Wetlands, Widowers, the Dendrites, Monofog and Fissure Mystic
Friday, November 28, 2008
Stuffing down turkey sandwiches while watching David Lynch films and weeping
On the day after Thanksgiving, the good hipsters of Denver shook off the tryptophan hangover and braved the snow to catch the Wetlands' CD release party at the Larimer Lounge. And it's safe to say no one was sorry they did. It turned out to be a great show. Which it would have to be to justify the ridiculous amount of bands playing. Consider that I showed up around eight, shortly before Fissure Mystic went on. I didn't leave until about 2:30 in the morning. ("After the bar closed?" you ask, incredulously. Yes, but more on that later.)
During sound check, Fissure Mystic's lead guitarist and vocalist Taylor Rice quipped that "We could use a little bit more of each," which pretty much set the tone for the night. It was loud and in many ways excessive, but somehow it left everybody wanting a little bit more.
Fissure Mystic played a fine set to a bar that unfortunately didn't start filling up until about halfway through its set. The band sounds like Pavement making out with a reverb pedal; the mix was so effects-drenched you could hear the sticks echo as drummer Fez Garcia counted off. But Fissure Mystic wasn't just using effects to cover the suck--as is the case with many bands. The catchy melodies and intriguing song structures of the band's material can stand alone.
The mix was better and the bar, fuller for the crunch-heavy rock of Monofog, long a staple on the Denver scene. Live, the band can be almost too noisy. It's hard at times to pick out the hook, and Monofog can rock a hot hook. But the live show is worth seeing anyway, if only to see baby-faced Hayley Helmericks with her hippie-long hair spit and sneer like a female Iggy Pop.
The Dendrites took me back to 1997, when my best buddy got his first car, and we went to see Mustard Plug in the parking lot of a record store near my high school. But unhip as ska may now be, nobody in the bar could resist the groove. There was skanking. Live, the band is ridiculously tight as it is in the studio. And lead guitarist Kyle Gollob ripped out some spot-on Dick Dale licks--an influence I confirmed when I asked him after the set if he liked that aforementioned surf-rocker: "Yeah, totally! Could you tell?"
Widowers brought the reverb back with a lively set featuring perhaps the first and only major-chord arrangements of the night. In the studio the band has a spacey Smiths kind of sound, but onstage, with the amps crunching and jangling, they made me think of an updated version of Marcy Playground, all pop hooks and alternative sensibility under the effects. Widowers were unfortunately "down a man" that night--Rhodes player Marc Shusterman was "out of town for some holiday that happened."
Widowers guitarist/vocalist Mike Marchant notably played a double set that night as Moog player and sometimes-vocalist for Wetlands, the main attraction. By the time Wetlands went on, the Larimer was as packed as I've ever seen it, and the mood was celebratory: "Man, we've been making this album for way too long, and it's awesome that it's out," said lead guitarist Cole Rudy.
Of all the performances, Wetlands' was without question the most epic of the night--Rudy, who at one point was thrashing on top of a monitor with his curly locks whipping around like he was Roger Daltrey, obviously has rock-god ambitions. The band is loud and intense, alternating between sweet melodic breakdowns and screeching noise, but ultimately is satisfyingly listenable, with pop roots below the prog fiddling.
"Cole Rudy's guitar solos remind me of Top Gun," joked Marchant during the set, and it was a good point. While Kenny Loggins the band most certainly is not, there is a certain balls-out butt-rock abandon to the way they play. And while it's true that the band could be said to be a tad fond of its own soloing during the set, the album is more focused--and really, who couldn't forgive them a little self-indulgence on this one occasion? Besides, it's fun to watch.
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Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came at the ass-end of the night, when I shuffled out of the bar to find the six-piece Qui Quegs playing an impromptu set in the snow on the Larimer's front patio. Coming off a set at the Meadowlark earlier that night, Qui Quegs randomly crashed the party complete with pirate hats, accordion and a crowd-pleasing version of "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor" (Lyrics subtly altered: "What do you do with a drunken hipster? Grease up his legs and pull his pants on"). If the night had lacked anything, it perhaps had been a sing-along, and Qui Quegs happily delivered well into the night.
And so as the bar closed up and the fainter-of-heart got in their cars and turned up the heat, the band played on.
-- Jef Otte
Personal Bias: Wetlands lead guitarist Cole Rudy and I were roommates once upon a time.
Random Detail: Widowers threw back beers throughout the set, but bassist Mark Weaver actually pounded beer while playing the bass--an impressive feat.
By the Way: The Dendrites play at the D Note in Arvada on Friday, December 5.