Dinner and some good music, anyone? It’s been too many months since we had a house show. Tomorrow I am excited to welcome Hip Hatchet (the nome de musica of Philippe Bronchtein) from Portland, Oregon, by way of Middlebury College in Vermont, and formative roots in New Jersey & Montreal. He’s just finished traversing the U.K. and Europe with his rustic, carefully orchestrated folk songs, and is winding up a week at SXSW.
Phil writes big, brave songs that he bellows and croons, with a richness that stirs something up in me. He cites Bruce Springsteen, Will Oldham, Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan amongst his influences, and you can hear the threads of their rich storytelling woven into his songs.
I’ve also decided to make this a potluck for everyone who comes, since I’ve missed you guys. I’ll make a double batch of Cuban black beans; we will have food starting at 7pm, Philippe will do one set, then more time for food and conviviality, and then he will do a second set. It will be a concentrated, wonderful night of thoughtful music and good food together.
BYOB (this is totally whiskey-sippin’ music), and I recommend a good solid donation to Philippe, who is traveling on the road these weeks and can surely use the gas money! SEE YOU TOMORROW.
First up, on Friday night I am hosting a Fuel/Friends House Concert & Dinner with Alex Dezen of The Damnwells! The Damnwells are a band that I listen to a lot, over the last eight years or so, and I never get tired of them. I may not talk about them as often as they merit but every damn time I put their albums on, I marvel at the rich romanticism and melodic power in Alex Dezen’s voice and songs. “Forgive me baby, I’m so full of hearts / swelled up with sadness and broken in parts.”
Originally the band was from Brooklyn and released my favorite album of theirs, Air Stereo, on Rounder/Epic Records in 2006, and manyothertremendoussongs that I have followed closely over the last decade – oh, and that great documentary about them that sprinted across the indie film circuit a few years back.
I’m thrilled that Alex is heading across country and stopping to do a special, intimate house show for Fuel/Friends readers on Friday night! For the house address and all the good details, check the FB invite, and I hope to see you there. The dinner part is full, but there is still room for folks at the show.
Then on Saturday & Sunday, you’ll find me at the Denver Music Summit again! This type of community-oriented musician education and creative vitality-infusion is one of the best things that our city has done in various iterations over the years, and I am happy to be a part of it once again.
I will be speaking on a panel for musicians Saturday morning with the luminous Storm “Hey Now” Gloor, professor of Arts & Media at University of Colorado Denver (and keeper of some of the best/nerdiest spreadsheets about music that you will ever see). We will be talking about branding yourself as an artist (AT TEN AM SORRY) and tips for reaching out to music blogs. You should preregister for the Saturday & Sunday workshops – it’s only ten bucks for all the sessions.
Saturday night I was thinking of telling a story again with The Narrators and friends like Will Johnson and Dave Bazan, but buckled because my brain is too addled lately. I do believe in the power of public storytelling (especially around music themes!), and there are some wonderful storytellers involved, so come on out for that!
The whole weekend of musical guests for the Denver Music Summit reads like a Fuel/Friends House Concerts hall of fame. If you’re reading this post, you’ll like it.
GIVEAWAY: I have two full all-access passes to give away for the Denver Music Summit weekend! Please email me with “Denver Music Summit” in the subject line and some good reasons about why you deserve it & how you’ll use it, and I will judiciously find good homes for them.
The first time I heard Edmund Wayne, I was driving across Central California in the summertime.
I remember it was one of those long two-lane highways where the center line flicking its yellow bursts can be mesmerizing, and the rows and symmetrical rows of crops and orchards open up off into the distance on either side of you, so far you can’t see the end of each row, and then you pass it and it’s gone.
This is similarly mesmerizing music that weaves and curls around your ears when you listen, in a very hypnotic, elastic way. Frontman Curt Krause has quite the range on him, and I can’t wait to hear him sing with that voice bouncing off my wood floors on Sunday, December 15. We’re planning ahead, but mark your calendars — the band is touring through some of these Western United States, braving the snows of December, and I look forward to giving them a warm welcome all the way from Seattle.
Denver’s much buzzed-about Covenhoven will open the show. Joel Van Horne (previously of Denver’s Carbon Choir) recorded and named this record after his family’s cabin in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. There is a kind of spare and haunting melodic power in his songs that has garnered him comparisons to Blind Pilot and Gregory Alan Isakov, not bad company to be in.
This week I find myself in a part of the world that’s just ri-goddamn-diculous, as my friend Sailor Jay would say. I whiled away this afternoon swimming and paddling in a kayak on Alice Lake, a little sapphire in the valley’s hand out in British Columbia. As I paddled, and listened to my paddle dripping water onto my legs and the waves lapping against the boat, I watched hundreds of little cerulean blue dragonflies flit and hover and sun themselves. I glided silently under where the mossy trees dip down to touch the water and make a natural cave of leaves.
The song that I started singing out loud for myself was “When You Are Still” by David Wax Museum (and not just because they are playing at my house on Thursday, nor to set up this post)…
This is a band that is wonderfully different from anyone I have hosted before, as their music blends this cool Appalachian-folk style with Mexican Son music. David Wax plays a traditional Mexican guitar called a jarana, while his musical partner Suz Slezak plays fiddle and a donkey jawbone called a quijada. This will be the first time that a band has experimented with animal bones in my house, sooooo….. come for that.
You’ve heard their music, at minimum, on several of my seasonal mixes — “Born With A Broken Heart” to start the springtime, “The Least I Can Do” in late lazy summer, and “When You Are Still” for the autumn. You should also definitely get my favorite full-length from them, Everything Is Saved. They shipped some ahead to my house, so get one Thursday.
Opening the night will be Denver’s own amazing Chimney Choir! In their own words, “Chimney Choir conjures colorful avant-pop by mixing old time acoustic instruments with droning synths, junk percussion and 3 part harmonies in a theatrical show.” I love junk percussion; Imma start saving cans now.
One last rad recording of them, so you know what we’re in for: I still love this line, “Some of us come with new hearts, most of us come with used hearts — baby, why do you look so sad?”
Back in October, those Wisconsin-grown purveyors of carefully-crafted songs Field Report came through Colorado to record a chapel session and play a Fuel/Friends house show. I’ve been listening to an audience recording of that house show often because it gives such a marvelous, vibrant reflection of the intimacy that makes house concerts special — how raw and affectingly all their voices ring out together in the room, the banter with the folks who are there, the improvisation in the instrumentation.
Field Report returns to Colorado Springs tomorrow (Tuesday night) to play a FREE SHOW at the new rad Ivywild School project, where I will be booking music. Come on down to the Principal’s Office bar, have a Colorado-crafted spirit, and enjoy music like this.
We are looking ahead to a long summer filled with all sorts of good folks coming through to play us some Fuel/Friends House Concerts! Our next one is Thursday, June 6th with Vandaveer, and has been a long time coming.
These are songs that resonate with echoes of old, rich music: spirituals, dirges, and songs of rejoicing. It often feels primal and organic in the percussion (lots of handclaps), elegant in the wending warmth of the cello. The lyrics are also dang smart; one just needs to listen to a rich allegory on songs like “Spite” to know that.
But the real currents that pull me through these songs come from the vocal pairings of Rose Guerin’s icy deep low harmonies and Mark Charles Heidinger’s wending ripples and currents that tug us around the rocks. Heidinger’s voice has this vinegar of sadness around it that actually reminds me of Nina Simone (something I would never expect); they both have that slight metallic tang and bitter aftertaste that sounds regretful all the way through.
Vandaveer has a new record out of traditional folk murder ballads and other dark things, called Oh, Willie, Please. I am looking forward to being drawn into those complicated stories on a warm summer night.
And off their last record (one of 2011′s favorites of that year), the title track, which I still love so damn much. I thought of this song over and over in that Barcelona cathedral, and all those dazzling dizzying colors still come to mind every time I hear it.
As our opener for the evening, we are in for a real treat. Fresh off one of THE most insanely long and awesome shows I have seen in a very long time (at Meadowgrass this past weekend), opening the night will be Colorado Springs’ own Joe Johnson. He may also know a folk murder ballad or two, and man — can he also wail when he sets his mind to it. Check out this video he made last weekend amidst the pines, with friend Kevin Ihle:
EARLY SHOW: Please note that we have a multitude of musical riches in town on this same night, and we are doing this house concert as an early show (from 7pm to 9pm), so as to allow time for all of us to hop on bikes (those who have bikes) and ride the few blocks over to the Triple Nickel for the second act of the night with more good friends: The Changing Colors, with Ark Life and Roo & The Howl, which will get started shortly after 9pm!!
A generous donation is encouraged at my house show next Thursday, to support homegrown quality music and musicians. BYOB. You can RSVP via Facebook here — hope to see you here!
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:
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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