Archive for June, 2010
This year’s Westword Music Showcase was a balancing act between seeing groups we’d never seen before and old favorites. The day’s schedule put some of our favorite groups on during the same time-periods, as well as pitting groups we’d heard great things about against groups we knew to be spectacular. The solution we decided on was this: with a few exceptions, we’d spend no more than 25 minutes at a particular set, giving us time to rush to other shows going on at the same time and catch the end of their act. While we hated to leave some of our favorite acts early, we also got to see a good portion of Denver’s amazing music scene.
We started the day off at Bar Standard for Mike Marchant’s set. As always, the passionate playing of Marchant and the rest of his band was emotive and powerful. The group ended their set with a medley of songs. As always, Marchant’s much-vaunted songwriting ability and huge stage presence provided a great way to kick off the day.
Every Houses show seems to be exponentially better than their last, and we couldn’t resist sticking around the Bar Standard to catch the beginning of their act. Although the massive band was playing on a stage the size of a small apartment’s living room, their presence filled the whole of the venue. The venue filled up as Houses took the stage, and the group’s unique combination of indie and classic rock didn’t disappoint. Sadly, after we heard some of our favorite songs, we faced our first scheduling conflict of the day and left to see Achille Lauro.
This band has become much better live since last time we saw them. They easily filled up the huge space of the Curious Theatre and the on-stage banter between band members filled a void that was present in the past. Although we only caught the end of the set, we were happy to hear some of our favorite songs – “No Breaks” and “Friend’s War,” included in the mix.
Danielle Ate the Sandwich
Though we’ve seen Danielle countless times, with her being up next in the Curious, we couldn’t help but stay for a few of her songs. Charming as ever, Danielle was joined by her occasional bassist Dennis for what is always a treat. We heard a few delightful and quirky songs from her upcoming album Two Bedroom Apartment before leaving for the next act.
After the soothing and relaxed playing of Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Kinetix’s set at City Hall was auditory whiplash. Kinetix may be, musically, the polar opposite of every band we’d seen so far, but the passion and energy they played with easily allowed us to switch gears. While their style makes it temping to call them a jam band, Kinetix is much more than this – interesting and catchy hooks combined well with a powerful beat that got a packed crowd moving. This was the most exciting act we’d seen all day, and kept us going as the day wore on.
Next was Accordion Crimes at Sutra. An incredibly high-intensity band, Accordion Crime’s music matched the packed, hot, and sweaty atmosphere of Sutra. The group was extremely tight and blew us away with their musicality. Despite a few technical hic-ups, the show was very powerful and passionate.
The Curious Theatre was running a few minutes later than most of the other venues and we were lucky enough to catch the end of Ian Cooke’s set. Having seen Cooke’s solo set a few weeks ago at the D-Note, it was amazing to see how different he was with a full band. The full band provided a much fuller sound to the songs and gave a wholly different character. Songs that are beautiful from their simplicity in his solo act become beautiful from their exceptional orchestration in his full set. The two or three songs we saw from Cooke were enough to remind us of his incredible musical talent.
The 4:15-5:00 slot provided another tough choice – favorites Hello Kavita, Candy Claws and Astrophagus were playing, exceptional national act Neon Indian started at 4:30, and a number of great bands we’d not seen live were playing at the same time slot. While we wanted to get to as many of these bands as possible, we just couldn’t skip the exceptional band Hello Kavita at the Curious. Their set started off a bit disappointingly, their first song or two not being as clean as we’re used to. However, the band seemed to make a few adjustments as their act went on, and the relaxed pop sounds of the band filled the air of the Curious Theatre and made us remember why we like this band so much. Forced to move on to the next act after a few songs, we were very sad to have to miss the end of Hello Kavita’s set.
Candy Claws’ almost indescribable music is a great treat, and we were happy to head to Vinyl to see their ethereal poppy set. The band seems extremely focused and professional when they perform, but the music they play has a tone of unbridled, child-like joy. The huge band barely fit on the stage they were put on, but they were still able to delight the audience. Their less-than-standard approach to pop music was a perfect preface to Neon Indian, playing on the main stage.
Neon Indian’s minimalistic psychedelic pop filled the air as we entered the main stage for the first time. While the large crowd enjoyed the music, Neon Indian isn’t fit for an outdoor stage. Too much of the group’s brilliant music was lost due to crowd noise and a lack of boundaries to contain it. Certain sounds, subtle and masterful in their recorded music, were overpowering in the outdoor stage. As such, we left after a few songs, heading indoors again.
Chain Gang of 1974
City Hall was packed for the super-intense music of Chain Gang of 1974. Both die-hard fans and newcomers filled the venue, dancing and screaming to the up-beat music of Kamtin Mohager and back-up musicians. Mohager is more of a rock star than anyone else in the Denver music scene, strutting around the stage like Keith Richards and filling the stage with an intense presence. More importantly, his intensity backs up his music, which is at times psychedelic, at times punk, and at times pop, but always dancy and powerful. This was quite the switch from the previous few groups we’d seen, but it was a welcome change and a great way to set the mood for the passionate performers we’d end our night with.
John Common and the Blinding Flashes of Light
With the Curious Theatre still running a bit late, we were able to catch the end of John Common and the Blinding Flashes of Light’s set. It was standing room only in the venue and the huge crowd wasn’t disappointed. The group lived up to its name, as their intensity of playing was almost disorienting. Although we only caught the last few songs the group played, we’re already looking forward to seeing them again when the UMS comes in July.
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
While the Curious was full for John Common, it seemed to overflow when Snake Rattle Rattle Snake took the stage. The group brought the crowd to its feet by halfway through its first song, and the band’s pounding dance rhythms kept the audience dancing the whole way through. While we had originally wanted to see some other groups playing at the 6:15 time slot, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake’s music kept us glue to their set (and had we wanted to leave, the massive crowd seemed un-navigable). Easily the highest-energy group of the day, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake was a great way to end the local portion of the showcase.
After seeing an incredible group of Denver musicians, Superchunk’s indie rock/punk playing seemed a bit lacking in intensity. Perhaps this was due to them being outdoors, but the group’s fabled energy didn’t seem to come across. Still, the music was excellent, and more than made up for their lack of intensity.
Finally, after a surprisingly short wait, the headliners come on the main stage. Ghostland Observatory is famed for their amazing light shows and huge stage presence, and their performance on Saturday showed how deserving of that fame they truly are. While their music was not our favorite style, the performance nevertheless made it a show worth going to. After a long day, only an exceptional show could have kept us interested – and Ghostland Observatory provided exactly what we needed.
“It’s a city holiday today, right?” said a young woman parking her car on S. Broadway Saturday morning. “It’s the Westword Music Showcase – we must be able to park for free!” That sort of passion for music and love for the Denver music scene was the highlight of the day. Each concert we’ve been to since last year’s Westword has seemed to be better than the last, and this year’s showcase was a culmination of the great music scene Denver continues to develop.
Check out The Flat Response for some great recordings from Saturday’s concert, including Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Dirty Projectors, Flashbulb Fires, and Superchunk. http://www.theflatresponse.com/
There are few things that make me happier than a good drive, good people, and good music. Fortunately for me I experienced all three when I was invited into the backyard of one Blake Zweig, a singer-songwriter whose tunes are as thought-provoking as they are soothing to the soul. Supported by cellist Seth Woods, the duo played in preparation of their upcoming east coast tour.
The sun was setting as lightning bugs began to flash and birds called out their last songs of the evening. It was, as it turns out, the second longest day of the year.
Bonus video (after the jump) (continue reading…)
There’s something unique about the midwest. Driving through Rock Island, IL a few weeks ago I was half tempted to track down the Daytrotter studio and sneak a peek at how they do what they do. What they do, of course, is record bands on analog tape in one take, then post the whole thing online as a free download.
Last week I decided to go for a drive. Taking a state highway to the south of Chicago, I drove through woods and small towns as the golden-orange sun set in the west. Over the radio the subtle sounds of the new Nathaniel Rateliff record drifted through the car. It was the perfect harmony.
It makes sense (at least to me) that Rateliff is one of the new sweethearts at Daytrotter. He recently toured as part of their Barnstormer concert series and today they released his encore session.
Furthermore, I agree with their assessment of Rateliff’s new album. “In Memory of Loss is a debut album that can destroy you – its beauty just too much to handle.”
Once upon a time there was a band called Hot IQs. They were probably my first exposure to local music, among other things. While on winter break freshman year (a few months before starting SLS) I happened to win tickets to their annual Christmas show (which was also celebrated the release of the Houndstooth 7″) from KCSU. Armed with a 3.2 megapixel camera (most cell phones have better cameras these days) I snapped these few photos then promptly forgot about them for a couple years.
Chain Gang of 1974
To see the full gallery click here.
Jake is covering the Westword Music Showcase this weekend and a bunch of my friends are also going. Furthermore, The UMS is releasing their finalized lineup some time soon. Basically this is my life:
On the positive side, I did go see Phish at Toyota Park (the kickoff to their summer tour) and I got the new Danielle Ate The Sandwich CD in the mail today… expect a review soon!
Waking up this morning I had some lyrics stuck in my head. “We are born gasping for air, and we die gasping for air.” That was pulled from the late Everything Absent or Distorted’s song “A Form to Accommodate the Mess” and it kept me company on the the crumbling, pothole filled roadway as I drove in to work.
A Form to Accommodate the Mess (via Fuel/Friends)
After 8 hours of silence at work I was ready to hear something good again. Enter: Night Beds. Arriving again at home I found yet another new mp3 from I Am The Dot in my inbox. Turns out that as friend-of-the-blog Zach Tipton was patching his way back to Denver (to do what? we all wonder…) when he recorded a collaboration with Night Beds, a band that calls both Nashville and Colorado Springs home.
Good Person (feat. I Am The Dot) (right click “save as” to download)
But it doesn’t end there. Night Beds also recently released an EP titled Every Fire; Every Joy. It is the kind of music that dances gracefully across the room. Soothing, not boring; reverb-laden tunes that are hopeful and thought-provoking in addition to simply being beautiful. Every Fire; Every Joy was the perfect soundtrack for a rainy evening.
This is the kind of news that fits perfectly with the new summer format! Rather than keeping their music confined to the basements and bars of the front range Woodsman and M. Pyres have decided to tour together throughout the last part of June.
Woodsman is already out on tour supporting their newest release Mystery Tape (out now on Lefse Records) and will continue touring after the “Take Me To The Moon” dates are through. M. Pyres will be bringing his band The Season Creeps along to play some new songs as well.
As a special treat we have two tracks from the forthcoming M. Pyres and the Season Creeps record Mountain Pacific available for download. Look for this new album in July on Patient Sounds.
June 17 – DC – house show
June 19 – NYC – 86 Guernesy
June 20 – MA – Copperworks
June 21 – PA – Cafe Metropolis
June 22 – OH – Believeland
June 23 – IL – TBA special show – Chicago (w/o Woodsman)
June 24 – IL – Box Social
June 25 – WI – Project Lodge
Today finds me 1000 miles away from Denver. While I will be unable to continue live show reviews for the Mile High City this summer, one of our other contributors, Jake Rezac, will take that helm. I will still occasionally make posts to do album reviews or show promotion. In fact, look for a couple of those types of posts in the next few days. In the mean time, enjoy this Kerouac’esqe poem I wrote during the course of my 33 hour marathon drive across America. -Tim
With our backs to the Pacific we set forth
To witness life in all its raw glory.
We did not know what we would discover
But what we found left us searching for more.
Brow to the road we drove on
Countless miles stretching across days.
In the calm silence of the canyons
Life was more than we had thought.
Love was more than a word.
Eyes fixed on the highway
I drove on to Chicago alone.