Live Review: Abracastabya at Black Sheep, Colorado Springs

Abracastabya Wednesday, August 6, 2008 The Black Sheep, Colorado Springs Better Than: Melissa Bays leaving town without being sent off properly.

Everyone who has been to the Black Sheep in at least the past year or so knows Melissa Bays -- even if they don’t know her name. She was the super friendly, nice woman who worked the door. Without even knowing me by name or what I do, she often let me into shows as a guest, just because I made the drive down to see my favorite Colorado Springs bands so often. In the last two years, I was all but a regular. Heck, now that I think about it, she probably hadn’t even known I had made the drive from Denver, but she did know I was there for the music and nothing else. And that’s just one person’s experience. Apparently, Melissa scored an out of state gig that she couldn’t turn down. The show this night was the community’s way of seeing off one of its unsung luminaries.

Due to road conditions and other delaying factors, I did not in fact make it down in time to see the Silver Cord and Pseudokiss Masochist play an earlier show at the Underground, but I did make it to the Black Sheep in time to catch Abracastabya. The act was missing cellist and soundscaper extraordinaire, Lauren Langley, who was out of town, so it made do with the remaining three members. Apparently none of the bands played on the actual stage, but were in fact set up in the area directly in front of the stage, probably to give the whole thing the feel of a going away party rather than just a show.

Abracastabya opened with a new instrumental. The minor chord progression reminded me slightly of a more somber and ragged version of one of the band’s best songs, “Freedom Doesn’t Take a Snow Day.” This was followed up by the chilling, haunting “We Were at the Zoo and it Kind of Looked Like Kosovo” and its downward sweeping piano progression. David Grimm’s delicate touch on the cymbals gave an especially lush touch to the song. Had I not seen him actually play, I would have sworn he was using brushes. Turns out, the guy just really knows how to apply dynamics and play light, with a true delicacy of feeling to go along with the music when necessary, down to the soft crash with which he ended the song.

The third song was another new one, festooned with Geoff Brent’s harmonically jagged guitar riffing. Like the rest of the band, he too has an intuitive sense of when to pull back on the edginess and go ethereal, and always maintains a keen sense of pacing. Willow Welter’s powerful voice cut through all the sounds for this song and her piercing gaze reminded me of a young Louise Fletcher. When that song ended, the band kicked into the familiar spectral keyboard refrain of the hypnotic “Street Cred Named Desire.” After performing the country-folk ballad “Give That Cat a Cigarette,” the trio closed its set with a particularly affecting rendition of melancholy epic, “Maybe If Your Mom Taught You How to Name Songs, All Our Songs Wouldn’t Have Such Stupid Names.”

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I’m a long time Abracastabya fan. Random Detail: I hung out with Noah Winningham and Kellie Palmblad of Eyes Caught Fire before Abstab took the stage. By the Way: We learned a biology lesson from Willow Welter’s first meeting with Melissa Bays: some bear’s hibernate and some don’t.

This is the 33 in a series of what was supposed to be thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy (overachiever) planned on attending. His whole idea was to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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