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Okkervil River @ Marquis Theatre

September 22nd, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

Well, the epic September 2007 week is over and I’m trying to catch up on some reviews.  Okkervil River, Monolith, LCD Soundsystem/Arcade Fire & The National will quite possilby go down as the most amazing musical week Denver will ever see.  I am still overwhelmed by it all…

Okkervil River holds a very special place in my heart as they were the first indie band that I fell in love with. Obviously late to the party, I didn’t get involved in indie music until 2005. Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy absolutely blew me away, and I have been in awe of them ever since. This was my first time seeing them live, and I haven’t been so excited about a gig in quite some time. It amazes me that they aren’t bigger – they played a small 280-capacity club here, and Denver’s really not all that far from Austin. No complaint from me about the intimate setting, but still – this is a band that is criminally underappreciated.

Damien Jurado opened the show and had the majority of the crowd eating out of his hand. I haven’t been able to get into his studio material too much, but live he and his band were mesmerizing – Damien’s definitely got a flair for melancholy folk songs. Plus it was a nice change to have an attentive crowd for the opening act.

The Denver indie set had a tough decision this night, in that Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes were playing just across town at the Ogden Theater. Stiff competition notwithstanding, Okkervil River owned the packed Marquis Theater from the opening note of Plus Ones, weaving through highlight after highlight of new songs and old fan favorites with little distraction. The set was heavy on music and short on banter, though Sheff orchestrated a lovely “evil don’t look like anything” sing-along during Westfall, and I suspect The President’s Dead made an appearance thanks to several crowd requests.

Okkervil River’s live show accentuates all of the things that are great about this band – the fascinating lyrics, the catchy tunes, and the consistent solidity and professionalism. I tend to have a constant and nagging sense that the more shows I attend the less I’m going to appreciate the great ones. It’s both refreshing and comforting to come away from Okkervil River knowing that I was witness to something sublime.

Plus Ones
Lady Liberty
No Key, No Plan
The Latest Toughs
Red
Song Of Our So-Called Friend
A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene
Our Life Is A Not Movie Or Maybe
Black
A Girl In Port
Unless It’s Kicks
For Real
Westfall
———-
A Glow (Will solo on keyboard)
The President’s Dead
Last Love Song For Now

Monolith Festival at Red Rocks

September 17th, 2007

I made it to the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks on Saturday where we were treated to lots of great music and fantastic weather. The organization was really top-notch, the different stages were all relatively convenient and there was a pleasant mix of indie-rock music to enjoy. Overall it was a lot of fun, although as usual with music festivals, you eventually get burnt out listening to everything and need some time to digest it all.

Some of the bands I enjoyed were Via Audio and Forget Cassettes who both played on the WOXY stage. That stage had some of the best shows all weekend. I also saw Margo and the Nuclear So-and-So’s, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spoon and Art Brut on the main stage.

Anton of Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t disappoint. I wonder if he feels obligated to act obnoxious on stage to maintain his reputation? Whether it was an act or not, BJM was probably my favorite performance of those I saw.

I was also very impressed with Cloud Cult, who had the perfect stage on top of the amphitheatre late at night with a strong breeze and the red rocks as a background. Their super-creative, environmentally-aware music/art performance was matched in intensity by the crowd who came to see them. Everyone was singing along and smiling happily after a great day of music.

The Flaming Lips wrapped it all up with lots of green balloons, dancing santa clauses and green aliens.

One of my favorite moments was during the Cloud Cult show when the guy next to me screamed “They’re non-profit!” Hopefully the Monolith Festival was successful enough to repeat next year as Denver deserves a great show like this one.

It was impossible for any one person to cover this gigantic event so here are some more reviews of the Monolith Festival:

Westword review 

Fuel Friends

Get Real Denver

godsmoker

Delicatessen magazine

 Signifying Nothing

Matt And Kim/David Dondero @ Boulder Theater

September 13th, 2007

by Mystik Spiral 

Parking and tardiness are my two biggest downfalls in attending shows; I’m late everywhere I go which wreaks the most havoc on evenings when I want to see the first opener.  I can’t figure why anyone thought it was a good idea to pair acoustic troubadour David Dondero with two punk bands, but I was thrilled to have a chance to see him; I was only recently turned onto his music from his recent release Simple Love.

But, as usual, I got a late start for the 8:00 show and after spending 15 minutes trying to park I got to the theater at about 8:10.  I could hear Dave playing Rothko Chapel (my favorite song of his) as I was waiting in the will call line.  Sad for me, but I still got to hear him play for half an hour or so.  He only did one more from the new album (The Prince William Sound), a couple at least from South Of The South, and a Woody Guthrie cover to close.

The unfortunate repercussion of pairing an acoustic singer-songwriter with punk bands is that the crowd will invariably chatter throughout.  By the time Dave’s set was over, the talking was threatening to drown out the music, which was both aggravating and discouraging for a talented guy like David Dondero.  The conditions weren’t exactly optimum for photography, but I managed a few fuzzy pics…

Matt And Kim were up next; I’d missed them at the Hi-Dive earlier this year and was excited to see them play.  I know they hate to called “cute” so I’ll try to avoid that particular characterization (they are though).  With Matt singing and playing a keyboard and Kim drumming her heart out, they don’t really bring anything original as far as the music, but they are a fun live band.  They had smiles firmly adhered to their faces, funny banter, and lots of energy.  Both were positively gushing throughout their set about playing the Boulder Theater to so many people.  I wonder how they’ll feel at Red Rocks this weekend for Monolith?

I ended up leaving after Matt And Kim rather than sticking around for Against Me!.  They were the only band on the bill that I was unfamiliar with, and I’d really had about enough of the moshing for one night anyway…

Cute:

 

Rilo Kiley @ Ogden Theater

September 12th, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

Even though Rilo Kiley’s new album Under The Blacklight is poised to become one of the biggest disappointments of the year, I had been looking forward to seeing them live for weeks.  It was odd, then, that when the night finally rolled around I was indecisive about whether or not I wanted to go – partly laziness, sure, but more because I’ve got 8 gigs over the next 11 days; I really am too old for this.  In the end, though, I knew that I couldn’t miss seeing them.

We got to the Ogden to see most of Johnathan Rice’s set.  He played guitar with Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins when I saw them last September.  He’s a fantastic musician with a sultry voice, but his songwriting just doesn’t do a whole lot for me.  He and his band were fine, but nothing that I would go out of my way for, though his duet with Jenny Lewis was superb.

After a much too long set break, Rilo Kiley took the stage, surprisingly (to me anyway) as a six-piece band.  I’m not sure where the two extras came from, but they all sounded fantastic.  Though I had seen Jenny with The Watson Twins, I’d never been to a Rilo Kiley show.  I’m still amazed at Jenny’s versatility in her ability to do everything from alt.country diva to rock n’ roll goddess.  The band played with a lot of energy, and I was completely taken aback with just how charming Blake Sennett is.  In every Rilo Kiley photo I’ve ever seen, he looks dour and sulky, but he clearly has a great time performing – bantering with the crowd, showboating a bit, and he even left the stage to play his guitar among the crowd toward the end of the show.  The setlist:

It’s A Hit
Close Call
Portions For Foxes
Paint’s Peeling
Breakin’ Up (Jenny on cowbell!)
Dreamworld
The Moneymaker
Wires And Waves
Ripchord (Blake on ukulele, Pierre on mandolin)
With Arms Outstretched (Jenny & Blake)
Silver Lining
I Never
Smoke Detector
15
Rise Up With Fists!!!
Greetings In Braille
Spectacular Views
———-
Give A Little Love
Does He Love You?

The set was unsurprisingly heavy on material from Under The Blacklight and More Adventurous, though I was pleased with the songs they played from the older albums.  We even got two “cover” songs, one from Jenny’s Rabbit Fur Coat and one from The Elected’s Me First album.  While I’m still disappointed in the new album, the songs did sound very good in the live setting, especially Breakin’ Up, Smoke Detector and 15.  I still can’t stand The Moneymaker, however.  Show highlights were Portions For Foxes (one of my favorite RK songs, Grey’s Anatomy be damned), Paint’s Peeling, Wires And Waves, With Arms Outstretched (sing along!), and Spectacular Views.  Is it obvious I like the early RK albums the best?  Unfortunately the encore was a bit of a letdown… RK ended the regular set with the amazing Spectacular Views, complete with extended jam, only to take the wind out of their own sails.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Does He Love You?, but I think they would have been better served if they’d played that one at the end of the regular set and saved Spectacular Views to close the show.

Bland new album or not, Rilo Kiley remains one of my favorite bands, and Jenny Lewis continues to be one of the most captivating people in music today.

Kevin Drew coming to Boulder

September 6th, 2007

Broken Social Scene-ster Kevin Drew will be playing the Fox Theatre in Boulder on November 1. Presale tickets are available via the Arts & Crafts website. Don’t miss this one!

Kevin Drew – Official site
Kevin Drew – MySpace

Blogs about live music in Denver

September 6th, 2007

There are quite a few web sites and blogs dedicated to covering live music in Denver. They are sometimes hard to track down though so here is a list of the more active ones to get you started. If you know of any others let us know and we will add them!

Mystik Spiral
As you might have noticed, we have convinced Mystik Spiral to begin posting her unique reviews of local shows here on MusicRex. She will continue her blog with tour news, weekly shows, and important band discoveries she makes. Welcome Aboard!

Cause=Time
This is the stream-of-consciousness music blog by Julio Enriquez. He posts pictures of shows, links to mp3 downloads of bands he has seen or likes, and tour schedules. Reminds me of how much listening I have to catch up on.

Someone to Love More Than Music
A blog about local Denver concerts and Denver bands with links to downloads. There are also stories about bands visiting Denver that you should go see.

Donnybrook Writing Academy
This is a collaborative blog about the local Denver music scene. A wide variety of articles on shows and issues and just plain lunacy.

Listen Up Denver
A blog focused on Denver concert reviews and recommendations of shows to go to. Includes extensive reviews of shows.

Wayward Panties
Well apparently I have been going to the wrong shows because I haven’t ever seen panties being thrown on stage. Bras, yes. Panties, no. Anyhow, this is a blog by several local women who write about upcoming shows in Denver and review live shows they have seen. They also feature CDs you should consider listening to. Tiffany and Cassie write most of the content and have an interesting style and seem to go to many of the shows I do.

Get Real Denver
Posts about local bands, reviews of shows and even restaurant reviews.

Wyoming Beat
A blog that previews many upcoming concerts in Colorado as well as concert reviews.

Merry Swankster
This blog by several different writers is about more than just music in Denver. Often features links to mp3s, concert reviews and previews.

theovercast.net
This site features unsigned bands in an attempt to spread the word about new music you haven’t heard yet. They are based in Colorado and often feature Denver bands.

Colorado hip-hop
A blog about the hip-hop scene here in Denver. Features songs from local bands and discussions about the local scene.

Yonder Mountain String Band @ Red Rocks Amphitheater

September 3rd, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and bluegrass: these are the musical tastes that I inherited from my dad.  One thing about bluegrass – it’s best appreciated in the live setting, and there was a lot to appreciate in Yonder Mountain String Band at Red Rocks.

We started the party in the most appropriate fashion by attending a kegger at a friend’s house in Morrison.  Beer, barbecue and a spectacular view of the amphitheater from the backyard, what could be better?  Unfortunately darkening skies led to a sudden (and intense) rainstorm that threatened to put a damper on the entire evening.  By the time we got to our seats, though, the storm had passed (too bad about the yellow rope, I was trying to get the whole stage in the pic):

 

According to the ticket, showtime was at 7:00.  Despite walking into the amphitheater precisely at 7:00, we missed half of Todd Snider’s set, though the 3 songs we did catch were great.  Rodrigo y Gabriela were up next, continuing their meteoric ascent from playing on Dublin & Barcelona streets just a few years ago.  I like Rod & Gab, they are extraordinarily talented.  However, the last time I saw them, they played a 75-minute opening set, complete with 20-minute encore.  To me, this was a bit much for an opener… and besides, I can only handle instrumental music for so long before I get bored.  We got a much more managable 50-minute set from the duo, though their particular brand of music is more suited to a smaller club than to Red Rocks.  The video screen wasn’t set up until at least halfway through the set, and if you can’t see the fingerpicking, the music just sort of fades into the background.

By the time Yonder Mountain took the stage the sky was clear and the stars were emerging.  They opened the first set with two of my favorites – No Expectations and Sometimes I’ve Won.  Between headlining a sold out Red Rocks show and having Phish’s Jon Fishman sit in on drums, the Yonder boys were giddy all evening.  This was my first live Yonder Mountain experience, an experience that is a must for anyone who loves dancing with thousands of people of all ages and walks of life.

Unfortunately a long set break and a long weekend took the wind out of our sails by the time the second set started, and we ended up leaving about 30 minutes into it, exhausted but on a bluegrass high.  Complete setlist:

Set I:
No Expectations
Sometimes I’ve Won
Maid Of The Canyon
Rain Still Falls
New Horizons > Holding > New Horizons
40 Miles From Denver
Idaho
Finally Saw The Light
How ‘Bout You *
Kentucky Mandolin * > Steep Grade Sharp Curves *

Set II:
Ten > Riverside > Ten
Damned If The Right One Didn’t Go Wrong *
Fine Excuses *
Catch A Criminal *
Midwest Gospel Radio *
Fingerprint * > King Ebenezer *
Mother’s Only Son *
Keep On Going
-encore-
Sidewalk Stars *
East Nashville Easter *

* w/Jon Fishman: drums

Due to our seats I obviously couldn’t get any decent show pics, but here is the other half of that gorgeous rainbow:

Ben Kweller @ Club 156

September 1st, 2007

by Mystik Spiral

I’ve been a fan of Ben Kweller’s for years, but somehow missed out on seeing him live until I caught a show at the Fox Theatre last fall. Though technically indie (and I’ve never heard a song of his on the radio), Ben does have a pretty good fan base – presumably thanks to some friends in important places (i.e. Guster, Ben Folds, Ben Lee…). So it came as quite a surprise when I discovered he was doing a small club tour that included Boulder’s little Club 156.

Normally such news would cast me into a frenzy of excitement, but I faced two roadblocks: The Apples In Stereo were playing the Bluebird on the same night, and more importantly I had vowed never to set foot in Club 156 again. Ever. The club is located inside the CU Boulder student center, which is a big red flag to begin with. My first and only experience there was a Man Man show earlier this year. Between the obnoxious crowd and the incompetent sound crew (it took 45 minutes to change sets) the evening was disastrous. I held off on buying a ticket to the BK show, deciding to leave my decision in the hands of fate; I really thought the show would sell out early. As it turned out, however, there were still tickets left to be sold at the door.

I finally came to a decision at about 6:30 in the evening, when I realized that I really wanted to see BK. Especially in a 157-capacity venue. So I headed to Boulder to brave Club 156 once again. When I arrived there were several people milling about outside the club, most of whom already had their tickets. A bit of checking around and I discovered there were 40 tickets available at the door, whew. A sign was posted listing doors at 8:00, support (Willy Mason) from 8:20 – 8:50, and BK from 9:05 – 10:05. Nothing like a nice concise schedule. Then I began thinking… The Apples In Stereo show wasn’t starting until 9:30, with two openers… hmmm…

The show nearly started on time, with Willy Mason taking the stage at about 8:25. He’s someone I’ve been hearing about for a while, but I had yet to check out his music. He played alone, with just his guitar; watching his 30-minute set was like a biographical journey through his life. He opened with Oxygen, which he wrote in high school about his music theory class. Next was a song that he was asked to write for his high school graduation. After high school, he moved to New York, so he played a couple numbers about that experience.

Then he told a story about touring in England, and how they seemed to want to make him a superstar, putting him on popular radio shows, playing large venues, tagging him “the next Bob Dylan”. He freaked out, ran away from the tour, and moved back home to sleep on his mom’s couch. So he sang a song about that too. It was a great set from the young artist (he’s only 23) and he even managed to win over the girls behind me who “didn’t care much for singer-songwriters with just a guitar”.

Still staying nearly on schedule, BK and band took the stage at about ten past 9:00. The show wasn’t quite as energetic as at the Fox last year, but given that the Club 156 stage was about 1/5 the size of the Fox, it was to be expected. BK was still able to pull lots of rock star moves. There’s just something about the kid that puts a smile on my face; he’s genuine, he seems to have a great time onstage, and he just puts on an incredible show. Here’s one of the most succint setlists I’ve ever seen:

The detailed version:

I Need You Back
I Don’t Know Why
Make It Up
My Apartment
Family Tree
Old Hat (new song)
Fight (? new song)
Way (? new song)
Thirteen (BK solo, on piano)
In Other Words (BK on piano)
Sundress
Red Eye (with blues jam)
Penny On A Train Track

It was a great set. Even though he played them last time at the Fox, Thirteen and In Other Words were definite highlights. Must be something about BK banging away on the piano. The new songs are promising, especially “Fight” – an upbeat, country-fied number. Old Hat was more on the ballad side, and “Way” was just good old BK power pop. Lovely. Even Club 156 redeemed itself. The crowd was pleasant, if a bit exuberant in singing loudly and out of tune, and with the exception of BK’s mike crapping out in the middle of the first song, all technical details were as smooth as could be.

After this tour he’s heading to the studio to make two albums. He kept referring to “we” as he talked about the studio, so I’m not certain if he’ll take his current musicians, other musicians, or if it was just a figure of speech and he’s planning to do the whole thing by himself again. What is clear is that BK fans have some things to look forward to. The trio wrapped up their set at 10:20, giving me plenty of time, I decided, to make the drive to Denver for The Apples In Stereo.

Review: Girl in a Coma at Bender’s Tavern

August 28th, 2007

We all need a little inspiration some days, and I received a big dose of it from Girl in a Coma who performed at Bender’s Tavern last night.

A band consisting of two best friends and a sister, these three young women from San Antonio have been playing shows, writing songs and touring for the past six years. They finally released their first album this year after a lot of work and a little bit of luck.

Girl in a Coma at Bender's tavern in Denver August 2007

By the end of the first song at Bender’s it was obvious why Joan Jett offered them a record deal within minutes of seeing them perform for the first time: guitarist and singer Nina Diaz (the little sister) is an energetic bundle of talent. Her voice has been compared to Morrissey’s and her guitar playing has been featured on Gibson.com.

Nina Diaz of Girl in a Coma at Bender's Tavern in Denver August 2007Drummer Phannie Diaz and bass player Jenn Alva were the first to recognize Nina’s singing and songwriting ability when they invited her to join their band after an impromptu tryout by the 12-year-old.

Nina is now 19 and I’m not sure where the comparisons to Morrissey come in, other than their band name, which is drawn from the famous Smiths song. Her voice is unique and doesn’t require comparisons to quantify how entertaining she is.

As Nina lost herself in her singing and playing during the set, Phannie and Jenn ably kept up by providing the backing for her intense lead guitar.

The album, “Both Before I’m Gone,” while good, doesn’t really do the live show justice. The raw energy of their performance only comes through in person. Even YouTube and their videos have so far missed the essence of what touched me in this show.

The inspirational part is seeing young musicians successfully working hard to acheive something that they really want. Maybe there really is a punk rock work ethic.

Set list:
The Photographer
Race Car Driver
Say
Their Cell
Avedas
Consider
Clumsy Sky
Ven Cerca (sp?)
+ one encore song

Opening for Girl in a Coma was local band My Sister Outlaw who were very entertaining as they continually switched instruments and lead vocals.

My Sister Outlaw at Bender's Tavern in Denver August 2007

The Randies Shows Cancelled

August 25th, 2007

Well since I made such a big deal about The Randies coming to Denver this Monday at the Hi-Dive, I should also let you know that they have had to cancel their Colorado shows because of a family emergency.

I am very sad as they have been playing some new songs on this tour and I was hoping to hear them, along with some of my old (well, not that old) favorites.

Hopefully we can get a chance to see them again soon!

Denver is one of the best places to watch and enjoy live music. We have great, one-of-a-kind venues like Red Rocks, the Gothic Theatre, the Bluebird and Coors Amphitheatre. Plus Denver is large enough to draw the very best artists from around the world to perform here, whether they are long-established bands or just starting out.

Also, Denver has a wonderful local music scene with strong representation in many music genres. We here at MusicRex believe that Denver is a great place to be if you enjoy live music, and we want to help you find it.

MusicRex is the place to find ALL of the live music shows in Denver. Our intention is to list every event, big or small. We want this to be the best place in Denver to find live music.

If you are a local Denver artist or venue please give us a shout at rex@musicrex.com to keep us up-to-date with info and corrections. It is free to list event and venue information here at MusicRex.

We are just getting started, so please be patient. But if you have any advice or ideas please share it. We want MusicRex to be useful to all the great music lovers in Denver.