30 November 2007

Hooray for new venues!

There really are never enough all ages shows or even 16+ shows around. It has always been the case as far as I can recollect from all those shows I snuck into when I was underage. But I sure hope this new venue is a good one for music and sticks around. Music, bowling, food...sounds promising for fun times. I'm interested to see what it's like and mean to check out their debut show tonight. One thing I'm certain of, I do love hearing them Cowboy Curse songs.

The Falcon is just a few doors down from the Gothic on S. Broadway.

21 November 2007

Denver Music Matters

No, Denver is not the next Seattle, because no place is, but damn, saying it gets people talking. Really, it's an impossible task to analyze a scene and call it about to become national. But people sure get excited thinking about the possibility.

I have friends who moved their band to Seattle in 1986 and everybody was like, Seattle? Why Seattle? When one of my friends moved back to Kentucky a couple years later he said it was a surprise to see people wearing t-shirts of one of his favorite old "local bands" in Seattle, Mudhoney. (Fun little article here about an earlier sparsely attended Lexington Mudhoney show at Babylon Babylon.) I gather it really wasn't obvious then that Seattle was about to become what it did.

I've heard a number of different people who listen to Denver's local music and have been listening here for a while say that it feels like something special is going on here right now. And that's very cool. The Denver artists I consistently make the effort to see perform, I really truly love. What gets me out there is that when I listen, I feel like it matters. It sounds sophomoric opining to say it, but when you first hear music that matters, the world is irretrievably changed. It feels extraordinary. It feels great. And you never want it to end.

So when all these people living in Denver who listen to the music talk and write about it, word travels. Denver gets some looks and listens from people who don't live here, people looking for good music. They listen and hear excellent music being crafted here and they also get excited. There are always discerning music listeners who will search the best stuff out, and then there are those who are always looking for stuff they can package and sell. Some people do happen to be both. We could make a Venn diagram showing the little intersection of quality music and marketable music. There's overlap, definitely, but don't forget the two attributes are not correlative.

The only other thing that gets people as agitated as bandying about "the next Seattle" is saying there is such a thing as "the Denver Sound." I think even people who say it know better. There are so many people creating so many different sounds in Denver that one person couldn't keep up with it all (though I know a couple who make a good effort at it) much less have it contained in one descriptor. For instance, some of the many Denver bands I love to see like Porlolo, Cowboy Curse, Bright Channel, Tarmints, Nathan & Stephen, Overcasters, Bela Karoli, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, George & Caplin, Bad Weather California, just to name a very few, don't sound anything like the others. There are circles that cooperate and collaborate with each other, but they can not honestly be grouped into one.

I understand the marketing value of being reductive, but when it comes to a music scene, it positively makes me cringe to hear about a place having one sound. What happens is that it starves everything and everyone that doesn't fit in the "sound" by feeding that and those which does. When the grunge wave got to tidal proportions there were many other talented Seattle artists who didn't sound like the others who were left cold in its shadow. Not to mention some who gained the most distance from the wave only ended up drowning in it.

Even so, no place can be the next Seattle for a number of reasons. One, it was unique, but also things are not like they were in the 80s. The music industry is just not like it was 20 years ago. I can't imagine major labels have many bulging suitcases of money to hand out for the "next big thing" because, I think, there really isn't going to be a "next big thing" more than there are going to be more a number of " next pretty big things to this group or that group sort of things."

My unsolicited advice: If you are in a position to be wringing your hands over whether you want major label attention or not, keep sight on what you are making your music for in the first place. If you want to make money running a music-making business, think about bringing someone in who knows how to run music-making businesses to help you. If you want to make music and definitely don't want to make a business out if it, don't. But either way you must pay attention to the music first, the incidentals last. That's the only way any of it will continue to matter.

16 November 2007

Nathan & Stephen, Dan Craig Band at the Lion's Lair

Before last night I didn't realize Dan Craig is a very funny guy. Yes, he does smile a lot when he's strumming for Nathan & Stephen, thus exhibiting a good humour, but after thanking fellow N&S band mate Phil for playing trumpet on his opening song by announcing "Phil's in another great Denver band" and pausing to let those at the bar chuckle and smile at the rest of Nathan & Stephen in the audience, Dan continues, "...Born in the Flood." And then after delivering an especially folksy rendition of "Happier" he credits the cover by encouraging the crowd, "You all should really get out to see that Photo Atlas..."

Funnies aside, I am glad I made it out to this show. Lately I've been reluctant to get out much, cold weather, being tired and well, as much as live music elates, sometimes being at a show is too overwhelming for me. So, I almost didn't go, but the Thursday show at the Lion's Lair was more than just a show, it was a benefit for Prax(us), an organization that works on fighting human trafficking in Colorado. I'm all for any effort against exploiting people as commodities. The added social pressure got me to head to Colfax instead of going home and crawling in bed for more sleep than I actually need. I got a music fix and got to feel all warm and fuzzy that my $8 cover was going to a good cause.

My anti-social tendencies have had me feeling like I'm a little out of the loop lately, and last night I received affirmation that, yes I am. The spoken word and slam poets were just finishing up their part of the evening when I was looking at the flier for that evening's event. I asked Stephen Till if he knew the Dan Craig band. He looked at me a moment, maybe trying to figure out if I was kidding or really that dense, before kindly replying that, um, Dan Craig is in Nathan & Stephen. Oh. Yeah. Of course. That's why that name looked familiar.

The Dan Craig Band is more on the folksy, singer-songwriterly side of things than the indie-pop fare of Nathan & Stephen. I'm not one who can decipher lyrics very easily in a live setting but the gist of the songs feel like they dwell in the sphere of those angst-y human emotions. Though that ground is well worn and all too often comes out as annoying and self-indulgent, Dan Craig isn't. I held my breath when they started in on Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" because I'm tetchy about covers of songs I love already. But even without saws, they pulled out a fairly true to original and very pretty version that I could enjoy. Excellent mandolin, cello, accompanying vocals, drums, five string bass, and trumpet made a really beautiful surrounding for Dan's songs. I think they are playing at the Meadowlark next Friday night. If any of this description sounds the least bit interesting you'd be happy to give a listen.

Nathan & Stephen always make me smile. They radiate good will. It is really astounding to me. When a band can harness positive energy and make it into catchy songs, it generates a force of its own. A good one. Even recovering from a lost voice, Nathan McGarvey sang with no less than he ever does. Sincerity goes a long way with me and Nathan & Stephen are chock full of it. I haven't heard them play in a while and I noticed that the songs on the EP are all played spot on professional, though even without looking I could tell that Stephen Brooks wasn't on the skins. And even the newer songs are clearly gems that with a little more polishing will be as glowing as the rest. Denver, even if Nathan & Stephen isn't your thing, we are lucky to have these kids around.