The Scene: As I approached the new Quixote’s True Blue early last Friday evening I actually felt a bit anxious. It would be my first time in the new place and I didn’t know what to expect. Apparently I should have known better. As soon as I walked in my anxieties floated away, relieved by the wall of Grateful Dead memorabilia and rock art that is a staple of Quixote’s no matter where it is. Jay Bianchi himself, the owner of the Denver institution, said it best: “What Quixote’s does is create a memory, a museum, a timeline.” That memory is still alive and well in one of the greatest rock museums ever, and we are all travelling this timeline together, backwards and forwards. As you can probably tell, Quixote’s holds a special place in my heart and I got there early so as to have the whole place largely to myself. As I was being given a tour of the new digs I could hear Dirty Dawgs sound checking, and when I walked back in from the patio, sound check was over, and I was greeted by the sight of Michael Kang and Steve Molitz playing Ping-Pong. I went and grabbed a beer; I had to drink to that.
Opener: Clumsy Lovers. When I first heard the name of the opening band, I thought to myself, “Man, what a great name.” Clumsy Lovers are anything but clumsy when it comes to delivering foot stomping, Celtic tinged Bluegrass. The Vancouver based band is not too shabby at Reggae either, a talent they showcased by doing an irie version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” though lead singer and guitar player Trevor Rogers seems more like Cash’s fun loving fictional doppelganger, Dewy Cox. Between songs he expressed how impressed he was with Colorado when he said: “wow, you guys have healthcare reform and legal pot…sounds like Canada.” Behind him was drummer Devin Rice who drove the frenzied barn stomps along with Bass player Jeff Leonard. To Rogers’ right was Banjo player Jason Homey, who had an interesting and unique harmonic solo. Flanking Rogers on his left was British Columbia Bluegrass bombshell Robyn Jesson, whose fiddle playing put an exclamation point on said barn stomps. Allie Kral watch out!
Clumsy Lovers got the night kicked off right, but what about Grant Farm? As I filed into the main room with everyone else, I saw Tyler Grant. “What time are you guys going on?” Tyler just smiled back at me, “Hopefully soon.” I’m telling you, time does weird things in the confines of Quixote’s True Blue, no matter where it is.
Dirty Dawgs: When I walked into the main room I had that sense of relief again. It felt like Quixote’s. While it is a smaller room than the old main room, the sound seemed more comfortable in the new and intimate space. Only a few people were scurrying on and off the stage and there were no Dirty Dawgs as of yet. The usual crowd—dready, glittery, boozy, and happy—mulled around the dance floor absorbing the new space. My first mission was to obtain a copy or photograph of the set list. This proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated, something I realized when the sound guy shook his head at me with a bewildered look on his face. I walked up to the stage and could see no paper lying around, but as I waded through the crowd on my way to the back I ran into my friend Wild Bill, who just so happens to know Ray White (of Frank Zappa fame and a legend in his own right) and who helps Ray out when he is in Denver. ‘Hey Bill! Can you get me a copy of the set list?’ I asked. “What set list? There’s no set list!” Bill laughed a little too hardily at my expense before adding, “Besides, Ray is going to sit in with them!” So, Ray White sitting in with a super group composed of Michael Kang, Steve Molitz, Eric Gould, and Brandon Draper…and no set list. This was going to be a crazy night.
The atmosphere was very laidback as the Dirty Dawgs took the stage. The band was already having a good time as they joked back and forth, visibly smiling and laughing. There was an annoying, but somehow cheerful buzz emanating from someone’s amplifier that had to be fixed, but the Dirty Dawgs just went on laughing, stopping every once and a while to chat with someone in the crowd. Finally, Gould began rolling out one of his solid, dance driving bass lines, backed up by his partner in crime from Particle Steve Molitz, who unfurled swelling and sizzling layers of synthesizer. Kang’s electric mandolin danced among the trancy back-drop and all of this was supported by the foundation that Brandon Draper of Quixotic laid down, with rapid fire high-hat, thundering toms, and bumping bass drum. Draper’s face was the only one unfamiliar to me, as I have been seeing Particle and SCI since 2002, and he would have been the highlight of the show if not for the appearance of Ray White. Draper played as if possessed and the headphones he wore with his monitor mix in them were in constant danger of flying off his head and spinning out of orbit. I kept expecting to see a roadie run out and duct tape them to his head ala Keith Moon. Draper was a beast behind the kit, but the guy who really stole the show was about to make himself known.
As I mentioned earlier, Dirty Dawgs’ first song was a layered affair, with each member adding different aspects until it leveled out into an ambient groove. The crowd followed suit, pulsing and undulating, mirroring the mellow groves coming from the stage. I soon found that it was difficult to call what the Dirty Dawgs played on Friday night songs; they were more like symphonic movements, in that they began with a theme, embellished it, went freeform, then reiterated the theme. The next movement, however, was very Cheesy, with Kang feathering in a jangly, fleet footed African riff on the mandolin over Draper holding down the rhythm with some great Afro-Beat. Gould added some bubbly base lines and Molitz blew some bubbles of his own on the Hammond with some staccato organ hits that would have made Kyle Hollingsworth proud. The crowd responded again, this time with a bobbing and bouncing dance familiar to anyone who has been to a Cheese show, and there was Ray White standing just out of reach of the stage lights, a huge smile on his face, clapping his hands, but this time with a fire behind his eyes. Ray White, gregarious man that he is, wanted to be out there with everyone else, and as the applause faded for the second movement, Ray White stepped out of the shadows and said into the microphone, “Let’s explore!” The crowd went nuts.
Although Ray had his guitar strapped on when he made his appearance, after hearing the funky platform Dirty Dawgs laid out for him he put his guitar down and opted to just blow our minds with his words. He reminded us of our “fragile minds,” and when Kang took a solo nobody was rocking out harder in that building than Ray White. He rapped about rain and reminded us of “what we’ve been taught.” He really got the crowd going (and vice versa) when he sang over and over “We’re all whirling tops!” and the dance floor became a Sufi temple full of whirling dervishes. The next movement definitely had Particle flair and Molitz stepped into his usual role as Wizard of the Keys. White picked his guitar back up and gave us a great solo and I realized that this would probably be the set ender.
Grant Farm: I left the main room a bit early to catch some of Grant Farm, thinking I would get a front of the stage spot. No such luck, the outside room was almost as packed as the main room and I was taken aback to see Ray White up on the stage again. ‘This guy is everywhere! Is he magic?’ The answer to that is a resounding “yes.” Ray sat in with Grant Farm on a rollicking version of “I Come From the Country,” and took up lead vocal duties with Tyler and the boys backing him up on “Love You Baby.” They also did a great version of “High Country Ladies.” Tyler Grant is one of the quickest and cleanest guitar pickers I’ve ever seen and if you haven’t seen Grant Farm yet, look them up, find out where they are playing, and go there. You will not be disappointed.
Dirty Dawgs Set Two: The second set was really just one big movement, going from funky New Orleans style shuffles to pounding, ambient, trance jams. The one and only song they played that I recognized was a dance version of Bob Marley’s “Kinky Reggae.” Molitz was bouncing synth echoes off the walls and Ray White was back to sing about “miracles.” Draper just pretty much went off the whole second set and at one point White was digging a drum solo so hard that he was standing in front of the bass drum, back to the crowd, beaming that great smile of his at Draper. The man was getting down! Finally, White said his good byes and thank yous for the night and let the Dirty Dawgs close out with some seriously spacey stuff. When I walked out of Quixote’s I felt like I had more than a few drinks, spacey stuff always has that effect on me. It seems like these days the thing to do is be in a “super group,” or a “super jam,” and so it is hard to stand out, but Dirty Dawgs held their own. It doesn’t hurt to have Ray White up there with you though.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B