Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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

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

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

OneRepublic - Counting Cell Phones instead of Stars

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Father John Mistry and Built to Spill in Morrison, CO at Red Rocks Amphitheater on 8/25/17

Father John Misty
Every time Father John Misty performs in Denver, he plays a larger venue mainly due to his dramatic performances. He went from playing the Ogden Theatre (1,600 capacity) in 2015 to the Ellie Caukins Opera House (2,225 capacity) in 2016. On Friday, Father John Misty played Red Rocks Amphitheater (9,925 capacity). Drama started about a week before the show. First, fellow alternative musician Ryan Adams had a Twitter fit about Father John Misty and declared him "the most self-important asshole on earth" (he later apologized). A few days later, opening act Jenny Lewis cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. There were rumors her friendship with Ryan Adams caused the withdrawal (a family emergency was the real reason).  Built to Spill replaced her.  That's right . . . Built to Spill.

Father John Misty - All photos by The Rock 
and Roll Princess
Father John Misty A.K.A. Josh Tillman followed up his 2015 album I Love You, Honey Bear about marriage in dark times with another cynical album about the current state of America entitled Pure Comedy. He began his performance with the title track - "Where did they find these goons they elected to rule them/What make these clowns they idolize so remarkable?/These mammals are hell-bent on fashioning new gods/So they can go on being godless animals." Okay. This might sound like a depressing foreboding folk downer. But it's not. It's performed with James Brown like energy with a side of sarcasm. Father John Misty explodes with emotion fueled by the passion for music shown through dance. His pants with holes in the knees and his ripped suit jacket are the results of his spirited performances.

The Dancing Father John Misty 
The extraordinary lighting mixed with the beauty of Red Rocks Amphitheater provided a dream like atmosphere. His song So I am Growing Old on Magic Mountain felt like it was tailor made to perform at the historic venue. Father John Misty played a number of his older songs. The synth heavy True Affection turned Red Rocks into a dance party. The lighting transformed his body into a silhouette while he danced. When the song ended, the lights suddenly went dark. Thus providing a perfect time for Bored in the U.S.A. to begin. The 420 fueled audience were singing along while laughing at the lyrics at the same time. The night ended with the fast paced Ideal Husband - "I spend my money getting drunk and high/I've done things unprotected/Proceeded to drive home wasted/Bought things to win over siblings/I've said awful things, such awful things."  Of course, it was done the Misty way with a wink and a smile.

I was disappointed that Jenny Lewis had to cancel. I opened my heart to embrace the band that replaced her. I searched for similarities. Built to Spill is the brain-child of Doug Martsch. Jenny Lewis was also in a band with a weird name called Rilo Kiley. Built to Spill gained national attention by playing Lollapalooza in 1995. Lewis earned national attention as a child actress in the 1989 Shelly Long vehicle Troop Beverly Hills (she played Lollapalooza in 2016). Bass player Jason Albertini and drummer Steve Gere back Doug Martsch. The Watson Twins (identical twin sisters) frequently back Lewis on vocals. Martsch's fashion consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt.  Lewis favors pantsuits airbrushed by graphic designer Adam Siegel and boots by Saint Laurent. And that's where the comparisons end.

Built to Spill
Built to Spill are credited for creating the Northwest Sound. Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse site them as a major influence. Doug Martsch's guitar playing is impressively noisy. The hipster standing in front of me was inspired to dance along to every song. A few fans sprinkled throughout the audience really enjoyed their performance. Doug Martsch stated, he was "siked to be there." And so was that guy standing in front of me.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one feeling misty about Jenny Lewis.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Strange Americans and Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts at Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO on 8/11/17

Strange Americans
A few weeks ago a tragic event happened. The skies darkened, hearts were broken, and the world weeped. Of course, I am talking about Justin Bieber canceling his world tour. This left four women from the Pacific Northwest with a weekend in Denver without the Biebs (he was scheduled to perform at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 12th). The Beliebers were determined to make the best out of this catastrophic event. Dressed in Justin Bieber and Calvin Klein wear (he is their underwear spokesman), the heart broken music fans attended Strange Americans Album release party. Apparently bearded guys playing roots rock is the closest thing Denver has to Justin Bieber.

Murry Mercier and Trent Nelson
Unlike the instant YouTube success of Justin BieberStrange Americans have been a hard working Denver band since 2009. They consistently perform in the Rocky Mountain Region. Strange Americans played Red Rocks in 2015 and opened for the indie Rock Gods The Old 97s last year. Their new album Borrow You, Brother took three years to make. Their recording process consisted of living together in a single apartment, a fire, and four separate trips to Denton, Texas. After some record label juggling, the album consisting of 48 minutes of rock anthem goodness has been released into the world.

Strange Americans - All Photos taken by
The Rock and Roll Princess
The majority of the album was performed to the crowd that consisted of friends, family, and four Justin Bieber fans positioned in front of the stage. Matt Hoffman wearing his signature trucker hat and flannel shirt led the band through songs about the struggles of striving for the American dream with Big Black Car and No Punches. Trent Nelson took over lead vocal duties for Riverside with amazing harmonies from the band and his trademark leg stomp. Older material was played throughout the set including the Springsteen like Blood in Gold and Rocks/Rolls featuring Murry Mercier pounding on the keyboards. The night ended with Places II with Hoffman signing with raw emotion, "Remember when we had nothing at all."  The audience congratulated the band with handshakes and hugs and quickly purchased the album. The Justin Bieber fans walked away with a high from the power of Rock and Roll or second hand pot smoke.

Miles Nielsen
The opening band Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts played infectious songs and created a party like atmosphere. Strange Americans were their supporting act for a few weeks during their recent summer tour. The band was returning the favor for Strange Americans album release party. Miles Nielsen is the son of Cheap Trick's guitar player Rick Nielsen (the eccentric Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member). His brother Daxx Nielsen is currently Cheap Trick's drummer. Dear Kentucky (You're Killing Me) a love song about a city with a warning label was a crowd favorite. Shine Your Light made the audience stop talking and notice the gospel inspired song with multi-instrumentalist Adam Plamann playing an amazing clarinet melody in the background.

Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts
with Strange Americans Dance Troop
When Miles Nielsen stated special guests were joining him for Start Me Up, Matt Hoffman, Trent Nelson (no relation, different spelling), and Murry Mercier came on stage and danced during the chorus. The crowd went crazy and the Justin Bieber fans were just confused. Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts later joined Strange Americans for a jam session. The Rusted Hearts' Daniel James McMahon guitar skills were awe-inspiring.

See you at the next show. I'll be one impressing the masses with my new Strange Americans' dance moves.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Zac Brown Band, Darrell Scott, and Caroline Jones at Coors Field in Denver, CO on 7/29/17

Zac Brown
Walking into Coors Field Ballpark, I was confronted by a sea of country fans in their checkered shirts and cowboy boots. This made me assume Zac Brown Band was a typical country show. Instead I witnessed exceptional musicians switching musical genres faster than Donald Trump changes communication directors. The threat of a downpour drenching the crowd turned into only sprinkles throughout the night. Zac Brown Band similarly sprinkled in alternative, classic, country, and pop songs throughout the show. I discovered Zac Brown's own songs can be straight country, Jimmy Buffet tributes, and pop songs. There is a reason one of his albums is entitled Jekyll and Hyde. The Old Guy at the Show HQ acquired the highly sought after pit passes (general admission by the stage). Zac Brown was so close to us that he shook our hands and possibly shed some of his beard upon us. In the middle of his show, Zac Brown stated, "I turned you on to some good sh*t tonight."  He was talking about the artists that opened up the ballgame.... I mean show.
Caroline Jones All photos by the Rock and
Roll Princess
The first inning started with singer-song writer and multi-instrumentalist Caroline Jones. She played most of the instruments on her soon to be released album. Jones grew up in Connecticut, but a trip to Nashville made her fall in love with country music. As the crowd found the way to their seats, Jones sang a song about her dog Old Blue on the banjo. Her picking was impressive and her smooth vocals made the crowd look up from their adult beverages. After a few acoustic songs, a full band joined her on stage. Jones switched to an electric guitar to play her "mission statement" and title track to her album Bare Feet. It could be about striving to live out your dreams or her hatred for footwear (every song is up for interpretation). Another highlight was Chase Me about her belief that men should chase women not the other way around (some how I don't think that's one of her problems). By the end of her set, it was apparent why Caroline Jones was listed in Rolling Stone's 10 New Country Artists to look out for in 2017.

Darrell Scott
One of Zac Brown's favorite songwriters Darrell Scott was next up to bat. He rose to fame writing and playing for the likes of Steve Earle, Sam Bush, and Guy Clark. Looking like Guy Fieri's uncle, the spiky grey haired Nashville musician serenaded the talkative crowd to a picturesque song about Colorado entitled... wait for it....Colorado. After a few songs, two members of Zac Brown Band joined him. A couple of songs later most of the band was on stage playing with him including Zac Brown himself. Brown sang back up to No Easy Way and Long Time Gone (Scott's song made famous by The Dixie Chicks). A curtain closed and the video screens displayed a five-minute count down clock. The anticipation for the main event grew stronger with each second ticking away.

Zac Brown Band
When the countdown clock reached zero, the curtain raised and the entire band including Darrell Scott appeared with impressive video screens and lighting displays making Coors Field glow. Wearing a top hat that looked like a lampshade stolen from your grandma's house, Zac Brown kicked off the night with his hit Keep Me in Mind. Everyone around me sang along. The band kept the momentum going with Toes (a Jimmy Buffet like song inspired by a trip to Key West).  The crowd chanting the chorus, "I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand/Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand."

Zac Brown and his hat
The Kings of Leon's Use Somebody was the first genre changing cover of the night. You can tell the crowd was trying to place the song in the beginning. But after a few moments, the county fans were dancing along to the alternative rock hit. A few songs later, Ben Cameron (a singer Brown met at a campfire) sang Stephen Stills' Love the One Your With.  There was multiple "Do do do do do-do" sung throughout the ballpark.  Caroline Jones came back to join the band for Tomorrow Never Comes. Not satisfied with just a duet, Zac Brown had the beer fueled audience join in by instructing them to sing, "Woo woo woo wooh." They followed with the inspirational Free combined with Van Morrison's Into the Mystic. The curtain lowered and the countdown clock started again because the show was only in its fifth inning.

Zac Brown and Clay Cook
When the curtain rose yet again, the band played John Denver's Rocky Mountain High intertwined with Zac Brown's own Colder Weather (a song about Colorado and the girl that was left behind). The Colorado crowd went crazy (pandering always works). Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was next (Zac Brown wisely didn't attempt to hit the high Freddie Mercury notes). Guitar player and keyboardist Clay Cook embodied the late Gregg Allman performing The Allman Brother's Whipping Post. A long jam session started entertaining the band as much as the audience. Snapping the crowd out of the heartbreaking blues, a guitar duel between Coy Bowles and Clay Cook began. They played Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Nirvana guitar licks. This lead up to the band playing Guns N' Roses Paradise City inspiring the crowd to jump so high their cowboy hats were flying away. The night ended with the hit Chicken Fried with the crowd singing, "You know I like my chicken fried/Cold beer on a Friday night/A pair of jeans that fit just right/And the radio up."

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one in the weird top hat trying to grow a beard with my pit pass.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Diana Krall and the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO on 7/18/17

It wasn't the typical Red Rocks crowd. The cars in the parking lot were a little nicer. The fans walking into the venue were a little more sober. And the music of the evening was a little jazzier. The majority of the men wore all different varieties and colors of Hawaiian shirts (I didn't get the memo or the reason). Everyone was there for the music of the Great American Song Book performed by Diana Krall and the Colorado Symphony.

The Colorado Symphony - All photos by the Rock and Roll Princess
Christopher Dragon, the talented assistant conductor with cartoon like facial expressions, set the tone. Dragon described growing up in Australia wishing to be a piano player/singer like Diana Krall. His life didn't exactly follow her path, but Dragon happily led the symphony through classic American standards to warm up the crowd. The Colorado Symphony played Louis Armstrong, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin's An American in Paris.  Christopher Dragon warned, "the song is not about that famous American (the one with that Twitter account) that recently went to Paris."

Diana Krall and her band
Diana Krall started playing piano at the age of four in Canada (her family was so Canadian that her brother was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). After attending the Berklee College of Music on a scholarship, she moved to Los Angeles, California to play jazz (her brother stayed in Canada with his horse). Success soon followed with collaborations with Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, and Sir Paul McCartney (to name only a few).  She later married some funny looking dude with glasses named Elvis Costello (they have twin ten year old boys).

Diana Krall
The percussion section was removed (Krall has her own drummer).  Her world-class arranger Alan Broadbent replaced Christopher Dragon as the conductor. That's when Diana Krall and her band took their places in front of the Colorado Symphony. Wearing a blue dress with white stars (an artist that has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide doesn't simply wear polka dots). Krall expressed how excited she was to be playing Red Rocks. "I don't usually speak before I start, but who cares. I'm excited." That was her introduction to Do I Love You. The track featured the amazing guitarist and Eric Clapton doppelgänger Anthony Wilson. It also spotlighted Krall's amazing piano playing. Her fingers danced across her keyboard with incredible grace and speed. Krall followed that with George and Ira Gershwin's I Was Doing All Right (made famous by Ella Fitzgerald in 1959), and Cole Porter's Night and Day.

Diana Krall, her jazz band, and the Colorado Symphony
My favorite song of the night was Tom Wait's Temptation - "Rusted brandy in a diamond glass/Everything is made from dreams/Time is made from honey slow and sweet/Only the fools know what it means." It was reassuring to hear that one of my favorite songwriters can hold his own against Gershwin and Porter when performed by the jazz siren Diana Krall.

A sudden gust of wind blew her sheet music up into the lighting rigs. Just as if it was planned, Krall played the tornado theme music from The Wizard of Oz as members of the symphony caught the papers. That's when Diana Krall admitted that she couldn't really read the music without her glasses.  "But you people can't handle me in glasses." That's the moment she played Eddie DeLange's 1933 classic Moonglow. The lyrics summed up the evening perfectly, "We seemed to float right through the air/Heavenly songs seemed to come from everywhere."

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one chasing after sheet music in a colorful Hawaiian shirt in the moon glow.