Over the Weekend: Atmosphere at Red Rocks
Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Murs and Eyedea & Abilities
Friday, August 14
Red Rocks giveth, and Red Rocks taketh away. The sprawling amphitheater is so storied at this point that it tests performers playing it like few venues in the country -- and not everyone passes. That was certainly the case on Friday night, when two of the four top acts on the bill traveled through the fire unharmed and even enhanced by the experience, while the other pair wound up a little crispy around the edges.
The scene along the narrow roadways and lots arrayed at the foot of the main bowl was so happily chaotic that I didn't reach the seating area until 8:10 p.m., ten minutes after the announced start time -- and by then, the opening group, Attracted to Gods, had already come and gone. The apparent brevity of its set suggested that the concert would offer a modified version of KS-107.5's annual Summer Jams, with early artists given just ten or fifteen minutes to connect with the crowd before being hooked off the stage. But no: Eyedea & Abilities stuck around for at least 45 minutes -- and seriously overstayed their welcome.
Attracted to Gods (Eric Gruneisen)
The Minnesota duo's take on alterna-rap pivots on the psychodramatic readings of frontman Eyedea (Michael Larsen), whose delivery is closer to feverish recitation than traditional emceeing, thanks to his frequent moments of near hysteria. But while this style can be effective in close quarters, where attendees can witness the eccentricity in a close-up-and-personal manner, it felt mondo-strained for anyone beyond the first ten rows -- and at Red Rocks, there are a lot of rows beyond that. Numbers such as "Man Vs. Ape" and "Burn Fetish" came across like anti-melodic meanders, and Eyedea, who spent most of his time either bunny-hopping in place or hanging with the audience -- which left DJ Abilities (Gregory Keltgen) alone on stage for minutes at a time -- didn't provide nearly enough visual stimuli to compensate. There were two musical highlights: a prolonged, quasi-psychedelic workout on the turntables by Abilities, and the unexpectedly hooky tune "Spin Cycle," which should have ended the set but didn't. Eyedea also got a big response when he mocked conscious hip-hop by announcing, "Walmart is a fucking awful place to shop" -- before undercutting the assertion by adding, "for guitars. They've got a bad selection." That kind of irony may kill in a club, but it induced indifference on the Rocks.
Eyedea & Abilities (Eric Gruneisen)