Halloween weekend is always a great time to go to a show. Costumes and rock music go together like too-much-candy and diabetes. If you don’t have plans yet, here are a few of our tops picks.
Hot Congress Halloween Show (10/29 at Skylark): Just a glance at the lineup for this show was more than enough to convince me to go. From Lil’ Slugger to Hindershot (and everyone in-between), it’s sure to be a wild one.
Elf Power, Mike Marchant, Paean (10/30 at Larimer Lounge): Colorado has been a hot spot for Elephant 6 bands lately. In the past weeks Of Montreal and Apples In Stereo both came through, while Elf Power will be here on Saturday (with openers Paean, Mike Marchant, and Faceman.
Devotchka and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake (10/29 and 10/30 at Boulder Theater): It would be difficult to imagine a local-only lineup better than this one. If you’re up for the trek to Boulder (and paying a pretty penny), there’s no better way to celebrate Halloween than with Devotchka.
Other concerts of note: Ween (10/31 at FirstBank Center), Woodsman (10/29 at Hi-Dive with No Joy | 10/30 at Meadowlark with Gauntlet Hair and others), Electric Six (10/29 at Larimer Lounge). Update: Electric Six has been canceled due to a family emergency.
It’s time, once again, for a concert calendar update. This time will be a special all New Year’s Eve update with a few of our top picks for your December 31st. A quick note: events sell out, so please check with the venues prior to going out.
Paper Bird & These United States: Hi-Dive, $20. Probably the top pick for our tastes (as well as users over at Gigbot, where you can see just about every show that’s going on in Denver). Paper Bird is some of the best bluegrass out there and These United States are redefining what it is to be an American rock band.
DeVotchKa & Gregory Alan Isakov: Mercury Cafe, $47. The intimate upstairs dancehall at the Mercury Cafe is the kind of place that looks like a movie. Lights, music, and dancing. There are fewer better ways to ring in the New Year.
The Knew & Brothers O’Hair (and others): Larimer Lounge, $10. For the patron who does not want to spend all of their money on entry to a show (and maybe have a little to get some champagne), there’s up-and-comers The Knew with Faceman and Brothers O’Hair.
STS9: Wells Fargo Theater, $65. I put this one on here because we’re going to the December 30th night of their stay-over in Denver. For fans of electronic and dance-beat music, this should be a hot ticket.
Drag The River & Motorhome: Road 34, Fort Collins, $8. For those seeking some fine alt-country with their festivities, consider Fort Collins’ own Drag The River, a band now legendary on the scene.
The Fray’s Isaac Slade // Photo by Tim Weilert
So here it is. After 2 incredible days (both incredibly musical and long), it’s time to look back on what stood out at this year’s Mile High Music Festival.
From the first set I saw, I knew it was going to be a good day. Gregory Alan Isakov was a nice way to start, a sort of maudlin Bob Dylan, with a classy approach to playing music. The good vibes kept going as I went to see Rob Drabkin play his funky brand of pop-music. I got to see most of Matt Nathanson‘s set, although I missed “Car Crash” (he played it as I walked away). I took a bit of a break to interview Big Head Todd and the Monsters, then it was time to catch the end of the Gomez set (the few songs I saw were quite enjoyable). After talking with Rob Drabkin, I caught some of Ani Difranco‘s politically-charged brand of folk music. After taking a break for some much needed shade and water, I set off to see Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and was thoroughly impressed with the solid rock music I heard there.
The rest of the day was a bit frantic. After interviewing Dead Confederate, I rushed to catch up with the photographers for the Incubus set. I enjoyed hearing “Megalomaniac,” and I thought their cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was the best way any band could end a set. I snuck away from Incubus for a quick listen at G. Love and Special Sauce, and I thought his hip-hop inspired alternative rock sound played well with the mood that afternoon. The lighting for photography was excellent as the sun set and Ben Harper and Relentless7 took the stage (anyone who can play lap steel that well has my respect).
I caught some of The Black Keys, although not enough to really get a grasp for their sound. Tool was interesting. I’m glad to say I’ve seen them (as are most of the people who were there), I was simply not a fan of their photo policy. Sure, they haven’t played a show in a few years, and this was a big event, but a little more humility would have gone a long way. Other than that, it certainly was trippy (the audio/visual experience was really indescribable).
Widespread Panic was definitely a good way to end the night. The down to earth, organic sounds those “old guys” made were simply mind-blowing. I doubt I have ever seen such amazing musicianship. Their set, however, was at the end of what was a very long day. So I stayed as long as I could, but soon had to head home to rest up for day 2.
If I thought Saturday was packed, I didn’t even see Sunday coming. Straight out of the gates I saw alterna-rockers Strange Condition (first time I saw them play since opening for Love.45 4 or 5 years ago). It was a little too rowdy for a Sunday morning. Paper Bird was definitely what I was looking for. Self described as makers of “joyful” music, I was certainly feeling good listening to their beautiful harmonies and folk instruments. Honeyhoney was also a nice surprise, although I must say that they should consider picking up a few more band members, it would make for a better live set.
I listened to the first part of Jack’s Mannequin and they played the 3 songs of theirs I really like, so I was content with it. From contentment to utter amazement, my demeanour changed as I watched Dead Confederate unleash a wave of sound. Their grunge-tinged southern rock was what really woke me up that day. I proceeded to see Jet play through a number of catchy tunes, and I stuck around just long enough to hear “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” I took some time off to recharge my batteries (both electrically and phyically), and do an interview with Paper Bird. I wandered a bit, catching some of Gogol Bordello, then headed off to see Buddy Guy.
It’s not every day that you can say you saw a blues legend. Buddy Guy certainly held up his reputation as he interwove raspy vocals with blues guitar. He was incredibly animated as he sang songs that unfolded more like stories from a book. I left a little early so I could catch DeVotcKa play some of their gypsy-inspired folk music. I found their use of theremin to be absolutely charming. Up next was the sexy, smooth dance beats of Thievery Corporation (I stayed long enough to hear “Lebanese Blonde” then I was off again. I tried to get in to 3Oh!3, but it was simply too packed. I ended up at Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and once again was impressed by the steel guitar. At this point I took another break to hydrate and prepare for the barrage that was the rest of the day.
I briefly saw Matisyahu and Gov’t Mule before ending up at Pepper. The storm clouds by this point were looking rather ominous, everyone was praying for the storm to pass. Pepper began to play, the wind picked up and the crowd rocked out. Fortunately the storm quickly turned south and there was no serious rainfall. Finally it was time for The Fray. Going in to the festival weekend I had my doubts about this group. My presumptions quickly faded away as they took the stage. Not only were they right-on music-wise, but also visually. Their set (which I believe they bought from U2) was absolutely stunning, with lights matching the mood of the music incredibly well. As The Fray finished up I decided to head home (I opted to skip Widespread Panic’s Sunday set, since I was simply exhausted and had seen them the night before).
So what’s the takeaway? Denver is a music city, with some rather eclectic tastes. It makes sense that the Mile High Music Festival would have the lineup it had, because it reflects well on the city’s roots. Throughout the entire weekend, the experience was colorful and uniquely Coloradoan.
Tomorrow I’ll do a formal write-up and begin posting interviews (I talked with Paper Bird today)
All photos by Tim Weilert
This is a collaborative article, it’s the work of Jake, Spencer and myself.
Top Ten Mainstream Albums
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Although a debut album, the Fleet Foxes sound more mature and together on their self-titled release than most bands ever sound. Harmonically, the band sounds almost immaculate. They create an ethereal mood which is hard to lose after listening to the album. Although lyrically straightforward, the music is the important part of this album and it is executed astonishingly well. Listen to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “He Doesn’t Know Why.” -JR
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The New York indie scene broke out nationally this year, and leading the wave was Vampire Weekend. Their sweater-vested semi-classical approach to music is infused with African drum beats and subtle pop-culture references. Catchy melodies and lyrics match the equally well orchestrated instruments on VW’s first album. Listen to “Mansard Roof,” “A-Punk,” and “I Stand Corrected.” -TW
3. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords
It’s not often that a comedy album makes the top ten albums list for a year, but Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is more than your average comedy album. The first release from the New Zealand duo is satirical and sarcastic in every sense; even the music mocks popular styles. The songs are simultaneously well-produced musically and hilarious lyrically. Listen to “Think About It,” “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” and “Business Time.” -JR
4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
Innovation occurs when risks are taken. Kanye’s newest record does not pick up where 2007′s Graduation left off, but instead cuts a new track. Markedly simpler in production, 808s relies heavily on three things: drum machines, lyrics, and auto-tune. This move produced one of the most honest sounding hip-hop records released last year. Listen to “Paranoid,” “Street Lights,” and “RoboCop.” -TW
5. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
A mark of a great song is when the same melody from it can be repeatedly played without losing interest. Death Cab for Cutie tested this theory multiple occasions on this album and proved it true. Although being deceptively simple, many songs from this album have the potential to stay around for years. With a superb blend of light vocals and mixed instruments, this album will not soon be forgotten. Listen to “Cath…” and “No Sunlight.” -SN
6. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
In their newest album, TV On The Radio brilliantly uses drum loops and deep, eerie lyrics to present an interesting and fun record. Dear Science is at times chaotic, at times somber, and at times full of grandiose beauty. At all times, however, it is intelligent, entertaining, and deeply poignant. Listen to “Lover’s Day,” “Golden Age,” and “Halfway Home.” -JR
7. Anberlin – New Surrender
Shifting into a more mainstream sound has not stopped Anberlin from continuing their stream of catchy lyrics and melodies. Despite a deeper dependence on a synthesizer, Anberlin’s music continues to be driven by fast guitars and unforgettable lyrics. Listen to “Breaking” and “Haight St.” -SN
8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends)
Hailed as the new U2, Coldplay shot to stardom unflinchingly with their previous albums. Holding up under the intense expectations of fans and critics alike, Viva la Vida portrays Coldplay’s classic sound in some songs, while musically progressing in others. Listen to “Lost!” and “Violet Hill.” -SN
9. Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns
Snow Patrol combines a fast-paced alternative rock sound with simple melodies and song structures for a relaxing album. With an unusual singing style that varies through the album, A Hundred Million Suns keeps originality close to its core. Listen to “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It” and “Disaster Button.” Â-SN
10. I Hate Kate – Embrace The Curse
This record mixes 80′s new wave with modern pop to produce an enjoyable listening experience. Perhaps one of the best parts of this album is that there is definite ebb and flow; not every song sounds the same. Listen to “Bed of Black Roses,” “It’s You,” and “I’m In Love With A Sociopath.” -TW
Albums You Should Know
1. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
With a strong string section composed of a violin and a cello, Ra Ra Riot’s quick yet relaxed sound is excellent for studying, but is also upbeat enough to dance to. With a perfect blend of all instruments, they skillfully move from songs reminiscent of the Beatles to an 80′s style synthesis-driven song to a Kate Bush cover written in waltz time. The phenomenal chemistry of the band is well represented by all aspects of the album. Listen to “Dying is Fine” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival.” -SN
2. Sigur Rós -Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Beautiful and unique soundscapes fill Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s newest release. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto voice at times soars above the background music in a piercing and intense way. Other times, he matches the tone and intensity of the sound he is singing with, creating some of the most ethereal and stunning sounds being produced by any band today. Listen to “Gobbledigook,” “ViÃ° spilum endalaust,” and “SuÃ° í eyrum.” -JR
3. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg & Curse
Realization, raw vocals, and silvery-sounding guitars fill this record. Lyrically reminiscent of the epic poems, it maintains timeless ideas about the frailty of humanity and the fleeting nature of temptation. Musically, singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s intense delivery matches the well-produced instrumentation. Even with a few exceptionally strong tracks, this album should be taken as a whole. Listen to “Moses of the South,” “A Siren,” and “What Will Come of Us?” -TW
4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
In their 16th album, The Mountain Goats continue to impress with deep and touching lyrics, complimented with equally touching melodies. Lead singer John Darnielle’s vocal skills, which allow him to move from a warbled, but pure, quiet to a confident, and sometimes angry, crescendo, drive the album. However, brilliant guitar and drum playing accent the music more readily in any previous Mountain Goats releases. Listen to “San Bernadino,” “Heretic Pride,” and “So Desperate.” Â-JR
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
After a four year hiatus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds returned in 2008 with their 14th studio album. In it, the band seems to forget that twenty-year-old groups are supposed to put out predictable albums, instead producing what may be their most exciting release to date. Lead singer Cave sounds like any punk rock frontman should – full of swagger and an attitude which compliments the driving bass and drum beats. Listen to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” “Albert Goes West,” and “We Call Upon the Author.” -JR
6. Nada Surf – Lucky
Nada Surf is one of those bands that has been around for over 10 years and has not released a bad record. Lucky showcases a more mature and developed sound with beautiful melodies and bright lyrics. Listen to “Whose Authority,” “Weightless,” and “Are You Lightning?” -TW
7. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
If My Morning Jacket wanted to make an album which was easily pigeon-holed, they wouldn’t have made Evil Urges. They spend time flirting with psychedelic hippie rock, play with folk roots, and throw in some late-80s electronica. However, each song is without genre, and distinctly My Morning Jacket. Listen to “I’m Amazed,” “Evil Urges,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts. 1 & 2.” -JR
8. The New Frontiers – Mending
A bold mix of indie-pop and alt-country, the only full length release of the now-disbanded New Frontiers is a monument to their musical prowess. Mending covers a broad range of emotions and poses deep questions. Listen to “Black Lungs,” “This Is My Home,” and “Who Will Give Us Love?” -TW
9. We Shot The Moon – Fear And Love
Formed in the wake of Waking Ashland’s breakup in 2007, We Shot the Moon managed to produce a well-put together album within a year. The piano-based songs are well-balanced with their lyrical style. Uplifting and upbeat, their songs leave the listener feeling quite positive. Listen to “LTFP” and “Julie.” -SN
10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
The ’59 Sound channels the classic sound of Bruce Springsteen while adding straightforward punk sensibility and style. This record inspires a certain sense of nostalgia with enjoyable and danceable tunes. Listen to “Old White Lincoln,” “The ’59 Sound,” and “Miles Davis & The Cool.” -TW
Local Releases of Note
3OH!3 – Want
In an innovative fusion of rap and techno, these two white guys from Boulder certainly have gained massive popularity across Colorado. Selling out their highly energetic shows quickly, 3OH!3 has developed a large fan base in this state. Their album goes from one dance-worthy song to another with impossible to forget melodies. Listen to “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “Starstrukk.” -SN
Fear Before – Fear Before
Hardcore music has never been more accessible than with Fear Before’s newest release. Opting to focus more on melody and lyrics instead of sheer heavy sounds, this record is enjoyable even outside of a mosh pit. Listen to “Treeman” and “Review Our Lives (Epic).” -TW
DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling
DeVotchKa, the Denver band made famous by their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, continues to use unique instrumentation and imitate unique music styles very effectively in their newest album. They incorporate Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican, and American music in a unique and interesting way. Listen to “Basso Profundo” and “Along the Way.” -JR