Westword Music Showcase June 16, 2007 Outdoor Stage Better than: Making small talk about my daily life.
Aaron Collins is totally offensive. So is Gared O’Donnell, for that matter. The two mouthy frontmen--Collins of Machine Gun Blues and O’Donnell of Planes Mistaken for Stars--shot off a string of expletives on the outdoor stage last Saturday at the Westword Music Showcase. The reason? Because they weren’t supposed to. “They told me that the cops would arrest me if I kept using the word ‘fuck’,” Collins relayed to the audience between songs. “Oops. This next song is called ‘We Fucked It Up.’”
O’Donnell followed up during Planes set with a similar mocking protest. “They want to get in with the ‘urban lifestyle.’ They want to get in the thick of it. They want to get down with it,” he chided, his arms raised above his head Nixon-style. “But they can’t handle it. They can’t handle rock ‘n’ roll!”
Fucks aside, there was so much rock on this end of town, it’d be hard to find any one person who could handle it all. The day opened with animated sets from Nathan & Stephen (imagine !!! and Q & Not U having a birthday party with trumpets), Machine Gun Dudes (imagine blues-influenced 70s rock, but with dirtier, longer hair) and Planes (imagine the same dirty hair but sounding instead more like blues-influenced Midwestern hardcore). By mid-afternoon the hordes of music fans were swilling festival-priced beers like champs and inching closer and closer to the stage.
I missed The Swayback and Born in the Flood to take a late-lunch break and to pop into The Shelter patio for a quick peek at DJ Sara T.’s set. She had yet to go on but I did catch some of DJ Michael Trundle’s handiwork, which seemed a bit too bump-n-thump for that early in the day. Hardwired club beats just don’t seem appropriate until the sun goes down, or until I’ve had a lot more to drink.
By the time I got back to the outdoor stage, DJ Wesley Wayne was on, Lucero was setting up, the crowd of dozens had grown to a few hundred and the lines for the port-o-potties were creating clusters of pee-pee dance parties.
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Lucero then proceeded to fucking kill it. Everyone’s favorite Memphis boys rattled and rocked the place picking off hits from its entire discography. From older favorites such as “Kiss the Bottle” (a Jawbreaker cover) to sad-bastard ballads as “Hold Fast” to more recent numbers like “Bikeriders,” the band was pretty much spot on for every song. There were two things, however, that were a bit off-putting: the unexpected addition of an organist who, with his dark sunglasses and fatherly-type appearance, seemed incredibly out of place and the last song in which frontman Ben Nichols ditched his guitar to solo it out in a Bonoesque fashion. Watching Ben croak out a heartbreaking tune sans guitar, well, something about it just doesn’t feel right.
Michael Trundle was up next (double-duty for him today) but his set was interrupted a number of times for various sponsor shout-outs, announcements and a raffle that no one seemed to care about. Michael was not happy. “It seems like a waste of their money to pay me to play three songs,” he later told me. “But whatever.”
By 9-ish, the skies were darkening and Dinosaur Jr.’s massive set-up was getting hauled onto the stage. J Mascis commands not one, not two, but three guitar cabinets plus a smaller amp tower and a pedal board that looks like a Guitar Center display. But, hey, when you’re one of alt-rock’s most famous underground icons, you can get away with that kind of gearhead nonsense. Lou Barlow and Murph held their own on their end of the stage and seeing the reunited threesome rock out as if they had never parted was a sight for sore and disbelieving eyes. Oh, Dinosaur Jr., how sweet the sound of pure heavier-than-fuck distortion.
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Hot damn. Who’s getting booked next year?
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I’ve been to every Lucero show that the act has ever played in Denver. Seriously.
Random Detail: My favorite quote of the day was from Brian Veneble, guitarist for Lucero, who I ran into early on in the day backstage eating a burrito: “No, you did not just see me wipe salsa off my shoe and eat it.” (Oh, yes, I did.)
By the Way: No, I do not know what Lucero is doing after the show or where they are hanging out, so please stop asking me.