October 25, 2009

rivers run but soon run dry

stolen lyric

[via stolenlyric.com, words from U2]

Tagged with .
October 7, 2009

This little wisp of a Devendra Banhart sampler


I was flipping through a stack of CDs late one night last week, and fingered a thin paper envelope with some sort of Spirograph monkey drawn on the front and no name. The back read: “Baby, 16th & Valencia Roxy Music, Goin Back.” Curious, I lingered on it for a moment and slid the CD out of the case, only to see that it was three new songs from none other than the bearded, penis-skirted, freak-folker Devendra Banhart.

Devendra’s music that I’ve heard darts all over the map. Some of my favorites have been his haunting, warbly stuff like “Quedate Luna,” which (bear with me) reminds me of a possessed wolf outside your Spanish mountain hostel in the full moonlight. Unsettling, beautiful stuff.

This little sampler o’ songs from his new full-length What Will We Be (October 27) is absolutely 100% marvelous, each of the three songs they gave me as appetizers. On the deliriously tired drive home from the airport Monday morning, I must have listened to this on repeat a good seven or eight times, and listening to it this morning I am still not tired of it. There is structure, and lapping melody, and dare I say even pop.

Stream the first track, the deliciously slinky “Baby,” on his MySpace, and listen to the singalong, hip-shaking, light fantastic anthem here. It makes me feel feisty:

16th & Valencia Roxy Music – Devendra Banhart
(“Tonight we’re gonna find our lovers! Tonight we’re gonna find our man.“)

Rodrigo Amarante appears on the new album as well (the Brazilian frontman for the tropicalia-inspired kiddos in Little Joy), and Devendra just finished a few tour dates with them as well. Also appearing on the album are members of Vetiver, Megapuss, and Band of Bees. The Venezuelan-bred Devendra has spent years living in San Francisco’s vibrant Castro district, and the new album was recorded in an unspecified “sleepy Northern California town.” I might wear this little three song sampler out before October 27th.


11.16.09 at Vic Theatre (Chicago, IL)
11.17.09 at The Ark (Ann Arbor, MI)
11.19.09 at Higher Ground (Burlington, VT)
11.20.09 at Berklee (Boston, MA)
11.22.09 at Town Hall (New York, NY)
11.24.09 at Electric Factory (Philadelphia, PA)
11.25.09 at 9:30 Club (Washington, DC)
11.27.09 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Toronto, ON)

[tour photo via the fabulous Laurie Scavo]

August 14, 2009

go ahead and steal it


lyric from
The Sound of Failure – The Flaming Lips

My new daily jolt of artistic + musical beauty comes from clicking over to stolenlyric.com, a fresh artistic endeavor by my good friend, former Denver photographer Laurie Scavo.

When we were photographing shows side-by-side, before she up and moved to LA, I was always amazed at her eye for the smallest details on stage. She’d see things through her lens that I never noticed. In her new artistic project, she combines her eye for those achingly gorgeous scenes with snippets of lyrics that keep breaking my heart.


lyric from
Down By The River – Neil Young

Do check out stolenlyric.com for more of these, and note that “all images are created as 12.5″ x 12.5″ giclee prints designed to fit in a standard record frame. they look rad on the wall.” I wouldn’t mind having a row of these to call my own.

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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 7, 2009

Let’s be Local Natives


I always take you guys’ suggestions to heart when you email me all giddy about a band you’ve just seen or stumbled across. So when three readers in one week emailed me about Silver Lake band Local Natives, I made sure to pay attention.

I haven’t had the privilege of seeing them live yet, but all three who wrote had just done precisely that, and raved about their energy and melody. Me, I love the clattery percussion and the summery sound. They boast “the charisma to tempt even the most despondent hipsters and shy concertgoers into dance machines,” which we can all admit the world needs more of.

Local Natives have been on tour with Blind Pilot (who we love) and will be heading out for a few dates with Of Montreal. They end the summer with a residency at LA’s Spaceland. The Heartbreak Tango blog wrote winningly that “If Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear consoled their broken hearts in the corner of a dive bar, this is what it might sound like.”

Airplanes – Local Natives

I really super-dig the song “World News,” you can stream that one on their MySpace, and they have the Sun Hands single due out next week (hear that one here).

UPDATE: Holy mackerel. I was already planning to post this today and Matt Picasso just tripled my joy.

This cover is enough to make me immediately want to run away with these guys to faraway lands, or at the very least invite them to my next summer BBQ and give them many implements of percussion:

Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel) – Local Natives

Ahh, that felt so good.

[photo by the luminous laurie scavo]

March 27, 2009

Everything Absent or Distorted takes on NYC with Jesse Malin


The wonderful fellas in Everything Absent or Distorted (my favorite Denver band) played a show in NYC a couple weeks ago — to an audience of “card-carrying members of the East Village punk aristocracy.” Even though they couldn’t fit all 8 members onto the small stage (and spilled into the audience), they undoubtedly gave it their all because they always do. The event at the Bowery Electric was hosted by Jesse Malin and I hear filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was lounging out front. Sweet. At their second New York show two nights later, my correspondent on the scene reported sightings of both Franz Nicolay from The Hold Steady and The National’s drummer Bryan Devendorf, for an exuberantly passionate show as can be expected.

The positive review and attention from the musician community gives me boundless joy; as I wrote in my review of their album, they deserve a bigger stage (literally and figuratively). Let EAOD ring. Good job, boys!

Aquariums – Everything Absent or Distorted

[pic by laurie scavo]

March 14, 2009

Neil Halstead at Denver’s Walnut Room tonight


Frontman of the influential shoegaze band Slowdive in the ’90s before forming Mojave 3, warmly colorful songwriter  Neil Halstead is now exploring a solo career which brings him to Denver’s Walnut Room tonight.

Halstead’s first solo record Sleeping On Roads was released on 4AD Records in 2002, and after six long years he returned with Oh Mighty Engine (Brushfire Records) which made it onto my Favorites of 2008 list. I wrote that it was “a humble album of acoustic folk melodies that rewards the listener for their patience. This is a slow grower for me, and I find that more hues in the songs are revealed to me the longer I sit with it — a task I am eminently willing to take on. Halstead sings about trying to get the colors right, and with these unassuming tunes I think he does.”

I first heard Neil’s music on the Sprout surf movie soundtrack, and over the last few years it has has grown so steadily and warmly on me. Timeout Magazine has called him “one of Britain’s greatest songwriters” and NME said that he’s “Britains best-kept secret.” Come see for yourself:

Neil Halstead @ The Walnut Room
with Joshua James
Doors @ 7:00, Show @ 8:00
$12 – 21+

Live at the Moonshine Festival, October 2004
See You On Rooftops
Two Stones In My Pocket
Driving With Bert
Sleeping On Roads
Who Do You Love?
Yer Feet


[photo credit Laurie Scavo]

March 4, 2009

Everything Absent or Distorted on TOUR!


You people out East do not know what goodness awaits you next week, as my favorite Denver band Everything Absent Or Distorted takes to the road for an extremely rare tour.

As I wrote in my review for the Denver Post last time I saw ‘em, “I love to stand beneath their waves of massive, visceral sound that galvanizes the band and the audience as one. As I leaned against the stage as the final notes died away, catching my breath, I commented to a friend that EAOD performs the way that the best music feels: straight from their poetic, hot-blooded hearts. There’s no posturing, only gorgeous songs that flit from delicate and pensive to soaringly victorious, fist-pumping anthems.”

Aquariums – Everything Absent or Distorted

If you live in one of these cities, you simply must go. Simply must.
I will give you a nickel if it ain’t the most honest, gorgeous, brilliant performance of live music that you’ve seen in recent years.

Mar 8 — Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
Mar 10 — Detroit, MI @ PJs Lagerhouse
Mar 11 — Pittsburgh, PA @ Garfield Artworks
Mar 12 — New York City, NY @ The Bowery Electric
Mar 14 — New York City, NY @ TBA

[photo credit the fabulous laurie scavo]

November 17, 2008

El Ten Eleven is el bomb

This weekend I had my face melted (a few times actually) down at the Larimer Lounge — most completely by the duo El Ten Eleven, who were opening for Land of Talk on Saturday night. Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty make mindblowing sounds using just a drum set and fretless bass/double-necked guitar.

With the help of about 27 different pedal and whirlygig deals on the floor, they loop layers of sound to create some amazing(ly fun) music. From the initial stirrings of even something like Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” I’ve always found the slow build and denouement in any song to be fascinating, especially ones that focus on adding the layers of sound or noise and then taking them back. My brain likes appreciating each element distinctly.

The vague confusion that I felt when I first walked in on their set (“Wait — I am hearing sounds that are not currently being played by those hands I see in front of me…”) slowly melted into a hot flush of wonder. I’m a sucker for cool loops. Watching Kristian lay down one bit of melody and then another, effortlessly weaving in and out of different sounds with a flick of a finger across the strings — it was sort of like watching a magician at work, albeit in sneakers and a striped t-shirt. Together with Tim the relentless drummer, he constructed something that was awesomely danceable but intelligently (and joyfully) composed.

WATCH: “Hot Cakes” (live in Arizona)

El Ten Eleven hails from the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles (although 1/2 of the duo went to a neighboring high school from mine in the San Fran Bay Area). Their music is, hmmm . . . danceable like Justice, with pulsing basslines like Primus, and radiating sonic atmosphere like Sigur Ros. Their music darts in and out of ethereal and rocking, sublime and visceral.

These Promises Are Being Videotaped is their third album, self-released after a stint with Bar/None Records. I can’t get enough of this first song, and check that Radiohead cover! The crowd packed around the stage provided the “sing-as-loud-as-you-can” vocals to their instrumental rendition.

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine – El Ten Eleven
Paranoid Android (Radiohead cover) – El Ten Eleven

And while you’re over on their website, you can check out the sweet “Slasher Tee” I bought at the show and love because it makes me look like an Eighties guitar hero. Which is something I shall ne’er be.

Nov 17 – Record Bar, Kansas City, MO
Nov 18 – Mojo’s, Columbia, MO
Nov 19 – Canopy Club, Urbana, IL
Nov 20 – Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI
Nov 21 – Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH
Nov 22 – Casa Cantina, Athens, OH
Nov 23 – Bug Jar, Rochester, NY
Nov 25 – Cafe 9, New Haven, CT
Nov 26 – The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY
Nov 28 – 92Y Tribeca, New York, NY
Nov 29 – Brillobox, Pittsburgh, PA
Dec 1 – 816 Pint and Slice, Fort Wayne, IN
Dec 2 – Schubas, Chicago, IL
Dec 3 – TBA St. Louis, MO
Dec 4 – Opolis, Norman, OK
Dec 5 – The Cavern, Dallas, TX
Dec 6 – Beauty Bar, Austin, TX
Dec 10 – Hotel Cafe, Hollywood, CA
Dec 19 – Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff, AZ
Dec 20 – Plush, Tucson, AZ

[pics from the glorious Laurie Scavo, natch]

September 28, 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds bring fire, brimstone and rock ‘n’ roll to Denver

Friday night around 2am I was having a conversation out in a dark alley, next to broken-out windows and dumpsters, with a fellow who told me that Nick Cave saved his life.

Back in high school he listened to punk and often felt alienated from the other kids, from the metalhead contingent, the popular rock and the hair bands. Discovering music like Nick Cave’s work with The Birthday Party, and then his early albums with the Bad Seeds in the mid-’80s, had opened up whole new worlds of literate music to him that intelligently and ferociously reached across all boundaries and grabbed hold of him.

As we loitered in the darkness waiting for Nick Cave to emerge from the bowels of the Ogden Theatre after a mindblowingly amazing show, he told me how much Cave had resonated with him over the years. Standing there with his girlfriend, he held a copy of the 1985 album The Firstborn Is Dead to his chest, and in twenty minutes he would be walking away with Nick’s writing across the front, lyrics to “A Train Long-Suffering” written in silver ink still wet around his picture on the black cover. As I touched his shoulder to say bye, he was shaking like a leaf.

I am a latecomer to the cult of Cave, but after Friday night’s sold-out and powerful show, count me as a convert. Apocalyptic and spiritual metaphors are the strongest that come up after you are baptized by fire into a Nick Cave show. As he dances, stomps, writhes and howls onstage, slim and strong in his suit, sweating through his clothes, you feel like you are seeing some sort of punk-rock preacher come to save us from our sins (and planting ideas about a few new ones while he’s at it).

It’s not a gimmick nor a schtick like some Reverends in the rock world, but just the force of his personality, his intense band (with two drummers!!) and the raging quality of his songs. To get some idea of what the entire night was like, watch my favorite video of the year:


Cave is one of the most intelligent songwriters I know of, not afraid to mix the sacred and the profane to illustrate new meanings with a punch, or to take on old stories like the closing “Stagger Lee” and make it his own with lyrics I nearly blush to repeat. The music was potent, the performance pure undiluted rock ‘n’ roll. Cave performed everything from the title track from his latest album with aplomb (second in the set), to the earliest songs like “Tupelo” as well as beloved favorites like “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat.” They held the stage for more than two visceral hours with no signs of letting up until the bitter end.

Setlist: Night of the Lotus Eaters / Dig Lazarus Dig!!! / Tupelo / Today’s Lesson / The Weeping Song / Red Right Hand / Love Letter / Hold on to Yourself / The Mercy Seat / Moonland / Midnight Man / Deanna / We Call Upon the Author / Hard On For Love / Papa Won’t Leave you, Henry ==encore== Wanted Man / Lyre of Orpheus / Stagger Lee

Friday night was one of the best shows I have seen in many moons, as I told Cave after the show. He replied that it had been his favorite of the tour as well despite some sound problems that plagued the beginning, leading to a hapless broken keyboard getting kicked off its stand by the towering Cave and his solid boots. Like everything else about the night, he was unrelenting.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play Chicago tomorrow night, then a quick lap into Canada, and back to NYC and DC before heading back to Europe.


[Laurie Scavo got the shots of the show this time around;
I only got some after

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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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