First to mount the stage was Ft. Collins-grown Paean. Playing more accessible indie rock than one typically sees from local start-up acts, the group was still far from predictable. Especially of note was the unique balance struck by "When I Was Five Years Old." In this song, Anna Maddocks' violin was actually mastered somewhat higher than the guitar, about on par with Dave Maddocks' vocals. This gave the violin a particularly human, piercing quality, effectively the driving force of the tempestuous celtic-tinged melody. Keeping both interest and entertainment high seems to be a particular skill of the band. Highlight of the set "Floyd Brown" featured rapid-fire violin chords, single-picked, echoing lead guitar, infectious keyboard drone, and chugging high-hat-centric drums. The final effect of the group on a first-time listener such as myself was that this band wasn't just here to make noise - Paean is really going somewhere. Wax Cylinders wishes them mucho luck on their U.S. tour commencing at the end of the year. Make sure to catch them at the Hi-Dive November 10th to see them off!
Overall Rating: A
Dave Maddocks - lead vocals / guitar
Anna Maddocks - violin
Marty Alberts - guitar / drum
Jonathan Alonzo - keys
Aaron Landgraf - bass
Tim Maddocks - drum
Munsterboogie followed Paean with a wholly different atmosphere. Dressed in hillbilly 19th century period costume and armed with banjos and harmonicas, it was honestly hard to tell if the group was more aspiring musical act or skilled theater group. Either case was achieved at Blast-o-Mat, with silly-yet-crowd-pleasing lyrics ("my long hair just can't cover up my red neck,") but at the same time a great amount of voice stylistically. Most songs you could imagine are snarled by a limping, growing, drunken cowboy (when you add the accordion, he becomes a Ukrainian cowboy.) "Seed in the Soil" was a definite highlight, with haunting lyrics and presence, yet its effect was somewhat diminished by its appearance late in a too-long set. Munsterboogie had the longest set of the evening, and considering its comparative lack of musical diversity, the set did feel over-long.
Overall Rating: B
Emily Frembgen shyly began her set a half-hour later. As she took her seat behind the mic with her guitar on her lap, the audience proceeded to sit on the floor in front of her, cross-legged and storytime-style. Frembgen has a high, girlish voice that lends her most of her stylistic element, which varies between pleasantly in-ornamental or unpretentious and somewhat out-of-tune or boring. While pleasant to listen to with engaging lyrics, Frembgen's guitar is repetitive and simplistic and her vocals much the same. She can next be seen at Leela's European Cafe on October 17th.
Overall Rating: B
Mehko and Ocean Birds rounded out the night, taking the stage in neon face paint and with full energy. The frequency with which the group has been playing shows has added a lot to their performance value. At their early shows this summer, it was clear that Mehko and Ocean Birds was made of a bunch of highly reactive, energetic elements, but now those elements truly combine in a controlled experiment (performed by a mad scientist, of course!) The band's growing fanbase makes it really feel like something that belongs to the Denver music community - when Mehko and Ocean Birds comes on, the crowd tends to double, and everyone is ready for some of the group's now-well-known audience inclusion. Certain elements were left wanting - the loss of the group's brass players, particularly trumpet, has had an impact on songs like "Flesh as Ghosts as Home." However, the group still commanded the energy of the venue. The particularly high-octane "Hear Today" saw Stephen breaking out into rapid uke fretwork, Chris wailing on his drum set, Micah nearly leaping over his keyboard, Allison showing the crowd what-was-what along with her fellow cello Isaac, who showed his most energy yet on this act. As always, Mehko finished with "Queen of the Night," a song driven by the audience's shaker rhythms and end-of-song sing along, performed in a circle around the garage, arm in arm with one's neighbor.
Overall Rating: A-