One year and two months since their first show together, Brothers O'Hair returned to the Larimer Lounge with their first recording in tow. And people noticed. You could not stand within thirty feet of the stage without being in physical contact with everyone around you. There were people standing on stools to get a better view of the stage. The front two or three rows were a mostly uninterrupted chorus of every word off Adam Anglin's lips.
The recording: A concept EP about joining the circus that is conspicuously self-titled. So they'll have to allow that it would be easy to see this as autobiographical to some degree. The parallels are not so hard to draw. Anglin came to Denver from Austin and restarted his music career here; the protagonist in the EP starts out by hitting the long and dusty trail.
From there, our hero spends a few tracks introspecting on his rise from shit scooper to high-wire daredevil. It's not a triumphant tale. From track two: "No one know/no one can see/the work I put in/is wearing me thin." And it doesn't get much better on the EP's final track, where his goals are reached. "And my time is now to climb again/I lost myself but I don't mind/I found it all while going blind/I sacrificed my life to this," amidst a chorus of alternating "No eyes are on me now" sung solo with "All eyes are on me now" sung en masse with the rest of the band.
This is dark stuff, and I don't mean to suggest it is literally how Anglin feels. He is mostly the opposite of this character, having followed his wife to Denver at the expense of his art. So think broad strokes here. Maybe it would help to know that they covered Tom Petty's "Into The Great Wide Open," another song with serious misgivings about what happens to artists who achieve their initial goals.
All this about Anglin, when we just learned in this week's feature how the other three members have exerted their influence on the band in the last year.
Indeed, the sound has changed dramatically from the days of "covering" Anglin's songs. The melodies and rhythms are more complex (courtesy of jazz-trained drummer Jon Aisner and metal-trained guitarist Andy Burrow), and the sound is fuller. Bassist Joe Mills has become the biggest part of Brothers O'Hair's stage show, taking banter duties more often than Anglin.
In exchange for fans' attendance last night, Brothers O'Hair gave out a copy of the EP. What it looked like was a tape, complete with original artwork and a download code. But the tapes are all '80s metal, obtained in one lump purchase of $30 for 420 tapes. So really they're just a slightly bulky vessel for a download code, which is probably smarter than spending a nearly unrecoupable amount of money on committing your album to any physical medium.
Many bands are switching to the vinyl/download code combination for releases, but the vinyl will always be superfluous. No matter how much the turntable market has boomed recently, we're still talking about the slimmest of margins in music consumption. You don't press your album in vinyl in order to deliver the most useful listening experience. You do it because musicians are faced with a 2010 where they must sell novelty instead of music.
Their alternative is to not sell anything and cover their costs with donation. On the side of the '80s metal tapes opposite the download code, Brothers O'Hair included stickers advertising the EP on Amazon and iTunes. Again: On one side, your free digital copy of the EP. On the other side, a way to pay for it. They might as well have set out a tip jar.
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Local opener Weather Maps sees arguably Denver's most visable bassist grabbing a guitar and a microphone. That would be Jimmy Stofer, who has played with The Fray, Bop Skizzum, Rose Hill Drive and Hello Kavita. His songs are bare, woodsy and elegant. His voice is a workmanlike baritone. Of his other projects, this one most resembles Hello Kavita, although the most obvious point of reference here is Bon Iver.
The rest of Weather Maps looked a bit different this time around. Still present was Luke Mossman on guitar, but the Meese brothers, Nate and Patrick, appeared playing bass/keys and drums, respectively. The latter, in particular, looks like someone glad to have something to hit right about now, which is understandable.
Long Beach's the Fling followed Weather Maps. They're getting a bit of buzz , but this sound is nothing new to Denver. They're doing the fuzzed-out late-Beatles thing, and doing it quite well. But this is nothing Mike Marchant couldn't manage in a week if he were given the reins to Houses.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Brothers O'Hair remain awesome. You can listen to the EP on Bandcamp, and that's a more artist-friendly place to buy than iTunes. Random Detail: Insane level of drunkenness at this show. There was heckling and pronounced stumbling and general sloppiness. The band hauled producer Dustin Peterson onstage to award him a bottle of Stranahan's for his efforts. It was stolen sometime before the end of the night. If you're the thief and you're reading this, I hope terrible things happen to you. By The Way: Members of The Knew were in the audience. There were probably lots of other local musicians there, but none quite so tall and obvious.