A Shoreline Dream, Moonspeed, Sonnenblume
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Better Than: Taking OxyContin and staring at clouds.
Maybe it's the pretty sunsets, or maybe it's the lack of oxygen, but Denver has the makings of a surprisingly good bliss-rock scene. Last night's all-local lineup at the Bluebird brought the pink noise in velvet spades.
Leading off the evening was Sonnenblume, a trio that plays what would probably best be described as heroin pop, and I mean that in the best way possible. Melancholy and fuzzy, the band's set recalled any number of 4AD bands from the late '80s and early '90s without sounding too much like any one of them. Liz Forster's lovely coo, Todd Ayers's howling guitar and Zach Littlefield's sensitive drumming combined to create songs that would have been perfect in a Cameron Crowe movie fifteen years ago. All of those things -- Cameron Crowe movies (or their soundtracks, at least), 4AD and, of course, heroin--are awesome, and so was Sonnenblume's set. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more from this group.
In the middle slot came Moonspeed, whose sound suggested what Sigur Ros might come up with if the group attempted to play Americana. Oh, yeah, and tripled its size. Eleven people -- including four guitarists (two electric, two acoustic), two drummers, and two keyboardists -- are required to create this grand space-folk, and they can build a huge wall of warm, soothing drone, accented by hints of gothic alt-country, that other Denver mainstay.
The band's sound is definitely unique, but the songs the group performed had a frustrating tendency to end somewhat abruptly, without much of a sense of climax. In each song, I would be just starting to really lose myself in the sound when the song would end. That may be intentional, but I wonder if a band with such a gift for walls of sound shouldn't stretch songs out more and really build them up. Right now, it's just a big tease.
When I interviewed A Shoreline Dream recently, the bandmates talked a lot about the fickleness of crowds, especially in Denver -- how they'll stay home if it's too cold or too hot or too whatever -- and so I was curious to see how many people showed up for this CD-release show, especially since the band had to compete with both Andrew Bird and Born in the Flood for the attention of local- and indie-music fans. And the crowd was...meh, not bad. It would have filled out the hi-dive pretty well, but the Bluebird felt a bit empty. Those that did show up were quite enthusiastic, however, and they were rewarded with a great performance from A Shoreline Dream.
The band's concise set stuck mostly to songs from its new album Recollections of Memory. Songs like "Hypermode," "Manhattan Beach" and "neverChanger" highlighted the band at its most powerful, and showed how far it's come in just a couple of years and two albums. While the group's older work could occasionally meander, these new songs are tight and muscular, especially live, driven by the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Enoc Torraca and drummer Sean Merrell in a way that older material was not.
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Liz Forster joined the band to provide harmony vocals on "Pasadena," which closed the main set, and her vocals were the perfect addition to what is already one of the band's better songs. It's almost too bad they didn't think of it sooner; maybe there can be more in the future? (Please?)
The band walked off in anticipation of an encore, and that was when the small crowd really seemed pathetic--I was doing my part, but the screams and applause were a bit sparse. The guys came back anyway, and frontman Ryan Policky, in his endearingly dorky way, pointed to the video projection, on which were words to the effect of "there is nothing more for you," and said, "Well, we're gonna play one more, so I guess that up there is no longer accurate." The band played "another city song"--it has many--and then sent us on our way, fully dosed on bliss.
Personal Bias: I pretty much can't get enough shoegaze/dream-pop/drone/psych/what-have-you, so I was a sucker for these bands.
Random Detail: I guess this is where I usually gush about somebody's gear, so I'll say that Liz Forster has one of the sexiest bass guitars I've ever seen. I don't even play bass guitar and I want it.
By The Way:Contrary to what I said above, heroin is not actually awesome. But it sure has helped create some awesome music throughout the years.