March 9, 2010

Sampling Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel’s debut record


Denver musician Nathaniel Rateliff (formerly of the well-loved Born In The Flood) and his band The Wheel have completed their debut record In Memory of Loss on Rounder, under the production hand of Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter). It’s exciting for me to see these friends getting some of the attention that I’ve long thought they deserved. I’ve seen ‘em play in little clubs and on patios and at our hectic festivals, and Nathaniel’s voice always commands people stop, and listen, and feel what he is singing.

Hear the full new version of “Early Spring Till” over on the Vanity Fair profile, and download it for free on Nathaniel’s website. Vanity Fair? Holy crap, go go Denver music!

The Vanity Fair piece says, “his tenor voice and gospel-inspired harmonies are fit only for a silent cathedral.” My own version of this cathedral they envision would be when I saw The Wheel on the Meadowlark patio late last summer, and underneath the canopy of twinkling lights in the late August evening they levied a heavy, reverent silence over the normally talkative hipster crowd. Everyone –everyone– was listening then, and now, you’ll soon have a chance too.

These songs are now so much more fleshed out and filled in, but still leave a space for Nathaniel’s distinctive voice to reverberate. “Early Spring Till” is much changed, but still with that soaring chorus that always makes my day feel a little more bearable. Are you tired? Do you feel wrung out? Have you fallen from where glory sprouts? At least Nathaniel understands.

This remains one of their most commanding songs, among many strong contenders:

Early Spring Till (demo version) – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel

In Memory of Loss is out April 27th on Rounder Records.

Nathaniel is playing several SXSW shows next week (next week!!), including our Mile-Hi Fidelity Party party this year. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel are playing along with Houses, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Pirate Signal, TAUNTAUN — all some of my favorite Denver bands. You should absolutely come.

mile hi fidelity

*with the Low Anthem
# with Megafaun
% with Ra Ra Riot & Delta Spirit
@ with The Tallest Man on Earth

Mar 17 – Lamberts – C3 Party @ SXSW, Austin, TX
Mar 17 – Ale House – official SXSW showcase 9pm, Austin, TX
Mar 18 – Hotel San Jose – High Road Party @ SXSW, Austin, TX
Mar 19 – Habana Calle 6 – Mile Hi-Fidelity @ SXSW, Austin, TX
Apr 2 – The State Room, Salt Lake City, UT *
Apr 3 – Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO *
Apr 4 – The Slowdown, Omaha, NE *
Apr 5 – Huckleberry’s Pizza, Rock Island, IL *
Apr 6 – Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL *
Apr 7 – The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI *
Apr 9 – Vaudville Mews, Des Moines, IA
Apr 10 – The Waiting Room, Omaha, NE #
Apr 27 – Barnstormer III, West Liberty, IA %
Apr 28 – Barnstormer III, Milwaukee, WI %
Apr 29 – Barnstormer III, Lake Geneva, WI %
Apr 30 – Barnstormer III, Champaign, IL %
May 1 – Barnstormer III, Maquoketa, IA %
May 21 – The Mill, Iowa City, Iowa @
May 22 – Carleton College, Northfield, MN @
May 23 – Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN @
May 25 – Pabst Theater, Milwaukee, WI @
May 26 – The Dome House, Bloomington, IN @
May 27 – The Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, IN @

(top pic from my Wheel/Bon Iver set from last summer)

October 21, 2009

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel wow at CMJ, sign to Rounder Records

wheel bon iver

I just heard from the fine Rounder Records label (Delta Spirit, Sondre Lerche, Son Volt) that they have signed Denver’s Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel, one of my other favorite Colorado bands! Today is a good day for Colorado music; they absolutely deserve it.

Early Spring Till – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel

The Wheel just played a stunning set at Brooklyn Vegan’s CMJ showcase last night, and are opening for Mason Jennings in a few weeks.

When I saw Rateliff and The Wheel open for Bon Iver this summer, they captured the attention of the crowd and held us all riveted in place for the entire set, enchanted. I wrote that “their intricate, melancholy songs are steeped in goodness and ready for a larger stage.” Looks like they’re on their way to getting it.

[my pic above from the Bon Iver show set]

July 12, 2009

Blinded, I am blindsided :: Bon Iver and The Wheel in Denver last night


I’ve never heard the Ogden Theatre held so tightly under a blanket of silent reverence as it was last night for the Bon Iver show, with Denver’s marvelous The Wheel opening. Some said you could have heard a pin drop at the sold-out show, on one of the most sweltering nights of the summer so far.

There is pure, unfettered, urgent, honest magic in the music of Bon Iver, there is no denying that. For an album that some think of as hushed acoustic woodland grieving, there is also a lot of potential for a live show that rages like a howling river. First off: the man travels with two drummers. That alone is enough to win my heart completely. The songs grow and explode live, and knock you off your feet. Justin excoriates with his guitar freakouts, and pounds on his keys. It’s a cavalcade of something intensely real.


Taking the stage with fluffy longer hair that grows even more majestic when illuminated by golden spotlight from above, Justin sat down and the crowd was immediately silent, waiting. He started the set the same way the album begins, with the opening strums of “Flume”: I am my mother’s only one. It’s enough. Thirty seconds in and we already have a lump in the throat here — that’s one of my absolute favorite lyrics he’s written, for quiet personal reasons. From there, he led into an extended, experimental intro to “Lump Sum,” and as the meandering faded away, the familiar, pulsing melody drew us back and it felt so right.

Flume (Daytrotter version) – Bon Iver
Lump Sum (MOKB/Laundromatinee version) – Bon Iver (via)

After a jawdropping, electrified ending to “Creature Fear,” someone down front with me yelled, “You’re a genius!” to which Justin quickly shot back, “You’re drunk,” as he smiled. But I would agree with gentleman #1 in the audience — it was an exceptional, gorgeous show. I knew what to expect, I’d been exposed to his music live before, and he still blew me away, absolutely.

With only one album and an EP to draw from, Justin laughingly promised as he tuned his guitar between songs, “We’re gonna play all the songs we know tonight, let’s put it that way.” And they did – as well as “Brackett, WI” from the Dark Was The Night compilation, and a Jayhawks cover, among others.

In a moment of humble and unaffected loveliness, the Jayhawks song they covered was “Tampa to Tulsa” (from their 2003 album Rainy Day Music) during the encore, with the band sitting around a single center microphone. Watch what I saw:

The night ended with  the loudest singalong I’ve ever personally been a part of, of “Wolves (Part I and II)”. By that point I was standing in the back near the fresh air and relief from the sweltering heat inside. Usually, the back of the club is where the talkers and chatty drinkers congregate, but as Justin urged us to sing along to “what might have been lost,” I looked around and every single person I could see was singing their heart out into the humid darkness, many with eyes closed. That song crests like a huge wave, and as both drummers pounded their hardest, each beat shot like an electric jolt into my chest.

It was the most beautiful moment I reckon I’ll see in concert for a while, and everything I want to be a part of.


Openers The Wheel were playing to a hometown crowd, but nonetheless got the loudest prolonged-cheer reception I have heard for any local band in a long time. Their intricate, melancholy songs are steeped in goodness and ready for a larger stage. The band is magnetically led by the wry, exceptional voice of frontman Nathaniel Rateliff (Born In The Flood) who in the oddest coincidence that you ever think could sound good, vocally evokes a young and impassioned Neil Diamond minus the glitter. The technicolor songs pack a punch, yet sounded timeless through a symphony of strings, aching harmonica and guitars, piano, intuitive drumming, and vocal harmonies that cut through the venue and held everyone’s attention.

If I were voting for my favorite Denver bands, say, for a local music festival competition, I might put The Wheel in the top 5. Hypothetically. Check these guys out.

Just For Me, But I Thought Of You – The Wheel (I love this so much)
My Hanging Surrender – The Wheel





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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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