Concert Reviews

Monolith 2009, Day Two: The Mars Volta, Chromeo, Monotonix, Phoenix and more

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A Shoreline Dream, 12:20 p.m.

What it was like: Starting the day in a hazy, uncertain state.

A Shoreline Dream's early afternoon performance offered a taste of fogginess far too early in the day.

The quartet's dense, distorted guitar and bass lines, along with their muddled, meandering vocals would have been ideal way to unwind later in the day, after seeing a full slate of high energy bands.

But seeing the group as the first act of Monolith's second day was too disorienting and unmooring for me. After pumping myself up for a dynamic day of music in the sunshine, the performance in the darkened halls of the Red Rocks visitor center seemed a bit too understated.

The group did a good job of showing off their strengths. Ryan Policky offered musing lyrics that would, at times, devolve into wordless, emotional cries. Erik Jeffries and Enoc Torraca played thick, heavily distorted guitar and bass lines, creating a surreal sound that fit the small space well and served as a fitting soundtrack for the grainy footage beamed on a screen in the back.

The effect was dreamy and surreal, and recalled a host of influences from the Pet Shop Boys to Pink Floyd. But the sound ultimately proved too dreamy for the early hour, and I found myself eager to take in an act that was more straightforward at an outdoor stage.

Verdict: It was far too early for so much surrealism. -- A.H. Goldstein

Spindrift, 12:30 p.m.

What it was like: Hearing a contemporary version of Ennio Morricone doing live soundtrack work.

Spindrift started off its set with a few of its more ethereal material, but for this band it meant that the trebly, spindly melodies hung in the air before the thick rhythms came in to give flesh, muscle and dynamism to the songs. Afterward, the band drifted back in to the deserty, psychedelic rock that we've come to expect from Spindrift.

Halfway through the set was a song where Kirpatrick Thomas' played a ghostly, descending riff that evolved into kind of a Dick Dale or Link Wray-esque psych surf series of hanging chords for the most haunting moment in the set. At the end a little girl came on stage dressed in Native American regalia and, along with a woman who accompanied her broke into tribal drumming. Once the song got going, Thomas and the rest of the band joined in with wails that solidified a sense of witnessing a sacred ceremony done on the open plains before the Great Spirit.

Verdict: I've been less than impressed with the band on previous occasions but this performance was superb. -- Tom Murphy

Jim McTurnan and the Kids That Killed the Man, 1 p.m.

What it was like: Dinosaur Jr. minus ten 100 watt Marshalls, a few temper tantrums and the pretension.

Jim McTurnan apologized for the band's final song. "This is where we get self-indulgent," he said. Not necessary - it was longer and involved a tempo change and (gasp!) at least four chords, but it rocked just as hard as the rest of the set. Oh man. Josh Wambeke from Fell plays bass in this band. Nothing fancy from him, facing backwards and hitting his notes. And Mike Marchant plays guitar. For the uninitiated, Marchant is Denver's long-haired guitar god, gangly and awesome at what he does. He dangles around the stage, his ankles and hips and knees like jello, tossing off feedback and distortion and yanking forth face-melting solos. McTurnan can handle an axe himself, and he laid washed out vocal melodies on blissfully simple, bracingly loud rock tunes.

Verdict: There's a reasonable amount of national media attention here at Monolith. Did you catch these guys? That's right. Denver made that. Eat your heart out. -- Kiernan Maletsky

The Features, 1:30 p.m. We Were Promised Jetpacks, 1:40 p.m.

What it was like: Seeing those cool latter-day, Scottish post-punk bands before they got polished.

Jetpacks opened with a flurry of vaguely melodic sound that became something like a frantic combination of U2 and Mission of Burma. The vocals sounded a little flat, and yet they carried a tune well enough and the guy could sing with feeling. After the first song or two a woman in the audience asked the singer to say what sounded like "whore" and then he did. But he quickly followed that up by joking that "We're not some sort of Scottish freak show that rolls into town and says whatever you want."

The guitar style was often jagged, atonal, textural and rhythmic rather than melodic. The quiet and loud dynamics were a bit predictable and these guys sounded a bit too much like Franz Ferdinand, but without the soul influence. But between songs everyone in Jetpacks was charmingly funny; even the singer's speaking voice was curiously not flat at all. Even though I can't say I was too much into what this band was doing, it's hard to not like a band that remembers to be entertaining performers.

Verdict: Even though some of this group's songs seemed fairly derivative to me, its use of atmospheric sounds in the synths or samples added another dimension to its overall vibe. -- TM

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Joe Tone
Contact: Joe Tone