Live Review: Andy Falconetti, Rotaree and John Porcellino
Andy Falconetti, Rotaree and John Porcellino
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Wax Trax, Denver
Better Than: Seeing a show like this at a bar.
Andy Falconetti, while tall, is an unprepossessing and utterly unpretentious performer. Normally you’ll see him fronting indie pop legends, Breezy Porticos. But for this show it was just him and an acoustic guitar his wife got at a thrift store. The stripped down format spoke to the power and economy of Falconetti’s songwriting. He once said that he was inspired by Black Flag and that you don’t have to play music the same way they did in order to make a strong impact. His subsequent songwriting has been living by example.
He opened the show with “Six Flags Over Nowhere.” Throughout I was impressed with his expert guitar riffing and the unexpectedly rich variety in his choice of chords fro song to song. There were no vocal mics at the show and Andy definitely didn’t need one since his gentle but strongly melodious voice easily kept up with the guitar.
He played his band’s eponymous song next but I think it was “Starry-Eyed” that struck me the hardest because he sang it with such a captivating sense of nostalgia and melancholy for a beautiful time past that you can never experience again but which most of us can relate to when we’re discovering the music that means the most to us across a lifetime for the first time.
Before playing “Ramona, Just the Other Day” he did a partial cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and got the crowd to clap along while he sang and played. At one point he joked about how he’s used to having stacks and dragons behind him, entirely appropriate for his final song, “Intrigue on the Settee” about Jack Grisham and TSOL.
After Andy the three-piece Rotaree took “stage” and brought their own lively, experimental folk music to the side room at Wax Trax. Bonnie Weimar, their frontwoman and banjo player, and John Sherry are also in orchestral experimental band, Pleistocene. Obviously with just an accordion player, John on trumpet and Bonnie, this outfit is a little different. And yet somehow they raised an unexpected ruckus with wonderfully unpolished, but well-written, pieces of what I hesitate to call “indie-folk.” Weimer’s vocals were archly sassy but also good-spirited. The music was also so upbeat and catchy it elevated the politicized subject matter of their lyrics without trivializing it.
After the show, John Porcellino signed copies of his book, Thoreau at Walden, after talking to the assembled crowd about his history with Thoreau’s classic and how it really took him four attempts across twenty years to finally get through the whole thing. And how he became engrossed in Thoreau’s body of work, especially his journals, in preparation for drawing and editing text for his comic book version. The publisher ostensibly meant it for kids so here’s to hoping some precocious child digs on transcendental philosophy because Porcellino, once the leader of the legendary Felt Pilotes, was able to make it more accessible to us all. -- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: To my mind, Andy Falconetti is one of the finest lyricists and songwriters Denver’s ever produced.
Random Detail: In the window of Kilgore was a copy of High Fidelity by Nick Hornby with a note slipped into the top that said, “Understand the staff at Wax Trax even better!!”
By the Way: There are a lot of truly creative, smart people in Denver at the moment and it’s events like this that bring a good number of them together and that can’t be a bad thing.
This is the thirteenth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)