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Best Live Shows of 2007

April 27th, 2008

Instead of the usual list of our favorite albums, we decided to write about our favorite concerts in 2007. In this age where copies of albums can be had for free the real value proposition is the live performance. Here in Denver the live music scene is growing like crazy. More venues host live shows and it seems there are more shows than ever before. Independent musicians (not associated with a major music label) have proliferated as more of these artists have a large enough audience to tour because it is easier than ever to disco er them through the internet. One of the benefits of all these shows and venues is that many of our local bands have improved as well. 

My Top Shows – by Mystic Spiral

10 (tie) – Dr. Dog @ Larimer Lounge (3/20) & Man Man @ Larimer Lounge (3/27) Two amazing shows by two of the greatest live bands out there today.  Dr. Dog is 100% energy and the 5 Man Man men play oodles of instruments; both are a complete joy to watch.  I actually ended up seeing both bands twice this year, but an obnoxious crowd ruined my second Man Man show and Dr. Dog seemed a bit weary when I saw them back at the Larimer in October.

09 – Dan Deacon @ Hi-Dive (6/28)Even though I missed almost half of it, this was one crazy performance.  Dan plays on the floor amid the crowd, and definitely encourages audience participation.  So much fun. 

08 – White Rabbits @ Larimer Lounge (10/13) This was just a really fun night.  They played most of their brilliant album Fort Nightly plus a couple of great new songs and even a Bob Dylan cover! 

07 – Menomena @ Hi-Dive (4/7) Menomena is another hip, energetic, fun new(ish) band.  Between their new album and their live show it’s hard to believe there are only three guys in the band. 

06 – The National @ Ogden Theatre (9/18) Not only are their albums superb, but The National is a captivating live band.  Word has it that this was only their second Denver appearance, let’s hope they don’t wait too long to come back through town. 

05 – Okkervil River @ Marquis Theater (9/13) This one was a long time coming for me.  Okkervil River was really the first indie band I fell in love with and I’d been aching to see them for ages.  Brilliant show. 

04 – The Thermals @ Hi-Dive (3/22) This show was insane – the Hi-Dive was packed and The Thermals were energetic and LOUD (thank god for ear plugs!).  Their second Denver appearance this year unfortunately didn’t hold a candle to the first.  It was no fault of the band, they were great, but the leap from the Hi-Dive to the Gothic proved to be a bit much as the Gothic was just way, way too big for them.

03 – Cloud Cult @ Larimer Lounge (5/10)I have seen Cloud Cult twice now, and each time was a borderline religious experience.  Cloud Cult is so powerful live, and the onstage painters add a unique touch to the performances. 

02 – Monolith Festival @ Red Rocks (9/14-15) Despite all the stair climbing, Monolith was a great success; I hope the festival continues next year.  Best of the best for me include:
Everything Absent Or Distorted – these guys are my favorite local band and it was awesome seeing them play the Red Rocks main stage.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – we ended up seeing this trio because we couldn’t decide what to do next.  Yay for indecision because this turned out to be the best surprise of the weekend.  They’re playing the Bluebird on January 4th and the Fox Theatre on the 5th – don’t miss it!
Matt And Kim – it was the second time I’d seen them in four days.  Their genuine gratitude and wonder at playing Red Rocks was very endearing, and their set was very rockin’!
William Whitmore – William was the only set I saw at the small acoustic stage.  He and his banjo were a lot of fun.
Cloud Cult – I’ve concluded that the top of Red Rocks is the perfect venue for this band.
YACHT – well, it was me and maybe a couple dozen others who witnessed Jona’s set, while the thousands of other festivarians were at the main stage with the
Flaming Lips.  I made the right choice.

01 – The Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem @ Red Rocks (9/17) The announcement of this tour sent the indie music world into a complete frenzy, and with such high expectations came the fear of a letdown.  Fortunately, both bands delivered mind-blowing performances.  This was not only the best show I saw in 2007, but the best show I’ve seen in years.

My Favorite Concerts of 2007 – by Mark Tatum

I saw about 120 bands play this year and was continually overwhelmed by the list of upcoming shows. There were at least that many more bands that I wish I had seen. While I attended the Monolith Festival and the local Denver Underground Music Showcase, it was the small venues that I liked the best. Often I made the choice to go see a less popular band in a small venue instead of heading to Red Rocks or the Fillmore for better-known bands. I’m happy with those choices.This was the year that I was addicted to bands with women lead singers. They just seemed more interesting and creative than the same old four-guys-in-tennis-shoes bands I normally encounter.

10. The Randies @ Surfside 7 (January 25) It was a cold January night in Ft. Collins and one of my favorite bands, The Randies, dragged their equipment into a tiny bar and set up on the floor in front of some booths. There wasn’t even a stage, but that didn’t keep them from giving am energetic performance of some of their best pop-punk songs.

9. Great Northern & The Comas @ Hi-Dive (August 6) Don’t you love surprises? I went to see the Comas, who didn’t disappoint me. But I went away talking about Great Northern, who enveloped me in their dark and moody music.

8. The Dollyrots @ Lions Lair (August 3) All three members of The Dollyrots are tremendously talented. On top of that, Kelly Ogden’s peppiness puts their on-stage performance over the top. Every song has a pop hook but is delivered with a punk sensibility. Lots of fun. 

7. The New Pornographers and Emma Pollock @ the Gothic Theater (November 5) The amount of talent on stage this night was probably the best Denver saw all year, at any venue. Emma Pollock was simple and perfect. The New Pornographers were confident and practiced. So many great songs.

6. The Raveonettes @ The Bluebird (October 31) Before the show I wondered how they would create their huge sound with only two guitars and a couple of drums. They didn’t disappoint me.

5. The Gore Gore Girls @ Hi-Dive (September 20) Whoa! Somebody made the Gore Gore Girls really angry. Or was that just an act? Great rock songs with big hooks, giant guitar sound and short skirts. What a  combination. It was refreshing to see a band that really thought about their performance.

4. Silversun Pickups @ The Ogden (July 30) I knew they were good but seeing them live surprised me. This was a really fun night that left me smiling for a long time.

3. The Donnas and Donita Sparks @ The Marquis (September 25) One of the biggest surprises of my year. Donita Sparks, formerly of L7, gave one of the best individual performances I saw all year. Then the Donnas came on the stage. I had seen them several years ago but was totally unprepared for a performance that went off the confidence scale. Their mastery of the songs and the audience was awe-inspiring. I am forever a Donnaholic now.

2. The Thermals @ Hi-Dive (March 22) The Thermals are really a punk band. They bring all the energy associated with early punk shows to today’s issues. This sold-out show had more sweat and jumping than any other I attended. 

1. Dan Deacon @ Hi-Dive (June 28) Even though he was obviously exhausted from constant touring and not adapting very well to the altitude, Dan Deacon put on a one-man show that had the crowd of 100 or so dancing like teenagers around his card table control-center. Okay, about half the crowd WERE teenagers, but his energy and unselfconsciousness was infectious. Also the best light show I saw all year. 

Review: New Pornographers at the Gothic in Denver

November 9th, 2007

by Mark Tatum

One of the effects of the new music-making environment we find ourselves in today, where it is so easy for artists to record and release new songs, has been an explosion of “supergroups.” Musicians from various bands get together to work on a song or album together. Some of these groups have produced exceptional music while others seem to have been simply an excuse for friends to get together.


photo by D.L.

I arrived at the Gothic Theater an hour before the doors opened because The New Pornographers are undoubtedly the best of these supergroups. It was a chance to see several artists on one stage, all of whom have proven they can stand on their own.

Also touring with the New Pornographers were Emma Pollock and Immaculate Machine, who are worth seeing on their own. It promised to be a really good night. Finally the doors opened to let us escape the cold breeze and we got a spot near the stage.

At 9 pm Immaculate Machine came on stage and began their set. I had seen them two years before and they seemed much more confident this time. Their new album has received a lot of attention, but for me they didn’t manage to connect on stage the way they do on their album. Perhaps it was because they were at the end of this tour and they were tired. Maybe they need to be physically closer on the stage. Both Kathryn Calder and Brooke Gallupe are obviously talented and at least are fun to watch.

Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine
Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine. Photo by kmb187

Emma Pollock was a member of one of my favorite groups, The Delgados, who disbanded a couple of years ago. She struck out on a solo career and just released her first solo album. She is touring the US with a full band, hopefully introducing a whole lot of people to her voice and mood-setting songwriting.

Her first notes brought a smile and her easy confidence spilled into her guitar. Her new songs are enticing the first time, yet complicated enough to reward repeated listening. Her voice has a calming effect and just listening to her can make you feel good. But it is her songwriting that really sets her apart from all the other pretty voices out there. It was a joy to watch her play again.

Emma Pollock
Emma Pollock. Photo by Jeremy Farmer Photog

Few artists could follow up the talent of Emma Pollock, but the headliner was The New Pornographers, maybe the most talented indie-rock band we have today.

Their sound is driven by A.C. (Carl) Newman, whose guitar takes center stage along with the songs he writes for the group. Other luminaries on stage included Neko Case, whose career continues to soar, Dan Bejar, whose solo work goes by the name of Destroyer, drummer Kurt Dahle, and Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine. Sometimes there were nine musicians on stage.

But much of the focus is on Newman, who writes most of the songs and plays a guitar that dominates (in a good way) most of the songs on stage. Their new album has lots of different instruments, but their live performance keeps to the basic indie-rock instrumentation (just lots of it).

Carl Newman of the New Pornographers 2007
Carl Newman. Photo by Jeremy Farmer Photog

The New Pornographers are masters of 3-minute pop-rock songs. Every song they played, from “All The Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth” to the last encore was a piece of art and I’m beginning to wonder if any other band from this decade can come close to their catalog of great songs.

Of course what makes it all work is the professionalism of the musicians as they play together. Newman sang a couple of songs. Then Dan Bejar came out (with a beer in his hand, of course) and sang “Myriad Harbour” which is a perfect example of this group’s unselfish nature. This song may be Dan’s best yet, but instead of keeping it to himself he made it a part of the New Pornographers portfolio and by doing so they made it even better.

Dan Bejar of the New Pornographers 2007
Dan Bejar. Photo by kmb187

Neko Case is so interesting to watch and listen to. She seemed more comforatable than the last time I saw them together. On many of the songs she plays backup singer and she adds so much to those parts and is a big reason for the overall strength of their performances.

Neko Case of the New Pornographers 2007
Neko Case. Photo by kmb187

When they had first came on stage they seemed exhausted. This was the last show on their US tour and they have been going at it for quite awhile. But instead of plodding through the songs, they seemed to be energized by them as they went further into their set. Their fatigue seemed to be washed away by the music and by the time they got to “The Bleeding Heart Show,” their show-ending anthem, they had infected us all with their energy.

What makes them so good is their ability to stand together, to put away their individual egos and just make really good music together. It was a pleasure to watch them and hopefully they will continue to get together once in awhile to make some more great music.

New Pornographers Set List:
All the Things That Go To Mae Heaven and Earth
Use It
Myriad Harbour
Electric Version
All the Old Showstoppers
Jackie, Dressed In Cobras
Challengers
The Laws Have Changed
The Spirit of Giving
My Rights Versus Yours
Mass Romantic
Adventures in Solitude
Testament to Youth in Verse
Unguided
Twin Cinema
Go Places
Sing Me Spanish Techno
The Bleeding Heart Show

____________
+2 encore songs

Review: The Raveonettes at the Bluebird

November 1st, 2007

by Mark Tatum

Because I see so many different bands each year I really look forward to those that are different in some basic way. The Raveonettes are different in several ways: They are from Denmark. They are fronted by just a man and woman, Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo. They share vocal and guitar duties on songs filled with clangy reverb, a touch of surf guitar and Ronettes, The Velvet Underground, meloncholy vocals and a wall of sound.

Sharin Foo of the Raveonettes at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on October 31, 2007.

The Raveonettes are touring ahead of the release of their newest album, “Lust Lust Lust” which is due in Europe next week. The album doesn’t have a US label associated with it yet and the release here is expected to be some time in 2008.

Denver was their last US stop on this short tour and it was only Sune, dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, Sharin in a plain red dress and Leah Shapiro, the drummer for this tour, who only had a tom-tom and snare, who took the stage. Since I am in love with the gigantic sound of their music I wondered exactly how they would do that with such a minimalistic setup.

I wasn’t disappointed as they immediately filled the room with their trademark guitar sound. Sune and Sharin both played their Jazzmaster guitars. Sune would sometimes play individual melody notes while Sharin added distortion, but they spent much of the time playing the same notes together. It was fascinating to watch.

They both sang nearly every word in a dreamy, reverb harmony. There was a recorded bass line on some parts which the drummer controlled, but it was mostly the simple tom-tom and snare that kept everything together. It all seemed so simple and so impossibly complicated at the same time.
Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on October 31, 2007.
They played many songs from their previous albums and the first five songs from the new album. Their new songs, some of which you can hear on their myspace page, are more guitar-driven than their previous release “Pretty in Black.”

Some of their earlier albums have been an acquired taste for me. It has often been difficult to get past the layers of sound and reverb and really begin enjoying the songs. But for each of those albums I have kept with it and been rewarded with that addiction to great new music we are all searching for. After only a few listens of the new album I can feel that intense love affair beginning again.

Although the Halloween crowd at the Bluebird was not huge, they were very appreciative, even awestruck, by the super-surround experience The Raveonettes created. They are certainly different from other bands I see, and in this case different is very, very good.

Set List
Remember
Noisy Summer
That Great Love Sound
Let’s Rave On
Mary
Hallucinations
Black Satin
Attack
My Tornado
Veronica Fever
Expelled
Lust
Red Tan
Trash Can
Dead Sound
French Disko
Aly, Walk with Me
_________
+2 encore songs

Review: White Rabbits at Larimer Lounge

October 17th, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

When it comes to finding new music, the internet age we live in can be a double-edged sword. Bands are permeating every corner of cyberspace via MySpace and last.fm, not to mention the countless blogs that are out there. It’s thanks to these sites that I’ve discovered a number of my favorite bands, but it can also be quite overwhelming for we music fanatics. I mean, let’s face it: new bands on the scene need something that sets them apart from the rest of the pack if they expect to prevail in attracting listeners.

New York City’s White Rabbits have been grabbing the attention of critics and bloggers alike with their energetic live show and brilliant debut album Fort Nightly. They brought their unique brand of calypso rock to the Larimer Lounge over the past weekend. It was a cold, rainy night and a late show that would normally have deterred me from venturing out, but I’d been looking forward to seeing them for a while now. I grudgingly skipped their set at the Monolith Festival (in favor of William Elliott Whitmore) because I knew they’d be coming back ’round in a month.

The White Rabbits at Larimer Lounge in Denver on October 13, 2007.

Everything I’d heard about the White Rabbits’ live show was right on the money. With two drummers, two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist and tambourines everywhere, they packed themselves onto Larimer’s small stage and put on one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. Though the banter was in short supply, Greg did mention that the Rockies had won 19 of their last 20 (at the time anyway), and even did a little “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chant for Matt Holliday… Rockies fever is gripping everyone who comes through Denver, it seems.

The White Rabbits at Larimer Lounge in Denver on October 13, 2007.

With just one album to draw from, most of the material was unsurprisingly taken from Fort Nightly, though we did get two quite promising new songs. First was “Sea Of Rum”, a very island-flavored tune about Saint Michael, the devil, and drunkenness. You can download it here – from The Daytrotter Session that White Rabbits did back in July. Details are a bit hazy on the other new song played, but I think it may be that first song of the Daytrotter session… Great new stuff.

The White Rabbits at Larimer Lounge in Denver on October 13, 2007.

One of my favorite perks of live music is the chance to see how bands interact with each other – it actually adds to my enjoyment when bands clearly have a great time playing together. That the White Rabbits mesh very well is evident not only by their unspoken onstage communication but also by their tight harmonies, crisp playing and two-drummer synchronization. To define the White Rabbits’ live show as energetic is a severe understatement. Their energy infiltrated the room, gathering momentum throughout the hour-long set before finally exploding in the near-mosh-pit inducing “The Plot” – which was, according to Stephen, the fastest they’ve ever played it. The encore ended the amazing night with the most interesting cover of “Maggie’s Farm” that I’ve ever heard segueing into “I Used To Complain Now I Don’t”.

Though the options for your Next Favorite Band are infinite, you can believe the hype with these White Rabbits. See them, love them, buy their album.

Review: Dr. Dog at Larimer Lounge

October 13th, 2007

by Mystik Spiral 

Caveat emptor, my friends: this review is as much about baseball as it is about music.  You’ve been warned.  It’s October and the Rockies are deeper into the post-season than they’ve ever been, hence I’ve been having a hard time this month switching my attention from baseball to music.  I actually skipped Bishop Allen, one of my favorites, at the Hi-Dive on Thursday to watch game 1 of the NLCS.  I refused to miss Dr. Dog, though, so I tore myself away from the TV and headed to Larimer Lounge.

I arrived about 5 minutes before Dr. Dog took the stage.  I’m glad I waited ’til the last moment, as the second band, Apollo Sunshine, had had car trouble and didn’t make it in time for their set (they did play after Dr. Dog but it was 1:00 in the morning and I was exhausted).  Most everyone in the bar was glued to the television when I walked in.  I joined them until Dr. Dog took the stage, at which point people started drifting to the stage area.

This is the second time I’ve seen Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog at the Larimer this year.  I can’t believe these guys aren’t bigger. Maybe it’s just Denver… They’ve played both the Letterman Show and Conan O’Brien and they did a recent stint opening for Wilco.   I haven’t seen Wilco live for a while, but with Dr. Dog’s energy and Wilco’s descent into easy listening I can imagine that the young guys blew the veterans away during that tour…  

Toby opened the show by asking how the Rockies were doing and letting us know they were pulling for them (“you gotta go for the team that beat ya”).  If you haven’t seen Dr. Dog, you should as soon as you get the chance, and before they do finally go big time.  They are one of the best live bands for your money – energetic, tight, just a whole lot of fun.  My attention was still divided during their set, though, as I was receiving Rockies update texts from my sister approximately every 2 1/2 minutes.  When the Dr. Dog set began, the Rox were up 2-1 in the top of the 8th.  They lost their lead in the bottom of the ninth and went to extra innings.  Boo.  OK, to somewhat make up for my lack of detail about the show I’ll at least post the setlist:

Ain’t It Strange
The Pretender
The Girl
Alaska
Old Ways
Fate*
From*
Worst Trip
Easy Beat
The World May Never Know
Keep A Friend
Livin’ A Dream
Die Die Die
The Way The Lazy Do

*This is how these songs appeared on Frank’s setlist. I didn’t recognize them and I think they may be new!

Apollo Sunshine had shown up by the end of the regular set, so there was no encore.

I didn’t think it was going to be possible, but the baseball game was still going when Dr. Dog wrapped up.  So I moved to the bar for the top of the 11th.  The Rockies scored when the Diamondbacks’ closer walked Willy Taveras with the bases loaded.  Oops.  Then my sister called, and we decided that I better stay at the Larimer to watch the bottom of the inning, as it seemed to be lucky.  I did, we got the D’Backs out in order, and the Rockies are coming home with a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.  With 3 games in a row at home, the Rockies are in prime position to make the World Series.  Whoa.  It should also be noted that there is nothing better than high-fiving strangers over a baseball game, mid-October, in an indie rock dive bar.

Review: The Donnas at Marquis Theater in Denver

September 26th, 2007

by Mark Tatum

One of the wonderful things about how music has changed the during past few years is the blurring of traditional lines that once separated particular artists into genres. In the past metal bands played on metal radio stations and were only heard by metal fans. The same with R&B and other popular genres. Many other types of music were hardly heard at all on the radio and those artists toiled in oblivion, no matter how good they were.

But the internet has changed all of that. When a DJ isn’t choosing the tunes you listen to you are likely to discover sounds you never imagined you would enjoy.

Poster for The Donnas show at Marquis Theater in Denver on September 25, 2007.

The show last night at the Marquis Theater in Denver was a chance to cross some of those lines and discover good and well-performed music, thanks in part to some old friends.

The first band on stage at the Marquis Theater was American Bang from Nashville. At first glance they appear to be a long-haired southern rock band who haven’t released an album yet. Closer examination shows they have been signed by a major label and have a string of tour dates lined up supporting established and well-known performers.

Clearly this is a group of good-looking young guys that Warner Records feels strongly about. They reminded me of seeing The Killers at Larimer Lounge, before their record release in the US, when there were more handlers from the record company than there were other audience members. American Bang were best when they let through some of that southern-rock style. It will be interesting to watch them in the coming months after their EP is released in October.

Next up was Donita Sparks, better known as co-founder of L7, one of the hardest rocking all-female bands (remember their song “Pretend We’re Dead”). They had their heydey in the late 80′s and early 90′s when grunge rock was dominant. That band is gone but Donita has formed her own self-titled group including former L7 drummer Dee Plakas.
Donita Sparks at the Marquis Theater in Denver on September 25, 2007.
Donita and her friends instantly raised the energy and performance level on the stage as they launched into a series of psychedelic-influenced (to this old ear) songs. When Donita took up her vintage Gibson for the third song the sound was overwhelmingly wonderful and it continued through the rest of the set.

Just as enjoyable as the music was the performance of Donita Sparks, who was happy, intense and engaged with the crowd. It is rare that a performer can so instantly connect with an audience, especially when they are billed as a warmup band. The audience may not have known who she was (The Donnas were only 6 years old when L7 formed) but she had them smiling soon after she took the stage. I wonder how many google searches for “L7″ this tour will spawn?

Anyhow, the new material sounds really good on stage and hopefully they can translate that energy to the full album that is scheduled to be released next year.

The Donnas just released their new album, Bitchin’, that is heavier-sounding than any of their previous releases and it seems to have confused many reviewers who want to put them into the same garage-rock category that their label tried to put them in years ago. To me it is one of the best fist-pumping, turn-up-the-volume, arena-shaking albums made for quite awhile. If calling it a great metal album ruins it for you, then change the label to fun, affirming, rock anthems.

The Donnas have the confidence and swagger to play to an arena full of fans. But last night it didn’t seem to matter to them that there weren’t thousands to play for.
Allison Robertson of The Donnas at Marquis Theater in Denver on September 25, 2007.
Their sound starts with the heavy guitar riffs produced by Allison Robertson, who would have turned the heads of pouty-lipped Aerosmith if they could have heard her last night. Just as good was lead singer Brett Anderson, who has become a tireless testimony for keeping bands together for over a decade so they can perfect their craft. Few hair bands of the 80′s ever had such a charismatic singer, and none are as fun as Brett. The rhythm section of Tony Castellano on drums and Maya Ford laid down a flawless beat with the same confidence.
Brett Anderson of The Donnas at Marquis Theater in Denver on September 25, 2007.
One complaint about The Donnas is a lack of variation from one song to another. During the show it seemed hard to argue with their strategy of going from one well-performed rock anthem to another. If you do something well and the crowd loves it, why change?

And the crowd did love every moment of the performance. Denver can produce some of the loudest, most fun-loving, sing-along rock audiences in the country and this was one of the best. The Donnas responded to this adoration by giving more.

When I walk out the door of a show and wonder where the band is playing the next night, Omaha or Salt Lake City, and seriously consider driving there, I know it has been a good concert.

However you classify these bands and the music they play – metal, grunge, hard-rock, alternative, post-punk, garage – they are sure to cross those lines and mess with your preconceived notions. The only genre that really matters these days is Do I Like It Or Not? I do.

Review: The Gore Gore Girls at Hi-Dive

September 23rd, 2007

by Rex

This was one of the best weeks of indie-rock concerts in Denver and after the Monolith Festival I decided I wanted to see The Gore Gore Girls, an all-girl Detroit band named after a 1972 horror flick.

Hammer and Amy Gore of the Gore Gore Girls

From their latest album, Get the Gore, I knew to expect basic rock ‘n roll with the band taking parts of late 50′s and early 60′s rock and mixing them with 70′s punk with a dash of 00′s garage flavor. One of their songs is co-written by Runaways co-founder Kim Fowley and the Gore Gore Girls have that same basic, straight-ahead rock sound.

Everything they do on stage is part of the style that makes the Gore Gore Girls unique. Dressed in short plastic black and white dresses, high-heeled boots and topped by 60′s style hair – no bad-girl group from 1966 ever played rock this way, with sneers, crush-you struts and teasing winks.

But it is the music that makes them worth the trip. They don’t try to do anything fancy, but they do it really well. I realized just how no-frills their sound is when I noticed that Hammer, the lead guitarist, had her giant Gretsch guitar plugged directly into her amplifier. No bothering with sound effects here. Their sound is definitely plug-and-play, and the simplicty is part of the appeal.

The crowd at the Hi-Dive ate up lead singer Amy Gore’s lyrics and the danceable tunes. At the end of the set she turned on her fuzz box and jumped on top of her gigantic vintage amplifier and totally rocked the last two tunes. They won all of us over.

Sometimes it is good to remember how powerful basic rock can be. The Gore Gore Girls mix that great sound with a style that makes for a great show. If you are interested in seeing them the Gore Gore Girls will be returning to Denver at the Larimer Lounge with Electric Six on October 22nd.

Set list:

Voodoo Doll
Start Struck
Pleasure Unit
I’m Gonna Get You Yet
Loaded Heart
Automatic Love
Sweet Potato
Don’t Cry
So Sophisticated
Little Baby
Fight Fire
Fox in a Box
Hammer Stomp
Buried and Dead
Astral Man
You Lied to Me Before
All Grown Up
Casino

The Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem @ Red Rocks

September 22nd, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

Have you ever had a feeling of impending yet unspeakable greatness?  Like there is something lurking on the horizon that will be mind-blowing and unlike anything you have ever witnessed?  That’s how I felt when I heard that The Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem were planning a tour together, and that the tour was opening at none other than my beloved Red Rocks Amphitheater.

The news about two of this year’s hottest indie bands playing the hottest venue in the nation spread through the blog-o-sphere like wildfire earlier this summer.  That the show was to take place a mere two days after Monolith was just icing on the cake.  In addition to Monolith, Okkervil River and The National were coming through town the same week.  I, like many others, spent months preparing for the glory that SEPTEMBER 2007 had suddenly turned into.  Of course, the risk of developing high expectations for a show is the increasing difficulty of that show to meet such expectations.  Luckily, on a slightly chilly September evening in lovely Morrison, CO, expectations were not only met, but exceeded.

We came in via the top of the amphitheater, just as LCD Soundsystem was taking the stage, to find the place about halfway full.  This was somewhat surprising to me, given that The Arcade Fire sells venues out at the drop of a hat.  Keeping in mind, though, that Red Rocks holds around 9,000, maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising.  I suppose what’s MORE surprising (not to mention impressive) is that the last time The Arcade Fire played in Colorado was at the 250-capacity Larimer Lounge less than three years ago.  And no, I was not there.  Sadly.

Back to LCD Soundsystem.  I wasn’t sure which band I was more excited to see; though James Murphy and co. made a solid argument for themselves with their pulse-thumping, booty-shaking deliciousness.  Despite the requisite harping on the thin Colorado air (“This is very high altitude.  Every time I sing a high note, I feel like I’m going to pass out. If I do, well, uh, sorry.”), LCD tore it up.  Even my three LCD Soundsystem-challenged friends were converted: “I liked them more than I thought I would”;  “They were really really good”.  The highlight of their set, for me – cowbell and three-man synchronized drumming notwithstanding – was James belting out “where are your friends tonight?” at the end of All My Friends.  If there is one thing that dragged the set down it was the closer – New York I Love You.  I love that song, but after an hour + of maniacal dancing and energy it was a bit of a downer.

Then came the wait for The Arcade Fire.  The Monolith Festival spoiled me over the weekend as I never had to wait around for the next band.  Luckily, there are few places better for people-watching than Red Rocks – the crowd was quite diverse.  The seats to my left were like a revolving door as there were at least three different pairs of people who had sat there since we arrived.  During the set break I got to endure a pair of guys who seemingly parked just long enough to smoke their joint before heading off to another spot.  Red Rocks is pot-smoke- enveloped enough without having it right next door.  Ah well.

Before too long a black and white video of some sort of raving foul-mouthed televangelist pervaded both the Red Rocks video screen and the half dozen or so screens that the band had set up on stage.  A few minutes more and the band entered the red-light-bathed stage and launched straight into Black Mirror.  This was my first live Arcade Fire experience, and no matter how much I’ve read and heard about their performances, nothing has prepared me for what I witnessed that chilly night at Red Rocks.  The band itself is just… epic.  Nine (ten?) members who each have so much energy that it’s hard to know where to focus your eyes, incredible songs, more instruments than you can imagine… to say it was a spectacle is a severe understatement.

 Besides trying to watch the band itself, there were images of the Neon Bible insignia or band members in live action projected not only to the onstage screens but also the rocks behind the stage.  It was an overwhelming sight to behold and I couldn’t help but feel that I would be well-served if I had about a dozen more eyes.  The entire performance, almost equally representing Funeral and Neon Bible, was completely awe-inspiring.  (Antichrist Television Blues) was cemented as my favorite track on Neon Bible, and Wake Up brought me very nearly to tears.  I admit I was skeptical whether any band, The Arcade Fire or not, could follow the LCD Soundsystem set with anything near the same energy and intensity, but Win Butler and his band were more than up to the task.  This night at Red Rocks may very well go down as the most amazing gig I have ever attended.

Black Mirror
Keep The Car Running
Neighbourhood #2 (Laïka)
No Cars Go
Haïti
Intervention
(Antichrist Television Blues)
Cold Wind
The Well And The Lighthouse
Ocean Of Noise
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Rebellion (lies)
Encore:
Windowsill
Money Changes Everything (incomplete)
Wake Up

Photos by [solace]

Monolith Festival @ Red Rocks – day two

September 22nd, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

Day two of the festival brought more bands and more decisions to make than the day before.  I played it safe for much of this festival, tending to stick with bands that I’d seen before and/or was pretty familiar with.  Much like the day before, day two was overwhelmingly loaded with great music.

We arrived a little later than the day before, just in time for the start of Matt & Kim’s set at the New Belgium stage.  Just like their show at the Boulder Theater three days before, Matt and Kim were all smiles, energy and moxie.  The constantly growing crowd dug every note of the much too short set.  Both Matt and Kim seemed completely in awe of the venue: “Kim, maybe we didn’t make it.  Maybe our plane crashed.  Maybe this is show heaven.”

In sharp contrast to the wide-eyed wonder of Matt & Kim, Brian Jonestown Massacre was next on the main stage.  I stayed just long enough to witness Anton’s tuning meltdown – first cursing his band for not being able to play him a “fucking D“, then ordering the crowd to “Shut the fuck up.  I’m doing this for you, just shut up and we’ll tune and play a song for you”.  Wow.  I can’t believe anyone still books this guy, though I admit it was a bit difficult to tear myself away from the BJM train wreck to catch Nathan & Stephen at the Rock Room Stage.

I’d been meaning to check out Nathan & Stephen (a complete misnomer, as there are at least 8 band members…) for quite a while, and I’m glad I finally caught a performance.  The set was jammed with fun pop songs; the band and crowd were having an equally great time.

The next band on the Rock Room-adjacent WOXY.com stage was White Rabbits, who I want to see dearly.  Unfortunately William Elliott Whitmore was playing the acoustic stage at exactly the same time and I wanted to see him too.  I opted for the acoustic, mainly because I‘m seeing White Rabbits at the Larimer Lounge next month.  We did exit the visitors center via the WOXY.com room (where White Rabbits were sound-checking) at a very slow pace, in hopes of catching their first song, but no luck.

William Whitmore was a pleasant surprise.  I’d heard of him but had never listened to his music.  He’s a young guy but sings with the gruff yet melodic voice of a seasoned folk-ster.  This was the only set I saw at the smallest festival stage; Whitmore didn’t think anyone would show up to see him and was oozing gratitude throughout the set.  He didn’t hide his animosity towards cops, capping off the amazing set with a shoe-stomping rendition of Johnny Law.

Ready Art Brut?  They were up next on the main stage.  Eddie Argos is the consummate front man, strutting about the stage, or into the crowd, and spitting more than singing the lyrics.  The crowd loved them and I can’t wait to see them again with The Hold Steady in November.

Back to the WOXY.com stage for Hot IQs.  Even though they play a lot of gigs in Denver, they are my almost favorite local band (second only to Everything Absent Or Distorted), and I didn’t want to pass up seeing them at the festival.  The band was already playing and the room was already packed by the time I got in, so sadly I couldn’t get a view of drummer Elaine – arguably the biggest draw of the Hot IQs live show.  For those not in the know – she’s hot, she’s got an affinity for bubblegum, and she keeps a raging beat on those drums of hers.  The thing I love most about Hot IQs is their ability to create a party atmosphere at their shows.  Last time I saw them they brought a cooler of popsicles on stage and threw them into the crowd halfway through the show.  For the Monolith set they had confetti-filled balloons floating around, getting popped by the crowd.  Great set.

One of the bands that I’d been most looking forward to was Spoon on the main stage.  We watched from the top of the amphitheater, in preparation for Cloud Cult at the New Belgium stage.  One of the greatest things about Red Rocks is that there really is no bad seat in the house; they have a screen so those of us who choose the nosebleed seats can still get a decent glimpse of the action.  Although I have to mention that what the second-to-last row of the amphitheater lacks in view it more than makes up for in sound quality, and Spoon sounded extra-amazing.  As expected, they played a lot from this year’s incredible Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  The band was extraordinarily tight, Britt was all smiles – it was definitely one of the best sets of the weekend.

I’d only seen Cloud Cult once before Monolith, but it was one of the more moving, almost spiritual, musical experiences I have ever had.  The Monolith show was no different.  From the New Belgium stage atop the amphitheater, with a bit of wind kicking up, Cloud Cult drew in a large, sing-along crowd with their unique fusion of music and art.  In a final bit of deceit that you probably wouldn’t expect from Craig Minowa, he flat-out lied to the crowd and said that the Flaming Lips weren’t going on for another 20 minutes so we all had plenty of time to stay for their last two songs.  In reality, the Flaming Lips were starting at about that time… Not that I would have left Cloud Cult, but I thought it was a clever little bit of trickery.

I stayed up top to watch the Flaming Lips’ first few songs, as I’d decided earlier that I really wanted to catch YACHT’s set – he was booked for the WOXY.com stage half an hour after the Lips’ were scheduled to start, poor guy.  I got down to the stage where they were doing a drawing for some free Southwest Airlines tickets or something.  There were about a dozen people in the room, and for a moment I thought I was mistaken on the whole YACHT thing… I checked the schedule, made sure I was in the WOXY.com room, and waited.  Sure enough, after about five minutes, Jona was introduced and proceeded to look out at the crowd and just chuckle – by this time there were probably about 25 people in the room, including Matt & Kim, Bryan from Hot IQs, and the sound guys.

He spent the first ten minutes or so just talking to us – about how this was exactly what he pictured when he found out he was on during the Flaming Lips’ set, how the car that was supposed to pick him up at the airport never showed up, how he’d already gotten paid, so he didn’t feel like he really had to do anything.  Then he asked that the lights be turned down and the speakers up, and put on the perfect display to end the already amazing festival.

If you have never seen YACHT, do yourself a great favor and go do it.  He has moves like I’ve never seen, and the small crowd didn’t seem to faze him at all – it was obvious he put everything he had into his performance.  He spent the entire set shifting between the stage and the floor, completely engaging the audience (I hesitate to call it a “crowd”).  At the end of his set, he assured us that even though we were small in number, he didn’t take us for granted, and thanked everyone for coming.  He also invited us to stay and hang out, but I thought I’d better get back down to the main stage as I was meeting my friends (and ride home!) after the Lips were done.

I was out in time to see the Flaming Lips’ encore.  I’d never seen them before, but of course their live show is legendary, so I wasn’t surprised by all the bells and whistles… I’m sure the entire set was great, but I left thoroughly satisfied that I was one of the few to see YACHT.

Overall, the weekend was impressive, exhausting, exhilarating and completely awesome.  The weather couldn’t have been better – mid-September can be a little sketchy in Colorado, but we had no rain (or snow!) and it didn’t even get too cold once the sun went down.  The best thing about Monolith was that there was always music happening somewhere – I love not having to wait through set changes.  I can only hope that the festival was enough of a success to become a tradition.

Photo Credits:
Brian Jonestown Massacre [johnandbelinda]
Nathan & Stephen [shifty_eyes]
White Rabbits [woxy]
William Elliott Whitmore [solace]
Art Brut [squish_e]
Hot IQs [johnandbelinda]
Spoon [gloryglorycatchacory]
Cloud Cult [solace]
Flaming Lips [catinlap]

Monolith Festival @ Red Rocks – day one

September 22nd, 2007

by Mystik Spiral 

This summer’s highly anticipated Monolith Festival was the first indie-rock fest ever held at Red Rocks, and to my knowledge, the largest we’ve ever had here in Colorado – over 60 bands on five stages at (arguably) the most beautiful venue in the United States.  Months of speculation and growing excitement paid off in a big way over the weekend with an incredible two days of music.  The festival organization and execution was really first-rate; outside of a few sound problems from the main stage on Friday, things ran very smoothly.

I’d never been to a multi-stage festival before Monolith, and I admit I was curious as to where they were going to pack five stages into the venue.  The stage layout turned out to be quite brilliant – even if it did involve a lot of stair climbing.  I managed to hit at least one set at each of the five stages over the two days, and each stage had its own appeal.  The two stages inside the visitors center tended to get hot and crowded, but the acts playing more than made up for that.

We arrived just as the festival began.  Everything Absent Or Distorted, now unquestionably my favorite local band, was the first act playing the main stage.  Even though there weren’t more than a couple hundred people in attendance for their Friday afternoon set, it was great to see the guys playing Red Rocks.  They put on an energetic set, as always.  But really, you can’t go wrong with white suits, accordions, banjos and happy musicians, am I right?

Next we scaled the stairs to the top of the amphitheater and the New Belgium Stage for The Broken West.  I love their debut album and so far their live show hasn’t disappointed either.  Our first taste of the New Belgium stage was great; we wondered how its sound would be affected by the main stage, but it seemed that they staggered those two stages enough that there was little overlap.  Even when bands were on simultaneously there were rarely any problems.  Rarely.

After The Broken West we grabbed some beer and began discussing our options until Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took the main stage – Cat-A-Tac at the WOXY.com stage or Scott Leger at the acoustic stage?  I was leaning toward local band Cat-A-Tac, even though they play a lot of gigs, I’d been meaning to check them out for some time.  In the midst of decision-making, however, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band took the New Belgium Stage and made our decision for us.  Easily the surprise of the festival, the bluesy/Zydeco-ish Big Damn Band was made up of a drummer, a singer/guitarist, and a washboard player.  A washboard!!!  The highlight was a song (inspired by a true story) entitled “Your Cousin’s On COPS”.  Yeah, the TV show.  It was awesome.  I’d never heard of these guys (and gal) but will never miss a chance to see them again.

At this point we started to plan our stair-climbing in a rather strategic way.  Next was CYHSY on the main stage, but since Ra Ra Riot was on immediately after in the visitors center (accessible only from the top of the amphitheater) we sat about halfway down to the main stage for the CYHSY set.  Despite some feedback and microphone problems, it was a really good set.  Somewhat surprisingly, only three of the nine songs played were from Some Loud Thunder.  The band seemed really confident playing the Red Rocks main stage and were very animated and energetic.

Back to the top and down to the WOXY.com stage for Ra Ra Riot.  This was our first experience with the indoor stages, and though it was getting chilly on the outside, the inside was definitely a different story.  Ra Ra Riot packed ‘em in and even though it was hot and crowded, the enthusiastic set from these upstate New Yorkers was a lot of fun.  I loved the electric string instruments – they looked like violin and cello skeletons.

By this time the stairs and the dancing had taken their toll, so we contented ourselves watching Kings Of Leon from the second from top row of the amphitheater.  I’ve never seen KOL before, and I’ve heard they put on a great show, but it was pretty ho-hum to me.  Maybe because we were so far away, maybe because I’m not familiar with them, maybe because we’d just been rocked by Ra Ra Riot… Not too much to report from this set.

The Editors though… they were a blast.  At times they seemed to sound like any other band from Birmingham, but the energy from both the band and the crowd made the set a complete success.

The Decemberists were the last band we planned to stay for on day one.  They took the main stage at 8:30, and when they came out playing Shiny it seemed like we could be in for a treat.  Unfortunately, for the most part, the set seemed like the last couple Decemberists shows I’d seen.  There were other highlights – Billy Liar, a rendition of You Are My Sunshine that started while Colin was tuning but turned into a full band effort, a funny story about the worst song Colin has ever written (Dracula’s Daughter) that somehow turned into O Valencia!.  Colin was entertaining as always, but there was just something a bit disappointing about the set, something I feel I can’t quite put my finger on.  Perhaps it was that they, like CYHSY, had several sound issues (I’ve never seen so many technical problems on the Red Rocks main stage in my life) or that their last song was completely drowned out when the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took the New Belgium Stage.  Or maybe I’m simply on Decemberists overload… Monolith marks the third time I’ve seen them in the last year, so it could be I just need a break.

Overall, day one of the Monolith Festival was a rousing success.  Even with the slight Decemberists disappointment, I didn’t see a bad set all day.  I wish I could have seen more, but I’m the type of music fan where once I get pulled in to a great performance I can’t get away.  It was really refreshing to be in the presence of so many talented musicians who were as thrilled to play Red Rocks as we were to see them.

Photo Credits:
Everything Absent Or Distorted [EAOD MySpace]
The Broken West [solace]
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band [twentyeightdeep]
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [catinlap]
Ra Ra Riot [woxy]
Kings Of Leon [ckvenild]
Editors [johnandbelinda]
Decemberists [thinkderek]

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