Sympathy F and the Sleepers brought Denver's alternative rock heyday to life at 3 Kings
Ask anyone who was around the underground rock scene in Denver in the early '90s and chances are that person at least heard of Sympathy F. Since its 1991 debut at 7 South, a club now known as the hi-dive, Sympathy F became a favorite of peers and fans by virtue of its superb songwriting and the beautiful vocal harmonies of Elizabeth Rose and Tony Morales. Then as now, Sympathy F combined a kind of folk rock compositional sensibility with jazz-like rhythms and Doug Seaman's ability to play within and over the melodies with his knack for switching between inventive soundscaping and playing an electric lead to Morales' own tuneful acoustic strumming.
Tom Murphy Sympathy F at 3 Kings Tavern Tom Murphy Sympathy F at 3 Kings Tavern
Drawing a bit from its sole album, a 1993 untitled or perhaps eponymous release, the live version of songs like "Don't Make Me Say It" and "Guilty Conscience Day," were so much more lush and emotionally nuanced than what was captured on the recordings. You might chalk it up to the increased maturity and creative sophistication of the members of the band, but it was more than that. There was a way that Rose projected a kind of playful sensuality into her performance and the way she and Morales seemed to cue perfectly into what the other was feeling for an effect that flowed through with the rest of the band.
At no time did it feel like aging rock stars reliving glory days. Everyone in the band has been active since Sympathy F slowed down in the late '90s. Morales and Seaman have been in the dream pop/rock outfit Juliet Mission and Morales and Rose have been playing her more jazz-oriented solo gigs around town at places that aren't the standard rock clubs the band has often found itself playing. All of that experience has kept this group of people on their game in playing music together and separately and you can tell all of that experience has only enriched what the band is doing now.
Shifting effortlessly between smoky, lounge pop and more electrifying, heavier fare, Sympathy F was impossible to pigeonhole, except as a band that seemed to be having fun with the show with plenty of engagement with the audience. The latter explicitly so when Rose came off the stage into the crowd at various points and acknowledged various people she couldn't see but could hear. The recent Sympathy F shows, to be fair, have felt like a band that still loves its music. Apparently the follow up to the 1993 record is in the works, due out in 2015 along with the second Juliet Mission album.
Continue reading about the show and The Sleepers on the next page.