Hattiesburg’s punk outfit MSPAINT traveled 20 hours for a 20-minute set at Denver’s first ever Convulse Fest.
The festival took place on Oct. 8 and 9 at the Aztlan Theater, with pre-shows and after shows at other Denver venues. The festival was organized by DIY label Convulse Records in celebration of its third anniversary.
Randy Riley, the bassist for MSPAINT, said the label was in talks with the band to release their next record, which will be coming soon.
“We jokingly made the statement, ‘Give us an excuse to come to Denver,’ but we weren’t actually expecting an offer to go,” Riley said.
MSPAINT took a gamble by making the 40-hour round trip, but it paid off.
“If bands didn’t know before, now they know Hattiesburg is a place they can come and play. Also, getting as far out as Denver and playing with so many bands got us closer to our goal of eventually doing a west coast tour, which none of us have ever gotten the chance to do,” Riley said.
The group also got to make a personal impression on Denver and Convulse, meeting other artists and seeing what the city’s music was like.
Most bands at Convulse were hardcore with a capital H, using a tried-and-true lineup of guitar, bass, drum and vocal. MSPAINT immediately stood out in the lineup as the only band with a keyboard and sample pads, along with just using a bass for guitar.
While playing their song “Hardwired” at an after-show, some punks took the microphone from vocalist DeeDee to scream lyrics.
“I always thought it was cheesy, but I get the hype now,” DeeDee said.
Some bands at the festival had not played a set since before the pandemic started, which only added to the ear splitting energy of the night. Punks went wild for New Jersey’s Gel, Los Angeles’ Militarie Gun, and Denver’s own Goon.
Goon’s lead vocalist, dressed in angel wings, held onto the crowd with a combination of goosebumps and adrenaline. By the middle of Goon’s performance, a tsunami of punks were dancing and shoving each other.
After Goon’s set, Nick Farrow, the bassist for the Denver outfit CYST, joked, “So, Goon is the only band in Denver, right?”
CYST opened the festival as the first act to perform. CYST is a relatively new group, having just released their first incredibly raw and unforgiving demo in August. Their sound made some locals draw comparisons to the old Hattiesburg punk project Baghead.
As for the future of the band, Farrow said that, “We’re thinking of recording more stuff and getting our songs in as many ears as possible, then hit the road and do a little tour in March.”
Adam Croft, the man behind Convulse Records, also put the festival together. Croft initially planned for it to be a regular show, wanting to give a live platform back to DIY bands from Denver. Things changed once he started to talk to bands across the country.
“I asked a list of out-of-town bands we had plans to work with if they were interested, thinking a lot would say no, [but] every band said yes,” Croft said.
Croft said things snowballed from that point, with additional bands reaching out to be part of the show.
“At that point, it went from just a big show to a full-on festival, which was way more than I intended, but I don’t regret it,” Croft said.
The Denver hardcore scene is a hidden gem in the country, as it’s a stop many touring bands don’t think to take. Farrow believes Croft’s work with Convulse Records helped keep the scene healthy.
“When touring bands come from out of town, they aren’t expecting as much of a thriving community as there is here,” Farrow said.
And it’s a community Croft loves. The spirit in Denver’s music is supportive, dedicated and tight-knit, and it shows.
“There’s a spirit of wanting each other to succeed,” Croft said. “It’s what makes Denver great right now.”
To support these bands and Denver’s punk scene, visit Convulse’s Bandcamp page at https://convulserecords.bandcamp.com.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Olan Martin, whose passion and energy embodied what hardcore and its community means to everyone who attended the fest.
If you want to find a way to honor Martin, consider donating to Foundation 45, a Dallas/Fort Worth area non-profit providing free mental health and recovery services with a DIY punk ethos. You can also visit the link at Joe Lacy’s Instagram bio @joexlacy and preorder a zine documenting the entire Convulse weekend. All proceeds from the zine will go to Foundation 45.