First off, those of you that have been following this blog somewhat regularly may have noticed an unusual lack of content and activity for the past couple of weeks. Sorry about that! I'll admit I'd been going strong for a while but I hit a bit of a wall and needed some time away from the blog world. Now it's time for me to come back, and to avoid hitting the wall again, I'm going to pace myself a little bit better. Rather than sacrifice content quality for quantity, I'm going to scale back the amount of shows I go to for the short term so I can still provide in-depth coverage for the shows I do see. It'll take a little bit to get completely back on track, but this review is a step back in that direction.
The show began with a local Denver band formed earlier this year, Shaky Molars. Shaky Molars had five out of six members for their show; Chuck Potashner on vocals/guitar, Kat Roscoe on bass, Kayla Martin on cello, Nate Adelmann on lead guitar, and Ryan Mulligan on drums. Together, the group performed a quirky, fun, and often humorous brand of indie pop. Instrumentally, the band reminded me straightforward pop from the '70s and '80s. The cello was a nice and interesting addition, providing an orchestral element to the sound that really made me think of pop music performed on old variety shows with large backing orchestras.
Chuck Potashner's vocals also seemed to be influenced by vintage lounge-like pop singers from yesteryear, mated with a very modern sensibility. It was an interesting vocal style that helped propel Shaky Molar's near bubble-gum pop sound - a vintage modern sound with touches of whimsy. The songs Shaky Molars performed were catchy in the moment, but without the tack required for the songs to linger over time - save for "Daniele Marie Miller", but that may be because it was the only Shaky Molars song I heard beforehand. I liked how many of the band's songs lyrics were about Colorado, but I didn't like how some of the lyrics seemed to be improvisational. Overall, I think Shaky Molars are going in a good, different direction but haven't quite reached their destination quite. Fans of lighthearted indie pop should keep their eyes peeled in the future for this band.
Next up was New Orleans indie-pop band, Generationals. Originally the project of Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer, the duo employed the help of a live drummer, bassist and keyboardist for the night. The five-piece band performed the vintage influenced indie pop-rock found on Generationals two studio album releases. The vintage influence of this band went back a little further than the one prior. I'd say the vintage styling of this band reaches back to the '40s, '50s and '60s, giving a modern interpretation of feel good music from way back in the day.
Whenever a band tours and decides to bring on touring members to play other instruments in the live setting, it can go a number of ways. The live instrumentation can sound completely faithful to the studio recording, or it can sound a bit different. For Generationals, it was close but not quite the same as the studio recordings. That isn't always a bad thing, and for the Generationals, I would say for the most part it worked, but somehow, somewhere I felt the music just didn't quite have the same charm I came to love on their albums. Everything was close, but not close enough to make me feel like something was a bit off. I think the idea of having a live drummer is a great thing, but the kit didn't match up to whatever samples the original duo used on the drum machine. Perhaps using an electric drum set with switchable samples could remedy that.
Otherwise, Generationals performed a quality opening set, playing all my favorite songs from their two studio albums. Standouts from their new album, Actor-Caster were "Ten-Twenty-Ten" and "Yours Forever". These songs stayed pretty faithful to the studio recordings despite my concerns outlined in the paragraph before. Of course, "When They Fight, They Fight" was the standout song from their first album, Con Law. This was the song that got me hooked on Generationals, and the one that best encompasses the vintage influences I hear in the band's sound. The live version was near perfect, it was just glaringly missing that trumpet sound/sample that really sets the song over the top. Generationals bridge the gap between indie pop and indie rock well, and I think they would appeal to a wide range of indie music fans.
|Mates of State|
Finally, Mates of State came on stage to perform their headlining state. The duo of Kori Gardner on vocals/keyboards and Jason Hammel on drums/vocals took center stage. Kori Gardner took her place slightly to the left of stage behind a couple keyboards dressed up as foliage, while Jason Hammel took his place behind his drumset slightly to the right of center. Although the two record as a duo, they perform with touring support; a guitarist was in the rear left of stage while an additional keyboards/trumpeter/percussionist was to the rear right of stage. The whole band was in front of a backdrop that looked like a large, colorful bed of flowers - albeit flowers sprouting from a wall. Large balls of lighted cotton completed the scene, acting as clouds.
|Mates of State|
Mates of State has been making music together for over a decade, so they treated the Bluebird Theater audience to a large number of songs spanning their catalog. They performed their signature indie pop sound, driven mostly by the keyboards and drumming of the founding duo. Their sound is very energetic, and intricate despite the simple instrumental ingredients they use to put the sound together. Their song content and energy definitely leans more toward pop, but I was surprised to see how when they performed live, they seemed to have a much stronger rock-like feel.
|Mates of State|
Mates of State began with some newer material - "Get Better" from the album Re-Arrange Us, "Maracas" from their new album Mountaintops and "For The Actor" from Bring It Back. They continued to shuffle up newer material before bringing out some of the earlier stuff. Older fans seemed to really enjoy when they played a set of songs from the earlier Team Boo album, "Parachutes", "Ha Ha" and "Whiner's Bio". They continued to keep the set list mixed up, ending on a cover song from their album Crushes, "True Love Will Find You In The End". To please the crowd, they returned to the stage and performed a three song encore; "My Only Offer", "Proofs" from My Solo Project, and "Palomino".
Mates of State's performance was a great way to showcase the work this band has but in over the past decade, and the crowd was very receptive to their performance. Although the crowd wasn't as visibly into the concert as I've seen (no crazy, sweaty dance fest), the crowd definitely showed their appreciation for the band between songs with loud shouts and applause. Indie pop-rock fans probably already know about Mates of State considering how long they've been around, but if you've somehow missed this band and you like the indie pop-rock genre, they are definitely a band to know.
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