Watching my beloved Broncos win a preseason game of faux football earlier in the night.
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Arriving nearly an hour early at the Larimer Lounge, I settled in on the patio to make some phone calls and then peruse a magazine and chainsmoke cigarettes when I couldn’t reach anyone I needed to talk to. Before long some strangers sat down and engaged me in random conversation and I sort of half-met the drummer of the Bears. Proper introductions were postponed when the sounds of the Epilogues filtered out to our smokers’ haven.
The Epilogues threatened to bounce off the stage from their first number. Lead singer and guitarist Chris Heckman was like a human tornado, twisting and leaping about while thrashing out some chunky post-punk riffs and emo-tinged vocals. The rest of the band did their best to match his insane energy and made a pretty good go of it as they punched through a set of frenetic tunes that shined the spotlight on their wild, turbocharged frontman.
After a short break, the Bears took over and immediately changed the tone of the night. Their set mashed the best sounds, ideas and moods of pop from the ‘60s through the late ‘80s into a potent twee blend. Xylophone leads, warm and sometimes wispy vocals, tinkles of piano and organ and sunshiney acoustic guitar reminded me of every MOR radio hit I ever secretly loved while maintaining a credible indie edge. When they played a cover of Hall and Oates “Out of Touch,” I knew they were walking the infamous line between genius and insanity. As soon as it finished they launched into a thunderous, percussive maelstrom of a balls-out rocker that shattered the preconception I had just settled on and placed them firmly on the right side of that brilliant/crazy line. I was already pleased with the evening when Sleeper Horse came and destroyed everything that came before it. Just like the sun puts even the brightest bulb to shame, this four-piece made me forget everything I’d heard thus far. Propulsive rhythms, sharply geometric guitar lines and a dynamic, volatile lead man made a near-instant convert of me. These boys have captured lightning in a bottle with a sound that reminds me just a bit of the best moments of Q and Not U while retaining a devastatingly unique character of its own. I think I’ve got a little band crush on these guys, and I’m not ashamed to say it. -- Cory Casciato
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: The Bears’ style of twee pop pushes my buttons embarrassingly well. Random Detail: Cleveland, Ohio was really well represented at this show, by the Bears themselves and a few exceptionally loud fans. By the Way: Sleeper Horse is going on hiatus from playing shows while they record their debut. If they capture a third of the live show, it’s going to be a must-have.