Tag Archives: Bluebird Theater

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Edison Plays Our Hearts Out at The Bluebird

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All Photos: Sandisz Thieme for DenverThread

Above all, it was Sara Slaton’s voice, softly, confidently thundering over Dustin Morris and Maxwell Hughes’ strings, sticks, horns, and skins that left an indelible mark on the Bluebird audience Sunday night.  It’s undoubtedly this layered canyon wall of sound that’s leaving that same mark on Denver’s continually exploding scene.

Particularly poignant was their version of “Open Road,” an upbeat, traveling tune that  Slaton called “… a love song for our van.” Maybe among the most of the folky tunes of the night. this one recalled a sort of Edward Sharpe vibe, just bigger and less hippy. When Edison broke out on the Denver scene, Slaton’s vocals and Morris’s multi-instrumentalism more than hinted at a huge thing – equally echoing the intimate bedroom of Bon Iver or Iron & Wine. The addition of Maxwell Hughes’ (formerly part of Denver’s Lumineers) strong symphonic skills and brilliant guitar work pushes Edison near the often heady and atmospheric realms of shoegaze, and grounds their folk sound with just a soupcon of The Head and the Heart as they easily – and masterfully – grasp a noisier Fleetwood Mac.

The highlight of their set was definitely the war cry “Civil War,” showing Slaton’s fierce passionate voice and the bombastic rhythms of her bandmates, attempting to grasp her from the maelstrom of a changing relationship, in the midst of a changing life. The audience screamed the chorus along with Slaton again, and again, and again – adding to the spiritual fracas.

While it’s certainly no surprise to see yet another strong trio come out of Denver’s collaborative scene, Edison promises to be one of the biggest in a little while, it seems. And with bands like Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats in that pedigree, that’s saying no small thing. Edison’s sound is huge, new, exciting – folky, yet concrete; whimsical, yet eons deep (mostly due to Slater’s haunting and full vocals). Ready to add another notch to Denver’s musical belt?

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Dinosaur Jr. Owns/Destroys the Bluebird – and Your Ears

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When the stagehand started walking across the Bluebird stage last Tuesday night carrying a plastic bag and handing out bright orange foam earplugs (at first I thought he was passing out baby carrots – strange) to everyone in the pit, I purposely didn’t take a pair. I’d been in the audience for My Bloody Valentine’s epic (and stupidly loud) “You Made Me Realise,” along with its endless, jet engine noise. I’d been a veteran of the ’90s when The Flaming Lips were known as the “loudest band in the world.” I’d been in many SWANS audiences, perhaps the most violently loud, controlled and painful assault of all. And there had been umpteen hardcore shows throughout the ’80s, from Black Flag to Minor Threat, to Bad Brains, to your buddies’ band that formed in the garage for a week while his parents were out of town – and all of these turned up well past 11. A seasoned atomic volume sound vet, I figured “I don’t need no stinkin’ earplugs!” Besides, this would be my first time seeing my heroes – J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph – together in Dinosaur Jr. – and I didn’t want anything to feel left out.

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Earplugs!

I don’t regret not taking the earplugs–at all. But I will say I only lasted in the pit for about 3 songs before retreating to the relative sonic safety of the bar in the back. Shows always sound better back there, anyway. And this was one show I really wanted to take in – and I’m glad I did.

For some reason, every opportunity I’ve had to see Dinosaur Jr., in the nearly 30 years I’d been listening to them, always fell apart. If they were paying Lolapalooza, We got there too late for their set. If they played at a local venue, I was working nights. And then there was their multi-year hiatus. I’ve seen most of the other bands that Dinosaur Jr. spawned–Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, etc.– and J Mascis on his own, but never the triumvirate. This was a perfect chance to remedy all that missed music.

The Dream Setlist

And Mascis, Murph, and Barlow definitely delivered. Starting off with an explosive, chaotic version of “Bulbs of Passion,” they had the decibel and adrenaline level bursting through the roof in no time. While it wasn’t a chronological progression, their setlist covered a lot of ground, including “The Lung,” from You’re Living All Over Me; “Freak Scene” and “Just Like Heaven” from Bug (and the related EP); “The Wagon” from Green Mind; “Start Choppin'” from Where You Been; “Feel the Pain” from Without a Sound; “Crumble” from Beyond, “Watch the Corners,” from I Bet on Sky, and more from other releases Farm, and the latest Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. the only thing that could have been better would be to have seen them on the second night at the Bluebird as well.

This Historic Trio

This trio was so seminal to the whole ’90s sound, brilliantly mashing up the best rocking bits of Neil Young with the sound sense and guitar wizardry of Sonic Youth, and wrapping that all around Mascis’s disconnected, a-social characters and missed chances, slacker attitude, and overwhelming exhaustion with the weight of growing up. Seeing them in 2016 – a little grayer, or more bald – brought all that back into a beautiful perspective, one that showed me that even the most odious parts of “adulting” can lead to  your own success and art.

Visually, they didn’t appear to have aged at all since the ’90s: Mascis flung his long (now silver) mane around as he played complex, wicked guitar licks at impossible volumes – never missing a beat, and a casual as if he were standing in your kitchen with a beer can in hand, talking about his latest girl-miasma. Murph was a locomotive, pulling tons of beat and exploding the tracks as he pounded a course through all the distortion. Lou Barlow exploded, again and again, a monster – in the Muppet sense – thrashing on every inch of his bass, and wildly flailing over stage left, never stopping for more than a second between songs, and getting lost beneath his mane of black repeatedly.

I’m not sure if earplugs would have deafened any part of the show – but I’m still glad I didn’t stuff ’em in. Missing even the smallest, molecular part of this show would far outweigh any loss in hearing that I don’t already enjoy.

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DenverThread Picks of the Weekend – Pre-Thanksgiving Edition

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This year, as you’re getting ready to load up on tryptophan, relatives, scotch and football, we’ve got a few recommendations to make sure you get a good filling of music to hold  you over the holiday. We’ve picked out quite a selection of underground coming through Denver over the next week or so, from straight up folk, to singer-songwriter smoothness, to grindcore and the beauty of fuzzed-out stoner rock. Read on – and listen – to find out just what you’re in for from these shows.

Sunday, November 22 – Bluebird Theater

Rock’s latest answer to James Brown, workaholic guitarist Ty Segall‘s latest trio promises to pound the fuzz into and out of you this Sunday night at the Bluebird. With Segall on drums for this endeavor, this trio envelopes all the best creamy goodness of Mudhoney, with more than a little Sabbath mixed in (maybe a result of guitarist Charlie Moothart’s  Ozzy-esque whining drone). Wicked stoney guitar riffs, heavy bass and blasting drums are in store. If you’re not feeling stoned soon after you arrive, you will – whether you smoke or not. Check out “Rat Race,” from the new album FUZZ II, to get a taste:

Fuck the Facts
Monday, November 23 – Mutiny Information Café

If your cup of tea includes screeching, lightspeed guitars, screaming vocals, and plenty, plenty, plenty of glorious feedback, make sure you don’t miss Fuck the Facts at Mutiny Information Café this Monday. This Canadian grindcore band may just be the perfect way to prepare your ears and head for the inevitable screaming – from parents, siblings or brand-new young-uns – you’re heading into for Turkey Day. If nothing else, this band will make you thankful for earplugs. Take a listen to “La Mort I,” from their latest Desire Will Rot, released last summer. It won’t get quieter than this – guaranteed:

Abby and the Myth
Wednesday, November 25 – Herman’s Hideaway

How about a soupçon of straight up folk for the night before the big feast? If you’re into the music that The Lumineers and Brooklyn’s latest folk fad has popularized over the past few years, you’ll love this set. Guaranteed to put a lift in your step, this acoustic group led by the multi-talented Abby Posner centers on her talents with strings, and a strong vocal range. Check out “This Room,” from For You, the Spring, below:

Joel Ansett
Thursday, November 19 – Soiled Dove Underground

New to Denver as of this past Summer, Joel Ansett shows off a tender skill at crooning that recalls Sufjan Stevens or a slightly-less edgy Ed Sheeran. A golden voice and solid songwork pair well with strong lyricism – which is probably why Ansett was able to raise enough money via a recent KickStarter to record his debut album, due to be released on November 23. Listen to “Already In Love” below, while you get your tickets online.

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Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

New Year, New Venue – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is changing up New Year’s Eve

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Slim Cessna's Auto Club Live (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Live (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

One of Denver’s most popular New Year’s Eve parties is about to change. For the first time in about a decade, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club won’t be helping Denver fans jettison the old year for a new one – at least, not at the same location. After a long string of consecutive, packed shows at the Bluebird – for more than half of the band’s history – this year’s New Year’s Eve two-day shindig will be taking place at the Oriental Theater in Northwest Denver.

We got the chance to talk to Slim – the enigmatic leader of the goth-country, funky americana outfit – about the move recently, and the fact that this year’s gigs have a special addition: Slim Cessna’s son’s band – The Sterling Sisters, based in Baltimore, MD – will be joining the party.

Turns out the change may have been in the works for a bit, too. The relationship between the band and the venue seems to have wilted of late – sort of the same way a hockey team seems to get tired of its coach. It’s no-one’s fault, really – it’s just that a change is in order.

Slim Cessna at The Bluebird in 2011 (Photo: Jon Solomon)

Slim Cessna at The Bluebird in 2011 (Photo: Jon Solomon)

“It’s become pretty clear over the past couple years that Scott [Campbell – AEG Booking agent for the Bluebird and owner of the Larimer Lounge] has been ready for us to move on,” explained Slim. “We’ve had the New Year’s Eve shows at the Bluebird  – we’ve played the Bluebird for years – and we used to have total control of the shows. Which bands we brought to play with us, what we did with the stage, for instance. Not so much anymore – we’ve lost a lot of the control of the stage and bands.”

“Our 11th consecutive NYE show was at the Bluebird – and that’ll be the last one. The 12th will be at the Oriental,” he added.

And this year he’s bringing son George’s band  – The Sterling Sisters – to the party

The new venue should be a fine place to hold these locally famous, near-revival-tent-like parties. The stage at the Oriental is larger than the Bluebird’s, and official capacity at the Oriental is about 150 more. And, since the ceiling was replaced after last year’s minor collapse, the sound inside has been largely brilliant.

Besides all of that, Slim and the boys seem to be happy with the management at the Oriental as well. Since Scott LaBarbera regained the Oriental over a year ago, the place has been running well, filling up more often, and attracting more significant acts nearly every week (if only the parking could somehow grow a little, it’d be set for just about anything). And LaBarbera seems to be making the bands that come by happy.

“Scott’s been great. He’s fair, allowing us to pick our bands, and paying them fairly. Which is really important for Sterling Sisters, because they needed to be paid enough to make their trip  out here from Baltimore worth it.”

Sterling Sisters is Slim’s son George’s five-piece band, and it’s not a surprise that they stomp on the same mystical musical ground as the Auto Club. The group’s sound is spearheaded by George’s carbon-copied Slim Cessna vocals (heck – George even looks the spitting image of his father: tall, lanky, Hank Williams in a black suit), intertwined with the beautiful, operatic and haunting singing of Scout Paré-Phillips – a pairing that, though it doesn’t sound like it, brings to mind the kind of vocal pairing the Exene Cervenka and John Doe created to lead X. It’s unforgettable together, and makes the atmosphere of Sterling Sisters’ gothic freak folk all the more enticing, intriguing even.

George Cessna is a film student in Baltimore currently, studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art, on his own path, to be sure. But there’s no doubt he’s not fallen far from Slim’s influence. Sterling Sisters features the young multi-instrumentalist alongside Pare-Phillips vocals and bass, and Andrew Haas on Banjo, Nicole Rodrigues on violin and Corey Hughes on drums and percussion. Their sound is the next step in the evolution of the Auto Club, really.

The Sterling Sisters. Have you picked out George? (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

The Sterling Sisters. Have you picked out George? (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

Similar, but very different.

The group’s first, eponymous EP, starts out with Paré-Phillips crooning over a slowly strummed banjo, and immediately causes visions – invariably in sepia-tone – of ghost-towns, windswept prairies, high desert on horseback, and a heavy helping of desolation. And then the band digs in, with a style of country folk that only the Auto Club could have gestated. One standout, “Fairplay, Colorado,” invokes an eerily accurate vision of the town, probably because George has spent his fair share of time hiking through it:

“It’s not George’s fault that he looks like me – sounds like me,” said the elder Cessna. “But he’s definitely not “us.” He’s found his voice, and it’s unique, and it’s really beautiful.”

It’s obvious Slim is proud of his son when he talks about him. And why not? George is only 20 now, and seems to be well on his way. It’s amazing how a life around talent breeds even more of it.

“He started young – both of my kids did. They’ve had access to all of this music for all their lives,” said Cessna. “Amelia plays the oboe, and just recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a major in oboe.”

“George – he can play everything now,” he added. “Drums, piano, guitar, violin – hell, he can even play the cello!” (laughs).

“I’m good – I’m good at surrounding myself with talented people,” explained Cessna. “I’m good at making a fool of myself. George is actually, a naturally good musician.”

The Sterling Sisters Live (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

The Sterling Sisters Live (Photo: The Sterling Sisters)

Asked whether Sterling Sisters is a regular sharing the stage with the Auto Club – at least on this tour, Slim pointed out that George was too busy with school to be a part of it all. But they have begun to make their mark with the elder band – even all the way out west here in Denver.

“Sterling Sisters played a show opening for us in August in Pittsburgh,” explained Slim. “We were happy to share that stage with them. They played their first Denver show at Bender’s in June, opening for Munly’s band – the Lupercalians. That was a great show.”

They’ll be sharing the stage again for both nights of the New Year’s Eve celebration this year, though.

“We wanted Sterling Sisters to play at least one of the two nights – an they’re opening for the Auto Club for both. And being paid – significantly. They’re pretty excited.George is 20 now – but he’ll be 21 for the NYE gigs – something he’ll no doubt be taking full advantage of.”

Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim (Photo: Gary Isaacs)

Slim is well aware of the influence he’s had on his kids. They are, in fact, the entire reason he’s based in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, rather than here in Denver. Slim moved his family out there in 2003, specifically so that they could take advantage of some of the things other cities like Denver offered – but that they would never be able to afford because of the costs of living. Both kids went to the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and have obviously benefitted greatly from it. These kinds of sacrifices are what make the difference, and what make Slim even more of a rock star to his kids than to the band’s worldwide fans.

“Yeah – they were sacrifices,” he commented. “And they worked.”

The Auto Club has been, it seems, almost non-stop touring this year – to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. If you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, it seems they’re in another town just about every other night.

“On this tour, we’ve been to Europe twice, up in Canada, through the Northwest and Southeast in the US,” said Slim. “But, according to everyone on Facebook, we’re not in their town.”

Still, the band calls Denver their home, and still announces their allegiance at the beginning of every show. Though Slim calls Pittsburgh home, and guitarist Dwight Pentacost is based in Boston, the band’s real spirit comes out of Denver.

“It’s not like I’m not there,” explained Slim. “I spend weeks at Bob’s [Ferbrache – who has recorded the Auto Club’s music and engineered it for years – and plays in the band] house from time to time. And we play in Denver a lot, every year.”

And Denver’s a strong base for them, as well as the rest of the city’s bands. Slim was quick to express his gratitude: “Denver is a wonderful place for music. It’s got such a vibrant scene, and so many great clubs to play in,” he said. “Never take that for granted – Denver’s awesome.”

Besides celebrating their second decade, this year’s tour has been in support of the band’s eighth record, “Unentitled,” which is receiving some pretty strong reviews according to Slim. “It’s been accepted well – it’s selling,” he explained. “It’s a good record, and people like it, from what we hear.”

It is a good record, except for the fact that – if you’d been to many of the Auto Club’s many shows in Denver in the few years before it was pressed – their stage shows featured most of its songs. When it first came out, it was a little hard to get excited about the tunes. But, here in Denver, we’re spoiled.

“It takes a lot of time to record our stuff – partly because of the long distance thing, but partly because of the way we work and – just our stuff,” explained Slim. “We often find we go in different directions a lot as we’re working it all out, and so we play it live a lot before we record. It helps to get the whole thing straightened out.”

That it did. The tour now features a lot of that stuff, to be sure – but there’s still no match for the tent-revival meets psychedelic freakout of an Auto Club show. Slim was understandably tight-lipped about any real specifics about this year’s New Year’s Eve shows, but it’s certain to be unforgettable, at least.

I asked Slim if he felt, after 20 years of constant Auto Clubbing, that things might wind down soon, or that he might be passing the torch on to his son George. His answer was typically down to Earth – but hilarious, nonetheless.

“Well – this is it – I don’t have a backup plan. No 401(k), no retirement, no healthcare, even,” he said. “I’ll be doing this for a long while.”

Denver Broncos UK (Photo: Denver Broncos UK)

Denver Broncos UK (Photo: Denver Broncos UK)

He also perked up about another project he and some of the members of the Auto Club have been toying around with for a few years now: The Denver Broncos UK. A noisier, more aggressive version of the Auto Club (which is a purposely understated description, designed to get you into the oriental early for the first day of festivities), the side project looks like it’s going to start getting real.

“We’re also working on The Denver Broncos UK,” Slim pointed out. “Our first show in Denver will be one of the two at the Oriental, on Sunday, The 30th of December, opening for the Auto Club. We’re looking forward to on that as a real thing – not just a side project. We’re excited to see where that’s going.”

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Hook and company brought a missing sound to ears that had been waiting for some time. (Photo: Al de Perez)

Live Reverb – Peter Hook & the Light play Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures,” Bluebird, 9-19-2011

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Peter Hook & the Ligth performed a solid, beautiful rendition of "Unknown Pleasures" last Monday night at the Bluebird.

Peter Hook & the Ligth performed a solid, beautiful rendition of "Unknown Pleasures" last Monday night at the Bluebird.

At the risk of eliciting a chorus of jaded groans: Yes, Peter Hook & the Light, led by the bassist for the influential Joy Division, performed a rousing rendition of the post-punk swan song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” last night at the Bluebird in the first of two encores. Did you think they wouldn’t?

The surprise was that the revered hit may have been the worst song of the otherwise iconic, appropriate, set. Maybe Hook meant it literally when he introduced the song as “One that’s meant to leave you with a smile.”

Over the course of 90 minutes, Hook and his much younger sidemen may have won over even the most cynical, jaded post-punk hipster as they played the entire seminal Joy Division album “Unknown Pleasures,” bookended by works that spanned the band’s early career, including a few from their early incarnation as Warsaw.

Though Hook’s reputation as a difficult character preceded him — furthered by depictions of him as a whining 20-something in movies like “Closer” and “24-Hour Party People” and the well-documented feud with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner — his dedication to these classic songs quickly eschewed any of that characterization. Aside from a tendency to scream out in an off-kilter (yet strangely fitting) exuberance, Hook played a strong, tragic Ian Curtis.

Read the Entire Reverb Review in the Denver Post Online!

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She Wants Revenge, Kill Hannah @ the Bluebird Theater, 10/4/09 – Reverb

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She Wants Revenge opened up a can of techno dance whoop-ass at The Bluebird Sunday night. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

She Wants Revenge opened up a can of techno dance whoop-ass at The Bluebird Sunday night. (Photo: Wikimedia.org)

The band’s show at the Bluebird Theater last Sunday night turned out to be a perfect place to show off their emulative prowess, featuring a playlist of songs heavily influenced as much by old school bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus, the Cure and Soft Cell as Interpol and Nine Inch Nails, and with more than a bit of Rick James’ funk.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!

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Sonic Youth @ The Ogden, and Akron/Family @ The Bluebird, July 31, 2009 – Reverb

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Photo: Tina Hagerling

Photo: Tina Hagerling

. . . the five-piece showed the surging Denver throng that it has reached a sort of musical plateau, one where it can perform just about any collection of new, old and really old material with aplomb and brilliance. They can whip any crowd into a throbbing fury, and then easily coax it back into placidity.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!

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Filter @ Bluebird Theater, July 7, 2008 – Reverb

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Filter's Richard Patrick. Photo: Jason K. Powers

Filter's Richard Patrick. Photo: Jason K. Powers

Though [Patrick] screamed often in anger about the disgust he holds for the situation we find our society in — centered around the Iraq war, but certainly not limited to it — he could have been reading off of cue cards at times.

Read the entire review at Denver Post Reverb!!


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