The New Mastersounds' Recent 'Payback' Show Gave 100% of Proceeds to Homeless Youth

By: Will Baumgartner

Last Friday night at the Ogden Theatre in Denver was a joyful experience on multiple levels as The New Mastersounds, joined by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe guitarist DJ Williams and his band Shots Fired, brought their considerable talents and notoriety to the aid of Urban Peak to benefit Denver homeless youth. The New Mastersounds, led by guitarist Eddie Roberts, who is known for his love of and commitment to community, funneled 100% of the night’s proceeds back to Urban Peak. Everything sold for the night, including merchandise from Roberts’ new record label Color Red, went to the organization. So even if you didn’t participate in the silent auction or couldn’t afford to pick up an album or t-shirt, you knew that just by being there, you were helping make life better for others. Add that good feeling to the absolutely stellar performances and rock-solid grooves emanating from everyone on that stage, and it’s no wonder that all of us were smiling all night.

The event, aptly named The Payback, is not a new thing. This show marked the completion of its third year, with past shows in Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans, which have featured special guests like the New Orleans Suspects and Neon Brown. Urban Peak have been doing their good work since 1988, and through The Payback shows, The New Mastersounds have helped them raise several thousand dollars and public awareness for homeless youth.

The crowd at  Payback .

The crowd at Payback.

As excited as I was to see the Mastersounds again, it was an extra special treat to be introduced to Shots Fired, as this was my first time catching them live. Mr. Williams is not only a masterful guitarist with a precise attack reminiscent of Roberts’ playing, but a coolly charismatic bandleader and compelling composer as well. Based in Denver, he featured several musicians in this set, including Analog Son keyboardist Eric Luba and trumpeter AnDre Mali. If you’ve seen Williams with Tiny Universe, you already know what a great guitarist he is; catch this band and see how much more he can do as a frontman.

When the New Mastersounds took the stage, we were all primed and had our inner groove machines well-oiled by Shots Fired’s dance-friendly set. Those of us who have been fans for years knew that New Mastersounds would not only dazzle us with their musicianship, but keep that dance vibe going while driving us all to new and blissful heights. Augmented by the dynamic duo of trumpeter Mike Olmos and saxophonist Jason Mingledorff, and featuring two mini-sets fronted by the outrageously soulful vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. (known for his work with the Greg Allman Band as well as his own prodigious talents as a songwriter and frontman in his own right), the band continued to show us that we can count on them to continue their traditions while continually growing and reaching higher and higher with each performance.

The New Mastersounds at  Payback .

The New Mastersounds at Payback.

If you happen to be in New York City in a couple of weeks, New Mastersounds will be doing a two-night run at the Gramercy Theater on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Then it’s straight back to Colorado for a run of shows at the Belly Up in Aspen January 3rd, Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs the two nights following, and the Shakedown Bar in Vail on January 6th.

With all the great happy music we experienced last Friday though, we should not forget what the evening was about. Whether you were there or not, please visit Urban Peak at their website and get involved: donate, volunteer, whatever you can do. With the holidays abound, it’s the perfect season to give and you never know who you might help jump up off their feet to dance.

-Will

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

Lettuce and The Colorado Symphony Took The Mile High a Little Higher with Special Show

By: Will Baumgartner

I imagine it’s the same for anyone in the arts: collaboration always lifts you higher. The high one gets from creation, no matter how renewable and perpetually fresh it may be, eventually starts asking the artist, “What can you do with me that you haven’t done before?” And the artist looks at their art and says, “Good question! Not that I’m getting bored, but…”

Not to belabor the metaphor of a relationship between the creative and the created, but in a very real sense, artists are in a sort of marriage with their work- and to keep this marriage from going stale, they must continually look for new things to do, new experiences and situations which will help them achieve the ultimate goal of any good relationship: the elevation of the soul. One more metaphorical extension and I’ll leave it alone before I get into trouble: sometimes, maybe the best thing to do is bring in some other creative people in and see what happens…

Photo Credit:   Tom

Photo Credit: Tom

We’re talking about something beautiful and sacred here, and that’s exactly what the boys from the Colorado-born “Future Funk” unit known as Lettuce achieved Saturday at Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall when they performed some of their best and most enduring work with the Colorado Symphony. Under the fiery baton work of the young, but already highly accomplished Australian conductor Christopher Dragon, from the selection of material to the inspired orchestration, to the performances of each and every human onstage, it was an ecstatic evening. It was also clearly an elevating experience for everyone involved: the band members, conductor, orchestra musicians, and audience were all beaming and glowing with smiles that just kept getting more beatific through the evening.

Part of that bliss probably had to do with this type of show being a first for the band: at one point, keyboardist/vocalist Nigel Hall said something like, “If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be playing piano with a symphony orchestra…” I missed the rest, as people around me started whooping and screaming. It was a first for me too, as in all my decades of concerts, I’ve never seen a rock band play with an orchestra. As such it was difficult to imagine beforehand what the experience would be like, though knowing how great Lettuce are live and being already familiar with our local treasure of an orchestra, I would have been surprised if it weren’t one of the high points of a lifetime of great shows I’ve been privileged to attend. And sure enough, the only way I was slightly surprised was that the evening exceeded my fondest hopes and expectations. From the opening Lettuce original “Mount Crushmore,” all the way through “The Force,” the last piece in the first set, the way these musicians combined classical precision with the spontaneous fire Lettuce excels in was outrageously wonderful. As layer upon layer of sonic beauty and power was added to the creation, it was an almost overwhelming experience, causing us in the audience to make almost as much noise of our own as we did at Lettuce’s incredible concerts at Red Rocks back in June.

Speaking of Nigel Hall, as great as he is on the keys, that man can really sing. It’s always one of my favorite parts of a Lettuce concert when he opens up that voice, but on Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” Hall really outdid himself. The song was a perfect choice for this setting, as the original’s string and horn parts were expanded to spectacular effect, driving an already uplifting song to stratospheric heights. This feat that was repeated in the second set’s cover of Tears For Fears classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” another brilliant selection for an evening of orchestral funk-rock. In the middle of “Move On Up” though, we got an extra treat as things got considerably quieter and Hall sang a deeply soulful, gospel-tinged interlude about love, belief, and… I don’t remember everything he sang about, but the extended moment definitely fed my soul. It also felt like possibly the most improvised segment in a program that, by necessity, had to have been pretty tightly arranged. Singing something that powerful and moving in a nearly a cappella setting while allowing oneself to at least partially make it up on the spot- that’s not an easy thing to do and Mr. Hall deserves our appreciation for sharing that gift with us.

Screengrab via YouTube user coloradojohnsons.

Screengrab via YouTube user coloradojohnsons.

Everyone onstage was in top form: drummer Adam Deitch, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, the always fun to watch bassist Eric “Jesus” Coomes, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpeter Eric Bloom all performed with joyous brilliance. Mr. Dragon led the orchestra with zest and panache, and the orchestra itself was unparalleled. Extra special credit must be given to Tom Hagerman, who has been getting notice as a film score composer outside of his 20 years of work as a member of Colorado’s legendary band DeVotchKa, for his masterful orchestrations. His talent proves that those who work behind the scenes are often as important and essential as the performers themselves. And what a lot of work must have gone into this production! We can only hope that everyone involved felt our love and gratitude throughout the concert and the multiple and richly deserved standing ovations. The Colorado Symphony have previously done collaborations with Elephant Revival, Warren Haynes, and others. But on behalf of myself and everyone who was there Saturday, here’s a humble request that they do it again with Lettuce!

Next up for the band is a three-night New Year’s run through Houston, Dallas, and Austin Texas. Their 2019 Vibe Up Tour begins in January, with support from Ghost-Note and Greyhounds. For all Lettuce tour dates and news, visit the band’s website here.

-Will

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

Color Red Records’ Launch Party at Cervantes Was a Fantastic Celebration of Denver’s Music and Arts Community

By: Will Baumgartner

New Mastersounds’ guitarist Eddie Roberts clearly knows a few things: he knows how to play that guitar, of course, but he’s also very knowledgeable about great soul, funk and groove-oriented music so he knows a good thing when he hears it. Combine these talents, skills and wisdom with his obvious love of the arts community and extensive experience in the music business, and you get Color Red, his new record label. With a growing roster already featuring some of the best artists currently playing soul, funk, R&B, and hip-hop, it was no problem for the new agency to bring one of the most exciting and talent-packed shows I’ve ever attended to Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom and Cervantes’ Other Side last Friday.

Eddie Roberts. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Eddie Roberts. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

It’s one thing to talk about supporting the scene and each other, but action is proof, and the abundance of activity at this event gave overwhelming evidence that Color Red’s focus is on nurturing our community and the musicians who populate it, while bringing along some of Denver’s best visual artists as well. More than just a “show,” it had the feel of a ‘60s “happening;” a gathering of those who love to come together to celebrate life, music, art and each other to elevate the scene and the individuals who give it vitality. Primarily a concert featuring the star-studded Matador Soul Sounds, local funk/soul masters Analog Son (who were celebrating the release of their monstrously wonderful new album Funky Mother), and the explosive, joyful music of Congo Sanchez, with DJ sets from heavyweights Quantic, Nobide and Recess, plus a patio set by the local groove collective known as Free Bear, there was also a sizable contingent of mind-blowing Denver visual artists courtesy of Matt Worldly and his Denartket group. If happy smiles, ecstatic dancing, blissful revelry and massive hugs are your units of measuring the success of an evening out, you’d have had to bring a huge tape measure to wrap around this night.

There were some “bigger names” involved, of course, but another thing that struck a pleasing chord for me was that none of these musical and visual artists were ultimately given any more star treatment than any of the others. This was a dual-venue event which flowed freely back and forth between Cervantes’ larger Masterpiece Ballroom and their Other Side next door, and from the beginning DJ sets and Free Bear on the patio to the closing All-Star Jam, every performer got plenty of attention and room to spread their talent and love.

Analog Son. Photo Credit: Jarred Media.

Analog Son. Photo Credit: Jarred Media.

I’ve been an Analog Son fan for years, and I’ve never been less than thrilled by their shows, but Friday’s set topped them all. From the minute they took the Ballroom stage, the crowd were willingly and joyfully entranced, as the band smoothly and solidly drove through a set that started strong and just kept getting better. The songs from the new Funky Mother album sounded just as assured and wild as any of their older material, and their outrageously wonderful set-closing cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” was on a level with Earth Wind and Fire’s reworking of another Beatles’ classic, “Got To Get You Into My Life”. If you still haven’t seen Analog Son live, you’ve got to get yourself to one of their shows soon. Their new album is a heavy slab of electrifying funk and soul, produced by Eddie Roberts himself, and is one of the most live-sounding studio releases I’ve heard. Since it’s the first record the band has made featuring all the members of their performing lineup, this was not surprising to me, but I’m overwhelmed by the power with which they brought that live intensity to the finished product. From founding members bassist Joshua Fairman and guitarist Jordan Linit to saxophonist Michael Chiesa, trumpeter Gabe Mervine, drummer George Horn, Will Trask on percussion and keyboardist Eric Luba, all the way to the beautiful and spine-tingling vocals of Devon Parker and Ashley Niven Fairman, everyone on this record shines like the stars they all are.

There was some overlap between Analog Son’s set and the frenzy being generated on the Other Side by the musical powerhouse known as Congo Sanchez, but while I didn’t have the luxury of catching their whole set, these guys were my big happy new discovery of the night. It was deliciously overwhelming to run next door and be hit by the delirious onslaught of their sound and presence. Utilizing live drums and guitar and featuring an irresistible vocal duo of frontmen/emcees, it was easy to see why this group resists being pigeonholed into any genre. While their overall sound is something one might call “live hip-hop,” I think it’s fitting that their Facebook page just says “MUSIC” next to the genre slot.

Matador Soul Sounds. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Matador Soul Sounds. Photo Credit: J Mimna.

Now what can I say about Matador Soul Sounds? First of all, I should defer to the words of formidable singer Adryon de Leon when, early in their set, she protested against the use of the term “supergroup” to describe this band. “Don’t get it twisted!” she said, and then went on to explain that they consider themselves a group, period- one that has put their individual gifts together to write songs as and for Matador Soul Sounds, and for us as their beloved audience. This distinction is important because it reflects the genuine humility of all the admittedly illustrious members of the group. Yes, Eddie Roberts is part of New Mastersounds, Adryon is the singer of the great Orgone, Alan Evans has achieved renown not only as the drummer of Soulive but also as a producer and member of other projects, and Kim Dawson has gone from work with the legendary Pimps of Joytime to further build a name for herself as one of the most dynamic and hardworking singers alive. But onstage, on record, and up close and personal, they’re all just total sweethearts who never let their status or egos get in the way of the real business at hand, which is to deliver the best music and the warmest love they possibly can to us, their fans. Their performance on Friday certainly locked me for life. Every song was a treasure chest, every note was a gem, and I’ve never felt more love and joy coming off a stage and flowing over a crowd.

To return to the subject of community, the glowing memory of a night like this wouldn’t be complete without returning to the many visual artists who gave their creative energy to the event, and they were everywhere. According to Denartket founder and coordinator Matt Worldly, he was thrilled when Eddie Roberts approached him at one of their recent events about bringing the collective’s artists to this show, because the whole purpose of the group is to plug these artists into the bloodstream of the Denver area. It was impossible to ignore the essential element they brought to this celebration, and the discovery factor was greatly enhanced for me by watching these delightfully creative individuals pour themselves into it, crafting their works in the moment, sharing their insights and visions with everyone. While space doesn’t allow me to give credit to every one of them by name, they all deserve your attention and will reward it with fabulous visions to feed your hearts, minds and souls. Some of those whose work especially grabbed me were Pher01, Chris Surposa, John Vega, Parker Ledford, Derek Carpenter, and the delightful Bobbi Larmer, some of whose work has now found a place in my home. These are just a few of the great talents represented by Denartket, and we’d all be enriched by following every one of them, including Worldly himself, whose work is as otherworldly as anyone's.

I hope I’ve given you enough encouragement and inspiration to follow and discover every one of these groups and creative people for themselves, because one of the absolute and indisputable home truths of all art and the blessings it brings is that if I keep it to myself, I miss out on one of its greatest gifts, and that is the almost inexpressible pleasure of sharing it with you. If you’re already part of this community, I can’t wait to see and share with you again. If you’re just arriving, we welcome you with open arms and hearts, because without You, there can be no Us.

-Will

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

The SIR Band Brought Power and Passion to Their Globe Hall Set Last Saturday

By: Will Baumgartner

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when attending Saturday’s concert by The SIR Band at Globe Hall in Denver last Saturday. I knew they were a local band getting some buzz, playing at a venue I’d also heard enough about to want to check it out, and that was enough reason to go. In this sense, being a music journalist is the same as being a dedicated music fan, because if you only listen to and go to shows by bands and artists you already love, you’re limiting yourself and not helping the scene to grow. Of course there’s always a chance of being underwhelmed, but without exploration there would be no discovery, and I happened to discover a local treasure Saturday night. An unassuming little trio with a rather innocuous name, The SIR Band will surprise you with the amount of power, passion, and artistry that can be packed into such a small frame.

Speaking of small packages, the band’s frontwoman Sarah Angela doesn’t come bounding onstage looking larger than life. A rather petite woman dressed simply in cutoff jeans and a white blouse, SA (as she is also known to fans) let her voice and songs do the business of winning us over, which she most emphatically did, without resorting to any flashy theatrics or excessive costuming. She didn’t just stand there, of course, but her onstage energy was something that seemed to come up organically through the depth and richness of her singing with the simple beauty and layered architecture of the songs themselves, and with her interaction with the formidable talents of her bandmates Kim O’Hara (guitar/backing vocals) and Luke Mehrens (drums/percussion).

The SIR Band. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of   BLDGBLKS Music Company .

The SIR Band. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of BLDGBLKS Music Company.

Most of the material performed during this show came from the band’s stellar debut album So Cold (released January 2018 and available through iTunes and other digital platforms), but I was also impressed by their choice of covers and unique takes on those songs, including a rousing version of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” enhanced by two more exceptional female talents who’d already graced the stage that night, R&B/Pop powerhouse Chloe Tang and Vicoda’s firecracker of a frontwoman Shivani Bhatt. There’s something about getting that much female energy and talent onstage that’s just overwhelmingly beautiful and inspiring. These women clearly enjoyed it at least as much as the audience did, and that was an awful lot.

Overall, it’s difficult to say what I was most impressed with during The SIR Band’s performance. Between SA’s bits on synthesizer and acoustic guitar and her dynamic and varied use of her vocal skills, O’Hara’s switching between different guitars and settings, and Mehrens’ precise and expansive drumming, there was so much going on. But I’d have to say that the moment I was most affected emotionally was definitely the quietest part of  an otherwise pretty rocking evening, and that was the performance of “Abby’s Song.” It was an achingly beautiful piece that I knew nothing of except that it got to me, to the point of creating a lump in my throat and a bit of mist over my eyes. As is so often the case with live performances, I wasn’t devoting a lot of my attention span to the lyrics either, but when I mentioned the song afterward to Kim O’Hara, she told me the bittersweet story behind the song, and all I could say was, “Well done.” Without any intellectual knowledge of its subject matter, I was still able to feel the love, beauty and heartache that went into its creation.

Sarah Angela. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of   BLDGBLKS Music Company .

Sarah Angela. Photo Credit: Joel Rekiel of BLDGBLKS Music Company.

Another reason I wanted to see this show was because I saw Chloe Tang’s name on the bill, along with the note that it was her last Denver show before moving to Los Angeles. I had the pleasure of being introduced to Chloe’s music about a year and a half ago when I wrote Millennial Wise: Chloe Tang’s ‘Passion//Aggression’ for BolderBeat, but in the time since, I’d regrettably not gotten around to seeing her live. I can now say unequivocally that it was worth the wait, and I’ll be continuing to follow her closely. Talk about little bombs: this young woman packs an incredible punch into her small stature, and her material has continued to grow into something even more powerful than the great stuff I’d already been exposed to, as evidenced by her recent EP Stranger. Wherever you are, listen to her and go see her when you get any opportunity to do so; you will not be disappointed. This bill was truly a satisfying evening of sounds, and wouldn’t have been so complete without Vicoda and Shivani Bhatt who are hurricane of a band with a lightning rod of a singer at its center. They blew me away not only with the joyful fury of their performance, but also with the precision and skill of their attack.

Denver is one of the most happening places in the whole wide world of music right now, so I cannot encourage you enough to take your chances more often than not. You may be fearful of the possibility of wasting an evening, but as The SIR Band and their wonderful guests showed me again this weekend, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up grateful, happy, enriched and the exact opposite of “underwhelmed.”

-Will

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

Joachim Cooder Brings 'Fuchsia Machu Picchu' to the Paramount Theater, Opening for Legendary Father Ry Cooder

By: Will Baumgartner

What is it about an album or a few songs from an artist that makes you want to see them live? Maybe it’s an artist you’re hearing for the first time, or have heard only a little, and you find yourself listening and wondering, “What exactly would it look, feel and sound like to see them perform this music in person? “

Jaochim Cooder.

Jaochim Cooder.

Of course, you’d have to love what you’re hearing to even have this question to begin with. And with Joachim Cooder’s recent debut as a solo artist, the wonderful 7-song EP Fuchsia Machu Picchu, this listener can say wholeheartedly that from the opening title track all the way through to the final notes of the closing song “Country Blues,” I felt a visceral desire for more. I want more of Joachim’s music, and I’m thrilled by the mental image of being at his upcoming show at Denver’s Paramount Theater on Tuesday, August 14th. He will not only be opening for his legendary and iconic father Ry Cooder, but pulling double duty: after his set with his own band, Joachim will be right back onstage as Ry’s percussionist.

I’ve been a fan of Ry Cooder since I was a kid in the early 70s and stumbled across his album Boomer’s Story and found myself hooked for life, but you don’t need to be nearly as steeped in this family’s legacy to know about Joachim. If you’re one of the many who were enthralled and inspired by the movie and soundtrack of Buena Vista Social Club, the 1999 Wim Wenders film that followed Ry through the inception and subsequent performances of a huge ensemble of some of the greatest Cuban musicians of all time, you remember Joachim as an integral part of that group and his father’s vision, as he worked with Ry as percussionist and cohort all through the film. A very young man still in his teens then, Joachim went on to work with many other artists including The Haden Triplets, Matt Costa, Inara George, his brother-in-law Robert Francis and his wife Juliette Commagere. With the combination of his pedigree and two decades of such illustrious collaborations, it’s no surprise that when he finally stepped out as a leader with the release of Fuchsia Machu Picchu in March of this year, it was a formidable debut.

According to press releases, this collection of songs was largely inspired by the birth of Joachim’s daughter, so it’s also not surprising that there is a feeling of freshness, tenderness and a bit of wide-eyed innocence to most of the material. The themes of family, love, solace and hope are running threads throughout. The music is also wildly evocative of colors, light (especially moonlight, which pops out repeatedly through many of the songs), and places. I can’t tell you where I felt I was at different points throughout my listening, but clearly I was somewhere, and more often than not it was somewhere beautiful and warm, under skies that offered not only glowing and glittering illumination, but also most often a sense of the cool darkness of evening. While there’s no lack of pulse throughout this record (of course, coming from a percussionist!), it’s also imbued with a sense of peaceful reflection like a gorgeous evening in some South American country surrounded by nature, and alive with its nocturnal sounds. And while most of us know of Machu Picchu as a historic place of great beauty and Inca legend in Peru, it is also the name of a plant, so it makes sense that another of the themes running through this recording is plant life.

But okay, you may wonder after all these words about peace and quiet and so on, is this music gonna put me to sleep? No, and most emphatically no! Ask me if you can groove to it and I’ll tell you I’ve been grooving to it all week. Joachim Cooder grew up with World music, but he also grew up with his dad’s love of a crunchy bluesy sound, and rhythms that definitely give the butt plenty of wiggle room. One might be swaying gently or even seated, but the movement is always there. Joachim’s music is an appropriately family-centric affair, with Ry’s gritty guitar playing prominently throughout, along with the aforementioned close family members Francis and Commagere and others. If you’ve been to the Paramount before, you know that it’s a beautiful concert venue and also a seated venue. But nobody’s gonna get arrested for doing a little dancing in the aisles.

-Will

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

Umphrey's McGee Crushed Their Recent Stint of Red Rocks Shows on 'It's You' Tour

By: Will Baumgartner

When you hear the phrase “rock music,” what do you think of? Not one specific thing, probably, unless you’ve only listened to a handful of “rock” bands who all sound the same. There’s a reason for this, and it’s simple: Of all the musical genres, rock is the only one broad enough to incorporate elements of many of the others. If you say “jazz” or “hip-hop "grindcore,” and I’d argue you’re more likely to hear a more blueprinted sound in your head. Rock, however, conjures a field as wide as the sky above at, oh, say, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison CO, on a beautiful clear night in early July.

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Umphrey's McGee at the Rocks. Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Recently, I attended a concert by masters of cross-wired rock Umphrey’s McGee during their three-night residency at Red Rocks last weekend. While I was admittedly not steeped in their music, I’d heard enough UM that I was sure I’d like to see them live and I’d heard their shows were electrifying examples of tightness, groove, and onstage inventiveness. And also, there was nowhere else I could imagine being happier on my birthday than at Red Rocks absorbing a legendary live band for the first time.

I had not been misinformed on the rumors of UM live, and my intuition was also spot on: Umphrey’s McGee transported me along with thousands of other blissed-out music lovers, to a kind of rock heaven. I just couldn’t believe how good they were. Sure, people can tell you about a band and their shows ad infinitum; you can even watch full-concert videos. But none of that fully prepared me for the actual experience.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

When attempting to describe the show to friends and fellow musicians, I found myself grasping for words beyond ones like “tight” and “inventive,” because they just didn’t seem emphatic or expansive enough. Live, Umphrey’s are tighter than the gear works of a Swiss watch. Their group improvisations are as seamless, creative, and mind-blowing as an MC Escher print. And often, they went even further to where, in keeping with their cross-genre style, it was like being in a sonic world co-created by Escher and cosmic visionary artist Alex Grey, with a score co-composed by the love children of Miles DavisJerry GarciaBootsy Collins, and… uh, I guess a bunch of prog rockers from bands like Yes, and… oh, I give up! Frank Zappa once said something like writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Of course he was right in this observation, and in no case more aptly so than here.

If you haven’t seen UM live yet, you should, and if it’s been a while since your last time, you should go again. If these words are unworthy of their subject in any other respect, if they can get more people to share the Umphrey’s experience, I’ll feel that I’ve done the world some good. Though I can’t count myself as an old fan who knows all their songs, a lot of the material in their two-set show the night I saw them wasn’t stuff I could sing along with, with the exception of their cover of DJ Zebra’s Beatles/Nine Inch Nails mashup “Come Closer.” I didn’t sing along, but that was only because I was too busy digging how they did it.

Another notable aspect of this night’s many-faceted performance was the way these guys could layer and build, and then strip down and rebuild to yet another and even higher climax, to the point where it was hard to tell if they’d gone into a new song, or just taken the one they were doing to some dizzying new height. At one point, I realized that everyone but the two guitarists had stopped, and that was it: no bass, no drums, no percussionist or keys, just these two guitars dancing on a beautiful bridge of sonic sculpture. It was so dense and at the same time, so pointedly connected like a constellation viewed in striking detail. I just kept slowly shaking my head, trying to wrap around the fact that all this was coming from just two guitars. So I thought, “Oh yeah, effects. Effects, pedals.” But when once again, I looked closely, I saw that most of what was going on was coming from just those four hands, sixteen spidery fingers weaving their web.

While a large chunk of the concert not surprisingly came from their January 2018 release It’s Not Us (though the tour is named after the just-released companion It’s You), the band drew widely from their entire 21-year history and, in classic genre-hopping style, kept it all well mixed. They moved from their crunchiest prog-rock burners into the occasional bits of country-folkish type material, and some of their simpler funk-driven dance numbers, which gave guitarist/vocalist Brendan Bayliss ample opportunity to employ his rather cutely effective falsetto. And for sing-along songs, I’d be hard pressed to find one more irresistible than their cover of George Michael’s “Freedom.” The members of Umphrey’s may not spend a lot of time and effort on showmanship- they barely said anything at all between songs, preferring to let the music speak for itself- but there was much more going on at Red Rocks than just dazzling musical wizardry. This is clearly a feel-good band, just one that doesn’t encourage shutting down your brain while your feet are moving.

Photo Credit:   Cy Fontenot

Photo Credit: Cy Fontenot

Still, while acknowledging the good-time aspect of their shows, I don’t want to underemphasize this band’s outrageous skill on their instruments. Wikipedia’s UM page makes an important point about the group, and it was what I felt most defined the concert I experienced it. While Umphrey’s may be commonly grouped in with “jam bands” because of their varying setlists, improvisation, and encouraging taping of their shows, their overall sound owes much more to progressive rock artists like King Crimson, early Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the aforementioned Yes and Frank Zappa. I was also reminded of one of the first bands to advance the “jam band” prototype, The Allman Brothers, in the sheer and near-delirious power they cooked up as they brought their jams to full boil. And you just can’t do this without being overtly adept, not only at your own individual instruments, but also at the skillful interweaving of those talents combined with a highly developed sense of composition and dynamics. Guitarists Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, bassist Ryan Stasik, keyboardist/vocalist Joel Cummins, drummer/vocalist Kris Myers, and percussionist Andy Farag all displayed these musical attributes in spades.

I could go on but, okay, I think I’ve done enough dancing about Umphrey’s McGee’s splendid architecture for one article. Let’s just finish by repeating an earlier sentiment: whether you’re looking for virtuosity or just a very good time, get yourself to one of the shows on this tour, get on down to your local record store and pick up It’s Not Us and It’s You and then… well, just relax and enjoy. Umphrey’s will do the heavy lifting from there.

-Will

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

Lettuce & The Floozies Set to Play Third Annual "Rage Rocks" at Red Rocks This Friday (06/08)

By: Will Baumgartner

Bands don’t get to Red Rocks by accident, and in the case of seminal “future funk” unit Lettuce, they’ve proven themselves a few times over to be a consistent headliner at the legendary venue. This Friday’s “Rage Rocks” event, which they’ll be co-headlining with Lawrence, KS electro-funk sensations The Floozies, will be the third annual recurrence of what’s sure to be a blissful rage party under beautiful Colorado skies. And as anyone who has attended a concert at Red Rocks knows, our skies are even more gorgeous when a masterful band like Lettuce fills them with their wondrous sounds.

Lettuce.

Lettuce.

Another thing that basically never happens is an act getting to Red Rocks overnight. Sure, buzz bands come and go, but they mostly go. Lettuce has proven they’re not going anywhere with a solid two decades of consistent and persistent touring and recording, while making many ears and feet incredibly happy. And as proven yet again on their most recent release, a live recording of their Miles Davis tribute Witches Stew, there’s a lot more going on in their music to feed listeners’ thirsty ears, minds, and souls than simple dance grooves. This reimagining of songs from Davis’ intensely creative late 60s/early 70s experimental jazz/funk fusion period shows that the members of Lettuce are more than adept at the art of sophisticated, soulful group improvisation. The album, which features re-readings of songs from Davis’s Live-Evil, In A Silent Way, On the Corner, and of course Bitches Brew, shows Lettuce not content to merely replay the songs, but to take them to a whole new level. Given that they’re pushing the genre forward in this way, it’s a small wonder that they’ve been compared to other contemporary fusion pioneers like Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington. Add this skill to their fierce dedication to the almighty funk groove, and you’ve got a formula guaranteed to please both the body and the mind.  

Lettuce certainly have the pedigree for it, as can be seen just by looking at the credits boasted by their mighty rhythm section. Drummer Adam Deitch, who also plays with Break Science, has played with some of the biggest stars in jazz, hip-hop and soul, including John Scofield, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, and Wyclef Jean. And bassist Eric “Jesus” Coomes has not only toured with Britney Spears and The Game, he’s also a noted producer, having worked with the likes of Kanye West and Dr. Dre. The other members- keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, and trumpeter Eric Bloom- are all highly sought-after musicians who can be heard working all over the international music scene.

Lest anyone get too caught up in this musician’s-eye view of what Lettuce does, let’s be perfectly clear here that this Friday’s show, like all the shows they do, is going to be a party. You don’t need to know anything about jazz to catch the electric buzz of Lettuce’s lightning-rod performances. Above all, this band knows how to get an audience moving and smiling. Co-headliners The Floozies, a duo comprised of brothers with producer/guitarist Matt Hill and drummer Mark Hill, are widely known for their combination of cutting edge electronic music production with insanely infectious dance party grooves and incendiary live performances. With breakout Canadian act The Funk Hunters and Portland, ME rising stars Jaw Gems also on board, it feels entirely safe to say that this Friday’s event at Red Rocks will more than live up to its “rager” name.

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Lettuce, The Floozies, The Funk Hunters and Jaw Gems perform in the third annual “Rage Rocks” at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison CO this Friday June 8th. Tickets here.

 Keep up with Lettuce on their website and on Facebook

-Will

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

We's Us' Newest EP Was Recorded at Jake Cinninger of Umphrey's McGee's Studio

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver has always been a great town for rock, and the powerhouse quartet known as We’s Us are busy proving that tradition is still alive and well. Their recent EP Zeus is the latest in a handful of strong releases the band has put out since their formation in 2012 – and guitarist/frontman Michael “Weeze” Dawald has a lot more time and focus to devote to the group since leaving the bacchanalian funk band Rowdy Shadehouse last year.

We's Us.

We's Us.

Zeus is a three-song document which showcases the power of the band and also their diversity. While the band’s musical personality falls squarely in the rock genre, their self-proclaimed influences include bands like Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin, but also range as wide as James Brown, George Clinton, and Bob Marley

Zeus was recorded in October 2017 at Umphrey’s McGee guitarist Jake Cinninger’s Boondocks Studio in Niles, Michigan. The engineer on the record was Jim Leep, who has recorded Umphrey’s and Yonder Mountain String Band, among others. It was co-produced by Cinninger, Dawald, and Willie Waldman. Waldman also played trumpet on the third track, an ethereal instrumental called “Passing of a Soul” which was written for Dawald’s grandmother (and played at her funeral). Cinninger also guests on the recording, adding a second guitar to the title track. Keyboardist Stephen Howell, bassist Chris Crantz, and drummer Blake Manion lay down a solid foundation throughout the EP, and Dawald proves himself not only a ridiculously fierce guitarist, but also a strong vocalist. I’ve personally known Weeze for awhile and always been a fan of his playing, but I never knew he could sing like that.

After listening to this and other recordings by We’s Us, you’ll be eager to see the band bring all the fury and passion of their music to the stage! Lucky for you We’s Us play in Denver this Friday the 13th at Your Mom’s House. Get yourself there and in the meantime, give Zeus a listen.

Keep up with We’s Us on Facebook.

-Will

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

Guerrilla Fanfare Bring The Brass And Beats For Fat Tuesday Week Shows

By: Will Baumgartner

Who doesn’t love a big-ass, funky brass band? Probably mostly people who’ve never seen or heard one. The best of them—like Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, and March Fourth—bring such a ridiculously irresistible amount of joyful danceable noise that it’s hard to imagine anyone experiencing it and remaining unmoved. Well, I’ve seen Guerrilla Fanfare Brass Band several times, and they definitely bring it. If you aren’t dancing, grinning, and whooping it up a bit at one of their shows, you might wanna check your pulse.  

In the tradition of the bands mentioned above, Guerrilla Fanfare also bring a catchy kind of fun to the stage, with audience participation and just general energy and goofiness. Lay that over a bedrock of high-stepping, New Orleans-inspired funk rhythms topped with honking and wailing horns, and you’ve got a celebratory dance party, coming to a venue near you over the next week during Fat Tuesday celebrations.

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The band— Zach Brake (sousaphone), Jesse Mathews (trumpet), Steve Nelson (alto sax, emcee), Adam White (drums), Billy Rivera (trumpet), Taylor Friesth (drums), Ethan Harris (trombone), Masaki Kleinkopf (trombone), Harry Forlenza-Bailey (trombone), and Julian Stevens (tenor sax)— has only been around for about two and a half years, and have already established themselves as a vital force in the Front Range music scene. The lineup, anchored by two fiercely funky drummers and the traditional sousaphone holding down the bass lines, is also full of some of the best horn players around. They manage to employ solid songwriting and embrace the wisdom of getting the audience involved in the show at every performance.

The result of all this hard work was a busy and promising 2017, in which amongst numerous other local shows, they played at the Arise Festival, Upslope Getdown, and Five Points Jazz Fest, opened for March Fourth at Fort Collins’ Aggie Theatre and Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, and most recently played with Tenth Mountain Division at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. In addition to these local shows, they also played at Honk TX and Honk Fest West in Austin and Seattle, crazy street band festivals geared toward exactly the type of fun brought by Guerrilla Fanfare. They’re shaping up big plans for 2018, including the Spread the Word Music Festival in May and another appearance at Arise in August. Thirsty ears can also look forward to a probable new album sometime this year, and the band plans to continue to spread the joy into other areas of the country as well with a tour.   

Local lovers of live music don’t have to wait anywhere near that long to revel in the party these guys bring, though. In fact, you have four chances to see and hear the band in the next week. Guerrilla Fanfare play Gravity Brewing in Louisville on Saturday February 10th; Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids in Longmont on Fat Tuesday itself (February 13th); the Bohemian Biergarten in Boulder, Friday February 16th; and Denver Mardi Gras at EXDO Events Center in Denver on Saturday February 17th.

Keep up with Guerilla Fanfare and the fun here.

-Will

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

A-Mac & The Height Reach New Peaks With New Record 'Part of It All'

By: Will Baumgartner

The ridiculously talented Denver band known as A-Mac & The Height have made a lot of noise over the past year, with a sold-out album release show at the Bluebird Theater, performances at their own Spread the Word Music Festival as direct support for the Kyle Hollingsworth Band, and a two-month fall tour which took them from the Midwest all the way to Florida. Behind all this activity is the group’s frontman and songwriter Alex MacKenzie-Low, a musically driven young man whose contagious energy not only drives the band, but has been an important part of the Denver area music scene for several years. I first met Alex when he booked my band at Moe’s Original BBQ in Englewood and the relationship has continued through a few years of the Spread The Word Festival, an annual event which is MacKenzie-Low’s personal labor of love and has been a vital and energizing part of the local live music landscape for the past five years.

A-Mac & The Height. 

A-Mac & The Height. 

Having seen the band (formerly known as A-Mac DZ) a number of times, I was not at all surprised to find that their current album Part of It All is filled with the same great songs and stellar musicianship I’ve come to expect from this band. The genre description on their Facebook page- “upbeat folk rock, reggae/world, hip-hop, jam” prepares the listener for a rather common combination of sounds in today’s music landscape, but the album itself is much more than the sum of these parts.  

Listen to Part of It All:

“Sun Comes Up” kicks off the musical journey of the record appropriately enough with a driving mashup of reggae and hip-hop, and a story of finding oneself and one’s family of friends through persistence and music. It begins with hopping on a train, facing loneliness and pain with the line, “‘Til I find my friends, my motivation/Music, yes, my inspiration.” These are lyrics that anyone who has chosen the challenging life of a musician can understand: we feel so much, and life can be so frightening and difficult, but music and the people we play it with makes it all worthwhile. From the drum and bass intro through the masterful rapping in the middle, all the way to the end, this is a great song performed by a super-tight band.

The second song, “Ends I’ll Never Know,” takes us into distinctly brighter territory. If “Sun Comes Up” is about climbing out of the darkness, this one is about dancing in the sunlight. It’s a happily grooving song with a bouncy guitar line that sounds like it could have come from Paul Simon’s Graceland or The Rhythm of the Saints albums, at least to my ears, it definitely has that happy South African/Latin-inspired feel. It’s also a markedly pop-sounding song, with its catchy chorus and hook-driven arrangement. You can practically hear the smile on MacKenzie-Low’s face as he sings “Oh I, oh I, ready for whatever comes my way today/Yes I, yes I, ready to grow to ends I’ll never know.”

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 “Indica From Heaven” is, not surprisingly, a feel-good party track. If weed is your party, blaze up and groove on down. The deeply funky reggae feel, horn lines, keyboard solo, and the lyrics all encourage the listener to just have a good time and not think too much. It’s also one of the most danceable tracks on the album, so don’t get too stoned to get up! The syncopation and breaks in the arrangement make it perfect for busting some moves.

The fourth track, “It Would Be Easy,” starts off in a sadder place. It’s a breakup song with lyrics like, “All our friends know you crushed my soul,” so the musical feel is appropriately wistful, at least at first. But the song is also about letting go, so there’s a break in the middle that suddenly feels like a Calypso/Salsa dance party, with a rolling Latin-sounding piano line and horns bouncing merrily over the top. You never know what to expect with these guys!

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“Streets of Colorado” is a homecoming anthem from a traveler who has gone away, but come back to where he’s from and feels most at home there. It’s the most rock-sounding track on the album, and the band ably supports the singer’s story with another tight arrangement and more excellent playing.

The album’s penultimate track, “Back On My Own,” revisits the theme of lost love while still emphasizing the singer’s drive to pick himself up and keep moving, which seems to be almost the theme of the whole disc: persistence, as Calvin Coolidge said, is omnipotent. As with all the songs on this album, the arrangement is a big part of what makes this song work: the individual instruments and the way they play off of each other, the musical dynamics, and the juxtaposition of different musical styles stacked together to create a balanced structure. The casual listener doesn’t need to “get” what’s going on behind the music to enjoy it, but musicians, songwriters and arrangers will find much to appreciate and admire. 

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And so we come to the final song on the album, “Here’s to the Love.” It’s a testament to the strength of MacKenzie-Low’s spirit that while he’s writing a song as a requiem to a dear friend, he still insists on not wallowing in the pain of his friend’s passing: “I will remember the good times always/No one can take away your memory, so here’s to the love.” You can hear the pain in his voice and in the music, and still, there’s that insistence on finding the good in everything, even death. So, ultimately, it’s not a sad song, but a celebration of life and love.

Again, I can’t overemphasize the strength of the musicianship on this record, and its importance in making it a successful recording. Drummer Matt McElwain, bassist Stephen Edwards, keyboardist Karl Rivers, saxophonist Joey Bean, and lead guitarist Ted Kleist are all great musicians, period. Colorado is lucky to have such talent in our midst, and A-Mac & The Height are blessed by the way they work together.

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Part of It All is available on Bandcamp. A-Mac & The Height are just returning from their fall tour, and will perform next in Colorado on Saturday November 25th at Mother Muff’s in Colorado Springs. Keep up with the band on their Facebook page and website.

-Will

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

19-Year-Old Ben Pisano Proves You Can't Underestimate Young Artists With Current Project Corsicana

By: Will Baumgartner

When Denver band Corsicana took the stage at Boulder Theater as openers for local-gone-international heavyweights Devotchka, one couldn’t help wondering how much such a young, slender band could deliver live. I’d heard the album Haven online, and while the music had definitely drawn me in and left me impressed, I also noted that all the instruments and electronics had been played by Ben Pisano, the group’s 19-year-old frontman. Like Prince’s first recorded efforts, where he also played everything on the recording, my question was, “Great stuff, but what’s it gonna sound like live?”   

Corsicana. Photo Credit:  Montana Martin

Corsicana. Photo Credit:  Montana Martin

Corsicana onstage was indeed a small, young-looking band. Pisano in the middle with his guitar and sensitive look, two petite women flanking him on guitar and bass, and another member on drums. By the middle of the first song of their set though, most of my skepticism about the band had vanished, and I found myself reminded of two things: 1) Never underestimate the power and scope that can be drawn out of two guitars, a bass, a drum kit, and a little bit of electronics. And 2) Never assume that the young have little of depth or substance to deliver.

Steinway & Pisano. Photo Credit: Montana Martin

Steinway & Pisano. Photo Credit: Montana Martin

Being the first of two opening acts (Pandas & People, another rising local band from Fort Collins, were coming up next), Corsicana only had a half-hour to win me over, which they unequivocally did. In the first song, Haven’s “Revelry,” I heard why the term “dream pop” is used right after “indie rock” in the “About” section of their Facebook page; the swirling music and ethereal vocals of the verses definitely invoked a floating, dreamy feeling. Then, the wait to see how hard they could rock was over, as the song’s chorus kicked into passionate overdrive.  

In the second song, “Attrition” (also from the Haven album), I began to hear the more “pop” side of Corsicana, as I was reminded of a sort of Death Cab-meets-Radiohead combination of delicate verse with beautiful falsetto vocals leading into a hard-driving bridge. Guitarist Melanie Steinway (also of Denver band Tyto Alba), bassist Jordan Leone, and Amos Chase on drums and synthesizer all worked beautifully together with Pisano to create the feel of a real band, not just a solo artist with backing musicians.

The third song, “Empyrean,” showcased more of Corsicana’s well-crafted way with linking a wistful verse with sparse instrumentation to an explosive chorus. It also boasted a killer arrangement, showing that Pisano and company are more than familiar with the art of balancing and bouncing musical colors off of each other with a masterful use of dynamics.

Ben Pisano. Photo Credit: Montana Martin

Ben Pisano. Photo Credit: Montana Martin

One of the things that I find so impressive about Pisano’s songwriting is his lyrics. Though I couldn’t always make out what he was singing at the show, I later asked him to send me the lyrics, and was a bit blown away by how literary his writing style is. His songs read like short stories, with imagistic sentences creating little snapshot-like flash fictions where one can picture a whole scene or even a period of time in people’s lives. “Empyrean” also boasts the added feat of being a story told entirely in dialogue; the song is a conversation between two people, with each line separated from the next by quotation marks. And apropos to the rather epic scope of the music, all the songs have either direct references to history and myth, or an overall mythical/historical feel. Epic battles, exiled characters, big cities and small hallways, funeral pyres, and people locked in or out of a “prison of heart”. In these days of illiterate solipsism, it’s really something to read lyrics that evoke whole worlds and complex lives.

The next song, “Kokytos”, continued Pisano’s fascination with myth: Kokytos is one of the five magical rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology, and translates as “The River of Wailing.” This was, ironically, the most upbeat and insistent song of the set, at least musically. The lyrics imply more of the story of heartbreak and frustration that seems to be the central theme of this young man’s songs- at least for now- but the music is so insistent that I couldn’t resist grooving and bopping a bit to it. Again, Pisano showed exquisite vocal prowess, veering between his falsetto and a full-throated howl. And like a lot of the songs in this set, the ending featured the band’s ability to power-drive upward to an instrumental climax.  

The set’s closer “Patron,” another song from the Haven album, again reminded me a bit of the Death Cab/Radiohead combo I’d heard at first, while also invoking a sort of stripped-down version of the Icelandic experimental rock band Sigur Ros. (This was actually not the first time in their set that I heard echoes of that band.) This song had a bit more pop and drive to it, while still having an unhurried groove, and gave an appropriately powerful ending to their set as it rocked harder and harder through the instrumental section that closes the song.

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When I asked Pisano where he got the band name, he told me it was the title of a song by The Antlers, one of his favorite bands. Listeners may hear all kinds of influences in Corsicana’s music, and considering Pisano’s powerful and expansive voice, it’s not hugely surprising that he was chosen to open for Devotchka, whose singer Nick Urata arguably possesses one of the most impressive voices in modern music. But Pisano’s ultimate achievement, so early in life, is that after hearing his music for a while, it sounds like no one else as much as Corsicana.

Corsicana will be taking some time off from performing to go back into the studio for the rest of 2017, and according to Pisano, these sessions will make use of not only of his live bandmates, but also of several guest artists contributing. Given what Corsicana has already done, I’m sure the new recordings will be an event well worth the wait and anticipation.  

Keep up with Corsicana on Facebook and their website.

-Will

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

Review: Dandu's 'Caught Between' Ventures Beyond Fusion & Into Livetronica, Hip-Hop, & Even Space

By: Will Baumgartner

It would be too easy- and wholly misleading- to simply call the Denver trio known as Dandu a “fusion” group. Just a glance at the influences listed on their Facebook page could tell you that: Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin, Thundercat, Kneebody, The Bad Plus, and Bon Iver? What do you call a band who are inspired by such a diverse list of artists?! The phrase Dandu uses is “Wonky Groove Music,” and as words go when used in an attempt to describe the basically indescribable, I guess that’s as good a choice as any you’re likely to get. But when it comes to music like this, it’s best to put words aside and simply dig into the music itself.

Dandu. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Dandu. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

So let’s go to their recently released EP Caught Between, and settle in for a trip that, for its relative scarcity of actual words (only two of the six tracks have vocals, and those are more imagistic than didactic), still manages to be wildly evocative. Among the many scenes and visions I get listening to this recording from beginning to end, the prevailing feel is of a spacewalk which varies between a stroll and a sort of power-walk. But while this journey is clearly purposeful and at times just a bit speedy, it never feels hurried.

Listen to Caught Between

The trip begins with “Stu Fish” (featuring Calm Alone, aka Grant Stringham, who also produced and mixed the entire EP), a bit of moody and almost apocalyptic-sounding psychedelia. This track, to which Stringham contributed samples, synth, and some drum programming, sets the mood for the whole journey: clearly, we’re in an otherworldly place, and while there’s a fair degree of darkness and menace around us, there are also lights everywhere- and we have a destination.

Ben Weirich. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Ben Weirich. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

The second track, “Don’t Fret” (featuring Cosmic Slim, aka Wesley Watkins of The Other Black) continues this theme, and is very aptly titled: while the dark hip-hop groove and Watkins’ rapping conjure images of palpable levels of stress, fear and confusion, the overall effect is actually rather lighthearted and humorous, reminding one a bit of Childish Gambino meets TV On The Radio. (The trumpet playing of Carrie McCune adds more color as well.) Yeah, the song seems to be saying, it’s a bit frenetic and somewhat scary out here, but keep walking; we’ve got somewhere to go.

Sean Dandurand. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Sean Dandurand. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Next up is “Hips,” which begins with spacy, soundtrack-like music (I kept thinking it would fit well at the beginning of a sequel to the sci-fi cult classic “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”). It then moves into the most “fusion”-like territory on the EP, with echoes of Herbie Hancock in his “Thrust” phase. There is also a strong “livetronica” feel here, which is actually present throughout this entire collection of songs, but especially on this one.

Dylan Johnson. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Dylan Johnson. Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

The fourth track, “Elfie,” is the darkest-feeling one on the record: despite its rather whimsical-sounding title, the feel is almost dirge-like, and the voice samples have a sad and frightened feel. But keep going, there’s power and beauty ahead, and a truly well-told story must acknowledge the darkness on its way to the shimmering lights in the distance.

Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

Photo Credit: Derek Miles Photography

I didn’t ask Dandu’s apparent leader/mastermind Sean Dandurand what any of these titles mean (though I’m guessing there are obscure stories and inside jokes behind each of them), so I don’t have any clear idea why the fifth song is called “Moot the Destroyer.” For me, though, this track has the most purposeful feel of any of them: the song strides forward with a clear sense of destination. Maybe it’s whoever this Moot character is pushing on to more destruction, or possibly the story’s protagonist going to stand up to the Destroyer, but maybe all we need to know for sure is that something’s happening, and it’s a powerful moment.

Everyone who listens to Caught Between will get something different out of it, and indeed that’s a big part of its value: this music doesn’t try to direct the listener to feel or think any one specific thing, but rather provides a vast array of possibilities and encourages free association and imagination. For this listener, the biggest payoff comes in the closing track, “All It Could Be.” There’s a great feeling of hope and potential fulfillment in this dreamy, pastoral, and beautiful song, along with a wistful sense of wonder. And Sean Dandurand’s vocals have me hoping I will hear more of his singing and lyrics in future recordings.

In a band whose power comes mostly from the strength of its players, Dandu is exemplary: Sean Dandurand is simply one of the best bassists around, and his diverse talents on his instrument can also be heard in the aforementioned Other Black, where he ably holds down the bottom with style and aplomb. Keyboardist Ben Weirich has been one of my favorite local players since I first heard him about six years ago with the now-defunct but great group People’s Abstract (in which Dandurand also played, and was where the two first met). Weirich uses the keyboards in ways I’ve never heard anyone else do, filling the space between the drums and bass with rich textures. And drummer Dylan Johnson has also more than proven himself as a member of Other Black, though to my ears, it’s in Dandu where he truly gets to show everything he’s capable of, with his inventive and many-shaded uses of the drum kit.

Watch Dandu's video for "Heartbeats Break":

It’s been a busy and triumphant summer for Dandu: I was lucky enough to catch them twice, first with local psychedelic groove-monsters Mlima at CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, and then as openers for jazz supergroup Hudson (John Scofield, John Medeski, Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier) at Chautauqua Auditorium. Since then they’ve toured the West Coast and followed that with a string of performances at the recent UMS fest in Denver. But just as summer isn’t over, neither is their conquest of the season: before heading out for another tour, this time in the Midwest, lucky local music lovers get one more chance to catch them in Denver, when they support the great Jacob Collier at the Bluebird Theater next Tuesday, August 22nd. With Mile High Soul Club also on the bill, we’d all be wise to queue up for tickets now. It’s bound to be a spectacular night!

Keep up with Dandu on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their website.

-Will

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

Mlima Goes Interstellar: Fiske Planetarium Concert To Become New Album

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver’s Mlima have covered a lot of ground in the five years since their formation, but their journey, in a lot of ways, is only beginning. The group, who have coined the term “mountain groove music” in an attempt to encapsulate their sprawling sounds, first played together in 2012. Since then, they’ve played Red Rocks and were discovered and nurtured by the late legendary concert promoter Barry Fey; they’ve been with Fey’s management company, Feyline Presents, ever since. The band has also seen multiple personnel changes since their inception, with the one constant being percussionist Jack Breitenbach, the group’s founder. But as saxophonist/vocalist Zach Simms told me in a recent interview, it’s really been in the past year and a half that Mlima has found itself coalescing into the type of band that can look into the sky and say, “We could go there. And fill it with music.”

Mlima at Fiske Planetarium.

Mlima at Fiske Planetarium.

 In a very tangible way, that’s exactly what they did in their recent concert at CU Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium. Following a set of powerful, funky space-jazz by opening trio Dandu (definitely another Denver band to watch, by the way), Mlima populated the stage in their current incarnation featuring the locally ubiquitous vocalist Jessica Jones (who has sung with dozens of bands from the Glitta Kings to Galactic), masterful guitarist Jeph Kennedy, keyboardist Nate Todd (of Whiskey Tango and Jaden Carlson Band), bassist Ryan Thrush, drummer Lance Croucher, and the aforementioned Zach Simms on sax and vocals (also of Zobomaze and Like A Kenny G6). Together, these musicians proceeded to take the audience on a sonic journey that perfectly complemented the planetarium’s projected backdrop of intergalactic scenery.  

Watch Mlima’s live set at Fiske Planetarium: 

 

Aside from rallying all the talent onstage into an impressive and affecting musical whole, the concert marked another rather stunning achievement: virtually the entire set had been recently written by the band specifically for the planetarium concert, and the show was a debut performance of that material. This ambitious undertaking harkens back to another recent Mlima project, the transformation of their 2016 New Year’s show at The Bluebird Theater in Denver into the band’s soon-to-be-released next album, which drops August 17th, 2017. Much like this show, the Fiske Planetarium set will now be taken into the studio and made into the group’s next album, which they plan to release just a couple of months after the upcoming Bluebird record. These are not going to be live albums, but rather present an interesting twist on the live album formula: write a set for a specific show, go perform that show, and then take the material into the studio. If another band has taken that approach in the past, I haven’t heard about it! 

The tradition among local bands playing Fiske Planetarium has been to gear their sets toward the starry, trippy background of projections against Fiske’s domed ceiling, and for both Mlima and openers Dandu, this concert was no exception. But make no mistake that both bands, while playing sets that definitely leaned toward a reflection of the psychedelic/spacey feel of the visuals, did not skimp on the funk and hard grooves. Fiske has a largely seated arrangement, but that didn’t stop people from getting out of those seats and dancing in the aisles during portions of the show. Since most of the music in Mlima’s set was new, I of course didn’t recognize most of the songs, but for being brand-new material, there was no sense of the band “rehearsing” the songs onstage. In fact, many of these songs came across as anthems one might remember from dreams, or from life in another galaxy. With titles like “Planet Borscht” and “Hallucination Rain,” there was a sense of not only the type of tripping-through-the-universe groove which might remind one of Pink Floyd at their “Astronomy Domine”/”Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun” starry best, but also of the kind of mad fun one might find at a concert by Gogol Bordello, especially in the crazed performance of the Klezmer-party Mlima original “Kosher Dumpling,” which came near the end of the show and had Simms wandering among the audience honking on his baritone sax while audience members danced gleefully around him. 

The one song I definitely did recognize was their cover of the psyche-pop classic “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” which was Kenny Rogers’ first hit in 1968. Mlima did the song proud, ably abetted by Jessica Jones’ always soulful and hugely powerful voice. For as much as that girl gigs, I must admit rather shame-facedly that this was my first time catching a performance by her, and I was far from disappointed. Her vocals are indeed a local treasure, but then again, everyone in Mlima brought so much to the stage: Simms is an insanely watchable frontman and an excellent saxophonist, and all the other musicians displayed dazzling virtuosity while making it all look easy and ridiculously fun. They definitely made a fan of me, and I can’t wait to hear their two upcoming albums when they’re released nearly back-to-back later this year.  

I don’t know what Mlima were like when they started, but Barry Fey must have seen their potential when he arranged to have them open for The Disco Biscuits at Red Rocks during their first year as a band. It seems from that highly auspicious beginning, the band has truly grown into a full realization of that potential, and will go amazingly onward and upward from here: even the sky may not be the limit for this band.

Mlima play The Fox Theatre July 7th opening for Jaden Carlson and Broccoli Samurai. Tickets here. Keep up with Mlima on their Facebook.

-Will

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

Forward Funk: The Runnikine Release Debut Single + Hit Cervantes' with Joey Porter’s Shady Business

By: Will Baumgartner

Denver pop/funk/hip-hop fusion trio The Runnikine are something of a local “supergroup.” Keyboardist/vocalist Eric Luba plays with local funk/soul stars Analog Son, drummer Will Trask is in Great American Taxi, and bassist Jon McCartan is with rising Americana rock stars The Drunken Hearts. All of these bands are making a name for themselves nationally, and if there’s any justice in the music world, The Runnikine will soon follow in their footsteps.

The Runnikine. 

The Runnikine. 

For now though, the group is focusing on building a strong local following- and they’re doing that quite nicely, thank you. It doesn’t hurt that the members are gregarious fellows who, beyond their main gigs, play with anyone and everyone they can on the side: most music fans in the Denver/Boulder area know of these guys having seen them play at some of the area’s biggest all-star jam nights. The word is spreading among the musical and fan community that The Runnikine are a group to watch, and for good reason: Their music is powerful, innovative, and driven by solid grooves.

Laying the foundation for a move beyond local popularity requires coming out with a great recording, and The Runnikine are doing just that. “They Walk Among Us,” the first single from their upcoming debut EP (which is slated for a May release) is a gem. The song starts with block chords on the keyboard and kicks in with a solid hip-hop feeling backbeat; then Luba’s laid-back, pensive vocals reel out a picture of fearful mistrust and jingoism that, while it’s not overtly political, certainly speaks to the current political climate in Trump’s America. When I spoke with Luba about the song, he said it was actually written before the election and the anti-Muslim travel ban, making it an eerily prescient bit of songwriting.  

The verse moves through a couple of key modulations and more potent imagery before hitting the stark, simple chorus of the song’s title. I place a lot of stock in well-written lyrics, and have to say that the words to this song are very impressive with lines like, “They can’t see where they’re going/When their eyes are closed,” “It’s too late to run/They’re already here,” and “You tell me where we’re going/Just don’t say the war.” These words are carefully-chosen, chilling, and affecting. Musically, the song also bears the hallmarks of craftsmanship and thoughtful use of harmonics, dynamics, and melody. And the production, which was done by Josh Fairman of the local treasure of a recording studio known as Scanhope Sound in Littleton, is superb.

A song as well-crafted as this has me eagerly anticipating the release of the band’s full three-song EP, and fortunately I won’t have to wait long: May is just around the corner! In the meantime, we all have the opportunity to see The Runnikine live when they open for Joey Porter’s Shady Business this Friday, April 7 at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver. And speaking of supergroups, Shady Business features Porter, Garrett Sayers, Lyle Divinsky and Drew Sayers of The Motet, Kris Myers of Umphrey’s McGee, Jennifer Hartswick of Trey Anastasio Band, and Adam Smirnoff of Lettuce.

Aside from their hook-driven songs, The Runnikine are also highly adept at exciting live improvisation. That, after all, is how the band started- as a no-pressure side project for Luba and Trask when they were both in the Jaden Carlson Band. That was just a couple of years ago, and look how far they’ve come in such a short time. How far will they go? Hop on board with me, and let’s find out. Tickets to their Cervantes’ show are right here.

-Will

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

Robert Randolph and the Family Band 'Got Soul' And It Shows

By: Will Baumgartner

When I first heard of Robert Randolph, I was intrigued enough by the idea of a pedal steel guitarist playing a high-energy soul/blues/funk/groove mix that I pulled up a live video to see and hear what all the noise was about. What came up was a performance on David Letterman of Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s hit “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That.” I was immediately hooked, not only by the song itself and Randolph’s outrageously good pedal steel playing, but by the overall tightness and infectious joy of the band.

That was about 10 years ago. Last Friday night at The Fox Theatre in Boulder, I finally got to actually see and hear Robert Randolph and the Family Band live in person, and my initial impressions of the group not only proved themselves true, but were greatly expanded by this ridiculously fun, funky and soulful show. RRTFB haven’t just stood the test of time, they’ve grown into an irresistible force of nature. The band is aptly named, with Robert’s sister Lenesha providing hugely powerful vocal support and joyful showmanship, powerhouse drumming by Marcus Randolph, and their cousin Kasey Square on keys. And while bassist Steve Ladson and guitarist Ray Holloman may not be directly related, they sure act, play, and sing like family onstage.

The concert began with Robert playing solo, wrenching gutsy wailing sounds in a free-form bluesy style, out of his instrument. The band eventually wove into this soundscape, building on the power of the pedal steel’s soulful soliloquy, and then BOOM: They kicked into a sledgehammer-heavy and solidly uplifting version of Sam & Dave’s soul classic “I Thank You.” You’ve never seen a dance floor spring to life faster.

While the setlist I was provided had “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” listed as the second song, either I was already so deliriously hypnotized that I missed it, or they decided to forego the ol’ “Let’s give ‘em the hits!” approach, disregard the setlist, and play what felt right at the moment. This happened several times during the show, as when, midway through their set, they crunched their way through a badass instrumental reading of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”

The constant thread running through this celebratory show was Robert Randolph’s virtuosic pedal steel playing. The word “virtuoso” often makes me cringe just a bit, as it’s almost as overused as the word “genius.” But here I have no qualms: the man is a master of his instrument. Between virtually every song in the set he took little solo excursions, and while all members of the Family Band proved themselves powerful soloists, it was obvious why Robert was consistently featured: his inventiveness and fluency, his melodic improvisational skills, the sheer eloquence with which he joyfully tears into yet another solo break. All of these were heavily evidenced and undeniably exciting every time they were used. I never once thought, “Oh no, not another pedal steel solo!” To the contrary, every solo, every note he played just had me shaking my head in awe. Enough has already been said about the novelty of hearing a pedal steel guitar used outside of country music, especially in the way Randolph does. I’ll let it suffice to say here that if you haven’t checked him out yet, do it! Especially if you love funk and soul as much as I do. I haven’t been nearly as blown away by an unusual instrument in this type of music since seeing violinist Lili Haydn tear it up with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

Since the band is currently touring on their Got Soul album (released in mid-February of this year), it was no surprise to hear songs from it throughout the show. Standouts for me included the one-two punch of the title track leading into its “sister” song, “She Got Soul” (a tribute to mothers inspired by a Mother’s Day church service Randolph attended), the supremely soulful tunes “Love Do What It Do,” “Find A Way,” and “Shake It Off” with their inspirational messages of self-affirmation, the lovely “Heaven’s Calling,” and of course their rendition of “I Thank You.”

My number one criterion for rating a show is this: “Did I ever feel like it was okay to go outside for a break?” And my answer for this show was: “Nope!” I was fearful of missing anything. And when, near the end, Robert called out the members of opening act The New Respects for an onstage jam of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” I felt grateful for staying right where I was all night, though of course I had never stopped moving since the first song of the show. That’s another thing about Robert Randolph and the Family Band live: You just have to dance.

Robert Randolph.

Robert Randolph.

In chatting with Robert a bit before the show, I learned he and his family grew up in a Pentecostal church in which music played a huge part. In fact, their particular church has its own term for its music: “sacred steel.” One thing I was curious about was how Robert’s relationship with his family who are still involved in the church has been affected by his going out and playing “secular” music. He said it was “a little strained at first,” but that their relationship is still strong. To which I replied, “Oh, so it’s not like some of these religions where you actually get shunned if you leave? I’ve always thought that was so sad.” “Well I’ve been shunned by the church, though,” he said, “They don’t let me play there anymore. They call me the devil.”

Now that is truly a shame, and a mistake, and let me tell you why. I’m not religious, but I’ve seldom felt closer to something like heaven than I did at this show.

-Will

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

Millennial Wise: Chloe Tang’s 'Passion//Aggression'

By: Will Baumgartner

Louis CK, the brilliant comedian and social critic, has a bit in which he explains why a 50-year-old garbage man is more interesting than any 21-year-old with four degrees (or something to that effect). The bit is spot on, though like most philosophies, it does have its exceptions. Sometimes this baby boomer meets a millennial who feels wise beyond their years, and beyond “interesting” to the point of being rather fascinating. Though I haven’t met Chloe Tang in person, listening to her new EP Passion//Aggression is like meeting a young person who exceeds expectations and defies stereotypes.

Chloe Tang.

Chloe Tang.

The five-song disc begins quietly, and overall, the feel of the EP is just a bit more introspective than rocking. Still, each of the songs has a drive and momentum that’s infectious. “No One Will” has a lilting beginning, a building verse, and a breakaway chorus marked by its relatively stark instrumentation. Like several of the songs here, it’s about love gone awry, regret, and acknowledgement of the good in a sad situation. It’s a hallmark of all these songs that shows how a young woman can be wise: looking at herself as well as her lover, asking important questions, and sparing herself nothing in her reflections on the scene described. This girl pulls no punches, even when they’re aimed at herself.

The second song, “Electrified,” is one of my favorites for several reasons: as befits the title, it rocks at least as hard as any of the other tracks, it has a killer chorus, and I love a song that declares independence from a relationship that was more unhealthy than the other way around, or at least that’s what this listener got from the lyrics. Maybe Tang herself would tell me I read it wrong, but that’s another great thing about these songs: for the most part, her lyrics are sparsely imagistic and leave at least something to interpretation and imagination.

Watch Chloe Tang’s music video for “Forgive You Again”:

“Forgive You Again” is the release’s centerpiece, the first single, and there’s a great video you should watch: I defy any sentient person to resist choking up a little seeing it; I certainly did. The song itself is a power ballad with a kind message: “When ghosts return/we always learn to find a way to balance and burn/They will make you confess your worst and your best/but maybe they’ll forgive you again.” It’s an undeniably sweet and powerful song; it also features what’s been dubbed the “Millennial Whoop”: a wordless refrain that uses the fifth and third of a major scale. When I chatted with Chloe on the phone, I mentioned this, and she was genuinely surprised that she’d used this device she’d never even heard about. To me, that’s further proof that she is overall a genuine and sincere soul; there’s no guile in her songwriting, just a lot of heart, and a songwriter doesn’t exist who hasn’t used common devices like this, whether consciously or not.

“Tell Me I’m Wrong” returns to the theme of self-examination and self-confrontation. Like I said, Chloe pulls no punches with lines like, “My excuse is I wasn’t awake” and “I woke up every day with a lie and a bluff.” Again, it’s a song that begins quietly, builds through the verse, and hones in with a powerful chorus, like having a frank conversation with oneself.

The EP’s closer, “Till I Get Up,” is in a lot of ways the strongest song here. It begins with a groovy soul bassline and proceeds to rock righteously through the verse and chorus. The lyrics stress persistence through difficulties leading to a strong resolve, and the overall result is a song that feels like an anthem you want to shout along with. “It’s me against myself and all my ghosts;” “And it keeps pushing waiting for me to make a fuss/but I breathe, I breathe, I breathe till I get up.” Tell it, sister!  

Chloe Tang is indeed 21 years old, and I didn’t ask her much about her education, but I don’t think she has any degrees yet, let alone four: she currently studies songwriting at CU Denver, and went to a charter arts school in her native state of Arizona prior. She began playing piano and singing at the age of five, and started writing songs at about age 15. She grew up on folk (her Dad’s influence), is a fan of James Bay, Kaleo, Of Monsters and Men, and Amber Run, and has been lately getting into classic rock. She also confesses a love of “corny pop from the eighties.” I may not share all her tastes, but I’m sure we could have at least one long and fascinating conversation about music, and yes, about life: she might even teach me a thing or two! I’m definitely going to be at her EP release show at the Hi-Dive this Thursday March 9th because after listening to this young woman’s music, I just have to see what she does with it live. Join me; tickets here.

-Will

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

Chris Robinson Brotherhood Are Bringing The Love to Denver This Thursday

By: Will Baumgartner

A consciousness shift is happening around the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. A handful of years ago, the most common response to hearing the band name might have been, “Oh, you mean the guy from The Black Crowes?” But today when I say, “Chris Robinson Brotherhood is coming to The Ogden this Thursday, February 2nd, and of course I’ll be going to the show,” I’ve been met with responses like, “I love that band! Can I go with?” or “I’ve heard their shows are great, I should get tickets to that too.”

Yes you should. CRB, as they’re affectionately known by fans, consistently deliver rousing and inspiring performances rich with not only high-level musicianship and song-craft, but also a sense of family, belonging, and welcome with every show. This spirit of openness and warmth is reflected in the titles of their two nearly back-to-back 2016 releases, 'Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel' and its companion EP from the same recording sessions, 'If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now.' Released on July 29th and November 4th of last year respectively, CRB painted a two-paneled picture of a group of musicians and songwriters who manage to be hard-grooving, thoughtful, and fun all at once using a varied palette of musical styles and influences. Who wouldn't want to be in on one of their concert experiences and feel like they’re a part of that family?

Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

CRB have been around since 2011, but the feel of their most current records, their first self-produced releases recorded on the side of Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco, are of a family that have grown together through extensive touring, collaborative songwriting, and endless conversations around meals cooked by band members. They visit record stores everywhere they go and stack their newly-purchased vinyl on their tour bus turntable every night. The group’s core: Chris Robinson on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Neal Casal, and keyboardist Adam McDougal (who stepped over from The Black Crowes) have been together since the beginning, and are now all involved in the songwriting process. Drummer Tony Leone (Ollabelle) brings a touch of his jazz background to the grooves, and has also joined in on the songwriting, and bassist Jeff Hill holds it all together with a deeply soulful pocket.

Watch CRB play "Narcissus Soaking Wet" live:

The band’s latest recordings also show a group that has grown beyond its former identification as a Deadhead-type act into something richer and more difficult to pigeonhole into any simple genre classification. The cosmic funk of 'Anyway You Love...'’s opening track, “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” lets us know right away that the vistas have widened for CRB with echoes of Sly and The Family Stone and early Funkadelic wafting through the grooves. The lyrics, too, are far from simplistic, revealing a sociological awareness, an artful use of stream-of-consciousness imagery, and a sly humor that outstrips most jam-band lyrics by miles. Listening all the way through 'Anyway You Love' is a trip that takes you through a mid-60s-Dylan-esque time (think Highway 61 Revisited / Blonde On Blonde) with a stint into The Band-style Americana on “Ain’t It Hard But Fair,” more groovy and variegated scenery on “Give Us Back Our Eleven Days,” “Some Gardens Green,” “Leave My Guitar Alone,” and “Oak Apple Day,” (which is actually a song about CRB). The record then ends with the heartfelt, Gospel-soaked “California Hymn,” and as any good trip should always stop with near-religious feeling of wholeness and peace, this one certainly does.

If 'Anyway You Love' is an extended trek, 'If You Lived Here...' is a day trip into side roads and lesser-known destinations, some of them practically off the map. “New Cannonball Rag” has a swinging, rolling feel again reminiscent of some of The Band’s best stuff, “Roan County Banjo” goes from country-ish to almost discordant craziness at the end, and the jaunt continues through a few more changes in scenery to end on the gentle empathic kindness of “Sweet, Sweet Lullaby.”

Neal Casal. 

Neal Casal. 

In anticipation for this Thursday’s Ogden show, I recently got the chance to ask CRB guitarist Neal Casal some questions about the band, life on the road, and music in general. His answers shed more light on CRB’s latest sounds, and the inspirations behind their newest music:

It’s easy to see why the word “brotherhood” is part of your band name; there’s a clear feeling of love and community in your music. Do you feel that’s been growing the longer you’ve played together? 

The sense of community that The CRB promotes is definitely growing the longer we play together. We’re entering our seventh year as a band, and the seeds we planted back in 2011 are definitely showing flowers now, and it’s a nice thing to see. We have a great group of fan/friends/family across the country and we’re looking forward to another year of touring and visiting everyone. 

How do you feel that the in-studio writing process of 'Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel' affected the way the songs on the album turned out? 

It brought more immediacy to our process and applied some pressure to us, which turned out to be a good thing. Everyone hates deadlines but sometimes they can be good; they can force you to do things that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise. 

I’d imagine that working with the relatively new rhythm section of Tony and Jeff has brought about some changes in the band’s overall feel. Has that felt like a pretty organic process? What do you think these guys have brought to CRB’s sound and vibe? 

Tony and Jeff have changed the sound of our band dramatically and brought so much musicality, fluidity, and versatility to our sound. I can’t say enough great things about these guys and how important they are to the sound, but also to the vibe of the band. With them, we can explore any kind of music we like, and there’s a sustainability to our future that we had never felt previously. 

I’ve seen some hopeful signs among the music community that people seem to be rediscovering a respect and appreciation for the album as an art form unto itself, and there’s definitely a feeling of intention in the way 'Anyway You Love' and 'If You Lived Here' are put together. Did the band spend a lot of time just looking at these releases as whole documents and shaping them accordingly, or was that more of a quick, intuitive thing? 

We’ve always approached records as complete documents because that’s how we grew up thinking of them, and that’s how we’ve always worked and always will work. There’s no rediscovering anything for us: this is our way of life.

I hear so many different possible influences in your playing that I’m not even going to bother speculating- so who have some of your biggest influences been on guitar? 

Malcolm Young, Magic Sam, Dickey Betts, Blind Owl Wilson, Robert Nighthawk, Mick Taylor, Ry Cooder, Clarence White, Nic Jones, Ollie Halsall, John Renbourn, Doc Watson, Scott Gorham, Julian Bream, Baden Powell, Leo Nocentelli, Randy RhoadsFreddie King, Mississippi John Hurt, Jim Hall, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and of course, the great Gabor Szabo.

On an average afternoon, or an evening off, what might be a handful of albums you’d be listening to? 

Incredible String Band - The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
Magic Sam - Black Magic 
Charlie Rich- The Essential Charlie Rich
Ronnie Lane - Anymore For Anymore
Cass McCombs - Mangy Love
Bobby Hutchinson - Components
Kacy And Clayton - Strange Country
Eddie Bo - Hook And Sling
Kimono My House - Sparks

CRB. Photo Credit: Stuart Levine

CRB. Photo Credit: Stuart Levine

Your songwriting relationship with Chris has clearly grown over the years. When you first joined, was it more of a thing where he brought in the songs and you just played leads, or have you worked together on songs since the beginning? 

We worked on songs together from day one and have always cultivated our writing partnership. He had some songs he’d written on his own and will always do that, but we really enjoy writing songs together and it’s a big part of our work flow. 

There’s a quote from Chris I read recently, “These are our services when we play our music.” I love that because it evokes a church-like atmosphere, and while I’ve never been “religious,” there’s an undeniable power in church services- a sense of people collectively reaching for some power bigger than themselves, and a joyousness in that collective effort. How does The CRB engage and work with the audience to get that feel?

Human beings are made of music; it’s as ancient and innate in us as anything can be. So we’re just taking part in this time-honored ritual of invoking it, and stirring it in people. We’re just a reminder to let you know that’s it’s there inside, and needs to be related to. The muse is not something to be ignored, in anyone, ever. It needs expression in the form of dancing, singing, or just hanging out and listening and being a greater part of your community. So we’re just here to help that process along. 

Any special treats or surprises planned for this Thursday? Have have you guys ever played The Ogden before? 

We’ve never played The Ogden, so we’re really excited about that. Denver was one of the first cities that really took us in during our earlier years, so it’s always a special place for us. 

After you wrap up your current tour in New Orleans on March 31st, what’s next?

More touring throughout the year, and we’re releasing a new record later this year as well. Looking forward to it all!

CRB tour often and are well into their latest journey, so this Thursday is a great time to catch them live and join the party! They hit The Ogden Theater in Denver this Thursday, February 2nd (I’ll be there!), and continue on to The Center for the Arts in Crested Butte this weekend, The State Room in Salt Lake City next week, Sheridan Opera House in Telluride 2/10-2/11, and The Belly Up in Aspen on 02/12. Their tour will continue through New Mexico, Alabama, California, Nevada, and West Virginia, wrapping up at one of their favorite gatherings, Hogs For The Cause, in New Orleans on March 31st. Stay tuned because CRB are already recording a new album, and I, for one, can’t wait to hear it.  

-Will

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

10 Commandments and 8 Questions: A Conversation with Slim Cessna

By: Will Baumgartner

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is a Denver institution. The band has survived 24 years (you read that right; they formed in 1992) without even a “hiatus,” let alone a “breakup” despite members living in different states for large chunks of those years. For this alone they deserve not only credit, but a certain awe, for as anyone who has tried to run a group knows, it’s hard enough to keep things going when you all live in the same town, let alone all over the country. Add on the fact that the band creates amazing music together, performs like they’ve just brought an insanely fun party from their house into the club, and has brought their party to Europe with great success, and you have the makings of a great story about perseverance and love in the modern music business. Actually, let’s call that a novel: Where most bands’ careers can be read more like short stories, SCAC’s is more of an epic tale.

The band’s music has been called everything from “experimental rock” to “alt-country,” but after experiencing them live, on record, and in their sublimely strange videos, facile categorizations need to go out the window: This is just an amazing band. No discussion of the group would be complete without some mention of Slim’s “sidekick” Munly, a wickedly talented songwriter and bandleader (Munly and the Lupercalians) in his own right. Munly, who joined SCAC in 1999, has been the group’s main songwriter for years and wrote all the songs on 'The Commandments According to SCAC,' the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on their own label, SCACUnincorporated. The rest of the band, with Lord Dwight Pentacost on custom-designed double-neck guitar, multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Vera on keys, pedal steel, cello and more,  bassist Ian O’Dougherty, and drummer Andrew Warner are all consummate musicians and performers.

'The Commandments' came out in September of this year, and is an outrageously good album, with videos for each of its 10 songs on YouTube, which provide their own otherworldly visual experience as a foil to SCAC’s music. There are plenty of live videos online as well, and checking out a few of those is a great way to get prepped for what will no doubt be two of the best concerts of the year, when Slim Cessna’s Auto Club take over 3 Kings Tavern in Denver for two New Year’s shows on December 30th and 31st.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club.

In an attempt to prepare myself for the excitement and madness that is a SCAC show, and to better understand the workings of the group and the mind of its frontman, I sat down with Slim and asked him a handful of questions. I was impressed by his humor and graciousness; he couldn’t say enough about Munly and all the members, including Vera and Lord Dwight (with whom he also has an “experimental folk” quartet he clearly loves called Denver Broncos UK or DBUK). In fact, he seemed much more eager to talk about his beloved bandmates than himself.

In a section of our conversation that occurred before the “official interview” that follows, I asked Slim about the somewhat unusual situation of the frontman not being the main songwriter. With characteristic humility, Slim said, “We play to our strengths, and Munly’s has always been songwriting. I’m mostly good at putting on a show and acting like an idiot.” The band’s New Year’s shows at 3 Kings will no doubt prove once again how outrageously good he is at putting on a show, and his answers to my questions prove clearly that there’s a very intelligent man behind that act. Read on:

The main thing that has always struck me about Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is how the dark subject matter of most of your songs is juxtaposed against the delirious fun of how they’re performed. Is this deliberate?

No. I don't think the songs need to be considered dark. I think of them as life-affirming good stories. The narrator in each story is always seeking redemption through whatever source they are able to understand. Yes, we do have delirious fun. 

The hellfire-and-brimstone aspects of your Baptist upbringing get a humorous treatment in your music. Were your parents very seriously religious, or was the church just one part of their whole cultural picture?

I wasn't raised in a fire and brimstone Baptist church. It was much more conservative than that. We sang hymns and it wasn't anything like our shows. Much has been made of our performance that compares us to a tent revival. I think that's based on reputation and what has been thought and then repeated over the years. I suppose that's understandable given our sometimes over the top live performances. We also don't shy away from using biblical content. 

Check out Slim Cessna’s Auto Club’s video for “Commandment 3”:

How did the Auto Club originally get together? Were you already friends with some of the members?

Always only friends.

It’s always a plus for me when the members of a band seem to be real friends who enjoy and love each other onstage and off, rather than just being sort of “business partners” and SCAC definitely comes across as group who are actual friends. How do you feel this helps your music and performances?

This is my family. This is important. We all have each other's backs. 

SCAC.

SCAC.

During the years when you were all living in different parts of the country, did it ever feel like too much work to keep the band going? How did you manage working up new material and rehearsing it?

It was more work than was good for us. We did our best to maintain and continue. Somehow we managed.

SCAC’s music has been categorized a few different ways, including “alt country,” “gothabilly,” and even “Southern gothic,” but in conversation you call it simply “American folk music.” Do you find these attempts to pigeonhole what you do limiting or superfluous?

Gothabilly keeps showing up on Wikipedia. I've personally logged on to erase it, but it always comes back. Who does that? It's my least favorite word. It reminds me of muscle-bro-cartoon-looking-characters with perfectly dyed pompadours and face-makeup. I thank God every day we are nothing like that. 

How did starting your own record label and recording your album DIY affect the whole process of making 'The Commandments According to SCAC'?

Recording and releasing on our own has been wonderful. We had to learn to rely on each other in new ways. We discovered new gifts even after decades of friendship. 

Listen to The Commandments According to SCAC on Spotify:

After getting some well-deserved rest in January, y’all hit the road again in February for a tour of the Western US, and then head right back to Europe. Seems like there’s no rest for the wickedly talented. Would you be happy going on this way indefinitely?

Yes. What else do we have anyway? We have nothing to fall back on. I suppose I'll do this 'til I die.

Make sure to hit up one of SCAC’s New Year shows this weekend. Details here and I’ll see you there!

-Will

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

Moon Hooch: Transcendence, Dance Music, Saxophones, & Drums

By: Will Baumgartner

The sensational New York-based trio Moon Hooch have generated a huge international buzz with their joyful, intense, explorative, dance-friendly music; a buzz that has grown from their early days a few years back playing on subway platforms in NYC to touring with the likes of Beats Antique, They Might Be Giants, and Lotus, all while selling out their own shows at venues across the nation.

Moon Hooch.

Moon Hooch.

This Saturday, October 29th, the trio will play Boulder’s Fox Theatre, and there are still some tickets here. Currently, the crew is touring in support of their wonderful third album 'Red Sky'. The group, which consists of saxophonists Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen plus drummer James Muschler, create vast soundscapes and irresistible dance party music with just these three instruments filtered through a bit of electronics. Their music is in large part an outward expression of their own spirituality and activism: they all meditate and do yoga, practice conscious eating habits, and are constantly involved in work with organic farmers and other groups working toward social and cultural change. With these things in mind, I sat down with McGowen and tried to gear my questions toward the seemingly unlikely connection between their ass-shaking music and their spiritual and cultural efforts. The result was a conversation that, like their music, was both fun and thought-provoking.

First things first- is there a particular meaning behind the name Moon Hooch?

No, actually there isn’t. It means something, but we came up with the name kinda randomly. One day we were playing in the subway and people started dancing, and we were kinda surprised because we weren’t really planning on starting a band. So a person asked us what the name of our band was, and Mike just randomly said ‘Moon Juice’. We went home and googled it and there were four other bands with that name. We looked up synonyms for juice and hooch was one of them, so we went with that.

Watch Moon Hooch's music video for "EWI":

How has your music changed since your debut album, which came out in 2013?

We started out playing in the subway and that was completely acoustic. When we started playing in bigger rooms, I wanted to use more bass, and that’s why we started using the traffic cones, which we put in our saxophones. It creates a bass frequency that makes the subwoofers in clubs respond more. I also bought a contrabass clarinet, which goes as low as 33 Hz, and we have come up with this intricate system of using electronics as spice but not substance. We produce all the sounds acoustically, and then process them through a computer, and that gives us the ability to emulate the sounds of drops and buildups that are common in electronic dance music.

You've talked about incorporating the energy and activity from your surroundings into your music. What's the difference between doing that in the subway and onstage in front of a paying audience? What are the similarities or constants between these two settings? 

The similarity is that you have to give everything you have and be in the moment. If you’re thinking about something else, whether onstage or in the subway, the crowd will respond less. So I think it’s pretty much the same. Maybe onstage you’re a little more focused because people are there and giving you their attention, whereas on the subway you have to grab people’s attention.

Like more and more musicians these days, you've been very vocal about your spirituality, and publicly involved in activism. How do your yoga and meditation practices affect your music? What are the causes you're most involved with as activists? 

It’s a systemic problem we have: culture has spiraled out of control based on domination, greed, fear, and competition, and that has manifested in so many ways. Anywhere you look, you’ll find a manifestation of that core issue. For example, the fact that forests are getting cut down is because we value trees more as a commodity of profit rather than as a breathing, living organism that helps our planet and our species stay alive. It’s a very selfish mindset that leads to this. And that’s only possible because people have become so hardened; they don’t feel their heart as much anymore, and actually don’t really care.

We have so many layers of fears and insecurities and our own issues that really prevent us from caring about others. In the school system, you can find the same sort of issues. We’re getting trained to be functioning members of society; that’s really the main goal of the school system. It’s not really to help a child explore their own purpose and find out who they really are. Most people coming out of school have no idea what they want to do or who they are. This sort of culture is robbing us of our identity.

I see us as spiritual beings: we are consciousness in human form. And as such, we are actually not that interested in material things! These things are all conditioned into us. They’re conditions of being in a body, and in this culture that we crave money and power and all these things, but our true purpose lies in unfolding our loving potential. That’s what spirituality is for me: a way of navigating through all these negative fears and habits and finding our true selves. You can do that through yoga, meditation, music: through anything that allows you to train your focus and clarify your intention. I think you could be making burritos and have very spiritual experiences. If you’re fully present with the burrito, and the people you’re serving, then you have overcome some layers of social conditioning and have found a peaceful place in your heart. These ideas can be manifested in so many different ways, and we try to do it through our music.

Do you feel that you're making a difference in terms of raising consciousness in your fans? In what ways do you try to spread the word about your causes, and encourage people to embrace spirituality? 

I think a lot of people at our shows actually have spiritual experiences, whether they call it that or not.They have experiences that lift them out of their normal state of being. A state of being is essentially an agreement between the mind and the body, a way we interact with ourselves and our nervous system that feels normal to us, that we identify with. And I think that music can heighten the moment to the point where we break out of that and suddenly experience something beyond what we’re used to. I think many people use this experience to question themselves, question society, and grow as beings. I’ve certainly experienced this transcendental state through music, and thought, ‘Wow, I could feel that way all the time if I learn to find a way to transcend all these forces in life and really be expressive.’ So overcoming these things is something our fans do while listening to our music.

What do you want audience members to take with them from your shows?

[I want them to] realize the experience of being free and in the moment that they get at our shows can always be attained by working patiently and diligently [whether it's by] having a daily meditation practice, daily yoga practice, mindful eating, playing music... Whatever it is, being in the moment is something you can practice. And by creating a new state of being, which is really our old state of being, we can create a peaceful society. I think inspiring others to grow in this way is activism.

The album art for  Red Sky .

The album art for Red Sky.

I’m totally looking forward to being at The Fox show this Saturday, in the moment, and personally dancing myself silly! What's next for Moon Hooch? Do you plan to go back in the studio anytime soon?

Yes, we do! After this tour, we’re actually renting a house in the desert in Joshua Tree, California for two weeks, and we’ll be working on new music there for our next recording.  

Make sure to get your tickets to Moon Hooch at The Fox for this Saturday here. And keep up with the band on their website

-Will

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

Colorado Duo Niya & Kris Set Out On Tour For New Album Release

By: Will Baumgartner

Niya Nolting grew up singing in church choirs in New Orleans. At 16, she joined her first band, which led to her to being voted one of NOLA’s top “Women in Rock”... until they found out her age and disqualified her. But it was too late: Niya had been bitten by the performance bug, and has remained in love with singing and sharing her music ever since. While attending CU Boulder, Niya enjoyed some local recognition with her jazz band, Niya and the Satellites. She stayed in Colorado, met and married guitarist Kris Nickeson in a ceremony at Red Rocks, and released the album 'Through the Matter' in 2013, with a band calling itself simply “Niya”. The all-too-familiar pressures and difficulties of maintaining a full band led to the current stripped-down sound of the duo Niya & Kris, which is Niya’s most current project.

This Saturday, September 24th, Niya & Kris will perform at Westminster’s Orchard Arts Festival, and from there, they set out on tour. Their new album, 'Beneath the Watermark', will be released song by song starting this Christmas, with videos accompanying each track. The duo’s first single will be “Where the Rain Held Weight”. Niya’s music reflects her entire history, with influences from rock, jazz, and New Orleans swamp soul. I recently had the chance to discuss Niya’s diverse and powerful sound with her in a conversation that really dug into the hardship and beauty that gives rise to her music. Check it out for yourself:

How did growing up in New Orleans and singing in church affect who you are as a singer and songwriter?

Having New Orleans woven into the fabric of my music challenges me as a singer, but at the same time helps me relax into something familiar and true. The challenge is to always remember that spiritual base that brought me to singing by keeping faith and conviction in the words and message I am conveying with my voice. Today, this emotional honesty is a soul-baring process that takes me on a journey through the fear of opening up to the satisfaction of having done it. Having been exposed to so many styles of music growing up has made me eclectic as a singer, and I feel at home singing everything from blues, to rock, to jazz and soul because in a way, New Orleans lives through me.     

You joined your first band at 16. Did you get hooked on performing outside of church right away?

Yes. I remember the moment I fell in love with making music. It felt just like falling in love with a person. It was in my bass player’s garage and we were playing U2's song “Bad”. A feeling washed over me like I was somewhere else; a new place I had never been before. Now, I look for that place: a calm inside the music every time I play, and that’s when I know I’m doing it right. [It’s a feeling that] can be hard to gauge when you’re onstage, but in my experience, the only way to know you've engaged the audience is when that switch has been flipped inside of you.

Niya & Kris.

Niya & Kris.

You had a jazz band, Niya and the Satellites, when you were at CU. How did that group come together? What led you from rock to jazz?

I put a sign up in the CU auditorium looking for players, and my buddy Robbie Stiefel answered. He’s an amazing guitarist with an old-school country blues style of playing, which fit well with my eclectic vocals. My daughter had a friend in school whose dad played piano, Bill Giebler. His piano became the heart of the music we produced together, and the three of us became quite a writing trio. My rock style went to the wayside because the jazz needed room to grow, and my musical style expanded because of it. The songs coming out on my next album were mostly written with this crew.

After Niya and the Satellites, you went back to rock. Did that have anything to do with the sad fact that jazz is so underappreciated in America, the country where the form was born?

The blues/rock/soul album I released in 2013, Through the Matter, was composed of music I had written before the Satellites that I needed to get out. It made sense at the time to go back to what I had been doing on my own before the jazz. Now, I [play all styles] in my shows with my husband Kris Nickeson. His jazz/funk background has brought me back to where I need to be, which is right in the middle of rock and jazz. Being a duo allows the music to be free from style restrictions, because no matter what you play, you sound like two people playing on a porch somewhere.  

Album artwork for  Through the Matter .

Album artwork for Through the Matter.

Do you find musical pleasures in this two-piece, stripped-down approach?  

The songs from Through The Matter are as beautiful and fun to play as a duet as they were with a full band. I can play them alone, as a duet, or with a full band and the story stays the same. I am loving the duet approach because we can hear and play off of each other better while enjoying our companionship as husband and wife, singer and guitarist, music lovers, and friends. There is nothing more exciting than holding down the rhythm while my husband rips out an amazing solo. It has made me a better guitarist, singer, and percussionist since I get to do all three.

You’re releasing your next album, 'Below the Watermark', song by song, with a video to accompany each song. That’s quite a project! What was behind your decision to adopt this ambitious approach?   

The music world has become more visual with YouTube and Facebook the way it used to be with MTV. Personally, I love that. It has pushed me to learn video production, which I find I truly enjoy as much as making music. Both of my grandmothers were painters, and I loved to draw before I was lured into the music world. So now, I feel like I’m going back to my roots in a way, and can convey my ideas with more of my talents. It is ambitious, which is why it takes time, but each song will be like its own little album, a piece of the bigger picture. I can see all the videos and music complete in my mind as I perform them at Red Rocks one day, which is a dream my husband and I both share. He asked me to marry him there; it would be amazing to come full circle and see that dream complete.   

You told me in an earlier conversation that your new tunes have a more “swampy, New Orleans vibe” than the songs on 'Through the Matter'. Was that a direct result of the fact that, on at least some of these songs, you were writing about your family and the hurricane? Did you write any of the songs in New Orleans?

The “new stuff” is really what I wrote with the Satellites, and now it is finally coming to the light. Below the Watermark is a compilation of songs dedicated to my family, and much of it is about living there and what it felt like to go through something life-changing with my family. I was living in Colorado when [the hurricane] happened, but my heart was with them when I wrote this music. “Below the Watermark”, the album’s title track, is a fan favorite, and “Where the Rain Held Weight” is another. This record has been a long time coming because honestly, it took that long for our hearts to heal. I want this music to be a celebration of our family and all the New Orleans families that endured and persevered through tragedy.

I know this can be a tough one for any artist, but can you tell our readers, in a few words, what the essence of your music is, and what you hope listeners will take away from it?

Life is hard and beautiful. My intention is to bring myself and those who choose to journey with me through the hard parts to something beautiful. I’m using the power of my voice and the rhythm of my words to bring listeners with me to that calm place; the one I’m always trying to reach when I perform. It's that same magical place that I found in the church choir, in the garage band, and now in our husband/wife duet. It seems a waste to keep that to myself, so I share it in hopes of making people feel better and less alone.

Tell us a little about The Orchard Arts Festival and what we can expect from your set this Saturday?

Westminster has an amazing arts community in its historic downtown. The Orchard Arts Festival highlights local musicians and artists, and I am excited to be one of them. We play from 11:30AM-12:30PM, but the festival opens at 10AM. We will kick off our set with tunes from Through the Matter, and some old blues by popular artists like Elvis. I'll pepper in some swampy jazz tunes from our upcoming album too. I’m also paying tribute to a female artist that left us too soon, but in order to know who that is, you'll have to come see and hear for yourself!

What’s next for Niya & Kris?

Our master plan is to tour the world together playing music, while expanding our repertoire and performing shows that are studies of past artists. To be diversified is to live in this business, so we are writing shows that will showcase artists from the past like Billie Holiday. We’ll perform some of their songs, tell stories about their lives, and shed some light on the origins of music and why it drives people like us to dedicate our lives to performing. We are starting by expanding in Colorado, with more shows throughout the state, and in neighboring states. Our first mini-tour starts in Moab, Utah and will end at a house party in Logan. More dates and places will be added as we go along. Eventually, all roads lead to Red Rocks; at least that is our underlying prayer: to show our love for one another and the music that we create in the most beautiful music venue on Earth.

Make sure to see Niya & Kris this Saturday at The Westminster Orchard Arts Festival. Details on the event can be found here.

Keep up with Niya & Kris on their website.

-Will

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