Concert Reviews

Over the weekend: Spoke Shaver, Big Timber and Dualistics at the Larimer Lounge

Spoke Shaver, Big Timber and Dualistics
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Larimer Lounge
Better Than:
I would have thought possible.

Before this show I never liked Dualistics. All of its stage antics and music seemed contrived and derivative to a fault. But it had been a long time since I'd seen the act perform and for this show it was obvious to me that the overall songwriting and sound had improved dramatically. Maybe some of the slings and arrows of being a band doing relatively mainstream atmospheric pop music in this town toughened these guys up a bit and instead of quitting, they just got a lot better. The noisy "Spy Vs. Spy" was a nice and rocking break from the band's usual sonic proclivities with its odd, choppy and ultimately effective dynamics. The vocal harmonies were both solidly melodic as well as heartfelt. Not a dull moment in the set.

Big Timber is another band I have to admit to truly disliking, musically speaking, prior to this performance, as well. Lyrically, more so than musically, Timber always struck me as underdeveloped. None of that was in evidence when the foursome took the stage. I don't know if these guys have been listening to a lot of the Jam, Cheap Trick, Big Star and Uncle Tupelo over the last few years but it sure sounded like they have, but without really ripping any of those bands off. In previous years, this project seemed like something of a joke, but now it seems as though someone, at some point in the band's development, decided the whole thing should be taken somewhat seriously without compromising on the fun of playing rock music. The best song of the set was probably the number with bassist Andy Wild on lead vocals. It highlighted how there are three distinct songwriting styles of the band but instead of one dominating the rest, this group works well together with integrating the strengths of all three. The set ended with the magnificent "Between Margins."

Opening with the densely textured yet atmospherically expansive "Birds Have No Agenda" (a song that will hopefully be included in another release), Spoke Shaver treated us to a lengthy set of its impressively diverse songs. I've read a lot about them being prog and whatnot and that's certainly part of the underlying structure of the songwriting but instead of showing off the technical proficiency of the players, this band proved in the live setting that it is capable of emotional depth to match its immense musical talent. To my ears, there was a whole lot of soul and funk in all the songs performed but in a way that hasn't been worn out or compromised by people who don't understand it but like how it sounds. In addition to a great new song called "Pinata Knife," Spoke Shaver played its entire new album with closing the heady and inspiring set with "Leftover Sandwich." That is until the audience demanded and got an encore.

Personal Bias: I've been a fan of Spoke Shaver since the first time I saw them.
Random Detail: When Spoke Shaver's snare broke, The Dualistics loaned one in time for the last two songs of the set.
By the Way:  Trevor Morris of Big Timber engineered the Spoke Shaver album.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.