Photos by Kit Chalberg
The Scene: When I was a kid in New York, having your birthday party at Ground Round was about the coolest present your folks could give you. There were cartoons on giant projector screens (which, in the 80’s, was kind of a big deal) and endless baskets overflowing with popcorn. I am a bit older now, and what Rob Drabkin does for his birthday these days is way cooler than anything I ever experienced at Ground Round.
For the third year in a row Drabkin put on a birthday concert which united his family, friends and fans at a packed Bluebird Theatre. There weren’t any cartoons on projectors, but there were four vibrant sisters who go by SHEL on the stage before the main event, and Drabkin’s mom brought cake. Plus, his dad played sax, and I drank whiskey, so it was pretty damn cool.
SHEL: I have adored what this band is doing since I first heard them opening for Elephant Revival at The Bluebird, and there dramatic presentation captured me. Their sound could only be made by four women with the same blood running through their veins who present four distinct personalities. Not only are theses sisters adorable, they are overflowing with talent. As they weaved through tunes ranging from cute to classically influenced, they put a few hundred more people under their spell. The bubbly “Freckles” was my favorite tune of the set.
Rob Drabkin: First off, Happy (belated) Birthday Mr. Drabkin. The Denver music scene is a vibrant one, and you stand out as a mainstay in it. Thanks for getting out there and doing your thing.
Drabkin can be usually be seen on stages playing by his lonesome, or with a stripped down band since he is of the singer-songwriter class…but on Saturday he brought out the big guns for his birthday bash. Here was the roster: Brian McRae (Drums), “Bijoux” Barbosa (Bass), Eric Moon (Piano, Organ, Cora, and Accordion) Dave Preston (Electric Guitar and Vocals) and special guests Harry Drabkin (Rob’s amazingly talented and good vibe tossing father on Tenor Sax), Andre Mali (Trumpet), Darren Kramer (Trombone) and Kim Dawson (Vocals).
Drabkin and crew opened up the night with “Stay Here With You,” a song people have had almost five years to bond with, and that connection was obvious. A little later in the set, in true Drabkin fashion, he summoned Paul Simon and pulled off a great rendition of “The Boy In The Bubble” which the loving audience adored. Not to be overshadowed by the legends, the songwriter also showcased some of his most recent original work with “A Bird Lost” which appears on his Little Steps EP.
Whether Drabkin is singing a song he has penned from the heart, or covering a Paul Simon song, it is evident that his soul is pouring out. After a “Duel” w/ Bijoux, we got some more Simon with “I Know What I Know,” and a bit more with “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” before the celebration ended with the title track off the Little Steps EP. Drabkin came out for an encore after hearty applause and closed the night in fine fashion with a version of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” that brought the house down.
Drabkin’s enthusiasm beamed from his face the entire night, and the crowd returned the favor. Birthday or no, this big-haired boy can put on a hell of a show.
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: B