The Malai Llama Lit Up The Fox Theatre's Stage Like A Wild Fire

By: Jura Daubenspeck

Spring has sprung, and Colorado has been keeping it as colorful as ever with vibrant sunsets, cool breezes, and music that won’t quit. Friday night at the Fox Theatre was one for the books, as experimental rock’s bad mama jamas The Malai Llama put on a headlining performance that exploded with color and rhythm.

The Malai Llama at The Fox Theatre last weekend. Photo Credit:   Kaotic Design Productions

The Malai Llama at The Fox Theatre last weekend. Photo Credit: Kaotic Design Productions

The venue was packed with new grads and rascals alike, all greeting the weekend with smiles, twirls, and yes- even a few dance-offs. Local improvisational rock group Intergalactic Peace Jelly took to the stage first, inviting attendees onto their spacecraft and blasting off for the night. Their experimental, jam-heavy set was the perfect launching point for the remaining performances.

The second act, Woodshed Red, brought up the energy in a totally different way, covering a variety of songs, with my personal favorites being “Ramble On,” “Nuthin’ But a G’Thang,” and “Colt 45.” The way they incorporated the fiddle and standup bass to create gritty twists to classic tunes made my heart sing.

By the time The Malai Llama took the stage, the crowd was fired up and ready to be wooed- and this band absolutely did not disappoint. There were so many aspects of Malai Llama’s set that blew me away: Jennifer Hartswick’s slay-worthy vocals in the “Immigrant Song” cover, the band’s mesmerizing onstage chemistry, and of course, the incredible lightwork with colors galore. However, what stood out to me the most was their dynamic force that made each song so unique. They managed to fill their two-hour set with so many different emotions and energies, playing songs such as “Allocamelus,” “Gentle Giant,” and “Cockeyed.” They toyed with metal-like riffs, hip-swaying funk beats, and electrifying dance music. Progressions were seamless, and no two songs sounded the same, leaving the crowd feeling satiated and at peace.

The band finished their performance with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” which had everyone embracing and feeling the love. The vibes were strong on Friday, as The Malai Llama welcomed the crowd acapella sing-along to their closing song.

Jennifer Hartswick. Photo Credit:   Kaotic Design Productions

Jennifer Hartswick. Photo Credit: Kaotic Design Productions

As an established musical dynamo within the Colorado scene, The Malai Llama has fearlessly put their killer chromatic tunes out in the world for all to hear. Their music moves as freely as the wild winds of Colorado, and the even wilder people living here. Be sure to check them out next time they hit the stage!

Connect with The Malai Llama on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

-Jura

All photos per Kaotic Design Productions. All videos, and embedded tracks per the artist 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.