Five Iron Frenzy at Casselman's, 12/31/12

Categories: Concert Reviews

Tom Murphy
Five Iron Frenzy on stage at Casselman's Bar & Venue in Denver.


From the very beginning of its New Year's Eve set at Casselman's Bar & Venue in Denver, Five Iron Frenzy brought an enormous amount of energy, fueled by a clear sense of joy in performing. The old fans were incredibly happy to get to see the band again, and the fans who never got to see the band the first time around were equally charged, with their enthusiasm matched by the enthusiasm coming off the stage. The exuberance was infectious. Even if this was your first time seeing the group, it felt like seeing friends you haven't seen in a while.

See also:
- Five Iron Frenzy: An extensive oral history of the band
- They're punk. They're ska. They're Christian. They're Denver's Five Iron Frenzy
- Five Iron Frenzy reunion: FIF posts new song, announces plans for new album

Tom Murphy
Five Iron Frenzy at Casselman's Bar & Venue in Denver

Things got going with "The Phantom Mulle,t" and the act cut up the set with liberal doses of self-deprecating humor, which didn't let up until the end. Everyone came on stage in some get-up: Andy Verdecchio was made up like Jerry Only from the Misfits; Sonnie Johnston looked like he had stepped out of a Flying Burrito Brothers video; Micah Ortega looked like he were playing in a sinister rockabilly band; Leanor Till Ortega looked like she had stepped out of a door from a 1920s speakeasy; Scott Kerr looked like he was channeling Alex from A Clockwork Orange: Brad Dunham was dressed like a card shark out of a long lost S.E. Hinton novel; Reese Roper was in a suit jacket, sunglasses and a skirt (not a kilt -- we were all corrected on this later). Dennis Culp, meanwhile, was dressed like a normal person -- someone's got to keep a sense of sanity, right?

The horn section sounded richly layered and dynamic. The three players all danced and jumped around in sync with the rhythm and sang with an unfeigned exuberance. Johnson and Ortega played guitar parts together that went far beyond the usual clipped guitar riffing you hear in a lot of ska bands -- proving succinctly that this band is more than just that. Verdecchio's percussive accents propelled the band into great heights of energy and movement, while Kerr's bass lines buoyed the sound overall.

"You Can't Handle This," which made you want to jump around, was followed by "Where the Zero Meets the Fifteen," and rarely has a simple and happy horn part been able to carry the force of the melody so well in the context of a rock song. In the middle, Till Ortega acknowledged the oral history of the band that appeared on Backbeat and dedicated what sounded like "When I Go Out" to yours truly and Dave Herrera. The song is a bit like Napalm Death's "You Suffer" (though roughly six times as long) in that there's not much in the way of lyrics and it's amped up to a super intense moment. Till Ortega belted out the word in something like a half growl punk rock style, and then Culp suggested that she should do it again, only in Spanish, and she did.

Tom Murphy
Five Iron Frenzy at Casselman's Bar & Venue in Denver

There was a lot of joking on stage between members, including lighthearted jabs at Roper, who would just own the put down and smile. One thing that was striking about the jokes between the band members and of Roper's joking, specifically, is the members' ability to really sell the bad, borderline lame joke as a joke about owning up to how lame it was and laughing at that. At the sheer stupidity and ridiculousness and goofiness of the moment, some artists try to seem so cool. Roper and this band, on the other hand, seem to find humor in being so not cool. It made the bad jokes funnier and it was an endearing element of the show overall.

Musically, the set comprised all the act's hits, including the especially spirited "One Girl Army" and a couple of songs that will be appearing on the new album, including "To Build A Fire" (appropriate for the Jack London-story-esque temperatures outside) and "Between Pavement and Stars." The fun and games came to a close with the genuinely uplifting "Every New Day," the sincerity and sentimentality of which moved even this decidedly secular humanist reviewer.

Tom Murphy
Five Iron Frenzy at Casselman's Bar & Venue

The audience clearly wasn't leaving, so Verdecchio came back out and explained how the band has never done encores, and they all wanted to hang out for the 45 minutes left before the bar closed and spend time talking to the fans instead of "stroking our egos up here." It was not an offhand evasion, but an honest statement of intent. Clearly not your typical band beyond having just performed a superlative show.

Location Info

Casselman's Bar & Venue

2620 Walnut St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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I think it was "When I go out" not "no grandma = Know Grandma"

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