The Mercury Café was looking sexy on Saturday night. Candle-lit tables topped with roses, a swooping network of lights above, fine wines, hearty beers and delicious food, all coming together as a unique, exotic venue in the heart of downtown Denver -- the Mercury Cafe, a place where you can bring a hot date, have a fantastic meal and catch some really great music on a nice big stage.
The Merc is also warm and inviting inside, a place for long-lost friends to reconnect, swing each other around, kick off their shoes and dance around like goofballs and have fun. And that, in a nutshell, seems to be the story a lot of people had at the Mercury Café last night for the second installment of Shenandoah Davis' return-to-Colorado performances. All the musicians were friends already -- with each other, but also with much of the audience that filled out a healthy portion of the venue. Plates bustled about, beers were poured, friends were hugged, and the music delighted and inspired.
Laura Goldhammer got the evening started with her projector setup and banjo. Her set was often soft and playfully sweet, right down to the little puppets and sketches of trees coloring in her stop-motion visual animations. With sprightly strings to back her up, some foot-stomping, and beautiful, calming meditation on meditation, tracks like "Gently Now," it made for another great set from an amazing, obviously hard-working artist.
Laura Goldhamer and the Silver Nail 01.08.11 | Mercury Cafe
Treated to a grand piano at the back of the stage to play on, Shenandoah Davis was accompanied by a violin, cello and rhythm box for many of her songs, musicians she'd rehearsed with only once before the performance. It was a shame she had to sit in the back of the stage, especially since she was the least well-lit of anyone. But the band worked with it, battling less-than-ideal sight lines, enough to where the strings added some really nice coloring to her songs. And when she ventured into solo form, her tunes cut through beautifully. Her voice is mighty, yet delicate and dainty. All charm, sweetness and whimsy.
Shenandoah Davis 01.08.11 | Mercury Cafe
Notes: * = w/ Laura Goldhamer # = w/ Tyler Ludwick
Doo Crowder arrived on stage looking shaggier than ever with his fluffy lion's mane of a beard, baseball cap and tee-shirt (which didn't stay on his body very long). Pee-Pee shows are always marked by the great songs the band plays and Crowder's writhing wit and humor, and this night was no exception. Auto-tune vox and electronic beats, a moment of total chaotic free folk and an almost-metal riff (this is a band with acoustic guitars and a flutes) made tracks like "The Nonsense Song" a surprise-packed joy. Then "Jaroline," bringing fans front and center to dance and sing along to what felt like everyone's favorite song ever.
Pee-Pee 01.08.11 | Mercury Cafe
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Princess Music's set rounded out the evening nicely, keeping people on their feet, swaying to the sounds and twirling each other about in interpretive dances, smiles abound. That's another thing this show was full of: warm, genuine smiles from just about everyone in attendance.
Princess Music 01.08.11 | Mercury Cafe
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I first met Shenandoah Davis at college in Greeley quite some time ago. We played together in a small jazz ensemble a couple of times. She's a great musician, and it's great to see her venturing so bravely out with her song writing, and taking those songs on the road so often. Random Detail: Though he made a New Years' resolution to go to as few shows as possible in 2011, Lance Stack (of the Flat Response) made it out to the Mercury with his microphones. He also said he'd already recorded several performances this year. So much for that resolution... thankfully for us. By the way: Try the garlic linguini... but bring a mint.