Author Archives: Denver Thread

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Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

Boulder’s Gasoline Lollipops is Ready to Douse Denver

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Gasoline Lollipops in Jamestown, CO (Photo: Laura Folden)

Gasoline Lollipops in Jamestown, CO (Photo: Laura Folden)

Boulder may be too small, too quiet to hold the Gas Pops any longer…

“The Gasoline Lollipops as it stands today – I feel like we’re at the beginning. I mean, we’re starting to pick up steam, and it’s my first experience of that with the Gas Pops,” Clay Rose, frontman of the quickly rising Boulder band told DenverThread.

Rose is a pleasant-looking young man, tall and lanky, and he appears unbeknownst just behind me in line in the front of a Boulder coffee shop as I order, pay, and head back to find a place to talk. He shows up shortly after I find a table, and somehow we know who each other is right away – maybe journalistic clairvoyance, or some communal tie to Naropa (my day job, and Rose’s one-time university).

“I had another band earlier that picked up pretty fast [The Widow’s Bane], but this has been, like, a really epic journey,” he continued. “So many fantastic stories of Gasoline Lollipops, beginning and ending, and the first one starts in, like… 2000… 2004.”

Catch the Gasoline Lollipops at the Lost Lake Lounge on Friday, October 20, and at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park on Saturday, October 21

Gasoline Lollipops is picking up plenty of steam, and has been steadily climbing in notoriety and popularity for the past year or so – and now they’re ready to take on the Denver audience. Their new record – Soul Mine – is slated to drop on December 16, and they’re having a release party at the Fox Theater in Boulder to celebrate. This record might be the catalyst they need to break down the walls into Denver.

Gasoline Pops at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO (Photo: Michael Emanuele)

Gasoline Pops at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO (Photo: Michael Emanuele)

They’re well aware of Denver’s country alt-gothic punk indie imprint – known for some time as “The Denver Sound” and populated by bands like 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Munly Munly, The Denver Gentlemen, and more. But the Gas Pops feel they have a sound and fury that can overcome any pigeon-holing, and it’s true.

Gasoline Lollipops is more than Merle Haggard country, and so much more than a Slim Cessna knockoff. Their sound beats with a true, red-blooded American heart, melding country punk, folk, and searing rockabilly behind Rose’s often wild, guttural Tom Waits howl. They tell tails of troubled lives, of the ends of lives, of the hearts broken and stamped out of existence just about every day in this life. And they do it with a danceable – and, yes, moshable – folk-punk presence that leaves audiences exhausted and ecstatic every time.

Danceable – and moshable – country-punk folk with grit and heart

But Rose’s musical history didn’t start that way, necessarily. After spending a childhood dividing time with a truck-driving father and a Nashville mother, Rose found himself with a guitar in his hand at a truck stop one day, where a local asked him if he was playing the local open mic. He’d just learned a few chords, and had written out three songs – likely about the adolescent loves he’d pine over as he left one town and fell in love at another – so why not? One thing led to another, and his passion turned into an obsession by the early 2000s.

“I was just a crazy kid, and I had a big, liberty-spiked mohawk, combat boots, and I was living in this rental house in Lafayette,” he explained. “I’d been playing gigs around solo, under the name Clay Rose – like political acoustic folk/punk – kind of like like the young Billy Bragg, but way more edgy, super fast.”

“It was like Rage Against the Machine if it was only an acoustic guitar and a singer – super fast, me almost rapping, and, like, screaming a lot,” he explained. “I wore very bright clothes – checkered pants, and all.”

Young punk fury fell a little flat on Boulder at first

For a while, Rose tried to build a reputation on his own, playing open mics and scheduled gigs as much as he could, outside day jobs. He kept trying to get people to wake up a little, to look a little further than the Flatirons.

“I had just moved back [to Boulder] from Nashville in about 2002, and – I don’t know – I was trying to stir shit up,” he continued. “But, y’know, Boulder is not really the place – like, people don’t want to be stirred up here.”

Rose began to butt up against the unique activist nature of Boulder’s population – one certainly not known for embracing the more unsavory sides of things. But it didn’t phase him, or stop him from building a band around perhaps one of the strangely tastiest band names ever.

“It’s weird, because, from the outside, it looks like it’s populated by a bunch of hippies, and hippies are known for stirring shit up. But not these hippies.”

After battles with substances, Gasoline Lollipops proved to be the salve he needed

After a battle with alcohol and drugs that became almost too much for him, Rose became sober for a time but continued to make music. When his girlfriend – now wife – took a sabbatical out of the country to answer some of her own questions, rather than diving back into a drunken stupor, he formed The Widow’s Bane. Formed around songs that were to be composed and sung by men who’d been killed by the heartbreak from their earthly relationships, The Widow’s Bane became a sea-shanty, dead-looking staple at places like the annual Zombie Crawl in Denver, among other places. They became pretty popular, but just weren’t and aren’t – the band that Rose had his heart wrapped up in.

Now, in Gasoline Lollipops, he feels he’s found the one.

Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

“There have been moments in time with the Gasoline Lollipops – quite a few,” he espoused,  “where I was like ‘This is a supergroup!’ There was a time period there where I felt like that – it was a very different band from what it is now. Y’know, we had this guy J.C. Thompson on bass, and he would play an upright, and he was one of the meanest upright players I’ve ever played with until he got deported to Canada.”

“At that point, we were just a four-piece” Rose added. “We had Jeb Bows on the fiddle, and he’s still with us – he’s the last original member other than myself. Things have just changed, and for better.”

As far as how the band reached its current, satisfying state, Rose explained that he’d been following a particular type of strategy – one that got him much of the band he was looking for, without burying him in the responsibility of making any bad decisions.

“I never auditioned anybody for the band, and it was just like, if we needed a player, I just put it in my mind that ‘we need this player,'” he explained, “and then I would casually bring it up in conversation, and someone would say ‘Oh – I know so & so,’ or ‘I play this,’ and that’s how we’d get new players.”

A bad experience with a record exec changed all that and left a record and loads of work on a shelf, unreleased.

“I guess I’ve always had a faith in… destiny? Which I’m starting to rethink a little late in the game,” said Rose.

Taking control of his fate

“I never wanted the responsibility of making my own fate, because what if I choose wrong? So I never chose anything, as far as a musical career goes,” he explained. “I fell into the camp of people who believe so much in destiny that ‘All I gotta do is keep playing, and sooner or later that record executive is gonna walk through the door, and the rest of my life is going to be peaches. Ha!”

“And then the record executive DID walk through the door, and he turned out to be a fuckin’ scumbag! It was bad…,” he added, “yeah…. It was a long time ago. The record I did with the label – we never released it. That’s what I got for letting destiny introduce me to my future, right? But it still took me a long time to learn any kind of a lesson from that, and I’m just now learning it.”

After caring for the wounds of a less-than-helpful executive, Rose persisted, and eventually came to the lineup and energy that is the Gasoline Pops today.

“That’s why I’m saying that we’re kind of at the beginning, because it’s the first time that I’m really kind of ‘taking charge,’ or taking responsibility for my own future, and making decisions – whether or not they’re the right ones, y’know?” he explained. “Just practicing making decisions, and moving forward at all costs, ’cause stagnation is the enemy. I’d rather be moving backward than not at all.”

Their first European tour

One of those decisions came out of the band’s upcoming first tour in Europe.

“We’re doing an upcoming tour in Belgium & The Netherlands November 15 – December 5,” he explained, “and Donny, our guitar player, can’t come, ’cause he’s gotta get hip replacement surgery. So – rather than picking the next person that came along with a guitar, like I normally would, I held open auditions. I auditioned 20 guitar players.”

“I had to say ‘No’ to 19 of them – which I’ve learned is something I’m not at all good at,” he added. “This is mainly why I always wanted destiny to figure it out for me.”

“But this feels good, and now I know that – out of 20 dudes – I’ve got the cream of the crop.”

 


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The Shins Shine as if They Were Still Brand-New at Red Rocks

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The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

James Mercer belied his twenty years as the frontman of New Mexico’s The Shins last Thursday night in Morrison in front of a packed Red Rocks amphitheater, showing off their unique pop vitality to the packed amphitheater as if they’d just perfected it. In fact, the entire band showed off what seemed like limitless happiness and energy throughout their nearly two-hour set. But for some wrinkles and a subtle stiffness from time to time, you’d never know that Mercer’s been constantly active in rock for more than two decades.

Keeping up with an unofficial tour tie-in to David Hasselhoff (they covered the theme to “Baywatch” in Oregon recently), the band came out onstage backed by the theme to the ’80s hit tv series “Knight Rider,” and dived right into “Caring is Creepy,” followed right on by “Australia” and “Name for You,” before Mercer addressed the ecstatic crowd. His choice of sustenance had to be pure happiness, because he never stopped grinning all night, and kept his energy level – and the band’s – high and strong.

As they launched into the brilliant “Kissing the Lipless,” the crowd was moving with the band in earnest, screaming every word at the top of so many lungs. After “Mine’s Not a High Horse” things settled somewhat, but only slightly, as Mercer and the band flowed through hits and new songs like “Cherry Hearts,” “Mildenhall,” “Saint Simon,” and “Painting A Hole.”

As the set began to peak, they launched into a medley of “Girl on the Wing” and “Turn a Square,” bookended by the pieces of a cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love,” which seriously re-activated the crowd yet again. Almost perfectly mimicking Tony Lewis’s high-pitched voice, Mercer belted out the first few lines of “Your Love,” and then the band led into the medley, creating a veritable “rock block” for nearly 15 minutes. They wrapped up the main set with emotional, yet refreshing versions of “Phantom Limb” and “Simple Song.”

Before the audience really even had a chance to catch a breath, The Shins were back onstage for an encore that started with “The Fear,” and the popular “New Slang” – truly a highlight of the night. They ended the show with a long, jammy version of “Sleeping Lessons,” which featured a satisfying snippet of the recently deceased Tom Petty’s “American Girl” – no doubt bringing out a few runaway tears and deep sighs in the stands.

Austin iconoclasts and Television aficionados Spoon filled a satisfying opening slot for The Shins, playing their minimalist punky rock while the crowd continued to assemble in the stands, and the sun set behind them. Through tunes like “Inside Out,” “I Ain’t the One,” “Hot Thoughts,” and “Can I Sit Next to You,” they ushered in the excitement early on, a foundation for the rest of the night.


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Ride Charms Denver with Their Howling, Unique version of ’90s Shoegaze

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Photos by Michael McGrath

After a mere 20-year absence from our bustling cowtown with its burgeoning music scene, Ride returned to Denver last Wednesday to play at Summit Music Hall, in front of what must have been close to a sellout crowd. Needless to say, everyone in the audience was more than pleased to see the elusive but hugely influential, four-piece.

When Ride hit the airwaves with their seminal, explosive, and critically acclaimed debut, Nowhere in 1990, they added a level of beautiful legitimacy to the already waning shoegaze genre in Britain. Mostly due to their superior songsmithing skills and mastery of harmonies and melodies, the mop-headed four-piece quickly outdid their noisy competition. Sadly, their run didn’t last – from 1988 through 1995, they were first together less than ten years – but they’d already left an indelible mark on music. Due to a lack of commercial success – or critical acclaim – for their last two albums in that run, things got tense within the band and led to guitarist/vocalist Mark Gardener leaving the band, soon to be followed by vocalist/guitarist Andy Bell, and the band announced their ultimate demise.

First Denver appearance in more than two decades

Happily, they re-grouped in 2014, to the accolades of fans and critics worldwide, and the four-piece made their way to Denver in two decades, playing a somewhat short but ultimately hugely satisfying and exciting set, covering much of that history. If there was any residue of animosity between the band members, they showed no sign of it through the set and played as if they’d never skipped a practice.

The set featured a brilliant mix of old & new

Most of the set was made up of cuts from the new record – Weather Diaries (their first together in 21 years) – beginning with “Lannoy Point,” a signature piece featuring a droning wall of sound and huge, perfect harmonies. They followed with the beautifully rugged “Lateral Alice,” before launching the first from the seminal first LP, Nowhere, with “Seagull.” The set peaked first

The set peaked with the back to back “Dreams Burn Down,” and “Twisterella,” and then again with their huge hit “Vapour Trail,” followed by the droning “Drive Blind,” before they left the stage.

They encored with beautiful versions of “Leave Them All Behind” and “Chelsea Girl,” before leaving the stage for good. After a twenty-year absence, lthis Denver crowd couldn’t have asked for a better gift from Ride – except maybe another visit with much less time in between.


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Do You Remember the Family Dog in Denver?

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“We were all teenagers, working on coming together – and you know what brought us all together? Music.”  This was how Tony Guillory, former cabaret manager and co-founder of The Family Dog in Denver – likely one of the city’s most significant, and most hidden, venues. Guillory and I were talking that night in the backyard of the Wanamaker family home, some of the Dog’s original staffers, where people from all over had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the short-lived but hugely influential venue.

The Family Dog Denver was the cowtown’s dream and nightmare

The Family Dog, which occupied the building that now holds PT’s Showclub Denver at 1601 West Evans from September of 1967 to July of 1968 – less than a year – hosted such legendary greats as Janis Joplin/Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, and The Doors and more, in short order (to get deeper into the history of The Family Dog, check out Westword‘s article). The Family Dog not only set the tone for Denver’s future music scene, and made an indelible dent in the world of Rock n’ roll (at least for a slow-growing cowtown on the eastern plains), the venue also effectively launched the career and promotional empire of Barry Fey.

“The Tale of the Dog: the Untold Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” is trying to raise the necessary funds to keep production going – editing the film, distribution, promotion, rights & permissions, and more – and if you give, your donation will be 100% tax-deductible. You can find more information and donate online.

The party Guillory and I were in the middle of was almost a family reunion of old band members, promoters, artists, and personalities all associated with – and very much in love with – the Family Dog. Guillory managed the events at the Denver Dog during its short lifetime,  and then went on to a lifelong career in entertainment, but is by his own account truly a painter. In fact, he got his start in show business by painting set backdrops and helping set up events for many entertainers who turned later out to be legendary stars – including Johnny Mathis. He also managed the band Allmen Joy, about whom he said: “We were going to call the band ‘Snickers,’ but it was too close a rhyme with the sadly popular vernacular of the time.”

His incredibly interesting history includes time spent with the Hell’s Angels and the Rolling Stones in the historic Altamont show, chronicled by the 1970 film “Gimme Shelter,” and booking and managing bands and shows all over the world.

Local family members worked late hours for the bands and the venue

Among the guests were Melody Duggan, and Marilyn and Roy Wanamaker, who all worked at The Dog during its short existence. Roy, who started at the Dog when he was “… 15 or 16 – it’s hard to remember a lot of specifics from back then,” as he put it, used to run the psychedelic light shows that covered the bands as they played.

“I used to hang out on the balcony above the dance floor – and that balcony is still there – with an overhead projector, water, oil, and food coloring, splashing trippy colors all over the bands,” remembered Wanamaker, “among other things. I don’t remember all of them, but I have a lot of good feelings about what I do remember.” Wanamaker also regaled us with some stories about now-legendary rock stars that visited the Dog – including Jim Morrison (“My mother – who everyone just called mom, always said Morrison smelled awful!”), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and more throughout the night.

The other reason all of these beautiful ex-hippies gathered at the Big House that night was to help move a very special film project forward – “The Tale of the Dog: the Untold  Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” – which is being made and produced by Dan Obarski and University of Denver Medieval and Renaissance Art professor Scott Montgomery. A labor of love, the film has nearly reached critical mass as far as content, but is falling short of funds to get fully completed, and the pair are using the nostalgia for an era to generate awareness, and to raise some of that necessary money.

Montgomery and Obarski have been collecting verbal histories, memories, snippets of conversation, and just about anything they can find about the “Denver Dog,” which, regrettably, really isn’t much. They both met at a Family Dog concert poster exhibit in early 2015, and have been hot on the trail to unearth the venue’s true history ever since.

There’s not much proof left of the Family Dog Denver – except posters, and memories

“Aside from some pretty bad videos on YouTube, and the posters in the original exhibit and hanging in the parlor here at the house,” said Montgomery, “there really isn’t much proof the Denver Dog existed, outside of memories.” Part of the cool thing about being at the 50th anniversary was the fact that one room of the house was set aside, cleared out, and dedicated to another exhibit of Denver Dog poster art, only the second ever to . Aging hippies spent a lot of time strolling through, looking at the posters, remembering adventures, sharing war stories – and laughing, smiling, and sometimes tearing up, too.

Among the celebrities at the party was Paul Conley, the keyboardist from the seminal psychedelic band Lothar and the Hand People, who brought with him a veritable archive of magazine and newspaper clippings, photos, and artwork from the band’s early days. Among other revelations about the Hand People’s history that Conley revealed was the fact that they were “…the first band to ever tour and perform live with a synthesizer,” given to them by Bob Moog. He also confirmed that The Beach Boys’  Brian Wilson was inspired by his band’s use of Lothar – their theremin – which he eventually used in the hit “Good Vibrations.”

Every story, every memory, every reunion hug, every gut-bucketful of familiar laughter – all of these added up to the undeniable proof that The Family Dog was – and still is – the seed of Denver’s long rock n’ roll history and its constantly growing music and art scene. The fact that the Denver Dog attracted such a number and stature of celebrities in such a short time – in a desolate area of a small cowtown with nothing, really, more than aspirations to be a big city – as well as a pretty strong hippy scene so far away from Haight/Ashbury, speaks volumes of both the vibe of the place, and its loving, tireless staff.

“Growing up – surviving, there was no money – which supposedly runs things,” waxed Guillory, as the night wrapped up. “But that wasn’t true then. It’s friendship that runs things.”


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Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble Brings Sweet Sounds to Lost Lake

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All photos courtesy of Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread.com

If you’re a fan of Stereolab – the ’90s juggernaut of Euro-pop influenced, jazzy, space-age music – then you know Laetitia Sadier. Most familiar as the deeper voice in Stereolab, Sadier always occupied a dominant space in the band, opposite the late Mary Hansen until 2002. With her new band, Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, she’s continuing the tradition of ’60s-based electro-psychedelic pop, though she seems to have softened a bit on the leftist/Marxist themes in her lyricism. With the Source Ensemble, Sadier seemed concerned not so much justice or revolt as with love and freedom – between couples, between enemies – universally. She sang about worlds that could benefit everyone, based on an “Undying Love for Humanity,” which she called out for in the set’s first song.

The new group played on the low, humble stage at Lost Lake last Saturday night for a little over an hour, to a crowd that looked to have likely been at Stereolab, Pavement, Beck, and Flaming Lips shows throughout the late ’90s & early 2000s, and most ageing quite well – albeit none quite as impressively as Sadier. She crooned in front of them, playing a few different guitars throughout the show, often approaching the throatiness of Nico, but always with a smooth strength.

They played much of their debut album, “Find Me Finding You,” showing an even more melodic, heavily acoustic sound than Stereolab. There was almost a slight Brazilian psychedelia feel much of the time, soothing rhythms and lilting melodies backed by thick, groovy keys and pretty guitars. The ensemble felt more like a backing band for Sadier than a full collaboration – which I think benefitted their sound, and Sadier’s vision. Never giving up, Sadier appears to be well on track to continue creating beautiful noises, sounds, and utopian visions – which is both a good and refreshing thing for humanity.


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UMS – Day Three is the Juggernaut. You Should See These Bands!

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The UMS isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon, and Day Three is the middle 15. Long, hot, stretched out and relentless, and the most fun you’ve ever had. Time to settle in and really get a taste of the festival, and we’ve got the band list for you.

Here’s the list for Day 3: Saturday, July 29, 2017

12:00 p.m.

Edison

Illegal Pete’s (Inside)

Brooklyn-esque folk rock born of bands like The Lumineers (one of ’em was in that one, actually), based in Denver. Easy to love, impossible to forget.

1:00 p.m.

Porlolo

Irish Rover

A Denver local scene mainstay, Erin Roberts has been Porlolo forever. And Porlolo has been ever-changing, moving, growing and supporting the scene with a rock-folk blend no-one else can claim.

2:00 p.m.

Gasoline Lollipops

Irish Rover

A little bit country, a little bit punk, a little bit, and a whiskey-trickle of Denver BumCore! heroes Slakjaw, the Lollipops set the stage for a square-dance mosh.

3:30 p.m.

The Corner Girls

Main Stage at
363 S. Broadway

Glitter–drenched, funky, feminist, pastel punk is what you’ll get from this relatively new trio, pplus some high-energy inspiration to wear unicorn horns, fart rainbows, and throw shoes at the TV when your dad’s screaming at Fox News.

4:30 p.m.

The Savage Blush

Main Stage at
363 S. Broadway

Surf-drenche 60s-esque psychedelic garage rock, by a brother-sister duo from Denver. Need to know more? Go and see!

5:00 p.m.

Kitty Crimes

Syntax: Physic Opera

If you’re not aware of Denver scene heavyweight Kitty Crimes – AKA Maria Kohler,
musician, producer, all-around powerful, unforgettable presence, and member of/contributor to a seemingly unending number of local bands (M and the Gems, Harpoontang, Houses, Science Partner, Mike Marchant) – you can’t really say you’re a Denverite. Fix that, today – see her unique show, now with a full band. One you definitely don’t want to miss.

6:00 p.m.

Quantum Creep

H-Dive

Obviously fans of early Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, and a garagey-er Big Star would love these creeps. We do, too. Just go see ’em.

7:00 p.m.

Pretty Mouth

South Broadway Christian Church

Pretty Mouth start off a little smooth for us, sometimes. But – before you know it – sultry, throaty singer/songwriter Marie Litton assaults you with said voice, and leaves you in a somnambulent stupor, to be awakened by the sweet, loud licks from guitarist/cellist Lief Sjostrom. Good luck with getting back to sleep any time soon after.

8:00 p.m.

The Omens

The Hi-Dive

In the tradition of bands like Alien Sex Fiend, Tarmints, and (now) Oh Sees, The Omens will rock you with a psychedelic garage sound that’l make you feel dirty, greasy, sweaty, and elated.

9:00 p.m.

Codename: Carter

The Hornet

We’d tell you what’s so damned good, smooth, exciting, intriguing, and fun about Codename: Carter – but then we’d have to kill you. And, besides, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a band of spies such as this. That is all.

10:00 p.m.

Parallelephants

The Irish Rover

San Antonio-based Parallelephants send out onto their audience a smokey R&B that’s perfect for chillin’ and catchin’ your breath as the final few miles loom ahead.

11:00 p.m.

Nasty Nachos

the Irish Rover

Imagine filling the large tray at 7-11 with the most chips and nacho yellow cheese liquid as you can possibly fit, paying for it, walking home and eating most of it, running into your recording bedroom, and spilling the gallon of leftover cheese and corn chip crumbs directly onto the keyboard of your synth. This is where Nasty Nachos comes from.

12:00 a.m.

The Baltic

Gary Lees Motor Club and Grub

Finally, we get to the shoegaze. If you like Ride, or MBV, or dancing with your eyes closed to bauhaus as you hum what you think are the lyrics, so no-one around you will notice that you don’t know them, The Baltic is for you.

1:00 a.m.

Rumtum

The Irish Rover

Found noises, sounds, animals, people – squashed up and forced through capacitors, wires, knobs and buttons, and out rhough b ombastic speakers, and into your ears. Just be ready.


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Decatur Releases Smooth, Pensive Alt-Rock at the Walnut Room

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Local up-and-coming 5-piece Decatur hosted an EP release party last Friday night in front of a Walnut Room filled with happy & adoring fans, leaving no one disappointed. Fronted by a suave looking Sean Decrescenzo, the band played a little more than an hour of smooth, well-constructed rock that mostly recalled the sounds of Alt-J or The Fray, occasionally adding a soupcon of Dave Matthews‘ pop brilliance.

Decrescenzo was joined by Quinn Cox (guitar, keys, vocals), Chris Howard (drums, vocals), Sam Oatts (bass, vocals), and Tay Hamilton (guitar, vocals) in delivering a well-practiced and well-produced sound filled with full vocal harmonies floating through dynamic guitar and keyboard constructions and anchored by a rock-solid rhythm section. “Don’t Talk” – the opener on their debut eponymous EP – was a moody heartbreaker, and “Shadows” played out an almost film noir atmosphere.

While these musicians are fantastically talented and played a nearly flawless set, it’s a little too evident that they’re still reaching for a consistent style all their own. Well-constructed songs like “Hide Me Away” and “Every Little Step” Came across with just a shade too much of The Fray in the overall sound, although in most of the other songs Decatur easily portrayed their own unique, smooth and pensive sound.

The venue was either swaying or bouncing to the set, pumped up and excited as the band played ou its set. Many of the fans were familiar enough with the band to sing along, but almost nobody was standing still. Decatur is on its way up in the Denver scene, and with their talent and commitment should be among the upper echelon before you know it – keep your eye on them. You can stream their debut EP on SoundCloud, to get a good taste of them.


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Photo: Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

Substance Flows from Peter Hook and The Light

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Photos by Isobel Thieme/DenverThread

The Summit Music Hall was filled with history last Saturday night, as Peter Hook and the Light played both the New Order and Joy Division Substance albums in their entirety. Hook played his signature, unforgettable bass constructions alongside his son Jack Bates, who also played bass throughout the show, and keyboardist Andy Poole, drummer Paul Kehoe, and guitarist David Potts. The band did a masterful job replicating both New Order and Joy Division for nearly three hours, only stopping for a short break between the two records.

They started the first set with a few bonus cuts–“Dreams Never End,” “Procession,” and “Cries and Whispers”–before starting on the New Order album in order. The older songs stood out clearly from most of the rest of the New Order portion, which came from the band’s more accessible, dance-hit remix period. This part included highlights like the ubiquitous ‘80s hit “Blue Monday,” “Confusion,” “State of the Nation,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and the rest. While the band performed all the songs remaining true to their roots – Hooky’s bass was a bit overpowering at times – after five or six dancefloor legends they began to get somewhat tiresome. The crowd loved it early on but seemed to settle towards the latter half.

Hook didn’t address the audience much, although he did dedicate their version of “The Perfect Kiss” to the recently passed director Jonathan Demme, and later stopped the band to admonish some sort of skirmishing fans near the front. Otherwise, he was Hooky the smug professional for the entire set.

After a brief intermission -no doubt allowing the band to load up on oxygen – they came back out and played Joy Division’s version of Substance – and they looked as if they’d just begun, rather than having already played a full 90-minute set. And the audience was re-energized right along with them, screaming out lyric after lyric to nearly every song, pogoing, or simply swaying in old-school shoegaze form. Hearing such influential and brilliant classics like “No Love Lost,” “Warsaw,” “These Days,” and “Leaders of Men” performed live was a hugely satisfying experience. Hook did a good job of approximating Ian Curtis’s signature vocal style while keeping his own affect pretty evident.

It was the last half of the Joy Division set that brought the place down when the band launched into songs like “Transmission,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Dead Souls,” and “Atmosphere.” Even after nearly three hours of playing, the band never looked or sounded worn down, and did justice to the original post-punk anthems. And then, of course, came time to play the ubiquitous (but still emotionally jarring and brilliant) “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As you’d expect, nearly the entire audience sang every word along with the band, which stopped playing at one point to showcase the howling that absolutely filled the venue.

While Peter Hook remains in litigation with the other member of New Order–something he often comments is truly heartbreaking–his tours have re-introduced these important albums to so many, and in many cases have introduced them for the first time, with great respect. The records’ longevity is absolutely evident, and the insight and ingenuity of the lyrics and music are, maybe, more relevant now than when Curtis was alive.


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Bob Mould Lights Up the Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath, Story by Billy Thieme

After decades of almost no stage banter or commentary, Bob Mould had some things to say to a near-packed house at the Oriental last Saturday night, both in and in-between songs. The ‘80s/’90s influential punk rocker cut a slim, professional figure, alone on that large stage save for his guitar, amp stacks, and a mic stand, as he belted out a litany of songs from his history – more Hüsker Dü songs than I expected (a great thing), plenty of Sugar pieces, and many from his solo records.

Mould has always made an unforgettable – and unmistakable – use of his unique voice, nasal and powerful, threading often indiscernible lyrics through impossibly fast and razor-sharp power chords, and Saturday’s show was no different. Starting the show with “Hoover Dam,” “Your Favorite Thing,” and a searing “I Apologize,” he quickly riled up an already excited audience. Despite the rows of chairs set up in the pit area, most down at the stage chose to stand once the tunes kicked off – understandably.

The rocking continued through “See A Little Light,” “The End of Things,” “You Say You,” and a few others, as Mould thrashed his Fender, stalking from one side of the stage to the other, clearly in a music-borne ecstasy. He slowed things down a bit with “Lonely Afternoon” and “Sinners and Their Repentances,” from Workbook – one of his earlier solo records – almost crooning over the complex chord progressions.

He closed out the set after nearly 90 minutes with a set of Sugar and Hüsker Dü favorites: “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” the beautifully maudlin “Hardly Getting Over It,” “Flip Your Wig,” and the masterpiece, “Celebrated Summer.” By this time the majority of the audience were on their feet, screaming for more. And Bob delivered with a three-song encore including “In A Free Land,” “Daddy’s Favorite,” and “Black Confetti.”

Saturday night’s show was the first of a solo US tour for Mould that wraps up at the end of April. Judging by that performance, each show will be an unforgettable experience.

Denver trio Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart opened the show with a set of moving, dark country gothic that recalled local ghoul Munley. Thomas played acoustic guitar alongside fellow member of The Knew, Tyler Breuer, on steel guitar and Jen GaNun on harpsichord. His guttural yet smooth voice let out ballads about heartbreak, landscapes,  devils, and lovers, well-matched by the folky constructions.


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Tinariwen Come in From the Desert to Play The Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Taureg guitar band Tinariwen delighted a near-packed Oriental Theater with their unique blend of blues, psychedelic guitars, and rhythms often reminiscent of a slow, majestic plodding across hot dunes, camels in tow as night falls. The band was promoting its eighth international release, Elwan (Elephants), the latest product of 20 years of global popularity. Touring the US, Tinariwen were far from their remarkably dangerous home in northern Mali – and the music on the new album reflects that harsh environment. They usually sang in their native language – so I’m hard-pressed to identify any songs – but they were all beautifully sad, or jubilant, or sweepingly poetic, and all were drenched in a beautiful combination of Middle Eastern folk and (I swear) Grateful Dead-influenced guitar meandering.

Dressed in traditional desert clothing – beautifully ornate and covering nearly 100% of their bodies, the band members made me feel stuffy and hot – but they played on brilliantly for more than an hour, as the semi-packed pit danced and clapped in rhythm. These nomads definitely have established their American fanbase, and they’re passionately committed to the band, as much as the band is committed to them – which was obvious throughout the night.

Dengue Fever opened the evening with their unique blend of Cambodian rock, surf, Afro grooves, and psychedelic jazz, bringing the level of the theater up in short order.

 

 


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With a New Record, Japandroids Brings their Ecstatic Rock to The Gothic March 7th

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If you’re familiar with Japandroids, you don’t need any encouragement to get to the Gothic Theatre next Tuesday night to catch their infectious, ecstatic music. You already know that this duo sounds like an orchestra, exploding from speakers & stage with huge drum and guitar sounds, channeling as much Bruce Springsteen at his prime as The Alarm, The Gun Club, and epic obscurities like Squirrel Bait.

So much more than your typical garage-rock duo, guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse wield an anthemic onslaught that could fill stadiums, let alone smaller venues like The Gothic, and they pack each one with an abandon that explodes with passion like no other offering in Rock. Since they busted out of Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2006, the duo have developed an inimitable style, sharing passionately howling vocals, singing about the ecstasy of youth, partying, happiness, and the full-on beauty of life. Unbound, each song raises your blood pressure and optimism at the same time, while forcing you to thrust a fist in the air in triumph – regardless of the day you’re having.

Their latest release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, dropped in late January, and is destined only to add more to their prowess – and their live performance promises to be unforgettable. Don’t miss their show at The Gothic on Tuesday, March 7 – doors at 8:00 p.m., show begins at 9:00 with openers Craig Finn and the Uptown Controllers (a spinoff of Finn’s The Hold Steady–also a great bet). In the meantime, check out the title track from Japandroids’ latest, below.


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Aldous Harding – from New Zealand – Righteously Steals The Gothic

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On first listen, alt-folk whirlwind Aldous Harding‘s style seems run-of-the-mill, in the style of Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, or Joanna Newsome, or pastoral Nick Drake, with lilting vocals, strumming acoustic, and little else but an occasional bowing saw, or flute. Witnessed in person, the music becomes sinister–yet inviting, hauntingly painful, and smoldering.

Recently introduced to the wide world from New Zealand, the diminutive Harding sang with the lilt of a giant – or a squadron of them – at The Gothic Theatre last Tuesday night. Filling one of two warm-up slots for Atlanta indie perennials Deerhunter, she and her accompanying pianist (and life partner) Marlon Williams  promptly stole any extra energy from the venue before the Deerhunter even began a final soundcheck.

First Intro to US Audiences

The Harding the US is seeing onstage for the first time this year is anything but pedestrian, and even calling her music alt-folk is an undersell. Musically, her folk approaches centuries-old parochial ballads that might be heard at today Scottish festivals, or in between bloody Game of Thrones vignettes. But they come from an even more sinister, deeply dramatic origin – one that feels proto-gothic. Harding’s stage presence enhances the terror, the passion, the psychosis that one might imagine could be behind such perfect gems – especially if that listener were raised on slasher movies, true crime novels and serial killer bios.

At her most tame, Harding held the intensity of PJ Harvey onstage – minimalist, yet explosive – but these were only a few seconds at a time. Most of the time, she glared at the audience – or some threatening alter-audience only she saw beneath the glare of the stage lights – with facial gesticulations that ranged from mild distaste to abject pain. She would traverse emotions from frustrated boredom to legitimate disdain, and then to outright disgust, seemingly from a terrified, abused foundation. The glares contrasted beautifully with her voice – at once sultry and smokey, and wholesome and throaty, in the style of Victoria LeGrande, or Nico.

Circulating beneath that warbling croon was a constant nervousness, a level of fear that seemed to make Harding mouth disparate consonants and vowels with the same vitriol and discomfort as she revealed difficult feelings and experiences, or nightmares. Her irascible stare, wide mouth, and huge expressive eyes also recalled a young Patti Smith, albeit on an interesting mixture of barbiturates and speed.

A Masterpiece Cover of “Crying”

The duo’s second-to-last song was a cover of Roy Orbison‘s legendary “Crying,” and no better-fitting juxtapositional anthem could ever have been picked. This staged version encompassed and magnified every ounce of Rebekah Del Rio‘s nightmarish version–“Llorando”–from the Hispanic theater in David Lynch‘s “Mulholland Drive.” Dripping with every level of psychotic longing, every ounce of abject fear of total loss of control that Del Rio imbued into the masterpiece, Harding’s version also embraced all of the overdriven, suicidal heartbreak implicit in Orbison’s masterpiece. Harding belted out the tearful lament in a huge, infinitely ominous way that belied her slight frame, and absolutely killed the audience.

She finished with “Horizon,” a beautiful, anthemic curse of a song. Harding’s best of the night enveloped the existential anathema of choice at the millisecond one alights on a razor’s edge between existence and oblivion. The angst was anchored by nothing more than Harding’s intense poetry and some fist-heavy chords on the keyboard. As she literally served the audience with the choice between our princess and our horizon, there was almost a sense that she felt the need to check her hands, to make sure the warm, sticky blood of choice had really fallen off. This is how real the angst and joy in Harding’s music is, and  – if “Horizon” is any indication – it’s an intensity that will be enjoyed, influential, and resonating for a while. It’s just starting now.

Consider yourself lucky to have witnessed it, if you have, or make every attempt to get in front of Harding. It’s just starting now.

 


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