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.

Pross
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.





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."

Wildermiss
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

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.