Not only had it been a while since I'd been to the Fox Theatre, it'd been a long time since I've made that trek to Boulder at all. I work in Westminster, not too far from that valley town, and for quite a while that was as far westward as I would travel - just a couple exits on the highway shy of the hill you must climb, which at its apex, perches you perfectly above the basin below. I traveled to Boulder last night just before dusk, and when I hit the top of that hill the sun was close to resting for the night, most of it already behind the silhouette of the Flatiron mountains. The city lights below sparkled like sequins on a dark ballroom gown. The sky was flush with vivid colors from the rays of stubborn sunlight not yet ready to go to sleep, painting tangerine and coral on a canvas of clouds.
As night fell, I descended into this once familiar valley I used to call home. I wound down the highway and exited on Broadway, passing the University of Boulder campus still in peaceful off-season mode, just before the influx of over forty thousand students that will soon return to school and turn the peace of both the campus and town on its head. I crept further westward up Broadway, towards Chautauqua Park, and took a right into the heart of The Hill District, the center for action during the school year, but a scene of quiet calm on this particular night. I parked my car and walked through the cool night air around the corner to be greeted by what almost seemed like a long lost friend - the Fox Theatre.
I ventured inside, following a small group of students, probably in town early for school orientation, who were likely going to the show on a whim so that they'd have something to do that night. Not that that's a bad thing, it just seemed as if few in the crowd knew who they came to see. It was the first time I was allowed to bring my camera to this venue, so I was sure to arrive early and scout out the best spots for photo opportunities as more people trickled in through the doors, settling into the room like they were washed down a tributary.
At nine o'clock sharp, the lights went dim and it was time for the show to begin. Churchill was the first on stage, and as I mentioned in my preview, I was eager to see these guys live because I didn't think their sound translated well in the studio recordings I had heard of them. It seemed to me that their recordings were over-produced to the point that any character that would normally come across in their music was machined out or somehow artificial, leaving me with a feeling of hollowness I had trouble connecting to.
|Churchill performing sans microphones and amplifiers|
But when Churchill began to play, those concerns vanished. I like my music the same way I like my tuna - real and raw. That's exactly the way Churchill performed - their genuine personalities were readily apparent through their music, and their sound was not over-cooked but natural and gushing with character. They did what an opener should do - engage the audience and whet their appetite for the rest of the show to come. I was extremely impressed with their ability to do so. Furthermore, they thought outside of the box, getting people to gather by coming to the very edge of the stage and abandoning microphones and amplifiers for a song, causing people to come to the floor so they could personally connect with the band.
They had a very polished performance, one that seemed to transcend the fact that they were billed as openers. Upon chatting with the band members post show, they expressed the fact that they weren't used to being the first band in a lineup. To me, that earned a lot of respect. They easily could have been upset or gone on a pouting spree about having to open the show, and that would have translated poorly into their performance. Instead, they went and played their hearts out, leaving a strong impression on the crowd and left them wanting more.
|The Sunshine House|
More is exactly what the crowd received when The Sunshine House came up next on stage. They had a slightly different than usual set-up for this show. Usually they play as a six-piece band but they were down their drummer, so their second guitarist filled on drums and they played as a five-piece instead. It's great to see the versatility and flexibility of bands, and The Sunshine House still delivered their signature sound without batting en eye. They are very creative with their instrumentation which creates a lovely sound, one that I would describe as orchestral-folk with shades of Death Cab For Cutie and The Temper Trap.
|The Sunshine House and clever use of the bow|
Their performance was excellent, but also bittersweet. Although it seemed that much of the crowd was unaware, this performance was the second to last ever show for The Sunshine House. Other obligations got in the way of a few band members, and so the band is parting ways. I was especially moved when they performed "All Souls Steppe". They played the regular version of this song, but if you haven't heard the EP with the other versions, you are missing out, as they are all beautiful. I couldn't help but think to myself that this band should endure, but as they sang this particular song, the reality that the end is coming set in. I almost got choked up as they sang, "Please wait, I cannot stay for long/The sun has gone down/I see, I see your face is long/It's here and it's gone". They certainly poured themselves completely into performing that song, and I'll cherish the privilege of being a witness to that moment.
|The Sunshine House bids farewell|
I wish the sun wouldn't set on The Sunshine House, but nothing lasts forever. At least their recordings will preserve what this band was for future listeners. If you haven't checked out their catalog, I strongly suggest you do so. They have two EPs, The Sunshine House and All Souls Steppe. They also just released their final single, "Sound & Small", and it is definitely worth purchasing. Their final concert will be August 13 at Bohemian Nights in Fort Collins. If you can make it, please check them out. I wish all members of The Sunshine House well on future endeavors, and I hope the music-making never ends no matter what other projects they may be involved in.
|You, Me and Apollo|
The music didn't end at the Fox however, as up next came You, Me and Apollo. I had trouble describing this band before the concert yesterday, but after seeing the performance, I definitely have a better grasp on what is You, Me and Apollo. I had been expecting a full band, but originally, You, Me and Apollo was just Brent Cowles and his guitar. He is transitioning to a full band - his recordings feature a band and he will be taking a band on his upcoming tour - but for this night at the Fox, it was vintage You, Me and Apollo, just Brent Cowles alone.
|You, Me and Apollo|
Brent Cowles is quite the character with a wonderful sense of humor. Before each song he would have a story, and whether or not that story actually had anything to do with his song, his lighthearted delivery would keep the laughs coming. But when it comes to his music, You, Me and Apollo is something else completely. Brent packs a tremendous voice onto his small frame, and he sings with such oomph it's hard not to be captivated by it. He puts so much emotion into his singing that I would describe his style as folk-soul, something that needs to be witnessed to be fully understood. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance and cannot wait to see him the next time he performs near me.
|Glowing House plus cello|
Glowing House followed You, Me and Apollo to put a cap on a glorious night of music. I highly anticipated seeing their set, especially under the beautiful lights and vivid sound of the Fox Theatre, and Glowing House delivered a most excellent finale. I had the privilege of speaking with Steve Varney of Glowing House before the show, and he was gushing about having the opportunity to play at the Fox, something his band had been wanting to do for a long, long time. It was an extra special night for the band, as they were playing with the addition of a talented cello player named Phil Parker, who managed to add even more depth to the Glowing House sound.
|Steve Varney of Glowing House|
Much of the set Glowing House played was material not yet released that will later appear on their upcoming album. Their first album is a collection of gems, but after hearing what they have in store, I am desperately looking forward to their sophomore effort. Glowing House has really come to find their identity and they seem to really understand the dynamic they have in their core group of Jess Parsons, Steve Varney, and Patrick Kline. They have incorporated a greater variety of tempos, time-signatures, stories and moods in their new material and it will take you along on a journey where you can readily experience the highs and lows that these songwriters have experienced through life captured in one magnificent song after the other.
|Jess Parsons of Glowing House|
Glowing House does a superb of job keeping the audience engaged in the concert experience. They will eloquently explain the meaning of each song before they go into it, making it that much easier to pick up on the lyrics they slaved so hard to perfect. The multitude of instruments on stage; Steve will play guitar, banjo and mandolin, Jess will play keyboard and accordion, and Patrick will switch between drum sets and use other percussion instruments, help paint a vivid and varied soundscape that is incredibly immersive in a live setting. Even if you aren't a fan of folk, I think if you witness a Glowing House performance, it would be hard to deny the pure musicianship this band oozes at their will.
|Glowing House performing a choice selection from Disney's Robin Hood|
Although they are a contemporary folk band, and much of their material touches on more serious issues, they still know how to deliver their music in an accessible, fun fashion. Their live performances are full of laughs, claps, stomps and dancing - most audiences would have trouble standing still. Glowing House is a serious band that does not take themselves too seriously. What better way to pound that thought home than with a three-part harmonized Disney song cover for an encore?
The performance of Glowing House and all the other bands - Churchill, The Sunshine House and You, Me and Apollo - made one thing abundantly clear to me; Colorado is lucky that these guys call this state their home. Be sure to check out any of these bands out the next opportunity you get; they welcome your support and they will deliver an exquisite listening experience. I know I left the venue with an incredible wholesome feeling, and I felt very spoiled to be able to witness the talent that I did. As I made the trip back home to the hustle and bustle that is downtown Denver, I couldn't help but wish I could hold on to the entire serene experience I just witnessed for just a bit longer. The air was perfect that night in Boulder, and the setting could not be more ideal. The good news is, experiences like this are sure to keep coming in the future as long as bands like this continue to thrive and do what they do, but they can only thrive with continued support. The bands I saw last night were all thankful to everyone in attendance, but I certainly felt like I should be the grateful one.