Monthly Archives: January 2010

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Lion’s Lair Art Shows: East Colfax finds Jesus, and he’s hangin’ at the Lair!

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Velvet Jesus - not the only interpretation you'll find of him on Colfax. (Photo: DenverThread)

Velvet Jesus - not the only interpretation you'll find of him on Colfax. (Photo: DenverThread)

Matthew Hunter is keeping his artful promises, and this time the results approach the sacred – and may come close to a little of the profane as well. Hunter promised himself recently that he would hold a cooperative art show in the Lion’s Lair, Denver’s  venerated punk rock dive, every other month into perpetuity, or for as long as he (and the community) could stand it – whichever comes first. In late October, Hunter curated a show at the Lair entitled “Night of the Living Barn,” wherein he encouraged a few artist friends of his to submit their interpretations of barn drawings. Participation was impressive, and there were over 20 pieces hung on the walls of the legendary dive bar, where they remained for more than a month. Hunter also arranged a rock show on opening night that featured two Denver roots rock bands, SlakJaw and The Denver City Salt Licks, and served corn on the cob appetizers. Drink specials, or – gasp – open bar? Nope – this was still the Lion’s Lair, not some Cherry Creek Gallery! The art proved it, too – the place was lined with pieces from many skills, some naive, some more accomplished – but all had an air of simplicity and grace.

This time around, for the second show, Hunter decided to curate a show on an appropriate theme for the Holidays: “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the original flyers called the show “Jesus F%&#in’ Christ Superstar,” which was just a tad more fitting for the bar’s nature and history). This time he got a few more contributors, many of them strangers, which is a great sign for future shows. Artists with pieces in this show included Pete Fly, Heba Junkin, Matthew Hunter, Chuck Cuthill, Annie May & Andy, and Brandy Darling (from 43rd Street Zoo Presents, and who also helped with this show). On opening night, backed by the tunes of local bands Dario Rosa and Bluebelle, the show sported over 20 medium to large sized pieces, as well as over 350 paper crosses – torn from bible pages – hung on the walls, and attracted a full house of supporters and fans.

Hell 101, by Matthew Hunter

Hell 101, by Matthew Hunter

Of course, a theme like that also promises controversy, and Hunter, and the Lair, did receive a fair share of complaints as to the show’s subject matter and timing. Specifically, there were complaints about crosses he had made from standard wood splints that he passed out to people attending the opening party. The price for owning one? Each person or group had to be willing to decorate the crosses as they wished, and leave them to hang in the bar. A few, not surprisingly, chose to decorate and hang their crosses upside down, which caused a few concerns, though the history of that particular position is largely misunderstood (those familiar with apocryphal church lore remembers, no doubt, that when St. Peter was crucified, he had his executioners hang him upside-down, believing he was unworthy to be hung in the same direction as Christ).

Colored Cross #3

Colored Cross #3

Colored Cross #2

Colored Cross #2

The show is anchored by an installation piece Hunter created himself of the life-sized crucifixion of a plaster-cast, androgynous figure, backed by hundreds of bible pages splayed as if exploding and spattered with red liquid. All the body parts are stitched somewhat crudely with red ribbon, which gives them the look of post-op stitching, soaked with blood. Off of each arm hang lengths of twine, giving the scene a decidedly Western and glam feel, somewhere between rigging holding together prairie fences and frill hanging from the sleeves of a leather coat Ozzie Osbourne might’ve worn in the early days of Black Sabbath.

“Each body part was cast from a different person, a different friend of mine,” explained Hunter as he introduced the piece to me. “I really wanted to make the figure, maybe of Jesus, androgynous. Not scary, just kinda ambiguous.”

Hunter’s main piece – all of the pieces in this small show, in fact – actually hover more towards sacred than profane, sacrilegious or even controversial, really, and none should be seen as offensive in the slightest. They are all deeply personal, political or sardonic interpretations of one of history’s most popular figures, and none of them are shallow enough to be merely provocative.

Matthew Hunter poses in front of his central installation. (Photo: DenverThread)

Matthew Hunter poses in front of his central installation. (Photo: DenverThread)

“I really wanted to make the figure, maybe of Jesus, androgynous. Not scary, just kinda ambiguous.”
– Matthew Hunter

The show will remain on display through most of February, after which Hunter and Lion’s Lair will begin preparations for the next show in March. That one, tentatively scheduled to open on the first Friday of the month, will be based on the novel “Watership Down.” Hunter is still taking submissions.

“All they need to do is be able to hang, and be here on time. The artists can sell any of it, and keep every cent.” said Hunter. “It takes us about a week to prepare and hang all the art, so maybe by the last weekend in February would be good. And you also have to be comfortable knowing some punk rocker might end up tearin’ it off the wall, possibly, too.”

Head out to Lion’s Lair soon to catch the “Jesus F$#@in’ Christ Superstar” show to get a taste of this long term project, though, before it all comes down. The way the shows are growing, even after only two, feels strong. You’ll want to be among those who can say you “ . . . saw ‘em when they were tiny!” Don’t you?

Watch this slideshow to get a deeper taste of the talent:

Colored Cross #3

Colored Cross #3

Colored Cross #3

Colored Cross #3

Matt Hunter and his installation

Matthew Hunter poses in front of his central installation. (Photo: DenverThread)

Colored Cross #2

Colored Cross #2

Hell 101

Hell 101, by Matthew Hunter

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus - not the only interpretation you'll find of him on Colfax. (Photo: DenverThread)


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Threading The Scene: The Inactivists spread their love straight into the heart of Denver

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“Bury your hatchet in me!
What else can a bygone be?”
Inactivists, “Why (Aren’t You (In Love (With Me)))”

The Inactivists are ready to soothe your broken heart, by showing you theirs. (Photo: The Inactivists)

The Inactivists are ready to soothe your broken heart, by showing you theirs. (Photo: The Inactivists)

As we round that corner of the year leading up to the sickening sweetness of another Hallmark-sponsored Valentine’s Day, I’ve been introduced to the perfect collection of songs to commemorate the “holiday,” complete with the appropriate level of irony, humor and lovelorn misgivings in The Inactivists‘ “Love Songs & Other Songs About Love,” released last year. So much more than merely a pile of rosy, soap opera schmaltz, this record, through The Inactivists’ sharp wit and sense of humor, represents probably the most honest revelation of love from the eyes of a constantly unrequited nerd (and let’s face it, all of us have been that, at one time or another), played by a band of Muppets that landed a daily gig in a bar inside David Lynch’s cranium.

The five piece plays an eclectic style of pop that defies any one genre, and deifies many. Sometimes it’s funk from Sly & the Family Stone – albeit often with an overwhelming flavor of Morris Day & The Time – and sometimes it’s arty rock from bands like King Crimson, or sick and flirty forays into psychedelia that rival Butthole Surfers’ wildest. And it’s all played with tongues planted firmly in cheek and wrapped up in a grown-up’s version of They Might Be Giants meets Captain Beefheart (many of the songs are not safe for office play, at least not without headphones – which, of course, makes them even more hilarious). Not bad for a band with a heavy metal ukelele and constant theremin as the root for their sound, not bad at all.

The Inactivists’ sense of humor altogether, represents probably the most honest revelation of love from the eyes of a constantly unrequited nerd  . . . played by a band of Muppets that landed a daily gig in a bar inside David Lynch’s cranium.

The lineup, after some 6 years that included some inevitable personnel changes, includes Scot Livingston on ukelele, guitars and vocals, Pattie Melt on tenor sax, accordion, flute and clarinet, Kelly Prestridge on drums and vocals, Victoria Lundy on theremin and vocals and Matt Sumner on bass and vocals, a combination that proves more than solid. As I visited their “practice lair” in Westminster (Prestridge’s home) recently, I was impressed with the deep, easy camaraderie the group exudes. Like old friends, all with loads of talent and similar tastes in humor and nothing to prove, each of their personalities bounces easily off another’s, which results in a practice time that seems more like a welcome break to the mundane.

“We actually look forward to this night weekly together,” said Prestridge. “Many of us play in other bands, but this is the one we enjoy the most, probably.”

You can feel it in their performance, also. Where some bands may bend under some of their own weightiness, or seem to thrive on some internal competition (at least for a while, before they self-destruct) The Inactivists show little, if any, internal strife, and their happiness only adds to their successful formula of weirdness, dry humor and art-rock. When Livingston laments that “ . . . you say that I should be myself, because I might be someone else” in “What I Want Wants,” the opening  tune from “Love Songs,” it never comes across as disingenuous, or, say, overdramatic (he’s about as far from Morrissey as you’re likely to find – and that’s a damned good thing). It does reek of the sad reality of many, many relationships, though, even if the band means it all as a joke.

The Inactivists' latest CD: Love Songs & Other Songs About Love

The Inactivists' latest CD: Love Songs & Other Songs About Love

Other highlights on the record include a smoky, tiki-styled torch song in “Tell Me So,” about the internal meanderings of your average paranoid boyfriend, wallowing in the deepest basement of his own self esteem, and “Lock Jah,” a spikey death-jab to reggae about contracting lock jaw in the process of losing weight from fear of a constantly imminent breakup. A clear standout for me is “You Love Me Too,” which features Livingston singing through a voice synth that makes him sound like the Smurf version of Gibby Haynes as he screams vindication against an ex lover – or an imagined one, perhaps. The song has a creepy sort of stalker flavor that makes it that much more attractive.

Make no mistake – as much fun as The Inactivists are always having, they do take themselves pretty seriously – at least musically. Prestridge’s drumming leans more towards the Peart variety than the average drummer, and matches Sumner’s eclectic and skillfull bass perfectly. And the combination of Lundy’s omnipresent, eerie and sensual theremin with Melt’s sax – sometimes reminiscent of Romeo Void, others more like Morphine – and accordion couldn’t be more spot on with Livingston’s ukelele and guitar constructions. And the vocals, shared by all behind Livingston’s lead, and changing drastically with song subject and feel, add the right amount of maladroit clumsiness to give the humor extra bite.

The Inactivists have largely been more of a suburban item in the past, as far as live shows, but they’re starting a campaign this year to both boost their presence in downtown Denver’s scene, and to add more touring to their plate. They have a show this upcoming Saturday, January 30th, at The Walnut Room, followed by another show (venue TBA) on February 6th, and an appearance at Bender’s Tavern on February 13th (Valentine’s Day Eve, to add just a little more to the nature of the latest record), and a few shows supporting Little Fyodor up in Wyoming in the coming months. They’ve acquired a new publicist in Prestridge’s wife, Heather (also one of the members of Ground Above Zero), who plans to make sure The Inactivists see their fair share of Denver, and that Denver gets the privilege of seeing this band live.

If you go to see one show this year with the intent to be entertained, and to potentially shoot your cocktail through your nose in abject laughter, or to ease a broken heart by commiserating with the fellow love-crushed, make a point of making it to wither The Walnut Room show (THIS SATURDAY – JANUARY 30th! – Buy Tickets!) or to the Valentine’s Eve show on February 13th at Bender’s. Nothing soothes a soar love muscle like some great music, and laughter can only help, too.

Here’s a hilarious sample of The Inactivists’ version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” live from late 2008:


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Michael Gira, from Angels of Light, is planning to revivify his earliest project, the seminal noise band Swans, this fall. (Photo: Anne Helmond)

Music News: Michael Gira announces plans to reactivate Swans in the Fall

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Michael Gira, from Angels of Light, is planning to revivify his earliest project, the seminal noise band Swans, this fall. (Photo: Anne Helmond)

Michael Gira, from Angels of Light, is planning to revivify his earliest project, the seminal noise band Swans, this fall. (Photo: Anne Helmond)

Michael Gira, founder of Young God Records and vocalist/visionary frontman for Angels of Light, used to live a somewhat louder existence. An existence replete with just as much musical and lyrical beauty as the Angels’ output of over the past decade, but one that was also terrifyingly violent, brutal, hostile and swathed in a noise that had not been heard before, and has (so far) not been heard again since it was silenced with the death of his first band, Swans.

And Gira has announced what was constantly up to now only seen as an impossibility: he’s decided to reactivate the legendary band, and will release a new collection of songs (tentatively) in the fall of 2010. Plans for touring are also reportedly in the works.

If you remember hearing the music of Swans in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, they’ve likely influenced, in some way, every other band you heard after them. If you were lucky enough to see the band live, chances are that the sonic barrage, and the often disturbing images it provoked in both the players and the audiences are still scorched into you, and likely will be for a long time to come. Gira and Swans toured the U.S. and Europe extensively in the ‘80s and ‘90s, after their genesis in the same New York “No Wave” scene that spawned bands like DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (which included a young Lydia Lunch), Suicide and Sonic Youth. Their shows presented a constantly evolving noise, sometimes overloud, sometimes perfectly quiet, but always both beautiful and destructive, to audiences that seemed polarized (to say the least) in their opinions of it.

My first experience came when the band toured around the 1986 album “Greed.” Most of what I remember is the physical, palpable quality of the repetitive and explosive beat coming from two furious drummers behind a howling, shirtless and sweating Gira, screaming about the worthlessness of all of us and our condition, throat wrapped tightly with his microphone chord. The lineup then included Norman Westberg on guitar, Algis Kizys on bass, Jarboe on vocals and two drummers, and the show was the most abrasive expression of minimalist rock I’d ever seen – and also the loudest. People left the show either hating what they’d seen, or misunderstanding, or completely transfixed (as I did). From then on, the rock game, for me anyway, was irreparably changed.

An early photo of Gira onstage with Swans, amidst the beautiful cacophony. (Photo: Wim Van De Hulst)

An early photo of Gira onstage with Swans, amidst the beautiful cacophony. (Photo: Wim Van De Hulst

By the time Swans disbanded in 1997, their sound had evolved to include some of the most beautiful and haunting music in rock. They would swing from long, droning acoustic numbers with Jarboe’s signature low and guttural vocals juxtaposed perfectly against Gira’s, to near-apocalyptic bombardments, overwhelmingly coarse – even caustic – and yet never failing to maintain an seemingly uncontrollable beauty. 1996’s “Soundtracks for the Blind,” combining beautiful arrangements of found spoken-word recordings, soft acoustic symphonies and some extraordinarily loud and heavy constructions, became a resplendent example of the band’s climax, and was also their final studio output.

“I’m talking about my own experience of the music (though I’d hope people in the audiences along the way might have experienced a similar episode). When I ask myself if I believe in God, I start to say NO, but then I remember that sensation, and I’m not so sure.”

Until now, that is. In an email sent to Young God Newsletter subscribers, as well as on the label’s website, Gira announced this week his intentions to re-focus on Swans as a new project, and to put Angels of Light on hold as he met this latest challenge. As he explains on Young God Records’ site:
“ . . . there was a point a few years ago . . . on tour with Angels  Of Light, with Akron/Family serving as the backing band. It was during the  song The Provider. Seth’s guitar was sustaining one open chord (very loudly), rising to a peak, then crashing down again in a rhythm that could have been the equivalent of a deep and soulful act of copulation. The whole band swayed with this arc. Really was like riding waves of sound.  I thought right then, “You know, Michael, Swans wasn’t so bad after all…” . Ha ha!  It brought back – in a flood – memories, or maybe not memories, more a tangible re-emersion in the sensation of Swans music rushing through my body in waves, lifting me up towards what, I can only assume, will be my only experience of heaven. It’s difficult – and probably pointless – to try to describe this experience. It’s ecstatic, I suppose – a force of simultaneous self negation and rebirth.

Gira, circa 1995. (Photo: Michael Moynihan)

Gira, circa 1995. (Photo: Michael Moynihan)

Really, I probably only experienced this a handful of times to such an extreme extent during the entire 15 year history of Swans. All the elements have to align perfectly, and you can’t force it, though you might constantly strive for it. I don’t mean to be too lofty here, but it’s a fact. I’m talking about my own experience of the music (though I’d hope people in the audiences along the way might have experienced a similar episode). When I ask myself if I believe in God, I start to say NO, but then I remember that sensation, and I’m not so sure. So I want more of that, before my body breaks down to such an extent that it won’t be possible any more. So I’m doing it.
In order to raise funds to offset the cost of touring, production, distribution, etc., he has made a limited edition CD/DVD (1,000 copies) of possible songs/demos/outtakes from the future Swans record, available for order online.  The new Swans disc is also available for presale, as well as some signed originals from Gira himself.

For a taste of what may be in store, have a look at this video, also available on Young God Records, and on the DVD.


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The Reverend and band serenaded a nonplussed Boulder audience last Friday night. (Photo: Todd Radunsky/Reverb)

The Reverend Horton Heat @ the Boulder Theater, 01/15/10 – Reverb

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The Reverend and band serenaded a nonplussed Boulder audience last Friday night. (Photo: Todd Radunsky/Reverb)

The Reverend and band serenaded a nonplussed Boulder audience last Friday night. (Photo: Todd Radunsky/Reverb)

As far as psychobilly goes, you’re not likely to find a better practitioner than Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath and the rest of his legendary trio, the Reverend Horton Heat. The Texas group graced the Boulder Theater last Friday night in the middle of a multiple night tour in Colorado that included a Thursday show in Denver and Saturday set in Fort Collins, which may have been a bit of overkill for the Colorado crowds. As the band played Friday, the show was missing something, and it was evident in the largely nonplussed audience.

Catch the entire review, along with all of Todd Radunsky’s photos at Denver Post Reverb!


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Denver's Gangcharger offers a thick sound that may well be the loudest in Denver. (Photo:MySpace)

New CD Reviews – Denver Local Edition! Gangcharger, Ideal Fathers offer new tunes

Gangcharger – Metal Sun EP

Denver's Gangcharger offers a thick sound that may well be the loudest in Denver. (Photo:MySpace)

Denver's Gangcharger offers a thick sound that may well be the loudest in Denver. (Photo:MySpace)

For a band that was started almost on a lark, Gangcharger seems to be doing damned well for themselves. In fact, if things keep moving the way they are, and the band continues to enjoy some pretty constant airplay, they could be responsible for shooting some desperately needed new life into the noisier, almost-shoegaze genre that Denver’s scene has all but missed over the past couple of years (as solid as they are, Overcasters and Sonnenblume simply can’t fill that part of the scene on their own). And it may never have come to be, as lead singer Ethan Warde (who also plays for Blue Million Miles, another like-minded band) explained in an email:

“About 2 years ago, Mark Mullis (bassist) and I had a band called Mansfield Ghost.  We were invited to play a release party at the Fox in Boulder for skate videos from Meta and Null, but we had no drummer at the time.  We decided to say fuck it and start a new band just to play this one show, so in 3 weeks we got 6 songs written with this crazy metal drummer named Gordon Koch (who now plays in Black Sleep of Kali and Iron Horse) and our friend Jim Murray playing 2nd guitar, and we called it Gangcharger.  These two tracks are what we recorded at that time.  Obviously we revived the name and the general aesthetic for Gangcharger this year, just with some different people.”

Metal Sun, the group’s debut EP, is a gritty, seismic collection of songs that entwine swirling riffs drenched in reverb with driving, hypnotic beats and draped heavily with Ward’s lyrics, warbled in a deep, stuck moan. Think any song from Loop’s A Gilded Eternity mixed with Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ’69” and you get the idea. Live and on record, the sound is huge, maybe one of Denver’s loudest bands, but not unwieldy. And with bands like Bright Channel, Tarmints and Monofog now defunct, Gangcharger fills a sorely under-represented hole in the Denver scene. Raw, forced chords and heavy bass drill into the inner ear and drag you and your surroundings inside with them, leaving you in an aural vertigo, leaning heavily on sheer volume to remain upright.

Lately, the band’s “Kathy In the Quarry,” with a sonic nod in Lydia Lunch’s diretion, has been getting pretty regular play on CU Boulder’s Radio 1190, and deservedly so. Here’s another taste of Gangcharger below, “Apparition,” from the new EP:

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/02 Apparition A.mp3″ text=”Gangcharger – Appariton”]

Ideal Fathers – Tokyo Gore Police EP

Ideal Fathers' "Tokyo Gore Police EP" is super tight, super chaos, and super satisfying. (Photo:www.idealfathers.com)

Ideal Fathers' "Tokyo Gore Police EP" is super tight, super chaos, and super satisfying. (Photo:www.idealfathers.com)

If you’re familiar with Denver’s Ideal Fathers, then you’ve probably already succumbed to your own uncontrollable urge to download this two song offering of super-tight, super-fast post-punk chaos. If not, even better! This four-piece is hell-bent on infecting your audiosphere with their complex and furious bass-led onslaught of musical mayhem, and the sickness will make you that much stronger.

Ideal Fathers’ sound is an aural mosh pit of swirling Devo-type constructions filled with Big Black and Scratch Acid noise, spinning, slamming and landing fat lips on anyone & everyone too scared to join in. Vocalist Jesse Hunsaker’s rough, but perfectly fitting, pipes sometimes recall the singer from Portion Control mixed with just a touch of ScratchAcid’s signature David Yow scream, looped and dripped over the band’s arrangements with ample fury. And their new EP may be the best mix they’ve dropped to date. With 
“Tokyo Gore Police,” a hyper-ballad inspired by a Troma-esque Japanese gore film, the Fathers have solidified their sound so that any rough edges are obviously painstakingly placed just so, for just the right effect. Adam Rojo’s guitar work slides chaotically in and out over Mike Perfetti’s frenetic drumming and Mike King’s cyclonic bass lines like streams of water on an over-heated grill – instantly vaporizing, but leaving dry scars in the surface as they disappear. And the band’s humor is also obvious, especially in Hunsaker’s apocalyptic narration towards the end.

Give “Tokyo Gore Police” a listen below, and then download the two song EP. Do it – you know you can’t resist. . . .

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/01 Tokyo Gore Police.mp3″ text=”Ideal Fathers – Tokyo Gore Police”]


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Reverend Peyton led his Big Damn Band in a wild set of country-blues-punk at the Larimer last Saturday night. (Photo by Joshua Elioseff/Reverb)

The Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band @ the Larimer Lounge, 01/09/10 – Reverb

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Reverend Peyton led his Big Damn Band in a wild set of country-blues-punk at the Larimer last Saturday night. (Photo by Joshua Elioseff/Reverb)

Reverend Peyton led his Big Damn Band in a wild set of country-blues-punk at the Larimer last Saturday night. (Photo by Joshua Elioseff/Reverb)

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band kicked off their tour of the American West last Saturday night at the Larimer Lounge fresh and full of their characteristically furious country blues spirit, and added some punchy humor to the mix, to boot. The Larimer turned out to be the perfect place to start and provided a packed house of enthusiastic fans — most in rockabilly garb, and many with facial hair-dos that gave the 28-year-old Reverend’s coiffed beard a run for its money.

Catch the entire Live Review at Denver Post Reverb, and Joshua Elioseff’s photos HERE.


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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club @ the Bluebird Theater, 12/30/09 – Reverb

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Slim - AKA Olive Oyl - and Munly-the-Sailor onstage at The Bluebird last Wednesday night. (Photo: Joe McCabe/Reverb)

Slim - AKA Olive Oyl - and Munly-the-Sailor onstage at The Bluebird last Wednesday night. (Photo: Joe McCabe/Reverb)

Leave it to Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, who have put on one of Denver’s best live shows for more than a decade, to be the only band that could outdo their own reputation. That’s what happened last Wednesday at the Bluebird in the first of two New Year’s Eve celebratory shows. The six-piece not only proved their consummate showmanship, often sardonically tongue-in-cheek, but also a grasp of drama, playing as the cast of the classic cartoon Popeye. And they added some new tunes to their set — the first in more than three years.

Check out the entire Live Review at Denver Post Reverb, along with all of  Joe McCabe’s photos!


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