April 1, 2009

3 Kings: 3 Fantastic, Bluegrasstic Bands

(Reprinted from www.ColoradoMusicBuzz.com)
The best and most unique part of Denver music is the variety. In a city of about half a million people, we have Rap, Metal, Country, Blues, Electro-Pop, and an increasingly well-established reputation for Rock. One of the more interesting genres is the burgeoning Bluegrass Rock scene. This throwback to “simpler times” is drawing crowds with its dance-happy beats, interesting instrument ensembles, and carefree environment. On Saturday, March 14th, I went to 3 Kings for a night of Bluegrass awesomeness.

First up was McDougall of Portland, Oregon, a one-man orchestra. Singing with an exaggerated bravado, he grabbed the attention of the crowd immediately. What truly impressed me was his ability to play the guitar (or banjo, as needed), keep the bass drum pounding, alternately clashing the cymbals, and even playing the harmonica, at times. Had I not been watching him, I would have sworn there were at least a couple other musicians up on stage.

Touring with McDougall was the band, Hillstomp, with an equally impressive sound. Their shtick seemed to be a kind of shabby-Rock setup: duct tape holding the microphones in place, spoons for drumsticks, a broiler pan and large buckets for a drum kit, even a guitar made of a cigar box. But for all the kitschiness onstage, their music was flawless and infectious. This is one band I wish Denver could claim as its own, so I could see more of their performances.

While I was deeply impressed with the two bands I had found that night, it wasn’t a completely fantastic show. Performing between the aforementioned bands was Naked and Shameless, a duo from Hollywood. And, well, huh. What do I say that will express my opinion tactfully? They were … interesting? Imagine being at a party in college – no, high school – and it’s late in the evening. The two most wasted guys pick up a guitar and proceed to sing raunchy drinking songs until all the other partygoers have either unwillingly sobered up or snuck out the back door. Now imagine you just paid $12 to see them perform.

The night was capped by the popular Denver band, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s easy to see why they have gained and maintained such a following: the music is played with a wild precision, the songs are catchy, and the two frontmen have an impressive stage presence. Slim and Munley were wandering among the audience or laying on the floor just as often as they were onstage. And their energy? Well, I left around 1:30 a.m. and they were still going strong.


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