Wolf Alice and Slaves at Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO on 4/14/16

My friend talked me into seeing one of his favorite bands that has been quickly developing a large following.  We braved through the sea of teenagers and found a prime viewing spot.  The crowd is usually half our age.  Tonight I noticed most of the audience was one third our age.  There are advantages: 1)  The beer line is a lot shorter.  2)  I can see over their heads.  3) Immediate respect since they think I am one of the band members’ father.

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice formed in North London six years ago and are rapidly becoming the new face of alternative music.  The four piece band is named after a 1979 short story by feminist fantasy writer Angela Carter (by the way she is my favorite feminist fantasy writer).  Last year, they played the 150 capacity Lost Lake Lounge.  On Thursday, they sold out the 550 capacity Bluebird Theater.  Singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell took the stage dressed in a black top, ripped jeans, and black Doc Martin Boots.  She lead the band though songs ranging from “You’re A Germ” (an infectious grundge rock anthem) to “Bros” (a sweet song about childhood friendship).  The lads and lasses in the front of the stage knew every song and sang along with Rowsell through the night.

Ellie Rowsell and Birthday Boy Theo Ellis

In the shadows on the side of the stage, Joff Oddlie created the atmospheric sounds that hold the songs together armed with a guitar, keyboard, and computer.  One of the most surprising moments of the night was when drummer Joel Armey sang the lead for the somber song “Swallowtail.”  His voice blended in with the band’s distinct sound almost as well as Rowsell’s.  Sporting red Doc Martin Boots and shocking bleach blonde hair, bass player Theo Ellis was definitely the rocker of the group.  He swinged his bass around while bobbing along to the crashing beat.   Keeping the stereotype of the United Kingdom alive, Ellis drank Guinness throughout the evening.  He might of been extra excited that night because it was his birthday.  Before their final song Moaning Lisa Smile, a roadie brought out an x-rated Voodoo Doughnut while the crowd sang “Happy Birthday. ”  Ellis ate it straight out of the box to the crowd’s delight.  Before leaving the stage, Ellie Rowsell took her guitar pick and placed it in the palm of a purple haired teenager.  She closed his hand gently and smiled making him a fan for life.

Slaves

Slaves from Kent, England opened the show with only a bass guitar and a stand up drum kit.  The duo entertained the young crowd instantly with their punk attitude and English charm.  Isaac Holman had the difficult task of singing while playing the drums. I can only think of Don HenlyPhil Collins, and the guy from Night Ranger who have pulled that off.  But Holman surpassed all of them by dancing at the same time.  Laurie Vincent switched over to guitar after the opening song and Holman lost his shirt faster than Iggy Pop or Dave Navarro (that devil looking guy from Jane’s Addiction). Their song “Where’s Your Car Debbie” described a frightening trek to find a friend’s car in the middle of the night with a hilarious chorus.  Isaac Holman described their song “Cheer Up London” as a plea for people to make life better not worse for your fellow humans.  At that moment, he asked the crowd to hug each other.  My friend and I stood there observing the youngsters hugging it out.  That’s when we got called out by the guitar player as….. non huggers.  Since the spotlight was on us, my friend and I embraced resulting in cheers.  After the forced hug (I still feel a little violated), Holman transformed song introductions into lyrics of the next song.  It was a clever way into pulling the crowd into the music before it even started.

Thursday gave me hope that young people still like good music.  Electronic Dance Music and Pop Country might still be popular, but you can never underestimate the appeal of Rock.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one not hugging it out.

Father John Misty and Tess & Dave at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO on 4/9/16.

Meeting a rock star can be challenging.  Some times they are rushed off to the next destination in a sea of body guards.  Other times they sneak out of the venue avoiding their fans and possible deranged lunatics.  But I admire those that are genuinely happy to meet their fans (I am not talking about the ones that charge outrages prices for meet and greets).  I had the privilege of meeting Father John Misty after his show on Saturday night.  He was down to earth and friendly (he is a Father of Mist after all).  It took a great deal of my patience, tolerance to the roadies cigarettes, and risk of being rejected.  But it was worth it to meet him.

Josh Tillman grew up in an Evangelical Christian home in a suburb of Washington, D.C. where secular music was not allowed.  Rebelling against those beliefs, he found himself in the folk rock scene in the Pacific North West.  That eventually lead to a drumming gig with the indie band Fleet Foxes.  He found success on his own under the pseudonym Father John Misty.  Last year’s album I Love You Honeybear made most top Album Lists of 2015.

Father John Misty

Right when Father John Misty walked out on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, he told the audience to stand up (which they did for the remainder of the night).  He stated when I was stalking him … I mean randomly encountered him walking to his tour bus … that he didn’t want the audience to wonder if they should stand or sit.  So he just told them to stand.

The amazing lighting theatrics

Father John Misty wore a designer ensemble from Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.  He said this year they just started sending it to him for free.  When I was shadowing him … I mean during my exclusive interview… he was excited to find a way to make the Ellie Caulking Opera House showcase his music.  Judging from the extraordinary timed lighting to the outstanding sound, he accomplished his goal.

Father John Misty is an amazing performer.  His powerful voice and commanding stage presents channeled James Brown and Elvis Presley.  He sang with so much passion that he was brought to his knees and even threw his guitar high above the stage into a roadies’ arms.  The women in audience swooned to his swagger and screamed in excitement whenever Father John Misty was inspired to dance.  The men in the audience mostly all had beards and I don’t know what they were doing underneath all that hair.

Father John Misty in his designer threads

After performing his song, Bored in the USA about the mediocre middle class state of being, he mentioned that Bernie Sanders wanted to use the song for his campaign.  He refused and stated the reason was in the lyrics in his next song Holy Sh*t about the depressing circumstances of the world.  After the lines, “New regimes, old ideas.  That’s now myth, that’s now real.”  Father John Misty paused and said, “That’s good stuff.”  I agree.

Tess & Dave

Opening the show was two members of Father John Misty’s band.  Guitar player Dave Venervelde and background singer Tess Sharpiro performed under the name Dave & Tess.  They started out robot dancing to a science fiction mystical soundtrack in silver glittery outfits.   After a few awkward moments, they started singing together while dancing through a carefully choreographed routine.  When I was lurking around the tour bus after the show … I mean talking to Tess Shapiro … she explained the steps were created to be extremely simple to go along with the music.  I was so caught up with what was happening on stage, it took me three songs to realize they were performing to a backing track.  When Dave Vandervelde played the guitar without the spacey electronic accompaniment, their real talent shined in their fun simple songs.  One was about drinking large quantities of beer entitled …. wait for it…..Beer.  Another song about modern cars asking the important question “What does a Prius even mean?”  It was dangerously close to to being a Saturday Night Live skit.  Sharpiro mainly used the bass guitar as a prop and her backing vocals continued when she left the stage for a costume change.  But in the end, they were charming.  Especially when I was ease dropping on their conversations after the concert… I mean interviewing them for this blog.

See you at the next show.  I will be the one next to the tour bus.

Ra Ra Riot, And The Kids, and PWRR BTTM at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver, CO on 4/4/16

Opening bands can be hit or miss.  I usually have no idea what I am about to see before the featured band.  It’s kind of like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.  I have seen everything from a Mariachi Punk Band (bad piece of chocolate), a drag queen deejaying (an extremely bad piece of chocolate), and psychedelic Motown review (a great piece of chocolate).  The two opening bands on Monday were definitely the good chocolate.  But they are Caucasian.  So let’s call them good pieces of white chocolate.

PWR BTTM

PWR BTTM is a queer punk rock duo who met while attending Bard College in New York.   They have catchy hooks, shredding guitar riffs, and fun lyrics.  The band wears glittery make-up and dresses.  It sounds crazy, but it all works.  Ben Hopkins plays guitar while Liv Bruce plays the drums.  Making things even more interesting, they take turns singing lead and occasionally switch instruments.  My favorite lyric is from their song Dairy Queen that states, “We can get so famous that I might get shot.” They shared their disappointment how Colorado legal marijuana didn’t live up to the hype.  Their expectations were Girl Scouts selling it in the streets.  Reality was they couldn’t find a dispensary that was opened after 7:00 PM.  The only thing disappointing to me was their set was only 25 minutes.

And The Kids

The Massachusetts indie-pop trio And The Kids played next.  Lead singer Hannah Mohan and drummer Rebecca Lasaponaro have been making music together since they were in seventh grade.  They definitely have a connection when they sing together.  Ben Hopkins from PWR BTTM joined them on stage to do some more guitar shredding still in his dress that he proudly stated was purchased in a gas station in Texas.   The two opening bands must be bonding on the road since they share the same drum kit and Lasaponaro was wearing similar glitter make-up.  After Hopkins left the stage, Mohan started to play an electric ukulele adding another distinctive layer to their sound.  They were also excited to be performing in the legal marijuana state confessing about recently purchased gummy edibles.

RA RA Riot

It was time for the headliner Ra Ra Riot.  They formed while attending Syracuse University in New York ten years ago and quickly found a following in the Indie Rock scene.  The six member band plays a mixture of chamber orchestra and synth-rock. Violinist Rebecca Zeller’s played along while an electric fan blew her hair in a dramatic fashion while bassist Mathieu Santos danced in his matching blue hockey-jersey-pants ensemble.  Lead singer Wesley Miles delivered his heart breaking lyrics in hush tones with the cello and violin leading the way.  Sadly, there wasn’t much between song banter.  Making me miss the opening band’s humor and rawness.

PWR BTTM and Old Guy

Walking out of the venue, I saw PWR BTTM joking and taking glamour selfies with the audience.  Making me wonder when they will be headlining their own tour.

See you at the next show.  I will be the one not in a dress.