Margo Price and William Tyler at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver, CO on 10/24/16.

Forgoing seeing the Denver Broncos play on Monday Night Football, I headed down to the Bluebird Theatre to witness what Modern Traditional Country Music sounds like… It sounds like Margo Price.

The audience was a mixture of cowboys in their black hats and plaid shirts, women in their skirts and expensive cowboy boots, and hipsters with their beards and lack of hygiene.  They were gathered there to witness an artist who not only performs Country Music, but also lives Country Music.

Margo Price – all photos by the Rock 
and Roll Princess


Broke and desperate, long time Nashville musician Margo Price sold her car and wedding ring to make an album at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee (where Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley recorded their first hits).  After being turned down by numerous labels, Jack White (my lord and savior) signed her to his label Third Man Records.  Being the label’s first Country Artist, people took notice.  Price appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, and Prairie Home Companion. She has been hitting the road playing small venues between performing with musical legends like Willie Nelson and John Prine.

Every member of her band is so talented each of them could headline their own show (okay, the drummer’s show might be awkward).  After the band’s instrumental build-up, Price took the stage and had the audience captivated instantly.  She sounds like a cross between Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton mixed with a rock and roll attitude.

Margo Price and her amazing band

Margo Price’s set list mostly focused on material from her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter which is about her life as …. a farmer’s daughter from Aledo, Illinois. The songs give the listener great insight to the heart of the artist.  Since You Put Me Down states, “I’m an outcast and I’m a stray/And I plan to stay that way.”  Price mixed it up and played Merle Haggard’s Red Bandana and Loretta Lynn’s Rated X (it’s about divorce get your mind out of the gutter). Price shared how she recently got a text asking if she would like to sing Me and Bobby McGee with Kris Kristofferson at a music festival.  She found herself on stage next to him thirty minutes later.

Jeremy Ivey and Margo Price

Price introduced here husband Jeremy Ivey as her “Baby Daddy.”  The two had great chemistry while he played harmonica next to her while she strummed and crooned. Performing Four Years of Chances, Price looked his way when she sang the lyric “He loves me every moment/Of them three hundred sixty-five days.”

A sad tale about her time spent at the Davidson Country Jail introduced the song Weekender. The moral of the story was to avoid drinking and driving especially if the result is hitting a telephone pole in front of police officers.

The opener William Tyler joined them for their final song Rodney Crowell’s I Ain’t Living Long Like This.  With Price’s authentic talent and her band’s excellent musicianship, they ain’t going to play small venues like this much longer.

William Tyler

Nashville guitarist William Tyler was the opening act.  Since he played a solo instrumental set, it was interesting to see most of the bejeweled cowboy booted women in the audience just fold their arms while the bearded hipsters bobbed their head to every note. Tyler’s latest album is entitled Modern Country.  He stated that it’s misleading since it’s not modern or country.  The theme of the album is a disappearing America.  Tyler explained the song Going Clear being about the instant an AM radio station signal disappears as you drive on a highway late at night.  He described the experience as “better than drugs.”  Tyler, an established Nashville session player, expressed his gratitude of playing with his long time friend Margo Price.  When he later joined Price on stage, his guitar playing was amplified by her band and switching to a Stratocaster.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one just listening to Country Music.  Not living Country Music.

GROUPLOVE, Muna, and Dilly Dally at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO on 10/18/16

Waiting for the band to start, I found myself in a sea of overly self-medicated young people. After asking one of them to politely refrain from leaning on me (I had a seven dollar beer to protect). I was told I was too old to be there.  Then this absolute delight informed me I should be home with my wife (I am not married) and my five kids (I don’t even own a house plant).  I was being shamed for being the Old Guy at the Show. I was captivated by the amazing rhetorical exchange.  But sadly this ‘person’ with a sparkling personality disappeared into the crowd.  Thankfully there was love coming my way…. GROUPLOVE.

GROUPLOVE

The band formed in 2009 when singer and keyboardist Hannah Hooper convinced her boyfriend singer and guitarist Christian Zucconi to join her at an artist commune in Greece.  That’s where they teamed up with the rest of the band to form GROUPLOVE.  This is the first tour after an extended break for the birth of Hooper’s and Zucconi’s daughter.

A hype man came on stage to introduce the band because…. why not.  That’s when the five musicians sprang on stage. The backdrop consisted of giant hands from their latest album Big Mess’ cover art painted by Hannah Hooper. I guess the band brought the heat because drummer Ryan Rabin, son of former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin took off his shirt after only one song. A pink haired Hooper dressed in a belted black body suite never stopped smiling and dancing.  A green haired Christian Zucconi dressed in his signature oversized t-shirt and ripped jeans lead the band through a fevered set.

GROUPLOVE

Their hit Tongue Tied started right after Hooper ordered the crowd to lock their arms around each other. I guess you should expect these kinds of practices at a GROUPLOVE show.  The song’s bouncy chorus made the crowd’s chain brake and bodies started jumping to the beat unchained.

Lead guitarist Andrew Wessen sang the fuzzy synth heavy song Cannonball.  It could easily be mistaken for a noise pop Sleigh Bells record. The rest of the band joined in at the end while bouncing along to the infectious beat.

Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi

The only cover of the night was the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. The attitude of the 1990’s song fit the band perfectly.  It was sad when Hooper had to inform the young crowd the 22-year-old song wasn’t one of their own.

Things slowed down when Zucconi performed Enlighten Me with only his acoustic guitar.  The song describes the passing of time. Let’s call it quits and see what the future holds/I’ve been here before, yeah, we just went down this road/A long time to feel young, short time to get old.  The band joined him near the end because they are a group of love after all.

Before the final song Colours, Hooper expressed her gratitude towards the females in the opening bands.  Stating it’s nice to tour with talented women so it’s not just her and their daughter traveling with the guys.  The house music played them off stage with the appropriate Beatles’ All You Need is Love.

Muna

Muna a trio from Los Angeles was one of two opening bands. I would compare their sound to Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill era.  The members are gay and their confessional songs produce compelling takes of a wide range of emotions. Lead singer Katie Gavin wore a dress that was made up of silky trash bag like material.  The song Winterbreak combined with Gavin’s movements and haunting voice mesmerized the sold out crowd.  When she addressed the audience between songs, someone from the audience yelled out, “It’s okay to be gay.”  Gavin repeated the statement before she went into her next song.

Dilly Dally

Dilly Dally, a Toronto based band, opened the show.  Many of their songs had the same feel as Nirvana’s In Bloom.  Katie Monks‘ raspy voice sounded like she just woke up making her instantly likable. The grudge guitar playing by Liz Ball who was sporting a half shaved head (I first thought she was wearing a weird hat) brought their music to 1990’s guitar driven glory.  After seeing a doctor that day, lead singer Katie Monks was happy to share the news she didn’t have strep throat. Having an inflamed throat could be one of the reasons their debut album is entitled Sore.

Despite being elderly shammed. I still feel lucky to be able to see so much live music. It’s a celebration of life.  GROUPLOVE summed it up best stating, “A long time to feel young, short time to get old.”  See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one proud to be the Old Guy at the Show.

CAKE at the Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO on 10-15-16

CAKE began in the early nineties when Grunge was still dominating the airwaves. Instead of mumbling guys in flannel shirts, CAKE’s music had humor, trumpets, and a vibraslap (a percussion instrument that sounds like a rattlesnake with rhythm).  Their music crosses many genres.  They have covered Disco – Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Country – Kenny Rogers’ Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town, and Heavy Metal – Black Sabbeth’s War Pigs.  Lead singer John McCrea is a man before his time.  He sported a Trucker Hat before Ashton Kutcher wore it on Punk’d and had a beard before your favorite Starbucks’ barista was born.

The show began with an announcement stating all photography would be prohibited. Anyone using a device will be escorted out of the venue.  This post doesn’t have any of the prohibited pictures.  I abide by an artist’s request … and I don’t want to be kicked out of a show.  Electronic music played a cheesy Rocky like theme song for several minutes to set the mood before the band took the stage.

Photo taken from a wolf shirt website

Dressed in a wolf tee shirt and a zipped hoodie, McCrea started the show with Oprah Singer from 2001 album Comfort Eagle.  From that moment on, the audience of mostly middle age men (hey – that’s me) started to sing … badly to every song (hey – that’s me too).   The top of the singers’ American flag boxer shorts appeared ever time he raised his hands making the few women in attendance hot and bothered or maybe just bothered.

After a few songs, John McCrea asked the crowd to put away their devices and enjoy the show to get the most of their entertainment value.  The stoned guys in front took pictures of the singer pleading for them not to take pictures.  Staying classy Boulder.

The sing along portion of the evening involved CAKE’s darker songs.  Starting with Sheep Go to Heaven from their 1998 album Prolonging the Magic.  The lyrics state, “As soon as you are born you start dying/So you might as well have a good time.” Giving everyone an excuse to yell along.  Half of the audience was instructed to sing “Sheep Go to Heaven” while the other half sang, “Goats Go to Hell.” McCrea conducted the audience like an orchestra while at the same time stating we all had “beautiful voices.” Satan is My Motor from the same album was introduced as “a song that is alright for a Christian Evangelists to sing because it’s just symbolism…mostly symbolism.”   The first set ended with Sick of You from their 2011 album Showroom of Compassion.  The crowd sang, “I’m so sick of you/So Sick of me/I don’t want to be with you.”

CAKE lead singer John McCrea and tree winner
Guinevere.  Photo taken from CAKE’s Social Media

After a fifteen minute intermission, the band came back to give away a tree.  You might think this is a strictly Boulder, Colorado incident.  But I saw CAKE give away a cherry tree in Denver in 2011 and a peach tree at Red Rocks in 2012.  After asking for only responsible individuals to participate, they gave an apple tree to new homeowner Guinevere.  You can track all of the trees they have given away at CAKE’s virtual forest on their website.

My favorite song Stick Shifts and Safety Belts from their 1996 album Fashion Nugget was next. The lyrics state, “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts/Bucket Seats/ All have to go/When I am driving in the car/It makes my baby seem so far.”  Guitar player Xan McCurdy played the fast paced country licks perfectly.

CAKE’s event poster

Never There, featuring the excellent trumpet playing of Vince DiFlore, encouraged the crowd to yell “Hey” loudly after every verse. Meanwhile, McCrea played his vibraslap during every dramatic pause to complete the signature CAKE sound.  After another sing along with Short Skirt/Long Jacket had the drunken crowd shouting about “a girl with a smooth liquidation and good dividends.”

The night ended with The Distance.  Inspiring an audience member to crowd surf causing their foot to land on the head of a ten year near the front of the stage.  It’s just good parenting to take a child to a concert full of drunk stoned smelly hairy guys.  The child who was wearing a Make America Cake Again red baseball hat was all right … physically.  Who knows what kind of emotional scars he will be sharing with his psychologist years from now?

See you at the next show.  I will be the one hoping we can make America CAKE again.