Friday night at the Marquis Theater, I never left Denver but I felt like I took a high-energy trip around the world through music. The Marquis Theater hosted three great local bands all playing music styles that originated from outside this country. The night offered a little bit of everything; Latin infused reggae, fast paced afrobeat, and high-energy ska. The bands all did well to be true to their respective genres while also infusing a bit of their own modern uniqueness to the various styles they were performing.

Mono Verde

Mono Verde opened up the night, and they brought a blend of reggae and Latin music with them to the Marquis Theater Friday night. They had a large band, a common theme on the night, with ten band members playing everything from guitar (electric and acoustic), trumpet, saxophone, bass, keyboards, drums, and various percussion. With those tools they created a fusion of slow tempo laid back reggae and spicy Latin rhythms. Mono Verde's music is what I like to call sexy hip-shaking reggae, as a lot of what they played was reggae mixed with sultry Latin rhythms such as salsa and samba. The crowd started out small and shy, but as Mono Verde's set went on, more people came to the floor and started to dance. By the last song, they had everyone dancing and singing along to a reggae-fied version of the Cuban classic, "Guantanamera".

Yuzo Nieto of Pink Hawks

Next up was the Pink Hawks, a local group dedicated to recreating the high-energy afrobeat sound. I started listening to afrobeat music a little over five years ago when I discovered Fela Kuti, and I've been hooked on that sound ever since. Needless to say, I was more than ecstatic to find out Denver had their own afrobeat band in Pink Hawks, so I was glad to finally get the chance to see them live. Another large ensemble, this band of nine used electric guitar, percussion, saxophone, trumpet, drums, keyboard, violin, bass and bongos to create their wickedly enjoyable sound.

Lannie Shelton rocking the afrobeat fiddle for Pink Hawks

The Pink Hawk's performance was incredibly enjoyable, as they hit the crowd hard with a handful of epic and hypnotically rhythmic musical gems. They opened their set with the poly-rhythmic afro-jazz affair "Everything is Poetry", which immediately engaged the whole crowd and had them moving wildly on the dance floor. While the percussion section held down a steady beat and the bassist fed the crowd an infectious bass line, the other instrumentalists traded off wild solos in between sections of chanty vocals. True to most songs in the afrobeat genre, the song clocked in nice and lengthy - a little over fifteen minutes, yet for the members of the audience, that time flew by in a flash during a session of untamed dancing.

Koffi Toudji of Pink Hawks ready to hear you scream

Somehow, the Pink Hawks managed to kick up the energy with each successive song, taking it sky high for the finale of their set. When it came time to perform the final song "Separate the Corporation and the State", the Pink Hawks called up members of The Dendrites to join in on the performance, and many members of that band obliged, adding their instruments to the mix. At that point the crowd was already going insane, but with about fifteen people on stage blasting the song energetically, the crowd was hopeless but to dance without inhibition. The Pink Hawks even got the crowd involved, as percussionist Koffi Toudji picked up a microphone and challenged various members of the audience to belt out their loudest wail - it was very intensely fun to watch. I knew going into this show, based on the virtue of the Pink Hawks being an afrobeat band alone, the energy level was going to be through the roof. After actually witnessing it occur, the energy was through the roof and into the stars - it was just that much fun and that incredibly good.

KBone Larsen of The Dendrites

Just when I thought I'd seen one of the more energetic performances I've had the pleasure of seeing in a long time, somehow there was more energy to be found. It was time for the headliners to perform, and another large ensemble stormed the stage, this time Denver's own The Dendrites. This ten piece band had two guitars, two percussionists, two saxophones, a trumpet, a trombone, a drummer and a bassists, and all together they produced vintage instrumental ska with incredible authenticity.

Mont Brown of The Dendrites

I've already exhausted the word energetic describing the two previous bands, but I'm going to have to reach into that bag one more time. The Dendrites were definitely energetic, although with this band, it was a little bit different. When a band can get an entire venue skanking so hard the floor shakes to every offbeat, I can only label that amount of energy dendritic. It's like this band is already well aware that their brand of music is like a shot of electricity directly to the brain.

Squidds Madden of The Dendrites

From start to finish, the Dendrites were absolutely phenomenal. They played a lot of upbeat, wall shaking ska with songs like "Flight School", "Gumbo Hustle" and "Sol Songo". They were able to keep the crowd engaged throughout every song, and at some points, were engulfed within the crowd itself. At one point, Dendrites trumpeter Squidds Madden left the stage and played among the crowd, joined by the trumpeters from Mono Verde and Pink Hawks. Of course when the crowd saw this they managed to find a way to go even wilder than they had all night. Even The Dendrites' slower, easier tempo songs like "Armed and Opposed" and "Sebsi" had the crowd hanging on to the groove and dancing all the way through. It was an incredible experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching not only the band perform, but the crowd dancing in reaction to the awesome music the band was producing.

I've been to a lot of shows, both where there was a ton of energy in the venue and also some where there was none to be found. Friday night at the Marquis Theater was an extreme case of the performers and crowd having ridiculous amounts of energy, and it made it one of the most memorable concert experiences I've had in a long time. If you are a fan of reggae, afrobeat and ska, I guarantee you will have an amazing time seeing one of these bands perform. Having all three put together in the same show? I don't know how they got away with it - putting a show together with three bands that were this much fun should border on being criminal.

See more pictures from this show in the Facebook photo album. Like the Concerted Effort page and stay updated!

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