Written and photographed by Sadie Almgren
In a room full of Denver’s funky glasses and mustache adorned millennials, Honey Blazer fit in perfectly. Based in Denver themselves, the band has an easy sound that feels like drinking lemonade in the sunshine. Or maybe driving down a coastal highway. With alt-country, Wilco-esque flavors, the lead guitarist (who looks almost kinda like Jeff Tweedy) ripped surprisingly spicy solos over sway-back-and-forth mellow grooves. With crowd-pleasing and irresistibly easy-listening tunes, Honey Blazer is a local(ish) band to keep your eyes on. They were a stylistically perfect amuse bouche for Cut Worms to come on later in the evening.
Ryder the Eagle
A man dressed like a combination of a cowboy, a vampire, and a priest walked onstage, set his saxophone on a stand, plugged in his phone to start playing a pre-recorded track, and picked up a microphone and said,
I used to approach love as a religion, but then I got divorced. Welcome to my mega church, guys.
With an intense level of performance and spending more time in the crowd than onstage, each song was a brutally honest narrative, complemented with Napoleon Dynamite-esque dance moves. With persistent themes of his divorce and travels through France/Mexico City/Arkansas (among other places), the highlight was a saxophone ballad titled “Eloise”, which was preceded by a lengthy story about his current significant other (who he met on Instagram, to the audience’s amusement). But suddenly, the sweet, but dissonant, saxophone ballad instantly morphed into a new wave banger, where he danced through the crowd with a feverish look in his eyes. His sound revolves around synth lines that seem like they instantly zapped from a time machine in the 80s to the present day, but, what might seem cheesy, totally works for him. Ryder the Eagle is a tortured artist and a kind soul (as I briefly spoke with him after the show), but most of all, he is a performer. Few folks I’ve ever encountered measure up to Ryder the Eagle’s sincerity, seriously manic energy, and ability to enrapture an audience, especially as he serenaded many ladies in the audience as if he was reciting a Shaksperean sonnet. He serves as a testament to the fact there are people out there who are more individualistic, fearless, and creative than you could ever imagine.
And that’s awesome. Check out his recent release, Megachurch, you will not be sorry you did.
Cut Worms has a uniquely old school sound, the kind of sound that old people are referencing when they say, “they don’t make music like this anymore” (but Cut Worms does). Max Clarke (with the stage name, Cut Worms) is an enigmatic dude with a distinctly sunshine-y tenor voice that is timeless. His accompanying band created an atmosphere of a beachy honky tonk, or a sunroom on a sunday morning; it felt warm, like eating homemade soup. The ingredients of this soup include: clever guitar riffs, 5 dudes who look like they just stepped out of a Midwestern thrift store, warm bass lines, tasty Western textures, an absolutely kick-ass slide guitar player, and the simplicity of a 50s love song.
Cut Worms played a mixture of cuts from his most recent self-titled release, Cut Worms, and his 2020 record, Nobody Lives Here Anymore, as well as older tunes, such as “Song of the Highest Tower” from his 2017 EP. This seven minute acoustic ballad, sung by Max Clarke with a characteristically exhausted look on his face, begs the listener to
don’t feel bad, be free
He is reassuring that, sometimes, relationships don’t work out and that’s ok. On “Sold My Soul”, Cut Worms cleverly weaves a metaphor, highlighting a unique wisdom that he brings to his songwriting. His music suggests the idea of making some sort of peace with the world as an individual as well as part of something greater. Whether the vibe is more playful or contemplative, Cut Worms sincerely pats you on the shoulder and says that everything will be ok, just look at the clouds passing in the sky and go dance. Maybe I’m projecting some personal interpretation onto Max Clarke’s music. Nevertheless, it is really just the kind of vibey, dreamy cowboy pop that brings a smile to your face and makes you want to boogie just a little bit. I think we all need some of that sometimes.