The Rocket Summer & 888 Bring Crowdsurfing Alt Pop Tour To Denver

By: Matti Earley

Local icons 888 returned for a stop in their hometown on Friday at Denver’s Marquis Theatre. The alt-pop three-piece first started gaining momentum in 2015 by winning 93.3 KTCL’s Hometown for the Holidays contest, and ever since then, they’ve been busy on a national scale. Friday’s show marked the start of their second tour of the year, following one with Missio in the spring.

888.

888.

“Gold" was an example of the kind of juxtaposition 888 have mastered in sound. It is the ideal pop radio hit, but not formulaic in the way that some top 40 songs can be. Instead, it feels like a much needed moment of honesty about the uncertainty that comes with trying to find a place in the world. Such underlying fears were explored even further and with a more melancholy overtone in “Creepers,” which came out less than a month ago and was great live. Of course, the trio also played their hit "Critical Mistakes," the song that arguably gave them their start on a national level.

The Rocket Summer began his impressive set soon after 888 ended, and played over 20 songs to fans. Ten years after the release of his record Do You Feel, Bryce Avary is still going strong. His choice of what to play Friday was undoubtedly a culmination drawing from his entire discography, and even included songs that he had never been done live before.

The Rocket Summer.

The Rocket Summer.

As evidenced by putting “So Much Love” near the beginning of his performance, Avary is uncontainably joyous about being a musician. This really showed in his interactions with the audience, who were as much a part of the show as him. After playing on a platform in the middle of the crowd, Avary made his way back upfront via crowdsurfing. In between songs, there were moments on the setlist specifically designated for him to talk with the audience. And rather than a preset encore, he asked the crowd what we wanted to hear before finishing with a few fan favorites. One of those, called “Brat Pack,” came from 2005’s Hello, Good Friend and was a seriously popular throwback that was crazy to hear live.

The Rocket Summer with 888’s tour wraps up in less than two weeks on August 29th at Arizona’s Crescent Ballroom. Make sure to catch a show while you can, and in the meantime, check out both acts recent releases on Spotify.

-Matti

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Female-Fronted Acts Bring Strong Performances To Denver's Ogden Theatre

By: Matti Earley

Last week, Denver’s Ogden Theatre saw two strong, female-led groups take the stage: Sylvan Esso and Flock of Dimes.

Flock of Dimes.

Flock of Dimes.

Before opener Jenn Wasner started the solo venture Flock of Dimes, she was one half of Wye Oak. Once solo, Wasner released If You See Me, Say Yes via Partisan Records. That title is hopeful, as if the listener is on the edge of a revelatory experience, and last week, it was clear that Wasner’s music definitely sounds wrapped up in that.

Wasner began with four tracks, including the standout “Everything is Happening Today.” In her words, it captures the moment, “where time melts and previously buried memories are unlocked- where every autumn day that I’ve ever experienced is suddenly present and available at my fingertips”. Later, she added in some of her older music. “Prison Bride” came out, venturing all the way back to her 2011 catalogue, and the tune brought a grittier edge to what had been a more idyllic show. She ended her set with a cover, “No More ‘I Love You’s’” by Annie Lennox. Younger  audience members might not have known who Lennox is, but after Wasner’s performance, she likely has several new fans.

Amelia Meath.

Amelia Meath.

Next up were Sylvan Esso, and from the moment Amelia Meath appeared onstage, her energy was contagious. With the help of her platform shoes, she bounced around effortlessly to bandmate Nick Sanborn’s electronic production. “Sound” was an appropriate start to their set, with the opening line, “I was gonna write a song for you”.

Just three years ago, Sylvan Esso were an act trying to make it; now the band had just come from Lollapalooza to multiple, sold-out Colorado shows. Meath and Sanborn appeared keenly aware of their transformation into such a popular act, and thanked the audience constantly. And to add to their charm, on top of their humility, the duo were also kind of hilarious. Between performances, they related anecdotes about inebriated texting and Sanborn’s aunt, who was in attendance, also got a funny mention.

The bubbly enthusiasm of the duo transferred into all songs, even some of the slowest ones. “Die Young” is normally one of those more somber tracks recorded, but in front of a crowd it became an anthem. Their encore brought them back to their roots with the final number, “Play It Right,” which was the first collaboration between Sanborn and Meath, and is part of how they met.

Overall, it was a strong bill at Denver’s Ogden last Thursday with two powerful ladies at the front of it all. Check out more photos from the night here.

-Matti

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Pop & Punk Took Over Hodi's Half Note This Past Weekend

By: Matti Earley 

Though The Solid Ocean aren’t originally from Denver, they now reside here and got inspiration for their namesake from the Rocky Mountains. At Hodi's Half Note on June 9th, they more than lived up to their declaration of being a “power pop” group.  

Freaking Out” was The Solid Ocean’s breakout hit of the evening, and also their most recent release. It opens with summery, undeniably happy instrumentals that contrast with its more uncertain sounding lyrics. This comes as a reflection of their creative process, which coincides with “trying to make their way through life as young adults in a crazy world.”

Silent Rival took the stage next, and cranked up the volume several notches with their set. “Die A Little” opened the rest of their recently released debut record, The Kindness of Strangers.  The track carries a powerful mantra, indicative of a consistent theme throughout the rest of the record. The music from one song to another, however, was enjoyably less predictable. “Freedom” carries hints of country with prominent harmonies sans twangy guitars. Conversely, “The Only God Is In The Wild” is structured around a much more poppy, bubbling riff. Bassist Yutaka Sao and frontwoman Sara Coda commanded attention effortlessly. Even on a small stage, they performed with enough energy to entertain a much larger crowd. 

Night Riots.

Night Riots.

Before going onstage, Night Riots filled Hodi’s with a magnetic energy. An overhead buzz preceded their arrival, mirroring the anticipation that built up during the previous openers. They emerged from a curtain of fog with a confidence that could fill much larger venues, fresh off of a tour opening for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness with Atlas Genius.

The close atmosphere amplified and endeared their performance idiosyncrasies. After their opening song “All For You,” the audience was polled to see how many people had seen them at The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs the day before. Dozens of audiences members shouted their happy reply. Outside their own discography, Night Riots covered “Billie Jean” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”  

Night Riots.

Night Riots.

The latter provided a perfect transition into their darker underlying sound. While Night Riots rooted in punk, pop is also a consistent descriptor. Various adjectives such as “gloomy” and “gothic” have also been attached to their sound, and Love Gloom is actually the title of their newest album. Those two words encapsulate what was the essence of their show; a juxtaposition. Lyrics outlining grief and adversity were punctuated with lighter notes of glowing pumpkin props and light up drumsticks.

After the show, all members stayed to talk to fans, sign merchandise, and take pictures, with a long trip back to California ahead of them. After a brief break, they will be with All Time Low for two Houston dates on June 30th and July 1st. Their next string of shows will be all the way across the Atlantic starting September 10th, in support of The Maine, along with The Technicolors. Keep up with band here

-Matti

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters Are Back In Colorado

By: Matti Earley

Shawn James started his career as many artists do- solo. In 2013, however, he united with four other musicians to form what is today Shawn James & the Shapeshifters, who we last caught live just a year ago at Denver’s Moon Room. Now, the crew is in the midst of a nationwide tour, and will be branching out with international shows beginning at the end of June. They make their last of three Colorado stops at Hodi’s Half Note this Thursday, June 1st and we’ll be there snapping the action!

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters.

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters.

Shawn James & The Shapeshifters sound is a mix of blues, folk, soul, and rock, backed by vocals from James that intensify an already powerful instrumental listening experience. The band are touring on their 2016 release, On The Shoulders of Giants which is a record "full of swampy beats, banjos, slide guitars, bluesy melodies, and James’ captivating vocals." The album speaks universally about the grittiness and tribulations of the human experience. Along with some of their other records, it’s the kind of music that wouldn't be out of place on a thriller soundtrack. In fact, a previous song from James’ called “Through the Valley” was featured in “The Last of Us Part II” which is described as “action-adventure survival horror.” It also explains why the last time we caught these guys live, they rocked a metal set

Tickets for the Hodi’s show are available here; locals One Flew West will open the night. Get yours now and we'll see you there!

-Matti

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.