Last night's Royalty Free Haiti benefit proved the venue potential of Dryer Plug Studios

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
The neighborhood surrounding Dryer Plug Studios, along a strip of current and former light industrial buildings on 43rd Avenue, isn't exactly quiet. Freight trains run at semi-regular intervals less than two blocks away. Next door is a church, and across the street are some houses. The entrance is on the side of the building rather than along 43rd proper, and even though there was plenty of activity inside, you couldn't hear much from outside, making it highly suitable for its usual function as a recording studio and as an impromptu venue for a show like last night's Royalty Free Haiti benefit performance. Go to the organization's Indie GoGo page for much more information about its projects, which include working with artists in Haiti to teach kids there and creating an artistic bridge between those artists and their peers in Denver.

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Fitz and the Tantrums prove that theirs is a band for all people

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen
Fitz and the Tantrums at the Ogden Theatre in 2012.
People in Colorado love live music. That statement can apply anywhere in the country, of course, but in Colorado, the ability to see shows in amazing indoor and outdoor venues year-round seems like just as much of a reason that folks move here as our weed, our mountains and, well, our weed. Last night's Fitz and the Tantrums show at the Ogden Theatre felt like one of those shows that brought out the music fan hobbyists -- the crowd was diverse and head over heels for the Los Angeles band, which, by all accounts, brought it.

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King Rat twentieth-anniversary show brings '90s punk vibe to the present

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
King Rat at 3 Kings Tavern

Few bands that were around in 1994, at least in Denver's punk milieu, are still around. But somehow King Rat has endured and reinvented or reinvigorated itself again and again, despite personal turmoil and the vicissitudes of public tastes in punk and music in general. And it was the reinvigorated King Rat that played this twentieth-anniversary show at 3 Kings Tavern on Friday night. This, in spite of frontman Luke Schmaltz's genuinely clever self-deprecating comments, including a joke about the ability of the band to endure playing a 36- to 40-song set. (The number was dependent upon how you counted the way the set came together.) Who plays a set that long other than the Boss, Leonard Cohen, George Clinton or a jam band?

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EMA's show proved Lost Lake Lounge has large venue sound with small venue charm

Categories: Last Night

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Tom Murphy
EMA at Lost Lake Lounge
Bringing the bombast, drama and light show of a larger venue to Lost Lake, EMA and opening act Mas Ysa pushed enough air to test the sound system of most smaller rooms to its limits. Mas Ysa even commented that he thought he was overloading the monitor, but it didn't sound like it on the receiving end of the music. It hasn't been too new a development, but the room where the performance went down didn't have that 1970s American Legion hall vibe that gave the older look of the place its kitschy charm for some and the old school dive air for others. Sure, there were holes in the tiles of the drop ceiling, but mostly it felt like walking into a small, dark club in a downtown area of a larger city instead of a small, homey bar on Colfax.

See also: A look at Lost Lake Lounge's complete overhaul, with two new sound systems and a new stage

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Nick Cave is the master of American mythology

Categories: Last Night

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Brandon Marshall
When Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds went into "Stagger Lee" from the 1996 album Murder Ballads, it was an iconic moment of an evening of music in which the band took the tradition of American folk mythology and breathed into it a larger-than-life electricity. Cave brought raging emotional intensity and dynamic outbursts, whispered statements from the devil and the seductions and outrageously compelling swaggering assertions of Stagger Lee himself. He strode well into the seating area on the first tier of the theater, standing on the backs of chairs, supported by fans. He became one of us, while effectively embodying various archetypes and reminding us that we're part of those, too.

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Nas and Flying Lotus put on the quintessential Red Rocks show, with help from Schoolboy Q

Categories: Last Night

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Brandon Marshall
Look how amazing this place is.
Editor's note: There was a shooting after last night's concert at Red Rocks. Early reports suggest Schoolboy Q was targeted on his way out of the venue. Three people were injured, none seriously. There was also a concert, though, and by all accounts it was a good one. We'll have some more reports on both the incident and the show, but for now here's our take on the music.

It was one of those perfect nights at Red Rocks -- warm enough during the day to keep the amphitheater at a nice temperature throughout the night. It wasn't sold-out, so there was a little more room to get comfortable and really enjoy what was about to unfold. Schoolboy Q took the stage while there was still a little bit of light left in the day. His set was okay; it felt like it went on a little too long and the bass overpowered much of anything else that was happening. But the crowd loved it.

Nas came through without too much fanfare -- just enough to let the focus be on him. Now that the venue was dark, his minimal light set-up was just right, his DJ positioned on a glowing platform that simply read "Nas." I appreciated the simplicity; it gave room for Nas to be the main event, something which I think is often overshadowed by lighting and visuals that can complicate rather than compliment an artist. Nas wasted no time, getting into the favored cuts of Illmatic, giving plenty of shout-outs to his fervent fans who have stood by him for the last twenty years.

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No one is topping Lionel Richie at Red Rocks

Categories: Last Night

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Brandon Marshall

Lionel Richie is real, there's no question. His star was born decades ago and solidified through so many hits that I had even forgotten some of them were his (and the Commodores', of course.) It was refreshing to see someone so real perform; the last time I was at Red Rocks, it was for Lana Del Rey. While there is no comparison to the two performers, really, I felt at ease watching Richie; I wasn't trying to figure out if he was singing to backing tracks. I wasn't waiting for him to speak, to gauge his humanness by his interaction with the crowd. I wasn't worrying that I might be missing some clue the Internet had already pointed out that proved he wasn't a phenomenal singer. Because Lionel Richie is fucking incredible.


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Why the Denver metal scene should be proud of last night's Meshuggah and BTBAM show

Categories: Last Night

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Brandon Marshall

It may not be unusual for a metal show to push the Ogden Theatre to full capacity, but any promoter is facing an uphill task in selling a Monday-night show. Still, Denver metal fans rallied together for Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me with no concern for work, bedtimes or curfews. How did this show become so immensely successful on such a notoriously hard-to-sell night?

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tUnE-yArDs has lost its novelty, but Merrill Garbus still had her moments in Denver

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The first time I saw tUnE-yArDs, the avant-pop project of Merrill Garbus, was in 2011 at Fun Fun Fun Fest. She was dressed as if she had fallen in a trunk of costumes with a painted face and was pounding on a taped-up ukulele while creating intricate loops on top of her now-signature yelp and flow. Behind her were two shirtless guys, one on bass, one on sax, rocking neon green body paint and dancing like it was the last time they ever would. After two days and dozens of bands, it was safe to say I was hard to impress, but as the crowd jumped and screamed to "Gangsta" I knew I was witnessing a wholly new moment in pop music. An oasis of novel expression in the desert of borrowed guitar riffs and overplayed drum beats that filled the festival's stages.


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A weekend at Mutiny Information Cafe, Denver's most unexpectedly great music venue

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Tom Murphy
PBLC from San Antonio
Mutiny Information Café may be ground zero for the next generation of Denver's music scene.

The shop sits on the southeast corner of Broadway and Ellsworth. Its modest but inviting exterior hasn't changed too much since Matt Megyesi, Joe Ramirez and 3 Kings Tavern co-partner Jim Norris took over operations in February 2013. In the window, a neon sign indicates "Books," but for the last several months, the storefront has not only made available an increasingly solid selection of music to go along with those -- it has hosted a wide variety of concerts. Mutiny is filling a need for a truly all-ages venue and an easy-to-find location central part of Denver. It's not a symbolic role, either. We spent three consecutive days there over Memorial Day weekend and saw a trio of very different shows.

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