Steve Faulkner and I met via my Blog site as a result of Steve searching for the Eighth Infinity night club seeking some historical information. I learned that Steve was the drummer for a late 1960’s group called “Umbra”.
Between our emails and a face-to-face get together at a local Starbucks, I obtained the following information from Steve. We were joined by my friend and former drummer from the 1960’s – Larry Higgins. As I continue to learn, musicians in a town the size of Denver often cross paths and share similar experiences, playing at the same venues, meeting other musicians and on it goes.
An early stop on Steve’s musical journey occurred in the late 1960’s when Steve performed in nearby Manitou Springs a suburb of Colorado Springs working as a drummer for a group called “The Dukes”.
Umbra was founded in 1969 and continued to solidify into 1970. Steve describes Umbra as “a progressive, psychedelic, jam group”. I had the privilege of listening to the band’s “garage” recordings from that period and have to say this was a very diverse and talented ensemble. Steve recalled that the tracks were put down on a 4 track and a 2 track recorder and recorded at a band member’s home.
Most of the band members were from local Denver area high schools with the exception of Nick Melliadis who came from New York. Steve attended South High School which wasn’t a good fit for him back then. “I didn’t care much for high school so I dropped out to pursue my music.” It was a decision that worked very well for Steve. He did achieve his GED, but more importantly acquired a rich and deep education in music with his adventures from Umbra up to the present day.
The name “Umbra” was selected by the band while perusing the dictionary – an exercise common with bands back then (and maybe even now). “Umbra translates to “shadow on moon”, stated Steve. “We wanted a name that was short, mysterious, easy to remember, and sounded cool.”
The original group was comprised of Steve on drums, Eric Frazee on lead guitar, Terry Lewis on bass. They were joined a little later on by twin brothers Gary and Larry Mann. Larry left in 1971. Nick Melliadis (alias “Nick Stoner”) joined Umbra later that year. Nick played guitar, harmonica, and sang lead vocals with Gary. Gary would leave in late 1974 or early 1975.
Denver Venues for Umbra
The band would work at many local venues including The Rest of the Week, The House of Draught, Sam’s on Lookout Mountain, Tulagi’s in nearby Boulder, Colorado, the Eighth Infinity at 1st and Broadway, the Rathskellar (which was recently destroyed by a fire) and more. “We appeared often at the Eighth Infinity”, Faulkner recalled. He continued, “We were literally the last band to perform at the Exodus in downtown Denver.” Steve explains that after the band had wrapped up their set, and were outside loading up their musical gear, the Denver police converged on the Exodus, stormed the entry and promptly locked the doors.
The Exodus was apparently delinquent in city tax or fee payments and were thus shut down, never to open their doors again.