As usual, Peter Black set the stage for what was to come with what seemed like sonically appropriate remixes. Right before the first band took the stage, it sounded like some kind of experimental ambient thing. Either way, Mr. Black makes his remixes sound like stuff he composed himself, and it's always interesting to hear.
This was Gauntlet Hair's first show as a trio with a second guitar player. Between the band's last show and this, it seemed obvious to me that Craig Nice had fine-tuned his electronic/acoustic drum rig so that nothing sounded too distorted. Instead, everything sounded very much in Nice's able command and impressively robust. Between Andy R. and the new guitarist, referred to as "Doran," the two guitars struck a depth of rhythm and tone that wasn't at all obvious unless you listened a little closer.
With each show, it seems that Gauntlet Hair is trying something new, some innovation it hasn't yet fully explored. A lot of acts hit a creative ceiling, and that's the sound they stick with in perpetuity, or they hit that ceiling and change their approach to songwriting. Gauntlet Hair appears to be avoiding that painful process entirely by diving directly into new ways of doing things -- either by refining what works and then taking it a different direction, or by mixing in new elements in unexpected ways that change how those sounds are used.
For part of the set, Andy R's vocals were reminiscent to those of Dean Wareham, at least in how it sat in the music, and the whole band sounded like Galaxie 500 with a lot more adrenaline and influenced by noisy lo-fi rock. If these guys keep up this creative trajectory, they'll go beyond developing a strong musical voice of their own and become a band that influences others. But even if that doesn't happen, plenty of people felt compelled to dance to Gauntlet Hair and most indie rock bands of any stripe don't much inspire such things.
A deep thrumming filled the darkness as Indian Jewelry started its set with one of its best older songs, "Health and Wellbeing." The sheer flood of sound punctuated by the ever present strobes made it feel like you were witness to some otherworldly event. "Tono Bungay" sounded like Giorgio Moroder bereft of all its cheese factor.
The combined work of the miked, processed floor toms and all the other instrumentation, including a bass with serious delay added to it, had such a raw and elemental sound, it was hard to believe we were getting to see anything like it at a club. The noisy, punky, majestic "Lesser Snake" started off sounding like a straight ahead rock song, but like everything Indian Jewelry has done, it veered off into more interesting directions both sonically and compositionally.
Erika Thrasher fronted the band for "Excessive Moonlight" and though her vocals were treated, her singing was surprisingly soulful and powerful. Tex Kirschen took up vocal duties again for the commanding and often eerie "Look Alive." It was then that his vocals were reminiscent of those of Mark E. Smith of the Fall in the way they are spoken and sung at once and uttered as though pronouncements on the human condition and commentary on the sometimes absurd pageantry of everyday life.
"Temporary Famine Ship," a song a few people seemed to know, came second to last in the set. The squalling guitar sounds, the echoing vocals and bass, overpowering but minimal, tribal percussion and assaultive low end rendered Indian Jewelry's songs for this performance shamanic and transformative. Ultimately completely unclassifiable into a specific genre, it was the perfect alloy of rock and the avant-garde. Visceral, inspiring and transporting, Indian Jewelry once again, did not disappoint.
Holy Fuck had banks of white LEDs set up on the floor all around the stage and made extensive use of them throughout the show. Trying to catalogue the rich sounds employed by a band this talented across its entire set without an intimate knowledge of the band's music would be absurd. But suffice it to say, the outfit seemed to be in good spirits and hyped to be performing.
Some instrumental bands can be a bit tedious to see live because they don't bother to do anything beyond just write the music. Holy Fuck is very much into what it's doing, and the guys move around and jump with various nuances. The vocals that were employed were used as yet another part of the sonic arsenal.
Performing extensively from its new album, Latin, Holy Fuck took those songs to new heights in the live setting. Vintage synth sounds and ideas mixed in with house music structures and experimental electronic leanings, evoking '80s-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk -- if old Giorgio used Calypso beats and listened to a lot of Neu! and Mogwai. This is not to say that Holy Fuck was derivative, it's just what goes through your head trying to understand such glorious and epic music on stage.
The main set ended abruptly when some yahoo thought it would be cool to dance like an idiot on the ledge in front of the stage and fall on to one of the synth consoles, knocking one to the ground. But Holy Fuck were good sports about it and recognized that its music was making people really cut loose, albeit with somewhat inappropriate results. So the quartet came back out and played some more before calling it a night.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Indian Jewelry has put out three of the best albums of the last ten years. Random Detail: Ran into guys from Tjutuna and Flashlights at the show. By the Way: A good way to tell if you're too drunk to dance is if you do and then fall into the band's equipment because you can't keep your balance.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.