Concert Reviews

Magic Cyclops Benefit show @ the hi-dive

Magic Cyclops Benefit Show with The Photo Atlas, Monofog, Lion Sized, The New Rome, Mr. Pacman, Dario Rosa July 18, 2007 The hi-dive Better than: Living just about anywhere else could possibly be. Slide Show

The Magic Cyclops benefit show at the hi-dive was a perfect example of what makes Denver’s scene so great. The night started off with a set from Dario Rosa that took the best parts of early rock history, fueled them with a mix of bluesy guitar and two-and-three-part harmonies and channeled the mix through some solid, catchy songwriting.

Mr. Pacman followed with their usual bizarre mix of stand-up comedy, performance art and kitschy, electro-cheese bitpop. It’s hard not to enjoy a band that dresses like third-rate Power Rangers’ rejects, pays homage to the George Foreman grill repeatedly throughout the night and covers Brian Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire.” Sure, they sort of mutilated the cover, but hell, it’s “Baby’s On Fire” and you earn major points for even pulling that one out of the vault.

Next came an intense, punishing (in a very good way) set of thrashing metal riffage and scorching femme fatale vocals in the form of The New Rome. This group impressed the hell out of me and it wasn’t two songs into the set that I was really wishing I’d brought the $12 it would have cost me to pick up the album on vinyl (with a free CD version thrown in, no less). I’ll be checking this band out again – soon.

Monofog killed the lights and played a set of crunchy rock goodness full of squalling guitar, rumbling bass, thunderous tribal drumming and sexy-in-a-scary-way female vocals. As they shot bullets of rock through the darkness, lit only by a flickering, out-of-focus projection, I found myself marveling at just how great Denver’s scene was to put so much diverse talent on one stage on a Wednesday night.

Lion Sized followed and they lived up to the name. I’d been hearing good things about this band from friends and it deserves all the praise thrown its way. The set wastough, gritty post-punk/hardcore with enough pop sensibility and songwriting chops to escape the grind that so many bands of this style fall into. These guys were wound tight, and all but exploded off the stage.

After they finished, The Photo Atlas took over for a surprise, unannounced set, which ended up being an absolute cherry on the kickass cupcake of a night. The boys got a good chunk of the crowd dancing, clapping along and generally rocking out to a fine batch of sugar-fueled power pop. The familiar material featured a new twists that point to a stellar maturation of a promising young band.

This is why Denver is so incredible. The bands were all great, but they couldn’t have been more different. You had the goofy, stylized video-games-on-drugs insanity of Mr. Pacman next to the brutal metal intensity of The New Rome. The bluesy, throwback rock/pop of Dario Rosa contrasted with the nervy, hyper thrum of Lion Sized’s hardcore evolution. And wrapping the whole thing up was Monofog’s chunky, thunderous rock and a surprise appearance from The Photo Atlas, perhaps the best pop-punk band for grown ups the world has ever seen.

That kind of diversity sharing a stage without overt hostility would have been cool enough, but add in a full house that was totally enthralled throughout the night and the fact that all these bands were donating their time and energy to help out a fallen comrade who’s most famous for his screwball ‘80s parody character and karaoke nights and you have to wonder: Could Denver be any cooler of a place to be a music fan?

The answer is no. No, it couldn’t.

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I really love living in Denver and the incredible scene we have here. Random Detail: A relative neophyte indie kid was standing outside talking to his buddy in awed tones about how incredibly cool the bands playing were, saying he had no idea there was so much cool music in Denver. Yes, son. Yes, there is. By the Way: These bands play around town a lot. If you aren’t familiar with them, do yourself a favor and go see any of them, or any of a few dozen other great local bands, sometime soon. – Cory Casciato

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato