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Phil Gammage
"Adventures in Bluesland"
Phil Gammage: Adventures in Bluesland


Phil Gammage
"Kneel to the Rising Sun"
20th Anniversary Edition

originally released on New Rose (France)
Phil Gammage: Kneel to the Rising Sun
Gammage

The Scarlet Dukes
"Rogue Escapade"
Jump blues/swing
The Scarlet Dukes: Rogue Escapades
The Scarlet Dukes - Rogue Escapades

Certain General
"November's Heat" 1985's classic NYC post-punk LP
Certain General: November
Gammage

Phil Gammage
"Tracks of Sound"
Edgy downtown jazz
Phil Gammage: Tracks of Sound
Phil Gammage - Tracks of Sound
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varve logo
by Jo Sieger
the varve
The Varve -- featuring members of Denver's The Guys and Boulder's Prophylactics
THE VARVE, an all female punk band, originated in late 1979 in the small but musically adventurous underground of Denver/Boulder Colorado. Founded by Jo Ann Gogue (vocals) (ex Guys La Dolce Vita fanzine), Carolyn Crampton (guitar) and Sue Digby (bass) (ex Profalactics and Not New Wave News fanzine.) After much difficulty in finding other musicians to fill out the band, they resorted to asking other women at parties if they wanted to be in a band. Kelli Kozak (keyboards) and Anne Brent (drums) were recruited and the Varve (a geological term meaning sedimentary deposits in lake over time) was born with Jo Ann adding alto sax to her vocal chores.

Five separate forces moving together and apart with chaotic togetherness. The Varve sound was danceable and compelling, dense, chaotic, fragile and highly orchestrated, primal wardance, jazz-influenced rhythms, and rockabilly style vocals with Madness/Contortions styled sax. The Varve rehearsed in a room underneath the bleachers of University of Colorado (Sue and Carolyn were both students) football stadium to hone their sound. Early songs were "Somebody By Default," "That Soon But Not That Fast," "I'm The One" "Undercover's Hero" "Terminal" "Frictional Drag" "Pondersoa Saga" "Erotic Frigidaire" and two crowd favorites "Mondo Condo" and "Wild Thing." Their debut was at a party (minus Kelli Kozak) for a few people from Iowa. Soon they were a favorite on the scene supporting the likes of Leroy X and the Excitations, The Visitors, Transistors, Gluons and the Young Weasels at various venues (Walabi's, Molly's and Four Mile House) and hot tub parties. Their farewell show was a benefit for the Ft. Logan Mental Health Center with the Metrotones.

varve pictureIn September 1980, the Varve joined the exodus of bands moving to greener pastures if not fame and fortune. They piled the Varve van high with guitars, amps, punk records, pink cowboy boots and dreams and drove to San Francisco (minus drummer, Anne Brent.) Soon, they found a female drummer looking for a new band and Kat Zumbach (ex Urge) was a Varve. Without so much as a hiccup, they were back recording demos and charged onto the performing circuit. Like the Corvairs before them, they played at the Palms, Mabuhay Gardens and Berkeley Square as well as the Sound of Music, Rock City, Le Disque, On Broadway, Valencia Tool & Die, and The Stud among many venues in San Francisco and other Northern California cities. They made one sojourn to Los Angeles and played with the Fibonaccis.

In November 1982, The Varve made a triumphant return to Denver and Boulder headlining the Mercury Cafe with the Young Weasels and the Boulder Theater.

The Varve became well respected and a constant force to be reckoned with on the San Francisco scene. Dirk Dirksen, master of ceremonies at the legendary Mabuhay Gardens (Fab Mab) LOVED the Varve (he was a tough cookie and didn't like many bands.) WELCOME TO VARVE COUNTRY was a slogan jokingly used during this time. Their sound was a unique mix of funk, jazz, rockabilly and strains from out of this universe (jangly guitar scratches, jazzy multi-note melodic bass lines, poppy yet sinister keyboard, solid drumming, funky alto sax and vocals that someone once said was the result if you mixed Yoko Ono with tribal American Indian music and rockabilly hiccups.)

varve cartoonThey played with the likes of Flipper, Translator, The Mutants, Red Asphalt, Pop-O-Pies, Toiling Midgets, Toxic Reasons, Angst (another Colorado transplant,) The Contractions The Farmers and Romeo Void. They opened for Geza X (from LA), The Mo-dettes and Brian Brain (from England) and came very close to opening for the Cure and U2 on very early tours.

Soon they began to make radio playlists (college stations through the U.S. and local Bay Area rock stations) with a demo tape, "Frictional Drag" off of the LIVE AT LE DISQUE double album, a three-song EP "Bamboo Curtain" and their self-produced seven-song cassette, WANDAFIED.

Like many bands, they would eventually disband in 1983 due to the usual frustrations (stifling music scene, lack of venues and lack of worldwide fame.)

Jo Ann played in one punk band, Impending Doom, for a short time after the Varve before taking a long retirement from the music business to pursue other artistic endeavors (acting, Brazilian dancing, writing.) Still living in San Francisco she has been singing part-time for the past two years just for fun. She is relocating to Pennsylvania with her new husband. Sue moved back to Denver for a year and then relocated to London, England playing with a few bands. She still works in the music business on the booking side. Carolyn is a well-respected artist and has local shows in San Francisco. Kelli is rumored to be living in Southern California. Kat is playing in a new San Francisco band, Alfred, at the present time. Anne Brent has retired from the music business and is living in San Francisco.

VARVE RECORDINGS:

  • Heartbreak Hotel Studios, Denver, CO demo tape
    (Undercover's Hero, Rockateens, That Soon, I'm the One)
  • Tom Mallon Studios demo tape, 4/81
    "Undercover's Hero," "Bamboo Curtain" and "The Twitch" received heavy airplay on local radio stations
  • "Frictional Drag" LIVE AT LE DISQUE double live records, Jump Records 10/81
  • Hyde Street Studios, San Francisco, CA.
    "Bamboo Curtain/Erotic Frigidaire/The Plan" 3 song EP on Risky Records 1982 7" and 12" formats.
    "Wandafied" - "What's Wrong With Wanda," "Silkwood," "Decibel" "Wanda Goes to Church/People Like You,"
  • T&B Studios, San Francisco, CA.
    "Edie's On Fire" and "Crayons" 1983
  • Numerous live recordings gathering dust in people's closets

VIDEOS/TV/MEDIA

VIDEO/TV

  • 7/29/81 Rock Journal - Channel 25 with Debora Hill (interview, aired "Bamboo Curtain" video (video recorded on zero budget on a San Francisco rooftop))
  • 10/21/81 City Beat, Channel 25, filmed at Iguana Studios, rehearsal and interview
  • 8/31/82 Varve, live show filmed at the Stud Bar Local clubs I-Beam and Sound of Music filmed live performances

MEDIA PRINT
BOOKS
Weird Angle (photo)' "Hardcore California" (photo, band mention)

MAGAZINES/ZINES/NEWS

  • San Francisco/California - The Quake Magazine, Xerox Mouth, Brave Ear, Music Calendar, Santa Cruz Express, Another Room, Punk Globe
  • Colorado - Local Anesthetic, Pulsebeat
  • National/International - Zigzag, Boston Gay Community
  • News: Women in Rock, Shout, Kill (German), Shades (Toronto)

marqueeVARVE Songs: Bamboo Curtain, Crayons, Decibel, Edie's On Fire, Erotic Frigidaire, Frictional Drag, I Wanna Be Repossessed, I'm the One, Mondo Condo, Motion In a Void, People Like You, Pondersoa Saga, Rock-A-Teens, Silkwood, Somebody by Default, Terminal, That Soon But Not That Fast, The Plan, The Ridge, The Twitch, Undercover's Hero, Understanding Wood
WANDA SONGS: Wanda Goes To Church, Wanda's Got New Boots, What's Wrong With Wanda

Cover Songs: All By Myself, Bed and Breakfast, Fire In Cairo, First Time, Make Like A Rock, Memories Are Made of This, Nicotine Stain, Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World, Wild Thing