Concert Reviews

Live Review: Action Packed Thrill Ride, Sofo, Chuck P and Antz, Mon Marie at the Lion's Lair

Action Packed Thrill Ride, Sofo, Chuck P and Antz, Mon Marie Thursday, August 7, 2008 Lion’s Lair, Denver

The Lion’s Lair can be an interesting place to be any night of the week at pretty much any hour. And by “interesting,” I mean in that Chinese curse kind of way. Fortunately, the music at this show was not subpar. The evening began with Tommy from Sofo doing a solo set on acoustic guitar and keyboard piano. It was fairly straightforward singer-songwriter stuff, but I believe he played at least one song I remembered from having seen the full-on rock version of Sofo a couple of weeks ago. If nothing else, I admire the guy’s moxie getting on stage alone and not even seeming nervous. He’s one of the few musicians I’ve seen, in fact, who demands something of his audience by engaging them in being part of the proceedings.

Chuck P and Antz from teamAWESOME were up next and played a set comprised of some teamAWESOME songs, as well as some material that came off as improvised on the spot. Chuck is good at coming up with something off the cuff, and the first number the duo performed was about Chuck’s favorite Thai restaurant near the CU campus and all the virtues of the food eaten there. Antz played trumpetflügelhorn and bells and provided backing vocals, while Chuck played guitar and sang lead. It was a loose set with awkward moments, but it was the kind shrugged off with good humor. A certain looseness and amateurish quality is a part and parcel of teamAWESOME’s charm. At the same time, it’s clear that not just anyone could pull off the act’s music. While Chuck downplayed his guitar skills, this set proved he is a talented songwriter willing to jump off the deep end and make do brilliantly with whomever is willing to go along with him.

For reasons that don’t belong in a review I was not inside while Mon Marie from Seattle played, but I did hear their pleasantly orchestral indie pop and wish I had caught its set.

Once again, Action Packed Thrill Ride came through with a reliably great set of countrified rock and roll. Normally, I find anything with a tinge of country derivative these days but this act somehow manages to make it seem fresh every time. The band opened with the Galaxie 500-esque “I’m a Sinner You’re a Saint.” What I am increasingly appreciating about Thrill Ride is the fact that each song is written with an impressive economy. This quintet never gives itself the opportunity to get self-indulgent or to drag out an idea beyond where it needs to go.

In the band’s early days, it was a shambolic rock and roll monster akin to the Replacements. But this incarnation has its dynamics and pacing down perfectly without coming off stilted or overly practiced. Mark Cawthray’s Pretenders-esque riff in “Hug of War” was expertly executed and Lucas Johannes’ strumming throughout was richly atmospheric, but, refreshingly, it didn’t cross over into space rock territory. The high point of the performance was the heartfelt “On My Way,” with its quiet middle section reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Thrill Ride closed with “Tonight” and proved that a talented band can leave an audience both satisfied and wanting more.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Because they never waste my time, I’m very much a fan of Action Packed Thrill Ride. Random Detail: Ran into artist Simon Burgos outside the Lair along with some of East Colfax’s more “interesting” characters. By the Way: Action Packed Thrill Ride put out a most excellent album called A Looseleaf Script earlier this year.

This is the 34 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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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera