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.

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