Mike Marchant, the man behind Widowers and The Outer Space Party Unit (in addition to playing guitar for Houses), is currently giving away his first three EPs as a “thank you” to fans. For the next few days Marchant’s solo work will be available for free through his bandcamp page (Marchant suggests putting a zero in the name-your-price box, also don’t worry about any threats of an obnoxious email list, he’s not a fan of such devices). News of this giveaway comes on the heels of Marchant’s announcement that he’s starting a new band:
I’m about to begin work on a full-length with a new band. I put an absurd amount of time into writing the songs, and am very excited to share them with you. Details (band name, members, etc) will come soon. Happy new year, and thanks again for listening.
While the overall tone of Marchant’s work is relatively cohesive, each EP explores different aspects of pop, folk, lo-fi, space, and electronic styles. In addition to the three EPs, a $1 release for the single “You Were A Runner” is also available through Marchant’s bandcamp. To give you a taste of this release, we’ve embedded it below.
It’s two days before Christmas and a gift has already arrived. Several months have passed since we last heard anything from the Houses camp, but today’s release of “Your Ghost” breaks that silence. The track, which will likely make an appearance on the group’s Winter EP, has a haunting piano matched with Andy Hamilton’s cool vocals. Take a listen below and visit the Houses Bandcamp page for a free download.
You may believe otherwise, but Houses has been hard at work on the Winter EP (the last of the four seasonally themed EPs) for nearly a year now. Somewhere between twenty and thirty songs have been tried, recorded, and shelved, but it’s finally beginning to take shape, ready for release in early 2011.
To assure you that we have in fact been hard at work, we release to you for free this nearly-finished version of “Your Ghost,” which is slated to make an appearance on the EP. Feel free to download, share, “like,” and otherwise enjoy and pass along this track.
Happy holidays from all of Houses. Come ring in the New Year with us at the Bluebird with Slim Cessna. Otherwise, we hope to see you at many shows next year.
Saturday began at the Goodwill stage with Houses. Having missed their set the previous night, I was excited to see them again. While it was certainly a worthwhile set, the previous night (and the illness which had broken out among certain Houses members) had an obvious affect on the band’s performance. Normally engaging and fun, this set seemed tired. With this slight disappointment and because we’d seen Houses so often, we headed across the street to Michelangelo’s Coffee & Wine Bar for Eleanor. An acoustic solo set, the music was fresh and relaxing. It coupled perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere of the venue, and was very enjoyable.
We continued on, next to Maudlin at Illiterate Magazine. This trio paired catchy hooks with wall-of-sound techniques for a very interesting combination. Though not a style we’d often heard, it was very enjoyable to listen to. After a brief dinner at the Walnut Room, where the sundry tones of Rob Drabkin filled the air, we continued on to Jim McTurnan and the Kids that Killed the Man. Among our favorite Denver bands, McTurnan and crew were as delightful as always on Saturday. The group’s interesting and powerful songs filled the Hi-Dive much to the delight of entertained fans.
Following McTurnan’s set, we couldn’t refuse seeing fellow-Golden residents, The Gromet. Bluesy, fun, and excited, it’s always fun to see this group. Their music matched well with the venue – The Irish Rover – and we enjoyed the 3 or 4 songs of theirs we stayed for. After the Gromet, we crossed the street to the Goodwill parking lot to see The Heyday. Always an enjoyable act to see, The Heday are certainly good at what they do. Next, we walked down to TS Board Shop for Seattle’s Tea Cozies. At first, the group intoxicated us with their charm. By the end of the 4 or 5 songs we heard them play, they had won us over with their talent and musicality.
Next, we went back to the Hi-Dive for Porlolo. Always a fun show, Porlolo certainly delivered on Saturday. Though it was their second set of the weekend, the energy Erin Roberts carries with her carried through at the Hi-Dive. After a few songs from the band, we were off to the Goodwill parking lot stage for Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. Driven by pounding beats from dual shockingly-in-sync percussionists, Snake combines dance rhythms with a walloping bass-line and passionate guitar playing and singing to great effect. The outdoor stage, however, wasn’t a great setting for this group which is more suited to a room overflowing with excited and sweaty people than a roomy, slightly cool parking lot. That aside, the set was excellent as always.
After a quick bite to eat, we entered a packed Hi-Dive to see Gregory Alan Isakov. We overheard a fan describing Isakov as “a combination of Leonard Cohen and Iron and Wine” before the show, and the performance lived up to that expectation. The music was powerful, while retaining its relaxed quality, and it was among our favorite sets of the night. Playing at the same time, at the Goodwill parking lot stage, were the Flobots. While the music the group plays is among my least favorite in the Denver (or national) scene, they certainly know how to put on a show. The parking lot was packed for the act and the audience hung on every movement of the 7-piece group. Their musicianship was more than quality and the set was a fun experience, despite my opinions on their music.
Next, we heard the end of the Radical Knitting Circle’s act at the Skylark – while not enough was heard to make a proper judgment, the group seemed interesting enough to take another look in the future. Next at the Skylark was Lubbock’s Thrift Store Cowboy. The group masterfully combined their Texas western roots with indie rock. Steel guitar was matched with traditional rock riffs and at-time haunting singing. A sound unlike anything I’d ever heard, we were surprised – very pleasantly – by the group.
Next, we continued on to the Hi-Dive for their last set of the night, The Widow’s Bane. We’d not heard of this Boulder-based group before Saturday night, but were excited to find out what they were all about. When a group, dressed as 1700s zombies came on stage, we knew seeing this set was a good idea. The group’s music was simultaneously Irish folk music and Tom Waits. The huge crowd enjoyed themselves greatly, and everyone in the Hi-Dive seemed to be dancing.
Finally, we returned to the Mayan Theater for the last set of the night – Ukulele Loki’s Gadabout Orchestra. The music was self-described “indie acoustic chamber pop,” but the act was more of a vaudeville show than anything. It included circus performers doing their acts to music, as well as singular music performances. While it was obvious that the act was very good and interesting, it was too laid back for 1:30am after a day of a music festival, and we left halfway through the act. The crowd was obviously not very into it either. It was a good idea, and a cool act, but should’ve been put at a different time.
Before I get to the question “How?” there’s the little matter of who to see at this year’s UMS. While this list is by no means a picking of “who’s hot and who’s not,” it might be useful for those not well versed in the Colorado music scene. This post covers the first two days, July 22-23.
THURSDAY, JULY 22
Act So Big Forest Showcase (Skylark, 7pm-12am): Featuring some of the best music that Fort Collins has to offer, the Act So Big Forest collective has their own showcase during the UMS. Swing by the Skylark any time on Thursday to catch the likes of Good Evening Titan, Paean, Sour Boy Bitter Girl, and Candy Claws. Roger, Roll will be closing out the evening’s showcase.
Hot White (3 Kings, 9pm): Don’t be surprised if somebody gets a beer thrown at them during Hot White’s set. The trio packs quite a punch and doesn’t take crap from anybody.
Ian Cooke Band (Hi-Dive, 11pm): The always enjoyable Ian Cooke will be playing a full band set. Hopefully he’ll play “Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme” or whatever that song is actually called.
Paper Bird (Hi-Dive, 11:55pm): Why not end the evening feeling joyful? Paper Bird takes on the Hi-Dive’s closing spot on Thursday but will also play a set at 7:30 pm on Friday at the Goodwill lot stage.
FRIDAY, JULY 23
A Mouthful of Thunder (TS Boardshop, 6:30pm): We haven’t actually had a chance to see Stephen Till’s newest musical project since Hearts of Palm broke up (and started playing again). However, hopes are high for what AMoT’s MySpace page dubs “Christian Rap/Punk/Regional Mexican.”
Action Packed Thrill Ride (Club 404, 7pm): Last time I saw Action Packed Thrill Ride my roommate got me really drunk. As I try to recall, it was pretty great; although the morning after was a bit rough. Maybe this time we’ll all be a little more sober (or maybe not?).
Kaiser Cartel (Hi-Dive, 8pm): I saw KaiserCartel a couple times during last year’s UMS. The Brooklyn-based duo is one of the few out-of-town acts playing, so be sure to catch this set.
Lil Slugger (Brown Barrel Tavern, 9pm): These guys are the only band I know that has their own series of comics. Also, a free full length album to download via Hot Congress.
11:55pm: Take Your Pick: Why do they always do this? There are definitely more than 4 bands I’d like to see all playing at the same time. Oh well, catch them if you can. Houses (Hi-Dive), Achille Lauro (Club 404), Fellow Citizens (Skylark), Young Coyotes (Irish Rover) and more.
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/
Last year, when SLS was still in its first stages, we got a big boost from local music journalist Dave Herrera at Westword when he asked me to nominate 20 bands for the 2009 showcase. A year has passed and once again I was asked to nominate 20 local bands that had made an impression on me. In the spirit of transparency, I’m going to list the bands I nominated. I decided to choose acts I had not previously nominated.
Be sure to check out these groups (even if a few didn’t make the final list) and vote for your favorites by clicking here.
In no particular order… Tim’s picks for the 2010 Westword Music Showcase:
Gregory Alan Isakov
John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light
Jim McTurnan & The Kids That Killed The Man
Last week, while I was kicking around Colorado catching up on some much needed R&R, some fellow Coloradans trekked down to South By Southwest (SXSW) for a wild week of parties and great music. Of all the coverage I’ve seen so far, here are some of the highlights. Expect another, similar post as soon as more people start posting their stuff.
They’ve got some entertaining videos posted, but specifically, this photo is awesome
They’ve got interviews, videos, and Snoop Dogg. It also appears that they might have more content on the way, so check back in the coming days.
Hey everyone, here are a few shows of note:
TONIGHT: Young Coyotes and Fiery Furnaces (Bluebird, 8pm). Rumored to be Young Coyotes last show, if you haven’t seen this dynamic duo yet this might be your last chance. While you’re at it, download our compilation, they’re on there with “When I Was In The Fire.”
December 4: Take, Candy Claws, & Old Radio (Lion’s Lair, 9pm). See Candy Claws live and in person (as opposed to their global internet tour). Also, Old Radio puts on quite an enjoyable show (not to mention this one is only $5, so don’t miss it). Celebrate National Cookie Day in style!
December 12: Hot Congress CD Release Show (Oriental, 8pm). A few weeks back we covered the Hot Congress Prevue Party and picked up a copy of their very first compilation. Well, now they’re giving it a proper celebration and release. Performing that night will be Achille Lauro, Vitamins, Fissure Mystic, and Action Packed Thrill Ride.
December 12: The Wheel with Houses, Bad Weather California, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Taun Taun and more! (Bluebird, 8pm). If there was ever a show that combined a bunch of my favorite local bands it would be this one. Unfortunately you’ll have to choose because it’s also on Dec. 12.
December 18: Flashbulb Fires CD Release Show (Hi-Dive, 10pm). We’ve got a full review of this group’s first full-length Glory coming next week and I can tell you that it is definitely worth checking out. Also playing that night: Danielle Ate The Sandwich.
December 31: Paper Bird & These United States New Year’s Party (Hi-Dive, 9pm). Ring in the New Year with a little bit Paper Bird’s brand of “joyful music.” Also rock out to the alt-indie goodness that is These United States.
Fall is upon us. The air is crisp, the trees are bare, and denizens of Denver have been basking in the Indian summer that has enveloped the city over the past few days.
Opening with the instrumental “Lightening,” the glockenspiel and sunny electric guitars of the past Houses EPs have been replaced with classical guitar and a string section. This, more matured, opener is a bit of a harbinger for what the rest of the record has in store. Fading out into tribal drums and layers of guitars and echo-y keyboards, “Down To The River” has some definite feel good 70′s rock sounds. In fact, the entire record sounds as though it came from a past decade; it has the same laid-back vibe that so much of my warm-toned, dusty vinyl record collection contains.
Moving from one 6-minute+ track into another, “Red Feather” had me convinced that Houses kidnapped Carlos Santana (or at least his guitar tech). Trying to identify where I had heard that tone before drove me a little crazy. The Eagles? Dire Straights? Kansas? Neil Young? Perhaps in little bits, but I definitely feel like they’re channeling Santana on this track.
The EP’s closer is “Black Hawk,” a 7-and-a-half minute musical roller coaster. Kinsey Hamilton’s soft vocals meld with the reverb to form a slowly building intro. From the rather-chill beginnings, the song ebbs and flows into a ruckus guitar-drenched climax, ending soon thereafter.
While Fall is certainly a great listen and it definitely showcases the more instrumental side of Houses. There are no sing-alongs on this album, and the guitar-driven jams don’t behave as politely as tracks on the past two EPs did. I was a little surprised to not hear “Rainy Day Parade” or “Scone (Hangman’s Noose),” since both of those tracks have seen a bit of live-play from the group as of late. Perhaps they might make an appearance on Winter…
Fall will be formally released this Saturday (November 14) at the Larimer Lounge with special guests Action Packed Thrill Ride! and The Knew. As a special treat we’ve got “Red Feather” here for your listening pleasure.
In a continuing effort to get you to actually listen to my recommendations, here are some more links to free and legal downloads of Colorado bands.
Albums and EPs
(only available until Nov. 15 for free)
Live Recordings (from The Flat Response)