See more photos from Curious Theatre at westword.com/slideshow.
Elin Palmer, 12 p.m.
Overcoming technical difficulties and an initially cumbersome stage setup (the stage manager had to find room for a drum riser amid the creative and complicated set -- including a desk, a bed and a road -- for Curious Theatre's latest production, 26 Miles
), Denver's most luminous Swedish singer-songwriter wowed an early crowd with her unique instrumentation, bilingual vocals and guileless stage presence. Palmer was joined by Charles Parker
on bass, the one and only Patrick Meese on drums, and Patrick's wife, Tiffany, on a thrift-store Casio. Tiffany's harmonies captivated the crowd while Palmer sang the kinds of songs that nearly ruined a whole trip for Odysseus.
Verdict: Though this was a rather low-energy way to kick things off at the Curious stage, the theatricality of Palmer's music and the adoration of a few ardent fans really made it work. This was my first time to catch Palmer live, and I look forward to hearing her again very soon.
Hamilton's Houses -- which has taken its place, for the moment, as
Denver's indie rock darling -- is as much a happening as a rock band.
Finding room on the crowded-yet-intriguing Curious stage for all the
outfit's players was tricky, but once they settled in, the bliss and
melancholy of Houses filled the room and snagged the attention of an
eager crowd -- which included many of the day's performers, who stopped
by to hear what the fuss was all about.
Houses can be tricky, but Corey Teruya's band handled the situation
with grace and professionalism. Where the former band builds to
ecstatic crescendos, Hello Kavita often whispers and simmers with
restrained bliss. I can't even count the number of times I've seen this
act, but I can't remember a time when Jimmy Stofer's vocal harmonies
sounded more crystalline.
this time, Curious Theatre was downright packed with happily attentive
listeners, and Hello Kavita held them rapt. I'd venture to guess that
the group gained more than a few new fans when it closed with the
number that's becoming its signature -- a clever and surprisingly
tasteful mashup of the original "Pensacola" and Paul Simon's "You Can
Call Me Al."
Achille Lauro, 4 p.m.
Lauro was the ideal band to follow Hello Kavita, and not just because
both bands include talented guitarist Luke Mossman. Both bands have a
quiet intensity that rewards careful listening. Fortunately, the
house-filling crowd at Curious Theatre gave the group its full
attention. Like Astrophagus, Achille Lauro has recently reinvented
itself, writing some surprising and exciting new songs, and giving its
older tunes a slightly more electronic and less jazzy treatment. The
new sound worked wonders in the auditorium-like space of the Theatre,
causing singer/guitarist/keyboardist Matt Close to exclaim, "This is
the coolest stage I've ever seen!"
the folks of Notably Fine Audio continued to do an admirable job of
delivering high-quality sound in a challenging space, a number of
monitor issues and other technical glitches occasionally blemished
Achille Lauro's set. In spite of that, the band managed to come through
with one of the most engaging sets I've seen since Brian Joseph's
BDRMPPL, Cacheflowe, Iuengliss, Married in Berdichev, Pictureplane and Slight Harp, 5 p.m.
six experimental electronic acts on stage simultaneously was a bold
move, and one that could have gone horribly wrong. In fact, had
Josephine and the Mousepeople been able to perform as planned, the
total number of acts would have been seven. In spite of the potential
trainwreck, the well-organized round robin of performances went off
without a hitch. Each act played one piece, then faded out as the next
act joined in with its piece. Then the whole circle repeated. There
were moments of brilliance, flashes of chaos and several prolonged
minutes of delight, all enjoyed by a nearly-capacity crowd who had come
in to escape torrential rains. Lucky for them.
it comes to listening to music in my house or car, I make no secret of
the fact that I'm a pop music guy at heart, but I absolutely love
seeing the envelope pushed (no pun intended) in live performance, and
these acts certainly did so. Cacheflowe's painstaking Kraftwerk covers
and Iuengliss's impassioned performance were highlights, but all the
outfits came through with great ideas and exciting presence. The only
downsides were a slightly amateurish performance by Pictureplane during
the first round (he completely made up for it on his second turn) and
some unnecessary sniping -- understandable, given the stressful nature
of pulling something like this off -- between a couple of the
performers. In many ways, this was the highlight of the day, and
probably should have been the closing performance at Curious.
Bela Karoli (with surprise guest, the Wheel), 6 p.m.
Davis, Carrie Beeder and Brigid McAuliffe continue to perform dark,
seductive and slightly sinister jazz rock that deftly combines
electronic and organic instrumentation. The trio played some new songs,
along with old favorites, with characteristic professionalism and
confidence. The gathered crowd were largely Bela Karoli fans who
cheered for and sang along with several of the group's songs. When
Davis invited Nathaniel Rateliff and Joseph Pope III onto the stage to
perform a song by Rateliff's band, the Wheel, the Theatre shook with
cheers and applause.
Bela Karoli's performance was flawless and beautiful, I think it might
have had greater impact earlier in the day -- especially preceding the
electro experimental weirdness that instead preceded it. As it was, the
group's performance -- which ordinarily might have felt transcendent and
goose bumpy -- fell a little flat.