Remembering Durango punk star Billy Pfalmer with tribute show at Ska

by DGO Web Administrator

The bulk of the punk bands that existed in mid- to late-1990s Durango were made up of teenagers. The Letdowns, the Quails, Hawaii 5-O and The Randibles all consisted of a dedicated and rowdy group of late teens or 20-somethings, reared on classic American Hardcore and influenced locally by showing up to see The Thirteen’s. A central figure within that scene and in those bands was Billy Pfalmer, a tall, lanky and charismatic kid oozing energy and rock ’n’ roll swagger, unaware of his own captivating stage presence that would make audience members – at times audience members with punk-rock resumes older than Pfalmer – take notice of his on-stage magnitude.

Pfalmer passed away 11 years ago. In remembrance of their friend, his old bandmates and buddies are hosting the second “Bill Phest.” Titled “Bill Phest II: The Reckoning,” the concert on Saturday at Ska Brewing will feature Pfalmer’s friends and old bands, including The Randibles, Hawaii 5-0, The Quails, and Busters Ghost.

The Randibles, Hawaii 5-0, and The Quails are all American punk rock and do-it-yourself in its most traditional definition, and Busters Ghost is a local Ska band led by Pflalmer’s old Dugouts bandmate Dan Szabo.

Along with the concert, funds are being raised for a memorial bench in Pfalmer’s name, a stand-the-test-of-time tribute to a dude who, in a short time, left a good mark on a portion of the Durango music scene.

My own time knowing Pfalmer is short and nothing compared to that of his friends. I was one of those older people who watched his band, The Dugouts, play at The Olde Schoolhouse in 2004. My lasting impression of Pfalmer is a sweet memory: I sat on the bar watching the band plow through a set in front of a packed and crazed house, at one point I was yelling in Dave Thibodeau from Ska Brewing’s ear about what a great frontman that dude was. He was doing so with a bold confidence. Backed by a great band, he screamed, he thrashed, he entertained.

Other bands followed. Described by friends as prolific, there was also Colorado Folk Revival and Red Herring. The guy got after it as far as throwing himself into whatever musical project he was working on.

“In terms of Bill’s assessment, not so much of being a frontman but being in a band in general, you had to show up and you had to rock,” said Szabo. “He really instilled that in everybody in the band. You have to show up ready to play. His energy was palpable to put it mildly; he was this fierce spirit. It oozed from every pore. It was rally time, for better and for worse. You went into everything full force.”

This will be a DIY punk show at its best. Organized by some friends who have since left Durango, it’s a coming together of people and bands that are unified by one common thing: Being Pfalmer’s friend.

“This show is important because it’s been 11 years since our friend died and we want to get together and remember him,” said event organizer and Randible drummer Noah Lyman. “We’re in a different stage of our lives now, one that Billy unfortunately didn’t get to see. Life’s a bitch; memory is fleeting, and we’ve lost plenty of good people even since Bill passed. This is our chance to honor our lost ones and remind ourselves that we bring them with us on our own journeys.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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