Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Shows of 2017

It's been a fantastic year .... for live music in Denver, Colorado.  I saw amazing large production concerts such as hometown heroes One Republic at Fiddler's Green and Zac Brown at Coors Field. Since Jack White (my lord and savior) hasn't toured in recent years, I got my fix watching his disciples Lillie Mae (fiddle playing phenomenon), Pokie Larfarge (old school honkey tonk singer), and Olivia Jean (Goth rock goddess). I was in the audience when the soulful country crooner Chris Stapleton and the world music of Purple Martini played incredible Red Rocks shows. I witnessed Thao (from the Get down Stay Down) channel feminism rage with a banjo. I caught the Nashville guitar powerhouse Diarrhea Planet blow the roof off the Marquis Theater.  But five other shows stood out from a year packed with stunning appearances.  So without further ado.... Here are my top shows of the year:

Michael Franti
5.  Michael Franti and Spearhead at Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, CO on 10/8/17 - Michael Franti inspired a bunch of beer drinkers through life affirming songs about peace and positivity. The hurricane relief concert had the entire crowd singing and dancing around the jumping barefooted singer (Franti had knee surgery at the end of this tour. Go figure). After the bouncing ended, almost every Spearhead member continued to spread the love by hugging the entire front row including me.

4.  Father John Misty at Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, CO 8/25/17 - I am thankful Josh Tillman AKA Father John Misty decided to become a musician instead of forming an occult. If he started his own religion, I am afraid many of his followers would be wearing the Heaven's Gate Nikes and drinking the Jonestown Kool Aid. After his passionate performance everyone in the audience was worshiping at the alter of Misty.

Regina Spektor
3.  Regina Spektor at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO on 3/29/17 - The petite former Soviet Union immigrant dazzled the audience with her miraculous piano playing and quirky lyrics. My favorite moment was when she abandoned the piano and rapped during her song Small Bill$. Despite a few audience members storming out when she shared her thoughts about the president's immigration policies, Spektor's charm made the rest of the crowd smile in adoration.

2.  Elephant Revival at Shambhava Yoga Eldorado Ashram in Boulder, CO on 5/19/17 - The members of the folk roots rock band rewarded volunteers from Wildlands Restoration to a free show in return for a few hours of restoring a hiking trail. The setting was spiritual, the message was peace, and lead singer Bonnie Paine played the saw (that's right a musical saw). It was the most Boulder experience in my life. And it was awe-inspiring.

John Paul White - All Photos taken by
The Rock and Roll Princess
1. John Paul White at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO on 5/10/17. The former member of the duo Civil Wars somber songs about lost love, death, and despair made a deep connection with the audience. The majority of the songs performed were from his album Beulah (biblical word meaning a place of peace and isolation from strife). The memory of this performance still gives me salvation from a year of divisiveness, disasters, and evil.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one wishing your new year is full of happiness, music, and possibly a visit to an ashram.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Devil Makes Three and Scott H. Biram at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO on 11/19/17

The Devil Makes Three
The venue was extremely over sold by at least 100 tickets. The concertgoers who didn't arrive by the end of the opener struggled to find a spot to stand. The audience was spilling out into the lobby. The extremely drunk and/or high crowd was being pushed together tightly to make room for a few despite the fact that there were many. The only place with any room was by the stage. But standing near there exposed spectators to the dreaded moshers. During the second song an intoxicated thug threw his first punch. Welcome to the final night of The Devil Makes Three Fall Tour.

The Devil Makes Three
The crowd mainly wore flannel shirts and all sorts of hats (trucker hats, hipster hats, hippie hats, witch hats, and even a bear hat). They came to bare witness to the incredibly talented alt-country band The Devil Makes Three. The trio formed in Santa Cruz, California in 2002 despite the fact that they all grew up in the New England/Vermont area. Silver haired Pete Bernhard sang the majority of the songs while raven-haired stand up bass player Lucia Turino drove the rhythm. Guitar/banjo player Cooper McBean's scruffy beard made him look like someone who .... plays the banjo. McBean caused chaos every time he took the mic (it might be due to song choices like Gracefully Facedown). It did inspire the inebriated thug to push his next victim to the ground (and hard). Security was nowhere to be found.

Pete Bernhard - All Photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess
For this tour, the band added a fiddle player and drummer for a fuller sound (I guess the devil makes five as well).  Cover songs such as Robert Johnson's Drunken Hearted Man and Ralph Stanley's I am the Man Thomas were given amazing The Devil Makes Three transformations. But original songs such as Spinning Like a Top, Old Number Seven (as in Jack Daniel's Whiskey), and Worse or Wrong had the audience shouting-a-long to the lyrics. This resulted in the drunken thug choking a woman that dared cross his path. Two guys in the mosh pit freed the petrified victim from his grip. Security must have been too busy to notice.

The Devil Makes Three closed with Do Wrong Right singing, "Well most things that I know, I didn't learn in class/The road don't go forever, so ride it while it lasts/If you're gonna raise a ruckus, one word of advice/If you're gonna do wrong buddy do wrong right."  At this point, the thug was surround by the good citizens of the mosh pit preventing him from doing any further wrong (right or wrong) that night.

Scott H. Biram
Scott H. Biram usually plays at Three Kings Tavern, a much smaller venue, when he appears in Denver. On Saturday and Sunday, Biram performed at the larger Ogden Theatre as part of The Devil Makes Three tour.  Scott H. Biram grew up in a small town in Texas not far from Austin. He was exposed to roots music while earning a degree in fine arts at Southwest State University. Armed with tons of guitars and a stool, Briam preached and hollered about hard living. He unapologetically told the crowd he was going to play the same set list as the previous night.  Before playing the emotional Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue, Biram recalled telling his mother that the song was going to be a hit. He closed by shouting, "Now go buy some of my sh*t." At this point of the evening, the evil monster had yet surfaced.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one wondering what do wrong right even means.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cindy Wilson, Olivia Jean, and Battle Pussy at the Marquis Theater in Denver, CO on 11/16/17

Olivia Jean and Cindy Wilson
Strong women ruled at the Marquis Theater on Thursday night. Their powerful musical abilities and unique fashion styles were on full display. The crowd was small, but mighty as they soaked in the punk, rock, and pop sounds of the evening.  It was very clear who in the crowd showed up for what act.  The older patrons were there to see an icon of the ultimate party band The B-52's Cindy Wilson.  Younger mostly bearded guys attended to see Third Man Records phenomenon Olivia Jean. The others showed up to participate in the shenanigans of local political punk rock trio Battle Pussy.

Battle Pussy - All photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess
The show started before the doors opened when Battle Pussy ran through the entrance and high-fived everyone in the line waiting to get into the venue. When the real show eventually started, gladiator helmet wearing Suzanne Slade lead the trio through songs titled Tweety Tweet, You're Fired, and No Trump. I got a strong sense these songs were not endorsed by the MAGA community. Two male dancers joined them on stage to add to the spectacle. The chorus boys stripped down to their underwear and proceeded a get audience members to jump rope while the band rapped Betty The Beat. The timely Standing Rock Tribe song Water Is Life was played with distain after Slade announced the news about the recent Keystone Pipeline leak in South Dakota. Battle Pussy ended their set with Revolution getting the audience to shout, "Fight, Fight, Fight" ensuring the band and the concert goers will not be on the White House Christmas card list anytime soon.

Olivia Jean
Third Man Records has been utilizing Olivia Jean's talents for a number of years. She led the all girl gothic garage group The Black Belles, played with Wanda Jackson, Karen Elson, and even Jack White (my lord and savior). Now she is a solo artist supporting Cindy Wilson's fall tour. She wore a 1960's inspired red floral dress with black boots and a hairstyle reminiscence of the style of The B-52's.  Olivia Jean sang a number of songs from her Black Belles catalog such as Howl at the Moon, Not Tonight, and In a Cage. The songs blended nicely with her material from her 2014 solo album Bathtub Love Killings.  Reminisce was one of the highlights with the dark lyrics, "Bye, now. You'd think she'd figure it out/Grab her wrist, and twist and shout/'Cause you can't find the reason why/These tears are falling from her eyes." Olivia Jean was thrilled to play her new song Garage Bat giving fans hope for a new album.  Cindy Wilson joined the band for the final number The B-52's Hero Worship that got the crowd dancing with more joy than Battle Pussy's backup dancers.

Cindy Wilson
Cindy Wilson is a member of the influential New Wave band The B-52's.  Free from the beehives and outrageous outfits of The B-52's, Wilson appeared with short gray hair and a understated black ensemble wearing dark sunglasses. Her songs from her forth-coming debut solo album Changes were inspired by her collaboration with fellow Athens, Georgia musician Ryan Monahan. The heavy electronica music had a dream like quality while multimedia imagery was displayed throughout the performance. Instead of screaming, "Tin Roof Rusted" from The B-52's The Love Shack days. Wilson toned down her legendary vocals to a refrained whisper while swaying to the music. In turn, her band brought high energy and passion throughout the performance.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one jumping rope in my 1960's inspired outfit.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Diarrhea Planet, The Beeves, and Professor Plumb at the Marquis Theater in Denver, CO on 11/5/17.

Diarrhea Planet
The guitar is a vital instrument in rock and roll. Two guitars in a band are great. Three guitars in a band can be even better. But four guitars in a band are ridiculous. But Diarrhea Planet proved on a dark Sunday night at the Marquis Theater that four guitar shredders in a band could be glorious.  The six-piece (four guitar players, a bass player, and a drummer) from Nashville with a joke for a name channeled their talents and endless energy into controlled chaos. Diarrhea Planet had the audience smiling, dancing, and wanting more diarrhea .... Diarrhea Planet that is.

Diarrhea Planet
Diarrhea Planet formed in a cafeteria at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Starting out as a loud party band with a sh*tty name, the group begun to thrive in Nashville's underground community.  With guitar god riffs and undeniable chemistry, Diarrhea Planet started to get noticed for more than their offensive name. The band recorded four albums and has toured relentlessly. They even got credibility from the music industry when legendary Nashville engineer Vance Powell who has worked with Jack White (my lord and savior), Chris Stapleton, and The Revivalists engineered their latest album.

The fun sprit of the group emerged during their sound check. Emmett Miller, the group's only classically trained guitarist, sang Otis Day and The Nights' Shout to test his levels. After the first round of fast paced guitar driven goodness, Evan Bird, another axe man, checked in with the crowd.  He asked if anyone played the guitar. After a brief pause, Bird responded, "Me too."  Jordan Smith (another six string bender) and Brent Toler (yet another plank spanker) performed synchronized guitar moves while Even Bird wondered through the audience on a mission to rock.  Bird jumped back on stage to ask if anyone in the crowd played the drums.  After some rumblings, Bird replied, "Me too."  Different playing styles and vast vocal ranges made the audience strain to see who was singing or igniting a guitar firestorm.  Near the end of the set Bird asked if anyone sang. After a brief moment, he shouted, "Come on, everybody sings!"  That's when Diarrhea Planet ended the show with a sing-along to Tears for Fears' Everybody Wants to Rule the World... or should it be Everybody Wants to Rule a Diarrhea Planet? Probably not.

The Beeves
When I noticed the home made banner for The Beeves being hung up with duct tape, I expected to see the second band on the bill to be dressed as beavers. Instead brothers Ian and Will Erhart and Mathew Sease took the stage without animal attire. They played Jamie's Revenge a song about bullying and retaliation that got the crowd's attention. Sease came out to the middle of the crowd and sat down to play while young fans danced in a circle around him. It was like a heavy metal version of Duck, Duck, Goose.  All three members sang Eddie Cochran's Something' Else without really knowing the words. After the song ended, Ian Erhart told the crowd, It's alright since its rock and roll." They were just three guitar players short of being glorious like Diarrhea Planet.

Professor Plumb
Professor Plumb, lead by CU Denver music professor Benon Plumb, started the night off strongly with songs about constellations, distant planets, and Russians.  Ironically, Professor Plumb who has two bass players covered The DoorsFive to One who didn't even have a bass player.  They were also just three guitar players short of being glorious like Diarrhea Planet.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one asking the band if they are considering adding more guitars.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Haley Reinhart and Pross at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO on 11-02-17

Haley Reinhart and her band
I first noticed singing sensation Haley Reinhart on YouTube performing a New Orleans jazz version of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. It was part of a music collective named Postmodern Jukebox that transforms modern songs into vintage musical genres. The concept became so popular the artists involved started touring the world. Since the group has over 70 singers rotating in and out of the show, Reinhart was unfortunately not performing the two times I attended the tour.  Thursday night I finally saw her headlining her own show supporting her 1960's inspired album What's That Sound?

Haley Reinhart singing White Rabbit in bunny ears
Haley Reinhart started performing at an early age singing in her parents' Illinois rock and roll cover band. When she was twenty-years-old, Reinhart got national attention by taking third place on season 10 of American Idol. Three albums and several globetrotting tours later Reinhart built a devoted following. Thursday's crowd was a mixture of teenage girls and their parents, Postmodern Jukebox fans wearing vintage clothing (the woman in front of me was wearing a fox stole), and middle age men making the devil horns hand gesture at the end of every song (I am still confused by this behavior). Her drummer Ray Moore did triple duty by keeping the beat, singing, and announcing Haley Reinhart to the stage.  She came out wearing a 1960's retro ensemble singing the upbeat title song from her second album Better. Reinhart followed with a number of cover songs from her latest album.  Highlights include Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit (while wearing bunny ears), Blind Faith's Can't Find My Way Home, and The Shirelle's Baby It's You. My favorite was The Kinks' Sunny Afternoon that showcased Reinhart's Betty Boop like jazz scatting.

Haley Reinhart - all photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess
She performed Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling in Love that was featured in a Wrigley's Extra Gum commercial/film/love story (whatever you call it).  She claimed to receive a lifetime supply of chewing gum for the gig. After performing her original funk song My Cake allowing each band member to take a solo, Reinhart went backstage to prepare for the encore. She came back wearing white go-go boots and a flowing translucent flock looking like something Cher in 1966 would wear.  Reinhart put her boots to work by singing Nancy Sinatra's These Boots are Made for Walking complete with Sinatra's famous dance moves.  Next was her jazz version of Radiohead's Creep from her Postmodern Jukebox material. The hair on the back of my neck stood up after she hit some amazing glass shattering high notes. The show ended with Let's Start (an original song from her latest album). The tune stayed in the 1960's vibe with lots of "bay, ba ba ba bay" sung between versus.  It made the audience feel like they were walking out of a television episode of Love American Style.

The opener started with a laptop playing electronic dance music to warm up the crowd.  The DJ fine-tuned the sounds while the lights changed with the beats.  Pross A.K.A. Matt Prosser from Denver, Colorado quickly took the stage to sing his style of pop music including the songs Don't Be Mad and Wristband.  Pross stated he first performed at the Bluebird Theater ten years ago when he was just fifteen-years-old.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one wearing bunny ears reminiscing about Love American Style.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bob Schneider and Ryan Hamilton at the Bluebird Theater on 10/21/17

Bob Schneider and the band
Sing-alongs about tarantulas, a multi-instrumentalist robot dancer, and a silly rap song about pants created a party atmosphere at the sold out Bob Schneider show. Along with his talented band, Schneider sailed through American Roots, Latin, Rock, and Hip Hop genres. He sang a heartbreaking love song one minute and switched to a Mambo the next.

Bob Schneider - All photos by the
Rock and Roll Princess
Bob Schneider was born in Michigan, grew up in Germany, and became a musician in Austin, Texas.  He became the lead singer of The Ugly Americans in the early 1990's. I saw his entertaining funk band perform at Herman's Hideaway in Denver, Colorado when their song Vulcan Death Grip was being over played on the radio. They grew in popularity and opened for The Dave Mathews Band and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. After a few years, Bob Schneider started his solo career and grew a beard (not necessarily in that order). Schneider's live performances have given him an extremely loyal fan base. If you see him live once, you will bring a friend or two with you the next time.

Saturday night Bob Schneider got the audience in a festive mood by singing I Went to a Party. The song name checks the famous guests in attendance including the cast of Pitch Perfect II and Morgan Freeman (to name only a few). Schneider confessed at the end of the song that he never met any of those people. The song was inspired by the time he encountered the actress who portrays Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials (she was strangely not mentioned in the song). Next he played the Mambo inspired Bombananza signaling keyboardist Oliver Steck dressed in coveralls and safety goggles to switch to the trumpet.

Oliver Steck
Steck stole the show throughout the evening. When the band started to play songs without keyboards, he danced like a robot. One of the silliest songs of the night (and the set list had plenty of them) was Pants. It was co-written with Schneider's twelve year-old-son Luc. The rap describes all the activities everybody does while wearing pants singing, "I got my pants onI got my pants on. I got my pants on." During the song, Oliver Steck used a plastic beer cup to put an echo effect on his back up vocals.  When Schneider played the emotional ballad King Kong, Oliver Steck stood like a statue by his keyboard. A loud drunk woman with an ashtray voice disturbed the crowd, but Steck never moved an inch. During the audience participation song Tarantula (I think the song is more about sex than an eight-legged creature), Oliver Steck once again picked up the trumpet.  Steck persuaded the opener Ryan Hamilton to blow in the trumpet while he worked the valves. Bob Schneider ended the night with a lengthy description of a moonbeam as an introduction to 40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet) -"Sometimes you remind me of a moonbeam/Or the ghost of a moonbeam out on the beach/Down by the coast slipping' through the air like/The most beautiful thing I've ever seen." During the song, Steck played the keyboard like a robot and sang back up without the plastic cup.

Ryan Hamilton and his cousin Hunter
The opener Ryan Hamilton's band The Traitors had immigration issues preventing them from leaving the United Kingdom for the tour. Since they were stuck across the pond, Hamilton recruited his cousin Hunter Cannon to play the drums. Hamilton wore bellbottom jeans, a Keith Richardson t-shirt, and showed off a Bob Dylan tattoo that his wife thinks looks more like Michael Cera (the guy from the movie Juno). Although his cleverly worded songs were hard to hear due to sound issues, Hamilton played a heartfelt set of alternative rock goodness. There were no noise troubles during his cover of Tom Petty's Listen to Her Heart. Since Hamilton mentions Petty in a few of his songs, the tribute to the recently departed artist was truly genuine.  Hamilton ended with Smarter. It will be the first single off his new album The Devil's in the Details. He told the crowd, "When you hear the song on the radio, you will remember it was that guy with no band."

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one wearing coveralls with safety goggles hanging out with cousin Hunter.