REVIEW: Joe Ely’s 60th Birthday Party (featuring Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses) – February 9th – Bender’s Tavern, Denver, CO

The Scene: This was an invite only party celebrating Ely’s 60th that followed his appearance at The Paramount with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and Guy Clark on the Four Horsemen Tour. At the beginning of the night there were two distinct camps in Bender’s. Those who knew Ely and those who didn’t.

All told, there were probably 150 or so people in attendance including Nick Forester (of Hot Rize and E-Town fame), his wife Helen and Mayor John Hickenlooper (who accidentally ducked into the women’s bathroom to the left of the stage). I ran into Guy Clark in the bathroom but he never made it back into the party and John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett never showed their faces either. In fact, Ely was only in the room for the first 20 minutes or so of the party and the first 2 or 3 songs of Ryan Bingham’s set. I figured he must have left to prep for the inevitable late night jam with touring buddies but alas there was no collaboration and Ely himself only came out for 2 songs at the very end of the party. One solo (with a little help from Bingham on vocals) and then he stepped up to the mic to sing parts of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues” with Bingham and his band. It was great to see Ely in such a small venue but it would have been nice to see a couple more songs by his tourmates. An apprearance by Lovett or Hiatt would have really made for a memorable evening and it was a shame it didn’t happen.

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Bingham and his band deliver some honest to goodness boot stomping, shit-kicking Texas country and it was easy to see why Ely invited them to play his party. They started out a little rough but as the sound problem got worked out they kicked it into high gear and had even some of the hipster folks in attendance cutting the rug in front of the stage. While this sound isn’t really my cup of tea most of the time, I can appreciate a good band when I see them and these guys were hitting on all cylinders.

They have clearly been learning from Ely and the rest of the best in the Texas Honky-Tonk Rock-N-Roll scene. They lean a little more to the country side than Ely but definately rocked Bender’s on Friday night.

Energy: B
Sound: B-
Muscianship: B
Stage Presence: B+
Set/Light Show: D

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!