On the 4th of July this year Fort Collins was bathed in smoke and watching the giant wildfire just to the west of town. Fireworks shows were canceled in quite a few towns and cities in Colorado that week, but Fort Collins chose ultimately to postpone, not cancel theirs. Thus, we had our fireworks from the 4th this evening, September 16th. And, since fireworks without music is only half a party, we had two incredible bands on the portable stage in City Park before the long-awaited show. I have to wonder if our fireworks were in fact a grander show this year because it was put off till September (maybe we got more fireworks for cheaper off season?), but in any case the grand finale this evening was hugely spectacular, bigger by far than I remember from last year. The weather was perfect for the concerts, too.
The bands tonight were the Twirling Zucchini Trio and SHEL, and both gave great shows. I saw the Twirling Zucchini Trio at New West Fest earlier this year, and was pleasantly impressed then. I was working at a volunteer tent during their show at New West Fest, though, so I could only stop by for a few photos before going back to work. So, I was glad I got to see this group for a whole set, and I was not disappointed. Andrew Vogt, the clarinetist for this group, is an amazing musician, capable of making his clarinet do all sorts of things most clarinets never even dream of. My favorite song from their show tonight was most definitely the classic tune from the bar scene in Star Wars, a tune which is actually a clarinet ensemble piece originally. The Armenian “Saber Dance”, and the Irish “Old Gray Goose” were also particularly fun.
His bandmates from his band Zaro, Roger on upright bass and Oscar on drums, are equally as good on their respective instruments, and the result is a technically impressive sound that makes tunes like the Mission Impossible theme and tunes from Star Wars sound like they were always intended for clarinet, bass and drum trios. Even my sister was impressed, and she is usually a tough sell when it comes to sitting around at live shows in parks.
I did not pick up any zucchini recipes, which apparently were available along with some business cards- I ought to have, in retrospect, since this trio is really not well represented online. Even the band Zaro, which has a myspace page, does not list its members names on this myspace page, and there is very little other information offered. Clearly these musicians are geared far more towards playing their music live, and they are very good at it.
The second band on stage was SHEL, a quartet of local ladies, all sisters, joined on stage for the last time tonight by their father, who played electric bass. This band is easily one of my favorites of all the new acts I’ve encountered this year, right up there with Katio Glassman. Actually, SHEL has a style that is a bit similar to Ms. Glassman’s, both in terms of music and stage aesthetics; if they did a show together, strangers to these two acts might well believe Ms. Glassman was a regular member of this band, not a guest. Both acts display very impressive instrumental work, and an attention to detail that not all music acts share to this extent.
SHEL has a bit more of a rock edge to them at times- Eve plays not just mandolin, but also plays a cute green and white electric mandolin, for some songs, and for these songs the band is definitely a rock band. She writes a lot of the songs for this group, though her sisters do their share of the writing too. There were a couple songs in the show tonight where we got to see just how good this lady is on her instrument- she makes Neil Byrne’s mandolin-playing seem quite basic and boring by comparison (though I still love him anyway, of course).
Hannah, who plays piano for the group, also writes songs, mostly break-up songs and love songs according to her sisters. She studied music at CSU, according to the band’s website, and is a very good piano player. Hannah also sang one of her songs for us tonight, “Someone Else’s Love”, accompanied by her father on bass and her sister Liza on drums.
Sarah, the violinist of the group, had the only cool hat on their stage tonight, though her playing would have kept everyone’s attention easily enough with or without the flower-decorated top hat. She and Eve seemed to be having a lot of fun playing together throughout their set. The harmonies Sarah, Hannah and Eve drew together tonight were seamless, and more complicated than many groups try to do live.
The fourth sister, Liza, apparently can do beat-box when she is in her full health, but sadly she had her wisdom teeth out recently and was not able to show off this formidable talent for us tonight. She is a great percussionist though, playing a standard drum kit and also jumping onto a djembe for a few songs.
These ladies performed mostly their own songs, but they did one cover, of Led Zepplin’s “Battle of Evermore”, which was amazing. This song is on their debut album, SHEL, along with a lot of other very cool music. I’m sure when I get to listing my favorite newly-discovered albums for this year, this one will be near the top of the list.
The music tonight was a treat, and yet another example of all the great music in this part of the planet. I’m sure there’s plenty more, too, here and in any other part of the world where instruments are available.