July 8, 2010

Queen City Spotlight: Tennis


In addition to being a mile high, Denver is also known as the Queen City of the Plains, since we are regally awesome. We have a feisty and fertile music scene here, and this occasional feature aims to spotlight the best of our music to the rest of the world.

I’m a few weeks late on the draw with new Denver duo Tennis, and their summery lo-fi brand of fuzzed out goodness. They just played a packed show at the Meadowlark on Friday night (I was busy happy houring on my lawn as the sun set, so not entirely a bad trade?) and are the latest Denver band to garner a healthy amount of buzz.


Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley are married, and they fled the landlocked Denver (I know the feeling, guys) to head towards the pull of the ocean. They spent eight months sailing before returning to record songs like this one.

Marathon – Tennis

Recommended if you like Beach House, Wavves, Girls, and other summer things. They’re so new that they’re not playing Denver’s big Underground Music Showcase July 22-25, sadly.

Tennis_But I’ll make a point to be at their next show at The Hi-Dive, August 10th, in a superb line-up with their labelmates Woodsman, and Woven Bones from Austin. Tennis’ 7″ of “South Carolina” (Firetalk Records) is all sold out.

Aug 10 – The Hi-Dive, Denver, Colorado
Aug 16 – The Slowdown, Omaha, NE
Aug 17 – Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines, IA
Aug 18 – DAYTROTTER, Rock Island, IL
Aug 19 – tba, Chicago, IL
Aug 25 – Cakeshop, New York, NY
Aug 26 – Glasslands, Brookyln, ny
Aug 27 – Subterranean, Washington, DC
Aug 28 – HEXAGON, Baltimore, MD
Aug 30 – The Layabout, Durham, NC

April 30, 2009

Queen City Spotlight: Houses


In addition to being a mile high, Denver is also known as the Queen City of the Plains, since we are regally awesome. We have a feisty and fertile music scene here, and this occasional feature aims to spotlight the best of our music to the rest of the world.

Houses is such a curt, domestic, common name for an uncommonly good band. Recently formed and already attracting major word-of-mouth buzz, the smart music of Houses is as expansive and refreshing as it is unclassifiable. Sometimes it shimmers and chimes, other times it just plain squalls with rock and roll — but it seems firmly rooted to me in shades of an earthy sepia.


A big, exuberant, Denver-style collective of at least eight members (and all their varied instruments), Houses is formed around the core songwriting duo of Andrew James Hamilton and his wife Kinsey Hamilton. Joining them are members of several other excellent groups in and around Denver (such as Widowers, Blue Million Miles and the perhaps-defunct Hearts of Palm).

With Bishop Allen-type plans for year round domination, Houses is releasing one EP for each season of 2009. I’m having fun divvying up all the songs on their MySpace player into speculative seasons. It seems clear to me that instrumental sojourns like the surf-guitar-laced “Beach Song” radiate waves of August heat, and the pensive “North Sea” is a brilliant shade of arctic January white — or maybe December with those faint sleigh bells chiming.

But this next track might be more like the hazy smell of burning leaves in late October. I am totally and completely in love with it — the way it starts out with a classy, bluesy organ melody that anchors throughout and builds into a singalong that feels like The Band at the San Francisco’s Winterland, early 1970s.

By the last minute, the song explodes like fiery sunrise, just like they promised it would. We’ll see the sun again indeed.

We’ll See The Sun – Houses

For more listening, last month’s show with Everything Absent or Distorted is up over on The Flat Response.

And one of those EPs (presumably Spring) is being released tomorrow night (Friday) at the Hi-Dive, in a show with other local luminaries Elin Palmer and Ian Cooke.

When Houses played with The Morning Benders and The Submarines in February, the Denver Post’s review claimed that although it was “only the band’s fifth show … it was so well executed that it should put most Denver indie bands on notice.” That’s a show I got real close (meters) to seeing, but lots of wet snow and maybe some tequila stopped me from actually making it inside. Sigh. I shant be so foolish again — I really am looking forward to seeing a lot of Houses in 2009.


ALSO: Speaking of local news, the review I wrote for the Denver Post on the Gaslight Anthem show is now live, for your viewing pleasure, as are the pics I shot in the review for Clem Snide. And check this video I shot of Gaslight on Friday night — easily my favorite video I’ve captured all year so far.

[thanks to the formidable namer-of-things Sean Porter for thinking up this series title!]

March 31, 2009

Interview: The Hollyfelds


A few weeks ago, I helped dragged a table out into a bar parking lot on a lovely Sunday afternoon and interviewed last summer’s winners of Denver’s best alt-country band title, The Hollyfelds. They have a new EP coming out Friday, and they played at our Hillbilly Prom last weekend (oh wait, that was the Lurleens).

Feel free to jet on over to Gigbot.com and see what we had to talk about.

[photograph by my favorite Todd Roeth]

December 4, 2008

The great collapse of Everything Absent or Distorted

The end of last year was a nightmare for me of long hours in hospital rooms, soundtracked by the beeping and whooshing of intimidating machines under a sickly halogen buzz. As I confronted very real fears and my absolute inability to do anything other than hold a warm, dry hand and sing the occasional song, I lacked the words to express how that feels.

Everything Absent or Distorted
is a band of wonderful guys from Denver whose new release The Great Collapse incisively explores some of these themes that gnaw in your head during long hours of waiting. In the starkly-perfectly titled song “A Form To Accommodate The Mess,” lyrics ponder all that a hospital room has seen over the years, and the cycles that hold us all together. Over a slowly-building cadence that grows like a tsunami, the words question why the stench of sickness is the same as the smell of medicine and healing. “We are born gasping for air,” the song notes, “and we die gasping for air. One, two, three deep breaths — the end and the beginning.” It’s hit me rough and potent.

A form to accommodate the mess – Everything Absent or Distorted

Through EAOD’s gorgeously vibrant multi-instrumental music (that sounds “more at home in Montreal than Denver“) this album is helping to define something to accommodate a mess and a chaos that befalls me lately. During the recording process of this album, band members faced massive situations like a dad dying, a baby being born prematurely, a marriage beginning — the true grit that makes up life. Life’s ups and downs are all there, reflected in the incisive, poetic lyrics.

Like an Arcade Fire collective, all eight band members cohere through a symphony of instruments ranging from “violin, cello, bowed double bass, guitars, glockenspiel, casio keyboards circa 1985, alesis synthesizers, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone, banjo, piano, pots and pans, trains, and fences.” And just in case eight is in fact not enough, they’re also joined on the album by members of Denver bands DeVotchKa, Bela Karoli, and Cat-A-Tac.

I’ve been privileged to see EAOD a few times live (and will again this Saturday at their record release show at The Gothic) and it’s one of the most pure-hearted rock ‘n’ roll bacchanalias you will see. They convulse and thrash and jump and fall over each other, but they close their eyes and they sing with their whole hearts and therein lies a gorgeous glimpse of the role music plays to them and their audience. As another song on the album says, this feels like “featherbeds in a bomb shelter, trying to find some sleep.” For me, The Great Collapse is a bit of comfort during the shelling.

Both EOAD albums were recorded, financed, produced, mixed, manufactured, distributed by the band with their own limited funds. As member John Kuker says:

We barely make enough money in a year’s worth of shows just to make a record and we then go in debt to put it out and slowly try to recoup some of the funds. We’re a part of the so-called Needlepoint Records family with Rabbit is a Sphere, Thank God for Astronauts and Cat-A-Tac, as we thought an Elephant 6 type deal could be fun.

But at the end of the day, of course all the label/money stuff doesn’t matter at all to us. Of course this project will end up costing us tons more money than we could ever make and we don’t care. We put our blood, sweat, tears, and dollars into this because it’s about all that matters to us.

We never set out to get signed or tour the world. We just all had to make some art in order to be. To be.”

As they also said in a recent interview, and what must be keeping this fantastic album vibrating and resonating within my chest, is that “anything meaningful in this world, musical or non-musical, is bound to take a great collapse.”

GO: Everything Absent or Distorted album release party at The Gothic Theatre, Saturday, December 6th at 9pm for a mere eight dollars.

LISTEN: Most of the new album is streaming at their Myspace, and you can buy it here.

[band photos from my Monolith Saturday set]

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 26, 2008

Young Coyotes show update

I featured Denver’s Young Coyotes on the Monday Music Roundup a few weeks ago, and at the time they had no shows scheduled. Several of you wrote to me to say how much you loved the summery-sweet fantastic sounds of their “Momentary Drowning,” so I am happy to report that they now have THREE shows scheduled for us lucky locals. Catch them here:

August 1 @ The Marquis with Son Ambulance
August 2 as part of the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (Indy Ink, 3pm)
August 13 @ The Hi-Dive with Langhorne Slim

Momentary Drowning - Young Coyotes

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

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

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.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →