After ten songs, the audience didn't want Science Partner to go -- so Tyler Despres, Maria Kohler and Jess DeNicola stayed on stage to do their original Miley Cyrus-themed song. Despres had joked about how if the audience knew the words, it could sing along and that if it didn't, it could anyway. But they didn't have to worry: So many people in the audience knew the words to this absurd ode to child stars, though "Child Stars" had been performed earlier in the set. One gauge of knowing you've connected with people is seeing them recite the words to your songs; and throughout this show, the audience knew the material well.
Opening the show with "Bee is a Bee," Kohler and DeNicola harmonized effortlessly through its breezy doo-wop intro to create a song that used dynamics and space masterfully. In some sections, the band came together for a warm, resonant sound and in others, the musicians mostly backed off to allow Despres, Kohler and DeNicola to play off one another vocally. Sure, all this stuff is worked out in advance, but possibly because these people don't get to practice together often (especially Charlie Hine, who lives in San Francisco) the show's freshness and spontaneity persisted to the end.
Running through most of the songs from Rocky Mountain News, this show felt like a band rediscovering a classic album and the reason it enjoyed those songs in the first place. When there were mistakes (few and minor at worst), the band laughed them off and moved on. The night featured plenty of charmingly self-effacing, but never excessive or cutting, humor from Despres between songs, and Kohler also got out a good one-liner or two. After "Animal" she said, "That song taught me how to fadeout dance." She then proceeded to demonstrate the dance she had just done.
To be fair, Kohler had some good dance moves all through the show.
During "Child Stars," Carl Sorensen must have been rocking a little harder than he thought or some mechanical failure suddenly struck, because some of his drum set fell over and his bandmates helped put everything to right. But this didn't deter anyone or throw the band out of sorts: Instead, Sorensen jovially counted off and everyone went right back into the song, as though this little interruption was planned -- but of course it wasn't. It was just impressive to see the band immediately regain its momentum.
Toward the end, Despres told the audience the next song was by Beck, and of course it was "The Golden Age." The set proper ended with "Eager Eyes, which Despres said would build from the ground up, and he kept to that promise by ending with this beautiful geyser of fiery yet dreamy melodic sound created between Luke Mossman, Despres, Kohler and DeNicola, driven by Hine and Sorensen's insistent and increasingly intense rhythms.
Last night's show kicked off with Hindershot. Right now, if you're seeing this band with this line-up with these songs, consider yourself lucky. Somehow these guys have made Pavement-esque, mutant jangle less angular and more catchy. They have harnessed the expansive and moody atmospheres tied to driving melodies you hear in music by The Sound and The Chameleons -- all with early, solo Eno-esque sensibilities and a knack for creating a weird song structure that is also somehow accessible.
It doesn't hurt that these guys seem really swept up with the songs, at least if their lunging about the stage is any indication. But there was last night, as usual, a wickedly playful sensibility. Only complaint? And this is a minor one because the music sure wasn't lacking, but last night included no ridiculous banter from Stuart Confer between songs. Apparently he thought playing a good show well was a good place to focus his energies instead of making the two or three people who appreciate his humor laugh. He's probably right.
Speaking of bands at a point in their development where they're operating at high level, Achille Lauro played the middle slot. Opening its set with the supremely gorgeous "Supernatural Beings," Achille Lauro filled the room with gently turning swirls of sound like something you'd hear from Dark Side of the Moon, though it was more rooted in R&B than just blues. Playing some of the choicest cuts from Flight or Flight (yes, the title is probably an inside joke), we were also treated to what is probably one of the band's classics, "Cardboard Divas" and its soulful jab at the absurdities of one end of the materialistic culture among pseudo-bohemians.
Mid-set, it was hard to believe that Achille Lauro did a cover of "Just a Friend." It was recognizable immediately from the lyrics, but the band smoothed the tune out and made it truly musical instead of the mutant, hip-hop trainwreck of the oddly enjoyable original. When Science Partner got going, they said it was hard to follow up Achille Lauro, and with this performance, he was telling the truth. But Science Partner matched a bar set high by both opening acts.
Personal Bias: As an on-again, off-again fan of Dualistics, I've seen Despres grow into one of the best pop songwriters in Denver at the moment with Science Partner. It doesn't hurt that everyone else in the band is quite talented as well.
Random Detail: I ran into Ethan Converse of Flashlights and Mancub at the show.
By the Way: Rocky Mountain News is a solidly good pop album that deserves repeated listening.
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