Oh the subjectivity! Trying to decide on my favorite shows from the last few years is truly a difficult proposition. For this post I’m just going to talk about shows that were not a part of bigger festivals. These shows serve as a sampling of events that had such an impact that I can still remember them today.
Hot IQs – Farewell show at The Bluebird – June 19, 2009: The first Denver band I ever got in to was Hot IQs. I would listen to them on KCSU in Fort Collins when I was in high school. I saw them a few times before their farewell show, and every time was something special. Their at-capacity grand finale at the Bluebird was no exception: burlesque dancers, a Cookie Monster costume, and some of the catchiest pop-rock this city has ever known.
Hot Congress Prevue – Patrick Kelly’s Apartment – October 16, 2009: Pulling up to the ill-kept apartment building on Pearl St. had me second-guessing my choice to go downtown until I got inside and experienced the wild house party thrown by Hot Congress. That night introduced me to a bunch of great acts: Old Radio (now Amazing Twin), Night of Joy, the Jim Jims, and Fissure Mystic.
Everything Absent or Distorted – Farewell show at the Bluebird – October 24, 2009: I cannot remember a more raucous, energetic, and ultimately melancholy show than EAoD’s last big gig. Playing through every song they had ever written (and then some), the 11+ members of EAoD kept going until nearly 3 am.
Brand New – The Fillmore – January 30, 2010: Another throw back to my high school years, Brand New has always had a special place in my music library. As I grew up my tastes changed and Brand New changed along with them. No longer an emo-troupe, they brought their newer style of manic Lonesome Crowded West-inspired music to the Fillmore in a set that celebrated the new while appreciating the old.
Tjutjuna & Fissure Mystic – 7″ Split release at Meadowlark – February 5, 2010: Apart from Dick Dale (king of the surf guitar), the loudest show I have ever been to was Tjutjuna at the Meadowlark. With Woodsman and Fissure Mystic opening, it was certainly a night of intense psych the likes of which I have seldom seen replicated.
Julian Lynch – The Low Key – May 20, 2010: On an unassuming street in north Fort Collins sat a rather normal looking house. This was no ordinary house, it was the residence of Matt Sage who had dubbed it “The Lowkey.” During his time there Matt hosted shows for the underground and experimental alike. I happened to be in Ft. Collins one summer when Julian Lynch came through for a set of experimental tunes. I still remember sitting in that basement taking in the sound and color.
Denver Does Denver 2010 – August 28, 2010: It was fitting that my return from Chicago was marked by a showcase of Denver music and art. Hearing Safe Boating is No Accident take on Pee Pee, Pink Hawks doing Bad Weather California, and the Flobots performing Hot IQs made this an unforgettable event.
Sufjan Stevens – The Paramount – November 2, 2010: Last fall was undoubtedly the hardest academic semester I ever undertook. This had me feeling down on most things, concerts included. Fortunately I was lifted out of my funk by the prolific Sufjan Stevens. This performance helped me realize how magnificent The Age of Adz really is.
Hello Kavita – Farewell show at the Hi-Dive – December 28, 2010: Of all the times I saw Hello Kavita, this one was my favorite. Not only did Roger, Roll open (it was their farewell show too), but Hello Kavita played one of the fullest sets I can recall. From old and new originals, to Steely Dan covers, and a mash-up of “Colorado” with Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” it was Hello Kavita at their best.
Bad Weather California – Rhinoceropolis – February 18, 2011: I will close with this show, because it stands as a harbinger of things to come. While I only went to the Rhinoceropolis a few times during the life of SLS, I was always impressed by the nature of the place: it is a venue that encourages innovation. Bad Weather California has played the warehouse space more times than most, and as the group prepares for the release of their new full-length I can’t help but wonder where they’ll go and what kind of audience they’ll reach.
I normally don’t do shows on Monday nights, this show at the Hi-Dive a couple weeks ago was a special circumstance. Reading Rainbow was in town from Philadelphia, M. Pyres came down from Fort Collins, and I finally had a chance to catch the newest BPG band SAUNA. Highlights from the evening included an energetic rendition of SAUNA’s “Croctopus,” Matt Sage’s baritone guitar, and the few songs I stuck around for from Reading Rainbow.
I was honestly a little surprised at the crowd that showed up for a show just a week before Christmas. However, when considering that it was the last time anyone would be seeing Hello Kavita and Roger, Roll live, the cozy atmosphere at the Hi-Dive made sense. Both of those groups played stellar sets filled with old and new favorites, songs that helped shape music in Denver for several years. Sarah Slaton opened the night and blew me away with her beautiful rendition of “The First Noel.”
Friday night found me at the Hi-Dive for an all-local lineup featuring Joshua Novak, Kissing Party, and Candy Claws.
It seems like every time I see Candy Claws their set changes. This time the group worked from a well-timed backing track that was roughly matched with psychedelic projector visuals.
Kissing Party brought a more 80′s-punk sound to the stage (in addition to some of the thickest fog I’ve ever seen/inhaled). After my coughing subsided, I enjoyed the set from a safer distance.
Joshua Novak was in full form as he played with a backing band consisting of several prominent local musicians (including Patrick and Tiffany Meese of The Centennial).
Saturday night was a night for dancing. The Hi-Dive was abuzz with concert-goers all eager to enjoy the highly anticipated lineup which had resulted in a sold-out show. Tommy Metz (aka iungliss) opened up with a set of dub-inspired electronic beats and sung melody. I personally found his music to be decent, but wasn’t really feeling it because the stage-space was entirely unlit (it was like a cave in there! Thus, there are no photos of Tommy Metz).
Fortunately for me (and several other photographers there) the lights were a little brighter for local buzz-band Tennis. Despite playing with a slight cold, singer Alaina Moore kept things soulful with a voice reminiscent of some female-greats from eras gone-by. While the trio’s surf/sail-inspired sound stood out from the predominantly electronic-dance-band atmosphere, it was clear that Tennis is excellent dance music. Their sound is classic; something which transcends generations. Moving along to “Marathon” and “South Carolina” had me convinced that this group is definitely deserving of the attention they have garnered in the past few months.
While Tennis may have been a major draw, Portland’s STRFKR was the group everyone was there to see. The packed-out space was uncomfortably hot and full, but that didn’t matter- everyone was there to dance. Given that this was my first real exposure to STRFKR, I can tell why the show sold-out: they make some damn catchy music.
The highlight of their set came in the form of “Reynold Gregory Erikson the Second,” a tune driven by a catchy guitar part and great beat. Time flew by as each subsequent dance-number came and went. Before we knew it, the set was over and there was (unfortunately) no encore. However, everyone in attendance still left in good spirits.
I remember first hearing about Casiotone For The Painfully Alone shortly after the 2009 UMS. Recording enthusiast and friend of the blog Lance Stack invited me along to a CFTPA set that took place a couple days after my marathon weekend in the Baker neighborhood. While I never did make it down for that show, I did manage to catch CFTPA this past weekend as Owen Ashworth played his last Denver set.
I Am The Dot opened the night with a fully-live lineup featuring Eric Peterson (of Old Radio, Roger; Roll and Houses) on drums. Despite having only practiced two times prior to the performance, Zach Tipton’s previously-laptop-based songs translated well with the help of live keyboard and drums.
Houston-based Young Mammals injected their unique style of energetic pop-rock into a show that was primarily dominated by rather-melancholy acts. There were certain points throughout their set where I picked up on some of the subtle surf and shoegaze influences (heavy reverb on the mics and sunny guitar tone reminded me of Real Estate).
Otuoto (pronounced “oh-two-oh-toe”), an Australian act with a hard-to-pronounce name provided the penultimate set of the evening. I can best describe their sound as “Casiotone, with girls.” The soft voices of the two female singers blended and played off of their synthesizers and guitar.
It was clear that Owen Ashworth was trying to give the crowd what they wanted; after all, he is retiring CFTPA after the current tour. Even from the first few songs he was taking requests and telling jokes. As someone not particularly familiar with CFTPA, I decided to stand on the edge of the crowd to just take everything in (also, it was ridiculously hot in the middle of the audience). The atmosphere was doubly somber as the hushed audience bid their heavyhearted performer adieu.
The Knew were in top form as they rocked the Hi-Dive on a Friday night. As a way of celebrating the release of their new 7″ EP Before It Ends, the Denver-based group shared a bill with two other “The” bands.
Kicking off the night was The Outfit, a local group with a heavy emphasis on guitar. Armed with three electric guitars and an energetic drummer to match, The Outfit did a great job of getting the crowd warmed up and moving.
It’s not very often that an opening act gets cheered on to do an encore. That is precisely what happened when The Knew (and other audience members) decided they hadn’t had enough of The Fling. Hailing from Long Beach, CA, The Fling brought their California-indie-rock sound to Colorado in a memorable set.
Never one to disappoint, The Knew made it clear that they were there to party (clearly indicated by their choice of Andrew WK as the house music). In what I can only describe as “the wildest set I’ve ever seen at Hi-Dive,” there was fog, lights, crowd-surfing, a pinata, and, of course, rock music to match. The Knew, always eager to perform new material, played two new songs they had written since finishing Before It Ends. By the end of the night the Hi-Dive was trashed and everyone went home happy.
There was a modest crowd at the Hi-Dive on Wednesday night as Minneapolis-based psych-rock bands Vampire Hands and Daughters of the Sun brought their unique styles of music to Denver. Local space-jam band Tjutjuna played the first set of the evening, followed by a strong performance from a personal favorite: Woodsman. Despite the marked similarities between all the bands on the lineup I didn’t feel like I was listening to the same thing four times in a row. Overall the evening was an enjoyable mixture of ambient sounds and surf-esque rhythm and tone.
Daughters of the Sun
Despite the fact that Young Coyotes have now played a handful of “final shows” over the last few months; Adam Halferty and Zach Tipton decided to come together at the Hi-Dive to showcase their respective side-projects and play once again as Young Coyotes.
Adam Halferty’s band American Tomahawk opened up the night and I was immediately intrigued. Wielding a guitar, rather than his normal drum kit, Halferty played through a solid set of reverb drenched pop songs with the help of his band (which consisted of members of another local group, The Photo Atlas).
Zach Tipton’s project I Am The Dot took the stage armed only with a laptop, two drums, a microphone, and a spiral of red light. Tipton, who has been steadily releasing EPs in a genre he has titled “Apocalypse Pop,” played a few new songs in addition to some of his more established tunes (“Love Song for Camus” was my personal favorite).
Adding to the eclectic nature of the show, hip-hop duo The Pirate Signal got the typically reserved Hi-Dive crowd dancing, moving, and “jigglin’.” MC Yonnas rapped about everything from going on Warped Tour to finding “Love in the time of Swine Flu” while DJ A-What kept the beats pumping.
For the final set of the night Young Coyotes shed their normal acoustic set-up to play an electric set. While this slight change didn’t really alter their sound, it certainly added a dynamic not previously seen. One of the highlights of the set was the song “Hammering,” a newer tune that has no official recording (and will likely remain un-released). Toward the end of the set it became obvious that both Halferty and Tipton were feeling the effects of playing two full sets that night. However, they still managed to end strong, leaving the crowd pleased as the night came to an end.
See a full gallery here.
We sat down with Denver-based progressive-pop-rockers Dualistics before their recent set at the Hi-Dive to talk about their background, plans, and influences. Also, they had a watermelon but no knife, so we didn’t get to eat any of it.