GOLDRUSH FESTIVAL | NIGHT TWO, 9/17/11
Day two of Goldrush Festival also felt like you had stepped into an alternate universe where a good friend with good taste in music was introducing you to his or her favorite bands of the moment were gathered together in one place instead of being handed some kind of mix-tape, CD, whatever.
A standout of the evening in terms of being both startlingly good and very different from anything else was Happy New Year. For her set, Eleanor Logan had a live bass player and Crawford Philleo, an organizer of the festival and percussionist extraordinaire in Vitamins on drums. With the multi-colored projections hitting everyone just right and in the most serendipitously impactful moments, it honestly felt like seeing a stripped down Indian Jewelry if its foundations were rooted in No Wave. Just the sheer unexpected power of the music, the way Logan's guitar work could be both sharp, electrifying and gorgeously melodic seemed perfectly timed toward the end of the whole festival.
Early evening, Tjutjuna graced The Mine Stage at the Hi-Dive as a three piece. Which is probably the usual configuration these days. But there was no lack in the band's usual, dynamic wall and wash of sound. Starting out, the trio built a stream of sound that was reminiscent of Neu! except accompanied by some kind of electronic didgeridoo. As usual, Robert Ballentyne tripped the Theremin with the headstock of his bass but it seems easy to forget he does that because it's such an unorthodox yet incredibly pragmatic method that allows him to set off and manipulate that sound while also playing bass. Seems hard to do properly but Ballentyne made it seem off the cuff and easy.
In the middle of the set, James Barone (who also played later in Tennis) set the kind of rhythm that seemed so steady and reliable that it couldn't possibly be increasing in intensity and volume and yet it did. This band has always been very skilled at taking the minimal and making the very most out of it even when it brings in blazing guitar solos from Brian Marcus and tricky, yet deceptively simple, rhythms from Barone and Ballentyne. At the end of the set, Marcus didn't just rip into some cosmic psychedelic rock madness of a guitar solo, he lifted his poor guitar, not the Star Wars guitar, mind you, into the air and dropped it face first on to the stage three times. This after the cable came out of the guitar and he used the end to create chaotic noises that he warped with the wah pedal before plugging back in his instrument. Again, the kind of band that makes the very best of any situation.
The Megabats set was so short that you might have done the proverbial blink and you missed it if you weren't there at exactly the right time. The duo wore chain lights, one red, one blue, and black hoodies or the like. They used three DSes with the Korg adaptor to make two or more evolving, circling streams of glimmering sound -- all while one of them was inside Delite and the other outside. A sonically symbolic gesture that may or may not have been intentional to show a synthesis of two ideas and concepts but on the eyes and in your ears.
At the Hi-Dive, the duo Quiet Evenings demonstrated both why the name is incredibly, poetically accurate but also a bit of a misnomer. It sure was low-key, hypnotically beautiful ambient soundscaping but it also wasn't the kind of music you could really ignore. At times it made you think of what it must be like to be an animal sequestered to a cage in the cargo bay of a gigantic airplane with the motors going and creating that steady, mechanical, meditative vibration while an interpretation of the scene below passing beneath the clouds.
This sound also evolved out of, or incorporated, bright atmospheres and soothing textures that would have been perfect music to accompany time lapse footage of plant growth and the cycles of the seasons passing like that incredible scene from the 1960 version of The Time Machine with Rod Taylor. By the end of the set, the music really got to you in the best way. Like you could feel it trickle into your psyche with its purity and subtly transformative qualities, cleansing your dreams of any hint of nightmares.
Apparently Eleanor Logan, an Australian who has been living in New York for the last half a decade or so, had only been in town since Wednesday and had practiced with her bass player and Crawford Philleo and there was some nervousness about the set. But all those concerns, while valid, didn't really seem present as the trio performed Logan's songs with an ease and intensity that projected an unexpected charisma and confidence. There was an emotional fragility to Logan's singing that inexplicably reminded one of Marianne Faithful's haunting songs for Broken English. If one could call this music poppy No Wave psychedelia, that might encompass elements of the songs and performance in a short phrase but if this is Logan's early phase of this project, we can expect something truly great when it has reached its first plateau of creative maturity. Logan had a soulfulness rare in music that could have come out of a New York art student with good taste in music discovering and pursuing the first rush of creativity in another artform.
Samurai Buck's first show was at The Camp Stage at Delite. Most people probably know him as "that one guy with the Star Wars guitar in Tjutjuna." But, really, Brian Marcus has been one of the most consistently interesting musicians out of Denver the last half decade or so. Samurai Buck is him making purely electronic music with a leg in R&B and IDM. Listing the tones and Marcus' creative use of them inside inventive, and inventively employed beats and electronic percussion could probably take up a page on its own. But in the end, he just used that vast array of sound to make upbeat, fun, experimental dance music disguised as a kind of electronic soul and R&B for people who appreciate that music as well as the weirder stuff in equal measure. Marcus struck that balance perfectly. Unfortunately, wanting to see a kind of private show that was kind of an after party to the festival meant leaving the festival proper before it was over but how often do you get to see some of this music in someone's home? So some of us made it over to Jamie Bryant's place. If that name is familiar, she's a member of the always excellent psychedelic pop band, Fingers of the Sun. Also present were the guys from Brass Tree Sessions and this served as Brass Tree Session #8. In case you don't know, Brass Tree Sessions involve a taping of the show with video, pictures and audio later processed into some of the best, high quality, live documentation of music happening in Denver that gets shared with people on anything resembling a regular basis.
There were only four acts for this special session, the first being The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact. Getting there at the tail end of the set, I only heard an extended, humming drone composition that sounded like the incidental music done by Popol Vuh for Aguirre The Wrath of God when the Conquistadors were walking through the jungle, seen from a distance, before everything started to go wrong. The music sounded like the inner workings of an insect hive mind with its buzzing hum.
Quiet Evenings treated us to another set late night with a number that begin with such minimal atmospheres it caught you by surprise when it all evolved into what sounded like what it would be like to be in an exploration vessel in future hostile environments: hums, cycling sounds like a detection device searching using a device like radar but picking up a threat using methods we currently don't possess. At one point there was even a siren sound, the kind that either suggests the air seal of the craft has been breached or you've discovered an artifact or phenomenon of interest in the environment beyond, in the dark. While vaguely unsettling, this collage of sounds was also darkly beautiful.
Chris Rehm had played earlier in the night in one of the few sort of rock bands called Caddywhompus. For this set he played some spare guitar and used loops to make for impromptu melodies that were reminiscent of something Daniel Lanois would do. In the middle of the set he covered Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" but rather than Orbison's haunted croon, he made the song into an emotionally fragile piece that was a compelling reinterpretation of the original. For his own music, it was a kind of psych folk thing in a way that drew easy and favorable comparison to great, Louisville, Kentucky artists not necessarily in the specifics of how he created the music but more so for the unusual and idiosyncratic phrasings. He closed with her version of The Mills Brothers' rendition of "'Til Then".
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The night, and the festival entire, ended with a 3 a.m. performance from King Mob dispensing with all semblance to its "normal" music with two extra performers including Luke Hunter James Erickson of The Don'ts and Be Carefuls. All of them played synth but this was essentially a noise set with Luke using a mixer to manipulate what sounds were emphasized and to bring in a deep, low end sound possibly by a guitar leaned against the bass amp behind him, creating a bass feedback. Ben Martin occasionally vocalized without much in the way of words and when he sang out forcefully it was like a cybernetic muezzin's call. The whole thing felt like witnessing some kind of strange post-dystopian religious ritual and at the end, Ben left the half circle of the musicians, then Luke and at the end Sam Martin and the fourth member of the ensemble faded out. If you're going to have a closing act to a festival, it may as well be something special.