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

Thao
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
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
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.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lillie Mae, Brianna Straut, and Amanda Capper at Globe Hall in Denver, CO on 8/30/17

Lillie Mae
Globe Hall seems like you're local neighborhood tavern. But beyond the well-worn chairs and tables is a modest stage that is fast becoming a destination for world-class artists. If someone at the bar looks like they could be in a band, chances are they are about to go on stage. When you see the headliner in the line to the bathroom, you know you have time to order another beer. The no frills atmosphere removes the barriers between the musicians and the fans. It was a perfect place to see Lillie Mae.

Lillie Mae - all photos by The Rock
and Roll Princess

During Jack White's solo tours, fiddle player Lillie Mae Rische stood out from the rest of his band members. Her unique country style softened Jack White's rough garage rock sound. Lillie Mae started playing music when she was just three years old. She was in a band with her sisters and brother named Jypsi. Years of non-stop playing in Nashville paid off when they signed a record deal when she was just sixteen years old. After the family band broke up, Lillie Mae performed with the likes of Miranda Lambert and Dwight Yoakam. Then she received a call to play for Jack White (my personal lord and savior). Lillie Mae appeared on both his solo albums and traveled the world with White's various bands. Now she dropped her last name and is touring as a solo artist. Jack White produced her debut album Forever and Then Some and released it on his label Third Man Records. White also played on the album (he is credited as "Cool"Whip Triplet on shakers). Her brother Frank Carter Rische also played on her record and is a member of her band.

Lillie Mae and her hand
The petite twenty-seven year old Lillie Mae performed to a small, but enthusiastic crowd on Wednesday. Dressed in a colorful skirt and cowboy boots, Lille Mae led her band through the majority of the songs on her album. The current single Wash Me Clean featured her amazing fiddle playing that inspired her to hop around the stage (something she did when I saw her perform with Jack White). Honkey Tonks and Taverns was another highlight as a couple two-stepped through the crowd making the song come to life. Lillie Mae played a rare Waylon Jennings' song Your the Only One I Sing my Love Songs Too that had the audience almost in tears.

Frank Carter Rische

Before inviting the famous Oklahoma fiddle player Jake Simpson on stage, Lillie Me confessing to the crowd that she was nervous playing in front of him. Simpson borrowed her fiddle and made the crowd wonder if the Globe Hall was some kind of fiddle player haven. Frank Carter Rische took his turn on lead vocals that resulted in the crowd chanting his name by the end of the song. It was apparent that the siblings have spent the their life performing.

The show was scheduled to end at 11:00, but didn't finish until around midnight. Lillie Mae talked to the crowd as they left and was kind enough to let me reminisce about a legendary Jack White show. It was an experience you can only have in The Honky-Tonks and Taverns.


Brianna Straut
Brianna Straut was one of the supporting acts. The Texan who moved to Colorado is a member of Denver's own Tomahawk Fox. The folk rock band won Westword's Best of the West competition and recently had a showcase at Austin's SWSW. Straut revealed her shock to find out earlier that night her college acquaintance was Lillie Mae's guitar player. Hurricane Harvey weighted heavily on Straut's mind. She dedicated In the Sky/Sweet Chariot to the people of Texas.

Amanda Capper
Denver music scene staple, Amanda Capper, started the night of music. Many of her friends and family were in the audience (her brother took video of her performance). Capper had a percussion player accompany her on an amplified wooden box (Zac Brown's percussionist plays something similar). Her guitar strumming slowly built tension until she released her raw emotional vocals.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one hopping around playing a wooden box.






Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lucero and Paper Bird at Denver Botanic Gardens in Denver, CO on 8/27/17

Lucero
Attending a concert at the Denver Botanic Gardens is an amazing experience. The audience members are not searched, prodded, or violated as they enter the lush grounds (the opposite of visiting other large musical venues or maximum security prisons). Foliage and music fans were allowed to bring in food and adult beverages. People schlepped in everything from expensive bottles of wine to Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Concertgoers had food ranging from pizza to caviar. I even saw picnic baskets with glass plates and Champagne flutes. Women in big floppy hats in floral dresses were siting next to rockers with tattoos peaking out from their all black apparel.
Lucero - view from the back
The moment Lucero's lead singer Ben Nichols entered he claimed, "We have never been to a place this fancy in Denver. I am surprised they let us in here." The Memphis, Tennessee band has been a hard touring machine since 1998. The best way I can describe their sound is Tom Waits meets Social Distortion. Nichols confessed that the band was in between learning new songs for a recording and forgetting how to play the old ones. They restarted a few songs during the show. This resulted in a casual performance that was more charming than sloppy.


Lucero trying to remember the old songs
The majority of their songs were slow ballads including Nights Like These, Drink 'Til We're Gone, and War an acoustic song about Nichols' Grandfather in World War II. Nichols sang about the cruelties of combat while guitar player Brian Venable laid on the grass with the audience and posed for selfies. Another song that tug at the heart strings was Loving a song Ben Nichols wrote for his brother Jeff Nichols' film Loving (about a couple that were plaintiffs in the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision that invalidated states prohibiting interracial marriage) - "And I could tell them I don't love you/I could prove my heart is true/And it might not be good enough for them/But I just wanna be good enough for you." Of course, the band turned up the noise for Tears Don't Matter Much as the audience sang along with their fists in the air. Nichols thanked everyone "for sticking with us for a whole bunch of songs we don't remember."

Paper Bird
Before the country-punk rock band took the stage, Denver's own Paper Bird warmed up the crowd. The band's line up has changed throughout the years. In 2014, lead singer Esme Patterson left for a successful solo career. Canadian crooner Carleigh Aikins replaced her. In March of this year, the other sister Genevieve Patterson left making the group abandon their signature three-part female harmonies. Sarah Anderson and Carleigh Aikins now sing with a more contemporary sound. Anderson wore a white flowing outfit that Lucero described as "a Clorox commercial waiting to happen." Their set included songs from their new self-titled album. Don't Want Half was a stand out from their new material with its impressive layered vocals. Aikins led the group through an amazing version of George Jones' Tennessee Whiskey (almost as good as Chris Stapleton's). Paper Bird appeased their old fans by performing As I Am from their 2013 album Rooms. Drummer Mark Anderson (Sarah's brother) expressed his affection for the crowd by saying, "I love seeing punks walking around the gardens."

See you at the next show. I'll be the one with a swanky picnic basket wondering how I got into such a fancy place.