TTF at the Boulder Theatre-St. Paddy’s Day EP Release 3.17.12

If you read this blog with any sense of regularity you know who TTF is (formerly referred to as Technicolor Tone Factory). They’re a group of 5 local Boulder boys who are  individually immensely talented,  and they make beautifully full and dynamic music when they come together that just makes you want to dance. Their energy is taking Boulder by storm, and reasonably so-it’s easy to get caught up in their catchy and complex sounds, their engaging stage presence, and all around charm. I was particularly excited for this show for a few reasons. First, St. Patrick’s Day is an outrageous holiday in Boulder- and when you pair an already crazy holiday with beautifully warm weather AND the fact that the CU Buffs were playing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, you can expect nothing but good times. Second, This was to be TTF’s first show at the Boulder Theatre, a venue that certainly holds a special place in my heart. And third, I have come to know the TTF boys fairly well and they were all literally buzzing with a contagious excitement that was not hard to get swept up in. It was a beautiful night filled with surprises, good vibes, and lots of green beer.

The evening started off with SunSquabi-a 3 piece band out of Boulder who infuse electronic music with live rock and funk sounds into what they call ” electronic hydro-funk”. Though I have no idea what that means, their sound was a unique meld of  driving, dance ready electronic beats, and skilled instrumental musicianship. I admittedly have fallen off the electronic bandwagon lately, but the combination of their mixed electro tracks with solid guitar riffs and a well played live bass was both interesting and fun. Towards the middle of their set things were really starting to fill in as people anxiously awaited a set from West Water Outlaws-a band often seen playing with the TTF boys and one I’ve come to love in the last few months.

West Water Outlaws are a rowdy 4 piece that have made a name for themselves with their heavy hitting, down home rock and roll. These boys have soul-lots of it-and it pours through their music in every way. Will Buck and Blake Rooker absolutely rip on  guitar, and the rhythms provided by Vince Elwood’s driving bass and Andrew Oakley’s relentless drumming round out their classic and unforgettable sound. By the time they took the stage the theatre was really filled in, and they brought an energy with them that immediately transferred to the crowd. These boys are absolutely wild on stage and put on a dynamic performance that is entrancing, partly because the music is compelling and expertly performed, and partly because they have an incredibly captivating presence. They’ve got serious swagger, and they know it. Rooker is positively addicting to watch-he’s one of those musicians who just loses themselves in their music and you can’t help but to get lost with him. His raspy, dark voice is emotional and evocative, and is like the cherry on top of their already amazing sound. Key track from their set was Looking Back-a song that gets stuck in my head for hours on end and is a really solid example of their distinct style. The crowd was in a riotous frenzy all throughout their set, and they gave TTF a tough act to follow.

TTF, per usual, had a few tricks up their sleeves. They came to the stage with Zach Jackson, who is typically found on the bass, playing the accordion, Greg Kallfa (usually on keys) playing bass, and guitarist Jarrod Guaderrama on banjo, an instrument he learned to play only a week before the show. Two violinists joined them for the St. Paddy’s shout along anthem Shipping Up To Boston. The energy was immediately through the roof as everyone stomped along and yelled to the irish punk classic. After the opener they returned to their normal instruments and delved into some of their own original tracks. High points from their first set included Funk Capacitor, Jellyfish, and Baboon Jacuzzi, which they bled into the Indiana Jones theme song, much to the surprise and delight of the audience. The performance was dynamic, and different from any other show of theirs I’ve seen before. Different musicians were constantly rotating on and off the stage-the pair of violinists, a few different brass instruments, as well as backup vocals to compliment Jackson and Kallfa’s already strong and alluring voices. Jackson was on fire the entire set-everything he did was backed by an intensity and passion that carried over into the rest of the band, and onto the crowd as well. The entire band was in a zone like I’d never seen them before, and they wove their set together elegantly with an energy that was almost palpable-and in turn  visible on the faces of those in the crowd. Drummer Bryan LeFever is one of my favorite musicians to watch ever. His skills on the drums are absolutely mind boggling, and even though he was tucked back behind the rest of the band his energy and enthusiasm was certainly felt by everybody in the building. Their style bounced and danced around a wide array of genres; from their classic bluesy influences to funk heavy bass riffs to straight up rock and roll and back again while guitar player Brian Boster was in his element in way that had me completely captivated. The collective energy of the group was a force to be reckoned with. Their versatility and musicality was wildly impressive, and  had everyone in the crowd was dancing madly the whole night through.

As I mentioned before, each of these boys is an incredibly skilled musician (not to mention they’re also some of the most charming gents I’ve ever known). Their outstanding musicianship was proven through further instrumental switching later in the set as Guaderrama picked up the bass for a song, and Jackson took a turn playing the keys. They kept the energy high both through their music and their interactions on stage. Second set highlights included Funky Grass, a version of Into the Water with additional violin and vocal backup, and Jalepeno which featured some amazing baritone sax accompaniment.They closed out the night with an encore of KC and the Sunshine Band’s Shining Star, followed by Earth, Wind and Fire’s September-both of which brilliantly showcased Kallfa’s ever impressive voice. The encore included full 3 part back-up vocals and a 2 part brass addition that ended the show on an incredible high note.

When watching TTF perform it becomes quite obvious rather quickly that these boys not only love playing music, but they love playing together, and their on stage chemistry is something really inspiring to watch. This show doubled as the release of their self titled EP-which features their original songs Z5, Into the Water (one of my personal favorites) and B Funk. You can hear some of their studio recordings on their Soundcloud page. After this show at the Boulder theatre, and the release of the EP, I am beyond excited to see what happens next for TTF. They’re a band with an overwhelming amount of potential, and the talent and desire to do great things with their music, and I can’t wait to watch the next stage of their adventure.

Radiohead at the 1stBank Center 3.13.12

Let me begin by saying I had been in a state of dizzied excitement over this show months before it happened. I mean, seriously. It’s RADIOHEAD. Any self respecting individual who has been around in the last 20 years knew that this show was going to be huge. They’re arguably one of the most progressive musical groups of their time, and have been making music together since before I was born. Their experimental style continues to push the envelope and expand artistic boundaries, and Tuesday’s show was a clear reflection of that. I have so much to gush about the experience from that night I barely know where to begin.

They opened up the set with Bloom-the first track of their most recent King Of Limbs album-and it set the tone for the evening quite nicely. Bloom bled naturally and smoothly into Little by Little (also from King Of Limbs) and on into the ever classic and heavy hitting National Anthem from 2000′s Kid A album. The entire show was absolutely seamless, each song transitioning effortlessly into the next and creating a distinct sense of continuity-which is incredible given the span of time they covered in their music. They played something from every single album, with the exception of their 1993 debut Pablo Honey (they even snuck a Hunting Bears outro onto the back of National Anthem to squeeze a little of the 2001 Amnesiac album into the set). The fact that they have such an extensive catalogue of work is impressive as is-the fact that they pulled from every piece of it to build this set was absolutely mind blowing. Throughout the evening they played King of Limbs in it’s entirety, which I didn’t expect but was certainly pleased by. Early in the set a long-haired Thom Yorke announced a new song-Staircase-that blended beautifully into their already well rounded and awe inspiring set. The crowd wasn’t super high energy, or dancing madly along to their favorite tracks, but were instead in a state of pure awe;completely captivated by every note that came from the stage, and hanging on every last bit of Yorke’s melodic crooning. Personal favorites from the night included the dreamy Separator, Weird Fishes from 2007′s In Rainbows, Everything in it’s Right Place (during which a Tibetan Flag was draped over Yorke’s computer stand) and Street Spirit, one of my favorite Radiohead songs of all time.  They, of course, played Karma Police and even though it had nearly everyone singing along it felt more obligatory than anything else, and didn’t seem to mesh with the set. Regardless, everyone loved it and the show flowed on naturally immediately afterword.

Photo from StudLife.com

The stage they set up was exquisite, with giant LCD tubes hanging from the ceiling halfway down the stage, where they were met with a literal wall of other lights. In addition to this huge curtain of backlighting, there were a set of 12 suspended square panels that shifted with each song. The panels projected changing images of what was going on stage-Yorke’s bobbing head and swinging ponytail, Colin Greenwood’s fingers sliding elegantly along the neck of his bass,  Johnny Greenwood’s delicate plinking of the keys-as well as other random images or flits of motion. It was a stage unlike anything I’ve ever seen before- but was certainly not overly flashy, and complimented the energy of the music incredibly well. The set up as a whole was just another example of Radiohead’s innovative nature, and it’s integration into the show was flawless. Additionally, they opted for one incredibly long set with two encores, rather than the more traditional two sets with one encore format, which caught everyone off guard. The first encore seemed like it was going to be an amazing start to a mind blowing second set, starting off with Weird Fishes, but ending far sooner than anyone wanted it to. The second encore was unbelievably beautiful. It began with  Give Up The Ghost, a chilling vocal highlight for Yorke who looped all his own different harmonies together and literally gave me goosebumps. Yorke then announced they were going to kick it up a notch and jumped into Hail to the Thief’s Myxomatosis, which faded into the heavy driving bass of crowd favorite Idioteque to close out the night.

The show was expertly sewn together, and really showcased what astonishing musicians they all are, and how unique Radiohead is (and always have been) as a band. They have a signature sound that people simply get lost in, and that originality paired with their progressive tendencies are what have kept them relevant for so long. They’re not afraid to step to the edge and dangle their feet, and for that reason and many others their show was one I’ll never forget.

Trampled By Turtles at the Vilar Center 3.1.12

Due to my new home in the mountains, I have been listening to quite a bit of bluegrass and have come to really enjoy it. By no means am I a bluegrass expert, but there’s something about string instruments that make for a really homey feeling that you can’t help but dance and sing along to. That’s why I was so psyched when my co-worker scored us a free pair of tickets to the Trampled By Turtles pre-Snowball show at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center. The Vilar is an incredibly swanky little venue just below the base of Beaver Creek Resort that holds a mere 530 people and looks a bit like the inside of a swagged out log cabin. The place is beautiful, and made for a wonderful setting for the evening’s festivities.

Photo From www.resideo.com

A local Valley band- Bonfire Dub opened the night up. While I missed a chunk of their set, their sound was a sort of reggae- bluegrass fusion that was really well done. It also had to be super exciting for them to open for a national act right in their own backyard. They were followed by Elephant Revival, another band native to Colorado, who are an incredibly talented bunch of musicians. Their music is versatile, and they typically incorporate a wide array of different genre-blending into their sets-anywhere from traditional folk music to indie to reggae and back again. This show, however, was incredibly low key and mellow. Singer Bonnie Paine crooned softly, and each song played was slow, calm, and incredibly beautiful. Musically, I was thoroughly impressed by these guys. Bonnie Paine’s voice is captivating and emotional and their performance as a whole was beautifully evocative. When one of her bandmates strings broke, Paine filled the fix-time with a bit of accapella soloing that had the entire venue in nearly silent awe. It was definitely one of those moments, where you feel tethered to everybody else in the room by the notes coming from the stage.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’m also an absolute sucker for the violin and the fiddle, and fiddle player Bridget Law captured us all with her skill on her instrument. Key tracks from the set were Drop, Sing to the Mountain, and my personal favorite Ring Around the Moon.  While the music was beautifully performed, the crowd stayed mellow, and most were seated for the majority of the set. It was a slow but memorable start to an incredible night of music.

 Photo From: http://mtnweekly.com/elephant-revival-vilar-performing-arts-center-5700

By the time Trampled by Turtles took the stage people were ready to move-and immediately were given the fast paced picking they came to the show looking for. Frenzied dancing ensued throughout the entire set as the band kept the energy and pace high. They moved all around their catalogue of songs and mixed in some classic folk tunes as well. I was most impressed by mandolin player Erik Berry, whose fingers flew like lightning across the tiny neck of his instrument. In all my experience watching live music I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pick that fast and was truly blown away. Per usual though, I was drawn to fiddle player Ryan Young, who could make the strings of that fiddle absolutely wail.  Lead vocalist and guitar player Dave Simonett was fascinating to watch as well, someone who really got immersed, and even lost, in the music he was playing.  Crowd favorites were mainly from their most recent Palomino album, and included Help You, and Bloodshot Eyes. When they played Wait So Long people went nuts, singing and shouting along as they furiously played in a fit of multi-string madness. A personal favorite of mine was Codeine from the Blue Sky and the Devil album. It’s a song that feels like it let’s whatever pain you may have out-and they play it in an amazingly emotional manner that really draws you into their entire sound.

Photo From: http://www.chadrieder.com/blog/?tag=trampled-by-turtles

Overall it was a brilliant night and we all went home utterly worn out from dancing-exactly the way one should feel after a night spent enjoying incredibly talented bands, and the company of fellow music lovers. It was certainly a night to remember.

Technicolor Tone Factory at The Fox Theatre 1.20.12

In the months since my first post about Technicolor Tone Factory, an emerging Boulder band, I’ve seen them play numerous times at a wide array of venues and bars all across the state. They’ve come a long way since the show at K’s China, and watching what they have built with this band has been a wild and incredible ride. Last Friday the boys of Technicolor Tone Factory headlined Boulder’s Fox Theatre alongside West Water Outlaws and James and the Devil. It was an outrageous show, with unimaginable energy from start to finish, and made for a night that will hold a special place in my heart for years to come.

James and the Devil started the night off in the right direction. They brought a unique style to the lineup with their genre blending sound. Their music was hard to categorize but felt like jam-rock-folk fusion with a dash of hip-hop. Admittedly, I have a huge soft spot for the violin, and subsequently any music that has violin in it, which was one of the highlights from their set. Violinist/Vocalist Dave Ross is an incredibly talented individual and brought a down-home country vibe to their sound that I absolutely loved.  This  vibe was paired with  hip-hop style lyricism from lead gitaur and vocalist Buz Cruchfield, as well as some tight vocal harmonies that really rounded out their sound. These elements of music were not things that I invisioned would work well together, but James and the Devil did an excellent job in fusing together seemingly opposed genres in a way that felt natural, organic, and new. I had no idea what to expect when they took the stage, and was thoroughly impressed by the time their set was through.

West Water Outlaws brought a much more classic vibe to the stage. I’d seen them once before when they played with TTF for a Halloween show and was blown away by their heavy, classic  sounds, so I was psyched when I heard they were on the bill for this show at the Fox. The crowd was really beginning to fill in as they took they stage to start their set. They came out of the gate strong and kept a consistent high energy the entire time. Simply put-these guys rock the fuck out. Driven by the heavy guitar riffs of Will Buck, and topped with brilliantly raspy and expressive vocals by Blake Rooker, West Water Outlaws created an amazing energy on stage that drew you in and made you never want to leave the musical space they’d brought you to.  Their classic rock influence is undeniable, and comes through their music in every way.  Not only are they all incredibly talented musicians, you can tell that they really feel the music and absolutely love playing it. When you pair talent and passion they way that West Water Outlaws so clearly does, something soulful is created.

By the time Technicolor Tone Factory was set to take the stage, the Fox was packed with all sorts of different people. They emerged to the sound of the crowd chanting “TTF” and opened with high energy fan favorite Funky Grass, a rocky and risque track, that bled right into a 2 song Michael Jackson cover mix of I Want You Back and Thriller that featured guest vocalist Kirsten Sims. Everyone in the packed venue was immediately thrown into frenzied dancing and wild cheering that would continue all the way through the set. Highlight of the night occured when bassist Zach Jackson and drummer Bryan LeFever spiraled off and did a jam on their own, bringing Buz Cruchfield back to the stage to rock out with them. LeFever is an absolute machine on the drums, and when paired with just Jackson on bass, the two played off of each other in a riotous fit of incredibly funky rhythm. This went on for a solid few minutes before the rest of the band joined them back on stage and dove into a cover of Dear Prudence, which they laced into their originals Into the Water and Fairwell.

The entire set was seamless, each song transitioning effortlessly into the next and keeping the crowds’ energy high. One jam went from their original, Riff Around the Rosie, into a rocked out version of the Rain Song/Song of Stroms (yeah…the one from Zelda…) into an jammy and almost dark version of the classic My Favorite Things (yeah…the one from Sound of Music…). This set of songs really showcased the talent of keyboard player Greg Kallfa, who is an absolute master of the keys. Each of the boys took their turns to interact with the crowd, raise a glass, and thank everyone for the love and support they’d shown the band. They closed out with Be Funk-a personal favorite that gets stuck in my head for literally days at a time, and left everyone screaming for more. They returned and dropped into a brilliant rendition of Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar that ended the show on an incredible high note.

Not only is TTF filled with incredible talent, these boys know how to work a crowd, and nobody ever leaves their shows without having had an amazing experience. Friday’s show at the Fox was certainly no exception, and may have been the best Technicolor Tone Factory show on the books to date. If you’d like to hear them for yourself, you can check out a full recording of this show on soundcloud. These boys really love what they’re doing, and it reflects endlessly in their music, and can be seen in the eyes of their fans as well. Needless to say, I anxiously await their next gig, and hope to see you there to check out the unbelievable music these guys are capable of making.

STS9′s Great Cycle Spectacle at the Fillmore. January 13th and 14th 2012

First off–it’s been a while since I’ve posted about shows. This does not mean I have cut live music out of my life (I’d sooner die), but  I simply have not had the time to write about them  given my new-found “real job” (which is not nearly as fun and exciting as working at Red Rocks). But after this weekend with Sound Tribe Sector 9 (better known as STS9) , I felt the urge to make time to write.

That’s the thing about a really good band-they inspire people through their music. I spent both nights at the Fillmore awestruck by the talent, creativity, and excitement that Sound Tribe generated at the shows (really, they do it at all their shows…these ones just happened to be particularly magnificent). To start with, they’ve got a massive catalogue of work, and even though I’ve seen them a solid handful of times no two shows are ever even close to alike–and the 2 this weekend were some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Lets start with the facts:

1. These two shows were the first shows Tribe played in 2012…epic.

2.2012 is, according to Mayan spiritual beliefs, supposed to mark the beginning of a new cycle (the cycle of the 5th sun, if I understand correctly…I’m no expert on Mayan cultures so don’t quote me on that).

3. The gentlemen who make up STS9 have a history with the aforementioned Mayan beliefs/prophecies/culture/etc.

4 .The Fillmore is one of my favorite indoor venues in Colorado (those chandeliers are just so classy!)

4. Things got a little real kooky.

5. It was both insane and incredible. This was a genuinely special weekend.

It all started with a voice recording that was supposed to be a transmission from somewhere else in the galaxy, the general message being one of peace and unity as we launched into their great journey. As the voice faded out, the members of STS9 came to the stage all wearing snazzy black button downs with pins and badges adorning the chest pocket so that they all looked like space commanders. Bassist and front man David Murphy (whom everyone refers to as Murph) immediately had the crowd in a frenzy as they dropped into what became a spectacular night of music. They went all over the place, and picking favorites was hard, but they played really funked-out version of EHM, which is always a favorite of Tribe fans everywhere. Other standouts from night 1 included Arigato, ROYGBIV , and Grizzly. During Kamuy there was a point in which Jeffrey Lerner went on a mad percussion solo that had everyone grooving in what my brother very accurately described as “Jeffrey’s Jungle.” After a solid solo sesh, he was joined by drummer Zach Velmer and they played off of each other in a fit of rhythmic insanity, after which the remaining members came back to the stage and went right back into the Kamuy jam. It was epic, to say the least.  There was even a bit where Murph (Bass) and Hunter (Guitar) went acoustic and pretty much blew everyone’s socks off. I can honestly say though, that my favorite moment of the night was when they played Circus, a song that I’m convinced makes the evil in the world melt away, at least for a little while. I can’t explain why, but it’s a song that touches me, and it brought me to tears when they played it Friday. I can only really describe it as magical. Call me lame, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Circus=Magic…end of story.

I swiped this photo from this website: http://www.tekked.com/?page_id=83--Kudos to whoever the photo belongs to.

While the music was (obviously) incredible, the visuals they put with it were kooky and fantastic. It opened with designs of Mayan temples, and different blinking Mayan hieroglyphs and symbols. The Hunab Ku’-symbol for the Mayan creator god, said to be located in the center of our galaxy- made many appearances. There was an incredible galactic, spacey theme to everything they did with their lights. The show was made to feel like a journey into alternate dimensions, and when they paired their already out-there music with visuals from a badass LCD setup- things got super planetary, and we all went on some sort of journey.

The second night was equally outrageous and incredibly beautiful. Favorites from the night included Shock Doctrine, a really cool version of Instantly (one of my all time sound tribe favorites ever),  When the Dust Settles, the title track from their latest studio album, and Inspire Strikes Back. There was a point where David Phipps, was left alone on the stage for a long keyboard solo that, for once in the night, had everyone standing still. I don’t know what it was, but whatever he was playing stopped people in their tracks, and you could feel the entire room just soaking in the notes as he played them. It was another moment where I was very nearly in tears due to the beauty of it all. They closed out the weekend with an encore of What is Love-an incredibly dancey wonderful jam that had everybody getting real funky-followed by Scheme.All things accounted for, it was an amazing two nights with talented musicians who very clearly love what their doing. That love translates directly to their stage presence (especially Murph, who is easy to get caught up in watching…he’s captivating, and also quite sexy…and sometimes looks like a bass-playing velociraptor…and is basically a total badass).  Aside from the music,and their incredible balance as a band, what amazes me most about Sound Tribe are their fans. Having worked concerts for many years, and watching the different crowds of countless bands, I can tell you that something special happens to people at Tribe shows. It’s truly a group that understands miraculous nature of the shared experience of live music. At Tribe everyone is family and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Earth Wind and Fire at Red Rocks–May 7th

If you spend enough time at Red Rocks (and I spend more than enough time there…) every once and a while you’ll get to see legends roll through. Last night was one for the books, and seeing the ever popular Earth Wind and Fire for their 40th anniversary celebration was certainly a treat for both myself and the sold out crowd that filled the amphitheater. It was to be a night of funk and soul on the rocks, and I loved every second of it.

First lets start with the outrageous setup…the brilliant voices and instrumentals that make up the Earth Wind and Fire gang were backed by a full 33 piece orchestra, who sat on an elevated platform while the band jammed below on the stage. Each of the members of the band were dressed as though they had waltzed right out of 1972 . They were dancing fools too, and the varied crowd followed suit and jammed right along the whole time. The first crowd favorite was undoubtedly Shining Star, everybody was belting along and the band broke out some choreographed moves that were energetic and truly textbook when it comes to classic 70′s funk. Other key tracks included After The Love Is Gone, which slowed things down and let the soul in, September, my favorite EWF track ever that got everybody shaking and singing along, and Let’s Groove, which took a turn toward funk and was universally enjoyed. They also played a really funked-out cover of The Beatles Got To Get You Into My Life, which was a brilliant blend of two incredible musical acts.

The show was magnificent, and their iconic falsetto harmonies echoed around the rocks and slipped a little soul into everyone there. The lead singer even boasted a claim that a lot of the people in attendance were likely conceived to Earth Wind and Fire (a hilarious, and probably accurate statistic…). They were a charismatic and interactive act that brought old school back in a big way. Who knows how long these dancing fools will be around and touring, so I’d suggest you catch them while you still can!

RATATAT at The Ogden. May 5th

I had a night off from Red Rocks, who last night hosted the third night of Dispatch, so naturally I went to a show (tough life I lead huh?). I had been waiting anxiously for the RATATAT show since tickets were released in November. They are one of my staple bands that I can play pretty much any time, and each of their albums I can listen to top to bottom, so when I saw they were touring AND coming to Denver I geeked out and bought tickets immediately. I had 8 months of anticipation built up around last night’s show, and had no idea what I should expect (aside from awesomeness…because that’s what RATATAT does…)

The Ogden is a smaller venue (capacity is around 1300ish), and while many thought the RATATAT duo of Evan Mast and Mike Stroud should have played the much larger Fillmore just down the block, the Ogden provided a really intimate space for a really incredible show. Musically, what I was most impressed with was the balance-of old songs and new songs, and of fast jams and slow jams. It was really well integrated and had a little bit of everything. The opened with Grape Juice City-a favorite of mine from their LP4 album. Other key tracks included Neckbrace (another favorite from LP4), Montanita and Wildcat (from the Classics album),  Spanish Armada (from RATATAT album) and Mandy (also LP4). Everyone seemed a little surprised that they didn’t play anything from either of their remix albums, but at the same time everyone was stoked on their original and classic jams.

Obviously the music was incredible, but the visual element these guys put together for the show was both insane and astounding. They had a video segment to match each track, ranging from tessellating birds that wove together and apart, to a woman in a neck brace (appropriately shown during Neckbrace), to an eerie “happy family” feeling depiction of a bunch of different people during the song Drugs. In addition to the video screen, each side of the stage was flanked by a tall glass plate, which we later learned projected holograms-sometimes holograms of birds, sometimes of bust sculptures or technicolor skulls, one of a large lady hoola-hooping, and another of an old-timey violinist and cellist. The visuals were incredibly intricate and innovative, and the additional background lights made it so that all you could see of the musicians were their mysterious silhouettes against a backdrop of flashing lights and video. It was so well done aesthetically, but by no means over-shadowed the music. Again they were very well balanced, and the entire show was well rounded and absolutely mind blowing.When they ended their encore with the ever popular Seventeen Years (from RATATAT album) and Bare Feast (another of my favorites from LP4) it was like delicious musical icing on a fabulous sparkly cake. Despite the hype I had created around this show, all of my expectations were exceeded. RATATAT killed it, and the 8 month anxious wait was more than worth it. If they come to your city, you’d better not miss them. They really have something special going on. 

Dispatch at Red Rocks May 3rd and 4th.

Red Rocks hadn’t seen a sold out show yet in the season until Dispatch rolled into town to kick off their first live tour since their 2004 farewell concert (followed by a post break-up benefit show in 2007…). Many were skeptical that they would be a little rusty, having not played together in such a long time, but I am here to tell you that Dispatch is back and as brilliant as ever. They rocked an epic two nights at arguably the best concert venue in the world and have another evening of magic planned for tonight. Friday and saturdays shows both held a lot of the same tracks, but both arranged differently so as to create two completely different shows with completely different vibes.

Since their beginnings Dispatch has been a band that is not easy to label or categorize, as well as a band that is easy to fall in love with. Their have a very distinct sound and are absolutely captivating vocally, which translated in a big way into a fabulous night for everybody within the musical sanctuary that is Red Rocks. Contrary to what one might expect they opened with Melon Blend-a new track from their new EP (released this year) before cruising on into the classic Dispatch tracks that their long time fans were fiending for. When they slid into Open Up a few songs later you could tell they were falling into their groove, and bringing the 8,000 or so anxious fans with them. The energy was high and friendly, and the members of the band made jokes and interacted with the audience, showing endless appreciation for the people who filled the Red Rocks bowl. They swayed beautifully back and forth between new tracks, old tracks, rocky tracks, and laid back tracks to make a wonderfully balanced and full to the brim evening. Favorite tracks included Bang Bang-the title track from their 2000 album, Prince of Spades , Two Coins (a personal favorite of mine) and Flying Horses.  You can check out the full setlists here and here for a better idea of the full feeling that friday night was soaked in. My favorite moment from Friday though, was undoubtedly when they played The General. Not only is it probably the most well know Dispatch track, it was also slipped late into the show when the energy of the crowd was at it’s peak. They paused just before the repeated “go now you are forgiven” line, only to have the entire crowd pick up the lyrics that they obviously knew by heart and raise an 8,000 person chorus that echoed beautifully into the clear skies, flirting with the twinkling lights of the city in the distance.

Both nights were loaded with seriously beautiful  moments, shared by thousands of strangers. In addition to a heap of classic songs they threw in a couple really well done covers (if you’ve been reading this at all, you know that I have a serious soft spot for a good cover). They bled Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson into Outloud, and also dipped into Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth to raucous applause and thousands of voices singing right along. They painted the rocks with their unique and iconic vocal harmonies, told stories of their first time at Red Rocks, and informed the ever appreciative audience that Dispatch was about family, and thanked everyone there endlessly for all the love throughout the years. Saturday’s show ended with a beautiful rendition of Carry You, accompanied by a sweet and mournful harmonica and the thousands of voices in the crowd. It was a breathtaking end to remarkable two nights of music, and I’m sure tonight will prove create more of the same phenomenal moments. Dispatch is back, and are as marvelous as ever. If you get a chance to check out any of the rest of their summer tour, go for it. I promise, you’ll have the night of your life.

Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae at the FirstBank Center. May 29th

I’ve worked at the FirstBank Center a little over a year now, and let me begin by saying that this venue has come a long way and is now officially on the map as a ragin’ spot for shows. This year it has played host to a huge variety of acts (my favorites being Bassnectar and String Cheese Incident) and though the summer session slows down quite a bit (because everybody wants to play Red Rocks) it’s still bumpin into summer with a few good acts.

In all honesty I was skeptical about Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae. Sometimes shows from the Top 40 types are way commercial and sometimes disappointing, but I was proven wrong by this duo on Sunday.


Janelle Monae was a fierce opening act. She’s stylish, quirky, and incredibly talented. Her voice is simply amazing and I can honestly say I was blown away. Her style, both in terms of presence and music, was funky, classic, fresh and original (seriously, how many chicks do you see with hair like that?).  Her voice was powerful, soulful, and sweet at just the right moments as it carried her vast variety of tunes around the FirstBank Center. It was one thing to see her, in her traditionally masculine with a feminine edge getup (she emerged wearing a cape…), and quite another to hear her belting it out in front of her fairly large band. She played a decently long set which included her most well known track Tightrope as well as the funky and semi-poppy Many Moons. She also delved into covers of some of my favorite songs–Charlie Chaplain’s Smile and the Jackson 5′s I Want You Back. Not only did these covers show the versatility in her voice, but also a deep love of old classics which I really appreciated coming from a more pop-centric performer. Without doubt, Janelle Monae turned some heads Sunday night and left people wanting more.

Though Janelle was a hard act to follow, Bruno Mars was coaxed to the stage by a cacophony of screaming (and mostly underage) females all swooning over his voice and his pretty, pretty face (he was after all named the most beautiful 25 year old by people magazine…). Though he’s got more of a mainstream-R&B vibe to his sound, he is without doubt an incredibly talented vocalist who really knows how to work a crowd (especially a crowd filled with women). He spent his long set crooning his popular tracks to an ever excited crowd, who soaked in his every word with lust and adoration. I was surprised by just how many popular singles he played, a few of which I had heard but had never realized were his. Crowd favorites included The Lazy Song, and anthem to, well, laziness,Grenade-a track about heartbreak (every artist has one…) and Just The Way You Are-the song that every girl in the room wishes was written about her. My personal favorite was Liquor Store Blues, simply because it broke his typical trend of “songs that make girls fall in love with me” and felt more raw and honest. That’s not to say his love songs aren’t beautiful, or true, but they were certainly numerous and Liquor Store Blues was a nice break. It was blatantly obvious that the crowd loved Bruno Mars, and clung to his every word. He took advantage of this and sang with a lot of heart and emotion, enough to make any girl there think he was singing just to her, and that is often the mark of a successful R&B singer. Between Monae and Mars, the FirstBank Center saw a brilliant night of beautiful vocals and fun, catchy music.

Bisco Inferno at Red Rocks. May 28 2011

First and foremost–RED ROCKS SEASON IS FINALLY BACK!!!!! I am thrilled to have started what promises to be a mind blowing summer of shows with the dynamic experience of Bisco Inferno on Saturday. The lineup was eclectic, and exciting, and each act did their part to make the show unique. No two styles of any of the opening acts were the same-and while at times I thought it an odd combination of artists, the unique blend of artists drew an a equally diverse crowd. I’m going to break this review into sections for each different artist, simply because each artist was it’s own separate experience that became a building block to a very complete and brilliant show.

Emancipator

I’ve been on an Emancipator kick since January, so I was stoked to see him on the Bisco lineup. The crowd was sparse when he started his set, but as people began to funnel in they all vibed out to Emancipator’s ambient and mysterious sounds. My favorites were “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough to Build Fires”  and “First Snow”- both tracks from his album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. Though he kept it pretty low key, he was an awesome opening act that got everybody in a relaxed but grooving mood to start the night before things got rowdy.

BoomBox

Though I’d never heard BoomBox before saturday, I’d heard of them, and after seeing them I’m a) a little bit obsessed with them and b) convinced that they were the perfect mix of electronic funkiness for this show. As BoomBox took the stage the seats really started to fill up for their bass-heavy funk set. Boombox is made up of a bass player/vocalist and a mixer with a macbook, and together they create a unique blend of electronic-jammy type sounds. Additionally the bass player was a riot, decked out in a feather boa and ridiculous furry hat that was actually quite fitting given the eccentricity of the building crowd. Favorite tracks included “Stereo” and “Tonight” both from their Visions of Backbeat album. They definitely set it off and had everybody in the crowd dancing and swaying to their funked-out bass lines.

Big Boi of Outkast

By the time Big Boi took the stage the amphitheater was feeling full. He came on to riotous cheering from everyone there, and announced that the ATLiens had landed right before dropping into the  Outkast classic “ATLiens” to open up his set. People went nuts, and the bowl became a sea of bouncing bodies. Big Boi proceeded to feed the dancing masses with old school Outkast favorites like So Fresh So Clean and Rosa Parks. Crowd favorite Ms. Jackson had everybody singing along at the top of their lungs. The energy during Big Boi’s set was the highest it would be all night, everybody was bumpin’ and the excitement was almost palpable. He slipped out of his old Outkast vibe and into some of his own solo songs including Kyrptonite and They Way You Move which had everybody dancing like maniacs, and closed the set out with Shutterbugg. Without question, Big Boi threw it down, and left a frenzied crowd of dancing bodies to wait in anticipation for the Disco Biscuits to match his incredible energy.

Disco Biscuits Set 1

When the Disco Biscuits took the stage the energy changed entirely. It went from everybody being riled up and rowdy to a much more chilled out vibe. Make no mistake, people were still excited, and still dancing, but the vibe changed from the wild rumpus that was Big Boi, into a much more controlled jam that they rode out through the majority of their first set. The thing people love about Disco Biscuits is their endless jamming–they’ll take a jam and ride it out for what seems like forever. Like any good jam band their live sets are vastly different from their recorded tracks, and they certainly did not disappoint with their first set of the night. As Jam-based as they are live, it was difficult to tell which of their tracks they were playing when (unless you happened to be a Seasoned Disco Biscuits Veteran…which I sadly am not).  I can tell you though that it was rocky, smooth, and exactly what the Bisco-Maniacs were looking for. Here’s a recording of them live at Red Rocks in 09 to give you a taste of what went down on saturday.

Rusko

Rusko came on during the break between the Disco Biscuits set and tore things up. The energy he created wasn’t nearly as rambunctious as Big Boi, but he had everyone on their feet jamming to his heavy heavy bass. Somebody needed to bring the Dubstep to make this show complete and Rusko did just that. He played a pretty long set for a set-break and threw down some serious bass. Favorite tracks included Sun is Shining Everyday, Hold On and a his sick remix of Tupac’s California Love. He closed it out with a cover of Flux Pavillion’s Bass Cannon, which is my current favorite electro track (available for download from ThisSongIsSick). By the time Rusko was done, the frenzied dancing was back in full force and the energy was once again on high.

Disco Biscuits Set 2

The second set for the Disco Biscuits was different from the first in that it was even more laid back and you could tell that people were losing steam, but the tried and true fans danced on into the wee hours of the evening. They kept the energy flowing in and out as they slid through  jam after jam as though they could have played on for eternity. Overall, Bisco Inferno was a whirlwind of different emotions, energies, and individuals that rocked Red Rocks and set the precedent for the brilliant season to come.

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