Never die

Through tragedy, My Evil Twin soldiers on

Dave Kirby | Boulder Weekly

Persistence has a way of sponsoring tenure, and tenure has a funny way of growing some awkward extremities. Bruce Kaufman carries one of them around with him regarding his two-decade journey fronting My Evil Twin (MET).

“My Evil Twin has played a lot of places that were, like, the last time they were ever open,” he reflects with a hint of sideways and bemused pride. “We closed the place. … It used to be the Hoffbrau, whatever it was before then. Up in Table Mesa. I can’t remember. I think it’s a hardware store now [Liberty Hardware]. And there was a place down the road from there, near the Tantra Apartments, it used to be a pizza place. And The Cricket. I think we closed that one, too.

“And, I’m still here, still playing My Evil Twin songs. I’m kind of going through this process of re-learning them all.”

Re-learning them all because Kaufman’s wife and songwriting partner, and the band’s lead singer, Lane D’Crago, passed away a little more than a year ago at age 54.

Suffice to say there are no heroic deaths in the prime of life, despite rock ’n’ roll’s sometimes-triumphant  appeals to mortality, well-spent and elegantly exhausted. As a practical matter, D’Crago wrote and sang most of the lyrics, many of them derived from her interest in poetry but also influenced by ’80s pop and new wave — lurking somewhere between Martha Davis and Kristin Hersh. As a natural performer, she was out front while Kaufman gave the songs structure and a trained blues-and-rock guitarist’s edge from a half-step behind her.

It was the kind of balance that worked seamlessly when they were in form, which could be a challenge in the face of frequent turnover of other band members, which continually changed the mix and the texture.

MET’s treks across Boulder clubs, extinct and otherwise, extend back into the early ’90s. Kaufman and D’Crago met at a Salmonheads-sponsored open stage night at Brandy’s, now Boulder Blues & Greens. Mid-week gigs at joints like J.J. McCabe’s and The Cricket kept them reasonably busy, and the band probably played its single biggest gig in Boulder at the Boulder Theater in 1996, when they opened a mostly full subdudes gig. Kaufman was also busy in the local Dead community, and in 2005 he won the Phil Lesh Wolf Scholarship award, largely on the strength of an MET tape he sent to Lesh personally, earning a shot to play Garcia’s old guitar with Phil and Friends at the Fillmore.

Kaufman decided to keep the band more or less as it was before D’Crago’s passing — keeping it or walking away from it would have been equally cruel choices, after all — and thus had to learn how to be a lead singer. His wife’s replacement, no less.

“I’ve been doing a lot of singing, getting more comfortable with my voice. … The other guys give me shit sometimes, thinking we should get someone to come in and do them, but that’s a hard thing for anyone to do. For me, the beauty of doing it this way and doing these songs, and learning how she did them, and all the nuances that she put into them — the inflections and the wordplay — putting them out with my own vocal chords, it almost brings her into the room with me.”

So working at the periphery of the Boulder music scene, My Evil Twin goes on. Kaufman recalled a night when D’Crago, exhausted and sick, couldn’t manage to get out of bed for a gig, and Kaufman blurted out in frustration, “My Evil Twin is dead!” No, she pleaded, My Evil Twin can never die.

“I was reading something that [area songwriter-turned-promoter] John Quill wrote,” Kaufman says, “about all the bands he could remember from back when he was doing his One Stop thing. And our name was in there, along with The Feds, and Steak, and Hobbledehoy, and a thousand other names that have come and gone … into the dustbin of history, I guess.

“And we’re still here. She was right.” Respond: