Phoebe Bridgers' Colorado Live Debut Weaved Sadness Into A Celebration

By: Brody Coronelli

In the middle of her set at The Gothic Theatre in Denver last Friday, Phoebe Bridgers introduced a cover of Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out” by saying, “This is another sad one.” With exception of one or two, all of her songs are sad. But unlike the other melancholic crooners she takes after (Elliott Smith, Joni Mitchell, and Conor Oberst), she’s self-aware of just how sad her music is in a way that lends an endearing bite to the songs.  

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

The pop-sensible trio Daddy Issues opened the night, letting their unique brand of wry, infectious, and dark emo and grunge-pop brighten up the room before the sad songs kicked in. Their irresistible two-part harmonies reached a bright crescendo on the brooding, grungy cover of Don Henley’s "The Boys Of Summer." The song started out in rhythm with the original, but descended into a dark groove as they made the song their own while also maintaining its top-down, sunset-bound energy that makes it such a timeless hit. The band’s bright, infectious sound was a perfect introduction before Bridgers and her band dampened the eyes of a full theater of fans.

Bridgers has been on a steady rise over the last three years, due in part to the Killer EP recorded and released in 2015 through Ryan Adams’ label PAX AM. She’s also toured with Conor Oberst, Bon Iver, and Julien Baker. She’s not just another songwriter “making it” by having famous friends and collaborators though. Her immense talent as a songwriter and performer sent her debut album Stranger In The Alps to the top of numerous “Best of 2017” lists, asserting her as one of the year’s most promising new artists. She’s currently on her first headlining tour, aptly called “The Farewell Tour.”

Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

Her set on Friday night included her debut album in its entirety, as well as two covers and some deeper cuts. The live versions of these songs often left a more powerful impression than they did on the album, flourishing with added instrumentation that rendered them more gripping and upbeat. Tasteful, subdued drum fills from Marshall Vore and ambient, drawling guitar and pedal steel from Harrison Whitford turned songs that were formerly shadowy, acoustic crooners into blossoming, intricate arrangements that left a potent impression on the audience. The formerly stripped-down “Funeral” was re-imagined as a slow-burning rock song, with her full live band adding additional layers onto it’s already vibrant presence. “Would You Rather” received a similar live treatment, only this time it was sung as a duet with Whitford instead of Conor Oberst.

Bridgers’ aforementioned cover of the Tom Petty deep cut “It’ll All Work Out” was one of the set’s strongest moments. “I wouldn’t recommend tuning a baritone guitar even lower, but I love it, because it makes everything sound super emo!” she joked, before transforming a glistening, lighter-waving arena rocker into a melancholic, shadowy anthem that aims straight for the heart.

Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss

Photo Credit: Sierra Voss

She closed the set with “Scott Street,” and towards the end, she sent two massive black balloons filled with confetti into the audience. She encored with her haunting cover of Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart,” as well as a surprise cover of “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow; a song that declares, “If it makes you happy/ Then why the hell are you so sad?” The cover ended the show on a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek note that was incredibly refreshing. For someone who writes songs capable of levelling you with their sadness, seeing Phoebe Bridgers live never felt like anything shy of a celebration.

For a full gallery of photos from this show, click here

-Brody

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

Famous Men Release Debut Single & Video "Gambler's Cry"

By: Mirna Tufekcic

A brand-spankin’ new trio, Famous Men, who were forged while busking the Pearl Street Mall during the summer of 2017 in Boulder, Colorado, are coming out with their very first album Gambler’s Cry this spring. Recently they released a video for the title track from their upcoming record and we have it here for your viewing pleasure. Check it out below and get stoked for more cool things to come from these guys, like their weekly Facebook live shows every Thursday where they serenade you with originals and covers (of your choice!). You can follow them here.

The band focuses on traditional folk songwriting, while pairing it with rock’n’roll and blues, reminiscent of The Black Keys if they melded with The Wood Brothers and Ryan Adams. Hunter Stone, vocals and guitar of the band, brings a unique twist to this style with a raspy tone that is undeniably cool. His slide guitar skills kill too. Joe Plante on the bass and keys and Joshua Thomas on the drums add to the blues-rock-country feel of this band as a whole. In fact the vibes from these guys at their live performances simply capture the audience’s attention effortlessly. I know because I’ve already seen them on several occasions.

Famous Men.

Famous Men.

Famous men mean business and they deliver. So check them out here first with the video produced by the band themselves. Then make sure to go see them live. How will you know where and when? Head over to their Facebook page.

-Mirna

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

Getting Backstage: What It's Like to Volunteer for a Music Festival

Sunset at Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016.

Sunset at Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016.

Aside from performing, my favorite way to experience live music is behind the scenes. You’ve seen those people: slapping wristbands down the cattle lines at the Fox and Boulder theatres, standing cross-armed at festival gates, running cables across the stage. More often than not, those individuals aren’t being paid to be there, especially in festival settings. So what’s the glory in all of this? Much more than meets the eye. Despite many of the volunteer jobs being menial labor and requiring long periods of standing in one place (or, worse yet, running gear through throngs of leisurely festival-goers), there are definite perks to the job.

Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris.

Admittedly, my initial interest in volunteering at festivals was fairly self-serving: I’m broke, and I get to see really incredible music for free. However, my experiences as a volunteer have offered me so much more than just a free pass.

Lil' Smokies.

Lil' Smokies.

Last weekend was the second year I volunteered for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The festival is internationally recognized as a staple bluegrass festival, and yet part of what I love about it is that it’s not exclusively bluegrass. As a volunteer for the Nightgrass staff, I got into the festival for free (and early) and free camping (collectively a $340 value). Aside from that, I got a staff wristband giving me access to backstage and a meal card to get one free meal backstage per day. Altogether, this is approximately a $500 value to volunteer for five hours each night, which is a pretty sweet deal.

Punch Brothers.

Punch Brothers.

The five-hour shifts can be pretty lighthearted (generally really good people are drawn to volunteer positions), but they can also be brutal. You might have to deal with a belligerent drunk guy claiming he ordered a ticket in advance with no record of it; meanwhile his girlfriend has already slipped past security (a theoretical situation, of course… ). Or you might have to be the responsible adult telling people old enough to be your parents that, no, they can’t bring in their own alcohol (yeah, it’s awkward). Or worse yet, you might have to supervise a backstage door, in a dark hallway where nobody walks and you have to resist falling asleep at 2 AM after having been in the sun all day festivaling. As a volunteer, your position still requires the integrity to show up on time and do your job (and sometimes deal with people who bring out the worst parts of your humanity). With all this, you’re probably questioning if it’s really worth it. For me, absolutely.

Houndmouth.

Houndmouth.

The best part of volunteering is being part of this team, this community that puts on such an immense ordeal. Backstage, I walked past some of my musical idols (making an effort to be casual and contain the inner fangirl, ecstatic to be walking right behind Chris Thile). I ate in the same tent as the Stringdusters as if we were colleagues. I stepped out of a Porta Potti and told the fiddler from Mandolin Orange that I really liked their set as she was stepping in the one next to me. I sat in the VIP section for nearly every show on the main stage, including the front row for Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris, and I sat alongside the artists’ friends and family members (and sometimes the artists themselves), watching country legends like John Prine and emerging pop stars like Houndmouth and The Oh Hellos. I was part of it all.

Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange.

Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange.

If you’re interested in volunteering, do it, but only if it’s because you want to be part of the team. It’s gratifying to be a part of something so immense; something far more valuable than merely a free ticket. A lot of venues and festivals depend on volunteers and unpaid interns for success, so look into the events that interest you, research what volunteer positions are available, and figure out how to apply. It’s an incredible experience for those with their heart in it, and it will always be the second best way to experience live music for me.

Sara Watkins singing with John Prine.

Sara Watkins singing with John Prine.

Learn more about the Telluride Bluegrass Festival here.

-Riley

Find out more about me on my blog.

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

I Went to Telluride Bluegrass Festival & It Felt Like I Was In Narnia

By: Sierra Voss

Once upon a time there was a magical mountain town. This town was tucked way, way back into the San Juan Mountain range, surrounded on all sides by a box canyon, and scattered throughout it were cascading waterfalls. One day, the town decided to host a four day Bluegrass Festival. The festival would be made up of mouthwatering food stands, casual mountain-town vibes, and epic music lineups.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Magic Vibes.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Magic Vibes.

This town is Telluride, CO, and for the past 43 years, the magical story that is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has been happening every summer in the land that often leaves festival-goers wondering whether they’re at a four-day music event, or whether they’ve been transported to the wonderful world C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

Walking on Main Street. 

Walking on Main Street. 

One of the best parts about this festival is the diverse range of activities you can take part in throughout the day and night. Festival goers can break up the day by taking a dip in the beautiful river that runs near the fest, or start the morning off with a two mile hike to the famous Bridal Veil Falls. Not the outdoors type? No problem. You can still feel the magic of the place by taking a walk down Main Street and popping into all the fun mountain stores, bars, and restaurants.

Sun hats were key at TBF.

Sun hats were key at TBF.

Strolling through the festival grounds you’ll see people of all ages smiling, basking in the sun, and toe tappin’ to twangy guitar pickin’ tunes. And everyone has some sort of costume, whether it’s a group of girls adorned in badass sun hats or an eclectic gathering of people in Hawaiian shirts, overalls, or American flag everythang. Kids run around spraying people down with squirt guns, while adults head to purchase wine in sippy cups. All of these are part of the magical vibes that you will find at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris.

And then there’s the music. Whoever locked down the lineup for this year’s fest was born to crush. Bluegrass legends like John Prine and Dave Rawlings Machine shared the stage with amazing newcomers like Houndmouth and The Oh Hellos. Every band involved in the fest brought a new energy to the stage as the lineup throughout the four days flowed flawlessly from traditional bluegrass, to folk rock, to Americana and indie rock.

Narnia. 

Narnia. 

Eighty-degree bluebird days quickly turned into fifty-degree moonlit nights. The first evening of the fest, David Rowling Machine kept it somewhat mellow with haunting traditional bluegrass melodies. The following night, Greensky Bluegrass ripped up the stage, mixing controlled bluegrass roots with new chaotic punk rock sounds. The third night was a straight jam sesh, brought by Leftover Salmon. And finally, to close out the fest, we watched an incredible collaboration of artists sharing the stage, including Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton, and Stuart Duncan. Other special performances of note include when Ryan Adams was backed by The Infamous Stringdusters, and when Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek joined John Prine for a beautiful duet.

Views on views. 

Views on views. 

All in all, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival was a mystical amalgamation of nature, amazing music, and good times spent with friends. So was it Narnia? They might just be one in the same…

-Sierra

All photos per Sam Skinner. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 05/17, 05/18, & 05/19

By: Hannah Oreskovich

It’s been a bit since we’ve dropped a six! Hope you missed us Colorado- here are our weekend picks:

Today (Friday 06/17):

Dechen Hawk’s Jus’ Sayin’ CD Release Show at The Laughing Goat in Boulder 8PM-Close

Dechen Hawk.

Dechen Hawk.

Dechen Hawk’s project Jus’ Sayin’ is droppin’ new music tonight at the LG. Just yesterday, we brought you a sweet feature on Jus’ Sayin’s new self-titled release, which you should definitely peep before you roll over to this show. Performances by Colin Robison, Andrew Sturtz, Jarrad S.Menard, Katie Farmer, Mirco Altenbach, and Ben Rubin await your ears. Bonus: Tonight is Hawk’s birthday, so come celebrate with him and get rowdy! See you there.

Listen to Jus’ Sayin’s new single, “Drug of Choice”:

Evergreen and Boulder Sound Lab at Owsley’s Golden Road in Boulder 8PM-Close

Evergreen has landed Colorado.

Evergreen has landed Colorado.

Wisconsin’s fusion/jam rock outfit Evergreen will be making their way through Boulder as part of their summer tour tonight at Owsley’s. The four-piece describe themselves as “blending psychedelic rock, jazz, funk, country, and folk into a soulful and unpredictable groove”. Boulder Sound Lab will be sharing the stage with their “transcendental brain massage therapy” sounds. It’s gonna be a wild time, so come get down!

Listen to Evergreen’s High Noon Saloon album:

Tomorrow (Saturday 06/18):

The Pamlico Sound’s Funkstravaganza at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver 8PM-Close

The Pamlico Sound. Hamhock. Envy Alo. Gumbo le Funque. And Low Down Brass Band. All of these glorious funk forces are joining hands tomorrow in the name of danceability at Denver’s Cervantes’.  Earlier this week, we brought you an in-depth interview with Envy Alo, a band that’s reached notable success in less than a year. Lend an eye to that, and your ears to this show! Pastor Will B will make yah dance all night.

Listen to The Pamlico Sound’s “Let’s Funk” live performance:

Jaden Carlson Band at The Pub on Pearl in Denver 930PM-Close

Jaden Carlson.

Jaden Carlson.

It’s been five years since The Pub on Pearl featured music, but tonight, they’re bringing it back! And they’re making their music comeback with one of Colorado’s fastest-rising stars, Jaden Carlson. We first featured 15-year-old Carlson back in February when she headlined Boulder’s Lazy Dog for her very own birthday bash with friends from some of Colorado’s most well-known bands. Since then, the guitar-playing prodigy’s journey has only continued, so catch her while you can! Best part? It’s free!

Listen to Jaden Carlson’s original “Essium”:

All Weekend:

Denver Pridefest at Civic Center Park in Denver 10AM-6PM

fb-header-600x222.jpg

Musicians, artists, friends: Last Sunday’s tragedy in Orlando is still rippling through our brains. And that’s why we can’t think of a better way to spend our weekend than with our LGBTQ community at Denver’s Pridefest. There will be 250 vendors, several music stages, food trucks, and more. It’s your chance to stand up, be heard, be you, and cast fear aside for pride. Let’s do it crew.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, CO - Various Stages & Times

Bluegrass & Views.

Bluegrass & Views.

We sure love festival season! This weekend is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and some tickets and camping are still available for purchase. Though the fest started last night with a few performances, today is when the gates and camping actually open. Acts on the bill of note include Ryan Adams, The Oh Hellos, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Infamous Stringdusters, Emmylou Harris, and the Telluride House Band. We will have some coverage for you from the fest next week, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading CO.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured.

BolderBeat's Guide to Colorado's Summer Music Festivals 2016

By: Claire Woodcock

It finally feels like summer, so let's fest. 

We know you want to hit the festivals on our list. 

We know you want to hit the festivals on our list. 

It’s festival season, which has all of us here at BolderBeat elated. Press kits are flying, and we want you to be as on the curve as we are! So here are our top picks for Colorado’s summer music festivals:

Project Pabst May 20-21

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats at Denver's Project Pabst. 

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats at Denver's Project Pabst. 

Project Pabst was a wild success,” were Zach Dahmen’s words in retrospect of the festival that rocked Denver a few weeks ago. We brought you exclusive coverage on Best Coast, TV on the Radio and more in our feature of the event. Relive that time Charles Bradley almost did the splits and The Violent Femmes helped us blister in the sun with our photos per Ian Glass.

Sasquatch Music Festival May 27-29

Kurt Vile at Sasquatch.

Kurt Vile at Sasquatch.

BolderBeat had a press invitation to Sasquatch Music Festival this year, so we threw down content on The Cure, Disclosure, Florence and the Machine, M83, Grimes, Sufjan Stevens, Purity Ring, Kurt Vile And The Violators, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, and more! Take a scroll through our pictures right here and read over our recaps of the awesome weekend. It wasn't in CO folks, but it sure was awesome.

Sonic Bloom Festival June 16-19

The 11th annual Sonic Bloom Festival is coming up soon! This year, SB is at Hummingbird Ranch, nestled in the heart of Spanish Peaks country. The weekend will feature performances from Bonobo, Tipper, and a huge array of electronic beatmasters. The festival also features a crazy lineup of yogis and movement leaders, as well as interpretive artists.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival June 16-19

Telluride's Bluegrass Festival has been a massive success for 43 years. 

Telluride's Bluegrass Festival has been a massive success for 43 years. 

Telluride is known as one of the best festival spots of the west, and Telluride Bluegrass Festival has been keeping that notoriety alive for 43 years! The festival dates fall on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, giving you the longest day of the year to wander from set to set. Guests this year include Ryan Adams, Neil Finn, Emmylou Harris, and more!

Westword Music Showcase June 25

Summer in the city at Westword's Music Showcase. 

Summer in the city at Westword's Music Showcase. 

Denver’s alt weekly newspaper will host more than 100 live acts, most of which are Colorado-based. Denver band 888 is slated to play one of Westword’s main stages, while Cold War Kids, Matt and Kim, and New Politics front a lineup sure to make this year’s showcase a success.

The Ride Festival July 9-10

Views on views at Telluride's Ride Festival.

Views on views at Telluride's Ride Festival.

The Ride Festival, another Telluride fest, is one of the first live music/camp combos of the summer. Since 2012, this festival has firmly established itself in rootsy rock vibes. This year’s headliners include Pearl Jam and Cage the Elephant.

The Divide Music Festival July 22-24

divide-2016-lineup.jpg

Divide in Winter Park is a new music festival in Colorado this year. Its lineup boasts performances by Bleachers, Cake, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Kid Cudi, Miike Snow and more! Festival perks include hiking, biking and yoga for festival-goers.

The Underground Music Showcase July 28-31

For many Colorado musicians, UMS is one of the biggest festivals of the summer. Performers on the national scene include San Francisco garage rockers Thee Oh Sees. Go celebrate over 100 local performers making it happen in CO's music scene at this Denver setup!

Bass Center July 29-30

Bassnectar is bringing a massive show to CO.

Bassnectar is bringing a massive show to CO.

California’s Bassnectar first brought Bass Center to Colorado in 2010; this festival is the traveling circus of electronic music. The Bassnectar tour travels with its own custom sound rig, and headlines some of the most noted venues in the country. Acts this year include Flux Pavilion, Flying Lotus, Wu-Tang Clan, and Lupe Fiasco. You can check it out in Commerce City, and there are two camping villages for the hardcores: “The Shire” and “Narnia”.

Vertex Festival August 5-7

At its core, Vertex is diverse music, outdoor adventure, and artful fun in beautiful Buena Vista, CO. Alabama Shakes and Odesza are two of the headliners, to give an idea of the range of performers on this lineup. We’re covering press at Vertex, so expect lots of info to hit our site over the summer on this one!

ARISE Music Festival August 5-7

Nighttime shows at Arise rule. 

Nighttime shows at Arise rule. 

Here’s another festival that is Colorado heavy. ARISE will take place at Loveland’s Sunrise Ranch again this year, and features seven stages of live music, yoga, workshops, theme camps, art galleries & installations, a children’s village, speakers, and films!

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest August 12-14

Did we mention this fest is free?

Did we mention this fest is free?

Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest is a FREE, recurring, three-day music festival held every August in historic downtown Fort Collins. Local faves DeVotchKa and The Fray are headlining this bad boy, and there's a ton of other great local acts playing too. Check out the lineup here!

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival August 19-21

BYOBlanket to Rocky Mountain Folks Fest.

BYOBlanket to Rocky Mountain Folks Fest.

The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival is happening in Lyons, CO, a mountain town 15 miles north of Boulder that NPR’s All Things Considered once described as “the Nashville of the Rockies”. The festival recently added The Decemberists and Conor Oberst as national acts to their local lineup.

Riot Fest September 2-4

BolderBeat couldn’t be more excited to wrap up the summer festival roundup with Denver’s Riot Fest & Rodeo in September. With national acts like Sleater-Kinney, The Misfits and Yo La Tengo, to name a few, Riot Fest will be an explosive ending to the upcoming sunny summer of music!

Make sure to keep up with our festival coverage all summer on our dedicated fest page!

-Claire

All photos per the festivals featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Ben Hanna Wants to Surf with You at The Fall Showcase This Friday.

By: Zach Dahmen

Behind the scenes of Ben Hanna.

Boulder-based musician Ben Hanna.

Boulder-based musician Ben Hanna.

It’s a cold and wet fall evening as I wait for BolderBeat’s Fall Showcase opener at a coffee shop on Pearl Street’s west end. I take a few more sips of coffee and in walks a mop of black curls with a five o’clock shadow. Ben Hanna sits down across from me and instantly, his deep voice becomes the prominent sound over a bustling coffeehouse. With little prompting Ben starts telling me his story, with little to no filter; much like his music. He has these basset hound eyes which, as he starts to tell me how he fell in love with music, draw me into his twenty minute answer.

Hanna grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan. As he describes it, the suburbs are more akin to Orange County, California than the inner city. Instead of the hard knocks attributed to growing up in Detroit, Hanna was afforded an adolescence steeped in whatever music he could get his hands on. The earliest parts of his musical journey had him taking huge pit stops with The Violent Femmes, Ryan Adams, Radiohead, and Nirvana, the latter being a big enough influence that he’s actually wearing one of their shirts under his bulky cardigan tonight. Starting with simple bar chords and punk rock at the age of 15, Hanna progressed into taking lessons and giving serious thought to being a musician: “I wanted to be a player. I had a vision of me sitting in as a session musician down the road.”

Tea Time.

Tea Time.

After high school, Hanna moved to Colorado for college. He tells me this part of his life was framed by the music of Townes Van Zandt, whom he lends credit to as a catalyst for finding his voice as a songwriter. An even more noticeable influence in his music is Lou Reed (watch Ben Hanna’s “High Society Scene” as a perfect example). And Ben does credit Lou for helping him find direction. He tells me, “Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, they didn’t have these panty-dropping singing voices, but they were getting the point across in a really effective and powerful way. And so I realized that is kind of the voice I have.”

More recently, Ben’s musical efforts have been shaped with difficult times and personal hardship. The end of a relationship left him unable to write a song for months. That struggle lead him to a different way of approaching music: Being present in each moment.

“It’s being cultivated even when I’m asleep or just observing things, and there is this thought that I am absorbing it like a musical sponge.”

The Street Light Type.

The Street Light Type.

Ben keeps a notebook of lyrics on his phone that he calls “my emotional well.” He shows it to me- there are lyrics, sayings, and musings- a collection that takes more than a few finger strokes to move through. As I glance through it, Hanna tells me he’s got somewhat of a “different sound” overall, especially within Boulder. Unfiltered but focused is what comes to mind as Ben describes his musical life; much like our interview.

That “different” quality was exactly what drew BolderBeat to ask Hanna to open The Fall Showcase. With Ben Hanna & The Knighthawks, Hanna’s sound is a fleshed out, full rock and roll experience, fitting nicely into the night’s lineup of Blvd. and Whiskey Autumn.

“I look at it as a wonderful opportunity to just kinda go surfing; play with the energy of the space and share a stage with different bands because we are all in subtle ways influencing each other. It’s going to be a really nice blend of sounds. People are in for a treat.” Hanna said of the upcoming show.

Sandboxin'.

Sandboxin'.

Beyond his Fall Showcase performance this Friday, Ben will be playing more live shows with the Knighthawks around the Front Range and beyond. Lately though his focus has been continued work on his new record. He’s been in the studio with Robbie Stiefel and Todd Adleman at The Mountain House Recording Studio in Nederland. Ben, admittedly ambitiously, tells me the new record is “a mix between Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker and The Violent Femmes self-titled.”

Come see the ambitious, unfiltered Ben Hanna & The Knighthawks THIS FRIDAY at The Fall Showcase. And let’s surf.

-Zach

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

Interviewer Zach Dahmen.

Interviewer Zach Dahmen.

Album Review: Paul Kimbiris' "The Dark Side of Pearl"

By: Pete Laffin

Paul Kimbiris' newest release is his best work yet. 

Ever wonder what Bob Dylan would sound like if he could sing?

First off, I entirely reject the notion that Bob Dylan actually can sing, or that he is an “interesting” or “unique” singer, as people like to say at parties. The man can’t sing.  What’s more, claiming he can only diminishes his genius. The genre known as “singer/songwriter” seemingly requires the capacity to perform two specific functions. And yet, Bob Dylan became the greatest ever without being able to do one of them. Consider Michael Jordan becoming the greatest basketball player without being able to dribble, or Churchill becoming the greatest orator with a stutter. This is what Bob Dylan somehow pulled off. There’s no need to make excuses for him. His accomplishment is otherworldly, akin to Beethoven composing the Ninth Symphony while deaf.

paul kimbiris.

paul kimbiris.

Another qualification: In no way am I equating Dylan to the subject of this review, Paul Kimbiris. Dylan didn’t just write some of the greatest songs you’ve ever heard, he wrote most of them. When a song plays in a bar or a coffee shop and someone asks “who wrote that?” the answer is usually Dylan. In hundreds of years, skeptics will question whether or not any human could be so prolific in a given craft, the same way they question Shakespeare: Was there an enslaved coterie of writers he stole from? Was Satan in on it?

But back to the initial question: What would Dylan sound like with a decent set of pipes? This writer’s contention is that it might sound a lot like Boulder’s own Paul Kimbiris, especially on his latest album, “The Dark Side of Pearl.” His vocals are rich and deep with a timbre that occasionally rattles the ground. And yet, he retains the frantic dips and leaps that define the Dylan aesthetic. His songwriting is pretty darn good, too.

The title track “The Dark Side of Pearl” is where my Dylan musings find their strongest foothold. On the iconic downtown strip of Boulder known as Pearl, one strata of society buys $900 table napkins from knick-knack shops, while another earns its keep juggling flaming swords, or slinging coffee, or washing dishes, or working retail, as Kimbiris himself did years ago. From behind a counter he watched the crowds march down the red brick walking mall with plump shopping bags and blissful expressions. This track is a whimsical meditation on those days. It’s not the biting social commentary familiar to Dylan fans, but simply one man’s recollection of a less-than-stellar sitch: “All your confidence has left you/And you feel no one respects you/A simple hello would make all the difference in the world,” he wails at the chorus with his Dylan-esque vocal abandon. The perky rhythm and melody stand in contrast to the subject of the piece, which provides a satisfying dissonance. The essence of this track is that of the proverbial madman laughing at the rain, and you’ll find yourself laughing and clapping along too.

“Heavy Things” is another tune colored with the markings of Dylan. “Heavy things always come down/Get used to it/Deal with it,” is the bluntly sung chorus, a modern echo to A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall.” Even more than on “The Dark Side of Pearl,” Kimbiris takes the vocal aesthetic of Dylan and infuses it with his own signature opulence. The instrumentation on this track is simply beautiful: the winding electric guitar notes in the deep background, the skillfully placed keyboard notes, and the resonant cello bows (played powerfully by Philip Parker of Denver’s Glowing House; also the record’s producer). The sound is more early-era alternative rock than it is folk, and the combination is damn cool. And more importantly, when he laments the heavier happenings of life, it rings with authority. The qualitative feel of the song is a great match for the message it hopes to convey. This song sounds like the hard-fought acceptance of life’s tragedies.

When Kimbiris first handed me the disc and I saw a track entitled “Sitting Home Alone with Your Guitar” I recoiled. Listening to artists talk about their art to other artists is something I’m just plain sick of. Having played stages for the past eighteen years, I’ve had my fill of listening to this kind of thing. (I’ve similarly been unable to attend a writer’s “talk” since grad school.) At this point it all just seems so (sorry, Mom, I can’t avoid the word)… masturbatory. And worse, the attempt to do so within a singular piece of art is loaded with landmines. It’s just so easy to come off trite or self-involved, or worse, miles off the mark. But after listening to the track dozens of times, I find myself experiencing two of life’s greatest feelings: being surprised, and being wrong. Kimbiris’ secret for pulling off the dreaded artist-explaining-art-in-a-piece-of-art is remaining a few feet off the ground throughout the piece, never committing to maxims, but sticking to abstractions. In this way, he is able to convey his experience without sounding preachy or clichéd. “When you’re sitting home alone with your guitar/The universe expanding, a union torn apart/Counting constellations from the rooftop of your car,” is the line recurring at the chorus, accented by some of the highest and truest vocal notes on the record. The description rings true: The art we make, we don’t really make, but access, from a place somewhere above our heads, and we pull it down and filter it through our souls. What’s more, the song itself is a clinic on quality songwriting. The airy and wispy vocal harmonies are a modern take on Simon and Garfunkel, but not as sleepy as what you might hear on a Fleet Foxes record. The cascading finger-picking gives a nod to the virtue of minimalism in acoustic music, and the nearly imperceptible shifts in volume dynamics keep it interesting till the end. The successful execution of this track is an accomplishment acoustic players from coast-to-coast would like to have under their belts.  

My highest expectation for the record was a song of Kimbiris’ I’ve been familiar with for some time. “Bring Out Your Dead” is a straight up modern folk classic. If you love soulful acoustic music and are a fan of Monty Python (and man, are there a lot of people who fit this description), this might be your favorite song ever. It’s also another track where my Dylan-on-steroids vocal comparison finds a home. While “Dark Side of Pearl” recalls early Dylan protest songs, “Bring Out Your Dead” is more of the 70s Dylan love jam variety. While Kimbiris dips and climbs the length of his range with startling immediacy, the timbre of his tenor sustains. The elegant melody derived from a chord progression familiar to every guitar novice (you can figure out most of these songs in a single sitting, I even covered one at a show last weekend), the bittersweet beat, the lyrics that raise more questions than they answer: It all adds up to some seriously satisfying song-smithing.

Which is why I have to sadly conclude this track an opportunity missed. The magic is in there somewhere, but you have to strain to hear it due to overproduction. There is simply too much going on in the instrumentation, and the elaborate harmonies seem unnecessary, especially if you’ve seen this video on YouTube. The production is too smart by half, and the vocals are sterile in comparison to what Kimbiris achieves elsewhere on the record. Word is he will be re-recording this track for an upcoming project, and I can’t wait to hear how it turns out anew.

the album art from "The Dark Side of Pearl".

the album art from "The Dark Side of Pearl".

I’ll end with the real gem of the album: “Home Soon.” This track more than any reflects modern rock sensibilities; it could stand out in any of Ryan Adams recent releases. It’s got an infectious hook at the bridge, but it doesn’t rely on endless repetition (think “Let Her Go” by Passenger). The vocals are revelatory in their scruffy authenticity and the instrumentation is pristine, yet soulful, especially at the transitions, which are aided by rich cello bows. Local luminary Gregory Alan Isakov aided Kimbiris in the studio on this one (he also has co-writing credit for the track). Kimbiris was emphatic on the following point in the run-up to this review: If you want to make a great record, find great musicians to help you pull it off. He raved about the contributions of Patrick Meese, Ben Gallagher, Jeb Bows, and Philip Parker, each accomplished music makers from various musical outfits.

Though I can’t go into each track in-depth due to space/time restrictions, that’s not to say they aren’t worth some deep listening. If you want to hear how a single major-to-minor note dip can alter the complexion of an entire composition, take a listen to “Mexico.” If you revel in being stabbed in the heart by a single lyric (“Don’t know what I’m going to do/There’s a light in the tunnel and I hope it’s you”) listen to the “Ballad of Alex and Victoria.” And so on. Just buy the record, if only to give me a good old-fashioned bullshit check. You’ll thank me for it.

And if you see Kimbiris’ name on a local lineup, get your ass to that show. (Hint: There's one this weekend.) It’s rare that any local scene should harbor such a talent. Chances are, he won’t be part of it for long.       

-Pete

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

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 08/14 & 08/15

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Friday and Saturday are finally here! Check out these Boulder shows the next two nights:

Today (Friday 08/14):

Ramaya and The Troubadours at The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse 8PM-Close

Ramaya is an LG regular. His sound has been described as “blending echoes of Iron & Wine, Ryan Adams, Wilco, and Jeff Buckley.” The last time we saw him, he brought the audience onstage for a Michael Jackson jam. Righteous. Roll to his show tonight and preview his music here.

ramaya.

ramaya.

The Goonies at The Bohemian Biergarten 9PM-Close

This iconic 80s film is also the name of one of Boulder’s most popular cover bands. They play a lot of 80s jams and will be rocking the Biergarten stage tonight. So if you want to get drunk on Das Boot and loudly sing along to Journey bro, this one’s for you.

the goonies.

the goonies.

Global Soul Experience at The Lazy Dog 10PM-Close

If you’re in the mood for some samba or sweet afrobeats, this show is a must. The GSE are from Boulder and blend a ton of genres together for an awesome listening experience. Go to this show if you’re in the mood for something funky and different. They will not disappoint.

GSE Keeping it classy.

GSE Keeping it classy.

James Thorpe at The No Name Bar 10PM-Close

James Thorpe will be rocking out behind the big brown door this evening. Ironically, he’s played a number of shows with Ramaya and other members of The Troubadours Collective, but tonight you can see him shine solo. Head on over.

jt.

jt.

Tomorrow (Saturday 08/15):

Monocle Stache at The Dark Horse 930PM-Close

We dig the name dudes. The Stache boys hail from Rollinsville, CO and are self-proclaimed “stoner rock”. They have a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe happening- you can check out their EP Prairie Fire here. Grab a Dark Horse burger and peep the Stache set.

yes.

yes.

Salem at Oskar Blues Homemade Liquids and Solids 830PM-Close

Salem blend R&B, soul, and jazz for some seriously smooth listening. Frontwoman Ashley Sterling has a rich, hypnotizing voice and Cat Ackermann keeps things groovin’ on the keys. Grab a brew and give this five-piece from Breckenridge, CO a listen.

cat on keys.

cat on keys.

There's our list! Xoxo Boulder!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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