Esmé Patterson and The Still Tide at The Levitt Pavilion in Denver, CO on 8/17/18.

Esmé Patterson through the fog

After getting through security, I noticed a woman with the sides of her hair shaved wearing a gold sequin dress driving a golf cart. It wasn’t someone overdressed heading to the links. It was musician Esmé Patterson on her way to perform at the Levitt Pavilion. The venue is a non-profit open-air stage that holds fifty free concerts every summer. The crowd was smallish apparently due to the competition of a downtown music festival.

Esmé Patterson

Esmé Patterson is a local artist, but nationally known through her many musical endeavors: co-founding the indie folk ensemble Paper Bird, her successful solo career, and the hit song Dearly Departed with Shakey Graves (an Americana musician from Austin, TX not a Scooby Doo character out to frighten the kids in the Mystery Machine).

The stage filled with fog as the lights shined on Patterson’s dress making it sparkle through the haze. The energetic crowd consisted of middle-aged couples with fancy portable lawn furniture, kids enjoying the last few moments of summer, and devoted Esmé Patterson fans. She performed a variety of material from her three solo albums and a few new tunes from an upcoming LP. Patterson introduced No River from her album We Were Wild by dedicating it to “the humans out there and the others too.” 

Esmé Patterson and her band

Esmé Patterson revealed the song My Young Man from her first album featured someone famous (it was another Denver artist Nathaniel Rateliff before he formed the Night Sweets). She played three songs from her Woman to Woman concept album. It gives a voice to famous female song characters such as Townes Van Zandt’s Loretta and The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. For example, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean inspired her to compose What Do You Call a Woman? Patterson yelled“If you make love, ain’t she your lover?/If you make love, ain’t she your lover?” The set ended without an encore because Patterson declared, “It’s just lying. You tell the audience you’re done and come back to play.”

The Still Tide

Supporting band The Still Tide took the stage as the sun was setting on the opposite end of the venue. Lead singer, Anna Morsett, encouraged the crowd to turn around and take in Colorado’s beauty. Besides being a guitar tech for The Devil Makes Three, the multi-instrumentalist has played and recorded with numerous bands. The bedroom voiced singer lead her band through confessional songs with impressive guitar playing from Jacob Miller. Morsett mentioned the guitarist was gulping an energy drink to prepare himself to perform again with Esmé Patterson (he’s also in her band). When Morsett made a mistake on a chorus, she joked that the crowd should look again at the beautiful sunset. As the final song ended, Anna Morsett wisecracked, “(they) have EPs available for the endangered species … the compact disc player owner.”

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one in the gold sequin outfit driving a golf cart into the sunset.

Chris Stapleton, Marty Stuart, and Brent Cobb at the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO on 8/10/18.

Chris Stapleton – All Photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess

Last week, Chris Stapleton’s All American Road Show sold out the 21,000 capacity Pepsi Center arena. It’s been impressive to watch this star rise so quickly. In 2016, he sold out the 3,900 capacity Fillmore Auditorium. Last year, he sold out the 9,525 capacity Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Arenas are perfect places to watch t-shirt canons and mascots dunking basketballs (or whatever else happens during Denver Nuggets games). But live music is another story. The sound is usually muffled, the musicians are difficult to see, and nobody sits in their seats. I attended the echo chamber to see the old school country singer with the powerful voice and impressive guitar playing.

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Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton

Shortly after Chris Stapleton took the stage, a voice in the crowd yelled, “I miss Morgane.” Stapleton replied, “Me too. She’s at home with the babies.His wife and background vocalist gave birth to twins in the spring. With growing confidence, Stapleton didn’t need to lean on his bride to give an impressive performance. His voice was mighty and his interaction with the audience was charming. During his previous tours he didn’t look at anybody but his wife. This time he stared straight into the crowd. Every note Stapleton sang rang out to everyone from the fans near the stage close enough to smell his tangled beard to the unlucky bastards in the rafters.

 

Country Fans inside the Pepsi Center

The audience sang along to every song from the rocker opener Midnight Train to Memphis to the heartbreaking closer Sometimes I Cry. Dave Cobb played rhythm guitar and kept the band on the rails. He has produced Sturgill Simpson, Anderson East, Zac Brown, and Brandi Carlile to name only a few. Cobb also likes to play with his friend Chris Stapleton who he produces as well. When opener Marty Stewart joined Stapleton on stage for Now this is Country and Honky Tonkin’ Is What I Do Best, the crowd witnessed two generations of country music legends coming together. Stapleton wasn’t satisfied with just combining generations of country, he snuck in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. The song fit in perfectly with Stapleton’s similar themed Traveller (without the bird noises). The band came back for the encore all dressed in Colorado Rockies shirts. Stapleton revealed the band had batting practice with the major league baseball team earlier in the day. That’s when Outlaw Country and Death Row were played with Stapleton’s impressive bluesy guitar tones. At the end of the night, the audience felt like they were walking out of a saloon instead of an arena.

 

Marty Stuart

Dressed in leather pants, a scarf, and hair straight out of 1987, Marty Stewart and his band the Fabulous Superlatives were the supporting act. The beginning of his set had each band members lead a song while Stewart accompanied them on the guitar and mandolin. Kenny Vaughn started their set off with a guitar surf music explosion. Bass player Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs, sang Bull by the Horns sounding and looking like a country version of Buddy Holly. Stewart got his biggest response by singing Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire (he played in Cash’s band before going solo). The set finished with Time Don’t Wait played in front of a video of the band on an Indian Reservation.(that’s because you can’t have cowboys without Indians.)

 

Brent Cobb and his band

Keeping it in the family, Brent Cobb, the cousin of Dave Cobb, opened the show. Not only does Cobb perform his own music, he has written songs for Luke Bryan and Little Big Town. His drummer won over the crowd by sporting a Willie’s Reserve t-shirt (Willie Nelson’s brand of marijuana is sold in the mile high city). Highlights were the cautionary tale of King of Alabama and the party anthem Mornin’s Gonna Come. The songs were played along with animation of country fans making lots of bad decisions. Cobb finished by telling the crowd he will be happy to have a drink with them in section 104 (it’s next to the merch booth).

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one back in a smaller venue dressed in leather pants and a scarf having a drink with Brent Cobb.

 

Jack White and Tyler Childers at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, CO on 8/8/18

Jack White

Jack White is the keeper of the light of rock and roll. It’s not just because he creates awe-inspiring music from his endeavors with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and his solo projects. White built his own vinyl record processing plant in his hometown of Detroit. He also produces music for legends such as Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, and Elton John (to mention only a few). White formed his own music wonderland with his label Third Man Records. That’s where collectible multiple colored hand-etched hologram vinyl records are concocted. Jack White conceived and funded an endeavor that played a record in outer space simply “to inject imagination and inspiration into the daily discourse of the music and vinyl lover.” Jack White has brought wonder back into a world that desperately needs it.

Jack White – All Photos by
David James Swanson
Wednesday night in Broomfield, CO was no exception. Political rants and improvisational musical tales have been a regular occurrence on his current tour. On this epic night, White skipped all of the rambling and concentrated on the rock. The band started with Over and Over and Over from the new album Boarding House Reach. The heavy guitar riff song set the tone for a night of pure intensity. I haven’t seen Jack White play that many White Stripes’tunes since … he was in The White Stripes. The songs ranged from When I Hear My Name from The White Stripes debut self-titled album to I’m Slowly Turning into You from their final 2007 album Icky Thump.

I though he could never top his legendary 2014 Red Rocks Amphitheatre performance in the rain and lighting. However, the show I just witnessed abandoned his Nashville influences and brought back Jack White’s inner Rock God. His band has two keyboardist Neal Evans and Quincy McCrary who were on one side of the stage engaging in electronic wizardry. Bass player Dominic Davis (White’s life long friend) and Autolux drummer Carla Azar were on the other side. This made Jack White the center of attention with three microphones and six guitars. All were used and abused throughout the performance (the instruments not the musicians).

Jack White and his band
The phone free show took the audience away from their screens and into the music. White initiated the tour’s policy after noticing more phones than faces in the crowd. Now when he looks into the eyes of his fans, a childish grin appears across his face. White encouraged the crowd to clap and sing while he fed off their energy throughout the night. The only draw back was losing communication with fellow concertgoers lost in the sea of humanity of General Admission (Sorry Jeff). The featured photos were taken by Jack White’s own photographer and later available for download on his website.

White explained to the sellout arena that some people stay at Lonely Hearts Hotel, but he stays at The Oxford Hotelwhen he’s in Denver. This was an introduction to one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night The White Stripes’ Hotel Yorba. The Oxford Hotel’sbar The Cruise Room is where White shot the video Would You Fight for My Love during his last tour. The haunting song was played later that night – “People do their best to not let passion begin/It’s dead before it has a chance to start/And so there I am, the caretaker of sin/To your abandoned and malignant heart.” The rock ruckus concluded with the iconic Seven Nation Army.

Tyler Childers
Illustrated by The Old Guy at the Show
Sorry  – There wasn’t any pictures available

Tyler Childers was tasked to “sing at you” as the supporting act for a few stops on Jack White’stour. His Appalachian Mountains inspired songs and have recently caught the attention of fellow Kentuckian Sturgill Simpson who produced his latest album Purgatory. The singer-songwriter won over the rock crowd with a humorous song about self-love entitled Ever Loving Hand. Childers introduced each band member with a rhyming vamp that easily could turn into his next hit song. Tyler Childers thanked Jack White for inviting him on the tour adding “it’s been a trip.” He will be back performing in Denver in November.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one without a phone sketching the artist.