The Born in the Flood barbecue June 3 at the Larimer Lounge was everything good about being in Denver right now. The weather was pleasant, if a bit weird. Overcast but warm, with a moderate breeze blowing through, it might not have been a storybook “nice day”, but it was beautiful all the same. There was ample cheap beer, barbecue and an afternoon packed with local bands. If there’s a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, I can’t say what it would be.
It was Born in the Flood’s day. As they set up, the crowd filtered in from the patio and the food until the room was full, full enough to feel crowded, fuller than I’ve seen it for national touring acts on a Friday night. From the second they started playing the room was electrified. They played a mix of songs drawn from their recently released album If This Thing Should Spill and the earlier The Fear That We May Not Be EP to an audience that seemed intimately familiar with every nuance of every tune.
During one song they had an equipment failure that left the vocals completely unamplified. As singer Nathaniel Rateliff shouted the lyrics in a largely futile but endearing effort to be heard over the crowd, neither the band nor the rapt audience ever missed a beat. At the end, the crowd cheered with gusto, then called so insistently for the band to play it once the issue was resolved. They gracefully acknowledged the seemingly universal desire for and played it brilliantly, receiving even bigger cheers and a few half-joking calls to hear it again.
When their set was finished the cheering of the crowd was painful, deafening, louder than the band had been. That’s a powerful testament to the esteem their audience holds for them and their music. It’s no mystery why. The songs are strong, the band has skills and they put on a hell of a show, authentic and raw with just the right amount of rock and roll theater.
Beautiful day, Born in the Flood, barbecue … but like those TV offers say, that’s not all. The other bands I saw before I had to leave would have been reason enough to justify heading to the Lounge even if Born in The Flood hadn’t played.
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Astrophagus played before Born in the Flood. They started out a little slowly but I was intrigued a bit even before the first song ended. By the third song I was convinced they had something going on. During the fourth song the singer kicked it up a notch, moving around a bit as he seemed to find his zone and the band clicked for me. By the end of the set I knew had to get the CD.
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Their sound is a mélange of the choice bits from the alt-country and indie camps, leavened with a moderate experimental edge. Most of the songs were rollicking, driving tunes that built to big, chaotic, noisy finales. The rest explored different corners of the same set of elements, embracing melancholy or letting their country side take the spotlight.
The Knew feature an unusual two guitar and drummer line-up. Despite the lack of a bass guitar there’s no sense that anything is missing and the drums inspire movement just fine without the help. Their sound is country slam dancing with garage rock, punk square dancing with the blues. Their playing was tight, accomplished and damn tasty.
It doesn’t hurt a bit that they look and feel like a proper rock band, kind of outlandish and half-wild, oozing confidence and manic enthusiasm. I would have picked up their disc as well but they were out of their last EP and the new release isn’t available yet, though you can hear it on their MySpace page.
I’ve been going to Denver shows for almost a decade, with varying degrees of frequency. In that time I’ve seen plenty of good bands and at least a few that flat out impressed me. I’ve seen even more useless, amateurish flailing and vanilla competency and generally boring crap. Sunday I saw three bands that all left me basking in the afterglow and inspired by what’s going on in the local scene. It won’t be the last time I see any of these three acts, and it won’t be the last time I go to a Larimer Sunday barbecue. It’s a weekly microfestival of local bands for the price of a movie ticket. That’s hard to beat. --Cory Casciato