Today is 1Love Playing for Change day, and the good people of Engine 7 Films and The Source are throwing a block party at The Source’s location at 3350 Brighton Blvd in Denver. Celebrated in 55 countries, musicians around the world come together to play for the worldwide non-profit charity that promotes creating positive change with music and arts. Lots of food and beverages will be sold, portions of their sales going to the charity, and entrance is completely free. Head on down between 3-9 p.m. for reggae and other roots music from JusGoodie, The Rob Drabkin Band, and special guests the Denver Nugget cheerleaders. Below is the link to Engine 7’s announcement with any other info you may need, bring your kids, the weather is BEAUTIFUL for a block party today.
Last night Muse stormed the house at Pepsi Center with a huge set production and far more sound and noise than I expected. These guys know how to be rock stars really well. The crowd was a total mix, and everyone was wearing brand new Muse t-shirts straight from merch. The band was giving all merch proceeds for the night over to Colorado flood relief, so by the looks of things they will be making a large donation. Above the stage were three men in lighting rig seats, hanging from the sky, and LED screens were all over the place. As the music began, a large pyramid of LED screens came down from the sky.
These guys are LOUD. I went in thinking they were a bombastic, less aggravating Radiohead type with more theatrics, but they are far more than that. Frontman Matt Bellamy is an obvious audiophile, constantly going back to his shiny metallic rotating amp and checking the sound. Live that theatrical sound is really huge and epic, and with the lights, political themes, and the crowd in unison punching their fists in their air, I almost caught a Pink Floyd vibe from the whole thing. The band and audience were on from the first note, and when they dropped into “Madness” you could feel the excitement bump up a notch. You could also see the lights bump up a notch, as suddenly tons of lasers were added to the already wild mix.
They played hit after hit, and the audience really had some precision handclapping down. Ending with a three song encore and pyrotechnic flumes that definitely gave me a Pink Floyd vibe now, these guys ended at 9:58 with a slightly stunned and very happy crowd standing open mouthed. Gotta give it to Bellamy, he really knows how to be a rock star without you wanting to smack his face. He changes guitars as fast as I’ve ever seen, and looked especially cool with one slung across his back as he played his see-through light-up baby grand piano. Some people have the life.
Opener Cage the Elephant played extremely well to a half empty giant stadium. The last time I saw them was opening for Stone Temple Pilots at Red Rocks, and it was empty there as well. They kill it with what they have though, and you can’t keep your eyes off lead singer Matt Schultz. At times invoking Mick Jagger and somehow making it totally work, he slinks and spasms all over the stage, eventually coming down into the crowd, managing to stand up on their hands, and then do a headstand. I’ve never seen crowd-surfing like it. The crowd got amped when they played their hit “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” and held the energy through to Muse, and their new material sounded great. All in all, a pretty bumping Tuesday.
ZZ Ward is absolutely soaring. In March I watched her play to a small but excited group of mostly industry folks at SXSW, then a couple months ago got to shoot her sold out show at the Gothic. Last night she was already back for another sold out show at the Ogden, and her charisma is so strong she could easily handle Red Rocks. Talent and chops galore, she kills the blues on guitar, harmonica and keys, and we haven’t even gotten to her vocals. One thing I have noticed with her very dedicated fanbase is that she has managed to grab a lot of the people that are into R&B, and with chops close to Christina Aguilera’s, she doesn’t dissapoint them either. Last night included a special guest appearance by DW, her blues musician father that got her into this whole mess. The show exceeded the recent Gothic show, and really showed that the sky is the limit for ZZ.
Last night, local Denver favorites Rastasaurus played their first show at the Bluebird. They have a dedicated fanbase, as they went on promptly at 9:00 to around 25 people and within about two minutes the place filled up with happy people that all seemed to know each other. They have a reggae sound that is complimented by more psychedelic jamming, my interest certainly piqued when I saw all their pedals. A “Divided Sky” tease by lead guitarist Eric Ciccone followed by his twin brother Mark on bass playing Makisupa Policeman and noticing it was in the same key as the song they were about to play made the Phish fans of the audience get all excited, but this is no Phish cover band, and the teases were left at just that. Just as well, because their originals are great. Lead singer and guitarist Justus Lacewell is a huge guy and commands the stage well, they all do. All in all, it was a fantastic showing at Bluebird for these first timers, I’ve seen many touring acts absolutely bomb there in the opening slot, so kudos Rastasaurus.
Blitzen Trapper are awesome guys. They were my first face to face interview, and while I pretty much nervously babbled and spit out a couple nonsensical questions that led to an untranscribable interview, they were perfectly sweet and charming and even gave me a new music recommendation (martial arts rockers Dragon Sound from cult classic Miami Connection, a movie the Austin Alamo Drafthouse made popular again, Erik Menteer knows how to recommend). They really energized the crowd at the festival, their first few notes played causing dozens to abandon the guacamole stand line and come get down. Highlight of the show for me was “Black River Killer”, as a friend had had much discussion regarding the key the song was played in (C#m, but live they capo it up). I plan on being at every Blitzen Trapper show from here on out, these guys are just straight up talented and cool.
Finally got to see Said the Whale last night, and they surpassed my pretty high expectations. The success of their single “I Love You” brought quite a few teenagers and every pretty young lawyer that lived in the area. While their latest album has a very polished sound, their live show is much more raw, intricate and careful sounds coming from everyone, often leading up to moments of distortion and reverb that I didn’t expect from them. I don’t get a chance to shoot females often, but when I do, I shoot their shoes. They are currently on tour with Kopecky Family Band, go see them if you like sweet pop rock that gets a little chaotic.
Cultivate Fest by Chipotle in City Park proved to be wildly successful once again. The production coordinators really have the free festival logistics down, easy to get up close to the stage, tons of food options, celebrity chef tents, and you could bring your dog. Cold War Kids put on a note perfect set, mixing the setlist with old hits like “Hang Me Up to Dry” and new material from their latest release. The last few times I’ve seen them have been little SXSW shows, kind of forgot they are really, really popular, everyone knew every word. Expect to see more of Cultivate Fest here in the future, looks like a keeper.
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress is blowing their way through Colorado with a stop in Denver tonight at Cervantes. This Greyboy Allstars player is so talented, heavy funk just doppling out of the Leslie as it whirls around faster and faster. They are playing The Otherside, so get there a little early, it will probably sell out.
Music to See in Denver, August 14-19th
Wednesday, August 14th
Oberhofer – Hi Dive – seen Oberhofer open for many great bands in the past, somehow this is their first headlining show I’ll get to attend. Frontman Brad Oberhofer is a ball of energy, say hi to him after the show, nice guy, great band: live Oberhofer footage
Thursday, August 15th
Kurt Vile – Bluebird – FINALLY Kurt Vile Day comes to Denver, it’s been a second. “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” has been in heavy, heavy rotation in my iPod, heck, my whole family’s iPods. Been counting the days til this one: “Never Run Away” video
Gogol Bordello/ Queens of the Stone Age – Red Rocks – Gogol Bordello always have a hell of a good time onstage, and QOTSA rock hard every time, so I’m going to take a guess here, but I’m pretty sure this show will be a barnburner, go tear it up. The new QOTSA album is great, so expect new material that fits right in.
Friday, August 16th
Robert Walter’s 20th Congress – Cervantes’ Otherside – former Greyboy Allstars player brings his heavy jazz funk keyboards to town Friday. A recent move from New Orleans to Los Angeles has infused a new energy into the band: “Sweetie Pie” live video
Confluence – Hi Dive – math rock local band that has a little of a Band of Horses/ Rogue Wave sound. Just got into this band and looking forward to more: Confluence bandcamp with music here
Pretty Lights/ Talib Kweli – Red Rocks – local favorite represent. When I first moved here someone pointed out Pretty Lights to me in LoDo “that’s Pretty Lights”. Looked right past the guy and nodded approvingly of a neon sign behind him, had never heard of him in 09, but everyone else had. His music is sexy, and if you haven’t seen him at Red Rocks, GO: Red Rocks video
Saturday, August 17th
Cold War Kids – City Park – one of my favorite over enunciating bands for free in a Denver city park? Twist my arm. It’s actually some big Chipotle festival, bring some cash to try out all kinds of stuff from guest chefs: Cultivate Festival
Charles Bradley – Larimer – busy week of shooting for me! Hop over to Larimer after Cold War Kids for this Daptone Records singing legend. Not much needs to be said, the king’s in town: listen to him, fer crissakes!
Monday, August 19th
Wood & Wire – Appaloosa Grill – Austin brand bluegrass, the lead singer has a voice that rises this band above most, and they have some of the tightest harmonies I’ve heard around
My Bloody Valentine – Ogden – legendary Dublin band with fuzz galore. They are touring to support their new album that isn’t clicking with me at all, but maybe the material has more life live.
Said the Whale – Larimer – opening for Kopecky Family Band, this Vancouver heavy pop band is my current favorite. I reviewed their album that’s being released in October yesterday, it’s such a great collection of very well put together songs, they finally made the US crossover, I hope for big things for them: “We Are 1980” video
Kris Kristofferson/ Lyle Lovett – Red Rocks – enough said. If you have never seen Lyle Lovett, by God, go go go.