I started out with Papa Bear at the Irish Rover, where the band's uber sincere Neutral Milk Hotel vibe proved a good start to the evening. The band boasts a small horn section, and I happened to be right in the trombone's line of fire, which made that a little loud in the mix, but the band was otherwise charming and easy to like -- the members made me think of a bunch of third-grade school portraits aged twenty years, but still just fundamentally playing on the playground.
On my way down to see Natural Selection, I popped in and caught the last couple of songs of Lil Slugger's set. I hadn't heard much of the band before, but what I saw impressed me; the band plays lilting, synchopated jams in the vein of Dirty Projectors, carrying melodies that seem on the verge of falling all over themselves before picking back up again.
Next was Natural Selection, a band I've yet to see live -- performances are rare, since everyone in the band but frontman Samuel Glover lives out of state. Since the other members couldn't make it, Glover performed a solo set, singing and rapping over beats he'd made at home. The beats were spacey and interesting, but Glover doesn't quite have the charisma to carry a stage on his own, and the whole thing felt a little awkward and perfunctory.
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Saw Pink Hawks next at the Skylark. All my notes from that set said was, "cant even write must dance," which speaks to the awesomeness of the performance. I managed to remember to write later that the band reminded me of a jazz drum circle, where instead of taking turns soloing, everyone just soloed at the same time, periodically returning to a theme. I haven't seen the Hawks in a while, but frontman Yuzo Nieto told me last time I talked to him that the band was doing more Afro-beat stuff -- and he wasn't lying; the lineup featured what Cole Rudy, who I ran into there, called the three "best fucking percussionists in Denver, man."
Git Some's set at 3 Kings, as usual, was a jolting shift in pace from what I'd seen so far, and the show featured the only legitimate pit I saw all night (Curtis from Legendary River Drifters was crowd surfing when I walked in). It's been a while since I've seen Git Some, and the band seems to have smoothed down some of the jagged edges, for a sound that's a little more straight-ahead rock and roll than the band's previous late-'80s style hardcore punk. Which is not to say the band isn't still metal as fuck: It is (Curtis later showed me his injuries, if that's any indication).
Last of the night was Houses, and I had just forgotten how good that band is: absolutely one of the best live shows in town. The band looks and sounds like it stepped right out of the early '70s, like Thin Lizzy plus the Eagles, or Three Dog Night plus the Mommas and the Poppas.
Since the last time I saw the band, it has broadened it's scope, including some deep-groove, Curtis-Mayfield-worthy blaxploitation funk in its setlist. Onstage, the members are clearly seasoned performers, with drum-tight musicianship and an easy presence, and the tunes they play, though a little throwback, are beautiful, melancholy and triumphant. Rarely does such trancendent music look so effortless.