Friday September 14 was just another day on Colfax, but appearances can be deceiving. Many a night have I walked these Denver streets thinking I may have stumbled onto the set of the newest apocalypse-themed movie where the world has already lost most of the living to [insert here: zombies, disease, water, asteroids, magic]. Similar nights have exposed the inconspicuous bars and venues to be contrary to what their outward appearances would have you believe. Even on Colfax, the longest road in America and a magnet for rowdy troublemakers, things seemed pretty tame as I made my way to the Bluebird Theater to catch the double-headliners Rubblebucket and Reptar.
The opening act, Icky Blossoms were the opening band and this stop in Denver was their first night playing with the tour lineup. These Nebraskans are based in Omaha and are on the famed emo staple of yore, Saddle Creek Records. Their sound bends toward to the Faint end of the spectrum rather than the Bright Eyes end. They will actually be playing a few shows with The Faint in November and December which would be a great pairing for any electro-indie music lovers out there. When I walked into the Bluebird, loud dance beats pervaded the auditorium, almost louder than what would be normal had more bodies been present to absorb the sound. Clearly propped against the wall were two large, silvery boxes that would later come to life, but sitting there propped up they looked totally natural and I barely gave them a second glance. Singer Sarah Bohling asked in between songs, "Who here likes porn?" to which she got little reaction, maybe due to a lack of audience or a lack of porn enthusiasts. The front row was filled with day-glo "x"-handed kids who most likely did like porn but didn't want to be judged by the handful of people that would be around to hear them say so. It's better not to react or stand out or put yourself out there for judgement, when you are younger right? Well the attitude pervades throughout age barriers and stereotypes. During the last song, "Heat Lightening," the band members had affixed large colorful LED lights to their persons and the stage was glowing like the day-glo hats and shirts of the front row audience.
When it was time for Reptar to begin their set, a sizable crowd had formed in the lower floor area and around the main stage. For one of the first times in my patronage of the Bluebird, I noticed that the stage left area had been roped off as a sort of VIP space. I think it was mainly for the artists, since there was 14 of them all together that night and probably not enough space for them to all fit into the backstage designated artist area. A great wave of excitement was tangible as the foursome came on stage with their modest presentation, the only one of the three bands without flashing-light accessories. What Reptar lacking in flashing apparati, they made up for with flashy dance moves. There is rhythm in my soul, but that rhythm has never translated well to the physical outpourings that may result when the time comes to let loose; seeing Graham Ulicny and Jace Bartet 's dance mastery was at once inspiring and entrancing. Especially Bartet -- I mean that guy is rhythm incarnate; seeing him dance just made you want to smile and dance along with him, like a trippy Pied Piper.
Ulicny was able to move in time with the music and used his body as an instrument for maneuvering multiple mics, guitar-pacing and jamming, and various motions to either his left or right. Chuck Klosterman look-a-like Ryan Engelberger was mostly stationary, making a break to fetch a handmade rose crown that was tossed at the stage from the audience. William Kennedy on the keyboard was a sight in his glittery pants, and would occasionally let loose burst of energy that saw him jump at least 3 feet in the air and created a hair display as he let his long tresses sway from side to side. There was of course a drummer, but these four created a wall of sound and dance that veiled Andrew McFarland and his magical percussion was a backdrop to the stage, just like the fog machine or the marijuana leaf beach towel used as an amp cover. The band played from their limited arsenal of songs, having only recently released their first full-length album Body Faucet and having an EP besides that. Highlights from the set were "Sebastian" (Ulicny here remarked, "This is a song about the first time I kissed a boy"), "Rainbounce" (from their EP Oblangle Fizz Y'all), and "Orifice Origami" (lots of dancing on stage for that one). I must recommend that anyone who has yet to see Reptar live please do so the very next chance you get; you won't be disappointed. If you don't like having fun, you may be disappointed.
The floodgates opened after Reptar's set and the setting was simultaneously deplete of most day-glo youngsters and filled to the gills with dreaded, loosely clothed hippies. A full-fledged transformation took place in the Bluebird's musical chambers, to which I may again refer to my stance on the unassuming nature of Denver's haunts. I had no idea how much more raucous the stage could be, and soon found out that Rubblebucket comes with an energy that many can warm up to, young punks and hippies alike. When Rubblebucket was setting up their blacklights and neon mic stand scraves, I made my way down to try and get some good photos of the band. I had heard that they liked to dress up, that there were stage props and such, so I wanted to grab a few good photos as I noticed the venue was getting considerably less spacious and more crowded. A young Boulder couple were swaying and slurring in a way that seemed dangerously closed to alcohol poisoning or (more likely) under the influence of some hallucinegens. They commented on my camera, let me know that I was in for a treat once Rubblebucket started, and offered to sell me something that I couldn't quite catch for at that same moment the audience roared to life as the band members took the stage.
Not quite an eight person ensemble this evening, the group was comprised of a trombonist and trumpeter, two guitars, a drummer and the singer/sax player. The additional keyboard player was Reptar's Kennedy, possibly filling in for a missing member. When singer Kal Traver walked up to the mic, the crowd roared and all the band members switched on large led fixtures hanging from their necks. The group sounds like a pop band, but moves like a reggae band or a jam band; I am particularly fond of the choreographed moves of the horn players. During their set, Rubblebucket played a crowd-pleasing rendition or remix of "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, with Traver's alto interpretation of Debbie Harry and many electronic loops and horn solos thrown in the mix. It was during this song that I noticed the silvery robot contraptions had come to life with glowing eyes and waving arms, making their way through the crowd and spilling beers along the way. It was a site to behold, and many of the concert-goers were fully entranced by the dancing robots, a few high-fives given here and there. The crowd was 100% in motion up until the last song before encore "Came Out of a Lady" which had me dancing, so much so in fact that I kneed the metal handrail in front me out of joy; a joy bruise the next day.
After the show, my head was swimming with sounds and I could still see flashing lights from all of the LED apparati. I was so entranced after the show that I walked right past a friend who was calling my name and waving at me from the East High School lawn. A great lineup and a great night of transformations from Rubblebucket, Reptar and Icky Blossoms. See more pictures from the show online on our Facebook Album.