Live Review: Yellow Fever with Hot White and Motel Saints

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Photo: Tom Murphy Hot White

Yellow Fever w/Hot White and Motel Saints Thursday, July 24, 2008 Rhinoceropolis Better Than: Actually having yellow fever.

Due to the ongoing highway refurbishing and the contractors’ wonderfully inept signaling of lanes merging to a single lane on I-70 (I guess they didn’t hear about the national asphalt shortage), I got to the Rhino to catch just the last two songs by the always great Hot White. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s two guys who perform mostly instrumental music but it’s not that kind of “we-wish-we-were-Mogwai” post-rock thing.

I learned recently that both of them are still teenagers and that gives me some hope for the future of interesting music being created by a younger generation. Their stuff is furious, frenetic but entirely musical noise rock of a sort. Off-kilter, free-jazz-esque drum rhythms bumping into some of the deepest, yet most playful, heavy bass guitar riffing I’ve yet seen. They closed with the song where the bass, due to a pedal, sounds like a synth part of the time, stretching the sonic palette of this truly promising band. They’re easily becoming one of my favorite bands in the region. Great energy and compelling experimental music never gets old.

Photo: Tom Murphy Yellow Fever Yellow Fever had apparently not driven up from Austin as we might have assumed but took the long route up the coast of California to Seattle and then to Denver. Whatever circuitous route they took, Thursday night was all the more enriched by their bouncy, charming, rough-edged indie rock. During the early part of their set they reminded me a little bit of the Blow, but not electronic -- just that same kind of laid back vocal in catchy, forward-momentum songs with bouncy rhythms.

By their third song they were also reminiscent of Young Marble Giants and maybe just a hint of Swell Maps. Their fourth song had a nice edgy riff that sounded like it could have been a companion to “Outdoor Miner” by Wire. During their eighth song, the drummer played the guitar while drumming but instead of playing it with a pick, he put it in a guitar stand and struck interesting open chords with the occasional slide. It might have been a gimmicky move but it really did add interesting textures to the song and didn’t come off as an overly extravagant gesture.

They closed with “Cats and Rats” from their fantastic EP of the same name except that they kicked up the intensity level a great deal from the version heard on the recording. But that’s the advantage of getting to seeing a band live—you get to feel the music instead of merely hearing it.

Photo: Tom Murphy Motel Saints

Prior to the show I had assumed that Motel Saints were a touring band but it turns out they’re from Denver. When they were set up and ready to go I felt as though I had stepped back into the late ‘70s or early ‘80s because they sort of had that style to their visual appearance. Even the singer’s sunglasses had me flashing back to Boogie Nights as well as my less lurid childhood when the neighbor boys in high school would sport such shades. But it really added to the atmosphere of their music.

At first blush I thought they sounded more than a little bit like the Strokes. But I happen to like the Strokes and as their set progressed some of their more fiery numbers recalled the Jam and some of the cooler garage rock of the ‘80s. All of the elements sounded good and that’s what counts the most, but I could tell they were a relatively new band because, except for their bass player who lunged and rocked and looked cool doing it, they played it a little conservatively.

The singer had a good voice but he probably could do to sing with a little more force because their energetic, finely layered power pop songs call for singing with gusto. Nevertheless, Motel Saints were a solid and promising band with a collection of refreshingly earnest pop songs. -- Tom Murphy

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I’m a bit of a fan of Jennifer Moore of Yellow Fever. Random Detail: Yellow Fever has great t-shirts and one design looked like four Native Americans with their backs turned drawn by a child. By the Way: Kevin from Hot White has a cool dad named Gerard who used to be part of the hardcore scene in Orange County during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and he gets why a place like the Rhino is so cool and so important.

This is the eighteenth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is 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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