September 17, 2007

Monday Music Roundup, Monolith edition

Attending a music festival could be my favorite way to spend a weekend. But you always end up seeing fewer shows than you thought, especially when there are five geographically disparate stages. Next time I go to a festival, I am going to hire me a scheduling assistant to do nothing but look at the clock and tell me when to move it along, please, to the next show. And then physically force me to do it (“Get up, Heather. Walk now.”).

So I didn’t see all the bands I wanted to, but what I saw was pretty rad. Festivals are like big appetizer samplers where you really just get your appetite whetted to know who you oughta see when they come back through to the small clubs near you. This week’s roundup is five finger-lickin’ bands from Monolith that were more or less new to me, and perked up my ears.

Sad, Sad City
Ghostland Observatory
I missed almost all of Ghostland Observatory‘s set on the main stage early on the first day because my interview with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club went so well that we just kept talking and lost track of real time. I emerged from the cavernous maze of backstage hallways to see an imposing DJ dude in a spangly blue cape with a huge star on the back, a frantic lead singer, and bunches of indie rock kids wildly flailing in time to the beat in the broad daylight. It was awesome. I will absolutely make time to see these guys when they come back, because the song and a half that I got to see only left me wanting more of this stuff. Ghostland Observatory is from Austin, TX and their newest album is called Paparazzi Lightning (2006, Trashy Moped).

Kid On My Shoulders
White Rabbits
We saw these guys on Saturday afternoon on the indoor stage with about 12,482 people all crammed into a very small space. It was hot and I couldn’t get any pictures worth crap. But I loved the sounds emanating from the White Rabbits. The band had a disproprotionately high number of short guys wearing dapper suits in it, and I thought that it was fronted by Fred Savage at first, which was awesome. This song boasts a ferocious thrumming piano line that I miss each time it stops, and ska-pop harmonies that blend with a welcome aggressiveness. I like it! Fort Nightly is out now on Say Hey Records.

Duck & Cover
The Hot IQs

I am all in favor of girl drummers (being an aspiring one myself), and I was pleased to see a few this weekend. Elaine A of the Hot IQs kept a fierce beat, and I loved her style. She played with panache and confidence, giving backbone to the new-wave/Devo/danceable sounds of her band. Not only is this Denver band hot, they are also smart, and took home the Best Indie Pop Band award from our local alt-weekly The Westword. This tune is off their Dangling Modifier EP (that title just wants someone to make a joke about it. Yeah, I’ll dangle your modifier. What?). To hear more, check out their recent feature on with some exclusive in-studio performances.

Yea Yeah
Matt & Kim

Yeah, so speaking of girl drummers, Kim from NYC duo Matt & Kim is insane. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a pair perform with as much energy as they did Saturday afternoon. They were, like, vibrating with sheer unbounded elation, just like that picture above. I was kind of expecting fey poppiness like Mates of State, but Matt stormed the stage like an even-more-enthusiastic-for-life Ben Folds, accompanied by a wide-mouthed-in-excitement, about to fall off her drum stool whirlwind of Kim. This tune is off their self-titled album (IHEARTCOMIX Records), and they pack a lot of punch for just two people. Sebastian from Merry Swankster was standing a few rows in front of me for the show and took a tiny video clip so you can see a bird’s eye view of the stage.

The Start of It
If the Hot IQs are the best indie pop band, then The Westword anointed Meese the best pop band in Denver. Go figure the difference. Both are good. While I speculated that perhaps their name referred to more than one mouse, it’s actually the last name of the two brother-member-founders Patrick & Nathan in the band. To borrow a lyric from the song, these “kids of the frozen Front Range” surprised me with a much poppier sound than I had remembered – keyboard-driven indie rock. This particular song sounds like something lost from the Third Eye Blind files, and is listed on their MySpace as “Winter 2007 Recordings.” Solid.

[the New Belgium second stage with Meese playing]

For each artist I saw and enjoyed (see more pics; other reviews coming), there were at least three that I missed. Didn’t see Rocky Votolato, Born In The Flood, Monster Maker, Bob Log III, Cat-A-Tac, Kid Sister, YACHT, Broken West, Das EFX . . . so many more. I guess there’s always next year to try again (happily).


  • Ghostland Observatory was great at the Treasure Island Music Festival here in SF on Saturday – a definite highlight.

    Hopefully TIMF will continue – it’s like a mini-early-Coachella (and I hope it never becomes the current Zooachella).

    Steve — September 17, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  • i’ve only heard good things about white rabbits (especially their live show), though i never made an effort to check them out. ‘kid on my shoulders’ is a great track, and you’re right– that haunting piano is quite addictive! im sold!

    steve — September 17, 2007 @ 3:29 pm

  • Ghostland rocked ACL last night too!

    - Neil

    Anonymous — September 17, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  • So how many festivals did Ghostland Observatory play this weekend – three? I think Spoon played three too. These guys are mad, mad I tell you!

    heather — September 17, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  • Yeah, I saw Spoon at WiredFest last week in LA! Glad you liked White Rabbits, I’ve been diggin’ on Fort Nightly for a while now.

    And Sad Sad City, what a great track! Sounds like you had a great weekend.

    Brian — September 17, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  • Yeah, Spoon played TIMF, as did M.I.A. and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

    Steve — September 18, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  • Cincinnati guy here… I traveled with a friend out to Denver specifically for the Monolith fest. I had the best experience, truly. This is what a music festival should be like, with the emphasis on MUSIC. I’ve been to Coachella and Bonnaroo, and this was MILES better. For more of my musings on Monolith, check out this link to the boards on (which sponsored the Monolith)

    Paul, in Cincinnati

    Anonymous — September 28, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  • Thanks Paul! I really enjoyed looking at all your great pics (we must have been standing next to each other!) and reading your thoughts on the weekend.


    heather — September 29, 2007 @ 11:09 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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