Bird watching in the snow.
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Brothers O'Hair were clearly the least seasoned and the least purely talented of the three band bill. They were also by far the best live act, engaging the crowd of friends and admirers (we were all admirers by the end of the set) with a combination of Canadian caterwaul and Irish Catholic whiskey music. Their songs fell forward with a hard-work momentum. They were built in obvious, but effective, soft to loud builds. They employ a stand-alone bass drum, played with hard felt mallets, in a march-like intensity, and that is one incredibly foolproof way to make your rock roll. Of the four members, three wore suspenders, and the last one a vest. They wore them like they'd been through three days of sleepless drinking and laboring -- initially respectable, currently functional. Brothers O'Hair moved to Denver from Austin, and we're fucking glad to have them.
The touring bands were Great Lake Swimmers and Wooden Birds. They're a natural fit - they've got the trance-smooth vocals and the distant woodland beauty. Wooden Birds, also from Austin, played a show clean as new snow. They're an incredibly aptly named band. The vocals are coos and the (very) occasional honk, and the instruments play resonant, woodsy backdrops. They're a lull inducing bunch, which is great when you're sitting at home on a cold night, but not so wonderful at a live show. They played an awesome "cover" of "Aaron & Maria," by the band American Analog Set, which features a dude named Andrew Kenny. Wooden Birds, as it turns out, is also fronted by Kenny, so it wasn't really so much a cover. Really good song, regardless. They followed it with set closer and the best of Wooden Birds material, a song called "Hometown Fantasy."
Great Lake Swimmers can do either the forest or the cabin: faux-classical indie hum or rough-hewn indie folk. They're at their best doing the latter, as in "Pulling On A Line," especially live, where anything with a pulse was a welcome development. Not that they're a boring band. The music is as beautiful and frequently delicate, muted and in a sort of perpetual bloom. Both GLS and Wooden Birds are the sort of dreamy folk bands that make you feel a little buzzed when you hear them. Great Lake Swimmers is particularly wonderful on record thanks to Tony Dekker's gentle voice and unassuming songwriting. Also, "Still" is a really fantastic song. Look it up on their myspace. Too bad we were practically drooling by the time they got to it.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK PERSONAL BIAS: I'm always hoping to get my ass kicked by a show. These guys simply aren't trying to do that. RANDOM DETAIL: There were a ton of people at Larimer Lounge, for a wet and freezing Wednesday night. Once again, Denver music fans are incredible. BY THE WAY: Wooden Birds drummer, Michael Bell, offered his condolences on the Rockies. Come on, dude: We're all about the Broncos by now.