Goodbye Champion, John Common, Three Cheers Faraday, Kissing Party, the Swayback Friday, August 15 hi-dive Better than: Driving to Boulder to see Denver bands.
The producers at Adventure Records are shifting their focus. After four years of holding their annual CD release party in Boulder, the event’s organizers chose the hi-dive as the event’s forum for the Aug. 15 show. Judy Craddock, co-producer for the local label, said that the change from its traditional Boulder venue had everything to do with Denver’s budding local music scene and its growing pool of talent.
“I think the rock is happening is Denver – this is a golden time,” Craddock said. “We feel like it’s our job to highlight what’s going on in Colorado music.”
Goodbye Champion, John Common, Three Cheers Faraday, Kissing Party and The Swayback -- all featured on Adventure’s latest compilation, Cuvée5, provided the night’s soundtrack, while Adventure staff were on hand to speak to the label’s purpose.
“Most of the bands on the CD are from Denver. There is something going on here,” said Ken Kadonaga, chief music officer and president of Adventure. “The idea is to promote the arts.”
The sounds on display during Friday’s show like the disc boasts a wide variety of styles and directions. While the results tended to be a mixed bag in terms of innovation and dynamism, the show served its purpose as a platform for aspiring local bands. Adventure, which has served as a proving ground for successful locals like Devotchka and Ron Miles, touts itself in part as a stepping stone, a bridge toward major commercial success.
Goodbye Champion’s set offered open-ended chord structures and simplistic, driving melodies, a combination that lent for an ethereal, if monotonous sound. Three lead guitars, combined with the absence of bass player Garret Sayers, made for a tone-heavy set, one dominated by amorphous song structure and simplistic guitar solos. The sound supported the band’s lyrical approach, which pulled on vague accusation (“Your heart is heavy and your heart is dark) and generic relationship-speak (“It’s true I don’t blame you,” “I let you go, come back to me.”)
All in all, Champion was consistent, if a bit overly simplistic. Singer/songwriter John Common teamed with singer Jessica De Nicola Mefford adding another element to his basic and stark approach of the acoustic guitar. Common’s style relies on straightforward major and minor chord structures and alternatively soft and strident vocals, and De Nicola Mefford’s accompaniment managed to deepen the sound. On songs like “Dreamers” and “Love’s a Shark,” De Nicola Mefford’s supporting vocals alternated between soft repetitions of lyrics and indistinct harmonic backup. After the string-heavy sounds of Goodbye Champion, the effect was both minimalistic and soothing.
Like Goodbye Champion, Three Cheers Faraday was missing a band member for the performance. Sans lead guitarist Jay Underwood, the trio offered a stark, speedy and succinct sound that at time recalled early Clash tunes, and at others summoned more modern parallels with bands like Gang of Four. Even with the missing lead guitar, the band pulled off songs like “The Waltz” with a well-honed alacrity. While the Boulder-based band was one of the few imports to Denver for the evening, the act’s enthusiasm and energy made it a seamless part of the lineup.
Kissing Party, with its unabashedly poppy song structures and its taste for quick, 4/4 tunes, added an easily digestible elements to the evening’s offerings. The band handed out brightly colored tambourines, encouraging the crowd to become a makeshift percussion session. While songs like “Jacey Finch” offered no virtuosic melodies and no stunt guitar, lead singer Deirdre Sage’s petulant vocals and the quintet’s underlying approachability made for an enjoyable set.
The Swayback closed the night out, combining elements from the progenitors of several genres, fusing proto-punk rhythmic cues with the dramatic, tenor-infused vocals of early metal and goth bands. Frontman Eric Halborg reveled in the sheer theatricality of the band’s wide array of sounds, donning a scraggly beard worthy of Greg Allman and playing up the tongue-in-cheek drama of the lyrics, as keyboardist Shawn Astrom deepened Martijn Bolster’s drums with a backup of Midi-induced percussion. The band’s talent at simple stage presence, combined with its unique blend of early rock musical textures, served as an appropriate ending for the evening’s broad palette.
Despite the occasional misses, the night’s entire performance, which ranged from simple acoustic lines to metal-inspired stage drama and yielded more than the sum of its parts.
Even more than spotlighting local talent, though, Kissing Party lead singer Deirdre Sage saw another benefit of the show’s variety and diversity. “It’s nice to have an album that’s contributing to something other than the vanity of the musicians,” Sage said.
-- Adam Goldstein
Personal bias: A sampling of some of Adventure’s more well-known and accomplished acts like Ron Miles or TeamAWESOME would have made the evening more dynamic. Random Detail: The label has not given up their Boulder roots entirely – Adventure co-producer Judy Craddock hinted at a Boulder show with a lineup drawn from the latest compilation CD.