On Wednesday night, April 24, Will Johnson is finally coming to play after a long time planning. Will is a Texan songwriter who fronts Centro-matic and South San Gabriel, making smoldering, understated music for the last twenty years. He’s also collaborated on some of my favorite side projects in recent years: with Jim James and Jay Farrar on that tremendous Woody Guthrie albumNew Multitudes last year, as a part of Monsters of Folk (with Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward), and on the smoky duo album with Jason Molina (of Magnolia Electric Company, who recently passed away).
There is something in Will’s honest voice and way of phrasing that makes me persistently uncomfortable (in a way I very much like); it’s a red-hot ember held real close to the skin. I’m so looking forward to an evening of just close listening to him and his guitar.
I have been completely riveted by Will’s music ever since I first saw this song that my friend Dainon recorded years ago in the radio station studios where he worked:
“And we tried innocence and we tried formaldehyde / in the end you were left with the string and I, the kite” — ooof. That’s still one of the most powerful songs I’ve personally ever heard about a marriage ending.
Last year, his record Scorpion was this sun-scorched, potent slow-burner of densely woven wonder, and I think I listened to the track “You Will Be Here, Mine” on repeat for months. It is so full of wonderful hesitancies and fumbling that make it even sweeter when everything finally hits its stride in that song.
TWO OTHER THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT WILL:
1. He just announced a collaborative project with (Fuel/Friends two-time house show alum) David Bazan, called Overseas:
I like the rambly, literate way that Jesse Elliott always lets his heart and words bleed all over everything. For years with (chapel session alums) These United States, and now through his new project Ark Life, it always sounds like his mind is rambling so fast and so pure that the rest of all of us around him can barely keep up. He is one of my favorite kinds of musicmakers.
His new Denver-based band Ark Life blends together a crew of good musicians to make some fine open-air/open-highway music, all tied up with three-part female harmonies. Tomorrow night they are playing a Fuel/Friends House Concert, and if you’re in Colorado, you should be there.
You can download the rest of their Daytrotter session from last week over here. It’s the first recorded material available anywhere on the internets from Ark Life, so if you want to hear more, well, you’ll just have to come to my house show tomorrow night.
Also playing with Ark Life tomorrow night, I am excited to welcome Denver band Poet’s Row for the first time, maybe named after some cool art deco apartments on Capitol Hill? Either way: it’s a show not be to missed.
I am thrilled to try a new venue for our next Fuel/Friends house show – on Tuesday we are welcoming Lemolo from Seattle, with You Me & Apollo from Denver, into a spacious rad woodshop near UCCS. It smells heavenly and warm, of sawdust and creation in there.
I actually just woke up from having an elaborate dream about this show, and I can now guarantee you that it was pretty damn cool. It will be wonderful to host Lemolo’s first Colorado show ever! These ladies are from the Seattle area and have been on my radar for a while now – I saw them at Doe Bay Fest two years in a row, and they toured with The Head and The Heart.
They are some of my favorite people to watch play live: the lilting, entrancing ease with which Meagan Grandall sings, and the electrified kickass manner that Kendra Cox attacks her drums and bleepy-bloopy keyboards.
The night will be opened by rising Denver band You Me & Apollo, who I keep hearing amazing things about (like this Denver Post article, wondering if they might be the next big thing out of the Queen City). I’m excited to see them with the woodshop acoustics.
It will be $10 at the door, BYOB. Music starts around 8pm, and the bathroom situation is something we are still working on, so come with the emptiest of bladders (seriously). The woodshop is behind a house, and it is easiest to enter from the back alley, rather than traipsing through the front yard and side yard of the house, like I did the first time I was there.
Let us know if you plan to come via the Facebook event for the show. This is going to be a legendary night.
And I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments captured on video from 2011′s Doe Bay Fest:
Outside everything felt bluntly muffled and icy-silent under the thick blanketing of snow last Thursday, but my snow day ennui was pierced through by the voice of Nathaniel Rateliff, wowing us all in a house concert that was every bit as incredible as I’d been thinking it would be for years.
With just him and his acoustic guitar, Nathaniel held all of us contentedly squirming under the laser of that voice that can slice right through, with such purity and insight.
“Shroud” and “Laughing” are both well-loved songs off In Memory of Loss, his 2010 release on Rounder Records. Nathaniel also recorded a breathtaking chapel session with me earlier that same day, doing three new songs (one on the grand piano), and covering Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place To Fall,” which, oof. That song. Him singing it. I need a moment.
Desirae Garcia (of The Haunted Windchimes) opened the evening, and I think nearly stole the show. Armed only with her bass ukulele and a walloping dose of deadpan candor, her nascent solo career is going to be one to absolutely pay close attention to. The way she can deliver the simplest of lines is devastating.
I just wanted to throw in my good-luck wishes to The Lumineers tonight on the Grammy Awards, and smile as I remembered this night we all shared back in November 2010, at the house show I put together with them and The Head and The Heart. This was a completely ridiculous, end-of-the-night group effort. Go team:
The warmth and resonant connection of the Denver music community flowed so apparently out of the article this week by Jon Pareles in the New York Times; it is just as he says, and I am so grateful to live here.
I’m so pleased to announce that the next Fuel/Friends House Concert will be on Thursday, February 21 with the beguiling voice of one of Denver’s favorite sons: Nathaniel Rateliff.
I saw his music years ago when his old band Born in the Flood opened for Kings of Leon in Denver. In the years since, Nathaniel has been a consistent fixture of amazingness first with The Wheel, and now under his own name. He got to know the Mumford & Sons fellas early on, and you may have seen him on the Gentlemen of the Road caravan, or heard him play on the Mumfords’ Daytrotter, as well as three Daytrotter sessions of his own.
This show will be a fundraiser for Nathaniel. Some jerkface jerk in a stolen car rammed his touring van. Those repairs are not cheap, and we want to step up to help him, and enrich our ears in the process. We are suggesting a donation of $10-15 for this show. It starts at 7pm, February 21; location details here.
I just almost fell out of my chair when Field Report confirmed to play at my house show next Monday, October 8, with Seattle’s magnificent Hey Marseilles. They’re in town with a day off so WHY NOT. I love both bands so much that my ears might disintegrate into bliss right now, and you should come disintegrate with me.
I first wrote about Field Report after a friend of mine from their record label shot me an advance last March as a personal recommendation, with serious urgency for the understated burn throughout this record. Those days were the season of schizophrenic springtime icestorms, and this is a record of sleet and woodsmoke and fever dreams.
Chris Porterfield was in a Wisconsin band called DeYarmond Edison, along with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and what would become Megafaun. The Field Report record was made in Bon Iver’s Eau Claire studio, and has a similarly gripping effect to the first Bon Iver record, for me. It settles on me and clings to me, probing “unmapped chambers of hearts.”
This rich and thoughtful record is terrific all the way through (reminding me somehow of the gritty landscape of a Cormac McCarthy novel) but “Fergus Falls,” in particular, is the song I have listened to probably 200+ times, often in the car with the windows up and the volume dial as high as it can go because: THAT CRESCENDO. I had myriad ideas about what the song was about — there’s something distinctively dreamlike about the lyrics, except the kind of dream where you get wrapped in the sheets and try to run but your legs are lead. I recently read a piece in Rolling Stone that described how it was inspired by a pregnant woman he saw at a Milwaukee music festival who was with a guy who “looked like an asshole,” and that she seemed trapped. The song-pieces all fell into place, and lines like “And no one saw my banners, my bruises, my flares, my flags” made quiet sense.
You can stream the whole Field Report record here, and go buy it right now (it just came out a few weeks ago on Partisan Records – the home of other great artists like Deer Tick, Dolorean, and Middle Brother).
This just in! I am pleased to announce the newest Fuel/Friends house concert, this one with Hey Marseilles, who make explosive, soaring, colorful songs from the drizzly streets of Seattle. They will be kicking off their extensive fall tour with an intimate show in my community on Monday night, October 8th, and I am thrilled to be hosting them.
The first song of theirs that captured my eardrums was “Rio,” instantly whisking me off to a land peppered by handclaps where, happily, there are “always Brazilian boys to discover”:
Also, check out their NPR Tiny Desk concert to see what the house show might be more like: cozier, more acoustic, fewer video projection screens and sand.
Tue-Oct-9 – Denver, CO at Hi-Dive
Thu-Oct-11 – St. Louis, MO at Plush
Fri-Oct-12 – Louisville, KY at Good Time Emporium
Sat-Oct-13 – Cincinnati, OH at Taft Theatre
Sun-Oct-14 – Columbus, OH at The Basement
Mon-Oct-15 – Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE
Tue-Oct-16 – Asbury Park, NJ at The Saint
Fri-Oct-19 – New York, NY at Le Poisson Rouge (CMJ)
Sat-Oct-20 – Boston, MA at Church Of Boston
Sun-Oct-21 – Philadelphia, PA at North Star Bar
Mon-Oct-22 – Washington, DC at DC9
Tue-Oct-23 – Toledo, OH at Frankie’s Inner City
Wed-Oct-24 – Chicago, IL at Lincoln Hall
Thu-Oct-25 – Milwaukee, WI at Club Garibaldi
Fri-Oct-26 – Minneapolis, MN at Cedar Cultural Center
Mon-Oct-29 – Salt Lake City, UT at Urban Lounge
Tue-Oct-30 – Missoula, MT at The Top Hat
Wed-Oct-31 – Pullman, WA at Bell Tower
Fri-Nov-2 – Vancouver, BC at Electric Owl
Sat-Nov-3 – Portland, OR at Doug Fir Lounge
Mon-Nov-5 – San Francisco, CA at The Independent
Wed-Nov-7 – Santa Cruz, CA at Rio Theatre
Thu-Nov-8 – Fresno, CA at Fulton 55
Fri-Nov-9 – San Diego, CA at The Casbah
Sat-Nov-10 – Los Angeles, CA at El Rey Theater
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
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