Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.
Returning for day 3 Saturday night with no agenda, I looked at the lineup card. In the back of my head, I had no idea where to start Aimless wandering doesn’t usually pay off, but we’d see.
While battling indecisiveness, I strolled up and down a few blocks of Broadway and kept being drawn to the math rock sound coming out of Eslinger Gallery. I’ve always had a soft spot for low-key distortion and eventually gravitated toward the art gallery-turned music venue. The desolate-yet-melodic guitars of Brian Lenherr and slow-yet-deliberate drums of Tim Schwarz left all those listening in a delicate trance. The set closed with Lenherr systematically taking down a heckler and then (just as systematically) taking apart his guitar, but not before running out on the street in the middle of the set to strum out some crashing distorted chords. I was kicking myself for not stopping the first time so I could have heard a few more songs. Trust your instincts.
I thought I would make up for it by introducing myself to the band and seeing if they wanted coverage of their album, and boy, did I feel like a jerk when I was politely told “that would be great but this was our last show ever.” Great question from blog guy who should have done a modicum of research beforehand; color me embarrassed. The ray of light out of the interaction with Denver’s Brian Lenherr was that he would be venturing into a solo lo-fi project, which we will be keeping a lookout for. dust:orbiter may have closed shop, but if you like slowcore math rock, go grab a copy of their album and pony up the $5 with half the proceeds going to a great cause in Mercy Corps.
Why not keep the ringing of distortion in my ears? I’d like to think this was my main motivation for trekking up to Brendan’s for Denver’s monsters of hard rawk. It didn’t have anything to do with the main stage letting out and lines growing exponentially at nearby venues. I’ll just keep telling myself that.
I arrived at Brendan’s as the first power chord echoed through the bar. From the jump, the Denver quartet drove home gargantuan rock riffs on an instrumental opener. Screaming vocals soon followed and everyone listening got a straight rock shot to the jaw. I took in a few of the melodic distortion before settling on two things:
1. I forgot to bring earplugs.
2. It was almost 30 years to the day that Metallica’s Ride the Lightning came out, and metal has not really changed that much. There are still a ton of metal fans out there who are grateful for new tracks within the genre, but I’m more interested in seeing pioneers forging ahead new directions in the sound. I like to see where metal is going, not where it has been, but if you want your face rocked off in Denver, see these guys.
In search of something new, I continued up to Moe’s and caught the tail end of Denver’s Kissing Party. At least, I think I did. I heard the music, but the crowd was so tightly packed around the stage area that all I could see were people dancing up a storm to the light-hearted indie pop. There were even a few tiny tambourines with the band’s name stenciled on them being shook about for good measure. I will be diving into this band’s music to discover what I’ve been missing. For someone who is just arriving on the Denver music scene after a few years away, I feel like I missed the boat and am paddling furiously to catch up.
That was it: I was now intent on focusing on Denver bands for the rest of the night (the whole remaining two hours of it). After looking at Chemistry Club’s band photo and tagline (Yay science), I decided to trust my instincts it would be a fun show. Listening to your instincts generally pays off, and this time in dividends.
From the chiptune beats, to the stage-4 quarantine level infectious pop, to Jeff Wiencrot’s punching vocals travelling through a vintage microphone mixed with a sonic screwdriver (Ten’s blue one, not the green one that is apparently now a weapon…), some heavy 80s pop influence made contemporary, and an upcoming sci-fi concept album, this band put on one of the most fun shows I’ve seen save for that one time I went to San Jose to see another band with a sci-fi concept album.
Chemistry Club will be at the 1-up on Colfax Saturday, August 2nd for their video game release which I’m excited to play and see. Do yourself a favor. For real.
An orchestral indie band playing its first show ever? Sounds right up my alley, especially as I re-entrench myself in the local scene. Down to Gary Lee’s Motor Club and Grub I went to catch this debut show. After a little extra fine-tuning on the sound check, the folk got under way. The band featured a cello, which I’m learning if you have one orchestral instrument in your band, you qualify as orchestral rock. Works for me.
Morning Bear’s music was passionate and personal, and singer/guitarist John Runnels had some true stage presence. He even brought his brother up on stage to sing for one song as well. Seriously. All the feels… The rest of the band, which was cobbled together quickly for the show, got through growing pains quickly and had a successful outing.
I learned later that Runnels got his start in his teens as a street performing in Denver and had been doing it successfully for the better part of ten years, including tours busking through Europe. Malcom Gladwell and his 10,000 hours would approve.
Morning Bear will be performing on August 22nd at the Larimer Lounge before Runnels logs some more busking hours overseas. Check ’em out.
Being away from Denver for the last two years, the biggest takeaway from Saturday night was just how vibrant the local music scene really is here. From the artists, to the venues, to groups like UMS, this city really has something going for it. Like I’ve said before, we the community need to get out there and support these folks because they are there waiting to be discovered. This festival is a great way to get a start, let’s keep walking forward.
Clay is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He just returned to Denver, worries he missed the party, and dislikes green sonic screwdrivers