Danava at the Larimer Lounge

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Danava, Space In Time and Outer Neon Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Larimer Lounge, Denver Better Than: A good bulk of the neo-classic heavy rock of late.

Opening the night was the mighty, sludgy psych-rock duo Outer Neon from Denver. For someone not paying attention, it might be easy to carelessly reduce the band to merely another doom/stoner rock outfit. This outfit sidestepped such reduction with an interesting use of delay to warp and bend the edges to crunchy, measured, but not entirely tightly controlled, guitar riffs as well as Zach Bauer’s tastefully and expertly unpredictable, off-kilter drumming. In fact, Bauer’s drumming is to percussion what atonality in guitars is to certain indie rock bands — a technique to give texture and unique tones that shouldn’t work but do in a context of their own. Sonically, Outer Neon was heavy and dense but also fluid and clandestinely playful.

Space In Time had the middle slot, and I didn’t know what to expect. The band’s sound was reminiscent of a weird mixture of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Free. Fortunately, these guys seem to have learned, however, that it’s not enough to worship at the feet of your artistic forebears. The music had its edges but it also came off more melodic than murky. The singer seemed to be feeling the lyrics without having to force any rocking out. And the rest of the members played with a similar emotional honesty. A lot of bands inspired by ’70s hard rock seem to put on a pose, but there was no fakery with Space In Time, and that threw me off in a good way. The act’s set closed with a song that had a middle section clearly grounded in a jazzy R&B and yet it didn’t sound out of place in an otherwise hard rock song —truly a testament to this band’s talent.

To close out the night, Danava from Portland, Oregon took the stage and began with a song that sounded like a great hybrid of Sabbath and Motorhead — heavy but melodic. Something about this band seemed a little different right away. It could have been the fact that it used synthesizers, which were especially well employed during the third song, wherein the synth integrated well with the bass and drums to create one of hard rock’s all-time greatest grooves. The singer also cracked wise like a master of sarcasm and irony, at one apologizing to the crowd for presenting the tired version of himself. If he really was tired, he didn’t play like it. It could be that Danava used wickedly well-crafted guitar solos interwoven into the rhythms in a way that was more impressive than self-indulgent and annoying.

Ultimately, though, at the end of a set of some of the most incredible hard rock music I’ve yet had the pleasure of seeing, what set Danava apart from many who try their hand at music like this was that these three guys played without one annoying whiff of irony. They were hard rockers with the personas of punk rockers, with more than an ounce of pride in their ability to play.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook: Personal Bias: I think more than 99 percent of hard rock is pure, uninspired retread, but bands like these three prove that there’s some life left in the music. Random Detail: Ran into Sara Thurston at the show. By the Way: This was the final show on Danava’s tour and even though they were tired, those guys never let up during the performance.

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