A Night Out With Jim Yelenick
First, if you don’t know Jim Yelenick, let me introduce you. He’s a punk rock troubadour, front man for Denver’s Pitch Invasion, Regis undergraduate, world traveler, history professor, seminary school dropout, diehard Chelsea fan, friend of Joe Strummer, and probably a lot more things that I’ve forgotten due the brain-damaging amount of booze and drugs I did while hanging out with him. Anyway, these are the bona fides of Jim Yelenick: Denver’s punk rock Indiana Jones. You wish you could be this cool.
I caught up with Yelenick after his booze-soaked Friday happy hour set at the Larimer Lounge, where he plays as Sputnik Slovenia – an event I’ve seen countless times. The happy hour set is always packed with friends, fans, and local barflies. He sings mash-ups, old punk classics, Britney covers, as well as Irish drinking songs, all acoustically with local skater/screen printer Dana Buckit on kazoo. If you haven’t seen it, you are probably just really lame or don’t have a drinking problem.
The reason why I wanted to catch up with Yelenick was to gab it up about Central America, a place that we have both spent quite a bit of time, especially Nicaragua. Jim Jim spent some time on the eastern coast there, an isolated jungle populated by mostly shipwrecked West Africans. I spent time as a monkey trapper in the Northwest of Nicaragua–a stark contrast of towering volcanoes and sweltering banana plantations.
We took turns telling stories of nearly getting beat-up, robbed, trading Spanish curse words, motorcycle injuries–the sheer craziness and Wild West-like culture of Mesoamerica. For every story I would tell, he would tell three, all crazier than the last with intros like “When I was in Rome with Strummer…” or, “On the Warped tour in Brazil…” or, “After I got my ass kicked out of seminary school…”
I often found myself wondering if it was all true. I didn’t take any notes, opting to just have a good time with a like-minded buddy, so no notes equals no fact checking either. That’s a standard Bartender rule, but it’s easier just to believe things blindly anyway (like most Americans do).
After his set at the Larimer, we moved over to the Meadowlark and then to the office above the Meadowlark owned by Yelenick’s longtime buddy, Mark. We played guitar for hours. Yelenick noted that Mark taught him his first notes on the guitar. Both guys together seemed like old friends and, at times, I felt like an intruder while I listened in on their rock star trips to Mexico. Thank god for beer and drugs to bring people together.
We rocked out, sang songs and generally talked turkey until the beer ran out. Left only with a foggy recollection of our conversation, a hangover and $50 dollar tab at the Meadowlark, I managed to glean something from this night out with Yelenick. Be thoughtful, open to new ideas, ready to explore, have as much fun as possible, and above all: be cool.
Fuck yeah, Yelenick. Good on ya!
Keep Drinking and Tipping,