In a show of sustained enthusiasm, Rubedo ended its set with one of its most visceral and dynamic numbers: "Give My Heart a Break." The song began with feedback created by Kyle Gray as he held his small, acoustic guitar to his amp. As the sound reached a peak he leapt back to the mike and the whole band crashed into a heavy, bluesy psych riff with an admirably headlong force. In the middle section, the band effortlessly shifted into an abstract, almost ambient, section that unexpectedly dropped into an even heavier, synth-driven final section in which the group came together for its wildest bit of the night. The effect felt like you had been floating in emotional space, and the last part made the music go direct like Mercury, carrying you along in its wake.
The set started with Gray doing a bit of "Walking In the Sand" by The Shangri-Las with plucks of his guitar as accompaniment. Then Gregg Ziemba and Alex Raymond stepped forward with and to their appropriate instruments, and the band went into "Abaissement Du Niveau Mental" after the opening track of Mass Confusa. There was a palpable sense of excitement from the guys, and Gray was clearly swept up in the moment at all times, as his face contorted with the force of emotion.
Rubedo performed a good portion of Massa Confusa, including the Pink Floyd-esque "Antoine Doinel," the raucously warping "40 Day and Night," the almost krautrock "Guise of a Traveling Scholar" and "As Though Love Were Burning His Body," reminiscent of Mercury Rev. Raymond switched between guitar and bass throughout the show, but when he was on bass and Gray was hitting the distorted synth in the same register, it was like getting to see Bright Channel -- the sheer physical impact of the music had an almost psychological effect on you beyond the melody and words.
Raymond and Ziemba joined Gray throughout the show in facial displays of the power of the music running through them as Rubedo created its seamless alchemy of psychedelic rock, prog, R&B and hip-hop. At the end of the show, Gray was encouraged to come off stage onto the crowd and he ended up being carried by people to the middle of the room where he was let down.
The whole show started off with Achille Lauro. Matt Close had, apparently, shaved a "720" into the side of his head either for the occasion or just to see what it would be like. Either way, he pulled it off without looking like an idiot. In typical fashion, these guys put all of themselves into the performance.
With Close gesturing when he was not playing guitar or keys and Luke Mossman switching between both instruments in a perfect synch, the pair generated the melodies between them and Jon and Ben Mossman were strong and solidly in the pocket and provided expressive rhythms. It would be difficult to imagine an Achille Lauro show that was less than excellent, and this was no exception.
CougarPants played next with its usual ability to take an older aesthetic and completely reinvent it. Robin Walker has the kind of voice you'd probably have heard in the '40s being used to great effect in a jazz combo. Her playful personality' coupled with a strong ability to express such a broad range of emotions' gives this band the ability to be melancholy and humorous at the same time in exactly the proper portions in any given point in the song.
Jessica Hughes, meanwhile, has perfected accenting the rhythm of the song to match Walker's own idiosyncratic phrasing with a delicate touch to the rhythms but also with creating rhythmic textures by utilizing multiple parts of the drum kit. For a couple of songs, Walker picked up a bass and made it look easy. There was no ukulele this time, even though Walker is one of the best practitioners of that instrument around. Rather, she used the keyboard to make haunted carnival sounds and beautifully moody melodies. CougarPants is always a surprisingly versatile and never boring band that can laugh at itself with grace when things go awry.
Without missing a beat, someone in Hindershot said something about the recently deceased MCA from Beastie Boys. Then the guys launched straight into a cover of "Fight For Your Right To Party" that did great honor to the original. People sprayed beer on the band, on the audience, threw cans and otherwise acted like idiots, just like the song suggests.
The band's originals showed a group of guys who are not only energetic performers but who write interesting and layered, yet not overly complicated, guitar rock worthy of The Chameleons and Deerhunter -- the kind of shimmery but strong and moving music that looks and sounds like you're there witnessing something great that maybe the rest of the world hasn't quite clued into yet.
At one point, Stuart Confer said, "This is the most fun I've ever had other than Disneyland because Disneyland rules." Then he ripped on people who don't love Disneyland and then asked people not to hurt people who weren't into Disneyland. True to his word, Confer and the rest of the band played like they were having the time of their lives and that made for one of the group's finest performances.
Later on, the beer and can throwing got a bit hectic, and Confer said, "It's great being in a band. People treat you like shit and throw beer cans at your dick." Apparently someone had good aim and the comment sure didn't stop the projectiles and other tomfoolery. At the end of the show, in a moment of wild stage gyrations all around, Confer's guitar became unplugged, and he tried to get it working again with the effects to no effect. But the song and the set was pretty much over, and he yelled out, "I wrecked it. I wrecked it all. We're done!" It was a heckuva way to go out.
Personal Bias: I've been able to see Rubedo grow up as a band and have enjoyed the arc of its development.
Random Detail: Ran into Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp. Apparently she's a big fan of Rubedo as well.
By the Way: Gregg Ziemba also helps to run Unit E.
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