If you haven't checked out the Hi-Dive for a show lately, you've been missing out. Not only does the Hi-Dive boast an intimate concert space and a bar with cheap drinks, the talent they've been bringing in on a consistent basis makes the venue all that much more a desirable place to be. The Hi-Dive is a hotbed for great local talent, but they'll also bring in top quality up and coming touring acts - often with it being their first appearance in Denver. Sunday's show at the Hi-Dive featured both - two awesome local bands and a hot new indie band making their first ever appearance in Denver.
Before that band's debut, the night began with a local band familiar to this blog, School Knights. Michael Stein (guitar, vocals), Ben Donehower (bass, vocals), Morris Kolontyrsky (guitar), and Zack Roif (drums) were back again delivering their indie rock combination of garage rock, punk, and noise-pop with hints of coastal/surf rock here and there. The blend of sounds drives their sort of tongue-and-cheek lyricism, making the group almost satirical but not novel.
School Knights performed a set of brand new material, with most of it still unreleased. They began with a song that quickly introduced the audience to their sound - a garage/noise punk song called "Thanksgiving" that balanced a slow tempo with quick, loud strumming. They only song they performed that's currently recorded was "Bender", a noisy yet melodic surf inspired song. They performed a trio of new songs - the last of which, "Present Tense", really stood out. Then they finished with a song so new it didn't even have a title yet, but featured an extended instrumental psychedelic/surf section that set the piece apart. The band's previous release was quite good, and it seems the new material they have on the way picks up right where School Knights left off. Keep a look out for their next release.
Up next was Candy Claws, a group from Fort Collins that has had a lot of acclaim but had eluded this blog until Sunday night. Candy Claws performed as a five-piece band with Ryan Hover (vocals, synth), Megan Hainer (keyboard), Karen McCormick (drums, percussion), Riley Cravens (bass), and Kay Bertholf (guitar, vocals). They create a retro-esque blend of dream pop and lounge that sounds like a somewhat more psychedelic and trippy version of music from the '50s. Their music is mostly synth/keyboard driven but they carefully work in bass, percussion, shoegaze-like guitar and wispy vocals.
They began with a piece from their Hidden Lands album, "In the Deep Time", that was like taking a submarine into the depths of their ethereal sound - a journey full of soothing wonderment but with a hint sense of tense danger that never actually comes out fully. The journey continued with "Sunbeam Show" - a song that was like coming upon the fantasy of an untouched lagoon bustling with Disney-fied talking and smiling sea life. They rounded out their Hidden Lands suite with "Warm Forest Floor" before submerging the crowd with "Catamaran". Candy Claws also treated the audience to a song so new it had no name, but they did reveal the song had a "Jurassic" theme, and the resultant fantastical yet gargantuan sounds seemed to fall in line with that. After another song from In The Dream of the Sea Life called "Lantern Fish", they revealed an influence by covering "Do You Ever Feel That Way" by Starflyer 59. Candy Claws definitely dreams in color, as their dream-pop sound is as vivid as can be. Check them out - they're even playing again tonight at the Walnut Room.
Making their Denver debut, Porcelain Raft took the stage next in the headlining spot on the lineup. Porcelain Raft is Mauro Remiddi (vocals, guitar, synth, keyboard, drum machine) and Michael Wallace (drums, synth). Porcelain Raft combines dreamy electro-pop with indie rock, taking a mellow modern rock influenced sound and give it danceability with well-crafted sound design and beat work. The addition of a live drummer gives the music added punch that really gives the Porcelain Raft sound life in live performance.
The duo began with the opening track off of the album Strange Weekend, "Drifting In And Out". What begins as a low-key chillwave/dream-pop song turns into something slightly beyond that when Michael Wallace accompanies the song with his deliberate drumming. I was expecting a set of material mostly from Strange Weekend, but it seems they snuck in a few selections from earlier Porcelain Raft EPs - a pleasant surprise. They did perform some of my favorites off the new album though. "Is It Too Deep For You?" and "Put Me To Sleep" appeared in the middle of the set, and they even transitioned smoothly into each other. "Unless You Speak From The Heart" was the final song before the encore.
Yes, the crowd clamored for an encore song, even though Porcelain Raft had no backstage to retreat to and emerge from, but they were happy to oblige. Porcelain Raft's combination of dream-pop, shoegaze and indie rock is unique because it is driven by the energy of the well crafted sequenced rhythms, a quality that should help them transcend the dream-pop genre to listeners from many other genres. This is definitely a band to keep an eye out for throughout this year and beyond.
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