Concert Review: Gus Dapperton w/ Spencer.

Spencer., photo by Auguste Voss

DENVER – Bedroom-pop sensation Gus Dapperton made a stop at the Gothic Theater earlier this month, accompanied by Spencer., and blew us away with soaring, emphatic vocals and dancing so spicy that it should have been a fire hazard.

Starting the night off with groovy neo-soul and hip-hop-infused jamming, up-and-coming R&B artist Spencer. had our hips swaying in no time. Spencer. hails from Rochester, New York and – at only 19 – is far beyond his years. His rich, deep voice takes center stage in much of his music, and – paired with lively guitar riffs and nifty basslines – Spencer. cooks up a delicious lo-fi aesthetic that feels intentional without trying too hard. As the band jammed and Spencer. sang from behind pink, retro shields, I couldn’t help but dance along.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Auguste Voss

After a set break that felt like forever (as they always do), Gus Dapperton sauntered onstage with a big grin and his own pair of tinted sunglasses. Donning his trademark baggy pants and a (presumably thrifted) sweater, he wasted no time, jumping right into “Verdigris” – the first on his most recent album Where Polly People Go to Read. 

Gus Dapperton, steadily picking up steam since the success of his 2017 single “I’m Only Snacking” and its endearing music video, has created an eccentric and captivating character. His music provides an intimate and emotional catharsis, with raw, seductive melodies and bouncy synth grooves that practically make you get up and dance along.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Auguste Voss

He kept the room dancing all night, occasionally pausing his songs to give the crowd an ear-to-ear smile, playfully tease his guitarist Yendawg, and chat with the audience in a sly, puckish tone that was the cherry on top of an already masterful persona. 

Where Polly People Go to Read is a chronological, revolving account of love and heartbreak, and the intensity was evident onstage as Dapperton belted out ballads like “My Favorite Fish” and “Coax & Botany.” 

Gus Dapperton, photo by Auguste Voss

Dapperton’s performance was a perfect mix of the raw, heartwrenching bellows characteristic of his most recent album and the goofy, endearing antics that populate his music videos.

His performance was engaging, energetic, and chaotic in the most satisfying of ways, leaving the audience clapping for more – and myself with sore calves from so much dancing.

NEW PLAYLIST: LIL MAMA Radio

In search of a new hangover fix? Check out DJ Lily Roth’s new playlist from this Thursday’s feature of LIL MAMA Radio. Her playlist includes a mix of jazzy, smooth, and funky instrumentals that she claims can cure any hangover. Be sure to give this playlist a listen to hear artists like Knxwledge, Khruangbin, and Swell do what they do best.

Tune in to LIL MAMA Radio every Thursday night at 10:00 pm !

Mediocre Kids: Review of Black Lips Concert at Globe Hall

Black-Lips.jpg
Image courtesy of Black Lips. Cover art for their most recent single, Odelia.

20 years after their formation, the Atlanta flower punk band Black Lips are back on tour for their most recent album, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?, released in 2017. On Monday, October 21st, the group performed the second night of their Denver shows in Globe Hall, a self proclaimed “unpretentious saloon” for live music and Texas-style barbecue.

Denver based girl pop-punk trio, The Corner Girls, took the stage first. The trio delivered catchy, but ordinary tunes, most comparable to Cherry Glazerr, except much less original. Most noteworthy was The Corner Girls’ last song, in which front woman Breanna Ahlgren encouraged the small audience to chant the lines: “Who’s a better kisser? Me or my sister?” Howled in ironic beach grunge fashion, the lyrics came off especially ghoul-y. Just in time for Halloween!

Next up was The Blue Rose Rounders, a traditional country outfit from Los Angeles, California, who have been touring across the United States with Black Lips. The four piece group performed traditional country ballads in impeccably styled retro cowboy looks. Singer and songwriter, Emily Rose Epstein, fiercely crooned sad songs and traditional waltzes, pausing only to take swigs of her bourbon. The band performed several of their own songs, such as desperately love sick “December” as well as some covers, like an even more sarcastic version of Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks a Lot.” The group was also joined for a song by Black Lips drummer, Oakley Munson. The ballads were both sweet and gothic and they set the tone for the headliners.

Dressed in costumes ranging from puffer coat to leather bikini, five piece set Black Lips traipsed onto stage and opened without an introduction to a dazed audience. Although early on in their career, Black Lips made a name for themselves as an in-concert “performance art” piece, with live shows often including acts ranging from vomiting to making out, their Globe Hall performance was very muted. They alternated songs from 2017 record Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? and more popular melodies from their earlier days, such as “Raw Meat,” “Family Tree” and “Drive By Buddy.” Songs from their newest album were less known and received with little enthusiasm. Even during their hit songs from their more hardcore days, the mosh pit was minimal and unemotional.

While the front-line of the audience repeatedly called out for Black Lips’ most popular track, “Bad Kids,” the group delivered a performance that veered off the flower punk path many seemed to anticipate. Instead of the grungy tunes they are known for, Black Lips continued the traditional country theme introduced by The Blue Rose Rounders with emphatically twangy versions of most of their songs, especially those off of the Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? album. The band highlighted guitarist Jeff Clarke and Saxophonist Zumi Roscow in their slower, country songs. In these songs, the performances were exceptionally stellar.

At their Globe Hall concert, Black Lips’ younger and more chaotic punk energy seemed shifted to a mellower and more sorrowful country sound, signaling the band’s evolution. In interviews, group members have spoken about an upcoming country album. Black Lips’ Globe Hall performance was not thrilling and yet it was not disappointing. It was exciting to witness the group as they move on to a new genre.

New Playlists from WORM Radio

DJs Mia Zuckerberg and Carol Holan have been busy curating playlists for their show, WORM Radio, every Tuesday at 8:00. Their first playlist focuses on songs for when you have a gay crush, but don’t want to ruin the friendship. Listen to hear some great songs by Mothers, Fiona Apple, and Mazzy Star.

If you’re not feeling that, check out the playlist from their second show about driving alone for the first time. This playlist features an amazing range of artists that include Nina Simone, Perfume Genius, and Franz Ferdinand!

Make sure to tune in to WORM Radio every Tuesday from 8-9 for more good tunes!

The Lumineers’s III is an X/X

by Annie Knight

The Sparks family from left to right: (Front row) Junior, Jimmy, and Bonnie (Jimmy’s Wife). (Back row) Gloria’s husband, Gloria, Donna, and Donna’s husband.

When Wesley Shultz and Jeremiah Friates set out to write The Lumineers’ latest album III, they knew it wasn’t going to be conventional. Because of the serious subject matter Shultz (lead singer) and Fraites (drummer) choose to write about, alcoholism and its familial consequences, Shultz thought “it felt unfair to just name names,” he said in an interview with KFOG. “It felt more appropriate to me to tell a story around this. If you tell the truth within a story, I think it has a ripple effect.” Thus, the cinematic musical experience that is III was born.

On September 13, III was released in its entirety, but the group had been releasing portions of the album since May in three chapters containing three songs each, each song accompanied by a video. All of the videos were then compiled into the short film III directed by Kevin Phillips, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. The album follows the fictional Sparks family through three generations beginning with the matriarch Gloria, followed by her grandson Junior, and ending with his father Jimmy. Each chapter focuses on how addiction and alcoholism follows the family across time, and its adverse effects.

III has brought about innovations for the group including their first short film to debut in a film festival, an uncharacteristically moodier sound in comparison to jaunty, boot stepping toons off their first two albums The Lumineers and Cleopatra, and a new relationship between music and film. The distinct music and video styles of each chapter characterize the members of the Sparks family and compare and contrast their individual relationship to substance abuse amidst these evolutionary changes for the folk rock band.

The videos for III are set in a run down, yellow house against an overcast sky. The color of the house and the name of the family, the Sparks, become ironic when compared with the somber content of III. The familial name brings to mind lost sparks, or potential, that was never actualized because of their dependency on alcohol.

The first member of the Sparks family we meet is Gloria (Anna Cordell), in “Chapter I: Gloria Sparks.” The songs of this chapter are characterized by lilting piano tunes like the soft, scales in “Donna,” and percussion heavy songs like “Gloria.” The bold percussion of “Gloria” distinctly mark Gloria as the matriarch of the family and the catalyst for the alcoholism we see affect future Sparks.

While the lyrics detailing Gloria’s descent into alcoholism are somber, the music backing these lyrics, major chord heavy that is generally connotated with positivity in mainstream music, provide an interesting juxtaposition. “Gloria” is perhaps the song off III that sounds most similar to The Lumineers’s earlier work. The fast paced, positive sounding music, however, has been traded as a whole on this album for darker, rawer lyrics. This results in a more touching, emotional album, certainly not something their earlier work lacked entirely, but an aspect more prevalent in III. 

Perhaps the darkness has come from the band choosing to source their most recent work from personal suffering. The inspiration for the album has, in part, come from drummer Jeremiah Fraites’s older brother’s death in 2001 from a heroin overdose at age 19. Fraites’s brother, Joshua, was also a close friend of Shultz.

Editing is also used in chapter I to separate Gloria from the Sparks family members that are to follow. The songs off of “I,” especially “Gloria” are cut quickly and rhythmically, meaning the shots are cut to the beat of the song. This is most noticeable in key moments of the video highlighting Gloria’s alcoholism like when she unscrews the vodka bottle at the beginning of the video and when the same bottle is seen bouncing between the logs behind the Sparks’ house after she discards it empty. “I” is also heavily reliant on close ups. Some of the most haunting are again from “Gloria” when she throws a vodka bottle at her husband, and the tense close ups between Gloria and a stranger in a bar in “Life in the City.”

Close up of Gloria in “Gloria.”

This sound and filming style is intensely contrasted with “Chapter II: Junior Sparks.” Junior’s (Charlie Tahan) songs have a languid feel to them and use almost exclusively guitar. The omission of other instruments, especially piano, are interesting when considering Junior’s role as the only Sparks that rejects the legacy of substance abuse. The Lumineers choose to highlight this through the omission of the piano that was characteristic of “I” and Gloria herself who we see play piano in “Donna.”

The filming style of chapter “II” also contrasts that of the previous chapter. It’s full of long takes of Junior smoking cigarettes on the porch, and long shots, the most dramatic of which is Junior burning the piano in front of the Sparks’ family home. The piano bonfire becomes Junior’s most overt rebellion against his family legacy. He burns a symbol of Gloria and  replaces her vodka bottle with a match. The is showcased in parallel shots of Gloria throwing a vodka bottle at her husband in “Gloria,” and Junior throwing a match in “Left for Denver.” The alcoholism Junior could have inherited instead becomes replaced with rage.

Gloria throwing her vodka bottle in “Gloria.”
Junior throwing his match in “Left for Denver.”

Junior captivating the focus “II” is a striking choice since Jimmy Sparks (Nick Stahal) comes after Gloria generationally. However, placing Junior’s chapter between Gloria and Jimmy’s, is reflective of Junior being compressed by the inevitability of his family’s habits, until he rejects them.

This theme continues with the music distinguishing “Chapter III: Jimmy Sparks.” The songs of “III,” especially “Jimmy Sparks,” use predominantly minor chords, a sound that is associated with negative emotions in popular music. The choice to make this the sound of Jimmy suggests the antagonistic role he plays in his son’s life because of his alcohol abuse, leading to parties at their house and even a physical fight in “Leader of the Landslide.” The languid guitar of “My Cell,” similar to that of “Leader of the Landslide” from “II,” connect Jimmy with his son as an influencer. Jimmy’s sound is also, however, reminiscent of Gloria because of the piano that makes a re-appearance in “III.” Thus, Jimmy becomes a link in the chain that passes on alcoholism to future generations in the Sparks family.

The filming style of “III” is also reminiscent of previous chapters in the album and short film. Extreme close ups in “My Cell” of Jimmy’s girlfriend and the debt collector echo the editing style in the videos about Gloria. Long shots of Jimmy smoking a cigarette in “Jimmy Sparks” recall the filming style of the videos about his son. Jimmy then becomes a mixture between the past and present generations of his family and a representation of alcoholism at its worst.

Close ups of the debt collector in “My Cell.”

The Lumineers forge a new relationship between cinema and music in III. In cinema, music is traditionally used to influence the audience’s emotions in response to the visuals on the screen. However, in this case, the relationship is reversed and the visuals are supporting the music. III challenges the viewer to pay close attention to the lyrics and how the visuals provide clues to deeper meaning. This creates a more intense emotional experience and a highly effective way to translate the themes that The Lumineers want us to glean from their album.

Parallel scenes of one family member carrying another out of the deceptively positive colored yellow house let us know that across sound and generation family members can’t resist taking care of one another, even if it isn’t in their best interest. However, this incessant need to care for others that will not care for themselves because of their disease, can lead to loneliness and the rage that characters like Junior feel. Like the lyrics of “My Cell” that close to shots of each Sparks family member alone in the frame, the substance abusers and the ones that love them can tragically end up in this cycle “all alone, all alone, all alone, all alone.”


Listen to the album & watch the videos here.

Song(s) of the Weekend

I couldn’t decide on just one song to capture how I’m feeling on this second-to-last weekend of the year, so here are three to help you get through the end of 8th block:

“Friday Night, Saturday Morning” by The Specials
“Out of bed at eight AM / Out my head by half past ten / Out with mates and dates and friends / That’s what I do at weekends” and then the catchy refrain: “I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning.” This song is just like all of your eighth block weekends, except if your eighth block was taking place in England forty years and was narrated by a ska revival band.

https://open.spotify.com/track/66tyi2ix4ErbUBKFAVw98r?si=cXQP3reDSPCbOhsT5eyt4A

Credit: The Guardian

“On Some Faraway Beach” by Brian Eno
Maybe the most nostalgia-inducing song ever. When you drive or fly home in a few weeks, play this song as you stare out the window and you will probably cry. Very tender, very epic.

https://open.spotify.com/track/1ip0bzSgZsMrp7bSuxlKoa?si=aUN2TFwbQfGN6kQtDZba9A

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Saturday Night Inside Out” by the Avalanches

SO good! This song will mess you up emotionally and take you to another place. It’s basically a spoken word poem by David Berman of the band Silver Jews in collaboration with The Avalanches. Around 00:45, you start hearing an amazing beat and the song becomes so beautiful. I have a hard time describing what I feel when listening to this song, but I think it’s intended to be a reflection on youth and growing up – which is what we all deal with every day in college. Especially for you seniors graduating, this song is for you. (Also if you haven’t heard The Avalanches’ album Wildflower, it’s so incredible and this song feels so much more special as the last track on the album.)

https://open.spotify.com/track/3wWZfpPJXnW5cS6ULwdJqW?si=SM_yQr5cRKOt3xT7hJ0svA

Credit: Vice

CONCERT PREVIEW: Smino at Summit 4/1

Born and raised in St. Louis but heavily influenced by (and eventually instrumental in) the Chicago rap scene, rapper Smino has been writing music since high school, finding his greatest successes in 2017’s blkswn and most recently 2018’s NOIR. Coming from a childhood full of gospel and jazz, Smino’s catchy neo-soul choruses combined with gripping rhymes and lyrical skill make him an artist to continue to watch; in an interview with Rolling Stone, he says he already hates NOIR and is ready for his next release. Coming to Denver as a part of his HOOPTI tour, he will be performing at Summit on Monday, April 1st after a string of sold out shows. 

 

Photo: @smino on Instagram

CONCERT REVIEW: Noname at the Ogden Theatre 3/6

In his long printed cardigan and sweats, Noname’s opener Elton Aura emanated a calm confidence that set the tone for a night of powerful lyricism. He knew exactly how to excite the young audience as he lit a joint on stage and passed it down (to be immediately intercepted by the stage security) after taking a few puffs himself. Elton concluded his set how he began it, having us repeat after him “Elton! How it do!” and then exited the stage to loud cheers. The audience hummed with energy as we began the wait for the person who had brought us all to the Ogden Theatre this Wednesday night.

As Noname’s band slowly set up their instruments I was struck with how vulnerable they were in that moment. Only feet of distance between us at the front of the crowd and the band members shuffling equipment around the stage, the lights were too bright and the room too quiet to create the invisible barrier of power that usually separates an audience and the performers.

The crowd screamed as the band finally began to play, slipping easily behind their instruments. The lights lowered and the neon sign that emblazoned the back wall lit up pink to read “ROOM 25” (the name of Noname’s new album.) Noname then entered rapping,

Maybe this the album you listen to in your car when you driving home late at night / Really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, bitches

The crowd jumped around singing along. Waiting for the line we all knew was coming and then screaming it in unison with her as she reached it:

“YOU REALLY THOUGHT A BITCH COULDN’T RAP, HUH?”

Noname calmly danced across the stage as she rapped in a loose white dress with a black flower print, black leggings, and red converse. Her long curls were stretched and tucked behind her ears, showing off her round youthful face. She seemed much younger than her 27 years. When she finished “Self” she greeted the cheering audience with smiles and warmth. She made her way through a set of hit after hit from both Room 25 and her 2016 mixtape Telefone. Everyone in the house danced and struggled to keep up with her quick voice. The night was punctuated by a few moments of quickly-relieved tension. Frustrated with a perceived lack of enthusiasm, Noname halted the show early on to teach the audience how to show that we appreciated her performance.

“If I spit a bar that you think is especially hot, give me an “ooooh.”

 

She started to rap again, her first line was met by a loud “ooooh” from the audience.

She stopped again.

“No, that was nothing,” she said, “that line was nothing. Let’s try again.”

She went back into the song, now seemingly satisfied with the crowd’s responses and continued with the concert with a smile on her face.

There was no lack of enthusiasm when we heard the opening bars of “Diddy Bop.” This song was my favorite part of the concert. That’s not a very revolutionary thing to say—it is her most popular song by far. But for good reason! Besides the catchy beat, the lyrics are beautifully sweet and nostalgic—a love letter to the Chicago of her youth. The crowd of majority high school and college students couldn’t relate to growing up listening to B2K, wearing FUBU, and hitting the diddy bop but it didn’t matter. The song creates a warm feeling of happy wistfulness and reminds me of my childhood despite my memories being so far away from that of Noname’s. I love that Noname doesn’t shy away from the specifics of her experience in an attempt to make her song more relatable. The essence of her song, of being young and being intent on taking advantage of the fleeting chance to be irresponsible, resonated with all of us.

Noname kept her performance short and sweet, exiting the stage after less than an hour. The band packed up their instruments and walked off stage, but the lights stayed down and the audience stayed in place, eyes glued to the stage expectantly. Then, Noname returned to the stage and gave us one last song, sans music. Her roots in slam poetry were especially evident with just her words filling the room. That final encore left the audience reminded of the poetry that exists in hip-hop, especially in Noname’s music.

On April 5th Noname is releasing “Song 32”, a follow up to her track “Song 31” and she is currently finishing her international Room 25 tour.

Photos by Kenneth Hamblin III

SONG OF THE WEEK: Jessica Pratt– Moon Dude

LA-based musician Jessica Pratt’s music is often characterized as freak folk and beckons associations with folksy psychedelia of the 60s, namely The Byrd’s Fifth Dimension and the work of Vashti Bunyan. It is miraculous to me that “Moon Dude” achieves such an expansive, out-of-this-world sound given Pratt limiting herself to mostly just acoustic guitar and vocals. Her alien-like, gorgeous voice, her psychedelic inflection, carries this song so far beyond the sounds someone expects from a singer-songwriter playing an acoustic guitar. Take a listen: