Over the weekend: Tauntaun and Kingdom of Magic at the Bluebird

Tauntaun, Kingdom of Magic and Wetlands
Friday, March 6, 2009
Bluebird Theater
Better than:
banging your head against your steering wheel

Friday night's Bluebird crowd came prepared to rock, and they certainly weren't disappointed. As metal reasserts itself in the mainstream Denver music scene, fans of nosehair-singeing rock are lucky to have the chance to catch lineups like this one.

Kingdom of Magic -- consisting of drummer Devon Rogers, bassist Joe Ramirez and guitarist/singer Luke Fairchild -- brought its usual brand of stoner doom to the stage with absolutely no sympathy for sensitive eardrums. The trio is incredibly adept at turning a handful of thundering riffs into a sledgehammer that pounds bones into powder -- and making the process feel good. That's exactly what happened on Friday.

With his furrowed brow and flying hair, Ramirez not only presented the most convincing metalhead style, but he backed it up with cabinet-rattling bass lines that spurred Rogers to whip his kit mercilessly. Fortunately, the drummer knows how to hit maximum volume while also keeping things interesting and providing a great deal of the structure for the group's sprawling compositions.

Whether performing with Kingdom of Magic or with his hardcore project, Git Some, Fairchild always manages to be the focal point. In Kingdom, the musician is too focused on his gut-grabbing guitar work to unleash his id as much as he does in Git Some, but he still exudes an edginess and intensity from which it's difficult to look away. On Friday night, he hardly looked at the audience, even when yowling his unholy poetry into the mic, choosing instead to focus on his frets. Even so, there was so much aggression and energy coming from the stage that it felt as if the performers were grabbing each member of the crowd by the face and demanding well-deserved attention.

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All of this was the ideal prelude to the rafter-rattling headlining set by Tauntaun. The quartet of drummer Dave Barker (Pinhead Circus, Love Me Destroyer), bassist Matty Clark (Grace Like Gravity, Sleeper Horse), guitarist Ian O'Dougherty (Uphollow, Ian Cooke) and singer/guitarist Chris Fogal (Gamits) took the Bluebird with such force and confidence that it seemed as if they were already rock stars. The technical, precise, melodic metal that this groups plies requires musical prowess and just the right amount of attitude, and these seasoned players proved that they have both in spades.

Borrowing liberally from the British new wave of heavy metal (Judas Priest, Iron Maiden), as well as Motorhead, Exodus, and early Slayer and Metallica, the terrorists of Tauntaun hurtled through a fast-paced, well-sequenced set that showcased the crew's skills. O'Dougherty's performance was particularly noteworthy as he tossed off brutal, visceral and challenging guitar lines with little indication of effort. It's as if this diverse crew was born to make this particular brand of music.

Tauntaun whipped the metal-ready crowd into a seething, steaming froth, all while making their intricate riffs, incisive harmonies, start-stop rhythms and melodic hooks look easy. A crew of dedicated horn-throwers was so moved by the metal mayhem that they kept trying to start a vicious pit at the apron of the stage. Unfortunately, they were either too drunk or too old (and believe me, I can relate to both) to sustain the momentum. Nonetheless, Tauntaun filled the theater with so much simmering energy that the end of the show left the crowd chanting and shouting for more.

Critic's Notebook:
Personal Bias:
Had I not gotten lost while driving to the Bluebird after a fantastic dinner in Greenwood Village (!), I would have had the pleasure of catching Wetlands' set. I look forward to my next opportunity to catch that quickly developing outfit.
Random detail: I was absolutely delighted by a woman grinding her hips during Kingdom of Magic's set as if it were an Usher show.
By the way: While purists can get Tauntaun's debut on vinyl, a digital download of the album will set you back a mere five bucks - a bargain at twice the price.

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