Ten ways Communikey was a music festival done right

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
newnumbertwo VS. Scott Everett at Apex Movement at Communikey Festival
Most music festivals don't have a specific conceptual guiding principal behind them. But for Communikey 2014, the phrase "Take Time," which was featured in the well-designed schedule and map. As they explained it, the demands of the modern world have created a climate of artificial boredom, overtaxed reserves of emotional and physical energy and instant but meaningless gratification.

Communikey's organizers took that idea seriously, finding ways in even the smallest details to relish the taking of time. Below are some of the ways the festival did just that.

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The Denver Record Collectors Spring Expo is a music fan's paradise

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Ken Hamblin
Hidden down in a convention hall of a nondescript hotel off the highway north of Denver was a record lover's paradise this weekend: the Denver Record Collectors Spring Expo.

At the convention hall all day Sunday were dozens of vendors, each selling thousands of records, CDs and more. This wasn't just a place to stop by and grab another copy of Sgt. Peppers you lost in that last move -- there were 45s from the 1950s, a sealed Lenny Bruce record, the Ben Hur soundtrack on CD, a VHS copy of High Fidelity next to an old book on the Clash, racks of Paul McCartney and Velvet Underground shirts, posters from Modest Mouse's last show in Broomfield, and more from enthusiastic vendors ready to sell to equally enthusiastic buyers.

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Can Soiled Dove Underground host rock and roll legends like Booker T. Jones?

Categories: Last Night

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A. H. Goldstein
This isn't the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The list of upcoming artists beaming on a nearby screen includes artists like Nothing But Saxes, billed as "a smooth jazz experience." The menu includes items that feel more a propos to a Chili's than a rock venue. You can nibble on jalapeno cheese dip and hot wings as you take in the show. Then there's the audience that's steadily packing the Soiled Dove Underground on this Friday night. They're well-to-do couples on dates, decked in nice suits and understated dresses. They're grizzled music fans from another age, sporting white hair and ordering martinis. It's hard to connect the venue and the crowd with what was once a revolutionary brand of R&B, music that re-fit pop music with a harder edge and deeper degree of soul. But the disconnect disappears mere minutes after Booker T. Jones and his band start playing.

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Neutral Milk Hotel proves its music is timeless in Denver, the city where it was recorded

Categories: Last Night

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Illustration by Noah Van Sciver
From the beginning of last night's first Neutral Milk Hotel show in Denver in some twenty years, when Jeff Mangum stepped on stage with his guitar to play "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. I" it was immediately powerful, no nostalgia necessary. Then, the rest of the band joined him, and the show found new richness. It was like when The Wizard of Oz goes from black-and-white to color, from Kansas to a magical fairy-tale land.

When a legendary band gets back together, it's hard to say whether it will draw mainly older fans or if the music has found new appeal for younger generations. In this case, that later group wasn't quite old enough to have seen this band when it played the long gone 15th St. Tavern on the In An Aeroplane Over the Sea tour in 1998. Based on the crowd in Denver last night, it's safe to assume that this band has an appeal that transcends age boundaries.

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The message behind St. Vincent's weird, futuristic new persona

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
St. Vincent at The Ogden Theatre
When Annie Clark of St. Vincent took the stage with the rest of her band, it was with the same kind of choreographed ritual that informed the rest of the performance. Her hair these days seems to belong to a visitor from either outer space or the future, as are her clothes and the aforementioned choreography of movement. But they're simply another expression of Clark's creative growth. Like David Byrne, David Bowie and Laurie Anderson before her, Clark has given us with her new, self-titled album, a whole creative work rather than just a new side of her songwriting or a bigger and better light show and set to go with her more expansive budget.

Her manufactured creative identity is a work of art in itself that somehow also doesn't mask the real human emotions and experiences behind the songs. In that way, like her inspirations, Clark used this rock theater to both entertain and to communicate deeply personal thoughts that might otherwise be too confessional.

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You'll probably never see The Joy Formidable in a venue as small as 3 Kings again

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
The Joy Formidable at 3 Kings Tavern on March 25, 2014
The latest installment in the nascent Red Bull Sound Select Series probably could have happened at a venue three times the size of 3 Kings. And The Joy Formidable kicked up a glorious racket that was big enough for a stadium rock event.

Before getting on stage, the trio seems like such a charming, mild-mannered bunch. But during their set, an irrepressible spirit, an electrifying enthusiasm, coursed through the band. At one point front woman Ritzy Bryan told us about where the band is originally from in North Wales, where there are big, rolling hills and mountains. It's a lot like Colorado, she noted, and that when it was starting out, The Joy Formidable wanted to make a sound that the mountains might make. The manifestation of that early ambition was sure on full display last night.

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Lorde is not a goth, but she proved her pop-star staying power in Denver

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen. Full slideshow.
When Lorde became widely known following the release of her hit single "Royals," the term "goth" was quickly attached to her music, and even more to her visual style. Vanity Fair referred her as the Queen of Darkness.

Well, the goths didn't get that memo, and Lorde's sold-out show over the weekend in Denver seemed to be mostly attended by the kind of mixed crowd any rapidly rising pop star might draw, from children all the way to seniors who haven't dismissed Lorde's songs as silly kids' stuff. For her part, the singer born Ella Yelich-O'Connor seemed completely in command of her powers as a performer while also projecting a subtle but deep vulnerability. She displayed a surprising degree of self-possession, something that many people take most of their lives to develop. Perhaps that capacity could fulfill the clumsy requirements of genre tags like goth or emo, but in this case, they're limiting. No great (or potentially great) pop singer would be worth much without an ability to articulate emotional tenderness and honesty, and Lorde just might be a great pop star.

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Sole's stage banter highlights: "Real gangsters wear black and burn ski resorts"

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
Sole at Seventh Circle Music Collective
At this show at Seventh Circle Music Collective, Tim Holland (a.k.a. Sole) commanded a crowd that stretched well beyond his (storied) hip-hop roots. In addition to those fans, there were supporters of the punk bands that played on either side of his own set, there were people involved in the Denver Anarchist Black Cross and there were people who didn't fit directly into any particular category. It's a testament to Sole's broad appeal to anyone with an appreciation for language. He has a gift in speech and in his lyrics -- "official" or improvised -- to amuse and to distill a concept to its poetically essential elements. Here are a few of the things he said on stage this weekend (with annotation where necessary):

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Mosh pit do's and don'ts: A photo guide with your host, Children of Bodom

Categories: Last Night, Photos

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Photo by Brandon Marshall. There are more in the slideshow.
Ah, the mosh pit. Keep your club night bumping and grinding and give me a good old fashioned pummeling. That's where the adrenaline is, where some of the best kinds of release can be found in live music. Plus, there are way fewer boners. Every concert is improved with fewer boners.

Still, the pit can be a tricky proposition. It can escalate to a bad place quickly, either because someone's just actually beating the crap out of people or because it gets to the point that the music becomes an afterthought. There is a subtle art to getting it right, to finding the frenzy without the fight. Finlandian death metal band Children of Bodom made its way to Summit Music Hall last night, where its fans put on an absolute clinic. Just truly masterful stuff. Photographer Brandon Marshall was there to capture the technique the rest of us can learn from.

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Miley Cyrus' Bangerz Tour proves she's pop music's greatest role model (seriously)

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen. Full slideshow: Miley Cyrus at the Pepsi Center
The world's most maligned former Disney princess is strutting down the stage, leading a platoon of dancers dressed in (more) preposterous costumes, the most preposterous of them a pair of seven-foot foam finger outfits where the dancers' heads stick out of the knuckles.

It's a direct reference to the moment Miley Cyrus finally figured out how to make an entire society clutch its collective pearls: The one with the Beetlejuice suit and the twerking and the aforementioned foam finger applied to her vagina. You remember.

And this isn't even the first time tonight in Denver that Miley's blown to cartoonish proportion the very things she's most frequently mocked for. Earlier there was the entrance, where she slid down her own giant, inflatable, cockeyed tongue.

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