Tag Archives: Oriental Theater

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Marty Stuart Shines at Oriental Theater

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Photos by Michael McGrath

Five time Grammy winner Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives dazzled the packed house at the Oriental Theater on Saturday, May 13th.

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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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Everybody Can Pussy Riot

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A night with Maria Alyokhina and Alexandra Bogino of Pussy Riot

By Isobel Thieme

“Don’t you know that a wall has two sides and nobody is free?” – Pussy Riot in their EP xxx

Members of Pussy Riot spoke on a panel at the Oriental Theater, moderated by local journalists Bree Davies and Ru Johnson.

Pussy is a word I’ve seen and heard quite a lot lately, how it is “grabbed” and how it “grabs back,” for example. And now, Pussy Riots.

While I walked around the block-long line of people on Tennyson on my way into the Pussy Riot panel held at the Oriental Theater recently, I was happy to see so many women lining up – I don’t know about you, but I could use some girl power these days.

Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time.

The inside of The Oriental seemed to ring with a certain sense of desperation–but not the kind we feel when we’re simply waiting in the crowd for the lights to dim, the band to come on stage, and the music to start. It was heavier, characterized by a need, a cry for help. The last few weeks in the US have opened up the floodgates for so many questions and uncertainties about our country’s government–in my case, anyway–and here we were presented with the chance to hear from two women who have helped to start a vital conversation around the government in their own country of Russia. Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time. What could we learn from these women who have dedicated their lives to activism? To changing an outdated patriarchal, corrupt system – through music, nonetheless? I, and I think many others, took Masha and Sasha’s visit as an opportunity to listen and learn how best to move forward in our own situation.

Feminist Punk Rock Protest – and more

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

The female warriors who are Pussy Riot are often armed with bright neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, their loud musical instruments, and their refusal to be quiet. Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow, known for their intentionally disruptive performances in public spaces. Specifically, they broke through US media for their performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which two original members were arrested for “hooliganism” and imprisoned for two years afterward.

In every way, Pussy Riot demands to be recognized.

As a band, Pussy Riot is inspired by other punk, thought-provoking, music makers, like Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill. But, in truth, there is no band out there quite like Pussy Riot. Their creation stems from an oppressive and patriarchal dictatorship which violently condemns any form of political resistance. Sasha told us that those who live in Russia can easily be put into prison for political opinions they might post on Facebook (imagine how many more new babies, kittens, and reports of bagel-eating we would see if that was the case in the US).

As we know, social media is an incredible platform for activism and social justice, albeit an easy, incomplete platform – as one can be an ‘activist’ anywhere from an airplane to their own toilet. But Pussy Riot saw the dormancy of social media for social justice. Beyond that, Sasha talked to us about the fact that the authorities in Russia don’t see sanctioned rallies as a threat to their power, so they simply ignore them. Any voices that come out of those kinds of rallies or protests go more or less unheard by the government. So, the rallies and performances which are not sanctioned are an essential piece to the Pussy Riot movement.

They’re disruptive, unsolicited, and absolutely demand attention

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

Pussy Riot knows how to be heard by the audiences they are targeting, simply because they don’t have any other choice but to be loud. The kind of performance art they participate in is intrinsically disruptive, it’s unsolicited, and it absolutely demands attention. Not only that, but it’s provocative. The name of their movement was inspired by wanting to make those who heard, spoke, or wrote about them feel uncomfortable, just by having to use the word “pussy.” These warriors are fearless – they are constantly pushing beyond the boundaries which are built around them with feminism, activism, and progression in mind.

It was amazing to hear these women talk about how they have actively participated in developing a cultural shift in their country that could allow for sexual equality, the proper treatment of LGBTQ+ people and women in Russia, how they have redefined protest for themselves, how they have learned about the power of community. Pussy Riot is a special example of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. They don’t simply talk or argue about the ways in which they are oppressed by their culture and government, but they are actually doing something about it. Something real and something tangible.

“Every person has a choice, every choice is important, and if you choose to stay aside, you’re giving away an opportunity for action. So ACT.” – Maria Alyokhina

It’s easy to sit aside and watch, to scroll, like, comment, share, and retweet in this electronic bubble we’ve blown for ourselves, that is a given (like I said, you can be an activist from the comfort of your own toilet), but what choice are we really making when we do only that? Masha and Sasha both encourage the use of protest and street riots because “you see the eyes of people who are with you,” which can only work to fuel the fires of progression when and where we feel it is needed.

Truly, We all should Pussy Riot

As a young woman, it felt inspiring and rejuvenating for me to watch the way these women have taken control of their country’s situation in their own way—how they have harnessed the power inside themselves and from their community to call for change. Masha and Sasha’s story–and their presence–offered us incredible advice while we take our turn to call for our own change. We ought to refuse to be quiet about the things we believe in, we all ought to Pussy Riot.

Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.

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Pussy Riot–A Wake Up Call for American Women

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By Molly McGrath

Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.

Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.

What do we really know about Russian women?

I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.

My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.

“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.

The 2016 American Election

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change. 

When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.

Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.

What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.

If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.

Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.

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Shonen Knife Ready to Destroy Denver, with a Little Help from Denver

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Shonen Knife will attack Denver - and win - Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

Shonen Knife will attack Denver – and win – Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

“Just the idea of a trio of Ramones worshiping Japanese girls roaming the earth playing their own brand of J-Rock, J-Pop, Pop/Punk Fun Time Soup, was good enough for us,” recalled local musician Arlo White, of Denver’s Sparkle Jetts. “When we finally heard them it was exactly like what it sounded like in our heads: Pure Innocence, Straight forward Rock and Roll Fun!”

It’s a pretty perfect way to describe Shonen Knife,  one of the ’80s and ’90s more obscure, but most delicious, Japanese exports. You may think that bands like Guitar Wolf hold the J-Punk torch (and they do, handily – but not completely), but it’s Shonen Knife that made the first real stab (pun fully intended) of Ramones-powered pop from Japan into America. Shonen Knife – and particularly Naoko Yamano – have enjoyed 32+ years of existence, and haven’t wavered once from their original happy, poppy, cat-, food- and youth-loving brand of punk rock. And they’re not about to slow down.

The latest incarnation of the trio, featuring Yamano on guitar and vocals, Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums, is touring in support of the band’s 20th release, “Overdrive,” and they’re appearing at the Oriental Theater in North Denver this Thursday night. Not a show you want find out too late that you missed! Tickets.

“Overdrive” is solid, just like it sounds, focusing on ’70s rock a la Kiss, Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy, but with the same naive, happy charm that the Knife has always been known for. Kittens, noodles, green tea win out over heartbreak, overdose, alcohol or endless groupie groping on this record – but the charm we’ve all come to love far outshines the gritty, grimy shortcomings (after all, we get plenty of ’70s lubed-up glam porn from all the Kimye crap, don’t we?).

We had a chance to reach out and touch Yamano while she was on the road, between nearly 7-day-a-week gigging, to ask her a few questions. She was kind enough to reply – and we love her and the band all that much more for it. Read on:

DenverThread: Wow – nearly 33 years, and 20 albums, all amped full of consistently catchy, unavoidably addictive Ramones-y power punk. Any end in sight? Do you plan to retire, or keep kicking ass until you just can’t anymore?

Naoko: Keep kicking ass is ROCK! But if there will be no Shonen Knife fans, I have to retire.

DT: Many of your dates on this US tour are back-to-back. Is it exhausting – just how you like to roll?

Naoko: Actually, long drive makes me exhausted but once I see our fans at our show, I get power.

DT: Since the happy, positive power behind your output hasn’t, how has your world view changed over the past 30+ years?

Naoko: My world view hasn’t changed. I just get well experienced.

DT: So much rock n’ roll is heavy, emotional, overbearing (especially in the US), yet you are constantly able to maintain a light, carefree feeling in the subject matter and feel behind your songs. Do you think that comes from your own personal outlook, or your upbringing in Japanese culture?

Naoko: It comes from my personal character. Many bands are singing about love in Japan and US and  sometimes about social problems in US. I don’t want to be the same with others. I like to make one and only unique music.

DT: There are so many to choose from – and they’re all great – do you each have favorite Shonen Knife songs/albums?

Naoko: I always prefer the latest album. Thus “Overdrive” is the best so far. I especially like “Black Crow”, “Shopping”, “Like a Cat” and “Jet Shot”.

DT: Your songs often have a food focus – and the USA spreads a giant table of wonderful, tasty – and sometime just plain weird – food choices. Anything in your travels that fits in the “weird,” “super-weird” or “just plain crazy” category?

Naoko:  “Weird” — “chicken cutlet waffles and hazelnut chocolate cream on the side”. I like the taste of both chicken cutlet and waffles but the combination is a little odd. Waffles should be separated from chicken. “Super-weird” — too colorful artificial colored sweets and cakes.

DT: Is there any American food you just couldn’t do without?

Naoko:  I don’t have any particular food but American Rock.

DT: You seem to be cat lovers – why is that? Are they more preferable than other animals in your opinion? More preferable pets than dogs? (Full disclosure: I love both, but prefer cats).

Naoko:  I love both two but for dogs, I have to take them outside for walk. Cats are more free and independent.

DT: Your sister Atsuko used to design and make all of your costumes – does she still influence the onstage costumes?

Naoko:  She made our new costumes. Her design and sewing is the best!

DT: Did you know any of the opening bands for the Denver show – Sparkle Jetts, Sonic Archers 0r 9 Volt Fatale – before hearing they were opening for you?

Naoko:  I don’t know them but I’m looking forward to play with them.

DT: Do you often find bands on tour that you end up really liking, or following? Any that stick out from other sites on this tour?

Naoko:  I like [The] Mallard that they opened up for our US tour in 2012 in the west coast.

Don’t miss this one, presented by local promoter Girl Wreck Presents, at one of Denver’s classic, beautiful venues – the historic Oriental Theater. Besides the headliners, there will be an impressive collection of Denver local bands warming up and filling out the lineup, including glam rockers Sparkle Jetts, Mod-Brits The Sonic Archers and noise merchants 9 Volt Fatale.

Continuing from above, Sparkle Jetts’ Arlo White – also the host of Radio 1190‘s Hypnotic Turtle Radio, and a Denver celebrity in his own right, had a few things to say:

Sparkle Jetts are… “Whitney Rehr (guitar/vocals), vocal/guitar goddess and one of Denver’s most underrated performers, also plays in Gata Negra, I’m A Boy, and Meta Lark. Arlo White (lead vocals), flat-footed, rock and roll mephisto, formed DEADBUBBLES and The Pretty Sure, and currently hosts Radio 1190’s Hypnotic Turtle Radio. Hope Bertsch (drums), crazed, primal powerhouse, also plays in The BlackoutsChris Keift (bass), lays down the low end with post-punk devotion, was the bassist for The Dirty Lookers.”

“We’ve all been around the Denver music scene for a long time, playing in various bands, and the stars finally aligned,” White went on to explain. “Our uniting of superpowers came about almost a year ago, and we’re now ready to use our powers for good!”

“SPARKLE JETTS are currently playing a mixture of songs from my previous bands DEADBUBBLES and THE PRETTY SURE, plus SPARKLE JETTS originals,” he continues. “I want SPARKLE JETTS to be Denver Rock City’s go to band for the pure Rock and Roll experience!”

Once again – you don’t want to miss this one. We’ve been fans of Deadbubbles and The Pretty Sure since their get-go. We know what you’re going to like.


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Girl Wreck hosts the 2nd Annual Girl Wreck Fest at the Oriental tomorrow, April 6, 2013

Girl Wreck takes over the Oriental tomorrow night for 12 hours of local rock

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Coachella? ATP? Lollapalooza? All of these mega fests are announcing/leaking their mega line ups – but who in Denver needs them? Wanna usher in the Spring and Summer music season in style?

Head up north to the Oriental Theater, where you’ll catch the 2nd Annual Girl Wreck Fest – two stages and 12 solid hours of music, all local, all woman-run (or at least woman-centric) bands – for only $10. How can you beat that? Staying off the street and listening, meeting, drinking with, wrestling with (if that’s your thing) some of Colorado’s newest, most exciting local acts – all brought together by Girl Wreck Presents.

GWP is the brainchild and obsession of Brandy Darling, a promotional company that’s dedicated get some of the coolest music nationwide – worldwide – to stop in Denver and play for you, and Darling is well-connected enough to be making the company a growing, successful operation. Paired with local venues – the Lion’s Lair in the past, and the Oriental now – Girl Wreck has become a force to be reckoned with. And this year’s festival is a perfect celebration of that force.

Featuring more than 20 bands on two stages – including The Blackouts, Throttlebomb, Gata Negra, The Ghost-Towners, Crash, Salt, 9 Volt Fatale, The Front (WY), Buteo Buteo, In The Company Of Serpents, The Cutthroat Drifters, Mike Borgia & the Problems (MO), The Lollygags, Chella Negro & the Charm, The West, Dead Orchids, Fujita Scale, Atomic Americans, Paris By Sea, Tender Krease (NE), Number Station, Brian Parton, and more – this is Denver’s first Spring festival.

Don’t miss it. You’ll regret it for years – I promise.


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Heavy with Joy: An Inter/Review with Wovenhand’s David Eugene Edwards

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David Eugene Edwards leads Wovenhand Friday night, November 16, at the Oriental Theater, kicking off a new tour of Western cities. (Photo: Wovenhand)

Wovenhand released “The Laughing Stalk,” the Denver-based band’s seventh studio album, in September – so we may be a little late in reviewing. But then, so is Friday night’s CD Release Dance  at the Oriental Theater – November 16, 9:00 PM, with Reverend Deadeye – a little late in coming (and we’re happy to take advantage of the timing).

The reason for the separation between release and Dance Party, actually, is mostly the band’s recently (well, actually, consistently) busy schedule. Frontman – and Denver enigma – David Eugene Edwards is not only leading the newly re-formed four piece, but is also an intrinsic part of the re-genesis of legendary Australian band Crime and the City Solution, alongside some other musical heavy hitters like C&CS founder Simon Bonney, Alexander Hacke (most famously of Einstürzende Neubauten – and  this latest record’s producer) and his wife, artist & vocalist Danielle de Picciotto, Jim White (of Dirty Three) and more. The Bonney-led rebirth of the band is big news – on the supergroup scale for post punk – and it’s taken an understandable amount or Edwards’ time.

Still – Wovenhand is alive and strong, maybe stronger than ever. After 2010’s The Threshingfloor and some lengthy touring worldwide, longtime bassist – and longtime friend – Pascal Humbert quit to take on his family’s French vineyards and guitarist Peter van Laerhoven left as well, leaving Edwards and drummer Ordy Garrison alone with the keys. For The Laughing Stalk, the group added new bassist Gregory Garcia Jr and additional guitarist Chuck French (of Git Some, Planes Mistaken for Stars and more). The result has been called “… the most heavy incarnation” of Wovenhand, ever (which is saying something, considering the band’s characteristic gravity), but there’s more than a hint of levity in the mix now, too – and much joy.

We talked to Edwards recently about the C&CS project, touring, and some other things – but, most importantly, The Laughing Stalk. He had a lot to say about it, and so do we.

The Laughing Stalk jumps out of the gate immediately, almost joyous, with “Long Horn,” a rousing tune that envisages the beginning of a Western adventure, speeding across wide, sweeping landscapes – atop horses, motorcycles or landspeeders, it doesn’t matter – the feeling is one of conquest, maybe even victory. Wovenhand always combine unique instrumentation with old folk tendencies, and lay them atop strong, driving Native American rhythms – but never more excitingly than with this record.

It sounds live – the whole record does, really, which was by design. About working with Hacke – with whom Edwards became friends out of the C&CS project – the band has nothing but respect.

“Hacke is great – no complaints. Of course he’s brilliant at what he does,” said Edwards. “But he was happy to not have to change much after we recorded it.”

“It was recorded differently than our other records; Hacke didn’t have to change much – which he liked,” he explained. “He added his… ‘special sauce,’ of course – especially in the low end, cause that’s where he lives – but not much more.”

“We recorded this one basically live, because everyone has always asked for a live album,” Edwards added. “The live shows are so much different than the records, they have a different feel – everyone keeps asking for that. And I’ve never liked live recordings – so we put this together that way. We think it’s a good result.”

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

The Native American influence has long been a constant in Edwards’ compositions and performance – a mainstay. Is it born out of lineage, or upbringing, or both? According to Edwards, it’s a little of both; it’s as much a part of his internal makeup as it is a part of the landscape.

“There’s some Native American in my lineage, but more on the peripheral,” he explained. “It was something we grew up with, that was important in my life, in my parents’ lives and in family. It’s always been something they – we – were proud of. There’s no real spiritual significance to it, though. It comes in through the blood … but also from where we are.”

It’s no surprise to Edwards that this record emanates a lighter, more exuberant feel than previous Wovenhand material. It starts at the title.

“It’s [the title] meant to be light, to imply a little comedy,” he explained. “This record… reflects my current situation, where my life is right now. It’s joyful, filled with humor.”

“In The Temple” is a perfect case in point. This piece is anthemic – on a level with what bands like Coldplay might feel like they’re playing (instead of the sentimental and mostly vacuous treacle they really are). It lifts your heart rate from the first squalls of its almost church-organ base, and continues to build – tempting you to begin speaking in tongues in response to Edwards’ witnessing.

The feeling continues to rise with the onset of “King O King,” maybe the only tune on the record that reflects Wovenhand’s 2010 tour with Tool. With its force, this is the record’s most evident victory march – replete with biblical proclamations in its verses, and significant liberation in the chorus.

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Wovenhand shares much of its personality with Joy Division – in fact, their ability to cover the legendary Manchester post punk icons without coming across disingenuously or awful (sadly, this is the case with too many other bands that attempt to cover JD’s material) is unmatched –  especially live. For a taste on record, look to “Truth” (actually a New Order song – but one written in the shadow of Ian Curtis’s suicide) on The Threshingfloor. For an even more intoxicating example, catch them live to see if they cover “Heart and Soul,” a semi-constant, fantastic piece.

That said, “Closer,” the fifth track on The Laughing Stalk, isn’t meant to relate to Joy Division’s last album of the same name. Rather, this song is a meditation on a Biblical verse: Proverbs 18:24 – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,/but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

“It’s something I’ve been singing/playing, between songs, for about the last two years,” Edwards pointed out. “We just put it together into a whole song.”

The result is an isolated, private treatise of gratitude, it seems, to someone in his life. Quiet, desperate; the song emotes a powerful mantra, anchored in Garrison’s incongruent drumming and whispy guitar, ending with a nod to early Echo and the Bunnymen, from a Dylan perspective.

“Maize” settles in next – a song that’s in itself a play on its title. Native American-influenced rhythms match feet running through a looping maze, lead by a beautifully creepy piano, while Edwards describes awe of the height and depth of the canyon through which the Philistines pursued Samson – in Judges 15 – before he turned on them and “… Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.” The sound inspires such a clear vision of the pursuit, the massacre, and the rage of the giant hero at the refusal of his Delilah – and the ultimate victory he feels after laying wast to a thousand men.

The official CD Release Dance poster – by Ryan Mowry. 40 of these glorious prints (2 color, 18×24, screen printed on speckletone oatmeal french paper, signed and numbered) will be on sale at the show. (Photo: Sounds Familyre)

And the song sits at the acme of the record – aptly named as the product of such a mirthful stalk.

A close second plateau is the punk/folk “As Wool,” a fun romp that promises to be memorable live. From the drums to the thick, faster chords and guitar lick of the song’s verses, to Edwards’ playful preaching, this one harkens back to a more aggressive, simpler – yet no less purpose-filled – time.

After the release party at The Oriental this Friday night, Wovenhand are off on a West Coast tour, and then get a well-deserved break for the Holidays. It’s been busy for Edwards.

“I just got back – and just had gotten back the last time we left again. I’m busy – unusually busy, for me – which is something I try not to be,” he said. “We’re touring the West coast after Friday night – San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, Santa Fe, Los Angeles and other places out there.”

After the Holidays, it’s back on the road again for Edwards, along with Crime & the City Solution, followed by the release of the supergroup’s full album, slated to drop in the spring.

About his experience with Bonney and the rest of the Crime crew:

“The experience has been great. I mean, it’s a lot of big stuff, big people – it’s a pretty large project,” he said. “It’s going well – we like how it’s turning out.”

Need some proof? Listen to the album’s the epic “Maize,” below, and then head out to the Oriental Theater Friday night.

[ca_audio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Maize.mp3″ width=”500″ height=”37″ css_class=”codeart-google-mp3-player”]

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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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Girl Wreck Presents is booking more and more great bands throughout Denver. (Photo: DenverThread)

Live Review – Agent Orange Tears Up the Oriental with Raucous Surf Punk

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Agent Orange's Mike Palm onstage at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: DenverThread)

Agent Orange’s Mike Palm onstage at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: DenverThread)

“This place is so awesome,” exclaimed Mike Palm, frontman of Orange County’s legendary surf punk trio Agent Orange last night in the Oriental Theater. “Not like the Bluebird.” His mini-review of another of Denver’s fine venues came just before the band ripped into “Living In Darkness,” one of a 20-song set that lasted a too-short 70 minutes.

Palm, bassist Perry Giodano and drummer Dave Klein, after setting up all of their own equipment, tore through an explosive version of “Miserlou,” followed by hits of theirs like”Too Young to Die” (dedicated to the late Phyllis Diller), “Everything Turns Grey,” “Voices in the Night,” “No Such Thing,” and “El Dorado” before playing west coast hardcore anthem “Bloodstains.”

“This place is so awesome,” exclaimed Mike Palm. “Not like the Bluebird.”

They also played a few covers, including the Weirdos’ “Living in Another World,” Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck” and their pretty famous cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love.” Meanwhile a modest mosh pit was hard-won by a few dedicated slammers in front of the expansive stage.

Some surprising tunes filled out the list, as well, including “America,” the Tom Waits classic “Whistling Past the Graveyard” and “This House is Haunted”  before closing the raucous set with “The Last Goodbye.”


The legendary surf punk trio played 20 songs over abut 70 minutes last Wednesday night. (Photo: DenverThread)

The legendary surf punk trio played 20 songs over abut 70 minutes last Wednesday night. (Photo: DenverThread)

For a group that’s been together and touring in one form or another since 1979, Agent Orange proved they’re no worse for the wear. Palm’s vocals were still strong, as was his signature lightning fast surf punk guitar. Klein and Giordano built a wicked fast, strong rhythm foundation behind Palm that kept the sparsely filled Oriental fist pumping, pogo-ing and slamming. Palm was right about the venue, too – The Oriental’s size is a great boon to any band – and a three-piece like Agent Orange are dwarfed by the huge stage. The sound was spot on, too – something too many local venues seem to get just off.

The Oriental's huge stage and great sound made the show even better. (Photo: DenverThread)

The Oriental’s huge stage and great sound made the show even better. (Photo: DenverThread)

It’s great to see the acts that are accumulating at the north Denver venue, after many years of minimal booking and multiple owners. Local producer Scott Labarbera seems to be making a strong go of the place once again, as he did a few years ago, before the place changed hands a few times and ended up back under his control.

Girl Wreck Presents is booking more and more great bands throughout Denver. (Photo: DenverThread)

Girl Wreck Presents is booking more and more great bands throughout Denver. (Photo: DenverThread)

The show was put on by Girl Wreck Presents. the booking and talent agency started out of the Lions Lair and run by Brandy Darling. Her agency has also taken off this year, booking acts like crazy around Denver as well as the Lions Lair – including bigger punk names like Flipper earlier in the year. Girl Wreck Presents’ focus on local and national punk acts – and much more – is growing into a major force in Denver. Check out their upcoming schedule here.

Opening bands ZebroidsStraight Outta Luck, and Salt all played strong sets of punk before Agent Orange took the stage, showing off some of Denver’s thick talent pool.

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Gira as the Steston-wearing noisemonger. (Photo: Beowulf Sheehan)

The DenverThread Interview: Michael Gira

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Michael Gira appears this weekend at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: Carlos Melgoza)

Michael Gira appears this weekend at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: Carlos Melgoza)

Gira discusses SWANS and more, before an upcoming gig with Wovenhand, The Howling Hex, March 24 at the Oriental Theater

When I discovered SWANS at a 1986 punk show at the Eagle’s Lodge (they played cuts from their then-current LP “Greed,” with two bombastic drummers, thundering bass and bulldozing guitar, Jarboe screaming and Michael Gira – barefoot, shirtless, drenched and suffocating himself with a mic chord and self-loathing howls of terror – or pain – or disgust) it was one of the shows that changed my life, and cemented my lifelong involvement in the interpretation of music – especially live music. And it wasn’t just because I was one of two people that I know actually enjoyed the show (my date being the other – and we still talk about that day).

It was because I knew I’d seen something musically that, in my young 20-year-old mind, made no sense. In the context of destroying buildings with sonic explosions, or of torture, or of avalanches of rock and mud tearing through entire villages – sure, in that context what I’d experienced made sense. But not as music. My body, though, felt otherwise, and that gut feeling has remained with me since then.

“It’s like a monk vomiting, somewhere off in the distant Himalayas.”

– Michael Gira, describing his and SWANS unique sound

Fast forward 26 years, and SWANS remains one of the most intriguing and influential musical artforms in my life. And they’ve gone through a world of evolution – from that aggressive, sonically crushing noise in the ’80s, through a terrifyingly beautiful and complex oeuvre of sonic sculpture as the ’90s progressed, to a recently reformed, fully formed and mature modern prometheus the likes of which would likely make Mary Shelley quiver with delight upon discovering – so complete a match for something so human, so man-made, horrifyingly misshapen – and perfectly sublime.

Suffice to say that, if you haven’t seen or experienced SWANS – even on record – do it. The visionary leader behind the seminal noise and eardrum-crunching band, Michael Gira (pronounced gear-AH, I now know), is beginning a tour of the western side of the US and Europe, and is stopping here at our beloved Oriental Theater this Saturday night, March 24th, for a solo opening spot to “warm up” for David Eugene Edwards’ local behemoth Wovenhand, and featuring The Howling Hex.

It’s a pairing not destined to happen again – to miss it would be a huge mistake. Gira was gracious enough to take some time to talk with me about SWANS, his views on illegal downloading, his music, David Eugene Edwards and more. Read on to see what we talked about….

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Copy Copy Copy

New DenverThreads: Kissing Party, Erik Husman and the Golden Rule and Mombi bring more to Denver’s sound

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Kissing Party - Wasters Wall

Kissing Party - Wasters Wall

Kissing Party – Waster’s Wall

Kissing Party’s latest record, “Waster’s Wall,” still reflects a little more Belle & Sebastian than it’s probably meant to. And I’m putting that out there right away because of Gregg Dolan’s reported frustration with that comparison. But it’s not mired in the Brit-pop band’s lo-fi jangle. For this record, the four-piece seems to have pulled out a little early New Order to add to a bright pop sound that’s sort of becoming a Denver music trademark (albeit for just one of the many active genres in town). There’s also a nod to the Velvet Underground’s legendary eponymous album – particularly in Dolan’s vocals, and particularly behind the songs “Gold Holes,” as well as a heavy Mercury Rev vibe.

Actually – despite Dolan’s frustration with the first comparison – these are all big names to be pulling some of your musical influence from, and he should be proud. And the whole band should be proud of “Waster’s Wall,” probably one of Denver’s best of 2011 in our opinion. The record also has our vote for one of the best pieces of cover art – ever.

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