A sold out show at the Hi-Dive is always fun. The Drums were making their Denver stop on a warm and windy Thursday evening. I was happy to be double-teaming the evening's event with Peter, who is a photo ninja whereas I'm still in the apprentice stage. I ran into Dustin from the newly-opened Happy Coffee (yay!) as soon as we arrived, who had helped me with my camera settings during the Damien Jurado show I covered. The show started early and Peter and I blew through the front door right after the first band's set began.

Part Time

Part Time is a full-time band that is part chillwave and part 80s movie soundtrack. The band dressed in newsboy hats, corduroy and sunglasses, and with straight faces while they performed mostly songs from their 2011 debut album, What Would You Say?. Their music is very trance-like: there are a lot of repetitive keyboard hooks paired with an electric drum kit and low, fuzzy vocals. There was no trance happening at the Hi-Dive however - with a sold out show and it barely being the 8:00 hour, the crowd was already filling up the small venue and the bar staff was very busy letting everyone know about their strict wristband policy for the night’s 16 and up show. Singer Davida Loca quietly asked the audio technician if there was time for one more song, his bandmates stood frozen like bearded karaoke dolls waiting to be activated by the start of the next song. I couldn’t help but find the Woody Allen-esque expression revealed by Loca’s furrowed eyebrows that peeked above his aviator shades as he was looking towards the dark pit of the Hi-Dive’s standing area where the sound booth was. While greetings were being made, the band turned heads and set up a good vibe for the rest of the evening.

Craft Spells

Just Paul Vallesteros was wearing a v-neck that almost exactly matched the color of his guitar, his hair a perfectly curled coif. Not a photo shoot, but rather standing in front of the crowded room which had filled up to see the Craft Spells play before the Drums began. The foursome took to the stage with brightly-colored guitars, jean jackets and wind-blown hair - the performance begged for a beach scene backdrop on the Hi-Dive stage (scenery backdrops is an excellent idea regardless of the band playing, just putting it out there if anyone from the Hi-Dive is reading this!). The songs Craft Spells played carried more resonance and punch than their album counterparts with louder guitars and a full drum kit. In particular I am thinking of “Party Talk” which has a subdued and consistent drum track on the recorded version, but the live version began with a cymbal crash that spawned a dancy domino effect that didn’t end until the song had spent itself. I imagine this song to be used appropriately in a movie scene where a teen girl opens her locker door on the eve of a big party where she might see the cutest boy in school, and she finds a crumpled note that reads, “See you tonight. - Cute Boy”. Then the director wouldn’t show the girl’s facial response, but would cut to her hand as it shut her locker door and just then that first cymbal crash comes through. And the audience would dance.

Craft Spells

Craft Spells played some new tracks from their yet-to-be-released EP Gallery, officially out on May 15. Vellesteros took a moment to address the crowd and let us know that he had no real tie to Denver besides the hockey games he played here as a kid, and later mentioned that he was impressed with the night's turnout. I’m sure the singer of Craft Spells may have been disappointed by the turnout at his childhood hockey games, but he should expect much more for the Craft Spells crowds. The group will be playing for enormous crowds at this year’s Sasquatch Music Festival during Memorial Day weekend.

The Drums

As I mentioned, this was a sold-out event and the crowd was getting hot and bothered as they crowded to see the surf-rock inspired group, the Drums, take the stage. I am about an imp-ish tall person, so in situations like this, I have found it’s better to find higher ground at the small Hi-Dive. That means I go and stand by the band equipment near the sound booth, and do my best to be cautious of the steps that are nearly impossible to see in the black backroom. I wasn’t expecting a mosh pit to erupt but I knew there would be excitement, and dancing and girls; with a combination like that you can at least expect things to be elbowed or drinks to be spilled or in some cases your flip-flop will be kicked off your foot and slide underneath the stage never to be seen again. The Drums took the stage hesitantly, they needed the audio technician to help them find the stairs up to the stage in the midst of the intense crowding. They began the night with “Forever and Ever Amen” from their self-titled 2010 release. As soon as the song started, I was immediately taken by how awesome these guys sounded. With three albums under their belts, I had yet to see this band live and it suddenly dawned on me the moment that first song began I would be seeing them perform some of my favorite songs. I wasn’t the only one who was excited; there was various points in the night where my vantage point afforded me the opportunity to see large pockets of listeners jump energetically at the start of a song, or a person reach to grab someone’s hand to drag them closer to the stage.

The Drums

Jonathan Pierce is a powerful force of vocal magnificence and bodily motion. He sings amazingly: he hits all the notes, his voice is strong and never breaks and he moves along with the music perfectly. He should teach a class on how to dance like he does. Actually, what Pierce does on stage is probably a special power of his that can’t simply be taught. If I had any say in his superhero alter ego, I might call him “Tiny Dancer” as his main power would be his magnificent form, but he would remain lethally disguised as many wouldn't expect that so much sound and movement could be delivered from this slight and sweet young hipster. I’m sure Elton John had a similar experience when he wrote the song of the same title. And yes, I am oddly tempted to hand out superhero alter egos wantonly with all of the Avengers buzz going on this weekend; I apologize in advance if its a gauche display of pop-culturedom. I especially enjoyed this particular walking-in-place, side-gaze/doo wop move Pierce did intermittently on songs like “Book of Stories” and “Money”. Pierce is absolutely mesmerizing on stage, and I really do envy him his grace and talent.

Similarly to Craft Spells, the group’s music sounded fuller compared to the albums, which might be explained by the two bandmates they added to the touring line-up from New York City’s Violens: Myles Matheny and Chris Stein. It seemed a perfect pairing, as everyone played the song perfectly and the audience responded in kind. When the band played "I Need Fun In My Life," the group leaned into the chorus ("I need fun, fun, fun / fun, fun, fun . . .") and with each repetition of the word "fun" the audience's response was to be noisier, whether they were singing along or otherwise having fun. On the recorded version, Pierce's lonely voice echoes into a hollow space that expresses the absence of fun and it seems appropriately coupled with the minimalist instrumental arrangement on that song. At the close of the song, even Pierce seemed impressed by how well the song sounded with a full band, which probably prompted him to express to the crowd his appreciation. "Myles Matheny, everyone. One of the great loves of my life. In a friendly way." The group went into "I Felt Stupid" and later "Days," two songs on the farther ends of the Drums' discography, which just goes to show how well these two additions did as far as learning all of the music to do these tours. Hopefully we will see them as permanent additions soon!

The Drums ended their set with crowd favorites "Down by the Water" and "Let's Go Surfing"; everyone was singing and dancing. As the Drums dismounted the stage, Pierce took a moment for a fan picture before disappearing out the back door to the group's tour van. It's great when you get to see a band as popular as the Doors play such a small venue like the Hi-Dive, but I'm sure they will opt for more spacious digs for the next tour that stops in Denver.

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

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