Part 1: Zombie Death Polka

Quick: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, "zombie death polka?”

To Clay Rose, manager of the Boulder-based band The Widow's Bane, those three words connect to a concept that's been cultivated over time. 

"I think a more accurate description would be to just call it world music," he said. And he would know. Rose also heads up Gasoline Lollipops, a Boulder-based rockabilly band.

"The story [of The Widow's Bane] is based on the idea that this ship has been sailing around for the world for 300,00 years," Rose said. "And as it docks in different ports, it picks up pieces of those cultures. If you really listen to the music, you can hear the Irish influences, the Latin influences and the Creole influences as well."

That last part is probably why Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon collaborated effortlessly with The Widow’s Bane on Wicked Bayou.

But it wasn’t the only reason. Ammon always waxes poetic about his comrade and co-developer in the 2018-2019 season opener. “He’s such a great musician, and an even better guy,” said Ammon.

After tossing the idea of collaborating on a ballet around a few times, Ammon and Rose finally got together at the old Wonderbound studio to work it out. They began with the story Gov. Mortimer Leach, lead singer of The Widow’s Bane, wrote for the song “Old Bayou.” One meeting flowed into another, and they fleshed out the concept for the stage, discovering new characters and building in a coming-of-age romance.

Although this isn’t the first time The Widow’s Bane has made music meant for dancing, it’s definitely a little different than before. “There is a belly dancer who The Widow’s Bane has arranged pieces specially for,” said Rose, “but nothing like this.”

This is the Wicked Bayou, the dark and foreboding space that is often used to scare little ones into good behavior. Where innocent jubilance is reduced to utter despair. Where Creole meets Cajun and the darkness meets the water.

Wonderbound in Garrett Ammon’s  Wicked Bayou  with The Widow’s Bane. Photo by  Amanda Tipton . 2018.

Wonderbound in Garrett Ammon’s Wicked Bayou with The Widow’s Bane. Photo by Amanda Tipton. 2018.


Get your tickets here:

Saturday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 21 at 2:00 p.m.

PACE Center
Parker Arts, Culture & Events
20000 Pikes Peak Avenue
Parker, CO 80138

Buy your tickets to these performances here.

Friday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 28 at 2:00 p.m.

Performing Arts Complex
at Pinnacle Charter School
1001 W. 84th Avenue
Denver, CO 80260

Buy your tickets to these performances here.

Gov. Mortimer Leech of The Widow’s Bane

That same despair—that same darkness—is ever present in The Widow’s Bane sound. Rose would venture to even call that sound, “Gothic Appalachian Klezmer,” hinting at the Eastern European undertones and heavy instrumental displays. But really, genres aside, so many of The Widow’s Bane tunes tell a tale all their own—starting with their titles.

With tracks like, “Skeleton Cage,” and the aptly named, “Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Death,” for which their second album is titled, it’s pretty easy to see their sound. Like so many folk songs, the pain is palpable, the tears are tangible and the joy is felt by all who dare to listen.

The same can be said about the score by The Widow’s Bane for Wicked Bayou.

Listen to “Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Death” here.

Next week, we’ll delve into the deep waters of the Old Bayou, and chat with Gov. Mortimer Leech, the lead singer of The Widow’s Bane.