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Night of Joy

May 23, 2012

Night of Joy by Sarah Cass

Photo by Sarah Cass
Introduction by Tom Murphy

It was one of those nights that seem incredibly mundane. Characteristically hot, uncharacteristically muggy, that late June date in 2009 at Rhinoceropolis, the famous/infamous DIY spot in Denver. Night of Joy played its first show to a roomful of people. Some of them got it. The band was still shaking off its newness but those songs sounded like someone had absorbed the spiky jangle of Mission of Burma and the deceptive simplicity of Minutemen. The band left an impression and its underlying sense of melody made the music made for a strong amalgam of the accessible and the experimental.

Since then, Night of Joy has been through a few different iterations. Five included other drummers, one included a drum machine, an idea the band quickly discarded probably because drum machines tend not to be able to adjust to a moment of improvisation and playing a little off the rails–elements that have always been part of the band’s appeal. That’s not to suggest that the band is sloppy because the rhythm section sure isn’t. It’s just that the willingness to let emotions fly and sweep the band into the spirit of the song runs deep with these people.

Rather than depend on some pretty much non-existent local avenue of releases for its music, Night of Joy established its Teen Pass Out imprint in 2010 and put out one of the true classics of underground music in Denver with the split cassette Chump Fiesta. Sharing tracks with Lust-Cats of the Gutters and Thee Goochi Boiz, that tape captured a moment in time when enduring friendships were formed and it felt like something important was happening in town–a rarity anywhere.

The most durable, and current, line-up consists of guitarist and singer Val Franz, bassist Bree Davies and drummer Fernando Guzman. The latter being the new kid to the band but a veteran of experimental guitar rock in Denver.

Probably Franz could have had a successful career as a performer of dreadful pop music because her voice, one possessed of both character, versatility, warmth and soulfulness is at least on par with anyone most people have heard about. But she had an early interest in weirder music than most young people and she doesn’t seem the type to be able to shove her heartfelt interests to the side just for a dollar. Her guitar work is jagged, intricate and spare, not simple. Probably a steady diet of Keith Levene and Roger Miller with the spirit of Andy Gill floating about. There’s more than a small amount of that slicing guitar work the likes of which you hear in Shellac and Big Black in what Franz does. She’s a guitar wizard who is able to transmute the forbidding into the fun.

Bree Davies is like the tough girl at your school who is more intelligent than most people will ever appreciate and sweeter than they’ll ever get to experience because, let’s face it, you have to put on a suit of armor to deal with the world as it is. Her sinuous bass lines and alternately cool and calm demeanor and being frenziedly caught up in the moment is key to Night of Joy’s wild dynamism. The joking between her and Franz can get a little out of hand but her deadpan joking with the audience is for connoisseurs of dry, absurdist wit only.

Fernando Guzman people have jokingly called a Muppet and to his credit, he embraces that by having Animal as his totem figure. But don’t be fooled, that guy is like the best drummer The Mars Volta never had. An incredibly versatile percussionist who can hammer away like Bonham and give Zach Hill a run for his money. But also do so with a delicacy, grace and sensitivity to detail that is easy to miss. He’s also an imaginative player who has proven he can play whatever style he wants to well.

After multiple tours, tape releases and countless glories and injustices experienced in Denver and beyond, Night of Joy finally released its full-length album, the arresting Hardcore Girls Are A Hoax. A fitting title for a band that has to deal with crap like sound people asking Franz or Davies if they’re in the band and a music world that has yet to grasp that women play music and not all of them aspire to being a safe cultural artifact. That title is a sublime bit of sarcasm as the perfect introduction to songs that do not apologize for being noisy, for being ragged, for being forceful. Most of all, those songs don’t come from a place where the musicians are trying to fit in with a trend. That makes Night of Joy not just noteworthy but special and in an age of rampant chicanery and imitation, important. 

Bree Davies was a double nominee for 12?s – writer and filmmaker Tim Davids, and photographer Sarah Cass both named Bree as their answer for Question 13 (full disclosure, Bree also wrote the intro for Sarah’s post).

You can catch Night of Joy tonight at Old Curtis Street in Denver!

1. What is your hometown?


Minneapolis, MN


When talking to the internet? Palo Alto, CA.


DenCo, son. (Denver, Colorado)

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?


Bobby Hill


Janet Livermore. Though sometimes, I’m a little Cliff Poncier, too.


Animal, drummer for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. At least that’s what people tell me.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.


Scott H. Reiniger


Suzanne Somers, circa 1977. Bettie Page, circa 1952. Ruby Keeler, circa 1933. Ricki Lake, circa now.


Animal, drummer for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?


“Gore” by Jason Frank Rothenburg and Black Dice


The cover of Pulp’s “This Is Hardcore“, David Hockney’s “A Bigger Splash”, “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks


“The Walking Dead” comic series. (Not the tv show)

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?


Currently reading: “Birdsong” by Rumi
Recommending: “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” by Lester Bangs “Dawn” by Elie Wiesel,
Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” masterpieces


Currently reading: Old issues of “Mojo” Magazine
Recommending: “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azzerad


“10 Billion Days And 100 Billion Nights” by late Japanese author Ryu Mitsuse. Has been called “the greatest Japanese science-fiction novel of all time.” And I assure you, it’s fucking epic. Just think laser gun battle involving Plato, Siddhartha and Jesus. Also, I can’t recommend enough the “Walking Dead” comic series. Start from the beginning and get obsessed because that’s exactly what will happen. It’s got it all: intensely engaging and harrowing story, amazing character depth and development, gritty visual art, and of course being a zombie story, visceral, graphic, disturbing violence. Best. Comic. Ever.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?


“Archangel Thunderbird” – Amon Duul ii
“1000 Hurts” – Shellac


Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation” in it’s entirety


Currently, the album “Repetition” by Unwound.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?


“Land Before Time” when I was 7


Oh, gosh. “Hit So Hard”, the Patty Schemel documentary


“Weekend at Bernie’s”. A stupid movie, I know, but there’s a scene where the two leads are running to make a departing ferry boat. They leap off the pier with complete disregard for the safety of their bodies (and in comedic fashion) onto the moving boat, land hard, and as they get up with pride in themselves for having made the jump they realize the ferry is slowing down for an arrival to the pier from which they jumped. Yeah, it doesn’t sound as funny as actually seeing it. I imagined what it would be like to see that in real life as a spectator from the pier or boat and it had me in tears. Plus, I was high.

8.  Cat person or dog person?




Both! Well, a cat person, really. But I like small-ish dogs too. I also think the fact that this band is made up of three cat people balances out our lethal Cancer-Leo-Virgo combination.


Both, but my boy Gibralter (of the feline persuasion) is my best friend in the whole world.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?


“How does one blend the negative and the positive to produce a balanced picture? Critical images do not imply lack of sympathy for the subject in the best and broadest sense; flattering images, by their inaccuracy, do a disservice in the long run.”


Truth, absolutely. Kindness often only serves to pad and soften the blow of the inevitable: truth.


Kind truths. Can’t be enough said about selective omissions.

10.    How do you define sin?


Being alive.


I’m Catholic. So everything.


Human beings. Everything we say, everything we do, everything we think. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

11.    How do you define virtue?


What do you know about virtue? or anything else!?


Cleanliness, Godliness.



12.   Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?


It is the ocean


Bree Anna Coco Davies
“I fear that I’m ordinary, just like everyone.”


Fernando Joaquin Guzman
Drummer, Laugher, Lover

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?


D. Boon


Tom Murphy — musician, writer, and grand archivist of Denver’s musical output since the mid-1990s.


Alfred Hitchcock, but good luck with that.

Night of Joy

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