“So that was their gig. They played once in Denver’s bedroom too. To three or four people from the school. There’s a tape of it somewhere, and you can hear people throwing things at the band; it’s all very punk rock. We did all this. We had the band, and we’d terrorize people, and we drank a lot of Boone’s Farm. Denver’s mother couldn’t deal with him and eventually sent him to his father’s in Maine. We were kind of at a loss. Denver was just kind of gone. And I fell out from hanging around with Matt and those people and went more towards this hippie drug culture than the punk-rock destructive culture.”
(Dear reader, this is Paul, the author of this story, interrupting Voiles for a moment. Did you ever see a band on MTV, or hear them on your kids’ boom box or see them opening at a concert or club, and wonder, “Who are these people? How’d they get this way? And why?” Maybe these tales of Powerdresser can provide some answers. What becomes of those junior high schoolers waiting at the bus stop at 35th and Adams?)
So Voiles told me more of the path that led him and his school friend to start a band together and immerse themselves in the early ’90s San Diego music scene: “Denver went to Maine. He had this engagement by mail to a girl that he barely knew. She was a friend of Sarah’s whom I mentioned earlier, and they had never even kissed or anything, but they were engaged, by mail. For a while. Eventually he came out to visit and figured out it wasn’t real.
“We kept in touch. He was having a hard time. His father was a very bad alcoholic. He’d write me letters: ‘I hate everything. It’s all just a bunch of cows and trees out here.’ You know, he’d never lived more than three blocks from a 7-Eleven in his life, and he was in the middle of the woods, in Maine! And he eventually wound up living with his chemistry teacher — this family kind of adopted him and probably pretty much saved his life. That man helped Denver handmake an electric guitar. It was the most productive and constructive thing he’d done in his entire life, you know? And he started listening to Jimi Hendrix instead of the Germs. Or in addition to the Germs. When he would come out to visit, he would play me these tapes and he’d play this guitar, and it wasn’t punk rock.
“It was kind of confusing, but we were friends. I was too young to be too set in my ways, so it was okay. He would come out and visit. His mother was in Oakland at that time, going to school. He would go and visit her for a while, and he would stay with me, and he became friends with Eléa. She was a mutual friend. I’m pretty sure they had already known each other. But they became friends and started seeing each other on his visits here. Then they had this great love affair by mail, mailed a million letters back and forth. Denver this whole time was in Maine, playing guitar and taking LSD in the woods and, basically, changing. Which, now that I think about it, is exactly what I was doing here. But which was pretty unfathomable for either of us to be doing, in terms of where we’d been coming from a year or so before. But you’re a teenager, and your life changes completely very quickly.
“He would come out and visit and hang out with Eléa. They were in love, and Eléa and Tommy Baccom and Jason Brazil got in Jason’s little Honda car and drove to Maine and picked him up. Tommy had pneumonia and coughed nonstop the entire time except when he was smoking a cigarette. They went and got Denver; he drove all the way back with them to live with Eléa in her parents’ place. But her parents didn’t know it, so he would climb up the balcony every night. I mean, he completed his high school education by correspondence from Eléa’s house, where he didn’t live but he would climb up the balcony every night.
“And eventually it just kind of became known. Like, he was in the bathroom or the kitchen more and more until they kind of figured out he lived there, and it was okay. Nothing was ever vocalized, as far as I know. So he officially lived there, and he played his guitar, and I played guitar. We were pretty close. At this point in time I became really close friends with Matt Connelly, whom we’d hung out with before. I was in contact with Denver a lot. But mostly he hung out with Eléa and grew marijuana plants and mushrooms on the roof and played his guitar and listened to more Jimi Hendrix.
“We’d get together, and we’d always talked about playing some music, but we didn’t have bands, and then we had bands and they were insecure. We just never got it together.”
“You were in high school?” I asked. Voiles told me: “This was post–high school. We left high school very early. I was about 16 when I left high school. I was living with my folks in Lemon Grove. Denver and I talked about things but didn’t really spend that much time together, musically or on a friendship level, mostly because he was just hanging out with Eléa. They were very close and very much in love. And I moved away and went through my whole trauma of leaving home and wound up, somehow, in North County.
“I had some friends who’d moved to Encinitas from downtown San Diego, and I’d gone to a party at their new place and they had said, casually, ‘Come by anytime.’ And then I went and freaked out and left town and came back and wanted to be anywhere except my folks’. I remembered these friends who had so casually said, ‘Come by anytime,’ so I came by. And got drunk and passed out on the couch. The next night I got drunk and passed out on the couch. I kept doing this until they finally said, ‘Well, if you’re gonna sleep here every night, you may as well be a roommate and pay rent.’ Okay. So I did that, and that was Heather Owen and Chris Moore and Lia Friedman. And I wound up seeing Lia, and, uh…Denver and Eléa broke up.