Back when I first heard about this concert, I was told it was going to be a pop punk show. Pop punk isn't exactly my favorite genre, and I can't say I've seen any big names from the genre live, but I still wanted to check out the show since it featured local bands I've yet to see. But as I looked into the show further, I started to anticipate the show with a renewed sense of excitement. It turned out all five bands had something different going on, and it seemed only one, maybe two at most, of the bands would be pop punk. There was a smaller turnout for this show than most, but most of the bands still went and performed like they had the desired crowd. Looking back, I saw four good bands all presenting a different form of rock, and one band that seemed to try their best to mar the entire occasion. I'll get to how the night ended sour at the Larimer Lounge, but first I'll talk about the good stuff.
|Bobby Bradford of Statue of Liberty|
Statue of Liberty started the evening, an early start at that, as the sun was still shining brightly outside and sunlight made its way to the stage through the open venue doors. I usually get to the show before the opener begins and although I came straight from work, Monday's early start meant I missed the first fifteen minutes or so of Statue of Liberty's set. I'd listened to their The Upstate EP a few times before catching the live set and had an idea of what to expect. The singer-songwriter joined with a female vocalist aspect of this band instantly made me think of She & Him - albeit a more peppy, pop-like, sparkly She & Him based off what I'd heard on the recordings.
|Marywood Kate of Statue of Liberty|
Seeing Statue of Liberty live was a different story, but in a good way. They didn't have any of the extraneous production that was present on their recording - no drums, no bass, no electric guitar. It was simply Bobby Bradford on acoustic guitar, Marywood Kate on keyboard, and the occasional inclusion of Brandon Hagen on mandolin. Honestly, I thought what I heard live was much better, more wholesome, and more organic than the studio versions. The mandolin was a nice touch, making the group come off more like a folk band than something between folk and pop rock.
|Brandon Hagen of Statue of Liberty|
They performed songs off of The Upstate EP and included some other unreleased material. My favorite song off of the EP was "Thick of It All", and it was definitely a standout in their performance with the minimalist guitar/keyboard/mandolin setup. It turns out that was the very first song Bradford and Kate wrote together, and you could tell it was an important song to this group by their heartfelt delivery. I also really enjoyed a song they haven't yet released titled "The Days Gone By". If there was a "trance" category in folk music like there is in electronic music, this song would be it. It had an awesome psychedelic intro that really captivated me. Statue of Liberty just recently (the day before the show, in fact) moved to Denver, so although they are originally from Iowa, they now call Denver home. Hopefully their experience here will help add new dimensions to their music allowing them to really progress their sound. I like what they have going so far and especially like their music without the extra glitter. I'm eager to see if that works into their identity in the future.
|Bryan Ralph of Long Live The Liar|
Long Live The Liar, was the next band up on stage. I originally thought these guys sounded like a blend of two genres - singer-songwriter meets pop punk. Now that I've seen them live, I'm not so sure there's that much pop punk in there really. It was the recorded vocals that led me to this originally belief, but in the live set the vocals didn't have that same pop sheen I was expecting. The punk aspect was still there, but it was more like singer-songwriter meets emo punk and acoustic post-grunge. This band also performed without some of the extra production present on their recordings, performing with two guitars and sometimes a harmonica. But this time, I felt like they needed some more layers in their music to set this band apart.
|Rob Verosko of Long Live The Liar|
I did enjoy the performance. Long Live The Liar performs with a likable simple earnestness and a nearly tangible amount of passion. However, because of the similarity in instrumentation from song to song, it was hard to really pick out one from another. The only one I could really pick out from the rest was "Someone Still Loves You", a piece that really encompasses all the cross-genre style they've got going on. The potential for Long Live The Liar is there, so I hope to see this band bloom in the future.
|Brian Vogt of Forget Me Not|
Forget Me Not came up next in the lineup, and I'd been hesitant to call this band pop punk because it seemed like they had other alternative rock influences going on in their music when I heard their recordings. I'd still agree that there are other aspects in their music, but after seeing them live, I'd have to say that they come off very pop punk on stage. I mentioned before pop punk isn't my favorite genre, but it was hard not to feel the copious amount of energy present in every member of this band as they played their songs. The band gets really into performing their music, and they have great stage presence.
|Brian Vogt and Vanessa Spear of Forget Me Not|
Brian Vogt and Vanessa Spear make a great vocal team, but Vogt's powerful yet emotional vocal style is definitely in the forefront. Still, I really liked how the two play off of each other in their songs, and would like to hear more songs with call and response like "Every Step". I like how Vanessa sounds in harmony, but am curious how she would sound if given the chance to be the featured voice in more songs - I think it'd work out well. As for the rest of the band, they were great at producing full sounding instrumentation and adding to the high energy presentation of this band. Since Forget Me Not's music isn't in a genre I'd normally listen to, their recorded music isn't something I'd revisit often, but if I was looking for a high energy live performance, Forget Me Not definitely delivers.
|Nathan Medina of The Canvas Waiting|
Finally, it was time for the headliners, The Canvas Waiting, to perform. I was ready to see how they presented their brand of alternative rock with pop appeal. It turned out, these guys are quite the showmen, and it took me by surprise. They started with "Ghosts", a song that starts with a quiet guitar riff that forms a pleasant background to Nathan Medina's passionate vocal style, but the instrumentation quickly builds and explodes shortly into the song, with each band member erupting along with it. As soon as I saw that, I was drawn in, and they kept that enthralling high energy throughout the whole rest of their set.
|The Canvas Waiting had the highest energy level of the night|
The crowd was small and most were timid at first, but it didn't take long for The Canvas Waiting to draw everyone in. It's amazing that they balance solemn emotion in their songs with an incredible amount of instrumental energy. It makes the music moody but calls the listeners body to movement. I especially liked the balance of emotion and energy I heard in "Darkness Into Day" and "Barcelona". Again, thematic/emotional alternative rock isn't exactly a genre I listen to often, but it is hard for me to deny that this is a talented group at what they do and one of the more polished, passionate and energetic representatives of the genre I've seen out there. I highly recommend this band to fans of the genre.
Last and most definitely least was the band Calibrate Me. They were an extremely disrespectful and pouty young group flush with a sense of entitlement and a ridiculous degree of unfounded arrogance. From the moment they started to play their abbreviated set, it was apparent to me that this band had a negative attitude about being where they were that night. They kept quipping about the taste of mild success they had experienced the other day after winning some contest, and their minds seemed to be living in that past moment rather than focusing on the current task at hand - playing a show to the patrons of the Larimer Lounge.
They played their first song somewhat sloppy and complained about how they could have had more people at the show had they the opportunity to play in front of a larger crowd the day before. As a member of the audience, that seemed like a verbal slap in the face, a sort of thanks but no thanks to you for showing up, we wish other people were here instead. They then rudely remarked about the quality of the sound, yet when the sound crew offered suggestions on how to improve it, they didn't actually follow through on the advice and tried to play their next song. As a listener, the sound quality sounded OK to me, yet the band continued to complain as if the venue was trying to sabotage their sound. But hey, these kids should know, right? I mean after all, as they were sure to continually repeat, they did just win some contest - I guess that means they have standards now. Yet somehow, the quality of the sound was too poor for this band, and they abruptly ended their second song.
"All I can hear is bass, this is terrible!" complained the lead singer. "Turn down the bass amp," said the sound crew. The band looked at the sound crew incredulously, didn't make any changes, shrugged off the advice and began to play what would be their final song. At this point, I was absolutely disgusted by this band's arrogance. How is it that four bands were able to play on the very same stage before without a hitch and suddenly the sound quality deteriorates for the final band? It's not like these guys were the headliner - The Canvas Waiting just finished a very quality set moments before these guys. These guys were the closers, and it almost seemed like they were using the quality of the sound as a scapegoat for them not wanting to close out a show to a small crowd. They began playing their third song, and thirty seconds into it the drummer threw up his hands and said "That's it, we're done. We're not playing here again." I couldn't help but think to myself I certainly hope these brats never do. The band began to tear down their instruments, not even fifteen minutes into their time slot.
I like how Calibrate Me kept talking about the contest they won, and kept talking about how that moment was one of the highlights of their young lives. Apparently, that also meant in their minds that they "made it" and didn't have to grind out shows anymore, because they certainly disrespected the crowd and the venue by bailing on their performance. I hope they cherish the memory of winning that contest forever, because if this is the band's attitude, I can't see them getting much further than that. It's not like their form of derivative pop punk is something musically amazing, and when it's delivered with such a high degree of immaturity it just makes me shake my head. Don't waste your time with this band. In the end I'm pretty glad they cut the show short because at least I didn't have to endure their music, and what they did was probably way more entertaining than anything I would have heard in their songs.
It was a bad way to end the night, but I still enjoyed the show. The four bands before played with passion and humility, and I always respect when a band goes out and performs their best for a crowd no matter how large or small. I respect when bands are grateful to be wherever they are because it gives them a chance to do what they love - share their music. I also respect when bands work with what they have despite whatever shortcomings arrive and do the best they can to offer the best live experience.
I can't imagine how Calibrate Me would react if some of the things that I've seen happen to other bands happened to them - missing band members, playing on borrowed gear because gear got stolen/lost, major problems with sound equipment (one show I was at had virtually no audible vocals at all, but the bands still played the best they could), or playing in a time slot they aren't used to. It makes me sick knowing there are other bands out there that work harder yet stay humble and get less recognition, while a mediocre band that gets its first taste of mild success suddenly becomes demanding prima donnas. I hope Statue of Liberty, Long Live The Liar, Forget Me Not and The Canvas Waiting continue to hone their craft, further their musical reach, and achieve success. As for that other band, a lot of maturity and perspective would do them good, but even if they somehow learn that, there is only one chance to make a first impression, and I know I never want to waste my time ever trying to see them again.
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