Sunday, October 15, 2017

Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love with The North Mississippi AllStars, and Wildermiss at Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, CO on 10/8/17

Michael Franti & Spearhead
Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love, The North Mississippi AllStars, and Wildermiss held a hurricane relief concert for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The bands delivered a much-needed musical reprieve from the news of shootings, politics, and natural disasters. It was a celebration of life and a perfect way to end summer.

Michael Franti - All photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess
Breckenridge Brewery played disco music to warm up the audience for Michael Franti & Spearhead. The sold out crowd started dancing and indulging in the brewery's offerings. The barefoot musical giant (he's 6 feet 6 inches) continued the celebration singing about inspiration, love, and tequila. During the span of the concert, Franti had the crowd put their arms around each other, Do Si Do, and jump (lots of jumping) in a party version of Simon Says. Beach balls were tossed around during Summertime is in My Hands as the sun beat down upon the masses. There was a runway leading to a smaller stage in the middle of the venue. Franti used it to break through the crowd while high-fiving everyone nearby. When he got to the second stage, Franti pulled up fans to dance with him. A woman celebrating her fiftieth birthday enjoyed the experience a little too much and kissed him directly on the lips. Before Franti left the secondary stage, he sang My Lord - "My Lord, my Lord, My Lord/Show me all the things I need to know/My Lord, my Lord, My Lord/Take me to the place I need to go." He instructed the crowd to jump up and down once again as he made his way back to the main stage.

Michael Franti
With a message of peace and positivity, Michael Franti expressed "It's the little things that count. That extra smile, the extra hug, that extra song you sing to somebody.... These things count more than ever. These days when things are so hard for so many people, it means more and more each day that each of us take the time to go out of (our) way to make somebody else feel significant (for) just a little bit." That's when he went out into the crowd to perform We Are All Earthlings and instructed the crowd to take off their hats and wave them around during the crescendo of the song.  Extending the harmonious vibe, Franti sang I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like). The crowd sang along to the chorus repeating, "I'm Alive, I'm Alive, I'm Alive" while ... jumping up and down. The show ended with the band, the stagehands, and the security team joining together to sing John Lennon's Imagine. Instead of just leaving the stage, the entire band went into the audience and hugged people by the front of the stage (I helped spread the love by hugging Carl Young the bass player and Jay Bowman the guitar player). Michael Franti went into the audience as well. He listened to fans' stories of how his music inspired them and took selfies to the delight of everyone around him.

G. Love and The North Mississippi Allstars
The day before the benefit The North Mississippi AllStars were at Breckenridge Brewery (same venue) opening up for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The band consisting of brothers Luther Dickenson and Cody Dickenson with bass player Rob Walbourne stayed an extra day to join the benefit concert. G. Love was performing with his band Special Sauce at an October Festival in downtown Denver. He stayed an extra day to join The North Mississippi AllStars for a joyful set of music. It's not the first time they have collaborated. G. Love recruited Luther Dickenson to play on the track Just Fine for his 2010 Fixin' to Die album. They played that song which highlighted G. Love's rapping and Luther Dickenson's amazing guitar playing. G. Love's Cold Beverages had the Dickenson brothers smiling while the crowd held up their beers to sing along, "Strawberry daiquiris and a colada/I need a whole lotta them/Fruit drinks to catch me a buzz/I must tell you I'm the/Cool aid kid/Before you serve my drink/Please stick it in the fridge."

Denver's own Wildermiss started the hurricane relief concert off in the early afternoon before the crowd started to sunburn. They were all dressed in black jeans with white converse shoes. It was either their band uniform or the start of some kind of kooky cult. Joshua Hester's and Seth Beamer's guitars drove their pop rock sound. Drummer Caleb Thoemke kept the rhythm while singer Emma Cole channeled her inner Hayley Williams (the front woman from Paramore). Carry Your Heart got the audiences attention with its handclap chorus and shouts of "Hey, Hey, Hey."  Keep It Simple was the first track written by the band. The combination of guitar hooks and false endings created a memorable song. Wildermiss will be releasing their first EP later on in the month to expose their music to people outside of the confines of a brewery.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one hugging the band.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Big Head Todd and the Monsters, North Mississippi All Stars, and Anderson East at the Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, CO on 10/7/19

Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Two days after I turned twenty-one-years-old, I saw Big Head Todd and the Monsters at a small Denver bar named Herman's Hideaway. I was drawn to their blues based sound with Stevie Ray Vaughan inspired guitar licks. The Colorado band's music became the sound track of my life when I transformed from a college student to a "responsible" adult. I have their 1991 album Midnight Radio etched in my brain. I can even be seen dancing ... badly in the audience in their 2008 concert video filmed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Now they are about to release their latest studio album New World Arisin' and they have never sounded better.

Todd Park Mohr and his pants
On Saturday at Breckenridge BreweryBig Head Todd and the Monsters starting off strong with Sister Sweetly. Their live version has gotten much funkier over the years compared to their 1993 studio version from the platinum album of the same name. The fifty-one year old front man Todd Park Mohr appeared in white pants with a aqua-blue shirt. He's a rock star so he can break the no white pants after Labor Day fashion rule. Drummer Brian Nevin never missed a beat as the sun heated things up making his shirt soaked in sweat. Keyboardist and petal steel guitarist Jeremy Lawton got into the spirit of the venue by wearing a Breckenridge Brewery staff shirt. He played beautiful refrains and provided impressive backing vocals. Bass player Rob Squires smiled the entire time while producing bass lines that held the band together.  Todd Park Mohr channeled his inner Elvis during Rock Steady by shaking his hips (a little something for the ladies). Crowd favorites Bittersweet, Please Don't Tell Her, Moose Song, and Circle were played to the delight of their devoted fans. Returning for the encore, Todd Park Mohr took the stage alone to pay tribute to the recently departed Tom Petty by singing I Won't Back Down. An extremely inebriated woman in a Tom Petty shirt pushed her way through the crowd to show Todd Park Mohr her shirt. Security told the American Girl ... Don't Come Around Here No More and moved her Into the Great Wide Open. R.I.P. Tom Petty.

The North Mississippi Allstars
I thought I never saw Dickinson Brothers band The North Mississippi Allstars before Saturday. I didn't realize that I have previously seen the brothers perform in other bands. Luther Dickinson was once the lead guitarist in The Black Crowes. Both brothers were in the super group The Word led by Robert Randolph. Cody Dickinson gave a new definition for multi-instrumalist. He played the drums, keyboards, bass, and sang (sometimes at the same time).  Bass player Rob Walbourne snuck behind a drum kit when Cody Dickinson picked up his bass.  But Luther Dickinson was lazy and only played the guitar and sang (slacker). Many of the songs flowed together so nicely it was hard to realize when one song ended and another began. But Luther Dickinson gave the peace sign letting the audience know it officially ended.

Anderson East - All photos by The
Rock and Roll Princess
The day at the brewery started with soul singer Anderson East. I saw him last year open for Chris Stapleton. In that short period of time, he went from singing mostly cover songs to a set that was mainly his own material.  The opening song Quit You co-written by Stapleton won the crowd over immediately with his soulful voice backed by a powerful horn section.  One of the highlights was the ballad All I'll Ever Need - "You could steal the stars from heaven/And all the water from the deep blue seas/Oh, cause your love, your love, darling/It's all I'll ever need." As the sun got warmer, he took off his jacket to reveal a camouflage shirt.  I would like to describe more of East's performance, but since he was in camouflage he disappeared.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one not wearing white pants after Labor Day.  I'm not Todd Park Mohr.  I can't get away with it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pokey LaFarge, Esther Rose, and Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, CO on 9/19/17.

Pokey LaFarge - All photos by
 The Rock and Roll Princess
It felt like you were walking into a juke joint in the 1940's. Part of the crowd was dressed in vintage attire, others were wearing their everyday concert wear, and one annoying guy in a red cap was drinking too much for a Tuesday. They were gearing up to witness the old music charm of Pokey LaFarge (born Andrew Heissler). His mother nicknamed him Pokey for being too slow and it stuck. Since leaving home at the age of seventeen, LaFarge has been playing a mix of country, blues, and jazz from a bygone era. In the beginning, LaFarge played his old timey music by himself mainly busking on the streets. In 2009, his band The South City Three started to accompany him. That led to opportunities to perform in bigger venues, on television (Boardwalk Empire), and with my Lord and Savior Jack White. LaFarge and the band were recruited to play on White's first solo record and be the supporting act on his 2012 Blunderbuss World Tour.

Pokey LaFarge and Ryan Koenig
The evening started with Devil Ain't Lazy with only Pokey LaFarge and the South Side Three on stage. The frantic pace of the song energized the audience immediately. Ryan Koenig played an amazing harmonica solo while his mouth harp disappeared in his bushy beard. Stand up bass player Joey Glynn and lead guitar player Adam Hoskins backing vocals made the song sound like your grandparents' records without the scratches. Drummer Matthew Meyer joined them for Won'tcha Please Don't Do It giving the band a more rock vibe. Trumpet player Luc Klein and saxophonist Ryan Weisheit came out later for Something in the Water. This allowed Pokey LaFarge to dive more deeply into his jazzier side. The guy in the red cap started to scream "YEAH" after every verse of the song.

Pokey LaFarge and his band
 LaFarge introduced the song Silent Movie by confessing how horrified he was about the recent riots in his home of St. Louis. "It's not about politics. It's about humanity." The song lyrics explain, "It's hard for me to say this/Without feeling bad/I see people fighting/All over this land/All the rights are wrong/We couldn't get along, if we tried." The guy in the red cap pointed to the band in agreement after every verse.

Pokey LaFarge
LaFarge shared his heartbreaking tale of his first trip to Colorado. A Colorado University student at the famous Oregon Country Fair swept him off his feet. LaFarge hitchhiked to the Rocky Mountains to follow her. During his long journey, LaFarge picked up lice (just one more reason not to hitchhike). When he finally reunited with the object of his desire, she rejected him because of .... his lice. This led to the ballad Josephine showcasing LaFarge's remarkable finger picking. The song Mother Nature spotlighted Luc Klein's stunning trumpet playing that was captured on their latest album Manic Revelations that Klein co-produced. The night ended with LaFarge confessing he recently smoked pot with Huey Lewis (the Hip to be Square guy) at a Chuck Berry tribute concert.  It was the perfect introduction to The Father of Rock and Roll's You Never Can Tell made famous from the John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing scene in the movie Pulp Fiction. The guy in the red cap held up his empty beer cup toasting the band after every verse.

Esther Rose
Before the man with the slow name started, Esther Rose took the stage. The New Orleans singer's music is a combination of country and folk with a tinge of western swing. Rose's deeply personal songs were conjured up as she navigated her bicycle through the streets of the French Quarter. Rose demanded, "If anyone has ever been to New Orleans, get up and dance." She was on a mission to dance herself while traveling in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That's where Rose discovered her fiddle player who helped transform her live performance from folk to country.  Her dancing mission continued as she cut a rug with audience members when Pokey LaFarge was on stage. The guy in the red cap was too busy drinking to notice.

Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs
Denver's own Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs started the night off with a crowd-pleasing set of alt-country sounds. Rouch acknowledged the gated barrier in front of the stage and joked, "It's protecting us from this dangerous crowd." The band formed at an open mic night in Denver, CO.  One of the highlights was their song Black Noon Dawn. It described dark imagery with an upbeat melody featuring classically trained violinist Alex Fostar. The guy in the red cap was probably finishing off a six-pack in the parking lot.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one staying away from that guy in the red cap.  I hate that guy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thao (of The Get Down Stay Down) and Kitty Crimes at Larimer Lounge in Denver, CO on 9/14/17

The crowd's cheers surprised Thao Nguyen when she peeked out from backstage minutes before her scheduled start time. Thao grabbed her guitar and said, "I was just looking for a bottle opener, but I am very adaptable." That's when an intimate evening of remarkable musicianship and story telling begun. The show was originally scheduled in April, but postponed due to her grandmother's death. Thao's unique combination of folk and indie rock drew a large audience of free spirits, couples, and an aqua blue haired woman stationed in front of the stage. Thao Nguyen had her guitar, mandolin, and banjo lined up for her performance. She pointed to them and said, "Getting through the airport with these is the worst part of being a traveling musician."

Thao - all photos by some old guy at the show
Thao Nguyen is a daughter of refugees from Vietnam. Thao taught herself to play guitar while she worked at her mother's laundromat in Falls Church, Virginia. After receiving degrees in Sociology and Women Studies from College of William & Mary, Thao started her career as a musician (solo and with her band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down).

During her performance, she captivated the audience with songs spanning her entire catalog. Thao started with the sexually charged Body from Thao and the Get Down Stay Down's 2009 album Know Better Learn Faster. She incorporated stories between songs describing it as "a VH1 Story Tellers kind of show." This gig in particular brought back memories of her grandmother. After seeing Thao perform, her grandmother told her to wear more make-up on stage. Her grandmother said, "When you don't wear enough make-up, you look poor. And nobody wants to watch poor people on stage."

Thao and her " Holly Roller" banjo
Thao used pedal looping (recording a musical phrase and then repeatedly playing it back) for Meticulous Bird and Give Me Peace. This gave her an opportunity to show off her rapping and guitar playing skills. It also made some members of the audience perplexed about who was playing the other instrumental parts (especially me). Thao played the banjo for the popular Holly Roller - "Holly roller roll over me/I'm looking for something else to see/Last so long/Hurt so bad/But I want love in the aftermath." Thao ended the night with Common (For Valerie Bolden) a song inspired by a woman she met during her work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Thao had the crowd sing  "Oh, oho oho, oh, oho oho" while she sang the powerful lyrics. Thao's band The Get Down Stay Down wasn't missed much due to her amazing talent, modern technology, and my beautiful voice to back her up.

Kitty Crimes
Denver's own rapper/singer Kitty Crimes started the night of music. Her DJ Andrew played computer-backing tracks and occasionally sang during the choruses. Kitty Crimes (Maria Kholer) rapped, sang, and played the guitar dressed in a safari hat and a long sleeved white blouse. Crimes recalled a time in her childhood when her father informed her she looked like Michael Jackson. This might of influenced her musical endeavors, wardrobe, and genealogical identification. The song Grades combined slow rhythm and blues with rapping. The entertaining Hip Hop song Find a Penny made the aqua blue haired woman wave her arms in the air and the others ponder about change in their pocket.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one wearing more make-up so I don't look poor.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

OneRepublic, Fitz and the Tantrums, and James Arthur at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre in Englewood, CO on 9/9/17.

OneRepublic and lasers
It was a cool summer Saturday night at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre (the other Colorado amphitheater that's not red). Parents brought their toddlers wearing rock t-shirts, teenagers brought their awkwardness, and I brought my glasses because I was on the Green (the lawn seats). Everyone was there for the music of Colorado native son Ryan Tedder. He has written multiple hits for his band OneRepublic and chart busters for some of the biggest pop singers in the world including Beyonce and Adele (you know they are big because they only have one name).

OneRepublic was headlining a large corporate sponsored tour with an impressive catalog of billboard charting songs. The Honda Civic Tour included lasers, multiple screens, and ... Honda Civics.  It was OneRepublic's second show at Fiddler's Green that weekend. I am sure the Friday show was amazing. But Tedder stated Saturday was a better show due to the cooler weather, the band finally adapting to the elevation, and the smoke from the northwestern fires dissipating (the skies appearing less apocalyptic).

OneRepublic - Counting Cell Phones instead of Stars

The stage effects were impressive, but the band's passionate performances of Stop and Stare, Apologize, Good Life, and Feel Again lifted the audience spirits and made them reminisce about the past. An intoxicated young lady near us screamed at her friend, "You don't understand. This music is high school to me." Tedder performed Beyonce's Halo (which he wrote) alone on the piano. The lyrics have a total different narrative when sung by someone not married to Jay-Z. Tedder instructed the audience to light up the venue with their cell phones for Counting Stars. 18,000 fans pretending to be stars by illuminating the venue. Towards the end of the night Ryan Tedder had the opening acts join him on stage to perform his song Rumor Has It from Adele's 21 (the best selling album of the 21st Century). OneRepublic ended the night with their appropriate titled Love Runs Out - "And we'll start a fire, and we'll shut it down/'Til the love runs out, 'til the love runs out."

Fitz and the Tantrums
Before the main attraction, Fitz and the Tantrums turned the outdoor venue into a dance party. The Los Angeles neo soul band compelled the ass shaking to start immediately with their song More Than Just a Dream. Wearing an all white ensemble with his trademark white streak in his hair, Michael Fitzpatrick led his band through modern Motown sounding songs. The secret weapon of the group is singer Noelle Scaggs. Wearing a shear black top and a tiny silver skirt, Scaggs lit up the stage.  Her incredible vocals and Tina Turner stage presence had the audience mesmerized. The gyrating continued through their hits Handclap, The Walker, and MoneyGrabber. Fitz and the Tantrums latest single Fool had Fitzpatrick confess to the crowd he was a mama's boy. He sang, "She watching girls like you/You will never catch me slipping/You will never catch me sleep/Girl you must be tripping/Trying to run around on me/Oh, mama/Didn't raise no fool."

James Arthur - All photos by the rock and roll princess
The opener was James Arthur.  He is known for winning the United Kingdom X Factor in 2012. He beat out Jahmene Douglas (in case you were wondering). After his success in England, Arthur was involved in so many controversies that i-tunes offered refunds for those that complained. When the bad boy of reality television stepped on stage, he said, "I misjudged the weather." That could be because he was wearing a velour jacket under the hot lights in the summer. Arthur said, "Here's one for the ladies" before performing the heavy rhythm and blues song Sober. A guy in front of us sang along to every word (he must be a UK X Factor fan). James Arthur ended his set with the acoustic guitar ballad Say You Won't Let Go - "We danced the night way, we drank too much/I held your hair back when/You were throwing up."

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one dancing in a velour jacket pretending my phone is a star.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Living End, In the Whale, and King Rat at the Marquis Theater in Denver, CO on 9/7/17.

The Living End's Chris Cheney
I saw The Living End during The Aussie Invasion Tour in 2004 opening for fellow Australian rockers The Vines (their hit was Ride) and Jet (their hit was Are You Gonna Be My Girl). The Living End blew them off the stage. I remember vividly singer/guitar slinger Chris Cheney grabbing a full bottle of open beer and using it for a guitar solo splattering the crowd. When the song was over, he handed the remaining suds to a teenager in the front row. Besides breaking the law by distributing alcohol to a minor, Cheney made me a fan.

Seventeen-years later the band is still at it. Their new album Shift contains some of their best songs and their live show is even more captivating.

The Living End
The 42-year-old Chris Cheney has been playing with stand up bass player Scott Owen since they were both fourteen years old in Melbourne, Australia. They started out mainly playing Stray Cats rockabilly songs, but were inspired to create politically motivated material. During the show Cheney said, "We wrote songs against the Australian government. They're now more relevant to you mother f*ckers." Their new material is more personal. Their song With Enemies Like That is a slow tear jerker about reminiscing about the past - So turn on the 8-track play it round again/Take another ride and remember when/There was never wrong or right, just a feeling in the night." Following that sweet slow ballad, Cheney yelled, "That was a song for lovers. Now here is a song for all the f*cking haters." That's when the crowd appeared to jump up and down as one to Monday about a 1996 massacre in an elementary school in Scotland. Confessing to the crowd that they used to be a cover band, The Living End did a flawless version of Buddy Holly's That'll Be the Day. It demonstrated the band's range and why the Australian rockers have been around for over twenty-two years. Their song Prisoners of Society had the crowd chanting, "We don't need no one to tell us what to do."  Despite the decree, the crowd left the venue politely when asked to vacate at the end of show.

In the Whale's Nate Valdez
Before the Australian rebellion started, Denver's own punk duo In the Whale performed. Lead singer/guitar player Nate Valdez and singer/drummer Eric Riley won over the crowd with their raw explosive sound. Songs about Evel Knievel, galaxies, and lakes of fire made the crowd move and their ears start to ring. Riley asked the old school The Living End fans to come out of mosh retirement for their song Girlfriend. I declined. A surprising version of Thank You for Being a Friend (The Golden Girls theme song) was sung by Eric Riley. It's a surreal moment when a drummer from a punk band starts to sing, "Your Heart is true/Your a pal and a confidant." At the end of their set, the duo asked the crowd to fund their upcoming cross country tour by purchasing some merchandise. A guy standing behind me bought an In the Whale skateboard.  He said proudly, "I don't even skate, but they signed it." The combination of music and commerce is powerful.

King Rat - All photos by the rock and roll princess
King Rat was the first band on the bill. The punk band has been playing two and half minute songs consisting of three chords and the truth to Denver audiences for over two decades. Lead singer Luke Schmaltz combined his love for punk music and humor into songs about rebellion that are hilarious. He turned his outrage about the alarming increase of Colorado transplants into a song entitled Go Back to California. A rail thin intoxicated punk fan was dancing to the band like no one was watching except everybody was watching.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one demanding more Buddy Holly and Golden Girls covers.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

La Luz, Bad Licks, and Rubedo at the Bluebird in Denver, CO on 9/3/17

La Luz's Shana Cleveland
I first saw La Luz four years ago opening for the psychedelic group Of Montreal. The band just released their debut album and was thrilled to be traveling the country. Two days later they were involved in a horrific highway accident. Besides sustaining injuries, the band's van and instruments were demolished forcing them to cancel their national tour. Despite the crash, they came back as road warriors. La Luz (Spanish for in the light) appears to be always trekking to the next gig. They play every venue big or small and have been the support acts for the likes of Ty Segall. This time they were the headliner. Lead singer Shana Cleveland confessed to the near capacity Bluebird audience that she didn't know if anyone was going to show up.

La Luz's sound is a combination surf guitar and 1960's four girl harmony accentuated by a heavy sadness. The band describes it as Surf Noir. Their drummer Marian Li Pino calls it "sad songs for stoners."

La Luz
Somber songs about loneliness, obsession, and death captivated the diverse crowd. The audience consisted of an abundance of teenage girls, women with buzz cuts wearing leather vests, and a few men that felt out numbered. When La Luz picked up the pace, a mosh pit formed in front of the stage which inspired keyboardist Alice Sandahi to crowd surf her way to the balcony. She remarkably reappeared on stage in time to finish the song.  Every time the band posts tour dates on social media someone always replies, "What?  No Denver?" Cleveland asked if the person responsible for the numerous requests was in the crowd. No doubt La Luz's appearance satisfied them.

Bad Licks
Before the sounds of sadness hit the stage, local Denver band Bad Licks warmed up the audience. After Singer Rett Rogers convinced Alex Eschen to put down his beer and grab his guitar, the 1970's inspired garage rock begun. Eschew broke his only pick and magically a pink pick appeared out of the crowd. Bad Licks ended with the punk classic People who Died by The Jim Caroll Band to the delight of people who mosh. Rogers stated that an EP might be released soon, but it needs time to "pickle."

Rubedo kicked off the night of music. The transgressive synth rock band played two minutes of eerie tones until a groove formed that lasted for the remainder of their set. Rubedo has a musical bond that started in high school and was nurtured by the Denver DIY (Do IT Yourself) community. Singer Kyle Gray took the audience through an uplifting set that compelled the audience to sing along to their signature song Love is the Answer.  

See you at the next show. I'll be the one daring you to body surf to the balcony.