The Larimer Lounge is one of my favorite venues in Denver. The sound is crisp and punchy. The space is intimate. The venue’s talent bookers are almost always on point with their selections.
And so it pains me to write this, but I feel obligated: Larimer Lounge, the fog machines pretty much ruined Wednesday night’s Hundred Waters concert.
Here’s what happened:
The audience had just witnessed an exotic yet captivating set from the supporting act LAFAWNDAH, and the anticipation was palpable for the headliner, Hundred Waters, an electronic trio originally based out of Florida, now Los Angeles, that just released its second LP, Communicating, on September 14, and has an intensely loyal following.
Around 9:40 p.m., the lights dimmed and a trippy, arpeggiating string sound came on over the speakers. People started whooping, believing that the dimmed lights and background sounds meant that the band was about to come out and perform. But the ethereal sound ended up being a twenty-minute loop that went on until 10 p.m., when the band really came on stage.
At the same time that the “waiting music” commenced, some fog machines kicked into gear. Nothing weird about that. And for the first six minutes or so, the fog accumulated to a level that was optimal to allow cool lighting effects but was not overbearing.
But then the fog machines just kept going, and going, and going. By 9:55, the fog had become so thick that I could barely see the front of the stage — and I was only roughly five rows back.
People started coughing. The musty smell became so strong that my friend joked that someone should add essential oils to the fog machines.
“Wow, this is a lot of fog,” more than one person remarked, stating the obvious.
A lot of fog, indeed.
When Hundred Waters did take the stage, I was disappointed that I could barely make out Nicole Miglis, the band’s singer, or Trayer Tryon, the group’s electronic guru/bassist, even though they were just a couple feet back from the front of the stage.
As for the drummer, Zach Tetreault, who was set up at the rear of the stage, he was completely invisible, somewhere beyond a wall of fog. I’m not even sure if people in the front row, not that far ahead of me, could see him. It’s like we were all watching the band through split-pea soup.
The act began the set, which mostly showcased songs from the new album, Communicating, and the music sounded fantastic, alternating between the group’s sweeping and heartbreakingly beautiful ballads to danceable grooves that had the audience locked into synchronized swaying and bobbing.
If only we could have clearly seen the performers!
This is what we should have been able to see:
I kept waiting for the fog to dissipate, but it didn’t — not until the last two songs of the concert, when I was able to make out Tetreault, the drummer, for the first time.
Whatever kind of weather/pressure system was going on at the rear of the Larimer Lounge, it caused the fog to swirl around the stage and audience but not travel out toward the front of the venue and the street. It just would not lighten up.
Which was ridiculous. I wondered: What are the venue’s techs doing about this? Aren’t they going to set up a fan or two to blow the smoke away from the stage?
I’m not sure if the fog machines belonged to Hundred Waters or the Larimer Lounge. Maybe the stage hands at the Larimer Lounge were using the band’s equipment and hadn’t known how strong those damn fog machines were.
Singer Nicole Miglis made herself more visible by going close to the front of the stage. This photo was taken toward the end of the show, when the fog wasn't quite as thick.
To her credit, the singer, Miglis, realized what was going on and went to the front edge of the stage with her microphone multiple times, even standing on one of the floor-monitor speakers so she was elevated and we could see her better through the medieval mist.
Even so, Miglis would then have to retreat to her piano for other songs, and she became difficult to see, just by going a few extra feet back from the edge of the stage.
It was all very frustrating, for the very reason that the band sounded so great and yet much of the audience could barely see the masterful, live musicianship that was providing our ears with such pleasure.
To me, it seems fair to say that it was a rookie mistake that a professional venue should have been able to mitigate, but didn’t. That’s why I have a tough love message for the Larimer Lounge: You're still one of my favorite venues, but please don’t ever let that happen again.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.