Concert Reviews

UMS Night Four Travelogue: The Conjugal Visits, Constellation of Cars and more

UMS Travelogue, Night Four
7.25.10, Baker District/South Broadway

Getting a late start, I got to the TS Board Shop stage in time to catch The Conjugal Visits. Before the show, I saw Pete on the side of the truck, and asked him about the new band, and he said it was kind of the same thing as the Nicotine Fits. The guy's too modest on both counts. Whereas the Nicotine Fits are a feral, dark garage punk like the Dead Boys, the Conjugal Visits takes that youthful energy and turns it to much more melodic music infused with soul and humor.

No doubt about it, these guys rocked out with the best of them, but the musicianship was also respectable, and the songwriting was solidly tight without losing the frayed edges that make this sort of music so compelling to begin with. Showing a lot of heart and spirit across its set, the Conjugal Visits were a reminder that they tend to build their bands strong in Colorado Springs.

Seeing as Overcasters really don't play often, I opted to check out the show at the hi-dive seeing as it was the debut of the new bass player, Samantha Doom. After having seen various incarnations of Overcasters for the last few years, it seemed like this one gelled the best for its debut and everyone seemed to feel free to be more expressive on stage than even the group's last show.

Early on, Kurt Ottaway didn't do much in the way of dancing on stage and running around, but at this point, he's getting back to the type of stage gyrations he did in Tarmints. Except with better and more reliable guitars, it has nothing so much to do with keeping the show going and working through technical problems, so much as clearly enjoying playing that music.

The projections didn't flood the room with as much light as usual, and that added a bit to the intimacy of the performance. If anything, the lights that did bathe the band in cool colors and a wash of pink, red and orange in the middle near the bass drum made it seem like we were in private club underground long after dark. Not really having seen a subpar Overcasters gig, this one still seemed a cut above most.

Hardly anyone decided to check out Constellations of Cars, but that just meant the show was more intimate, and no one did any talking. Honestly, that alone made the show with the trip to the side of the festivities. This project was a duo. One half the act was Andy Tanner who used to be in what might best be described as a pop punk band with better than average artistic ambitions called Laymen Terms. The other was Kellie Palmblad whose delicate yet passionate voice was (and still is) one of the hallmarks of notable Colorado Springs dream pop band Eyes Caught Fire.

Cars is a much more low key affair with Tanner and Palmblad taking turns at piano and other instruments including acoustic and electric guitar. Palmblad also played the bells and percussion. The two musicians served almost as point and counterpoint in vocals and musical performance, complementing each other well whether texturally or tonally. On the surface it was kind of a singer-songwriter thing but both musicians have a strong knack for using space and quiet in each song.

A song in the middle featured a subtle but emotionally stirring build as Palmblad's vocals wove together phrases that seemed to crescendo for a longer and more subtly than you generally hear in most other singers. It's tempting to say the music was earnest but it was more accomplished than that and more thoughtful.

In the face of severe exhaustion, I only saw one other band in the festival and that was Treeverb, because, well, this band doesn't get out much either. Jeff Suthers sported a beard and a moustache, looking like, other than not being unkempt, he'd been holed up in hiding somewhere working on new songs, or pinball machines or studying esoteric knowledge.

But once he laid out the opening chords of "Farfalla," with Ryan Sniegowski and Adam Shaffner driving strong but simple rhythms through it all, it was like seeing Suthers have some fun with the music again. The classic wall of noise punctuated by haunting melodies that has always made Suthers a remarkable guitarist was present, but in a different musical context.

Saying Treeverb is more poppy than Bright Channel would be dumb, as it's definitely not as colossal and as dark as that band. Nor is it designed to be. Suthers said "Orange Sunshine" was about being really happy, and the higher tones and upbeat dynamics bore out that pronouncement.

The final song, identified on the band's set list as "Dimension," was the only instrumental, and it was reminiscent of an angle Stereolab might have taken on "Jenny Ondioline," except Suthers' wah pedal seemed to keep going longer than any wah should, producing an increasing effect, like a distorted streaming that was like a stream of plasma sputtering out at the end.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.