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.
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.