It came early and a little sudden, but we in Colorado know to expect the unexpected. We got our first snow of the season, and with it came chilling cold and wintry darkness - the perfect back story for the show that took place at the Hi-Dive Wednesday night. The Hi-Dive hosted a couple local bands and one touring band that all feature different varieties of moody sound, and for those willing to brave the cold, it was good show that went hand-in-hand with the change in weather.
Local indie rockers Spires opened up the night. The four members of Spires are Jake Lueck on bass, Marlon Chance on drums, Ian Gassman on guitar and Justin Sharp on vocals/guitar. They performed alternative rock songs that to me have an indie-pop appeal. The steady drumming in their songs kept an almost dancey beat, setting the backdrop for the intertwining guitar work of the band. I liked the clean approach to their guitar tones and the ample use of whammy bar and pitch bends that gave the band a floaty sound that is really appealing. The vocals were smooth, seemingly sharing melody duties with the guitar like another instrument in the mix rather than being right in the foreground of the sound, almost giving the band a shoegaze quality but being a much more defined sound.
I made it to their performance a little late, and caught them in the middle of their first song, "Blue Occupation", a song with a driving rhythm and atmospheric instrumentation that makes what initially seems like a solemn song sound somewhat uplifting. From there they went into a new song with a slower tempo but similar feel. "The Chicago Outfit" had a driving beat, but maintained a more emotive feel, making it a standout song. They played two more songs I wasn't familiar with and finished with the other two tracks from their EP, the almost '80s-esque "Predatory" and "Calm July". Overall, I think Spires has a great sound going for them. Their Wednesday night performance seemed to lack full energy since the small early crowd was made even smaller due to the snow and cold, but it gave me a good idea of what the band is capable of. I think indie alt-pop fans would really enjoy Spires. NOTE: Spires' gear was stolen early Thursday morning. If you see any of the gear pictured where it shouldn't be, let Spires know!
Next up was local darkwave group, Force Publique. Musically, Force Publique continued to deliver their style of sound in the fashion I have become accustomed to seeing - driving and danceably moody, with a healthy helping of darkness. This time around, the performance was mostly clean, although I noticed a couple hiccups from some of the synth lines, but nothing glaring. Otherwise, it was another showcase of the songs that make Force Publique one of my favorite local bands.
Although they played the same songs off their EP (except the newer song "The Open Cold"), they did do some things this time around that I hadn't seen before and thought made their set list much smoother. Every other time I've seen Force Publique, Cassie McNeil starts on the bass and then moves on to the keyboard to finish out the set. This time the order was reversed, starting with "Fortified", "Kinetic" and "Distorted + Thin". Then, Cassie switched to bass for the rest of the set, playing Force Publique's usual starting tune "Ache" in the middle of their set. I really liked the way they ended with "Still Falls Apart", because I sometimes thought they played that song too early and it would make their set feel somewhat anticlimactic ending with something else. Using that song as the finale really made the set feel like it peaked at just the right moment. If you are into dark-tinged electro music and you haven't checkout out Force Publiqe yet, get on it! These guys are great, especially on a cold dark night.
Headliners Young Prisms came out last to close out the show. For this live performance, they had five members - Jordan Silbert on drums, Matthew Allen on guitar/vocals, Stefanie Hodapp on lead vocals, Giovanni Betteo on bass and a fifth member to replace former guitarist Jason Hendardy who left the band earlier this year. I'd listened to their self-titled EP and album Friends For Now to get an idea of their sound prior to the show, so when I saw the band take the stage I was already a little confused before they even started playing - they have more than one singer, and one of them is female? That's because this band plays music that definitely features the 'Wall of Sound' quality of heavily distorted guitars that pretty much drowns out the not very melodic, heavily reverberated vocals, so I had assumed it was one guy singing.
I'm not trying to say the lead singer sounds like a guy, it's that the recorded vocals of Young Prisms are so de-emphasized they seem very anonymous, lifeless and buried way underneath the instrumental sound. Hearing it live, I understood why the recorded vocals were reverberated so heavily, because when they can be heard more cleanly like I heard them Wednesday night, they just aren't very good. I understand the shoegaze concept, but every song I heard seemed to pretty much be indistinguishable from the next - the similar droning guitar sounds and drums that just sounded like the same 16th note pattern on the hi-hat - not so much psychedelic, unless you get psyched out by being in an infinite loop of sound.
It didn't help that I couldn't recognize most of the material they played in their set list. I could only pick out "Weekends And Treehouses" from their first EP and "Breathless" from the album Friends For Now, but neither one of those songs live seemed to have the same appeal that was present on the recordings - especially because the vocals were not processed and came out more natural, which in this rare case wasn't something that helped the overall sound because that just meant one could more easily hear the tonal imperfections and the lack of melody made the vocals seem pointless at times. The material that I heard in the recordings was somewhat palatable, but what I saw live just ended up sounding noisy and boring. Perhaps if shoegaze is your thing, you may still want to check out this band. As for me, I have nothing against shoegaze, but I wouldn't use this band as a benchmark for the genre.
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