Over the Weekend... Destroyer and Josh Queen @ the Walnut Room

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Destroyer and Josh Queen Saturday, May 3, 2008 The Walnut Room

Friday night's gig at the Walnut Room marked a bit of an anniversary for opener Josh Queen. His first Denver show after moving here from North Carolina a year ago was at this intimate club. Armed with just a Fender amp, a hollow-body and his plaintive voice, Queen commanded the attention of everyone in the packed room as he ran through a roster of songs as personal as they were accessible, earnest tales of love, loss, memories. Judging from the response Queen elicited, the Queen City is warming right up to Queen.

Up next was Dan Bejar, the artistic force behind Destroyer. Notorious for shunning interviewer and photographer alike, the Canadian songwriter thrives as the center of attention despite presenting a meager presence on stage. True to his introverted nature, he played part of the set with his back to the audience, allowing the music to take center stage, rather than be diluted with any rock-star posturing.

This unassuming approach sharply contrasted the power of the act's music, which both shook and amazed an eager audience, while Bejar’s appearance -- his wrinkled button-down shirt, scraggly beard, and the unkempt, out-of-control curls of his jet black hair – was as disheveled as his rambling songs. But in a good way. Stacking several layers of guitar and shimmering piano and poetry into heaps of glory, Bejar brought the band down to a low roar and stretched out a mellow groove when the energy reached a peak, taking care not to milk it too long.

"More vocals!" the crowd unanimously demanded when Bejar meekly asked "How does it sound?" It was a reasonable request on our part: Bejar, an indie rock pioneer, is, for all intents and purposes, a poet. To get the whole picture, you’ve got to hear every word.

This was no poetry reading, though. During the last song, the drummer played so hard it seemed as though would beat through his drum set, through the stage and right down to Walnut Street. Such dynamics were impressive, since only two songs previous he was gently shaking a set of sleigh bells. But, the crowd wasn't satisfied, and hollered till the boys came back for two more.

Hanging out with the band after the show, I teased them for smoking weird cigarettes (is that a Canadian thing?). A short time later, Bejar high-tailed it back to the hotel, to rest his voice. Before the rest of the band followed suit, they spoke excitedly about their upcoming appearance at Washington's Sasquatch music festival later this month -- after a twenty-hour van trip back to their home in Vancouver.

-- Kevin Galaba

Personal Bias: Sleigh bells over cowbell any day. Well, almost any day.

Random Detail: Destroyer plans breaks up the monotony of the long ride home (twenty-hours back to Vancouver) with a stop in Twin Falls, Idaho, for the 9:55 screening of the new movie Iron Man. By the Way: Those funny cigarettes they were smoking were Nat Shermans.

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