Although sometimes the work seems thankless, hidden, and for the most part, what happens is widely unknown, D.I.Y. music projects are often some of the most important contributors to a music scene. Denver is lucky to have plenty of do-it-yourself-ers whose projects may lie just beneath the surface, but the effect they have on local music goes well above and beyond. One of those such projects is Brass Tree Sessions, a homegrown concert and video recording series that has been tirelessly hosting local band after local band each month and is now entering its second season on PBS as a television show. They've been featured on this blog a couple times already, but the recording sessions are always worth checking out because of the quality and variety of the acts the bring in - such was the case this past weekend when Brass Tree Sessions hosted Raven & The Writing Desk, Tantric Picasso and Faceman.
A Brass Tree Sessions concert is essentially a house show, which affords a certain comfort and intimacy that isn't found in a more formal concert setting. Attendees can hang out in the back yard, basking in the sun with a beer in hand and food on the grill while a trio of amazing local bands set up shop in a dining room transformed into a performance studio. When it is time for the music to get going, people crowd into that small space, literally inches away from the performers as they play a set. The informal setting gives a sort of candid look at the people and personalities that are in each band, especially since the setting offers the chance to meet the performers face to face. It is a rare concert experience with incredible appeal to live music fans.
FaceMan was up first to kick off the afternoon. FaceMan performed as a trio that featured David Thomas Bailey (guitar), Dean Hirschfield (drums) and Faceman (vocals, guitar). Configured as a sort of power trio, FaceMan offered a sound that blended the punch of rock 'n' roll infused with the timelessness of folk/Americana. Forgoing a bass player, David Thomas Bailey used a seven string guitar to hold down the low end while simultaneously playing guitar. Dean Hirschfield showed off his accomplished drumming skills that included a number of creative approaches to percussive sound. Faceman played guitar and kept the band rooted with his powerful voice.
The great thing about attending a Brass Tree Sessions concert is you get to see an entire set, not just what ends up being recorded and edited into a music video. FaceMan got the crowd and themselves warmed up with a handful of songs mostly from their latest album FeedingTime. "TheBeast" approched energetic rock 'n' roll from an indie angle - loud but catchy and melodic. I was blown away by their performance of their new single "TheGospel" - with its beautiful melody, great instrumentation, poignant lyrics, and an ever building energy that seeped all the way into my bones. The songs they performed for their video shoot was great too, but I'm grateful I was able to catch both that and the unrecorded moments. The musical blend that FaceMan has was very well balanced and expertly delivered and they are definitely worth checking out.
Next up was Tantric Picasso. This fearsome retro-influenced five-piece featured Jackson Boone (vocals, guitar), Marko Melnick (guitar, vocals), Pablo Cruz (bass), Matthew Tanner (drums), and Karl Rivers (keyboard, guitar). Tantric Picasso are contemporary revivalists of raw classic '70s style rock 'n' roll - the kind from the good ol' days that fused distortion, energy, attitude, blues and funk into a flamboyant melt-your-face-off package that put the hair on the chests of manly men. Although some of their recorded material (and from what I've seen performed before) has hints of psychedelic electronica in it, this set was all about rock 'n' roll.
Tantric Picasso began their set the same way they start their new album, Make Your Love Bigger, with the lead-off track "Going To War". Midway through that first song, Pablo Cruz' bass malfunctioned, and attendees were a afforded a rare up close look at a couple things; what band members have to do when it comes to equipment failure and what it's like to sit in for a spontaneous jam session (as the rest of the band decided to keep playing music during the unexpected interlude). Seeing that occur was just as, if not more fulfilling than perhaps watching their set go off without a hitch. Moments later everything was back in full swing, and Tantric Picasso continued to rock the crowd's faces led by Jackson Boone's guttural wails, keeping the energy flowing all the way up through when they finished on the funked out single (and one of my favorites) "Strider". Be sure to check out Tantric Picasso, they will take you back in time while obliterating your eardrums - in the best way possible, of course.
|Raven & The Writing Desk|
Raven & The Writing Desk performed the final set of this session, and they began to impress even before they played a single note. Somehow, the six members of the band crammed themselves and all their gear into an approximately 15' x 15' space that could just barely contain them. Julia LiBassi (vocals, keyboard), Scott Conroy (guitar), Ryan Self (bass), Adrienne Short (violin, vocals), Neil Mitchell (marimba, melodica, percussion) and Matt Murphy (drums) all arranged themselves into the snug environment (the marimba alone took up nearly a third of the available space). The band began to play and with their performance they seemingly attempted to bring down the Brass Tree House walls with an enthralling set of their progressive baroque rock.
|Raven & The Writing Desk|
The explosion of sound began with "Wooden Lover" from their album Recidivist - an almost steampunk-like song that seemed to blend Victorian piano and vocal melody backed by powerful rock 'n' roll. As they performed songs from the The Bonedale EP, I was amazed by the creative use of atypical instruments, and how they all seamlessly worked together. Despite the large array of instruments, nothing was ever forced in there, and every instrument had a chance to shine. I loved the melodica and electric guitar featured in "Infancy Til' Death". I loved the violin solo at the beginning of "Tiny Terrors". The marimba was an instant crowd favorite, especially in the spontaneous interlude performance of "Under The Sea" from The Little Mermaid. I really didn't want them to stop playing, but alas bass trouble reared its ugly head again when a broken string forced an earlier end to their set. Hopefully they had enough good video footage to work with because this band needs to be seen to be believed. You can get the chance to see these guys this Wednesday, May 9 at the Hi-Dive, performing with Suckers and Young Man. I strongly recommend attending this show!
Brass Tree Sessions concerts are amazing on so many levels, and I think they are a must-see event if you truly love local music. They do a phenomenal job at selecting incredible local bands to perform. They offer an environment that'll offer a new perspective to viewing bands. They allow attendees to get up close and personal with these talented musicians. And you can always relive the moment, at least some of it, when the music videos from the sessions are released - not to mention the subsequent exposure a recording can give. D.I.Y. projects are fueled by the passion of the people behind them, but they thrive off of support from the community. Part of what has kept Brass Tree Sessions alive are donations, so be sure to not only stop by and see what it's all about, but help keep it moving forward in the future if you can - believe me, it is so worth it.
See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page to stay updated.