The TS Board Shop stage was really an augmented version of the truck that Jeremy Gregory of Bands for Lands and The Construct uses to put on shows anywhere and everywhere. This year, someone did something right, and the sound, despite being outside, was excellent. Seattle's Tea Cozies are easily one of the best guitar pop bands around. Probably because it isn't just the evocative vocal melodies employed by Jessi Reed and Brady Harvey and how catchy every song seems to be.
The Tea Cozies used pure guitar noise in moments to create a sense of building tension and haunting guitar leads to bring some unexpected atmosphere to what are essentially upbeat songs. The comparisons to Elastica are made easy by the Cozies covering a tune by that band, but this foursome definitely made the stage its own with strong presence and a good-natured wit that sometimes seemed lost on the crowd.
Traveling on to find something to eat, the early part of the set from Eyes and Ears sounded like that group has come a long way from even its early excellence. Confident enough to move about more than ever and playing without any self-consciousness at all.
The sun was starting to set when Light Travels Faster hit the stage at the TS Board Shop stage. Christopher Rigel had one a white suit and a purple tie. Todd Spriggs wore a pink suit and boots with a red neckerchief. Kyle Fuller's drum kit had purple shells and other accouterments along with a flashing green light emanating from within. Pretty sure he had blue or purple hair too but in the fading twilight, especially in the shadow of the truck, it was hard to be sure.
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But sartorial choices and personal effects aside, this was one of the best Light Travels Faster shows that I have seen for a long time. They've always been a noteworthy band in the sprawling Denver music landscape but Rigel's native humor and a good spirits and energy on stage made each song seem even better. For the song "Red," Rigel said he thought they could team up with Coldplay who have "Yellow" and get some kind of McDonald's crossover going.
Joking aside, Rigel is kind of an indie rock Neil Young in the making, and the songs performed by Light Travel Faster were romantic without false sentimentality. Closing with a demented cover of "Search and Destroy" by the Stooges, Rigel on a furry white acoustic, sealed the impression these guys know how to have fun while performing with intensity.
At Club 404, Boise band Finn Riggins opened its set with a manipulated sample from the movie Heathers, from a scene in which Veronica is admonishing JD for being a jerk. Then the hardest working indie band in North America got to its own material with a bang. Eric Gilbert made the piano into a real rock instrument in a way we haven't seen much of lately while also playing well off of the vocal interchange with guitarist Lisa Simpson.
The music was what a lot of indie rock bands could be if they were better musicians and took some time to compose songs without forgetting to infuse those songs with energy and conviction. With keyboards, Gilbert handled a lot of the low end that a bass would otherwise occupy but with Cameron Bouiss on drums, not a lot of that was necessary.
Bouiss is a marvel to watch on his own because the guy seems to pull out a different percussive strategy for each song, most involving challenging maneuvering that he makes look easy. Performing a short set of some of its strongest songs, including "Wake" and closing with "Dali," Finn Riggins got enthusiastic cheers all around with calls for an encore. It's a shame that kind of thing couldn't happen at a festival.
After debating whether or not to go home due to exhaustion, I made it to 3 Kings in time to catch the end of Murder Ranks' set when Daniel Wanush told us about a popular misconception by those who don't understand the band's music: That it's dancehall rather than ska. Shortly after, he lead the crowd, during a song, in a chant of both "Murder Ranks" and "Fuck ska."
With Mike Buckley's alien soundtrack guitar echoing out, it's hard to hear where someone might think ska much less Ben Williams' dub bass. Nevertheless, Murder Ranks performed with its usual level of excellence and Wanush clearly displayed his ability to work a crowd.
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After a lengthy introduction by Sid Pink and his usual, cleverly smarmy humor, Wanush got Andrew Novick on stage to join the rest of the guys in a string of Warlock Pinchers songs starting with "Straight Out the Dancehall." It looked like someone had lit a fire under Novick because those of us who know him as this mild-mannered, benevolent eccentric genius, even those of us who have seen Get Your Going, have only suspected him capable of jumping around like he was in some crazy punk rock band.
Wanush, for his part, matched Novick's energy and even cut a borderline frightening figure on stage. The rest of the "Murder Pinchers" played the music perfectly, even translating he electronic bits to guitar, drum and bass. "Confrontation" came next and lived up to its name in the performance. People went crazy up front for everything including "Flaming Mimes," "Island of the Misfit Toyboys" and especially for "Where the Hell is Crispin Glover."
Before playing "Jesus on the Urinal Cake," Wanush said the next song was their most blasphemous bit and, without missing a beat, Novick added that it wasn't even "Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse," and then said that song was a cheap joke but that the song to come was genuinely blasphemous.
The end came all too soon with, of course, "Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse," but it was a treat to watch Magic Cyclops provide the vocals and Wanush doing some crowd surfing and otherwise hurling himself into the crowd. If this was any hint of what the actual Pinchers show is going to be like, we're in trouble.