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The glass was half full at Red Rocks' Monolith

Watching DeVotchKa take the stage at Monolith on Saturday night in front of a half-empty Red Rocks Amphitheatre was a bit deflating. But by the third or fourth song, my disappointment had turned into indignation, and I felt like I'd gotten a brass knuckle junk punch from my best friend. Are you shitting me?! I thought. I know it's damp and windy and kind of cold, but bloody hell! There've been far lesser bands that packed this place during Film on the Rocks. And here we have one of the best bands that has ever come out of our city — and this is the reception it gets?!

"This is pathetic!" I said to the hi-dive's Ben DeSoto as he walked down the stairs past me.

"This isn't pathetic," he replied, with a palpable sense of certitude. Looking past me, he nodded at the crowd, then turned back. "Look at those people," he said. "They're all really into it."

"Yeah," I demanded, "but DeVotchKa deserves better than this!"

Ben refused to rise to the bait. Unlike me, he wasn't bothered by the seats that were empty; instead, he marveled at the ones that were filled. For him, to see an admittedly niche band that had gone it alone for so long get this kind of turnout was actually stunning. Rather than feeling let down, he saw it as a testament to how far these musicians had come. "These fans are going to be here for the life of the band," he insisted.

Ben was, right, of course. As I turned and looked at the crowd, I saw what he saw: Folks dancing, smiling, clapping, singing along — getting lost in the music. And given the notable passion and focused intensity of their performance, the members of DeVotchKa must have been seeing it DeSoto's way: They were too busy pouring their hearts out for the people who were there to notice the ones who weren't. Dressed to the nines, Nick Urata and company pulled out all the stops with an elaborate presentation that included Jeanie Schroder outfitting her sousaphone with red Christmas lights, vintage-looking black-and-white footage of the band projected on the screen, and a horn and string section that featured Elin Palmer and a number of other friends. Seeing DeVotchKa on the Rocks was every bit as majestic as I'd imagined it would be, and the band looked as elegant as it sounded.

Sorry you missed it.

The rest of Monolith wasn't too shabby, either. Some of the bands that I'd expected would be great truly were (Holy Fuck, Blitzen Trapper), while others that I'd expected to be amazing were merely okay (Akron/Family, the Kills). And some of my absolute faves (TV on the Radio, Band of Horses) ended up being totally underwhelming. Maybe my ears were just fatigued by the time they hit the stage on Sunday night, but it also could have been that I was sort of over the whole experience by then; the crisp, moist night air and walking up and down all those goddamn stairs had taken their toll, I guess. I've determined that Monolith is just not a festival for fat guys.

Or fickle music fans.

 
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