May 29, 2008

Dark Star Orchestra April 18, 2008 Fox Theatre

This show at the Fox was "sold out" well in advance - that's code for "totally over sold!" People gill to gill on the floor and dancing in the lobby. On arrival it was clear we wouldn't get a spot close, so we hung near the bar's free water tap and waited for the second set.

By the third song it was apparent this would be an 'original' setlist. One of the things I love about this band is that they are heartfelt in their tribute and musically faithful to their source material. But I should also admit that I have a serious soft spot in my heart of hearts for Grateful Dead music. I would hope that my affinity to the music doesn't affect my opinions of this band - in fact, one could argue that my Deadhead affiliation gives me unique perspective to judge the tribute's authenticity. Indeed, I must strive to be as authentic a fan of this music as is possible, in order to deliver a true sense of whether the copy is as powerful as the original. So I will endeavor to review this final night of a 3 night sold out run at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO.

China Cat Sunflower

So how good was the show? Aw, man, it was sweet. First set had a killer Bird Song and a powerful Mission in the Rain. But the second set was the sickness featuring a crazy combination of songs only Dark Star Orchestra could pull off. We decided to make our move and got down to the main dancefloor and hung out dead center, slightly 'Garcia' side.

I Know You Rider

Truckin' > Spanish Jam

China Rider to start and then a spacey Truckin' featuring a Spanish jam...
into 'And the whistle is Screaming, TERRAPIN!'

Terrapin part 1

Terrapin part 2

Terrapin part 3

into freakin' Alligator - oh, man, it was so much fun. And the cherry on top was the Dark Star... they played a weird combo to end the set; Miracle Days Between.... huh?

Alligator !!!

Dark Star!!

Anyhow, I boogied and had an all around great time. Other than that, I don't have much to say. Except, I still miss Jerry Garcia. No offense to DSO. I'll still come out and see them, but I ain't traveling far, you know what I mean?

April 19, 2008

April 11 Paper Bird

I've allowed the live music experiences to pile up without writing about them - just haven't had the writing mojo or the time. I'll jump back a few weeks and get us all caught up soon, I promise!

April 11, 8 pm.
Benefit concert for mental health clinics in and around Boulder at an Episcopalian church... I know that doesn't really sound like something that lives up to the billing 'Rock Well in Boulder' and maybe you would be right. But for my money, on this night a $15 donation to a charitable cause, this band fills me with hope and positively rocks my world.

Paper Bird performed at the aforementioned benefit and energy this band is able to create while performing put them on my short list of favorite local acts. Yes, they are rough around the edges, but that is part of what I love about these guys and gals. There is no pretense of making more of the music than what it is; Joymaking.

The instrumentalists were all wearing animal headdress and the vocalists joked that they had been gobbled up by wild animals. Another example of a statement that might seem quaint or contrived, but made by this band it is in character and simply charming.

I've got a few video clips which start to demonstrate their beauty and potential, but I caution you that these clips have a weird sound mix and put the trombone too far forward in the mix. As a result some of the great interplay between the guitar, banjo and voice is lost.

Paper Bird is playing around the country as part of New Belgium Brewing Company's Tour de Fat, also featuring March Fourth and Mucca Pazza. CHECK EM OUT!

April 12, 2008

April 10 Living Room at the Laughing Goat

Living Room 1

Rolled down the hill to Pearl Street to the Laughing Goat coffee house to see Living Room play a set of music. Living Room is a project led by Curtis Peel and featuring Emily Holden, Steve Snowden, Nate Wheeler and Michael Theodore.

Living Room 5

I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised despite less than acceptable sound conditions. It was clear the band had a hard time hearing one another adequately, but all things considered made a good showing of it and by about 3/4 of the way through really hit a groove. Curtis' compositions feel personal and slightly familiar, and are more complex than one would expect to hear in a coffee house on a Thursday night. I hope they continue to play and develop their sound further - and play in places with better sound systems

Living Room 4

Their next show will be at the Folsom Street Coffee House on May 3.

Performing 'Sometimes' by the Strokes

I don't know the name of this one

March 4, 2008

September 1 & 2, 2007 Wilco, Fillmore, Denver

No live music for me this week. But what would you say if I were able to share a couple shows from this past fall?

Fillmore Auditorium on Lisa's birthday and then another show the following night. These shows were a ton of fun and the playing is top notch.

These recordings are pretty decent, although there is a little crowd noise interference - it is mainly inconsequential.

Anyhow, here are both shows in their entirety for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think!

Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

September 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

September 2
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Heather Browne from I am Fuel, You Are Friends has a few clips from the first night up on YouTube

I am the Man Who Loves You


A Shot in the Arm

February 24, 2008

February 23 Drive by Truckers

At this point in their career the Drive by Truckers have an intertwined history with Boulder. Their shows have run the gamut. Under 100 people in attendance at their Tulagi and Trilogy appearances. Sold out and legendary in their Fox Theatre end of tour and New Year's Eve run of shows.

So, another evening with the Truckers at the Fox. Ho hum, right?
Or, god damn, the Truckers at the Fox. Shit's gonna hit the fan, right?

Sure, Boulder loves the Truckers, and yes this means healthy box office sales, but for me all bets were off. Hasn't Boulder become a cliche destination for them? Can lightning possibly strike twice or three times in the same place?

Apparently, lightning has an interesting way of attracting groups of people long after the smoldering remains have faded away. The crowd showed early for this show, meaning good positions came to those who were patient and persistent. I got there at doors but had to wait in a box office line to get my tickets. By the time I got in there were a few positions on the second riser to the right of the stage but all rail spots had been taken. No complaints, this is still a fine place to witness a show.

I hang and wait for Danny and Candace to show and Skye wanders over. Great to see this guy and we pass the time by catching up. He had gone the night before to the sold out show at the larger Ogden Theater. His take, "Great show but they had sound problems."

The Felice Brothers take the stage and proceed to electrify the audience. This band of brothers from New York produce 'American Music.' My grandmother probably would've called this 'rural music.' Banjo, Accordian, Washboard, Drums, Voice... but some of their lyrics are smart and current. They create a sound that is rough but full of joy and energy. They conjured images of what The Band might've looked and sounded like after Ronnie Hawkins but before Bob Dylan.

Once again I found myself very pleasantly surprised by an opener. They invited members of the audience on stage to join in 'Holy Holy Halleluia' - featuring an Ole Dirty Bastard rap.

Drive by Truckers turn the lights down and drop the cover for their backdrop. The red-eyed bird-beast sculpture is turned on and it seems we're all ready to go.

The band gets rolling straight away and kicks out a couple of new songs. I get the sense that they are easing into the evening, playing with deliberate emotional control and choosing carefully how far to push the energy.

The band rocks their way through a few more tunes and we are square dancing on the right hand side as the band works their way through some Jack Daniel's fueled angst.

By the time they take their encore break I am starting to wonder if they will reach the heights of previous performances in Boulder. Sure this evening has been nice, and their playing has been confident and tight, but it feels like they have been holding back.

Well the encore changed that opinion and quick. Patterson and the bottle of Jack set up shop center stage. Storytelling is what this band rests it's hat on and we are in for a heaping dose on this evening. I had been foolish to think that some how this band was holding back. They were were just making sure they had enough in the gas tank to go the distance.
Summoning his inner demons, Mr. Hood oscillated between gentle older brother to evil uncle to raging drunk and back all within a couple of measures.
The autobiographical nature of the lyrics seems to have a power over this band. It's not just that these lyrics are based on actual events and people, I get the sense that there is an internal pressure in the band to HONOR these experiences with gut wrenching performances. It isn't enough that the songs exist, the experience of the songs must act as a divining rod to harness and channel the white hot power of emotion every time they are played or inner demons will char and burn the heart.

The encore was easily the highlight of the Truckers set for me. Have I been 'converted' into a full blown mother trucker? Absolutely, but next time I would make sure I had a couple of shots of whiskey before show time. I get the sense that the emotional embers left on the stage at the Fox could definitely kick up into flames another time.

February 21, 2008

February 22 Stockholm Syndrome

The super group known as Stockholm Syndrome rumbled into Boulder last night and treated the local crowd to their hard driving brand of rock and roll. Any Jerry Joseph or Widespread Panic side-project is as much social event as musical event for me and this was no exception. A long list of good old friends were in attendance including Horace Moore, all the way from Athens, GA. We copped a very decent spot on the right rail at the front of the stage next to Valerie, just in front of Scramble 'Keith' Campbell.

Dead Confederate, another in a long line of Athens bands, opened and did a fine job winning over a skeptical audience. Their lead singer has a fantastic voice that has twinges of Kurt Cobain in it and a stage presence that reminds me slightly of Jonny Greenwood. People in our group started throwing out comparisons to other bands; Nirvana, Radiohead, Mazzy Star, Crazy Horse. This band has a young energy and honesty in their music. There was limited posturing and they played mightily and I would definitely come out to see them again.

It was a great surprise to see Horace and be able to talk to him between bands. If you are ever in Athens, check out the venue he runs. I have it from very good sources that it is a fantastic room, which is no surprise because Horace is a fantastic guy!

Stockholm Syndrome sets up and starts playing one of their standards, Counter Clock World. The song is well played but no big risks are taken. Each of the members of this band bring a lifetime of stage experience to every song they play. With any group of veteran performers there is a sense that culture is being created and renewed in the room as they perform. The experiences and influences of each member combine and melt together to create a musical gumbo as tasty as it is sustaining.

On their worst night, the Syndrome delivers on it's promise of providing solid rock and roll. On an average night you can guarantee that you will hear some outstanding individual performances worth every penny of the ticket price. But on this night, this Friday after President's day, they delivered more than the sum of their individual performances.

After kicking out a couple of solid tunes, Jerry leads the band into 'Turn to Oil,' a sure fire sing along. The band is playing with gusto and Eric McFadden decides to take matters into his own hands during the climax near the end of the song. The rest of the band responds to his precise crescendo - relaxing, smiling, Jerry hopping on one foot, David tilting his head back. They are extending the jam before the final refrain, all tightly linked up and everyone can feel it.

I have seen this band a few times before and have felt the Eric's playing was over indulgent. Could it be that he has gotten better, more precise in his playing? There is a quality to his performance on this evening that seems tighter and more controlled. If I didn't know any better, I would say that he has raised the level of his game.

Jerry introduces the band and they launch into their ironic cover song, "Couldn't Get it Right." This performance includes some tasty jamming at the end - the party was now fully underway.

The times I've seen them in the past I have left saying "those guys could make a career out of this." As a side project this band stands out as one of the most honest and unpretentious collaborations out there.

There is one more show on this short tour, tonight in Denver at the Gothic. Who knows when or if we will see this band come around again, so if you find yourself in Denver tonight get yourself down to the Gothic and prepare to see a band earn every dime of the ticket price.

February 19, 2008

February 13 Black Lips, You stay classy, San Diego!

I took a business trip to San Diego and ended up seeing some crazy music after a wild day of travel, work, planes and screaming.

On the neighborhood bus with suitcase in tow at 7:30 am. Take care of various deadlines at work until 2:15 and hop on the AB SkyRide bus to the airport. Land in San Diego 1/2 hour late and take a taxi to the hotel which is across the street from the airport on Harbor Island. Check in, take shuttle to the 'bay tower', in my room, check view from balcony (AMAZING), wash face, and change clothes. I check the time; 9:35 p.m.

I felt like a fish out of water going to this show. Oh, sure, safe on my couch at home the prospect of getting in a $8 cab and traveling a couple miles seemed totally plausible. But now, standing in a room bigger than most apartments I've owned, I felt like ordering room service and watching Letterman.

I was in San Diego and the warm embrace of the adventurous night beckoned.

When in Rome. Veni Vidi Vici.

I arrive at the Casbah at the same moment as another ticketless guy, who immediately blows his wad begging with the doorman, gives up quickly and leaves. I lean against the wall and bide my time. Sure enough the doorman relents and sells me a ticket. The Casbah has the feel of an indoor-outdoor college dorm room. The lighting is a mixture of multicolored christmas lights and mid-sixties romper room chandeliers. There's an outdoor patio between the back bar and the room with the stage. The back bar that has red felt pool tables and old-school video games.
The vibe is welcoming, dark, hip and slightly subterranean.

I order a pint of Guinness and hear the first band take the stage. On this evening Beehive and the Barracudas consisted of two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer who happened to be female. Garage rock. A mix of noisy jangle and winsome good humor. I thought for sure these guys were local but a little post-show Google shows that they are actually from Michigan (I think) and that their female drummer is actually they keyboardist. Solid and surprisingly tight performance, too bad there weren't more folks there to appreciate it.

At this point I've decided that I am going to hang close to the stage so I can see without being trampled, so I hang up close as the Pierced Arrows set their instruments up. A three piece consisting of a bass, guitar and drums, the Pierced Arrows look like they have been playing punk rock for the past 30 years.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon Fred and Toody Cole inspire phrases such as "flawless lo-fi" and "sincere angst." As they got heated up I realized that would need to get much closer to the stage for the Black Lips set. People were already jostling pretty vehemently on the dancefloor, stopping just short of full on mosh. I was mesmerized by Fred's ability to scream in key and thrash his guitar violently without breaking a sweat. Their take on Neil Young's meditation on fame, Mr. Soul, was nothing short of classic.

After Pierced Arrows I've decided to sit on the stage to save my feet. At this point I've been up for 18 hours and on my feet for much of that time. The Black Lips take the stage and all mayhem breaks loose. People are being pushed and practically thrown onto the stage. The crowd surges forward and the band says that it is 'magic time.' The familiar bassline for O Katrina reverberates and the crowd settles down slightly.

The Black Lips play pure garage rock. You get the sense that they could care less if they were playing to an audience or a wall of license plates. There were times when the band seemed oblivious to their audience, playing in the dark while sitting on the floor.
Their lead guitarist kept spitting into the air and catching his loogies....

And I am fairly certain the bassist was on some sort of mind expanding drug.

Their mix of psychedelic rock, punk, and blues is very energetic and full of youthful piss and vinegar.
While this was compelling spectacle, I never quite bought into the schtick and I worked my way toward the back of the room. I walked through the patio, past the Pierced Arrows holding court an out through the front door. I grabbed a cab and was whisked away to my hotel.

Later that weekend while out with a group of colleagues, I caught a one man band at the Blarney Stone. The combination of an empty bar, this creepy one man band synthesizing his voice and the bar staff who didn't speak any English made me feel totally queasy. Once he played this verison of Ring of Fire, I had to go in the bathroom and puke. You stay classy San Diego!