The swell of people at the Hi-Dive Saturday night seemed like a perfect fit for Denver transplant Eric Bachmann. Any one of the many there may have been a random character from any one of his many songs. The guy so drunk he passes out standing up, the girl tightly holding her drink in the corner, looking so lonely, but wanting nobody to talk to her, or even the restless bartender pouring another Jameson. Bachmann conjures these characters so well, both solo, and as leader of the ever-changing Crooked Fingers, it’s easy to get lost in his songs and forget those same characters are probably standing right behind you.
Such was the case this evening.
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However, there was more to this night than just Eric Bachmann. Opener and local, Ian Cooke began his set with a degree of subtlety that built slowly. While some may focus on Cooke’s cello work, his voice is the true secret weapon in his arsenal. Bringing to mind equal parts Jeff Buckley, and Sufjan Stevens, there is no doubt his voice could carry his songs just as much his cello work. Each song, while ringing with strange melodies, also had a slow burn that lent an edge to Cooke’s set. To see Cooke take just two instruments, in this case a (looped) cello and his voice, and build his mini-symphonies was quite a pleasure to watch.
While his old band, Archers of Loaf, owned the live arena with punk sweat and grit, Eric Bachmann, accompanied here by Cooke, and Elin Palmer (of openers Elin & Freida & the Lee Lewis Harlots), took a different road this evening, starting out the night with more subdued material from his solo record To The Races. Owing as much to Neil Diamond (who he covered this evening) as he does Bruce Springsteen (who he has covered in the past) Bachmann’s songs shine a light on both hope and despair and the personal struggle between the two. Through the majority of the set, Bachmann stuck to a nylon string guitar while Cooke’s cello and Palmer’s violin rounded out the material. This triumvirate worked well, but got better when Palmer joined Bachmann on vocals, providing a perfect counterpoint to his raspy baritone. Bachmann moved nimbly back and forth between his solo album and his Crooked Fingers material, but it was a treat when he took time to re-imagine Archers of Loaf’s “White Trash Heroes,” as a hushed ballad free from the ballast of its former self, much like Bachmann himself.
Taken as a whole, the night was a great showcase of Denver songwriters, traveling down different roads, converging on one stage. -- Jeremy Brashaw
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: It was great hearing the Crooked Fingers material stripped of its more ornamental, recorded, features. Random Detail: Denver packed the Hi-Dive for this show; great turn-out for the locals. By the Way: Seriously, the guy who passed out standing up, come forward and accept your prize.