Tag Archives: music

7/27/15: Imagine Dragons w/Metric Pepsi Center, Denver Colorado

7/27/15: Imagine Dragons w/Metric 

Pepsi Center, 
Denver Colorado
  Firstly, I really wanted to thank my friend Frenchie for the ticket hook up. He’s a back line tech for Metric (and works for a few other bands as well!), but unfortunately he wasn’t on this run with them. He’s actually one of the biggest reasons that I got involved in the music industry in the first place, but that’s a story for another day.
   I’ve been coming out to Denver for almost ten years and the Imagine Dragons show was the first time that I’ve been to the Pepsi Center. It was actually the first time that I had been to a huge arena show. I had been to smaller arenas, the biggest being the Mullins Center at Umass, but that venue is only 1/2 the size of the Pepsi Center’s 20,000 capacity. I also have been to huge outdoor amphitheaters that hold way more than that, but to be indoors, inside a giant concrete bowl full of screaming people, well, it was a slightly overwhelming sight. 
   The seats I had were super close, so binoculars weren’t necessary. I kind of felt for the people seated up in the nosebleeds, because to me they looked like tiny insects marching about, so I couldn’t imagine trying to watch the show from way up there.
   The stage was set up on one of the ends of the arena, with my seats a dozen rows up from the floor, in a section that was directly stage left, closest to the floor. Being that close to the stage was awesome, especially when it turned out to be such a fun show. On the flip side though, from that vantage I did noticed two very annoying elements.
   First off, and I honestly at the beginning thought it was because I was pretty close to side stage, the sound for Metric and the other opening act, a girl named Halsey, was absolutely horrible. In contrast, when Imagine Dragons came on the sound was as great as it was atrocious for the openers. Now, I’ve been involved with enough shows to know that often times big headlining bands have a soundboard and sound engineer specific to their set. Also, there are plenty of times where the openers aren’t allowed to utilize all of the channels on a soundboard or even to use all the speakers in the room. Another reason such a huge disparity can exist is because of either lack of the support bands having a proper sound check, or an inexperienced sound engineer working for them.
   Regardless of the reasons, the sound was mixed so badly for Metric and Halsey that I had an actual headache by the time Imagine Dragons started their set. The high end on the vocals was so shrill that it made it next to impossible to even distinguish them as words, even though I knew many of the songs. 
   I’ve seen Metric headline a few smaller venues and they completely blew my mind, so I had been really looking forward to seeing them perform their set on a huge stage. I was kind of pissed when it wasn’t as enjoyable as I knew it should have been.  
   I know that if I was a headlining act, I would insist on the sound being held to the highest standard. I understand if they limit the lighting and stage production, or even if a cap is put on how high the volume can be turned up, but honestly to someone who knows how it all works it makes the headliner look like douchebags to have such a night and day difference to the sound. To someone that doesn’t know the workings, it makes the openers look like they suck, and my question to that is why would you, as a headliner, want people to think you’ve taken out subpar bands on your tour?
   The second thing that struck me, had to do with the lighting. After learning to be a lighting director while I was touring with Man on Earth, the light show has become one of the most interesting parts of a rock show to me. The thing I learned about lighting from this show had to do with understanding your space.         
   There was a group of three spotlights that pointed across the stage providing a sort of ‘wash’ effect, keeping the band lit up from a slightly behind angle, that way most of the crowd could see them. What I’m not sure was taken in to account was, that in a venue where the seating was set up such as it was, the fact that the wash lighting, which tended to be constantly on, was blinding to everyone sitting in the first two sections of both sides of the arena. I saw numerous people wearing their sunglasses throughout most of the show. This upped my awareness as a lighting director for how what may look good on stage may not be the best thing for your audience. Being conscious of the crowd and how your lights affect them is an important part of the job.
   That all is not to say I didn’t have fun, all in all the show was absolutely great. Imagine Dragons had the crowd completely captivated, engaged, on their feet and dancing. Their sound, performance, lights and production easily shot them up to a top 3 show of 2015 so far for me. I just wish they’d show a little more love for their openers…

7/11/15: Channel 93.3’s Big Gig @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater- Englewood, CO

   I have a major loved/hate relationship with radio shows. On one hand, the typically all day events usually provide a wide variety of bands all playing a collection of their greatest hits with a smattering of new or rare cuts interspersed. On the other hand, the shows usually feel rushed, and the amount of logistics involved with pulling them off usually leads to something slipping through the cracks.
   I decided to check out KTCL’s Big Gig 2015 mainly because of Awolnation and also that earworm of a song “Cecilia and the Satellite”, by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. While I knew songs by the rest of the artists, those were the main deciding factors for me. 
   I had no luck securing a press pass for the show, (the referral chain led to the promoter, AEG, who apparently doesn’t check their email!), so I decided to just to bite the bullet and buy tickets. After a failed attempt to buy tickets at the Fiddler’s Green box office, (they were closed even though their posted hours said they were supposed to be open…), I rolled the dice on the show not selling out and went back to the box office on the day of the show. 
   Day of tickets were more expensive than the presale price, and even though I tried to argue that I should get the presale price because the box office had been closed the day before during their scheduled hours of operation, the ticket agent wouldn’t have any of it. Before I could begrudgingly hand over my credit card and pay full price, a stranger approached and offered a free set of GA tickets, no strings attached. Graciously accepting the change of fortune, I took the tickets and headed in to the venue. 
   I arrived just before the first band, Pandas and People, kicked things off. They are an local alt-folk band that won a contest through KTCL to secure the opening spot on the main stage. After a few songs I made my way to the “Locals Only” stage, which was located outside the main amphitheater. 
   While I think it’s cool that radio stations tend to have a stage promoting local artists at their shows, it hardly ever works out as well as it might seem in theory. Often times, like at Big Gig, the second stage is in an out of the way spot and the set times usually overlap the times of the main stage acts. I tried to split my time between the two stages, but as the show progressed it became a nuisance to walk back and forth and never actually  catch either bands full set. I gave up after the third round trip. I honestly think that a better system would be to have the local’s stage set up somewhere in the main area, have them play shorter sets, and have those sets be in between the sets of the main stage artists, with the locals playing while the nationals are breaking down and setting up. This would afford better exposure for the local bands, give the audience something better than house music to listen to, and also give the nationals a tiny bit more time to go about the business of setting up. Maybe one day I’ll be on a committee that plans such things, but until then I guess I’ll just have to hope that someone else has the same idea as me.
   A number of the bands that were on the bill are current up and comers. St. Motel, Banks, and Atlas Genius all have one song that everyone in the crowd knew, so there was a general blasé attitude during their sets until they played the well known radio song, at which point people got to their feet and acted like they were at a concert. 
   As is more common than you’d think with festival style shows, technical issues plagued the day. At one point the speakers that pumped sound to the lawn went out, making it feel as if we were watching the show from the parking lot and listening to it on the neighborhood boombox. The stage microphones seem to be having difficulty as well, and all the problems led to Banks set being cut down to only 3 songs. While I think she was the one act on the bill that I had no real desire to see, the three songs that she played did prove to me that she has an amazing voice. When she announced that her set was being cut, she seemed genuinely upset about it. While I may be a cynical ass, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.  
   The biggest surprise for me was probably how much I enjoyed the New Politics set. While I was on tour with Man on Earth, the band’s drummer would play New Politics on the regular while he was driving, so I had a decent sense of what to expect musically from their set. What you don’t get from listening to an album is the high energy, break dance riddled performance that got an otherwise docile crowd moving. New Politics brought that in force, commanding the crowd with a thoroughly entertaining experience.
  Andrew McMahon and Nate Ruess both played solid sets, covering their individual catalogues well. Both had plenty of material from their previous bands, with Andrew McMahon breaking out songs from his Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin days, and Nate Ruess playing enough Fun. songs that I feel like it might as well been a Fun. show. 
   All the day’s build up led to Awolnation’s headlining slot. Their set was obviously the one that the promoters were banking on being the show’s selling point, as evidenced by the fact that the level of production for Awolnation was miles above the rest of the bands on the ticket. They brought in their own lighting rig that, as a lightning director, I was completely jealous of. 
   The 11:15pm curfew meant that Awolnation only played for an hour, but they managed to put on an incredible show in that short time. At 11:15 sharp, the show was over and the sodium lights came on, cueing everyone to clear out, stat. After an 8 hour show, I was more then happy to oblige. 

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.