Last Thursday night, my wife and I stepped out to Longmont’s Dickens Opera House to take in some open mic magic. Part of my history is running open mics, and I have a soft spot in my heart for them. It’s great to hear music that’s happening in a truly local setting. Sometimes it’s rough around the edges; sometimes it’s unexpectedly wonderful. And for some, getting on stage takes a lot of guts. Kudos to them! Open mics often create a real sense of camaraderie among participants, and I certainly saw that in Longmont. I must say, too, that Dickens is a beautiful space.
But we weren’t just there for the love of an open stage. I’d taken an interest in the music of Josh Max, who has been a regular of late at Dickens. He played a rollicking, upbeat 4-song set that culminated in his playing both guitar and a djembe slung across his back while singing. He’s a very capable singer and guitarist. You can’t miss that burgundy fedora and Gibson Blues King. His picking style reminds me a little of Mark Knopfler’s (disclosure: big fan). Josh has a lovely tone to his voice, which can roll deep or fly high. He’s a very relaxed and commanding entertainer, who clearly loves to light up his listeners. Josh is also a freelance writer in the auto industry. Pretty interesting cat.
I didn’t initially intend to do a Q&A style piece with Josh, but his attitude toward our local scene is so kind and complimentary that I thought my readers would really appreciate it.
SS: What brought you to the Front Range?
JM: I first visited Denver and Longmont in 2004 on a Harley-Davidson press junket, and I loved its loose flavor and the sanity of the place as compared to Manhattan. I had also, my whole life, been fascinated by by Francis Schlatter, a Denver-based healer popular around the turn of the 20th century, so I was glad to come visit and see where Schlatter did his hands-on work.
It was Longmont and Boulder that really attracted me this time around, though – the people were just so friendly and welcoming and appreciated what I was doing, more than any other place I’ve performed music.
I felt like the people at Dickens “got” me, and it allowed me to be completely free onstage.
Anything went, from collapsing on the floor at the end of a tortured Italian ballad to pulling out an Englebert Humperdink or an Al Jolson song, to the theme to “The Flintstones” on the harmonica if I felt like it, to my own songs. Even when they didn’t totally understand what I was going for, they were still willing to come along with me instead of turning off and shouting for Zeppelin as they might have in other places. The level of talent and passion for live music here is considerable.
I didn’t come to the Front Range directly from NYC – I went from NYC, where I’d lived my whole adult life, to Long Island to Philadelphia to Monte Carlo in the space of a year, then to Longmont last May, intending to stay for four days to do some work at a relative’s house. In this house were some very cool people who let me stay and decompress from all the bouncing around I’d done. My nerves were shot when I showed up but they let me alone and didn’t try to fix me. I did work around the house, cooking meals, mowing the lawn and helping out in whatever way I could.
There were also two dogs, a cat and a parrot in this house, all of whom greeted me every day and showed me what pure, unpolluted love and acceptance were, which I’d forgotten about in recent years. There is nothing like a dog who, when you come down the stairs in the morning, seems to say, “Oh, my God! You’re awake! YAY!!”
Then I started really playing from a place of depth in my opinion, and I got the idea for [a one-man, one-hour music/spoken word show called] “Binge Mode” after meeting a dancer who wanted to work with me.
SS: What’s happening musically for you over the coming months?
JM: I have “Binge Mode” sketched out and just need to secure a venue and a date, then put the promotion machinery into play, hopefully by the end of September. I write every day – stories and melodies and lyrics – and my next quick goal is a 5-song EP with my “I quit!” song called “You’re Gonna Have To Find Yourself Another Monkey” and others on it, then hopefully get some airplay … and have my original music out there for people to become familiar with. “Monkey” seems to be the “single” as I play it every time I play somewhere and if I don’t play it, people ask me to play it. Once I get the first Binge Mode up and running and performed and videoed and reviewed properly, then I can book it westward – Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. My best plan is to get an RV and head west to do this while maintaining a base near the Front Range. My problem is that everywhere I visit, I want to stay awhile and meet the people and absorb the flavor. But right now, the Front Range is where it’s at.
Let’s get Josh Max into the ears and eyes of Front Range music lovers. Find him here.