As the last notes of "The Wait" ended, they blended into the Toody Cole's familiar bass pulse that introduced Pierced Arrows' epic, and much beloved, "Paranoia." Fred Cole tapped the Bigsby on his Guild Polara to modulate the feedback before heading into one of the band's most harrowing and exhilarating numbers. At the end, the Coles and drummer Kelly Halliburton came together in a series of crashes to end the show proper with a heady intensity.
But it's not like the band had any low points in its set. Beginning with "The Guns of Thunder," Pierced Arrows set the bar high with incredible energy and presence with songs that cannot be pigeonholed into any genre less broad than rock and roll. Toody's sinuous, driving bass seemed to set the pace. Halliburton displayed an adaptive, free flowing, frenetic-yet-expressive drumming that established a textural backdrop that never sat in the background.
Fred Cole's slashing chords, melodic underpinnings and a consistent yet seemingly constantly evolving set of progressions established a stripped down yet haunting aesthetic. For a rock band that has shed most adornment, Pierced Arrows has also created a completely unique sound in an era when that is a rare thing indeed.
"Caroline" and "Hills on Fire" featured Toody on lead vocals and her steely soulfulness as a singer was moving. Both she and Fred shook with the force of emotion that was part performance but mostly it felt like both were feeling the core of those emotions all over again with songs dealing with the a combination of the highest and lowest points in a person's life -- those moments of being overcome by intense love or being charged up out of the pits of desolation by the sheer force of desperate energy. The two came together especially powerfully on the stirring "This Is The Day."
After "Paranoia" ended, the crowd definitely wanted more and we got it. So Pierced Arrows treated us to two Dead Moon classics starting with "It's OK" and ending on a particularly raucous "54/40." Fred smiled because he knew they had put on an excellent show and because people definitely went off during the whole show even when the band struck a tender note in its seventeen-song set.
The show started off with The Geniuses. While the guys had warned us about "a short set, and then GOOD bands" on its Facebook page, but perish the thought.
After all, this band included guys from bands like Boss 302 and Orangu-Tones. Rich Groskopf teased a bit of Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" but the music that came after was more like the kind of hybrid of garage rock, rockabilly and punk that you'd expect from a band with this pedigree.
Groskopf of course sang with his signature, deep, crooning warble but so did Garrett Brittenham in a clean and cutting tone. But Kurt Ohlen stood out strongly on a couple of songs with an authoritative and soulfully low tone. When the three worked together vocally on songs it really brought out their individual strengths in a way that you don't see much.
It was a bit amusing when Brittenham told us that "Don't Talk To Strangers" was written by "people who sing much better than us." Sure, it's the Beau Brummels, but The Geniuses far from butchered it.
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Supermodified is a five piece who have been in various bands around Denver over the years, including Dan Merrick formerly of the Speedholes on bass and backing vocals. The singer looked like a former radio jock/karate instructor but that worked in his favor because he moved like a maniac throughout the show and showing more spirit than guys half his age.
He definitely had the combination of Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler dance moves thing going on which is just as well because these guys started off with a cover of a kind of obscure Aerosmith song, "I Wanna Know Why." But apparently this was a cover band but the kind where the performance more than makes up for the fact that these guys didn't write the songs. They played the material like they owned it.
These guys also picked other less well-known songs like "Heaven and Hell" by The Who. At one point the singer took off his shirt and threw it to the drummer, who had already taken off his own with a, "Have a shirt AJ." The band's set closed with a high-energy cover of the Strangers' "Something Better Change."
Speaking of cover bands who seem to imbue the material with new life, Buckingham Squares followed Supermodified. Except rather than mostly '70s rock, the Squares dig back to the '60s and the Nuggets-era of bands.
They way these guys have always shown so much confidence in the music, you'd think they wrote it. This show made it even more obvious how Matt Bischoff has been able to combine rhythms and leads as the sole guitarist in the band in the way that those great guitarists out of the Pacific Northwest in the '60s used to be able to pull off.
But there were no less than excellent performances by the band and it finished its set with an interesting and fairly obscure choice of a cover with Fire's "Father's Name Is Dad."
Bias: Any group of people that can sustain this level of intensity and quality for as long as the Coles have, and now with Kelly Halliburton, has my utmost respect.
Random Detail: This was Arnie Beckman's birthday. He plays bass in The Buckingham Squares and acquitted himself admirably tonight.
By the Way: Ran into Jill Mustoffa, longtime promoter of punk shows in Denver in the 80s, and Sonya Decman (formerly of The Symptoms and Tarmints and now of Smoothbore) at the show.
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