Sun Red • Old Radio • Paean • Night of Joy | 02.26.10 | Meadowlark
Night of Joy got the opening slot, which is weird because the poster has their thing on it. Their thing is black eyeliner painted into drips and coming down from the eyes of bassist Bree Davies, guitarist/singer Valerie Franz and, as noted, the woman on the poster.
Maybe the sound guy just said, "alright, whoever can get their gear tuned the quickest goes on first," and that would be Night of Joy every time because they have two fewer guitars than everyone else.
Alright, so that didn't happen, but it's worth noting the simplicity of Night of Joy. They have the sort of un-fucked with music that made punk rock. This is not to imply that these gals and whatever drummer they're on right now are two-chord bashers. There is a very willful lack of polish going on, yes, but this stuff is weirder than punk, more pointy. Tom Murphy drew the comparison to "the spidery end of Television's guitar work," and...yes.
The Meadowlark is a great venue for Night of Joy because you have to set up on the floor amongst the customers unless you are a one man band. And both the music and the women of Night of Joy have a very rough-hewn vibe that screams for comingling as opposed to a raised stage.
Paean followed, and I still don't know how to pronounce their name. I think it might be Payin'.
Whatever it is, David Maddocks and a half dozen of his friends are seriously freaking epic. As good as the Meadowlark is for Night of Joy, it is that bad for Paean, who really need more space (their bassist was confined to an area that probably qualifies as backstage) and a sound system more capable of dealing with all that input.
So the sound was a little muddy on the big swells and the vocals were muted mumbles, but you could still get the idea. There seems to be a big nature thing going on in the music scene in Paean's native Fort Collins and here that means: banjo and fiddle lines fit for the dusty road, relentless repetition for the open space and enormous, dramatic beauty.
Paean has the ability to be startling and subtle and mesmerizing and you should probably see them play whenever you can. Preferably somewhere with an actual stage.
Sun Red took their top billing to the penultimate slot, presumably seasoned enough to know that playing second to last usually gets you the biggest crowd at a local show.
Sun Red is (die) Pilot plus some time off and a value shift. This version has more fun, I am told, and it shows. They allow plenty of time for tambourine and guitar solos. That said, the satisfying song craft remains. And the lyrics. "You can't be trusted/to pull apart the alchemy of man." That's good stuff, folks.
There is no substitute for experience, especially live, and the time these guys have put in makes for a particularly confident show. Again, the Meadowlark is not a perfect venue for a band of this intricacy or magnitude. But they made do.
All this left Old Radio in the closer slot, which is a good place for you to put them if you are in a band and you ever share a bill with these guys. You don't want to follow this.
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You have all seen a band that has a couple songs they never bothered to write endings for because it all just ends in mayhem/feedback/flailing, anyway. Many fewer of you have seen a band that can also be quiet and heartfelt. And pretty much only those of you who have seen Old Radio have seen a band that has both of those things and also palpably enjoys playing every one of their songs.
It is always tempting to slap genre labels on bands like they are mutts we're identifying. I made a couple of attempts at doing this for Old Radio, but they all involved at least three genres and two prefixes and made me look like an ass. So suffice it to say there's a lot going on here.
There are no real weaknesses in the band -- I'm not crazy about Patrick Kelly's voice, but it's very expressive and he (or whoever) writes good lyrics -- but its greatest strengths are up front wielding guitars. Kelly, Eric Peterson and Lucas Johannes, who has my vote for Denver's most exciting live performer, are a wonderful trio. They're equally capable playing straight ahead rock, aching melody or monstrous feedback.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I would have been at this show, review or not. Just an exceptionally solid lineup, top to bottom. Random Detail: I think the poster, with the aforementioned Night of Joy thing on it, was made by Night of Joy. So it actually isn't weird at all. Sorry I lied. By The Way: If you listen to the songs on Sun Red's myspace, you will hear violin parts that were written and recorded in the (die) Pilot days. They don't have the violin now, but trust me when I say they don't need it.