Concert Reviews

Live Reviews: Blue Million Miles, Overcasters, Bad Luck City at hi-dive

Blue Million Miles, Overcasters, Bad Luck City Saturday, August 9, 2008 hi-dive Better Than: The line-up for the average CD release show.

For whatever reason, a lot of CD release shows include one band of the same or higher status than the band releasing the album and one of lower status. Blue Million Miles was having none of that and instead put together a full bill of bands that are able to draw a sizeable crowd all on their own.

I had missed about half of Bad Luck City’s set, but when I made it inside the hi-dive, the band was playing one of its more somber songs. I didn’t recognize it from the albums so I assumed it was new. It built slowly to a crashing tidal wave of sound orchestrated by Dameon Merkl’s warning gestures to the crowd. This was followed by “Stealth,” in which Josh Perry’s churning guitar at the song’s crescendo eased into guitarist Greg Kammerer’s sparkling filigree when it all went to quiet again. Bad Luck closed with “The Blood Trail of McCulloch Gulch” with an absolutely desolating Josh Perry riff in the middle section. The song ends in one of Bad Luck City’s signature builds but instead of fading to one of Kelly O’Dea’s violin figures or Kammerer’s failing ember-like guitar lines, all the players, including their fantastic rhythm section silenced together.

As usual, Overcasters filled the room with free standing swirls of electrifyingly ethereal sounds, painting each of us in sonic hues of greens, blues and violets, awakening us to the soul yearnings we’ve long since put on a shelf in favor of the demands of our everyday lives. There was a powerful elegance to all of the Overcasters’ songs that you don’t hear much of anymore. In a world where it seems most bands are rushing to be something, do something or say something without taking the time to actually have something to convey to their audience, Overcasters and their music remind us that life should be lived at our own pace and on our own terms, not in a manner dictated by people and forces that need us to fit into a system, regardless of what our talents and desires might be. In moments during the band’s set, I was reminded of what I felt like when I first heard Heaven Up Here and Remote Luxury: While the outfit’s music has a melancholy quality, it’s not meant to make you sad so much as making you not want to bail on yourself and your own life as much as you probably do.

Blue Million Miles closed with a lightning bolt of pure rock and roll. The group opened with “Through the Branches,” and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen them play with more conviction and strength. This momentum was kept up for the entirity of its eleven-song set — an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. During “Power Out,” Johnny Lundock’s expert pacing and layering of drum sounds really gave the song a good deal of its texture and punch. “Explosions,” had one of those classically melodic hooks that, in a less cynical musical climate, would have made it an immediate radio hit and on this night it resonated incandescently. “222” was much more wickedly jagged than usual, while “Follow You Down” still struck me as one of the band’s best songs with its building of expectation, which led to a cathartic chorus.

Throughout the set, Sam McNitt delivered ferocious vocal lines that made it easy to forget what a nice, mild-mannered guy he is off stage. During “Strangled By Time,” Jeff Shapiro hit a guitar chord with so much feeling that he nearly fell over. The band closed with the colossal “Trees,” at the end of which Shapiro slammed his guitar into the ground until it broke and then tossed the neck out into the crowd. I know Jeff wanted me to say that his band more like “blew a million miles,” but when you play a set as great as this act did tonight that would an affront to the truth, and you are certainly entitled to a self-indulgent rock star moment to boot.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I absolutely love all three bands on this bill. Random Detail: I talked to Matt LaBarge after the show, and he thought it was a great bill, too, and he was impressed with Overcasters, whom he’d never heard before. By the Way: Shows with this great a line-up rarely happen.

This is the 36 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.)

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera