March 21, 2010

A Night of Forehead-Slapping Music

Thursday night, I got away for some much (MUCH) needed kid-free/alone/woman/friend time. And beer. Much-needed beer and music, too. So, I met up with a couple girlfriends at Hi-Dive on Broadway for the Ian Cooke show.

To start with, there was some confusion about who would actually be playing. Blind Pilot was initially scheduled for the same night, but that turned out to be an error. Then Tyler Ludwick, who I had heard of but never saw, was penned in. As far as I could tell (and please correct me if I'm wrong), he didn't show. Instead, it was a band called--I think--Princess Music? I have been trying to do my fact-checking since then, but no one seems to know.

Note from the Future: turns out, Tyler Ludwick is part of Princess Music, in addition to local mainstay, Laura Goldhamer. Whew! I'm glad this review wasn't printed. Fact-checking fail!

Maybe this band wasn't even on the roster at all. Maybe they weren't supposed to play, but they kidnapped the real band, hid them away in an underground lair, then realized people would notice something was up if they didn't perform, so the kidnappers decided to impersonate the band and do the show themselves! Yes. It's all coming together now.

See, this band? Well, let's say right off the bat, I hate writing negative reviews. I worry that (having the ego that I do) I will single-handedly make a band quit, leading the members to give up music forever, and live a passion-less and depressing life. All because of a bad review. And I would hate that. Because bad music is better than no music. Yes, really.

Oh, but what I hate more than writing negative reviews is writing false-positive reviews. I just can't lie and say a band is fantastic when they aren't. Because it undermines the bands that are fantastic, see? That's why I could never write for Rolling Stone: all they write about is how this band is the next big thing...and this one...and this one...

(Seriously though, Rolling Stone, call me sometime.)

So, I hate writing negative reviews, but I'm a-gonna anyways. This band, Princess Music (?), was not good. However (!), they do show potential. The lead singer was cute in a nerdy, hip way. The backup vocalist and banjo player was an adorable hippie chick with fantastic dreadlocks (see my bucket list). She bobbed her head and made weird facial expressions and reminded me of a Muppet. In a good way, that is. Fun, free, good stage presence. Together, the singers had chemistry between them onstage and that is exciting to watch.

I can't really remember much of their music (bad sign!) except that they seemed very disjointed. Part of it was a very careless "we're all friends and get together and drink and play instruments" kind of band. And hey, I can get behind those kinds of bands. However, the other part was made up of two girls who seemed classically trained on the violin and cello. The two parts of the band barely acknowledged each other, let alone played together. Maybe Hi-Dive had double-booked them and, rather than canceling one band, stuck them onstage together? Tricky, tricky, Hi-Dive.

If I am having trouble remembering the first band's songs, then I'm damn near having musical amnesia about the second band. I can't remember, well, much of anything about the second band. Here's what I do remember: it seemed to be composed of two separate, touring bands who--to get more gigs--play together. From what I could deduce in all my Myspace-driven research, the two bands are Alameda and Autopilot is For Lovers.

I missed much of the first half of their set, but caught the second half. However, as I mentioned, I don't remember anything about it except that I was not compelled to pay attention whatsoever. Hey, I never said I wrote good reviews!

Just as their set was winding down, the millions of band members (or so it seemed) left the stage, allowing Autopilot to play a few songs solo. This is where I started paying attention. Autopilot is a two-person ensemble: drums and guitar/vocals. They sounded a lot like a reverse-White Stripes (which I'm sure they hear a lot). And wow, what a difference from their Frankenstein creation with Alameda. This band was great: raw, thumping beats, interesting vocals. Just as I was allowing myself to be wooed, though, the singer stopped playing, mid-sentence due to "wardrobe malfunctions." For a full minute or two while she re-buttoned or re-tucked or whatever it was that called for her attention, my friends and I exchanged eye-rolls and went back to our temporarily-paused conversation.

That may seem callous, but if the audience doesn't know you and hasn't heard of you, you only have a couple minutes to impress them...otherwise, they're lost to your cause forever. Forget about your outfit and focus on the music.

Thankfully, it was soon time for Ian Cooke's show to begin. While a friend and I had seen Ian's shows on many occasions, my other friend had not. Just before he took the stage, I said confidently, "Don't worry about him...I've never seen him play a bad show!"

And so the jinx began.

A word about Ian Cooke: I love him. I think he is one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen, both in and outside of Denver. He makes the cello look as easy to operate as a spinning top. His voice is unique and fitting for his music. His stage presence is perfect: witty, humble, and even a little bumbling.

I have seen shows in which he plays both solo and with a band, and I must say, his solo shows are much better. He loops his sounds mid-performance to create a layered, complex song with no other accompaniment. The cello-only rendition of "The Rot" is on my list of "Best Musical Moments Ever." Yet, when he's with his band, they just detract from his endless talents. They are great musicians, don't get me wrong. But some acts are better when left "pure".

Moving on, while I was initially disappointed that the show turned out to be "Ian Cooke...Band," I was still stoked to see him perform. That is, until he began messing up song after song. The first couple times it happened, my friends and I looked at each other and laughed. I mean, he's Ian freakin' Cooke. He's allowed to be adorable and mess up his songs. He's allowed to blame it on being drunk (even though I suspect that is just a cover story). Yet, after it happened several times, it got--I'm sad to say--tiresome.

All musicians have bad shows. I don't blame him in the least and I still plan to go to any of his shows that I can. Ian Cooke at his worst is still 54% better than most musicians at their best.

The last thing to make this night one of aggravated annoyance was one particular jackass in the audience. Let me point out a few things to this person:

1. Pushing a girl to get her attention stops being effective in first grade.

2. Squealing and yelling is annoying enough in between songs...and about 3,000 times more annoying during a song.

3. Don't act like you know the musician, just because you follow him to all his shows. Heckling him just makes you look belligerent.

4. I was kicking myself all night for not seizing the opportunity and punching you. You may not be so lucky at the next show when you surrounded by annoyed people.

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