Monthly Archives: June 2015

6/15/15: Neon Trees @ The Gothic Theater – Englewood, CO

  I’m not a huge fan of pop music, especially the more modern incarnations of such. I can get down with some Neon Trees though.

   The first time I saw Neon Trees perform was at the Filmore in downtown Denver back in 2012 with The Offspring and Dead Sara. It was a weird bill to say the least, but somehow they managed to put on a compelling performance that didn’t clash with the other genres of the night.
   When they announced that they were doing an ‘Intimate Performance’ at the Gothic Theater, I was pretty excited to see how they’d pull it all off. The last time I had seen that type of show at the Gothic was back when Sevendust came through with their acoustic tour, and it blew my mind. I had high hopes to see Neon Trees in a stripped down way, but apparently to them “An Intimate Night Out With…” doesn’t mean an acoustic, storytellers style set. It just means that they’re playing smaller clubs on this tour because someone doesn’t feel comfortable with their ability to pack out huge rooms at the moment. In all fairness, they are only out promoting a new non-album single, not a whole new record, and people’s attention span isn’t what it used to be. So, although it felt a bit like a bait and switch to me, I set out to enjoy the show regardless.
  Firstly, not to be “that” a**hole, but the two opening bands that Neon Trees brought with them were some of the blandest bands that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to on a national stage. I’ve thought back on it a bit, and there was honestly nothing that stood out with either band to me, unless mediocrity is a selling point. They were both generic female fronted pop rock bands with generic songs that felt as if they were written by a half asleep pop rock producer. I mean, when every song feels like a good song to go take a piss during, well, something’s missing.
   When Neon Trees finally took the stage I breathed a sigh of relief. They opened with their new single, “Songs I Can’t Listen To”, a song that as of yet isn’t attached to a forthcoming album.
   Lead singer Tyler Glenn gave his usual energetic performance, his odd high-kick dancing style making the “1983” singer seem very spry for his age. I also am fairly new to my 30’s, so I was a bit jealous of of his ability to maintain that level of energy throughout the entire show. For me to even come close would probably take a lethal combination of Red Bull and drugs.
   When I saw Neon Trees back in 2012 they had a fill in drummer because Elaine Bradley was home, taking care of her newborn. This time around she was back behind the kit, participating in general badassery.
   While I’d like to eventually see Neon Trees pull out the acoustics and cajon, I’ll settle for rocking out to their electric set any day. Here’s hoping that I can catch an acoustic set some time in the future!

6/10/15: Butch Walker w/Jonathan Tyler & The Dove and the Wolf @ The Fox Theater- Boulder, CO

  Butch Walker is your favorite songwriter that you’ve never heard of. He has written and produced a number of hit songs for other artists such as Weezer, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Fallout Boy, Katy Perry, and the Wombats, to name a few. While I’m sure that you’ve heard at least one of these tracks, you haven’t HEARD Butch Walker until you’ve been to a Butch Walker show.

   Midweek shows are pretty rough, especially when it’s in the middle of an insanely busy work week. Add to that the fact that the show was in Boulder, which is a hour from my house, and I knew it was meant to be a long night. I convinced my friend Dan, the singer of the Denver punk band Wiredogs, to make the trip up with me. He had never heard of Butch Walker before, and since he is currently working on a solo acoustic album I though he’d benefit from seeing Butch’s show.
   We arrived in Boulder early enough to grab a few drinks and some beef tongue tacos, then headed into the venue. 
   The Fox Theater was smaller than I imagined it would be, with an official capacity of only 625. It’s lobby, multi-tiered layout, and tall ceilings were echoes of the rooms previous movie theater incarnation. 
   There was two opening acts before Butch Walker took stage, both having their own strengths and weaknesses. The first was a French duo, The Dove and the Wolf. What they lacked in song diversity was made up for in spot on harmonies. They even did one song in their native French, and for all I know they could have been singing about dead babies… But everything sounds better in French, so it was all good. They played for about half an hour, then the other opening act, Jonathan Tyler, took the stage, looking like Marty Mcfly in Back to the Future 3, but with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. 
    I’d never heard of either of the openers before, so when Tyler started playing I had no idea what to expect. His songs and guitar skills were good, but it was his bluesy, soulful voice that stood above the rest of his performance. Yet, it felt something was missing. I found out after that he usually has a full electric band that he tours with, which I think would have filled the perceived void perfectly. 
   After Jonathan Tyler, Butch Walker set out to take us on a two-plus hour adventure. If you’ve never been to one of his shows the first thing you need to know is that they have the pacing of a freight train. Every one I’ve been to, including the Boulder show, have started off with Butch playing a few slow, piano accompanied songs, then doing a few on the acoustic guitar, all leading up to breaking out an electric guitar and shredding his more uptempo songs. 
   He too was without his band on this tour, but he had a kick drum set up that he was playing with his foot and he also brought both of his opening acts on stage with him for a few songs. 
   Ever the king of creating an emotional attachment with his audience, Butch brought his 8 year old son James on stage to sing a song with him. Throughout his set he also occasionally went into storyteller mode, adding a personal depth to his songs.
  After his main set, Butch began the encore with a 10 minute story about his father and the last song he played for him before he died. The crowd was visibly moved as he played his last few songs, to the point where I saw more than a few people who had tears in their eyes. As he said his goodnight and walked off the stage the person behind me exclaimed that they ‘needed a group hug after all that’. 
   As we walked back to my car, Dan told me how inspired he was by the show to go write more of his own songs. To me, that’s the difference between a musical artist and an entertainer. An entertainer captures your attention for a limited time. An artist affects your soul. Having seen him a few times, I can say without a doubt that Butch Walker is a highly talented artist! If he ever is playing a show in your area and you miss it, you are doing an incredible disservice to yourself!

6/5/15: Emily Kinney w/Dylan Gardner @ Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox- Denver, CO

   (Spoiler Alert!!!! If you’re not caught up on all the season 5 episodes of The Walking Dead, read no further!!!!!)
   
   I’d be a liar if I said that Emily Kinney was on my radar before The Walking Dead. Her character’s death was one of the more jarring in the series, and I admit that as a fan of the show I had a bit of morbid curiosity as to what ‘Beth’ was doing in the afterlife. A funny thing is, that her character was featured as another’s hallucination, postmortem, playing guitar and singing, with the bullet wound that caused her death gracing her head. It honestly was slightly distracting to watch her preform when a few weeks ago I had seen the back of her head explode from a point blank gunshot, and  her brain matter splaying out all over her friends… Albeit, it was only in a TV show, but it still was a bit odd. 
   The evening’s show was at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a fairly new and very diversely decorated smaller venue in downtown Denver. I arrived early enough to get a table and order some food off their eclectic menu. I ordered an ostrich burger, which they were out of, but they substituted it with an equally interesting yak meat. 
   I had secured a seat next to the soundboard, a place that I’ve found through the years to have some of the best sound because it is where the engineer mixes the room audio from. 
   The opener identified himself as the guitarist for Emily Kinney’s band, and that he would be playing a few of his own songs to get things started. His songs were fairly mellow, but he did some interesting things with his electric guitar. 
   Right from the beginning, the lighting director was having issues. He couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights that illuminated the front of the stage. For the first two acts he spent his time fiddling with the computer program and spending countless minutes on the phone with someone, trying to find out how to make things work. The computer program that ran the lighting setup at Ophelia’s was the same one that I had to figure out for a Man on Earth show in New York last year, so I had an overwhelming desire to step in and offer to figure it out for them. The downside, though, was not knowing any of the crew or how they would react to said offer, so I waited it out. They were able to get it sorted out in time for the headliner, so I’m betting no one got fired.
   The biggest surprise for me that evening came in the form of the other opening act, Dylan Garner. With the stage lights not working properly for his set, it was impossible to get a good look at him, but what I could tell was that he had great stage presence and his pop rock songs were catchy without being cheesy. It wasn’t until after the show when I was talking to him did I realize that he was just an 18 year old kid. Without a doubt, his performance was beyond his years. He is definitely someone I’ll keep an eye out for in the next few years. 
   With the lights working again, and the club’s manager noticeable relaxed, Emily Kinney took the stage. 
   Kinney’s music was diverse to say the least. What started off as almost country, continued on, weaving into folk and pop with a smidgen of blues thrown in. Her singing style was very reminiscent to me of June Carter, but a modernization, an almost playful indie rock vocals that you’d hear at a New York City coffee shop. 
   Emily Kinney’s family was there in force, so after the show I said a quick hello so as not to disturb, and then headed out into the night. 

6/2/15: Jim Jefferies w/Forrest Shaw @ The Paramount Theater- Denver, Co

  I’ve been to more music concerts then I can count, but I’d never been to a comedy show before. 
  
   I love a good stand up comedian. I’m always on the lookout for new artists that ‘get’ my cracked sense of humor and cater to it. I’ve found that the good ones are few and far between. So, when Jim Jefferies announced a Denver show, I caved and bought tickets straight away. Jefferies has been one of my favorite comedians for a while, so the fact that I had scored 8th row seats had me pretty pumped.
   There’s been a few reasons that I’ve always been leery about the idea of going to a stand up show. One of the biggest, though, was probably my fear of paying to see a comedian that I have heard of before, and then having them rehash jokes that have been played to death already on their specials. Which is an interesting thing to me, because with all the music concerts that I’ve been to all the fans WANT to hear the greatest hits recycled for their listening pleasure. 
   Comedy is a different animal. You can only laugh at the same joke so many times before it looses its luster. When you think about it, that puts a ton of pressure on a comedian. Every time they hit the road they have to have a whole set’s worth of new material… 
   I arrived at the Paramount Theater a bit early and made my way to my seat. The Art Deco design of the theater brought me back to all the concerts I’ve seen at NYC’s Beacon theater or my Massachusetts hometown’s Mahawie theater. As the usher led me to my seat I was most definitely feeling good about how close we were going to be to the stage…. until I actually saw the seats, that is. 
   Having 8th row tickets in a tiny theater sounds like a good idea, and in theory, it is. However, the plush cushioned fixed seats at the Paramount start at row M, and the first few rows of seating are populated by archaic leather cushioned folding chairs, the width and depth of which were equivalent to those found in an elementary school. To add to the experience, the people on either side of my friend Nate and I should have probably bought two seats each, and gym memberships. I’ve had more comfortable seats flying coach on economy airlines. I guess the average theater patron was a bit thinner back when the place was built. Plus, it was the 1930’s…. Who was really comfortable then?
   Jim Jefferies took the stage after a solid opening act named Forrest Shaw. I had never heard of Shaw before, but he did a great job of getting the crowd laughing, using self-deprecating humor to make jokes that the thin skinned would be offended at. But, as he pointed out, if you show up to a Jim Jefferies show expecting good old clean, wholesome humor, then you might as well leave. 
  The comedic stylings of Jim Jefferies aren’t for everyone, and as expected, his set touched on many topics that most comedians shy away from. Religion, dead babies, autism, gun laws, the handicapped, anti-vaxxers, rape…. The night was full of stories and observations that the politically correct would cringe at. As a matter of fact, if you’re of the school of thought that there are some topics that should not ever be joked about, then you probably would be writing a letter to your senator after the opening bit. 
While some comedians use vulgarity strictly for shock value, Jim Jefferies’ show, while crass, vulgar, and rude, always had a purpose to it use of ‘edgy’ material. Jefferies uses his ability to make people a little uncomfortable to drive his points home. 
  Jefferies was on stage for 2 solid hours, and much to my relief, he didn’t waste time on his old material. He occasionally referenced old bits, and since I’m familiar with the past material the nods added a greater depth to the stories that he was telling. 
   That’s the type of comic he is, a storyteller. His bits were all self contained stories, yet somehow he wove them all together, making it feel more like you were sitting listening to a friend that you haven’t seen in a while filling  you in about what’s been going on in their lives, rather than a stranger telling a bunch of jokes. 
   After his set, Jefferies did something that I haven’t seen many artists who sell out a theater do. He set up at the Merch booth, promising a free meet and greet to anyone who stuck around. Given that there was about 2,000 people at the show, the line of those deciding to stay was pretty long. 
   
   I’m fairly certain that if we’re friends that you’d like Jim Jefferies. Well, close friends. Ok, I take no responsibility for your conscience. But you should check him out, because you will laugh, and laughing is good. Or, you might be pissed off, which is still experiencing an emotion, so you should be happy for that!