next year and a bit. But Sites had to step away to deal with some things in his life. But Ash was determined to keep things going. "We never intended to be just a two-piece band, but Dave and I just kind of fell into it." 

After Sites moved on, Evalyn Flowers stepped in to play drums, and that two-person dynamic just kind of solidified. The band started to find success and asked to play bigger and bigger shows. 

That is until the pandemic hit. The lockdowns of 2020 put a lot of things into perspective for Ash. 

"I was like, if I survive this s**t, I want to play the biggest, coolest shows ever and not have to worry about creative limitations at all."

They have now transformed into a five-piece band. Ash and Flowers enlisted the help of some close, trusted musician friends and became the band they are today.

Plasma Canvas rehearsing - Illustration by Jason Van Tatenhove of the Colorado SwitchbladeJason Van Tatenhove

The band gained the attention of SideOneDummy Records, an independent record label based in Los Angeles, which has launched the careers of; The Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello, Title Fight, and others. They caught the label's eye in 2018 when they played in a battle of the bands for the Warped Tour (SideOneDummy released the Warped Tour compilation albums.) That battle of the bands was a show with three other bands opening for In the Whale and the Descendants. 

They met Kevin Lyman at that show and he loved their music, which led them to play a couple of shows on the Warped Tour. Lyman then put them in contact with SideOneDummy Records, who signed a record deal with the band.

The band recorded their 'KILLERMAJESTIC' at the famed Blasting Room in Fort Collins with Bill Stevenson and crew in November of 2019. 

A break-out tour was planned for May 2020 with Lagwagon, Less Than Jake, and Masked Intruder. But the world had different plans.

In the downtime of the quarantines shared by us all, they began the writing of a new album. 

Ash says she wrote most of the record in her bedroom, alone and isolated.

She tells us that when writing new material, she focuses on just writing the song's skeleton, including the lyrics and chord progressions. She would have to teach the new band members how to play the songs with the older material.

"The hope is with this new record; we will get down the skeleton of how everything goes. Then as we get more comfortable with it, everyone can start embellishing and adding things that feel good with the material." She says of creating new music with the three new bandmates added to the lineup moving forward. 

A lot of the new album will be lyrically and musically, very heavy with a lot of layers and more emotional vulnerability. 

"It is very much about the inner world, where a lot of our previous material has been a lot about the outer world" she adds. 

Her primary musical influences have been '90s emo (especially Jimmy Eat World, which Ash says she grew up on. That and really heavy metal such as Metallica, Trivium, and Children of Bodom. Sammy Hagar was also a favorite of her parents and thus became part of the soundtrack of her early life experience. 

As she got older, she started going to punk shows.

"They were playing less complicated stuff, but everybody was going crazy, and the musicians were so fun to watch." Ash has incorporated that same energy and fan interaction into the Plasma Canvas live shows. 

The pandemic didn't just bring changes to the songwriting process of Plasma Canvas. The band has now become a five-piece band. However, they have only been playing gigs as a five-piece for the past three months.

Plasma Canvas rehearsing- illustration by Jason Van Tatenhove of the Colorado SwitchbladeJason Van Tatenhove

 Guitarist Abe Dashnaw says they had "missed the sense of catharsis that you get from playing heavy music, especially when the lyrics cut as deep as Ash's songwriting. You get this storytelling that embodies your lowest point. But you're not feeling that low point. Instead, through the song, you can capture it and put it into a different context." 

Guitarist/vocalist Abe Dashnaw, bassist Alan Hlavacek, and guitarist Travis Mason may seem very familiar to Fort Collins music fans as they are in possibly every other band in the FoCo scene. Abe is in People in General. Alan and Travis also play in Attack on VenusCopper Teeth, Jack Hollywood and Villyns. Travis also plays in Triton.

The upcoming show will also be the first show that drummer Eva Flowers will be playing as herself.

 The band's upcoming show at Washington's in Fort Collins came about when a dear friend called and asked if they would be interested in playing the Bohemian Light outdoor music festival.

"I was like, well, we haven't played in almost two years and don't want our first show to be an outdoor festival during the day. I wanted our first show back to really be 'our show.' But at the same time, we were also straight up not ready. Because at that point we had decided we were a five-piece band, And we're working on rehearsing with the new members." So Ash suggested doing a show on their own that will be this October 22nd at Washington's. Which worked out as a festival wound up canceled due to a resurgence of COVID. 

 The band has been getting ready for the upcoming show, getting the new members up to speed with old songs, and even including a couple of new songs from the planned album.

The official name of the show’s facebook event is PLASMA CANVAS with DOOM SCROLL, hosted by Kevin DuPont.

 The band is ready to dive right into writing and recording their upcoming album. They plan on tracking new songs in January and hope to have the new album out by the summer of 2022. 

That's assuming the world doesn't actually end before then.

 If you would like to hear Plasma Canvas and support their creative endeavors, it's best to go to plasmacanvas.bandcamp.com and buy their f*****g records!

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Welcome to our brave new world. It is becoming more difficult to support oneself, much less a family (including three daughters, a granddaughter, and the family wolf) in the ways a writer used to before the age of the vulture fund media conglomerates. I am local to Estes Park, Colorado, where I write for several outlets in Northern Colorado, including the Estes Park Trail-Gazette. As much as I love what I do for a living, it is challenging to make just a living wage writing for a newspaper, not to mention securing some perks like basic health care. So I have been looking for ways that I can continue writing while supplementing my income. Many writers around the world are now turning to subscription-based platforms like Substack to supplement their incomes. I hope that by giving my readers a direct portal to all of my writing, including articles and serialized fiction projects, they find enough value to help support and join me in continuing this journey. Some of my pieces will be editorial, and sometimes I will include some of the fine artwork that I show in contemporary galleries I will also be sharing some of my political satire art from time to time. Writing is the most powerful tool that we as human beings have to change the world for the better. It gives voice to the most vulnerable of our neighbors, shines a light on the injustices we must fix, and plants the seeds of change and hope for the future. I sincerely hope you will join me on this journey. ~Jason Van Tatenhove

Estes Park, CO

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