December 3, 2008

Hang the DJ

I’m gonna try my hand at this DJ business as part of Denver’s New Music Mondays over at the Larimer Lounge on January 19th. A new event on Monday nights, folks can bring their own vinyl or iPod contributions to add between sets to this record party. Should be a cool time of new music discovery with local, national and international tunes, brought to you by the Monolith Festival folks.

If you’re in Denver, come check it out. And don’t tell them I have no idea how to actually DJ (shhh!).

Dec 1: Jim McTurnan (Cat-A-Tac) + Joshua Novak (Songwriter)
Dec 8: Brian F Johnson (Marquee Magazine) + Nicole Covington (Gothic Theater)
Dec 15: Kurt Ottaway (Overcasters) + MondoGarage (Garage/Spy Fi)
Dec 22: Chris Martucci (Laylights) with Miles & Baumer
Jan 5: Eryc Eyl (Westword) and DJ Ginger
Jan 12: Citrus Sauthoff (U.S. Pipe) and Julian Wakefield
Jan 19: Heather Browne (Blogger, I Am Fuel/You Are Friends) with Meese!

For the most current schedule updates, check here.

[photo credit]

November 1, 2008

Win tickets to Denver’s Rock The Vote show with the Beastie Boys / Tenacious D

Monday night on Election Eve, the Beasties and Jack Black’s Tenacious D hit Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, and you can still WIN tickets over from the fabulously shiny little Gigbot! According to the robot, this is an “amazing, once-in-a-lifetime show that’s so sold out it makes you cry like the time you heard Spank Rock on a Wishbone commercial.

Sabotage – Beastie Boys

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September 26, 2008

Another new contest :: Delta Spirit/Dr. Dog on Saturday in Denver

Here’s a quicklike last-minute contest for a show in Denver this weekend, since the last one went over so well. On Saturday night, Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog is playing the illustrious Hi-Dive with the sunshiney sounds of San Diego’s Delta Spirit, and I’ve got a pair of tickets to give away.

People, Delta Spirit has put out one of my favorite albums of the year with their aptly-titled Ode To Sunshine. There’s a raw and vital early ’60s Rolling Stones rock taste laced through those sweet bluesy piano melodies. Songs like “Strange Vine” and “Parade” flirt with the reverb-laden surf guitar of a thousand Southern California beach parties from summers long faded. There’s a yearning and an excitement running through the handclaps and hearty singalong sections of this album that are the domain of the young and the hopeful.

But my favorite description of Delta Spirit might be the one that said they’re “the Violent Femmes gone sepia.” Although they don’t scrape those same depths of streetpunk/outsider yowl that the Femmes always evoke for me, singer Matt Vasquez definitely does let all the ragged edges of his voice bleed in a very real way that keeps the album authentic. This album lovingly revives the sound of vintage America but with a rough-hewn edge, and is absolutely delightful.

Plus — if we’re gonna go on looks, I’ve always remembered (with a smile) the way that Amrit wrote that Vasquez looks like he unwinds between shows at The Peach Pit.

Trashcan – Delta Spirit

- One pair of tickets to Delta Spirit & Dr. Dog @ Hi-Dive (Sat. 9/27)
- Delta Spirit’s Ode To Sunshine CD
- Copy of RAGGED Magazine (

To enter, please EMAIL ME with DELTA SPIRIT SHOW as the subject line, and I’ll decide on a random winner over my coffee on Saturday morning. Because of the short notice, I’ll probably call you to let you know, so please include a phone number if you’re cool with that. I promise not to crank call or drunk dial you.

Ode to Sunshine is out now, seeing a wide re-release on Rounder Records, who were wise to snap these guys up.

August 28, 2008

Unconventional ’08 :: Whoever this Obama kid is, he sure incites some excellent music

Last night in Denver, the Unconventional ’08 shindig took over a madhouse-packed Manifest Hope Gallery amidst the brick warehouses on Larimer Street.

Earlier in the evening a free concert featured Silversun Pickups, Nada Surf, DJ Z-Trip, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cold War Kids. Starting around 10pm, a late-night supergroup performance brought together Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Zooey Deschanel, and Matthew Caws to perform for a slew of eclectic luminaries that included various congresspeople, Moby, the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle, Fergie’s boyfriend Josh Duhamel, Jin from LOST — oh, and me. How did this happen?

As I approached from blocks away, the crowd was spilling in the street as they waited to get in through the half-lowered garage door entrance. A converted police car flashed multimedia exhibits onto the faded warehouse wall, with music pulsing loud enough to be heard at the Convention Center. Pandemonium!

Inside the thousand-degree gallery, I did some general browsing of the political artwork covering the walls, and then the requisite gawking and people-watching (most eclectic crowd ever – mixing political pinstripes with the indie kids and watching them try to dance side-by-side). This non-Dem was admittedly a little creeped out by a few of the near-deistic portrayals of Obama in various painted settings; a friend and I were talking about how we felt like we’d entered his shrine. But overall it was a cool expression of passion and commitment by the artists who contributed, with a few ace lighthearted inclusions (Stephen Colbert! Slaying evil!).

Comedienne Sarah Silverman started things off with her hilariously deadpan ruminations on the convention and the election, and she was dipped into an enthusiastic two-armed welcome (totally almost like this) by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (SCU Broncos represent!). Newsom then introduced Seattle’s mayor Greg Nickels, and after many words and rousing rhetoric, the five musicians finally climbed onto the small stage. Throughout the 70-minute show each artist took turns on lead, with various duets, group singalongs and covers. It was lighthearted and felt like a rare living-room collaboration.

See all the glory in pictures from last night.


This Is Not A Test (live 8/2/08, Newport Folk) – Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward
Zooey was completely charming, and performed this song with her guitar. Halfway through she stopped abruptly and laughed at a small mistake she made, saying it was the first time she’d ever played guitar in public since she usually rocks the piano.

Love Hurts – Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Johnathan Rice and Jenny Lewis sang this ’70s staple, and in a move of complete awesomeness, they dedicated it to Obama and Hillary.

Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover) – Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice
They didn’t sing this song. But they did lots of duets together, all lovey and gazing into each other’s indie-alt-country-couple eyes, and sounding good.

See These Bones (live on MOKB Sirius) – Nada Surf
I loved every note and word that spilled from Matthew Caws last night (recall my fondness). I was unabashed dork fangirl, coincidentally ending up right at Matthew’s feet for the set, and I didn’t even bother to check my singalong enthusiasm. He kept eying me in bemusement as I sang “the lights of this city are more or less blinking…” with possibly more enthusiasm than he did.

Weightless (live on Leno) – Nada Surf
You know those gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies at the end of this song? Picture the full gallery crowd and those other four voices on stage all swelling together behind Caws’ lead vocals. Jenny Lewis admirably played band leader, cupping her hand around her ear and waving her arms in encouragement. Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliott stood off to the right (in front of that massive Obama/Lincoln meld) and kept time with fancy claps for the whole song. You can take the drummer off the stage …

Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley cover, live at Hiro Ballroom 6/30/08) – Ben Gibbard
Ben didn’t play this one either. But he could have. I think Jenny would have been down with that.

Cath (live at BBC6) – Ben Gibbard
This song appeared on last night’s setlist but was substituted with “Sound of Settling,” which was great by me because we all got to “Ba baaa! Ba baaa!” heartily instead.

Military Madness (live 10-22-06, Bridge School) – Death Cab for Cutie, Gillian Welch, Neil Young
The five musicians closed with this Graham Nash cover about military madness and solitary sadness. Ben Gibbard led on the piano, and despite one false ending (another chorus? should we stop? let’s do both) it was a stirring closer. This live mp3 is one I saw at the Bridge School Benefit in CA a few years ago with a slightly different lineup.


Oh, and …

Dude, I’m practically one of the Oceanic 6.

August 26, 2008

Last night: Joshua Novak at Shag for Discobama

Barely back on terra firma after Outside Lands, I tentatively made my way last night into Convention Craziness Central on my way home from the airport to check out our little Discobama fiesta and hear the set from Denver artist Joshua Novak.

I arrived after a lot of the madness had already gone down in the city during the day (friends meeting Joe Biden at the hot dog stand! Fall Out Boy doing interviews on the street corner! Police in full riot gear marching through the streets like 1941 Berlin!). But Shag Lounge was swinging –no, literally, we’ve got swinging Lucite chairs– and the music matched.

Joshua Novak turned in a propulsive performance, assisted by his backing band and Nathan Meese from the band, um, Meese (go figure) on guitar. Novak’s music was eminently danceable and his voice immense and dramatic last night, rattling the ornate baroque chandeliers, so I was suprised today to hear his MySpace songs are so lovely and ethereal. He did say he was playing new material at Shag, so maybe he got all feisty-like in his recent compositions (check out “The Love That I Want” on his MySpace).

Tidal Wave – Joshua Novak
Thieves – Joshua Novak
My Darling Criminal Lover – Joshua Novak

Joshua’s new album Dead Letters is forthcoming, and will be produced by Ian Hlatky (Hello Kavita, Born In The Flood, The Swayback etc). Novak plays Sunday Monolith next.

Young Coyotes also played our party, and the buzz continues to grow behind their fantastically ebullient live show. When I said they were totally down to soundtrack my summer, I didn’t know how prescient that was — after seeing them so many times, I almost feel like I should adopt them.

(that “NIght Portrait” effect on the top shot makes me feel a little dizzy. It feels like live music sounds, a little. Plus it was really really dark in there)

August 13, 2008

Tonight at the Hi-Dive

Langhorne Slim and hot Denver band Young Coyotes!

Wed, Aug 13th Radio 1190 presents
Langhorne Slim
w/ the Legendary River Drifters, Young Coyotes

at Hi-Dive
Doors at 8:00 PM / Show at 9:00 PM
21+ $10.00

The Electric Love Letter – Langhorne Slim
Momentary Drowning – Young Coyotes

August 7, 2008

Sing along with the Fleet Foxes at the Hi-Dive

If you read my Fleet Foxes concert review from their show a few weeks ago at Denver’s Hi-Dive, you know how mightily impressed I was with their “gorgeous golden harmonies and near-ethereal shimmering songs, firmly rooted in a sort of Appalachian wilderness.” Luckily I’ve stumbled upon this bootleg of their set from a few months prior at the same venue, from when they played with Porlolo and Blitzen Trapper. For your distinct listening pleasure:

APRIL 14, 2008
Sun Giant
Sun It Rises
Drops In The River
English House
White Winter Hymnal
Your Protector
Oliver James
Blue Ridge Mountains


[photo by the radtastic Laurie Scavo]

August 4, 2008

Sensational sounds coming out of Denver right now

I return from the warm and open arms of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase this weekend with an invigorated and genuine excitement about the music that is being made in this fine state. I heard some incredible stuff. Even if you live nowhere near Denver, take a listen to what my weekend was like because there are acts that I feel could be nationally noteworthy right now out of the Denver scene.

The festival was a screaming success on the sweltering hot streets. Even after going to about a jillion large-scale music festivals, I’ve never yet been to one that was so cohesive, well-constructed, and uniquely local. The model for this weekend should be recreated at cities around the world who don’t already have something like this in place. As they say, “because your life needs a soundtrack, and because your life is richer and more rewarding when that soundtrack reflects where you live.”

Just a few of the most vivid Fuel/Friends highlights of the weekend:

Young Coyotes at Indy Ink. The buzz on the street after this trio performed with no mics in a small independent print shop was deafening. Tipped by some as having the potential to be the next huge band out of Denver, the Young Coyotes were everything I’d hoped for and more, with their ferocious primal drum backbone (two guys playing), chimey melodies, and shout-out-loud vocals that made my blood pulse hot and happy. I was singing this song for the rest of the day:

When I Was In The Fire – Young Coyotes

Chain Gang of 1974 at the Rule Gallery of Contemporary and Modern Art. In a starkly cool setting, this duo transformed the room into a dance party where our biggest concern became trying not fall into the artwork. I’ve never danced in a gallery before, but this stuff was absolutely irresistible. The drummer from Young Coyotes reprised his awesomeness for this set too. Make sure to catch them at Monolith.

The Dirt – The Chain Gang of 1974

Hearts of Palm at the Hi-Dive. I was struck by how passionate and vocal a following this collective has, obviously due to how enthusiastically they give back to us all. The Hi-Dive was humid and electric, echoing along with everyone singing at the top of their lungs, “We have no water here and everybody knows it!!” That may have been the first time I’d seen a local band with that degree of communal singalong support. They played most, if not all, of their newest free EP and blew us all away.

No Water – Hearts of Palm

Everything Absent Or Distorted (plus friends) at the CarToys outdoor stage. Although it was a bit of bad news for my friends trying to coordinate this fest, the cops were called on the noise levels for the outdoor stage shortly before the Everything Absent Or Distorted collective came on with some additional members. But maybe it’s not really a party until someone calls the cops. EAOD played their widescreen, angular indie rock, those fluid melodies mixed with an on-edge sensibility. They then tantalized this cover-loving girl with a handful of great ones, including early Arcade Fire (a sound not too far removed from their own) and “Glad Girls” by Guided by Voices.

The Exit Parade – Everything Absent Or Distorted

Aaron Collins @ Rock The Cradle. A boutique that hawks Johnny Cash onesies, retro board games and Nine Inch Nails lullaby cover CDs, Rock The Cradle caters to the hip parent crowd. One of the first shows I saw on Friday afternoon was Machine Gun Blues’ Aaron Collins performing (clothed, so as not to scare the younguns) a melodic and charming solo set. His unselfconscious use of repeated words to underscore a kind of vocal percussion, along with his elegant and shimmering keyboard melodies made me hope that he continues in this vein even if Machine Gun Blues is almost defunct.

Rachael Pollard and friends at the Kabal Rug Kilm. Speaking of Nine Inch Nails covers, a highly unlikely one (“Down In It” done like a 1930s flapper?!) popped up at the most gorgeously cool venue of the weekend. This loft-like Persian rug gallery was temporarily converted into a singer-songwriter stage for solo artists and some fantastic collaborations, such as this one with Pollard, Gregory Alan Isakov and Julie Davis from Bela Karoli. While we lounged around on stacks of $35,000 rugs (don’t spill that beer), a steady stream of Colorado musicians plucked, strung, and hummed their lovely songs. It all took on a near-mystical air in that setting. The festival did an exceptional job of lining up original groupings of artists collaborating with those from other bands, which lent a great spirit of local pride and the making of something unique together.

Crazy For You – Rachael Pollard (charming little song)

Stop Making Sense flickering on a brick wall. Very late Saturday night, you could hear David Byrne’s voice ringing up and down the boulevard from the parking lot of an otherwise dark bank, forgotten at that hour of fiscal irresponsibility. The folks at the Denver Film Society arranged a guerilla screening of the Jonathan Demme classic, and it was simply beautiful. Until the sprinklers came on, and then everyone just moved back and it was still beautiful, just wet.

Burning Down The House (Stop Making Sense live version) – Talking Heads

Everyone who played in the South Broadway Christian Church. This was another gorgeous venue staffed by incredibly cheerful and kind church members. I almost expected a covered-dish potluck. The acoustics were crystalline, the surroundings divine. Using the church was a great idea, and I hear God totally didn’t even mind.

Sputnik Motown brunch and the Velvet Elvis pancake breakfast. A good festival loves you from the time you arrive until the time you leave, especially when you are at your most vulnerable. When the morning comes with its dreadfully bright light, you need a greasy breakfast — and you don’t want to have to work for it. Both days we ate like royalty, first at Sputnik with the DJ spinning a vast and amazingly impressive collection of Motown 7″ records, and then Sunday at 3 Kings with a live Elvis cover band, bottomless mimosas, and fresh-made pancakes from a little griddle behind the bar. O, that I could have my breakfasts soundtracked every morning by “Hunka Hunka Burnin Love” and “Hound Dog.” [pic via]

And as is always the case, there were dozens of bands I didn’t get a chance to see, and some I’ll be featuring in greater depth at a later date (many are playing the Meadowlark Fest Aug 21-23). Whew! I’m exhausted.

Let’s do it again next weekend.

VISUALS: All my pics with some commentary here and here, and ahh, look at all the *lovely* people!

July 31, 2008

The SXSW of Denver is happening this weekend

This weekend brings a vibrant, can’t-miss community festival to all the music loving denizens of Denver.

The Denver Post’s Underground Music Showcase (UMS) is preparing to take over a walkable area of South Broadway (roughly between 3rd and Maple) and 20 venues — including the sanctuary of a church, a Persian rug store, a custom print shop and a modern art gallery, as well as all the traditional clubs and music venues. Over 100 local bands will play on Friday evening and all day Saturday (and okay . . . probably on into Sunday).

In addition to artists I know I dig, like Gregory Alan Isakov, Hearts of Palm, Young Coyotes, Born In The Flood etc, I am especially looking forward to the “wander around aimlessly and listen” plan of attack and discovering some unexpected new local sounds. And if the tunes aren’t enough to lure you, there’s also a photography exhibit presented by some of Denver’s finest rock photographers (with free beer). If you live in Colorado and love music, come on out — a pass for all the action will only set you back a Jackson, and that ain’t bad.

In order to find more about how one nurtures and pulls off such a rad model for a local music festival, I checked in with one of the festival organizers, Ricardo Baca of the Denver Post. He tells Fuel/Friends why you should all come around to his little utopia this weekend.


1) When the Underground Music Showcase first began, what hopes and goals did you have for it?

In the beginning, we only wanted to celebrate Denver’s local music community. It was five bands for $5, and the promoters told us we wouldn’t make any money off local bands. We told them we didn’t want to make the money – we wanted it all to go to the bands. (A very un-promoterly philosophy, apparently, given the looks of horror on their faces.) The Denver Post has never made money on any of the seven previous UMSs, nor have we, the organizers. But from the very beginning, the bands have always told us that they make more money at the UMS than any other show throughout the year – and since we believe that musicians deserve to make money, we’ve kept with that philosophy.

To this day, as we’ve expanded to two days and 100 bands and 20 venues and an outdoor stage this year – while still staying all-local, mind you – we still give 100 percent of the ticket sales to the artists who make the UMS what it is.

2) Name a few shows this year that you are anticipating – what’s gonna be epic?

As you know, Heather, The Knew is a fiery live act that isn’t to be missed. And they really step it up at festivals. I really love it how bands often utilize festivals – SXSW or Coachella or the UMS – as a time to step things up, to put on a show. And everybody treats it as an event – including the solo artists.

One of my favorite aspects of the UMS plucks artists out of bands and drops them on a solo stage. We try and pick musicians who aren’t really known for their solo work, too, because it makes things more interesting. Last year, everybody showed up when Bright Channel‘s Jeff Suthers (now of Moonspeed) played an intense solo set at a little paper shop. He’s playing again this year, and now there are others who don’t play out alone much – Pee Pee‘s Doo Crowder, WidowersMike Marchant, Cat-A-Tac‘s Jim McTurnan and Ghost Buffalo‘s Marie Litton just to name a few – who are stepping out at this year’s UMS.

More bands people should be aware of: Born in the Flood won our Underground Music Poll last year, and Hearts of Palm won it this year. They’re both playing. Some smaller musicians and bands: Mark Darling dazzled me at last year’s festival; The Beebs make lovely music; Roger Green and Dang Head and Joe Sampson and Chris Adolf are all tremendous talents in our community; and then there’s Chewbacca Bukkake – and with a band name like that, how can you not go and hear what they sound like?

3) Looking back at the UMS, what are some memorably fantastic shows that stick out in your mind?

At last year’s UMS, one of our featured solo performers was Patrick Meese. His band, Meese, was about to sign to Atlantic, but we didn’t know that. They were still “underground” enough for us. Turns out some of Patrick’s buddies showed up for his solo set – including Isaac Slade of The Fray. Isaac later sang a tune with Patrick, and then one by himself, and it was all very lovely and memorable.

I’ll also never forget the time Josh Taylor’s band Friends Forever got manic with a tarp, a fan and some other materials when we were at the Gothic Theatre that one year. Wovenhand put on a pretty amazing show at the UMS a couple years ago at the Bluebird Theater, and there was also the year when winning band Munly And The Lee Lewis Harlots got up from their seats at the Irish Rover (he’d requested to play the smallest venue at the festival) and walked out to the back patio, where they finished their set under the stars.

I could go on and on, seriously. Recounting the festivals over the years is like going through a history of Denver’s indie rock/metal/alt-country/punk scenes.

4) How do you think that technology has changed the independent music scene since the inception of the UMS, and related to that, your job as a music reviewer and festival organizer?

Up until this year, we tabulated votes for the Underground Music Poll by hand. That’s 100-plus voters, and each ballot has 20 band names on it. It was mad. This year, our tech guru Sean Porter was kind enough to build us a program that made things easy for everybody – voters included.

Speaking of Sean, he and his colleagues have made an incredible impact throughout the state –all very quietly, mind you– by designing/running most of the major rock club websites and starting his own genius creation, Gigbot. He and his buddies created websites for many of the major music venues and festivals in the city, and their program Gigbot spiders all of those sites and blogs and MySpace pages and brings that data into one place. Who’s playing tonight? Go to Gigbot. That makes my job – and my live music habit – a lot easier.. In the spirit of being forward, Gigbot is the presenting sponsor of this year’s UMS. But still. They were my favorite website long before they were associated with the UMS.

5) In talking about a future vision, what would you like to add to the Underground Music Showcase in future years?

We do like growth at the UMS. Right now we’re an all-volunteer shop. Even our lead booker, designer, sponsorship director and web developer are volunteers. I’d like to imagine a day where those are paid positions, even if it’s just a bonus. These people give so much. They deserve it.

Other than that, I love what the UMS stands for. I hope to keep that pro-artist, pro-fan vision and continue to grow with the booming Colorado music scene.

Thanks Ricardo, for the thoughts shared and for helping (with your crew) to organize such a relevant, viable, ‘music-friendly-first’ local festival! The posters are printed, the bands are ready. I’m in!

[poster photo credit Todd Roeth]

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July 26, 2008

Young Coyotes show update

I featured Denver’s Young Coyotes on the Monday Music Roundup a few weeks ago, and at the time they had no shows scheduled. Several of you wrote to me to say how much you loved the summery-sweet fantastic sounds of their “Momentary Drowning,” so I am happy to report that they now have THREE shows scheduled for us lucky locals. Catch them here:

August 1 @ The Marquis with Son Ambulance
August 2 as part of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (Indy Ink, 3pm)
August 13 @ The Hi-Dive with Langhorne Slim

Momentary Drowning - Young Coyotes

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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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