I'm always on the search to satisfy my craving for local music, and that search led me back to Cervantes' on Thursday night. The Denver music scene has an astonishing amount of variety when it comes to music genres; if you know where to look, you'll be sure to stumble onto just about any type of music. I've covered several styles of electronic music so far, but Thursday night was time to get acquainted with homegrown versions of another electronic sub-genre - electronic jam bands/live electronica. There was a mix of other genres, but with the majority of the dozen artists/bands performing coming from that mold, it was definitely the theme of the night.


As soon as the doors opened, the music began. I chose to start on the Other Side, and on stage was a young DJ, Elijah, playing some mellow, down tempo and soulful beats to start out the night. Because it was a dual venue concert and every single artist/band playing was new to me, I went back and forth a lot, checking out both venues trying to get a feel of what each artist was doing. After a few minutes of taking in Elijah's set, I went through the door leading to the Masterpiece Ballroom to see what was going on there.


On the Ballroom stage was Damnesia-Vu, and he was dropping much harder beats in his set than were being played on the Other Side - dubstep tracks and remixes full of plenty of womp and wobble. It was still early so the crowd was sparse, but the crowd that was there in the Ballroom had no trouble getting down to the bass. I managed to catch him as he mixed in his remix of Martin Solveig's "Hello" to the delight of the crowd. I liked what Damnesia-Vu was doing, but I still had a long night ahead, and decided to keep it mellow on the Other Side until the next set change.

Even with a dozen performers, Cervantes' did a good job of minimizing downtime between sets. The start and finish times were staggered, allowing a performance to be on either side at all times. Before Elijah finished his set on the Other Side, Late Night Radio was up and running in the Ballroom, so I went back through the doors to see what he had to offer.

Late Night Radio

Late Night Radio kept the bass booming but matched it up with smooth soul. He set the tone early, dropping his original track "Big Dreams", a collage of soul, hip-hop and dubstep. I like how he tried to do things a little differently, putting in some clever remixes in his set. I like what he did with the classic song "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the M.G.'s, turning it into a bass heavy dance track without disrupting the original appeal of the song. The artist I'd best compare Late Night Radio's style to is Pretty Lights, so if that sounds appealing to you, check this guy out.

The Biz

Partway through Late Night Radio's set, there was action happening on the Other Side again. I went back to check it out and found The Biz had a jam session going on. The Biz was the first jamtronica group of the night to perform, and I was interested in seeing what they would do. They had a live drummer and two other members; one that would switch from bass to synth, and the other on guitar and synth. Both of them also manipulated sounds with computers. I was hoping to hear music like what they had their The Ancient Future album, complete with soul, hip-hop and a little turntableism thrown in. Instead, it was a completely improvised set, which was cool that they pulled it off, but to me, didn't have enough variety going on to my attention. I did enjoy the addition of video they had going on, but otherwise, once music started up again in the Masterpiece Ballroom I made another scene change.


Up on the Ballroom stage was the elusive LiveNDirect. I say they're elusive because I could find zero information on these guys prior to the show - no names, no pictures, no music, not even a description. It turns out, they are a live electronic duo; one on drums, the other controlling synths and a computer. Before this night, I'd only seen two other electronic jam bands live; Sound Tribe Sector 9, and Octopus Nebula. These guys definitely fell into that mold, keeping a steady rhythm and instrumental groove going throughout their set, having a pretty full sound even with only two people.

The Bizatron

I went back to the Other Side expecting to see a new band on stage, and there was one, just not the one I thought I was going to see. The members of The Biz were still on stage and the jam session was still in full effect, except now there were two additional bodies on stage. The two members of Gravitron went on stage with bass and electric guitars in hand, and proceeded to keep the groove going - a blend they later called The Bizatron. I thought it was a great idea, but I'm not so sure about the execution. There was a lot going on and they all tried to play off of each other, but by the end of the Biz/Bizatron set, I felt like the same song had been going on for about 90 minutes. I wanted to see what Gravitron was all about, but didn't exactly get to see it, and it left me feeling a bit empty.

I also really wanted to hear the more soulful and hip-hop aspects of The Biz, and didn't see that either. What they did was cool, but a little too abstract for me. I respect that it was all completely improvised and appreciate the dual band concept, but I wasn't really moved by it. I know The Biz is going on hiatus for a while, and I hope when they come back they do more stuff like the Al Green laced "The Gladness", the electro ska "How Long is a Moment?", or the take-off on the Dap-Kings they did with "Took Me By Surprise". I felt like what I witnessed on stage was the band in a practice session, when I'd rather see them perform the gold that emerges from when they jam on their own time.

Smooth Money Gesture

I went back to the Masterpiece Ballroom to check out some of the Nederland based six-piece band Smooth Money Gesture. These guys fit into the jam band theme, but are a completely analog band. It was a departure from what everyone else was doing for the night, and it seemed to have a mixed reaction from the crowd. Smooth Money Gesture had a good sized crowd into what they were doing, but it really wasn't my style so I did not catch most of their set. I made my way over to the now very packed Other Side to check out another band that was also doing things differently from the rest.


Tatanka was on the Other Side, playing a mix of reggae and dub to a very enthusiastic crowd. Tatanka performs as a four piece; they've got the usual drum set and guitar, but instead of a bass they have a keyboardist, and they have a band member handling effects to do live dub remixing of the band's performance. I really liked their straight instrumental dub songs and the progressive reggae they had going on. The combination of live dub effects and the crazy wompy bass synth sounds coming from the keyboardist set this band apart from other bands of the genre. I'm still up in the air about the songs that featured vocals - most seemed too much like other pop reggae rock groups out there and detracted from the uniqueness of their instrumental sound. Some were good, and I did like some of the crazier vocal tracks - the "I Am A Martian" song was nuts in a good way. Tatanka had one of the wildest crowds of the night, though, so they do have a lot of appeal. I'd definitely go see them again and am now a fan of the wompy reggae/dub.

J.Wail & Chuck

Tatanka finished their set and I went back to the Ballroom to catch the beginning of J.Wail and Chuck. This group was another addition to the electronic jam focused lineup. By this point, there were striking similarities with this group and the jamtronica bands that played before it. J.Wail's set did have a heavy jazz-funk influence though, and that was what set this band apart. I liked the concept of electronic jazz-funk, but the performance was another set of lengthy songs without much overall variation, so I made yet another trip back over to the Other Side.

Papa Skunk

There on stage was a Papa Skunk, laying down some dirty dubstep originals and remixes. I listened to Papa Skunk's recordings prior to the show, and I didn't think what I heard would translate into a good live set. It turned out, I was wrong. The guy has a lot of stage presence, and the way he moves on stage really feeds energy to the crowd. His original dubstep tracks were your usual bass heavy, womp tracks with simple but catchy melodies. I thought his strongest work was his remixes. He took familiar songs and changed them around completely.

I think the crowd really appreciated the remix work he did, because they were all mostly familiar with the original versions of the songs, but the remixes were presented so differently and hit so hard, it was like the music was completely new. His remixes got the walls rumbling and a packed Other Side crowd moving all over the dance floor. He injected high doses of bass into songs from all sorts of genres; he dropped dubstep versions of "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas, "How Low" by Ludacris, and many more. He completely took me by surprise when he played his remixed version of Marcy Playground's "Sex And Candy". The combination of all his work, originals and remixes, made for one hell of a live show.

Digital Beat Down

After Papa Skunk finished making the Other Side a sweaty mess, there was still a final set to go in both venues. Digital Beat Down came up last to close out the Other Side, an electronic jam band duo. After a night dominated by live electronic bands, I'd say at this point in the night it was hard for Digital Beat Down to set themselves apart, especially trying to compete with the national act, Damn Right! playing the Ballroom in the same time slot. I stuck around for a while trying to get a feel for these guys but it seemed what they were doing was derivative. Even when they started playing an off-shoot of the melody of "Seven Nation Army" and started jamming around that, it ended up just sounding repetitive on got old pretty fast. It may have just been fallout from hearing all the jamtronica bands before them, but I found myself making my way over to the Ballroom for one final time.

Damn Right!

Damn Right! is an electronic jam band as well, and even after following a night of bands of the same genre, they were able to set themselves apart with a sense of variety in their sound. The occasional addition of vocals also help set some of their songs apart, although I'm not sure about the guest female vocalist they had. I think the amount of experience this group has had helped them have one of the more polished performances of the night. They had a good framework for their songs and thus had a good understanding of where each other was going as the songs progressed. Much of their performance was based off of music they had released, so it was helpful knowing what to expect in their set. I liked the new songs they played, "Tidal Wave" and the catchy melody of the thematic song, "BMF".

Overall, the concert was a good experience. It gave me the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of new local bands. It also exposed me to a genre of electronic music I haven't heard much of - electronic jam bands. I'll have to admit, jam bands probably aren't really my thing. I appreciate the concept and I am not anti-improvisation; I just suppose it all boils down to what I talked about on this blog in the very beginning - discovery versus recognition. One of my favorite concert experiences featured a lot of improvisation back in 2008 when I went to see Matisyahu. The opener got stuck in a snow storm and couldn't make it to the show, so Matisyahu and his band came out early and played an extended set. They took the framework of their music, but made each song three to four times longer by adding a lot of improvised sections and crazy solos. It was the perfect balance of discovering something new, but still being able to recognize what was there.

I guess I need the comfort of a blueprint on where a song is going to go, because otherwise I get lost and gloss over the changes that slowly happen during jam band songs. All of the jamtronica bands had at least some parts that I enjoyed, but often those parts came in small doses wrapped around a lot of other stuff that, to me, sounded repetitive. The more abstract, completely improvised sets were the hardest for me to follow, but there were a good amount of people that seemed to enjoy that. If you like holding onto a groove for an extended period of time, and like to hear that groove subtly shape and change until it slowly morphs into something else, electronic jam bands may be what you're looking for. 

See more pictures from the show in the Facebook photo gallery. Don't forget to give the Concerted Effort page a 'like' so you can stay updated.

One Response so far.

  1. Phil Buck says:

    Great to get some feedback from the evening as well as get a glimpse and a feel for the other bands I couldn't catch! We hope when the Biz returns to the live scene, we will bring back that funky hip-hop sound you were looking for.

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