Review: Westword Music Showcase @ the Shelter - 6/16/07
Westword Music Showcase
June 16, 2007
Better than: A less eclectic mix of bands would have been for seven hours.
Forged in Violet opened the Westword Music Showcase at the Shelter as a two piece. Running backing tracks off of iTunes, the duo sounded like a cross between the Sisters of Mercy and Underworld. Shortly into the set, singer Damon Degner explained that third member, DJ/Producer Evan DeRolf, had been unable to make it. And with that, he and guitarist Dan Booth were joined by members of Something Underground, who replaced the prerendered backing tracks for several songs. With the added members the electronic elements were stripped away, leaving a fairly standard but decent rock band. The songs worked well enough as straight rock, but were definitely less distinctive, although Degner’s powerful, classic rock voice almost worked better in that context.
Scaffolding, aka Lui Ferreyra, followed, performing solely on a laptop with an external control surface. His set was a seamless, well-sequenced progression of old school IDM, full of clicky, intricate percussion and warm synth tones wrapped around buzzing space sounds. It cleaved closely to the genre blueprint set down by Warp’s seminal Artificial Intelligence compilations, but included enough modern programming, samples and sounds to keep it from feeling overly familiar. While Scaffolding’s music was engaging, the performance consisted solely of Ferreyra staring at his screen, moving the mouse and twisting knobs. It felt a little sterile, even for an electronic artist.
CacheFlowe, another one-man electronic act (real name Justin Gitlin), livened up his stage show by attaching his laptop and controller to an exercise bike and performing while seated on the bike. He didn’t do much else on stage, but visually, the set up provided a focal point to offset an otherwise potentially static presentation.
CacheFlowe upped the cheek factor by starting his set with a looped sample of Queen’s “Bicycle,” warped into some fierce jungle breaks. From there, he, ahem, cycled through a lot of themes and ideas in a short period of time, improvising and playing around. The set worked at times and fell flat at others. At its best moments, the music was amusing, funky, danceable and experimental all at once. His sound was based in the same skippy, chopped breaks and warm, buzzing tonalities as Scaffolding but his execution was much different: Less polished but in some ways more exciting.
After CacheFlowe, came the Life There Is, a four-piece that mixed rock and electronic elements into an engaging synthesis. Singer Travis Rosenberg showcased a strong voice, reminiscent of a less whiney, American, Bends-era Thom Yorke. Varying elements were moved to the fore from song to song without ever completely abandoning any of them. The best song of the set was the second to last, a track called “Flight to Duluth,” a growling rocker powered by ominous synth, distorted bass, and a pounding, quasi-industrial beat.
George&Caplin followed with a set perfectly suited to its early evening timeslot. Jeffrey Stevens’s hushed, nearly whispered vocals sounded a bit like Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots. Hints of that band, as well as Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine and Hood can be heard, or at least imagined. Regardless of influences, the music unfolded into something huge, yet fragile, filling the room like a giant butterfly. At times the pair stumbled a bit. Overall, the act, whose material is compelling, could use a bit of polish.
Next up was Constellations who performed a frenetic set of dense, challenging material full of fractured rhythms, distortion and space madness. The set was undermined by vocals that were too quiet on tunes such as the crowd-pleasing “Necrogeister.” The five members swarmed around the too-tiny stage switching instruments, picking up percussion and generating all manner of outlandish, funky noise. Although the band never seemed completely in sync, the performance was mostly solid. Musically, Constellations seems to be orbiting the same planet as Mr. Bungle, but in a rocket ship powered by techno and crewed by over-caffeinated indie kids.
Nightshark closed out the night with a set of insane drumming dressed up with sheets of guitar noise and snorts of saxophone. Apart from the drummer Andrew Lindstrom’s energetic flailing, there wasn’t much happening on stage. Guitarist Mike Buckley played turned away from the audience and Becca Mhalek looked like nothing so much as a disheveled, enervated Siouxsie Sioux behind her saxophone. Nightshark seems a band more to be appreciated than enjoyed, as evidenced by the thinning crowd, which had peaked during Georg&Caplin’s set. -- Cory Casciato
Personal Bias: I really love experimental and esoteric music, but my tastes in the area are fairly specific.
Random Detail: There was some unusually creative dancing in the audience at a few different points.
By the Way: These acts may not have the mass appeal of Denver’s indie rock elite, but they represent some of the more innovative fringes of Denver’s scene.