The summer show season is a whirl of debut concerts, CD release parties, tours on all scales, and a rather different open mic dynamic compared to what goes on during the school year. Over the past month I’ve been out 4-6 nights/week, taking in anywhere from 1-6+ acts per day, and they’ve almost all been really good. Against that background of shows and events, there are always a few bands and artists that really stand out as highlights. Here are a few of the best from the past few weeks.
Matthew Santos at Avogadro’s Number with Grayson Erhard (May 28)
I haven’t yet made it to see Aspen Hourglass, Grayson Erhard’s band, though they are on my radar for the near future. I was taking photos at the Avo’s Open Mic during the majority of Grayson’s set, but caught quite a bit of Matthew Santos’ set once the open mic wrapped up. Chicago musician Matthew Santos is in the same category in my head as Tyler T. and Jesse Niethammer (both of whom make liberal use of looping pedals to create more complex instrumentals for their stage shows), but Matthew Santos writes songs that remind me more of Justin Roth and Patrick Dethlefs (with respect to lyrics especially). This was one of the first few shows out on the Avo’s patio this season, so the outdoor setting made this show particularly pleasant.
Hectic Hobo at Avogadro’s Number with Rich WITH Friends and Luke Callen (May 31)
Another Avo’s patio show, I saw this one from start to finish. Luke Callen opened the show with his solo acoustic set, followed by the band Hectic Hobo, out of Salt Lake City, followed by Rich WITH Friends closing out the show. I love Rich WITH Friends, they always put on a brilliant show, and they are all such fun people on stage and off, but my favorite act of the night was Hectic Hobo, with their fascinatingly unique-looking accordionist Nicholas Newberry and their fun array of non-standard percussion instruments. This band plays a similar sort of music as does Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy, actually, though each of these bands has its own particular sound and style. Both are high energy and bring a lot of history and folklore into their stage shows, and present the sort of wild & enthusiastic music-making that defies easy capture by electronic recordings. The best part of the night at this show was when Hectic Hobo joined Rich WITH Friends on stage, bringing up the various other musicians in the audience as well for a crowded super-group jam session to close out the night.
|Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy at the Forge pub|
Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy and the Calamity Cubes at the Forge Pub (June 2)
These two bands, both from Kansas, came out to Fort Collins for the Choice City Stomp mini-festival and stayed an extra day to play a show unplugged on the patio at the Forge pub in Old Town. They brought with them two beautiful upright basses, and lots of great Western/Folk/Americana music. These bands gave great shows both days, but it was easier to soak in their music at the patio show, where there was not a screaming writhing crowd of ecstatic drunk dancing people right up at the stage. From either show, Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy in particular stands out as one of my favorite bands from these past few weeks. They are sort of a modern version of those streetcorner Salvation Army bands, or the bands that played at old-fashioned union rallies, and some of their songs actually come from these historical sources. Maybe if the Wichita scene dries up for them they’d consider moving to Fort Collins?
|SHEL at Hodi’s|
SHEL at Hodi’s Half Note (June 6)
Yeah, these girls still have one of my favorite bands. I had to wonder after hearing so many other bands, whether I’d like them as much when I finally saw them again live, far too close to a year after I saw them the first time. SHEL, like Post Paradise and a few other bands here, transforms their stage into a different space during their show. Their eclectic fashion sense, combined with the circus tent decor, made it not just another band on the same familiar stage, but a show that ties back into the SHEL brand these sisters have been developing. It is just too bad the show had to be so late at night, because many of their fans, understandably, are younger girls, and the majority of this younger crowd were too tired and not comfortable enough hanging around late at night after the show to get their posters, CDs or other merchandise signed. Still, not having lots of fans crowding around the musicians made it easier for grown-up fans like myself to say hello to all 4 musicians before heading out.
(Autographs, you ask? No, I’m still not into getting autographs, but yep, these ladies are getting closer every month to being big-time famous, and one day I’ll be kicking myself for not getting any autographs when I could have.)
Maxwell Hughes at Equinox Brewing with Wasteland Hop (June 7)
Just for his trick-playing “Stairway to Heaven” while holding his guitar behind his head- Maxwell stood out as a favorite this past month. He was playing as part of Wasteland Hop’s CD release party, so there were lots of folks in the audience who had no idea who this guy was, and it was fun listening to the audience talk about this local guitar wiz-kid and his amazing music. Maxwell Hughes is a former member of the Lumineers, and having met a few not-so-nice former members of big-name bands, one might expect this guy might be a bit stuck up or something, but he’s probably one of the nicest musicians in town, and still uber-talented and fun to watch when he’s playing guitar, especially from the front row, which at Equinox means ~3ft away from the performer’s mic-stand.
Renegade String Band at Hodi’s Half Note with Hog Magundy (June 15)
Yet another great folk/Americana band at Hodi’s, Renegade String Band put on a great high-energy show here on their way through Colorado, joined by the local bluegrass band Hog Magundy. Renegade String Band is touring still, and was last in Chicago. When not on tour, they are from Portland, Oregon. This band features the lovely Miss Jessica Jarris on lead vocals, plus 4 other talented musicians, sometimes also including Ben Hunter on fiddle (he did play the show at Hodi’s). They play a wide range of covers and originals that make for great dancing. Hodi’s has had quite a few really good bands in this genre-spectrum lately, especially considering that in past years I always heard that this venue was pretty much just booking loud rock and metal shows. Hodi’s still does book a lot of rock and metal, of course, but these folk/Americana/bluegrass/Country shows are a great addition to the week’s offerings.
Katie Glassman at Old Town Square Stage for the Bohemian Nights Thursday concert series (June 20)
I hadn’t seen Katie Glassman again since last year’s New West Fest, so it was great seeing her perform this past week for the Thursday night concert series sponsored by Bohemian Nights. The Old Town Square was packed, so I only stuck around and took photos for the first half of her show, rather than get in the way of the dancers who quickly filled in the space in front of the stage. Katie has been hard at work finishing up a new album, which she said is just about finished now, and will be coming out this fall. Hopefully we’ll get a few more shows from this talented lady this year. This is one of those songwriters whose songs you forget are her own recent originals because they sound so much like they ought to be timeless classics everyone knows.
Paul Chet & Friends at the Aggie Theatre with Dave & the Gin Mill Gypsies (June 22)
One of the shows I was not sure I would make it to (Renegade String Band was another I was not so sure I’d be able to catch), Paul Chet & Friends turned out to be lots of fun. Paul Chet has a great voice and a knack for strutting around on stage like a superstar singer, playing to all the half-drunk comments from his lady fans in the crowd. Yes, the crowd was largely made up of women, but there’s enough musicianship going on in the ‘& Friends’ part of this show to keep at least some men interested. Paul’s show was just about all covers of mainstream and older Pop and Country hits, but really well-done covers. I think there were 3, maybe 4 songs out of the whole show (~25) that I DIDN’T know all the words to, which made me feel a little old, considering some of the older Country songs were ones my grandparents were into. Still, it was fun. My favorite song out of the whole show was actually one that Jim Abraham, the bassist, sang, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, with champion fiddler Vi Wickam on fiddle, of course.
The Paul Chet & Friends show was a single-release event, for a Country cover of “Someone Like You”, which somehow really does work as a country song, even if the stage performance of it last night occasionally sounded like it was picking up reggae vibes by accident. Here it is in its studio-recorded form, off spotify.