21 September 2006

Sunday 3 September 2006 Bluebird Theater, Denver - Rainer Maria, Ghost Buffalo, Peña

It's the last of the three nights of Denver Fest and I'm walking up to the Bluebird Theater to hear the line up of Rainer Maria, Ghost Buffalo and Peña. It's almost nine and the Dfest flyer had reported the show starting at 7:00 pm. But I didn't believe that time for a minute and good thing too, because it was still kinda dead when we arrived and there was yet a note to be heard from the stage. No worries though, because I had a friend to talk to and the music started up pretty soon after that as the three members of Peña took the stage.

If you don't know already, Peña is an instrumental band. I'm really not one of those people who immediately get uncomfortable at the lack of vocals in a rock band, but that being said, I found myself wanting to hear a voice in their songs. I love the balance in a three piece outfit and Peña's sound filled the Bluebird nicely, but still it didn't feel like the sound was yet complete. But, that criticism aside, Peña sounded great: at times hypnotic and then starting you back to paying attention. When you see that they are playing you should go see them, love them, and write them some lyrics.

More folk started trailing in and filling up the place as Ghost Buffalo began. I hadn't heard them play before but had heard they were a good alt-country band. I know, that label has become as worn-out and useless as a month old Westword, but still, it gives you an idea if you haven't ever heard them before. Songs range from soft and quieter ballad like compositions to more robust rockers that filled the air with good sounds. Singer Marie Litton has a voice well suited to the songs she's singing. It was a surprise to find out that the whole rhythm section was a mere three weeks into playing with the band, both drummer and bass player being that recently replaced. You would never have guessed from listening. Nice sounds from Ghost Buffalo, and now you have another band to add to your list. Go on, write it down.

The venue started actually looking filled up by the time Brooklyn based (via Madison, Wisconsin) headlining Rainer Maria came on. When I first saw the name I thought, day-um, it's pretty bold to set the bar that high. Oh, sure it's cool to give a nod to the great ones that we follow, but it can seem awfully pretentious, so it's a tricky thing to do. I can't say anything too bad about the band Rainer Maria, but then I can't find much earth-moving stuff to say either. They could play, no doubt about it. Their songs were nice and polished and their presentation smooth and professional, down to the rock-star banter about how they just ate at a great local restaurant (Watercourse) and how good it was. They sounded sharp and sure, but the heart behind the music just didn't make it to my ears. But that's me.

See you at the next show.

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