There's nothing quite like a celebration when it's warranted and praise where it's due. Hard work pays off, a milestone has been met, and loved ones come nearer to show their support and good times are generally had by all. May is the time for graduations and for weddings, but on the evening of May 12, 2012 there was reason to celebrate one of Denver's own recording and releasing a new record. And so a CD Release show is naturally a place to recall what it took to create the possibility of the present, and be happy for it. Maybe this manifests into an undue overload of nostalgia or maybe a chuckle over what was once considered "hard work". Unlike a graduation or a wedding, a CD release show is a place where close friends and family mingle with outsiders, or those with no personal connections, there only connection being a similar taste in music. And also wanting to come out to see Flashbulb Fires at the Hi-Dive.
Shirley set the mood for an evening that might include cocktails and party dresses, or horn-rimmed glasses and lattes. It was really good "mixer" music, and it seemed that was just what everyone was doing: mingling, drumming up conversation, greeting family. An organist, a bassist, a drummer all stood behind the lead trumpeteer John Lake and saxophonist Serafin Sanchez. This jazz outfit had paper music on stands: real professionals. It would have been cool to see them wearing some sunglasses, or smoking cigarettes. The band is friends with Flashbulb Fires, and John has contributed some of his brass expertise to their new album Gasconader.
Princess Music again wowed the crowd with an amazing collection of professional musicians. The women with the pixie haircuts manned the heavy equipment here. Heavy not in weight but in sound, Psyche Dunkhase on the cello and Rachel Sliker playing both the violin and viola together created a rich sound that filled the venue. Now that the Hi-Dive was really starting to fill up, it was still a loud clamor of friendliness that battled it out with singer Tyler Ludwick. Ludwick's brilliant vocal range was impressive, soaring high, dipping low and wading in brilliant staccatos and legatos in between. When not singing, Ludwick's meek manner was helping little to keep the crowd and the staff focused; at one point he looked to the sound booth to help turn down Sliker's sound as she unplugged her viola and only giggled and shrugged when no one answered to his requests.
Besides the group's classically trained musicians, bassist Jeremy Averitt and drummer Robin Chestnut are experienced in the local music scene, both having been in a band called the Shift before Princess Music. Princess Music is both in touch with it's feelings but not afraid to let go and just get you to dance a little.
Lights were strung and dark cloth was draped, the mood was set. Flashbulb Fires were getting ready to seduce the crowd. No, no, no; they were getting ready to "wow" the crowd with their new album, silly. Besides, Patrick McGuire being wrapped in multi-colored bungicords and bassist Michael James being similarly adorned were not exactly dressed to undress. And I have a feeling various moms and other family members were in the crowd, so no of course that's not the effect they were going for here. But an extra dimly lit Hi-Dive, and smoke machine fog was an excellent attempt to create a sort of indie Phantom of the Opera setting. Video cameras were everywhere, as friends of the band filmed with handheld cameras and weaved in and out around the stage, standing on top of chairs, crouching beneath keyboard stands. A camera was even strapped to drummer Chris Sturniolo's chest. This performance not only had a theatrically staged exterior, but now was getting a little arthouse with the various and omnipresent cameras.
It's always nice to see a homegrown band come home from the road and get the applause they deserve for a job well done. Today is the official release of Gasconader, and the group will continue to support their new release with tour dates in Colorado and Texas. Gasconader is really a fine example or musical prowess for this band who have been around for about six years, previously known as Fiance before changing their name and musical style with Flashbulb Fires. Powerful lyrics, a strong yet floaty vocal presence and excellently timed instruments with backing vocals come together for a nicely executed pop-music compendium. And "floaty" is borrowing their words, on the song "Dark Ghost (I've Got Arms)" McGuire sings, "I float" with a high-pitched soprano-style voice that sounds exactly like what "floaty" should. Extremely expressive and forceful when he sings, McGuire does well as he moves between keyboard and acoustic guitar while not missing a beat. One of my favorite moments is seeing him sing, "Don't you want to see the end of the world with me / darling, I can hardly wait," on "I Beat My Body Down" and then give way Sturnlio's drum solo. The group was well-received by their audience, and it felt like they were playing their swan song. As I left the Hi-Dive, I could't help but notice that the window covered in band stickers to the left of the stage included an aging Fiance sticker.