It's been a good month in Denver so far for great new local music. This blog has already been able to check out two great album release parties from Denver bands, and into the second week of February, Friday night's Hi-Dive show was the third. A large, lively and supportive crowd filed into the cozy Hi-Dive to celebrate the release of Achille Lauro's Flight Or Flight album. The air of celebration began early as people packed in from the very beginning to catch the supporting bands.
|M & The Gems|
The original schedule was shuffled a bit, and M & The Gems (formerly Mercuria & The Gemstars) began the night. This band has been affectionately known as M & The Gems as a shortened name for a while, and they decided to adopt the abbreviated moniker officially, but that wasn't the only change. Singer/guitarist Maria Kohler, guitarist/keyboardist Andrew Frank, and bassist Julia Mendiolea were joined by new drummer Nathan Barnes (of Rose Hill Drive). Still, the shortened name and new drummer did not at all affect this band's psychedelic tinged indie rock 'n' roll.
|M & The Gems|
M & The Gems began the night with a pair of older, previously released songs that have had a lot of replay in my library but I still can't quite get enough of, the sparkly but bold "Glacier" and celestial "Shrine". M & The Gems seem to be embracing the psychedelic rock sound, as their third piece was a new song that combined floating bass with driving guitar and spaced out synthesizer. They payed homage to classic glam rock with a faithful cover of T.Rex's "20th Century Boy" before going into the psych-blues 6/8-time song "The Rope". "State of the Unicorn" ended their set, a piece far out enough to be fantastical, but done so well it was if it had turned fantasy into reality. M & The Gems continues to progress, and their songwriting is becoming more elaborate yet grounded in a distinct identity. If you enjoy psychedelic rock, this band is willing to take you out of this world while being instantly approachable - an appealing version of a genre that can sometimes be too esoteric.
Land Lines took the stage next, ready to unveil a different mood of music and a unique style on the Hi-Dive crowd. Land Lines is a three piece band featuring Martina Grbac (cello, vocals), Anna Mascorella (cello, vocals), and Ross Harada (drums). Their seemingly simple setup was capable of creating a surprising range of captivating sounds. The cellos made an interesting intersection of folk and orchestral sound, and Martina Grbac's and Anna Mascorella's voices have a freak folk/baroque/avant-garde characteristic that is beautiful but also very dark - like a Tim Burton musical.
The dual cello setup allowed for an interesting interplay of sounds. When the instruments were bowed their was a chamber quality to their music, but when the cellos were played pizzacato (plucked), they could create a more driving, rock-oriented sound like staccato guitar strumming. Both styles were punctuated by deliberate drumming. The drums would accentuate the offbeat in the more baroque pieces and emphasize the tempo on the more rock-like pieces. Land Lines has yet to record and release their pieces, but at this point they definitely have something fresh and solid, although perhaps the experimental nature of their sound may limit their appeal to some, I'd invite anyone to try it out first.
Next was the main event, a performance from the headlining band Achille Lauro. This four piece band featuring Matt Close (vocals/guitar/synth), Jonathan Evans (bass), Ben Mossman (drums), Luke Mossman (guitar/synth) was celebrating the release of their new record, another collection of indie rock gems that combines intricate and ethereal post-rock with a dose of dance inducing soul. The guitars play off of each other to create this beautiful, textured sound that comes to life with sophisticated rhythms, creating a dreamy yet energetic backdrop to Matt Close's powerfully smooth vocal style.
Right away Achille Lauro began to capture the crowd with a slightly modified, slowed down version of "Summertime" from Indiscretions (perhaps the colder, darker, winter version of the song). Then they began to delve into their newly released material, starting with jazzy funk flavored dance rock tune "Lightning", followed by the definitively post-rock but funky soul influenced "Hard Pressed". "Supernatural Beings" took the crowd on synth heavy psychedelic trip, and included the addition of special guest trumpeters Joshua Trinidad and Squiddius Madden. "Hand of Sand" brought the audience back to airy dance rock and soul.
Although the night was about the new album, Flight Or Flight, Achille Lauro dipped into Indiscretions again with the seemingly folk influenced "Sandra". The remainder of their set included three of their more danceable numbers from the new album, "Cold Snap", "Thing About Sauza" and "Upward Away From The Ground". The night ended with their lead single, "Low Cha Cha", a sweeping masterpiece of a song that woos the listener in with its tenuously crafted sound before exploding with emotion made even more epic with the addition of the guest horn players.
Achille Lauro's performance showed that their new album fits solidly into the identity this band has been crafting for themselves, and the crowd response showed that their new material still has a strong enthralling effect. Of course, the night didn't end there, as before Achille Lauro could leave the stage, the crowd clamored for more. A favorite off of Indiscretions came first, "No Brakes", that had the audience singing along. It seemed as if it would end there, but then Matt Close started to play and sing the beginning of "The Hatter of Jamestown" solo, with the rest of the band, including the guest horn players, exploding into the song together creating a profound moment. Their whole performance was presented with poise and confidence, really allowing their music to shine. Overall, the night showed that Achille Lauro's approach to modern rock is one that needs to be heard - this band does it right.
See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page and stay up to date.