SHANNON & THE CLAMS @ LARIMER LOUNGE | 6/30/13 Before the last song of the Shannon and the Clams' set, a woman up front yelled out for "Troublemaker," inspiring Cody Blanchard to flash a smile. Turns out, that's exactly what the band had saved for last, and that's when Shannon Shaw really shined. Over the course of their set, Shaw displayed a broad range of vocal abilities, from hushed, nearly spoken sections to higher register moments with gutsy distorted and bursts of raw emotion, where she elevated what would have otherwise just been a well-written pop song with a retro sound into something completely riveting.
By the time Shannon and the Clams first took the stage, it seemed like the crowd had expanded tenfold from the beginning of the show. People were dancing like they were seeing something more aggressive thanks to band's strong emotional resonance and the palpable energy and passion it brings to the words and music.
For the second song in, the act performed the electrifying "Sleep Talk," and both Blanchard and Shaw made this fairly challenging music performance seem easy. Shaw informed us that this was the last show of a moderately long tour, but that didn't mean that the band was tired, but that it had had all the other shows leading up to this one as preparation. A bit later, Shaw recalled how the first time the band came to Denver it had played with the Pseudo Dates, and she didn't think anyone actually paid to see that show.
During its set, the outfit treated us to songs from across its career thus far, including a spirited take on "The Cult Song" and the effervescent yet bittersweet "Into a Dream." After leaving the stage briefly after "Troublemaker," the threesome came back and Blanchard said, "It's obvious you don't want us to leave yet," and the group went into a new tune called "The Rat House" and then ended with an expert and heartfelt take on Del Shannon's 1961 classic, "Runaway."
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The night got started with the Matildas, but it was not the Matildas most people were expecting -- the one partly fronted by the notorious Lisa Prank. This was like something out of some fever dream, watching a Fellini movie. Stephan Herrera used his sampler to let out otherworldly low end notes, creating a rhythm and drone at once, while drummer Colin Ward was shaking objects adding to the percussion as different vocalists, some masked and some in elaborate costumes, made sounds of their own.
While this was happening, there was a woman on stage eating bits of a flower throughout the show as some guy passed out papers or made paper airplanes and threw them into the audience. Trevor Yawner stood like a shaman painted in white uttering indecipherable words into the mike, and at various points, he held what looked like a heart made out of white paint and chicken, like he had plucked it from a sacrificial victim.
Shortly after, the performance was over, and it's safe to say no one but people in the band were expecting something that strange from the opening act for Shannon and the Clams, or for any band any night. It was simply one of the strangest things ever to happen on the Larimer Lounge stage or any in Denver for a very long time.
From the beginning of its set, Fingers of the Sun made it obvious that it has stepped out of that whole kind of '60s psychedelic rock mode it had been in at its inception. The band has never seemed as confident and coherent. Marcus Renninger's leads sounded like something from Santana with tasteful bluesy solos over songs that had very little trace of the band's former sound.
Suzi Bromfield's vocals, meanwhile, seemed stronger than before, as did the harmonies of Nathan Brasil and Meghan Wilson. The band's use of space and layering in the songwriting also made the songs breathe with greater dynamism and allowed for a much broader variety of moods and modes in each song. Whatever the band has been doing of late, it is a much welcome change to what was already an excellent aesthetic.
Personal Bias: I've been impressed with the talent of Shannon and the Clams for a couple of years now.
Random Detail: Apparently Fingers of the Sun is headed to the studio where Pet Sounds was recorded in a couple of days to record the follow-up to The Sleepy EP.
By the Way: That 7" with Ozma the dog on the back was available at the show. The A-side is "Ozma" and the B-side is "Muppet Babies."
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