REVIEW: The Sputter – January 20th – Meadowlark Tavern, Denver, CO

The Scene: The Meadowlark is a small bar at the corner of 27th and Larimer, just North of downtown. It is about a year old and, with it’s location just around the corner from The Larimer Lounge, has been growing rapidly. This is a bar that could have done just as well as a hole in the wall bar that offered an alternative to The Larimer, but they have taken it upon themselves to create a completely seperate identity.

While the bar was full for most of the night it was never packed to the point where you couldn’t get to the beautiful cherry bar to order a drink. A mix of preppy and hipster 20 and 30 somethings milled around talking, drinking and listening to the band. The owner, a humble good natured iron worker from North Dakota, clearly takes pride in his bar and was there till nearly closing, helping out and chatting with his customers.

The Meadowlark has always offered some kind of live entertainment each night of the week, but until recently it was largely DJs. Recently, bartender and talent buyer, Tory Baker has started bring live bands to the cozy confines of the basement bar. If The Sputter are any indication of the kind of bands that they are booking regularly I will definately head back up there for a chill night of jazz at a neighboorhood bar. This is just the scene I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to find in this town.

The Sputter: Listing influences like E.S.T., Medeski Martin and Wood, Jacob Fred Jazz Odesey and Radiohead The Sputter are a four piece experimental Jazz combo who rely largely on improvisation to flesh out their sets. Throughout the evening the bassist Jonathan Rakstang switched between upright and electric bass while Dave Kurtz kept time on a minimal drum kit and the nimble fingers Jon Wirtz danced on his keyboard. Recently this band expanded from a trio to a quartet with addition of Trumpeter Joshua Trinidad. Altogether the group is clean while not always perfect. They are a young band and, like any improv based collective, will take time to mature. That being said, their sound is inviting and offers the listener the option of lush background music or an active listening experience. At moments they will grab your attention as they build to the climax of a song but largely they seemed content to dominate the vibe in the room.

Their three set performance started about 9:15 and lasted until shortly before 1:30, an impressive display from a band that has been together only 2 and a half years. Between sets the band members were sharing conversation and beers with friends and strangers alike in the audience cultivating an air of community in the small venue.

While most of the tunes they played throughout the evening were not immediately recognizable to me, my friend Jay noticed that they opened their second set with an instrumental version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack. They stuck to the original for the first few minutes before steering off into a very solid jam that eventually wrapped back around and finished off with the main theme.

Who knows if The Sputter are headed for greatness, but if they stay together and mature as a band they may just break out of the Colorado Jazz scene and into bigger markets. For now they are a treat to listen to in small bars like the Meadowlark right here in Denver.

Energy: B
Sound: B-
Muscianship: B
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: N/A

Overall: B

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Who Is Timothy Dwenger

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!