Over the weekend: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Wheel Variety Show

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Wheel Variety Show
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Bluebird Theater

Better Than: The V Ultimate Variety show featuring Wally Eastwood.

An estimated 48 musicians took part in the third annual Nathaniel

Rateliff and the Wheel variety show on Saturday night. All of them

played brilliantly, some of them played for only fifteen minutes, four

of them were responsible for bringing the fire department to the show.

After members of Paper Bird, who donned fake mustaches under the guise

of Harpoontang, left the stage, Denver's favorite chamber pop star, Ian

Cooke walked unassumingly to his post behind his cello. It's a pity

that Ian has still yet to break out of this town and be recognized for

his talents on a national level. His pitch perfect falsetto tucked

neatly into a maze of cello patterns, while audience members watched in

awe as he masterfully soloed over root patterns that he'd played

previously and looped through a pedal. Watching this feat, it's hard

not think about the logistics involved. Those who know Cooke have to

realize it's something he doesn't have to think about at all; he just

does it. Cooke only played two songs but remained on stage to accompany

Bela Karoli.

Since May, Bela Karoli has only played two shows,

as front woman Julie Davis has kept busy playing in the Wheel.

Vocalist/accordionist Brigid McAuliffe appears to be keeping busy these

days, as well, as she was absent from the performance. Because of this,

the band seemed slightly out of synch as Davis and violinist Carrie

Beeder looked back and forth at each other sheepishly a few times

during the set. Regardless, Davis' charisma and voice were enough to

pull them through, playing a short set that could easily serve as the

soundtrack to a Raymond Chandler novel set in outer space.


TaunTaun, who would close out the night's festivities, were the odd

band out this evening, Bad Weather California was not far behind.

Guitarist Adam Baumiester chopped out looming and slightly off key

slide guitar parts while vocalist/guitarist Chris Adolf bounced around

like a preacher possessed, raising his hands towards the heavens in

between mildly-maddening shouts at the audience. At one point, Adolf

made the 3OH!3 symbol with his fingers while singing "this world is not

my home." (It should be noted that Adolf is from Grand Junction and

therefore pledges allegiance to the 970 area code.)

Bad Weather

California, whose latest album was entitled Young Punks, may indeed

have been the punkest band on the bill. But follwing the mellow and

feel good sounds of acts like Houses and Joseph Pope, this was not a

hard feat to pull off.

The buzz behind Snake Rattle Rattle

Snake is a loud and resonate one. On this night, several people,

including Gregory Alan Isakov's manager, Sarah Levin, expressed their

desire to witness it first hand. The band did not disappoint and played

thirty minutes of macabre dance rock that pulsed and swayed behind

Hayley Helricks deep and smoky croon. It's rare that a bass player can

define a sound, but James Yardley (also from Grand Junction) may be the

most important piece in giving Snake Rattle Rattle Snake that urgent

throb that gives the band its second rattle. Halfway through the set,

members of Houses, Wetlands, Big Timber and others joined the band on

stage, each sporting a tambourine and shaking it in their own unique

way. Mike Marchant was clearly head and shoulders above the rest if

them in this department and not just because he is freakishly tall.


Rateliff appeared without the rest of the Wheel for their first song of

the night and hoped to calm the audience back down after they had just

been whipped into a frenzy by Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. This proved to

be harder than initially hoped as Rateliff, at one point, let out an

exasperated sigh due to the murmured chatter of the audience. "Shut the

fuck up back there," one guy exhorted. "You don't have to say that,"

Rateliff offered. "It's just me." The rest of the Wheel joined in at that point

for the excellent anthem, "Early Spring Til," in which Rateliff and

Julie Davis passionately sing the refrain of "Are you tired?"

After this many bands, it was a valid question.


the show, members if TaunTaun were concerned about their role in the

night's festivities and were worried that most people would leave

before they played as they were following the night's main attraction,

The Wheel. Chris Fogal and company appeared unfazed by this, though, by

the time they took the stage in a bath of light and fog so thick all

that was visible on stage was the band's silhouettes. It is an effect

that, at smaller clubs, would look downright silly, but on the

expansive stage at the Blue Bird the band looked Maidenesque.


audience, who had remained polite and reserved throughout the night,

gave into TaunTaun's spectacle and began pumping their fists and

banging their heads. In front, a "hipster pit" erupted, which was cute,

safe and featured more hugging than thrown elbows. Like when two

kittens fight, onlookers watched with adoring smirks on their faces,

standing back and hoping not to get scratched.

Towards the end

of the set, a strange sound could be heard just above TaunTaun's

shredding; constant and annoying, it couldn't be placed at first. When

more of the fog cleared, we realized the fire alarm was going off and

had been for some time.

Members of the Denver Fire Department

showed up only to discover that there was no fire and that the cause

was TaunTaun's smoke machine. TaunTaun tried to play through this, but

were unceremoniously cut off halway through their encore as Bluebird

staff simply faded out their music with no warning to the band, putting

a sour end on an otherwise triumphant night for the Denver music scene.

Personal Bias: My body was at the Bluebird, but my heart was at the hi-dive watching Brain Hammer

Random Detail: TaunTaun's Matty Clark held up a toy TaunTaun as he took the stage. I used to have one, I want it.

the Way: My first show I played with my band in college was in Chris Adolf's basement.

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