Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

{laura goldhamer}
If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting a girl named Laura Goldhamer, then you have also had the pleasure of walking into the sun. Goldhamer is bright. She’s eccentric. She’s motivated and focused. And at the end of the night, she probably puts on one of the most intriguing and jaw-dropping shows in town.

You either have seen Laura Goldhamer play live, or you haven’t. She’s not easily confused with any other songstress in town. And if there’s only one thing you remember from your evening out, it’s probably Goldhamer’s brilliant stop-animation films that accompany some of her songs. In total, there isn’t much about the dreadlocked girl from Denver that is forgettable.

With a smile she describes her work as, “edgy children’s music”. And taken as a whole, I’m not sure a better descriptor could be used to define Laura Goldhamer’s expansive, complicated act. Like most everything that she seems to touch, even her music is idiosyncratically, unabashedly, her. It combines elements of a visual art and an athletic past, then couples that with some insightful social critique and a percussive voice like none other in the Queen City.

Goldhamer’s musical diction spans a diverse and hefty lot. Rather than trying to understand her songs through her musical influences, a better approach is to talk about Goldhamer’s work in the vein of: the world as influence and life as the sum total of experience. Behind her often-many instruments on stage and Goldhamer is a mirror. An orator. A playful commentator on the state of affairs around us all.

To this end, Goldhamer has taken a bit of an unorthodox approach to her life. She lives in a church. Or really, the Brooks Center for Spirituality. At the Center she organizes workshops, yoga and cooking classes. She puts on provocative shows in the Underground Teahouse. There’s church services on Sunday morning. And everything is done on a grassroots level of community organization and outreach.

A Denver native, Goldhamer’s musical rise in the Denver scene has been quick. Only within the last two years, after she left college on the East Coast did she make it back to her home city. Now running the Brooks Center, Goldhamer has been thrust into the kind of leadership that was both unexpected but also a blessing. For now she has created that kind of community that she has, for so long, envisioned. And while her music is not contingent upon her work at the Brooks Center and the Underground Tea House, there is certainly crossover.

Goldhamer’s music is complicated in a way that begs for classification for clarification while remaining wholly organic in its personality and individuation. She uses her voice as percussion. Windy and rhythmic, her delivery is a precious tool in playing with the ideas and concepts that Goldhamer does. Frequently she turns phrases on their head, and dumps colloquialisms under a magnifying glass.

Dense, but uniformly constructed, Goldhamer’s compositions are rich in their layering. More than this her live performance reflects this layering element. In talking about her stage shows, Goldhamer notes that there are obvious layers: her movies, her sound, and then there’s her, often sitting behind contraptions of percussion, with a guitar or banjo. And she is a mighty character, to boot. Beginning one show at the Oriental Theater, she turned her guitar upright and sat it between her legs saying, “hello my name is Ian Cooke. But I am not going to be with you tonight…”

In furthering this notion of layers, Goldhamer relays a story of flying to the East Coast many years ago. Flying into the sun rising early in the morning, somehow the impossible combination of light and shadow and time of day produced a rainbow halo around her plane. Even more than that, the clouds that the plane passed through were layered neatly in modes of depth. Goldhamer carried that experience with her and has since incorporated this element, explicitly into her work.

Growing up around sports and visual arts, Goldhamer has since gone back to her roots. Once again it is her stage show where all is revealed. Always apparent in her shows are the elements of visual art (stop-animation films) and kinesthetic production (her many instruments and, in particular her percussion coupled with her stringed instruments).

And while this information is provocative in itself, it’s not the content that glues Goldhamer’s work together. No, her edgy children’s songs are interested in social critique. She laces her work with ideas on the abolition of power structures, and how credentialism is not as powerful as we believe it is.

With a CD/DVD album under her belt, plus notable other recordings, Goldhamer is still looking to the future. Along the community-oriented approach, she and others like Ian Cooke and some of the members from Paper Bird have begun the New Denver Orchestra. And if there’s anything we can all expect from this act, as well as Goldhamer’s new work it is progression. Because, if anything, Goldhamer and those around her have found themselves in a unique, blessed place in the Queen City – but also in the universe.

Stay turned with Laura Goldhamer’s work, here: www.myspace.com/lauragoldhamer.