When drummer James Barone told his friends about this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a show at a planetarium, the very idea fired up their collective imaginations. Luckily, his band, Mothership, was fully capable of meeting the expectations. The act had already written an epic song cycle in the vein of Hawkwind's classic Hall of the Mountain Grill, which seemed perfectly suited for presentation in such a venue. The story revolves around a space-faring young man who experiences the joys and horrors of interstellar travel and going where no human has gone before. Despite the high concept and sci-fi-movie premise, the tunes were visionary exercises in songcraft and the cinematic use of sound. And seeing the visuals projected onto Fiske Planetarium's curved screen was one of those experiences that burns itself into your memory forever.
When Sarah Lucey, Supply Boy's blazingly great guitar player, discovered she had songs that didn't really fit into that band's context, she decided to flesh them out on her own. One night last summer, she headed over to tHERe coffee shop armed with a handful of tunes, her
beautiful, unconventional voice and an acoustic guitar. The room that night was hot and the air was muggy, but it served as a perfectly intimate setting for Lucey to present her uncomfortably frank and honest songs. Miles from being a self-indulgent solo acoustic project, Lucey was simply revealing another layer of her already considerable talent.
Over the years, Jim Yelenick has fronted various outfits -- Jet Black Joy, Zillion Dollar Sadists, a Turbonegro cover band and, most recently, a band called Invasion. As a frenzied frontman, the guy's never been afraid to expose himself, if you know what we mean. And that punk energy spills over into his Friday-afternoon acoustic sets at the Larimer Lounge. A longtime Clash fan (he's even gotten drunk with Joe Strummer at the Lion's Lair), it's only fitting that that band's songs make up a majority of his happy-hour repertoire. When Yelenick's not rocking the casbah, though, he's performing his set staple -- an acoustic mash-up of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia" with Madonna's "Holiday." By the end of happy hour, you can count on a few things: that Yelenick will be as snockered as everyone else, and that he'll be making up lyrics, leading a sing-along of Irish drinking songs and playing tunes by the likes of Steve Miller, the Boomtown Rats and Britney Spears.
Hearing a show at the Walnut Room is an audiophile's wet dream. There's no doubt that the room was "built for music," as the club's slogan claims. With over two decades of audio engineering experience under his belt, Ron Gordon clearly knew a thing or two about sound dynamics and acoustics when he helped design the club's sound system two years ago. But having a killer system is one thing; knowing how to make the thing sing is another. Needless to say, when Gordon's manning the faders, you can count on the mix being immaculate no matter who's playing. The guy knows how to make a drum kit kick you in the gut, a Stratocaster swim around your ears and keyboards soar -- all without pushing the volume to deafening levels.
Frontman/guitarist Luke Fairchild is a gnarly motherfucker when you put him in front of a mike. The seasoned musician, who has charmed crowds before in such stellar acts as White Dynamite and Sparkles, is now allied with equally formidable musicians drummer Devin Rogers (of Munimula) and bassist Joe Ramirez (another ex-Whitey). The trio commands the stage with a vehemence that induces riotous fist-raising and metal finger salutations. Like Bad Brains filtered through an Eyehategod guitar pedal, Kingdom is the perfect blend of super-heavy rock and energetic punk. Barely a year old, the Denver-based outfit has cultivated an ardent following of metalheads, hardcore kids, scenesters and rock snobs alike. Enter the Kingdom.
Pee Pee. It's hard to say out loud without giggling even a little bit. It's like a recession back to grade-school vernacular, and it's absolutely the silliest combination of two monosyllabic words since "wee wee." But who needs a clever, well-thought-out band name anyway? This Denver-based assembly of friends makes beautiful music that doesn't need to be weighed down by pretentious metaphorical bullshit. Pee Pee is an aural amalgamation of everything from horns and acoustic guitars to theremins and saws (yes, saws). Alongside sweet lullabied compositions, the ragtag orchestra often improvs on stage, resulting in down-home folk-rock jamborees that make show-goers gladly squeal for more Pee Pee.
At first glance, declaring Nathan & Stephen Denver's best new band looks like a misprint. But while Nathan McGarvey and Stephen Till initially began performing together as an acoustic duo, their project has blossomed into a bulging-at-the-seams nonet thanks to the addition of another seven players, including three (Jonathan, Matthew and Leanor) who share Stephen's last name. Moreover, another Till -- Anna -- contributes vocals to The Everyone E.P., which packs more hooky melodies into fifteen brief minutes than can be found in the average double album. Although tracks such as the aptly titled pop-gospel workout "Brothers & Sisters" and "Happier," replete with a chorus guaranteed to induce smiles, feature plenty of instrumentation (keyboards, brass and more), they are, at their base, rousing sing-alongs that brim with good feelings and camaraderie. No doubt these songs would charm in a stripped-down setting, too. Still, there's something to be said for a family affair.
Every once in a while, a great new band surfaces that seems fully formed -- like Athena, sprung from the head of Zeus. Greeley's Vitamins, which until recently stayed beneath the radar by playing mostly warehouse-type shows, is one such act. Taking an eclectic approach to songwriting, Vitamins' members wed latter-day no-wave guitar tones and textures with melodic song structures, and country music with experimental guitar rock, punk and whatever it is that Camper Van Beethoven was doing -- all without sounding like dilettantes. They play with wide-eyed enthusiasm, as if completely unaware that so many other like-minded souls exist, like they have to touch upon every style themselves. With a charming, theatrical live show, Vitamins are bound to be good for you.
To the Denver-centric, if you don't hail from the metro area, you might as well be from Mars. Maybe that's why the arrival of Louisville-based Tifah seems so, well, sudden and wonderfully foreign. It also probably has something to do with the fact that the group's members -- vocalist/organist Tifah Al-Attas, drummer Dann Stockton, multi-instrumentalist Reid Phillips, violinist Aubrea Alford and bassist Juli Royster -- make music that's so beautifully radiant and polished, it's hard to fathom why we hadn't noticed them before. But Tifah's registering pretty loudly now, and its sublime blend of piano-driven pop and self-reflective lyricism will surely stay on the radar.

Best Purveyors of Mile- High Honky Crunk

3OH!3

Pimp-limping on the fine line between stoopid and stupid, 3OH!3 just might be Ballerado's hip-hop Tenacious D. Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte rock DFA-style low-tech beats, punk attitudes and Ruff Ryder growls that manage to simultaneously lampoon and revere the well-worn signifiers of punk, electro and rap -- with as much interest in twenty-sided dice as twenty-inch rims. In the group's perpetual-motion live shows, trunk-rattling rhythms combine with rhymes that can only be spat with one's tongue burrowed deep in one's cheek: "You's a punk bitch if you don't know 'bout Boulder/Your girl's a freak 'cos that's what I told ya." And while it's easy to get distracted by the humorous side, resist the temptation to consign the act to the novelty ghetto. Smarts, chops and focus are the real reasons 3OH!3's rabid fans holler 'til they pass out.

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