Last Night: Rachael Pollard at GlobGlobGlob

Last Night: Rachael Pollard at GlobGlobGlob
photo by Marcus Huser

Rachael Pollard, Doo Crowder, Spoke Shaver, Rotaree, Temples
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Better than:
Not falling asleep at work, which I'm now certain to do tomorrow.

In military operations, planes often fly at low altitudes to avoid radar detection. If that's true in cliché form as well, then the show at GlobGlobGlob on Thursday night was so far under the radar, it was pretty much lying on the ground. And it may or may not have been passed out. Which is not to say that it wasn't a good show. But when your headliner

is Denver's most unapologetically acoustic guitar-wielding

singer-songwriter, you can't really expect balls-out shredding. And

when the show takes place in a space that serves double duty as a

living room, it starts to feel less like a show and more like the time

toward the end of a friendly get-together when a few musicians start

taking turns with someone's guitar, and everyone settles in. No stage

antics, no packed bar, just twenty or so people hanging out on couches,

listening to the music.

I showed up in time to catch Rotaree -- so named, I'm told, for a

tremolo-like effect through which the banjoist ran her instrument. The

mere presence of a banjo is enough to make a non-bluegrass band hard to

classify; throw in accordion, trumpet and happily off-key female

vocals, you get something like what riot grrl might sound like as

interpreted by scurvy swabs, or perhaps the result of a jam sesh

between Tom Waits and his eight-year-old neice. Rotaree closed with a

Cat Stevens cover, and while the band was utterly unlike Stevens in

sound, it was kin in spirit: earnest to the point of being almost

irritating, but with an enthusiasm that can't help but be infectious.

Spoke Shaver was the only conventional rock and roll band at the show,

and it seemed a little misplaced. But in spite of the problems -- the

mix wasn't great, and the crowd was in irreversible chill-out mode --

Spoke Shaver did a good job with what it had. The band has a jangly,

Modest Mouse kind of sound, but there were distinct moments of P.J.

Harvey palm-muting, and at least one breakdown that was vintage Dio.

And the band's keys do a nice job of filling out the jangle; the last

song, a slow-burn build with washing synths and a music-box Rhodes

line, would have put Isaac Brock to shame.

Last Night: Rachael Pollard at GlobGlobGlob
Doo Crowder photo by Marcus Huser (click to enlarge)

Doo Crowder was up next, and I've yet to see him play to a crowd that

didn't walk away impressed. Having performed over the last few years

with his band Pee Pee, Crowder has been spending more time on stage on

his own lately, doing a routine that involves loop pedals, beat-boxing,

dancing and some rapping. The show is weird and a little retarded, and

there's an element of innocent shamelessness to it, like a kid in a

tutu performing a pageant for her parents. But it works, mostly because

Crowder's songwriting is beautiful and brilliant, and his wide-eyed

lyricism compliments the ADD performance.

Last Night: Rachael Pollard at GlobGlobGlob
Rachael Pollard photo by Marcus Huser (click to enlarge)

It takes a lot to stand out from the acoustic guitar-playing masses,

but Rachael Pollard does just that, with catchy songs just strange

enough to capture the attention. While the timbre of her voice is all

Laura Veirs, both in guitar playing and ebbing vocal cadence, Pollard

recalls "Busload of Faith"-era Lou Reed, except for on-key. And while

Reed's voice is a one-trick pony, Pollard's is affected, practiced and

calculated; she uses it like an instrument.

Her stage persona is sweet and distracted, and this show was especially

casual. She made mistakes, chattered aimlessly between songs, looked

around for her capo, thought about what song she would play next. But

she's about to go on tour. This show was as much a going-away party as

a show, and people were there as much to hang out with her as to see

her play.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Way back in the day, I recorded an EP in the bedroom closet of a house where Rich from Spoke Shaver was living.

Random Detail: Believing his guitar to be cursed, Doo Crowder elected

not to bring it, and borrowed Rachael Pollard's instead. Then he

borrowed her capo. To play a Rachael Pollard cover.

By the way: Pollard's off to the west coast, but Crowder will be at Bar

Bar with Yuzo Nieto tomorrow night, and Spoke Shaver is at the

Meadowlark next Friday.

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