It's 2010, where we can start show reviews with social media: Approximately ten hours before Friday's show at which his album was to be released, Mike Marchant posted the following on his facebook page : "just got a bunch of cd's in the mail! double cd release at the hi-dive tonight...."
That, friends, is a hell of a buzzer-beater of a delivery on an already much-delayed release from one of Denver's most-prolific and pickiest musicians. The wait was worth it. Indulgent Space Folk Vol. 2 is intricate and densely layered yet still deeply personal. Marchant went more rock and roll for the show, playing third behind fellow noisemakers Old Radio and Blue Million Miles
Old Radio sounded particularly tight on Friday. Still enthusiastic enough to get sloppy a couple times, but, by and large, a band that seems to have edified, clear on what it wants to do and how that's different from previous incarnation Roger, Roll. How the act is different is power chords and distortion pedals. How it is the same is disenchantment and warm, worn melodies. The guys have a bullhorn now. Not sure if that's a holdover or not.
The double release referred to by Mike Marchant in his facebook post was his and KVDU Live Vol. 1. The comp was produced with the idea of making DU students more aware of Denver music. The speculation was that whatever mechanism DU uses to tell its students about things worked -- the few DU students I talked to said they were the majority at the show.
Old Radio did the best job of the three bands engaging this crowd new to the scene. The music is approachable (and awesome), but more significant is that Patrick Kelly is a hilarious banter-er. The band packed along a model ship (yes), and Kelly sort of joke-auctioned it off halfway through the set. The bidding went as high as $40. Pretty sure Kelly and company didn't actually get that much for it, but still: If you are a band struggling with finances (all of the above), consider adding totally unrelated crap to your merch table. I'm dead serious about that.
Blue Million Miles wound up with the biggest crowd, as much for its start time (11:00) as anything else. Like Mike Marchant who followed, Blue Million Miles is appreciated best in headphones. It's the guitar tones that set the band apart. Huge enough to get lost in, the sound is like a thunderstorm and showers of icicles. Creating that sound live is a challenge for all shoegaze bands. Blue Million Miles had the benefit of Xandy Whitesel working sound on Friday, who has always made exposed parts of the music you just won't hear at other venues.
Still, this stuff isn't the most engaging live. Pulling melody from a wall of sound isn't a listening experience designed for a newcomer, and frontman Sam McNitt wasn't up for antics. Then again, this band plays both "Trees" and "Explosions," which are amazing songs and probably enough reason to see Blue Million Miles all on their own.
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When you have as many outlets for musical expression as Mike Marchant does ("only" three right now), each one serves to scratch a particular itch. Particularly when the musician in question is as talented and diverse as Marchant.
There are signatures. His are surreal guitar work and mind-altering effects -- more prominently on display with his full band, Widowers. The solo stuff is quieter and full of space between parts. The CD is headphone candy, deep and rewarding. He took away a bunch of the parts live in favor of a more immediate sound, a thoughtful concession that was nevertheless wasted on a dwindling crowd proving finally to be sort of shitty.
Marchant was joined onstage by vocalist Marie for two songs, and it took him three tries at introducing her to get much more than a hum out of the audience. When he announced that he had one more song, that was greeted by radio silence. Which is a colossal shame because Marchant and his backing band, the Outer Space Party Unit, were playing unique arrangements of his songs, with more silence in parts and more noise in others.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: The comp boasts a lineup of many of my favorites, Old Radio and Mike Marchant chief among them. By The Way: Ran into Tim Weilert of the excellent blog Something Like Sound, and he had a final to take on Saturday. That is dedication, folks. Click here for his slideshow from the night. Random Detail: All three bands feature a member of Houses: Eric Peterson from Old Radio, Johnny Lundock from Blue Million Miles and Mike Marchant from... Mike Marchant.