Monthly Archives: March 2010

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DenverThread Live Review – Gangcharger plays a secret show at Skylark, Thursday, 03/25/10

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Gangcharger's Ethan Ward and Paige Peterson

Gangcharger played a secret show under an assumed name last Thursday night, and brought thier big, flourishing sound to an underprepared Skylark Lounge. (Photo: MySpace/Gangcharger)

There’s nothing like jumping back into the mix head-on, fearless and furious, ready to unleash a new set – and an entirely new lineup – on the local scene. Damn the torpedoes, you’ve practiced enough, and the new band knows all their parts! Fuck it! Get a show booked and get back on track!

Unless . . . you can sneak in a live rehearsal before actually letting the band out of the bag. . . . y’know, just in case . . .

And that’s what Gangcharger did last Thursday night in the Skylark Lounge. They booked themselves for the lounge’s “Indie Night,” a sort of open mic night, under the moniker Katie Hydel Cartel, and unleashed a brand new lineup, though, fortunately, not an entirely new sound, on  fans that were savvy enough to be there. The Skylark crowd of about seven – a group of the bar regulars, friends of other performers, and a few unfortunate passersby who unwittingly stopped in for a drink – was tripled by 11:00pm to easily more than 21 as Gangcharger, erm, KHC, set up onstage.

“I hope so! Unless everyone quits . . . again . . .” – Ethan Ward, commenting on the likelihood that the current Gangcharger lineup will remain consistent for a while.

Ethan Ward, the band’s soundmaster, frontman and guitarist, is now the only remaining member of the version of Gangcharger that celebrated the release of their latest record Metal Sun, produced the typically thick, coiled and beautiful sound he coaxes out of his guitar and a suitcase full of effects for about 45 minutes with the rest of his new lineup. Including Paige Peterson, formerly of Boulder band Good Housekeeping, on vocals and synth, Adam Rojo, still guitarist for Ideal Fathers, on bass and new drummer Dan Barnett, the four piece almost literally blew the doors off of the venue. When Ward was ready to start, he threatened to keep from playing until the growing crowd moved up front, close and comfortable. They complied, but by the third song they had all retreated towards the booths and bar, a good 8 – 10 feet from the foot of the low stage, simultaneously awash in, and cowering from, the volume.

Putting on a secret show may sooth the nerves of a band in its early stages, and that’s a good thing, but Gang charger needn’t have worried. If anything, this lineup proved even tighter and more creative than the last. Those of us who knew enough to be there (many of us found out only the afternoon of the show) saw a Gangcharger onstage that has mastered not only its sound, but also its whole rhythmic philosophy. The sound entwines early, frantic and noisy Sonic Youth rhythms inside Kevin Shields chord habits and unleashes a sound that feels like it’s locked you in the trunk of a 1981 Camaro, as it drives at 145 MPH deep into the Western Slope towards Utah, and forces you to enjoy every minute of it.

The set’s few drawbacks could be attributed to the sound signature of the Skylark – it’s not really built for this kind of Great China-sized wall of noise – and the live, last minute open mic mix. The result was an occasional muddiness, and some random buzzing from the PA. I have to assume that the poor mix led to some of Peterson’s occasional caterwauling at just left of the intended key – which wasn’t a bad thing in the end anyway. A little work to make her voice as transfixing as it can be, and as central to the sound as her synth work is, and the band will continue to roll over and into the scene as it has been the recent past.

If this show was merely a toe-dipping in the playing-out water, I’m excited to see the whole body dive in. Gangcharger are set to debut their new lineup at Larimer Lounge – as Gangcharger rather than Katie Hydel Cartel – on Thursday, April 8, 2010. Catch them while they’re still underground – they’re worth it.

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Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: MySpace/Ideal Fathers)

The “Denver Sound,” long dead, makes room for lighter, noisier, funner genres in the scene

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Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Ideal Fathers plays a smart, thrilling, fast-paced style that lends itself to high-intensity slasher films, especially if they're made in Japan. (Photo: Jerry Goff)

The world-famous “Denver Sound” has petered out.

Which is not to say that the beautiful, often over-the-top and heavy handed gothic alt-country sound isn’t significant anymore – not at all. That sound helped put Denver back on the musical globe in the ’80s and ‘90s, and still attracts its fair share of fans. It’s still appreciated world-wide, and many remain ravenous for it – especially  in Europe.

But it exists currently in a type of atrophy in Denver – it’s taken a back seat that has allowed an insurgence of more than a few different genres to begin to flourish, or re-flourish, as the case may be. Denver has a strong music scene – perhaps the strongest in the US (at the moment) – and part of its strength comes from its wide variety. So if the sometimes overbearing popularity of the “Denver Sound”  – indeed the often overweighted nature of the sound itself – is waning, it can only be good news for the lighter, the more pop-y, the innovative and indie, or the more aggressive and punkier genres.

And that’s exactly what’s happening in the bar, dive, club, backyard and warehouse scene right now.

From straight up power-pop, to country, to arty prog-rock, to freak folk, metal, noise,  thrash and punk, there are red hot and lukewarm representatives of just about every genre filling up the glut of venues our city currently enjoys. Out of those genres, the punk/metal/noise/thrash scene currently seems to be surging.

Even the Meadowlark, the basement/backyard venue that recently had been known for favoring more acoustic, indie and folk sets, has begun booking louder and more aggressive acts in the past few months. Git Some, probably Denver’s loudest band (with a sound akin to a cement mixer barreling out of control down I-70, and rapidly filling up your rearview) played for the first time at Meadowlark in January, to a nearly over-filled house. Titwrench, a local  group that holds an annual lady-centered rock festival of local acts, also books a regular show at Meadowlark that features brand new and emerging artists and bands called “Surfacing.” Thanks to the new Punk/Techno promoters in 43rd St. Zoo, the Lions Lair is booking Sunday nights with new acts with a punk feel, or high BPM techno roots. Other dives like Bar Bar and Old Curtis St. are thriving (musically, at least) on a steady diet of metal, thrash and noise bands – almost all of which are strictly local – adding to the already flush, loud and often metal schedules of bars like the Larimer Lounge and 3 Kings Tavern.

What follows is a few glimpses of some of the better punk, noise and thrash bands that have graced Denver venues over the past few weeks. Try and get out to see these bands, and start to wash the stale flavor of the old Denver scene out of your mouth. They’re perfect pallet cleansers, and promise to be main courses sooner than you might think:

Ideal Fathers, Makeout Point, Cadillacula, GlassHits at the Meadowlark,
Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jesse Hunsaker of Ideal Fathers (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Jesse Hunsaker of Ideal Fathers (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Almost as if to prove our point, Meadowlark booked a show on Saturday, February 6th that exemplified a span of punky genres including metal/grunge with Glass Hits, roots-punk with Cadillacula, power-pop with Makeout Point and aggressively provocative postpunk noise with Ideal Fathers. The mixture of local bands proved volatile, fun and sometimes pretty explosive. It also tested the venue pretty ferociously. Glass Hits started the night with a set of sweeping grunge-core, mixing a noise reminiscent of Big Black mixed with Bleach-era Nirvana, and just a touch of PIL – particularly in the vocals. This band enjoyed one of the larger audiences of the night, showing that currently their popularity is on the rise. Next, Cadillacula  tore up a set of Cramps-meets-Danzig punk, in refreshingly sloppy style, for about 30 minutes, before Makeout Point entered and played sparkling power pop reminiscent of Throwing Muses or Breeders.

Headliners Ideal Fathers ended the late night with some brilliant slasher-movie metal that could be personified by a fictional youngster raised by Devo and driven to and from school by David Yow, with Shellac constantly on the eight-track. These boys – Jesse Hunsaker on vocals, Adam Rojo on guitar, Mike King on bass and Mike Perfetti on drums – know where their roots are, and show it. Rojo channeled  a lot of Andy Gill and more than a little East Bay Ray in his frenetic noodling, when he wasn’t crushing chords at hardcore speed, and was equally matched by King’s funk-punk bass lines and Perfetti’s chaotically synchronous drumming. Hunsaker tied it all together nicely with a scream that visibly thrust blood vessels out of both his throat and forehead, and encompassed the Japanese gore film ethos in many of the songs’ lyrics. Together, they played a tight, ultra-fun and danceable set that had a full house jumping, laughing and screaming for more.

Hunsaker and Adam Rojo onstage at a recent show (Photo: Jerry Goff)

Hunsaker and Adam Rojo onstage at a recent show (Photo: Jerry Goff)

If shows like these are a hint at where Meadowlark is heading in their overall booking, I’m excited, as we should all be – though I’m sure they’ll still feature plenty of Denver’s more traditional tunesmiths, without a doubt . The venue continuously shows a savvy familiarity with what’s about to be hot in Denver, and there are plenty of bands to fill the bill.

Smoothbore at Old Curtis St. Bar, Thursday, February 11, 2010
Leaning more into the noise side of Denver’s local scene, Smoothbore played a raucous set at Old Curtis St. Bar last Thursday night and showed off a penchant for  vital noise that recalled the “No-Wave” scene from New York in the early ’80s mixed with a touch of Runaways-ers Joan Jett.

Sonya Decman of Smoothbore plays one of two basses in the guitarless band (Photo: MySpace/Smoothbore)

Sonya Decman of Smoothbore plays one of two basses in the guitarless band (Photo: MySpace/Smoothbore)

The trio provided a varied set of truly innovative songwriting, as well as a solid grasp of noise, featuring no guitar, and instead relying on Matt Flanagan’s (formerly from Black Smiths and Boss 302) “lead” bass, Scott Lewis’s (also formerly from Black Smiths, as well as Derailed) drumming and Sonya Decman’s (formerly from Symptoms and Tar Mints – an old-school personal fave –  among other local bands) “bass” bass. Throw in Decman’s wild and powerful vocals, and the result is something close to ‘80s New York No Wave band Live Skull and early “Death Valley ’69” Sonic Youth, with Runaways’ Joan Jett tinted vocals. In a word, stunning. When Decman raises her voice from the typically smooth, forceful threat to it’s highest pitch, you almost find yourself cringing in fear of her wrath. Their lyrics were smart, sexy and provocative, and the delivery was perfect. This trio shows quite a bit of promise, poised to take top seating in the local scene – if they can keep up with themselves.

Smoothbore at a recent Lions Lair gig (Photo: MySpace)

Smoothbore at a recent Lions Lair gig (Photo: MySpace)

Murder Ranks and Veronica at Meadowlark, Saturday, February 19, 2010

Again, Meadowlark comes through with a few of Denver’s most exciting bands – though these two largely feature some pretty popular names from Denver’s punk past. Nonetheless, they’re playing some of the more innovative and truly fun rock you’re going to find on the club scene.

Veronica is the musical brainchild of Ted Thacker and John Call, both formerly of the legendary Denver punk troupe Baldo Rex, along with Andrew Kotch, formerly of Tiger Beat. They flooded the Meadowlark that Saturday night with an exciting, sloppy-yet-ultra-tight sound that mixed faster Television with he instrumentation of Meat Puppets – though that only approximates the total experience slightly.

Veronica plays some of the smartest, raucous rock in the Denver scene - and has for a while (Photo: MySpace)

Veronica plays some of the smartest, raucous rock in the Denver scene - and has for a while (Photo: MySpace)

Thacker’s wild gesticulations entertained a small crowd – complete with at least three drunken college newbies (I’d be tempted to claim they belonged to a frat, but heard no Greek callouts – although plenty of happily spooned out derision amongst the three) – while he masterfully manhandled an old style acoustic with a simple attached pickup. Meanwhile Kotch fingered through some complex rhythmic melodies on the bass and Call flailed characteristically on the drums. The mix had the entire bar hooting, laughing, bouncing – you name it – all in an air thick with adrenalized euphoria.

After Veronica, Murder Ranks took over the Meadowlark. Dan Wanush’s (aka King Scratchie from the immortal Warlock Pinchers) vision that draws on Sandinista-era Clash dub, punk and dancehall, proved both intoxicating and addictive. Joined by typically echo-drenched reggae guitar played by Mike Buckley (from Nightshark), super dub bass played by Ben Williams (from Ghost Buffalo) and thick reggae drumming from Nate Weaver, Wanush took that Brit-Caribbean musical zygote and formed a clone of something even more powerful, more fun, and imminently danceable. The four piece all bounced in unison through an hour-long set, in which Wanush rapped, dribbled, spat and warbled often hilarious lyrics, occasionally run through an echo pedal for the perfect added flair.

Murder Ranks is re-igniting a fire for the fun of hard dub and dancehall, full of humor, fun and style. (Photo: MySpace/Murder Ranks)

Murder Ranks is re-igniting a fire for the fun of hard dub and dancehall, full of humor, fun and style. (Photo: MySpace/Murder Ranks)

These shows are just a few examples of the type of entertainment the Denver scene is offering, as it continues to transform itself yet again. The elasticity of this scene,  its adaptability and the level of general talent in town is what makes this scene the strongest in the country. While it keeps getting bigger, better and more exciting, it’s us in the audience that truly get to enjoy it.

So get out and see these bands. They deserve it, and will probably change your mind about the music you’ve come to know Denver for – for the better.



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