Last night ... Peña, Side-Fi Noise, Blue Angels @ Larimer Lounge

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Peña w/ Side-Fi Noise, Blue Angels. Wednesday, January 16, 2008, Larimer Lounge Better than: Doing trigonometry at a bus stop.

One chord. Yes, one chord. One sweet, loud, savory guitar chord. That’s all it took. And the next thing everyone knew, “Blitzkrieg Bop” took over a nation. So what is so wrong with one chord? Isn’t that the simplicity of rock music? Isn’t that the magic? I pondered this notion many times over Wednesday night at the Larimer Lounge.

The original openers didn’t show up so Blue Angels went on first. A combination of four gents from several past Denver bands (at least ten total), Blue Angels came out swinging with a pair of tunes that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Dischord Records in the mid-'90s: Haughty, odd-timed rhythms? Check. Dissonant, ringing guitar? Check. Out of tune, scream/shouted vocals? Check. The biggest problem with Blue Angels was that they had too many ideas and not enough songs. Just as a song was about to take off, they would shift and go into a completely unrelated direction. Not for lack of talent, when all four players did come together on one idea, the songs had an explosive, powerhouse feel. On this night, unfortunately, that essence was rare.

After Blue Angels, I went upstairs and check out some of the great Larimer Lounge men’s room graffiti, got caught up on the latest in the life of Denver’s rockers. I came back downstairs to the sound of the room taking off. This was Side-Fi Noise. And while the band started its set with a spacy noise jam, it quickly came back to earth, hitting fast, at times funky, riffs, that caused a couple of people to shake their asses. Sounding like an unholy union between ZZ Top and, say, Tortoise, the band pushed through each song with an almost punishing abandon. However, the Side-Fi Noise was still more than that, and yet relied on so little. Simple, but still entertaining, the band was anchored by the interplay of its rhythm section, with the guitar helping to put extra drive into the songs and fill the void where vocals might reside. A band definitely worth checking out right now, Side-Fi Noise (soon to be Portamento) is on its way to being something real good.

Closing the night out was the instrumental virtuosos of Peña, who, while good, stuck to the conventions it had already programmed for itself. Guitars ring, chime, sound pretty and quite often do things that resemble algebraic equations. The band's songs segue pretty seamlessly into one another, but there's really nothing there to anchor them to memory. If the members of Peña were willing to actually, for a second, skip the jamming, and play a chord or even several chords, their music may be something more than just a bunch of abstract doodles.

-- Jeremy Brashaw

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Just to reiterate, I much prefer the rocking side of Peña to quiet, pretty Peña. Not that it matters. Random Detail: Yes, after this show the members of Side-Fi Noise shall forever be referred to as Portamento. Seriously, that’s what they told me. By the Way: This was Blue Angels second to last show.

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