What it was like: A really, really crowded house party.
I had to take certain things on faith during the Woodhands performance in the cramped confines of the Radius Earphones Stage.
For example, from the research I'd done on the group beforehand, and from the sounds coming from the front of the room, it was safe to say the band was a duo. Dan Werb handled the synths and vocals, while Paul Banwatt handled the drums.
I had to trust the sound for the personnel assessment, however, as the room was so crowded it was difficult to move past the back of the room, much less get a good look at the front of the stage.
Maybe it was the pounding rain that drove the masses indoors, but it could have just as easily been the catchy synth lines, brash vocals and rich, dense drumming from the stage that served as a magnet.
For all the inherent simplicity of the music, the duo managed to invest the sound with plenty of nuance and subtlety, an element that I find rare in much dance and electronica. The Toronto-based duo filled the room with their minimal crew, and if I hadn't known the band was a duo, I would have assumed there was another instrument in the mix.
Unfortunately, the sensation of being crammed against a horde of wet, gyrating fans subtracted slightly from the experience.
Verdict: The set yielded plenty of noteworthy, danceable moments, but the sheer size of the crowd subtracted from the show. I'd like to see Woodhands under calmer circumstances. -- AGWendy Darling, 4 p.m.
What it was like: Getting energized despite the sapping effect of chilling rain.
I was ready to be unimpressed.
Standing in the cold, steady drizzle for twenty minutes waiting for Wendy Darling to start their set was enough to sap my anticipation, but the group's warm vocal blends and flair for multi-instrumentation brought me out of my funk fairly quickly.
Frontwoman Cori Rush played a big part in drawing from my chilled state of discomfort and getting me to dance. Switching between stints on bass and harmonium for select songs, Rush's inviting, entrancing tones served as a glue for the group's wide array of poppy and alt-rock structures. Rush's high, tenor tones found a complement in harmonies provided by guitarist Nate Heller, who also offered stretches of rocking, toe-tapping guitar solos.
Considering the adverse conditions, and considering the small size of the stage, the group drew a considerable crowd. Unlike the venue during Woodhands' set, there was plenty of room to find the front of the stage, jump around and circulate easily.
Even if it was wet and miserable.
Verdict: A poppy, compelling musical treat in adverse outdoor circumstances. -- AGPains of Being Pure at Heart, 4 p.m.
What It Was Like: Hearing a band whose name is truth in advertising.
Upon first hearing this band on KEXP in Seattle, I have to admit that it took me back in time to when I first heard bands like the Smiths, Felt and the Stone Roses. Not that Pure at Heart sound as much like the bands of that era as some of its critics would have you believe, but the band's music perfectly captures that rush of hope, possibility and excitement of being young. Pure at Heart also articulated in its performance at times a sense of melancholy that doesn't have to lead to the darkness of depression and of loss without dwelling on tragedy, great or small.
Everyone in the band seemed to be in good spirits, and Peggy commented on how playing that show in that place was kind of a spiritual experience for them. Kip spoke a little between songs in a charmingly awkward way that I know, from having spoken to the guy on the phone and in person, is not an affectation. After opening with an especially strong version of "This Love is Fucking Right!" the group performed most of its debut full-length, as well as a new song called "Higher Than the Stars." It rained during the entire set but no one seemed to mind, and many in the audience seemed to know the words. Not bad for a band whose first album came out this year.
Verdict: This was a remarkable performance that stayed with me the rest of the night. -- TM
The Answering Machine, 4:20 p.m. What it was like: Amped-up art rock.
Sometimes it's a wonderful thing to see a band come out swinging right from the get go. Manchester, England-based art rockers the Answering Machine did just that, and kicked off a bouncy and highly charged set that had the audience clapping right off the bat. Strobe lights pulsating, with drummer Ben Perry riding out a Gang of Four hi-hat beat, Perry powered the infectious tune "Cliffer" with propulsive tom beats throughout the tune while frontman Martin Colclough banged out some biting guitar riffs.
The band kept the energy surging through the next few songs, all from the band's debut album, Another City, Another Sorry -- including "You Should Have Called," which also featured some first-rate vocals from bassist Gemma Evans on the outro. While they slowed down a bit on "Emergency," with Perry playing glockenspiel, they ramped things up again and rode out one of the most sunny sets of a cold and rainy day.
Verdict: Super fun, catchy and bouncy. -- JSOK Go, 4:45 p.m.
What it was like: Catchy, snappy dance rock.
Frontman Damian Kulash said the last time OK Go was in Denver, the band's bus driver said, "You will get love here." They got some more love from the locals and a fair amount of people who were from out of state, at least according to the screams Kulash got when asked how many people traveled here. What's not to love when you're feeding the folks some catchy, snappy dance rock?
The guys, each dressed in black suits, also gave them two of their more successful tunes; "A Million Ways" early in the set and "Here It Goes Again" near the end. In between the band played two new cuts from its forthcoming album (due in January). Near the end of the set, Kulash said how he felt like a bit of a sissy standing under the "tent" while it was raining. He joked about being electrocuted, but stepped out in the rain with his acoustic guitar and said, "It's time for a love song," launching into "Last Leaf." It was pretty damn poignant, with the guy singing stuff like, "If you should be the last autumn leaf hanging from the tree, I'll still be here, waiting on the breeze to bring you down" while getting rained in the pit of Red Rocks. But to follow that with "It's a Disaster," where Kulash was singing about crashing and burning and "It's an incredible mess but it's all we've got now," well, it was kind of funny.
Verdict: OK Go were better than just OK. -- JS