Joshua Hedley, Kelsey Waldon, and Extra Gold at Globe Hall in Denver, CO on 10/19/18.

Joshua Hedley and his band The Headliners

After years of playing Nashville honky-tonks, Joshua Hedley became a legend in the local music scene. He mastered the fiddle and learned every classic country song. Hedley performed with everyone and everywhere in the music city. When he began to front his own band, Jack White (my personal Lord and Savior) signed him to Third Man Records. I expected Joshua Hedley to appear dressed in a flashy country western suit with a cowboy hat like he’s pictured on his album cover of Mr. Jukebox. But when he stepped on stage, Hedley was just wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and a baseball cap. He announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen this is an informal show.”

Mr. Jukebox

Hedley began with the classic Willie Nelson’s Night Life that seamlessly flowed into Hedley’s original song I Never (Shed a Tear). The tunes could easily have been on the same 1960’s era album. After playing mostly original material, the band left Hedley alone on the stage. He proceeded to take requests from the audience for their favorite country classics. The crowd yelled out for Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, and Jimmie Rodgers songs. Hedley played them flawlessly (his nickname is Mr. Jukebox for a reason). When someone yelled out for a Marty Stuart song from the 1980’s, Hedley replied, “His songs are too new.”

After the band came back to join him, Hedley covered Johnny Paycheck’s Colorado Cool-Aid – What is Colorado Cool-Aid?/Well, its a can of Coors brewed from a mountain stream/I’ll set you head on fire an’ make your kidneys scream.” After that epic tale about drinking and a switchblade, Hedley confessed that he didn’t understand beer. “It’s a long way to get to where you want to go.” That’s when he asked someone to bring him a shot of Jack Daniels. The band closed with Mr. Jukebox the title track to his album and the slogan on the sweatshirts the entire band was wearing. Hedley yelled, “We are trying to sell the f*ck out of these.”

Kelsey Waldon

Singer songwriter Kelsey Waldon was the second artist on the bill. Her retro-sound is also influence by classic country. After graduating from high school in Western Kentucky, Waldon went straight to Nashville to pursue music. Her set consisted of autobiographical songs about Tennessee, tobacco, and heartbreak. Waldon also performed my favorite Neil Young song Powderfinger. She previewed a new track about bourbon from her upcoming album that will be released next year. Waldon whispered, “Thank you for being quiet with me. Now Josh is going to turn it up.”

Extra Gold

Local band Extra Gold started the evening of music. Lead singer Evan Holm and steel petal player Ben Waligoski suspiciously have the same long hairstyles I wore in the 80’s. The band played a Merle Haggard whiskey song. That started a theme of drinking tunes that were performed throughout the night. Original songs about Northern Michigan and a girl named Emily (complete with yodeling) made the crowd nod along to their country swing. The band will have an album release party on November 30th at the Hi-Dive in Denver.

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one refusing to drink Colorado Cool-aid. It doesn’t sound healthy.

Against Me!, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, and A Giant Dog at Summit, Denver, CO on 10/9/18.

Against Me! – Photos by The Rock and Roll Princess

The punk band Against Me! dove back into their past at the newly remodeled Summit on Tuesday night. They performed their 2007 major label album debut New Wave in its entiretyButch Vig who worked with NirvanaSmashing Pumpkins, and Green Day was the producer. The tracks combines Against Me!’s punk attitude with Vig’s more polished sound. It became one of the year’s most critically acclaimed recordings. The album changed the band from being an underground secret to opening up for Green Day and Foo FightersNew Wave’s song The Ocean contained a glimpse into the lead singer’s future by stating, “And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman/My mother once told me she would have named me Laura.” And a few years later, singer Thomas James Gable would transition into Laura Jane Grace.

Laura Jane Grace

It wasn’t your typical rock show. LGBT outreach organizations informed the crowd by the merch booth about everything from transgender haircuts, drag shows, and support groups. Punks stood next to transgender people. Transgender punks stood next to soccer moms. And I stood in the back away from the mosh pit. The backdrop was New Wave’s album artwork of a tiger by Laura Jane Grace. That’s when Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (of course) played over the house speakers as the band took the stage. They played every track from New Wave in order. Androgynous teenagers began to crowd surf while a mosh pit arose in front of the stage. Grace stopped the show and warned the crowd they were about to play the album’s most despised track Animal. The only sign of annoyance was a shoe thrown across the crowd (missing my head by a few feet). After the song finished, Grace declared, “Now we don’t have to play that ever again.” Against Me! also performed a number of songs from their other Butch Vig produced album White Crosses. The crowd sang-a-long enthusiastically to I Was a Teenage Anarchist and Rapid Decompression. Against Me! finished their set from Laura Jane Grace’s autobiographical Transgender Dysphoria Blues –  “You’ve got no hips to shake/And you know it’s obvious/But we can’t choose how we’re made.”

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

The second band on Tuesday’s night line-up was Ted Leo and The Pharmacists. After a recent collaboration with Till Tuesday’s Aimee Mann, Leo is finally getting national attention after a long critically acclaimed music career in New York. With his eclectic band The Pharmacists, Leo mostly played material from his latest solo album The Hanged Man. The songs addressed current politics (Moon Out of Phase), sexual abuse (You’re Like Me), and loss of fortune (Can’t Go Back). In contrast, the band delivered the dark subject matter with upbeat melodies. Adrienne C.N. Berry almost stole the spotlight with her amazing harmonies and remarkable saxophone playing.

 

A Giant Dog

The opening band’s lead singer Sabrina Ellis and guitarist/singer Andrew Cashen have been creating music together since they were in high school. They led their quintet A Giant Dog through a spirited set of songs about sex, drugs, and mental health. Wearing nothing but a yellow leotard, Sabrina Ellis’ raw energy and brazen sexuality held the diverse audience’s attention. Ellis asked everyone to take care of themselves before playing Roller Coaster – “Finally lost your mind/On this roller coaster ride/Stuck up at the top/An ugly stranger by your side.” As a result in their growing popularity, A Giant Dog opened for my personal Lord and Savior Jack White on his latest tour in their hometown of Austin, Texas.

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one ducking shoes in a yellow leotard.

Lyle Lovett and Margo Price at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO on 9/4/18

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band

Tuesday night was Lyle Lovett’s 21st time performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. In recognition of this monumental achievement, the legendary venue inducted him into their Hall of Fame. They also presented Lovett a custom Vortic watch made in Fort Collins, Colorado. I have seen him 15 out of those 21 times (I did not receive a custom watch). With world-class musicians playing a combination of heart felt country, dirty blues, and swinging jazz, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band will always be my favorite show of the summer.

 

Francine Reed and Lyle Lovett

After an audience member shouted out a request for The Grateful Dead’s A Friend of the Devil, Lovett obliged. Instead of the original light happy version, Lovett’s interpretation is dark and haunting. I first heard him perform the song at Red Rocks on August 9th 1995 the day Jerry Garcia died. A chill ran through me as soon as the first chord was strummed.

Nat King Cole’s jazz standards Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good to You and Straighten Up and Fly Right were sung as duets with his sensational long time vocalist Francine Reed. The two danced together as different members of the band took solos. Lovett’s own classic What Do You Do/Glory of Love delivered clever lines to the delight of the audience – “What do you think you /See I’m not that kind of /Affair is fair/And right is/Right around the corner/Just a block or/So you know come morning/You’ll have to leave/Everything to me.

Lyle Lovett – All photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess

Crowd favorites Cowboy Man, She Makes me Feel Good, and If I Had a Boat were applauded as loudly as the slightly older than me crowd could muster. The way Lovett delivers his witty lyrics draws your attention. I smile ever time he says, “Lord I can’t believe what I see/How could you be alone/When you could sit right here beside me girl/And make yourself at home” from the song I’ve Been to Memphis. The only new song was Twelfth of June. It sounded amazing and makes me hopeful for a new album that Lovett has promised to record soon. Opener Margo Price joined him on stage to perform Walk Through the Bottomland originally recorded with Emmylou Harris on Lovett’s 1989 Pontiac album. He stated he liked watching Price perform and hoped to sing with her again soon. Fingers crossed it will happen again next summer when he comes back to Red Rocks for the 22nd time.

Margo Price

Playing Red Rocks was a bucket list gig for country artist Margo Price. She pulled out all the stops for the occasion. Price got the crowd’s attention immediately when she stepped on stage in a metallic David Bowie inspired jumpsuit by costume designer Elizabeth NeSmith. During Cocaine Cowboys, Price played the drums and sang while the band went into an Allman Brothers like jam. Price played the piano alone to perform American Made – “I wonder if the president gets much sleep at night/And if the folks on welfare are making it all right/I’m dreaming of that highway that stretches out of sight/That’s all American made.” She closed with Hurtin'(On The Bottle) with Willie Nelson’s Whiskey River slipped in the middle. Price held notes just a little longer treasuring the amphitheatre’s impressive national acoustics.

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one dancing to Nat King Cole songs wearing a metallic jumpsuit.

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.