The Scene: It was much more of a scene at The Hi-Dive on Saturday night than I thought it would be. There were lots of local industry people there from W.A.R., their sister company United Interests, Madison House and of course The Marquee. There was also a diverse mix of regular folks out to see good music on a Saturday night. The closing band of the evening, Girl Named Kyle, drew in a healthy number of younger kids due largely to their own youth but there were also several grey hairs in attendance and even a couple of bikerish looking fellas.
It was great to see such a good crowd (around 250 strong) for a show by a relatively unknown band. These United States debut album was released about a month ago and clearly word is spreading fast. My hats off to the Hi-Dive for doing so much to help the music scene in Denver over the past couple of years.
These United States: First off, I’ve got to be upfront about something, These United States live show differs substantially from their debut album in that in a live setting the band has a decidedly Americana influence. That might put some people off, but I think it is a great thing. I love the album (Picture of the Three of Us At The Gate to the Garden of Eden) with it’s electronic elements and extremely tight production, but it is nice to see that the band can take the same songs and reinvent them so effectively.
The show started off with Jesse Elliot singing “Preface,” the lead track from the album. A brief tune, it served to let the crowd finish their drinks and conversations and drift into the stage side of the room where alcohol was not allowed.
For the first part of the evening Elliot was backed by Tom Hnatow on guitar, bass and pedal steel and Robbie Catholic on drums and vocals. As a trio, the band ran through several songs including a few that are not available on their debut record. (One of these, and a personal favorite of mine, “Already Got a Girl Who Calls Me That” is available as a free download from Daytrotter.com)
As the set moved on it was clear that this is a band with a deep respect for Americana and roots music and owes a significant debt to The Band and others who came before them. The ring of Hnatow’s pedal steel coupled with Elliot’s warm, heartfelt vocals and Catholic’s rollicking backbeat could transport your mind back to the 70’s while Elliot’s sharp, intelligent lyrics incorporate a fresh and interesting perspective on religion, the corporate rat race and, of course, love.
For the second half of the show Elliot invited local talent, and the night’s closing band, Girl Named Kyle out to join them on the stage. With the small stage now cramped with 8 bodies and many more instruments, Girl Named These United States proceed to crank up the energy on stage and in the crowd.
At one point Elliot missed his cue to come in on a song because he was so thrilled by the music the band was making. He laughed it off saying “I’ve never heard it sound like this before.” It was a great moment for all those who love spontaneity in music and in their lives. Throughout the collaboration the looks on the faces of everyone on stage couldn’t hide the obscene amount of fun they were having.
The show closer, “Burn This Bridge,” featured Elliot leading the entire crowd in a sing-a-long of the chorus “We’ll burn this bridge when we’re over it.” Between the raw rootsy folk feel of the music and the chorus of slightly off-key voices filling the small room it was a great communal feeling to end the evening on.
Rumor has it These United States will be in town before too long. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it. I know I won’t.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: N/A
Music has always been a part of my life. It probably all started listening to old Grateful Dead, Peter Paul & Mary, and Simon & Garfunkel records that my parents had, but it wasn't long before they were taking me to concerts like Starship, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Huey Lewis & The News. I got the bug to write about music after reviewing an Eric Clapton concert for a creative writing project in high school but didn't really take it up seriously until 2002. Since then I have published countless articles in The Marquee Magazine and done some work for Jambase.com, SPIN Magazine, and various other outlets. I started Listen Up Denver! as a way to share the music information that is constantly spilling out of my head with people who care. Please enjoy!