July 22, 2011

Are you coming to the Underground Music Showcase this weekend?

Dear readers, I am home from my epic roadtrip adventure, well-sunned, well-loved, well-fed, and deeply grateful. In addition to lots of outdoor time with those who matter most to me, my path also crossed with wonderful several musicians, adding spatters of color to the late nights. As an adventure it ranks right up there with the best thing I’ve ever done.

Because I can’t stop/won’t stop, this weekend I am gearing up for the finest days in music that Denver has to offer all the livelong year at the Underground Music Showcase (UMS). The stretch of South Broadway that houses the Hi-Dive, Sputnik, Irish Rover, Skylark (etc) becomes an extended runway of jubilant, genre-crossing, warmly illuminated venues as art galleries, print shops, big ole churches, parking lots, and coffee shops all convert for the weekend into performance spaces.

Thousands of Denver music fans and bands both local and national are coming together to rock your face and perk up your ears. Wristbands for the entire weekend are only $40. Single day passes are also available in limited quantities each day on-site for $20.

Last night kicked off with some terrific artists (Nathan & Stephen, El Ten Eleven, Ha Ha Tonka) but you still have an insane amount of goodness to choose from as we hit our stride starting tonight. Here are some of my don’t-miss picks. Including that one song I am supposed to sing duet on, for my DENVER LIVE MUSIC DEBUT. Yes, really. Come cheer me on.


The Pirate Signal
Saturday at 7:30pm @ Goodwill parking lot stage

Yonnas is one of the most literate, spirited hip-hop artists I have ever known, and his live performances are legendary. As their Facebook says, The Pirate Signal sounds like: “That point when you’re having sex and your face goes numb and heart feels like it is going to burst out of your chest.” So, um, GO.

Their is also my theme song for the upcoming weekend:
I Can’t Wait – The Pirate Signal

Gardens and Villa
Friday 10pm @ Hi-Dive

Very recently, all my social media feeds have lit up with friends raving about this Santa Barbara band (signed to Secretly Canadian), saying that their live shows are dance-party frenzies unlike anything going. They also apparently carry a bag of flutes on their back. Even though it’s going to be a billion sweaty degrees in the Hi-Dive tonight by 10pm, that sounds like something I need.

Saturday at midnight @ 3 Kings Tavern

The soon-to-be-called-something-else band featuring Denver music friends like Andy Hamilton, Mike Marchant, Johnny Lundock, and Matthew Till has been one of my favorite musical representatives of our fair city for a while now. They just finished their darkly atmospheric Winter EP, rounding out a sonic year of seasonal bliss. They also put on a terrific show, so it’s a no-brainer.

Friday at midnight @ Hi-Dive

You know that super duper catchy song “When They Fight” that I put on my summer mix that sounds like a retro girl group (“I love you, bayyyyybayyyyyy”) but is actually two guys from Louisiana? Yeah well, they’re here tonight. Let’s go see them.

Old Canes
Saturday at 7pm @ 3 Kings

I’ve peppered several mixes with the percussive-heavy rattle and pop of Saddle Creek band Old Canes, the new project of Appleseed Cast frontman Chris Crisci. Their album that I still play constantly is called Feral Harmonic, and I find them to be both, marvelously.

Candy Claws
10pm Sunday at Delite

Named a “rising” band by Pitchfork, this Denver duo makes melodic and shimmery music inspired by lines from a Richard Ketchum book they found in a used bookshop and fed through www.translationparty.com. Rad.


Iuengliss, 11pm Friday @ Delite (I love shaking my shit to Tommy Metz)

Fort Frances, 5pm Saturday at The Hornet (produced by Josh Ritter’s piano player Sam Kassirer, and a band that friends keep telling me to check out)

Denison Witmer, 10pm Friday at Moe’s BBQ (I love him so; watch for the Fuel/Friends Chapel Session we’re taping Sunday)

Gregory Alan Isakov, 8:15 Sunday at the Goodwill parking lot (because he is amazing)

The Centennial, 11pm Friday at 3 Kings (new band from the Meese brothers)

Saturday afternoon music panels The Sesh(I’m facilitating the Conversation with Duncan McKie who runs all the cool Canadian music funding programs)

A. Tom Collins (former frontman of Machine Gun Blues at 1am at the art deco Mayan? IN.)

Port Au Prince, 5pm Saturday at 3 Kings (new sounds from old friends in Astrophagus et al)

All the comedy at Sobo151 (Denver has some FUNNY COMICS)

Glass Hits, Friday 9pm @ 3 Kings (because they’re extremely loud and incredibly close) and their tightly-wound Fugazi tribute they’re reprising on Sunday at 10pm at 3 Kings.

Fairchildren, 5pm Saturday @ the South Broadway Christian Church / 7:30pm Sunday @ the Goodwill parking lot (Nathaniel Rateliff is not at the fest this year as far as I can tell, but the musicians that play with him will be, and their songs are based on fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm)

Panal SA de CV, 6pm Sunday @ Hi-Dive (Denver’s own anthemic instrumental rock band, reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky and other good things)

The H is O, 3pm Sunday @ the TS Board Shop (I’m gonna sing. I think.)

LET’S DO THIS, people.

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April 1, 2010

Our own little SXSW of the Rockies

ums storefront

The Denver Post ran a story last month detailing the work of a very cool ongoing study about the city’s high “Creative Vitality Index,” which measures economic factors related to the music community. Through a series of qualitative interviews (I got to wax lyrical a few months ago over mimosas; it’s how we do research here) and analysis of quantitative data, they discovered that music matters in Denver — “even more than it does in self-declared music cities like Seattle, Austin, Chicago and Portland.” According to the study, the amount spent per person on music-related items in Denver is twice the national average, and so are the number of folks who are employed full-time in music-related jobs. This doesn’t surprise me at all, although to an outsider, Denver might be the last place you’d look.

One of the best ways to see this blooming, inclusive, high-quality, diverse scene –and one factor cited in our high Creative Vitality Index– is our Underground Music Showcase. This late-July showcase festival saw a doubling in attendance from 2008 to last year’s marvelous fest. The bands that play are 90% buzzworthy local acts (although last year I helped to bring some 10% rad national acts to our streets, and I believe this year will be no different). All 300 bands, singer-songwriters and comedians play in a walkable radius at venues ranging from the usual rock clubs to the non-traditional art galleries, and knitting stores, the church, parking lots, and Persian rug shops. All of the hip South Broadway neighborhood pours out into the warm summer streets with music coming from every open door and strip of lawn. This July also marks the tenth anniversary of this festival I warmly like to call “the SXSW of Denver,” and it really does feel like it to me. It’s massive; absolutely one of my favorite weekends of the whole year.

Today our alt-weekly The Westword named many of the noteworthy bands in Denver right now, and it made me even more excited for this mega-display of our city’s grandeur.

This year the event is July 22nd-25th, and wristbands and badges are on sale now for ridiculously cheap — $25 for a wristband and $60 for a badge! Come visit. Seriously.

The UMS looks and feels like this:
(I’ve happily got a cameo, waiting in line at the Irish Rover on a warm rainy night in my favorite purple dress)

…and might sound something like this:

I Can’t Wait – The Pirate Signal
Picnic – The Knew
Love Is A Shark – John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light
Red Feather – Houses
Mark Twain – I Am The Dot (Zach from Young Coyotes)
My Hanging Surrender – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel
I Can See It In Your Face – Pretty Lights
Kingdom – Ian Cooke
Raygun – Revenge of Astrophagus
That Moon Song – Gregory Alan Isakov & Brandi Carlile
Bird (demo) – Scott Brabson
Kafka – Snake Rattle Rattle Snake


And the national acts we’ve rocked in the past have included:

Northern Lights – The Bowerbirds
Restless – Langhorne Slim
Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover) – El Ten Eleven

[top photo from the Denver Post]

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July 25, 2009

The thoughts in my head have got me crawling back to bed

ums-friday-004 Last night San Francisco’s Ryan Auffenberg played to a packed Michelangelo’s Cafe for the Underground Music Showcase. Channeling sweet strong pop melodies, Ryan led all of us to be his brilliant backup singers.

And yes, in the beginning when he asks who wants to sing and you hear a female immediately pipe in, yeah, that would be me. I am a sucker for a good singalong.

Sellout (live at the UMS) – Ryan Auffenberg

Here are a few other images from my day yesterday that went until 4am this morning. I’m recuperating in a dark room right now, preparing to do it all again this afternoon.

ums-friday-0621Kate Grisgby of The Hollyfelds @ The Skylark


DJ John Hendrickson @ Sputnik


Chris Adolf of Bad Weather California @ The Irish Rover


The Overcasters @ 3 Kings Tavern

ums-friday-081Houses @ The Hi-Dive

[audio via The Flat Response – thanks!]

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Everything Absent or Distorted on Thursday night

Some images from opening night of the UMS, and a brilliant show from Everything Absent or Distorted. Who says real men don’t wear pink?





The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase continues all weekend long, full of jubilant music.

July 23, 2009

Just a song before I go


My favorite Denver band Everything Absent or Distorted (a top pick for 2008, and perhaps you heard me rave about them on NPR) announced this week that they are pulling up the tent pegs for some pasture of a different variety, and calling it quits as a band.

From the first time I saw EAOD live, I completely understood what they were trying to do with their music, because it’s the same way it hits me. To the guys in EAOD, music is something cathartic, something beautiful, and something more immense than could ever be captured on record. Every show was a tightly-wound, hot-blooded tour de force of musical intensity. It was never about perfection, it was about grabbing your instrument(s), climbing on your friend’s back, and singing marvelously literate lyrics about what this life can feel like.

As they’ve written in their obituary press release:

In the past five years, we have gorged ourselves on music—at times, coming dangerously close to forgetting that music is not our life, but a thing we do to get on with it. But life, like music, is a jealous lover and does not relent its grip too easily. And so here, between life’s calloused and cut palms, we resign ourselves to it.

We have done what we have done mostly because we had no other choice. We put music to our own struggles against small wars not so that we could win them, but so that we could keep fighting. Winning would mean there would be no more need to sing, but a good fight always needs a song.

EAOD will have a new 4-song EP of music to give away before they go. It’s called The Lucky Ones, and they have given Fuel/Friends readers the first sneak preview. They’ll give the full EP away this Fall.

I have to admit, this song made me choke up because of its honesty.

Monday morning, give us our razors
Feel like dyin’, but we’ll just shave
and go on

and go on…

Closer Than You Think, Part 3 – Everything Absent or Distorted

That is an effing beautiful song.

This weekend at the UMS, Everything Absent or Distorted will play two of their last shows (the final final one is rumored to be sometime this Fall, TBD). Come TONIGHT to the Hi-Dive at 11pm to see them, or at 7pm Sunday in the Goodwill Parking Lot.


My loose UMS schedule can be seen over on my Gigbot page. I’ll try to make 50% of these. I can get (pleasantly, thoroughly) distracted at the wonderfully dizzying scene of the UMS.

See you this weekend on South Broadway.

[top photo by Laurie Scavo]

July 21, 2009

Bowerbirds hit Daytrotter, head to Denver for our Underground Music Showcase!


This weekend is my favorite weekend of the entire summer: the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase hits a walkable strip of South Broadway with over 200 bands, singer-songwriters, and comedians at 20 local shops, restaurants and live music venues. Last year I called it “the SXSW of Denver,” and it certainly feels just as saturated with good music as Austin at every turn, but a wristband for all four days of the UMS will only set you back $20.

This year for the first time, the UMS is incorporating some select national acts into the lineup, and I was thrilled to get to help pick some, in my first foray into festival booking. The focus is still our vibrant and gorgeous local scene, but this year we’ve got a few national-level acts that I am very excited about. The first is The Bowerbirds from North Carolina, joining folks like El Ten Eleven (my face is still partially melted from last November) and the superb Ryan Auffenberg from San Francisco. The full lineup is here.

The Bowerbirds have been around since 2006, but my first introduction to their music was only last year when they toured with Bon Iver. There was this…. ohhhh, there was this – which stopped me in my tracks and held me transfixed.

Bon Iver and the Bowerbirds covering Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s For Fools” (previous post):

In addition to a recent mention in a piece he wrote for IndyWeek, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) also listed the Bowerbirds in his top picks for La Blogotheque, saying: “Olive Hearts — that song, I went home, and that was the first time i thought about quitting music. Yeah, it really was, I really wasn’t sure I could do it anymore, because that song was so good. I thought what I saw that night just may be better than anything I could ever do.”

bowerbirds-upper-airHere are two songs off their gorgeous new album Upper Air, out now on Dead Oceans Records.

Beneath Your Tree – Bowerbirds
Northern Lights – Bowerbirds

Bowerbirds also recently stopped by Daytrotter for the second time (first time here), and performed four of their songs for free download, three from the new album.

I’ll have a UMS Festival preview coming later this week, if you live in Colorado, please come out. It’s gonna be magnificent. Bowerbirds play 10pm on Sunday night, and you can find many other forthcoming Bowerbirds tour dates here, for the rest of y’all who can’t come play with us on the streets of Denver this weekend.

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 28, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

So this has been one of the busiest weekends in recent memory ’round these parts, leaving me exhausted, depleted, physically sore. I’m packing up the house I’ve lived in for three years, heading for hopefully greener pastures closer to downtown and the lovely neighborhood where I work. This entails slogging through a lot of crap, selling off everything that’s not bolted down, and getting ready for this stager lady that my realtor provides to come in on Thursday while I am at work and move all my furniture around and decorate in ways unknown to me. So when I come home it will be just like Trading Spaces except no Ty Pennington and no blindfold reveal.

In order to make the undesirable things (like bleaching the bathroom grout and polishing those hardwood floors) more palatable these days, I’ve been listening to some of these songs and albums. And I feel better.

Last November
Drummer Danny Seim from Menomena (rhymes with phenomena, now I know) has a bedroom side-project called Lackthereof that actually predates his more well-known endeavors. In this ongoing project he plumbs some wonderfully moody, melodic, and obviously rhythmic depths. “Last November” is good for night-driving home from concerts, for that Lost Highway atmosphere as you watch the lines flick past. It starts with brooding clash and moves into something fairly soaring and surreptitiously suggestive on the choruses, part of an album chock full of rich moments. Your Anchor is out now on Barsuk Records.

Everybody Say
Takka Takka
No, funny you should ask, they’re not from Sweden or Iceland or anything like that. Despite sounding like a lost Sigur Ros cut, Takka Takka is actually a snappily-named quintet from Brooklyn. Their sophomore album Migration is out tomorrow on Ernest Jenning Recording Co, and was “lovingly produced” by Sean Greenhalgh of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah drumming fame. It was recorded in Brooklyn and features performances by Bryan Devendorf of The National and Lee Sargent of CYHSY. Friend Bruce hears Lou Reed and the Modern Lovers, while I’d cite a definite “Could You Be Loved” on that intro. So yeah, we can agree that it’s eclectic (and intelligent and ear-pleasing).

Danny Callahan
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
I have a strong suspicion that behind the cleanscrubbed 17-year-old impression that meets the eye, Conor Oberst is just an old folkie at heart with a backporch fiddle, great stories, and a rambling beard. Maybe the kind with birds living in it. We all knew that it was just a matter of time before he ran off to Mexico with his Mystic Valley Band. This cut from the upcoming self-titled album was recorded in Tepoztlán, Morelos earlier this year and possesses many of the same loosely rollicking, great storytelling airs that I like from the most alt-countrified of his back catalog … but this time with astral plains, choloroform, and dying children. Spooky. The album is out August 4th on Merge Records, and they’ve got five in-store performances in independent record shops to celebrate over the next two weeks.

Remembering to blog this song is one of the greatest aha! moments I’ve had in the last few months. I had listened to this particular tune from L.A.’s Everest on serious repeat in May and heavily dug the muted Buddy Holly classic pop-song vibe with autumnal colors. And then it got lost like a leaf on a fast-moving torrent of my iTunes library, so I’ve been singing unrecognizable parts of the song to myself (mumbling through words I don’t know), Googling desperately trying to find out what it was, and sending myself text reminders late at night when I felt like I’d had a breakthrough on a new relevant detail. Here it is! It’s here and it’s so lovely. The aptly named Ghost Notes is out now on Vapor Records, and the band hits Outside Lands in SF in mere weeks.

By Yourself
The Knew

I had the pleasure of seeing this Denver band explode at the Hi-Dive Saturday night at the record release party for their new Boom Bust EP. The crowd was jumping and dancing to their somewhat unclassifiable blend of sounds – the Denver Post tried to nail it down with “punk, alt- country, classic rock, British dance-punk and garage rock.” Either way, these songs rock in concert and as a bonus their lead singer looks like a slender Will Ferrell. I am looking forward to seeing them again at the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase this weekend. If you live in Colorado, you should be too.

And look! Who’s your daddy?! Thanks, makeout club.

July 17, 2008

Denver’s Hearts of Palm

Yup, that’s a lot of people in one band. Call them Denver’s own Polyphonic Spree (minus the cult-tastic fashion robes), the warm and sparkly effervescence of Hearts of Palm is a bright spot in our city’s musical landscape. Previously named Nathan & Stephen, the 8-piece band decided to change their name earlier this year to more accurately reflect their gigantic size (not a two-piece!) and as a salute to their favorite vegetable (I might have made that up).

They’ve recently self-released a lovely free 4-song EP, originally available only at the delicious Mexican restaurant Illegal Pete’s in a creative arrangement that funded the production. It has been on heavy rotation here lately in anticipation of their two upcoming high-profile appearances at summer festivals.

On August 1st & 2nd they’ll play two shows as part of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase. DPUMS is in its eighth year, and in a mere two weeks will invade South Broadway for a completely non-hostile takeover. And then on September 14th, Hearts of Palm will bring their “characteristic and customary joy, enthusiasm, and abandon” to the red rocks of the Monolith Festival.

So check these two tracks (my favorites from the EP), watch their recent interview with the fabulous R. Baca to get the firsthand story on the controversial name change, and then go download the rest of the songs. Because you can always use more free music, and this is good stuff.

No Water – Hearts of Palm
Give Em Hell – Hearts of Palm

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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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