Denverfest Post Mortem coming soon

What a weekend! I’ll be blogging about this extensively later today (as time permits, I have midterms to finish grading and lecture to prepare), but for the moment, here’s a nifty photo of Neil from Planes Mistaken for Stars from their show with Christie Front Drive, Crestfallen and the Volts at the Marquis Theater.

Denverfest, a Journal in Various Chapters

1:22 PM, Lindbergh Field Airport, San Diego, California

Seven hours later than expected, I’m sipping a beer and waiting to hop aboard a Frontier Airlines (the one with the animals on the tail and the free DirecTV in the seats) flight to Denver. I arrived at the airport at 5:20 AM, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to realize I’d forgotten my ATM card. I then made the first of a series of colossal judgment errors. I got out of line, went home, and began to look for it. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say I’m no Patton when it comes to making decisions under fire.

All that’s behind me now. What lies ahead is three days of brotherhood, camaraderie, and good music. I feel the way about Denverfest that I imagine lots of people feel about the Pitchfork Festival, or Street Scene, or any one of the giant festivals that goes on every summer. Events like Sessions Fest and Denverfest may lack the big names, but at least they provide genuine good times.

Elitist that I am, I can’t help but think that most stadium shows are the cultural equivalent of shopping at Wal-Mart. I like my musicians at a human scale–separated by inches, or feet, not by hundreds of yards, a rugby team worth of yellow-jacketed weightlifters and several million dollars worth of marketing.

When I get to Denver I’ll grab my rental car and head immediately to the venue, hopefully in time to see Fucking Orange, and definitely with enough time to spare to catch the Forecast and Kylesa, the highlights of my particular evening.

The Forecast will be new to me, but they are tight with friends of mine and therefore make the team automatically. I saw Kylesa for the first time this past year at the Fest in Gainesville. It was late, I was very, very drunk, and in retrospect I have no idea where I was or whom I was with, except that I’m pretty sure Jason Hendrix was there, and I’m pretty sure Chuck French, from Git Some and Planes, was there too. And the kids from Fifth Hour Hero. Us, and 100 or so of our closest friends saw Kylesa put stoner metal, psychedelia and grunge into a blender and hit “liquify.” I think they may be scenemates of ASG, a band that works similar territory but with a little too much bro-down for me to get very excited about it.

Hey cat dirt, I’m mounting an expeditionary force of my own…

Some call it a cow town. Sure, it’s a cow town, in the same sense that Brooklyn is an Italian ghetto, San Diego is a Catholic mission and I am a zygote. Denver is a wonderful city, in my opinion. Close to the mountains, 300+ days of sunshine a year, a city with an ethos that’s at once aw-shucks Midwestern hospitality and frontier DIY ethic. All four major sports teams, a thriving art and music scene, and cost of living that’s almost 50% less than it is here.

I will drink your beer, eat your wonderful vegan food and partake of your fairest of all summer treats: the 3-day bro- and sis-fest that is Denverfest. My plane leaves in 15 hours…and I can hardly wait.

Haven’t heard any specifics about the Christie Front Drive show yet, except that the online pre-sale appears to have done a brisk business. This should be interesting, and you can bet I’ll be updating as often as I can over the next three days.

My D-fest Schedule:

Traffic/level of inebriation willing, this is what I’ll be tracking down this weekend at Denverfest.

Friday:
6 – Ryan Windham: I’m hoping it’s Barry Windham‘s son, but I’m probably wrong.
7 – Brainhammer: From the name, I’m expecting smooth jazz.
8 – Bailer: One of my favorite Denver bands, and one that’s jumped up a notch.
9 – Across Tundras: Sludge, grime, and red sunsets set to operatic doom.
10 – The Forecast/Autokinoton: Tough call. Something you’ve never seen vs. something you love?
11 – Kylesa: See Across Tundras–and rocket fuel.
12 – Red Sparrowes: See Across Tundras, add pretty pictures, Isis (it’s an Isis side project).

Saturday:
5 – Big Timber: Trevor from Bailer will be a busy man this weekend.
6 – El Minotaur: D&D Rock en Espanol?
7 – Low Oriole: Played with these guys not too long ago.
8 – New American Ramblers: Gonna get me some old time religion.
9 – Crestfallen: Heller’s band from back in the day. Denver emo-punk stalwarts.
10 – Planes Mistaken for Stars: FUCK YEAH. RIP.
11 – Christie Front Drive: Back from the dead for one night only.

Sunday:
6 – City of Ships: Just sounds pretty.
7 – Ghost Buffalo: Bros (and sister).
8 – Git Some: Apologies for playing favorites, but Denver’s best punk band right now.
9 – Red Cloud/Mustangs and Madras: Our erstwhile tourmates and brothers in arms.
10 – Golden City: From Brooklyn, with pieces of Christie Front Drive
11 – Think in French: So glad we’re getting to share this experience with them.
12 – TNA plays: One last time, with feeling.

Denverfest shows and set times ANNOUNCED…

They’re all here. Highlight shows of each night, in my opinion:

Friday: Marquis Theater, all ages
Smoke or Fire, The Forecast, Concrete Cleaner, Bailer, Eyes and Ears

Saturday: Marquis Theater, all ages
Christie Front Drive, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Crestfallen, The Volts

Sunday: Arapahoe Warehouse, all ages
The North Atlantic, Think in French, Golden City, Red Cloud, Git Some, El Toro de la Muerte, Jor Dan, Polar Opposite Bear

TNA’s last show is the last slot of the entire festival, and nothing else is scheduled for that time slot. I’m guessing things will get weird.

Denverfest lineup is OUT

DenverFest 3 LINE-UP

It would be ridiculous of me to try and point out all the “highlights” (personal and otherwise) to which I’m looking forward. This will be my first look at Smoke or Fire, The Forecast, and my first look in a while at several others. In the interest of festival spirit, I’ll be posting writeups of a few bands each day in the run-up to the three day festival, which takes place from August 31 to September 2 in the mile high city.

Across Tundras (Denver)
Arms for Hands (Wichita, KS)
Autokinoton (Denver)
Bad Weather California (Denver)
Bailer (Denver)
Battlefields (Fargo, ND)
Big Timber (Denver)
Bosnia (Denver)
Brainhammer (Denver)
Joseph Childress (San Francisco, CA)
Christie Front Drive (Denver)
City of Ships (Richmond, VA)
Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (Denver)
Concrete Cleaner (Wichita, KS)
Crestfallen (Denver)
Dead Commuter (Wichita, KS)
Dead to Me (San Francisco, CA)
Dugout Canoe (Denver)
El Minotaur (Springfield, MO)
El Toro de la Muerte (Colorado Springs)
Empires (Minneapolis, MN)
The Empress (Wichita, KS)
Epileptinomicon (Denver)
Eyes and Ears (Denver)
Falcon Crest (Minneapolis, MN)
The Forecast (Peoria, IL)
Fucking Orange (Denver)
Ralph Gean (Denver)
Ghost Buffalo (Denver)
The Golden City (New York)
The Green Fuse (Denver)
Gryphyns (Galena, IL)
The Hope Symphony (Sacramento, CA)
Horace Van Vaughn (Denver)
The Ians (Denver)
Jah Tool (New York)
Jor Dan (Tulsa, OK)
Kingdom of Magic (Denver)
Kylesa (Savannah, GA)
La Columna Quebrada (Denver)
Lady Speech (Denver – spoken word)
Lethe (Lawrence, KS)
Lion Sized (Denver)
Los Dos and the New American Ramblers (Denver)
Lost Hands Found Fingers (Cincinnati, OH)
Low Oriole (Hutchinson, KS)
Machine Gun Blues (Denver)
Minsk (Denver)
Modernstate (Portland, OR)
motheater (Denver)
Mouth Movements (Knoxville, TN)
Mustangs & Madras (Denver)
New Dialect (Denver)
The New Rome (Denver)
No Plot Kill (Denver)
The North Atlantic (San Diego, CA)
Paradox (Denver)
Pictureplane. (Denver)
Planes Mistaken for Stars (Denver)
Red Cloud West (Denver)
Red Sparowes (Los Angeles, CA)
The Revenge (Phoenix, AZ)
Scorpion Child (Austin, TX)
Samothrace (Lawrence, KS)
Sherpas Ruse (Iowa City, IA)
The Short Histories of Powerful Nations (Springfield, MO)
Smoke or Fire (Boston, MA)
Spirit of the Stairs (Wichita, KS)
Stereotyperider (Phoenix, AZ)
Tarmints (Denver)
Think in French (Reno, NV)
The Valley Arena (Long Beach, CA)
Viper : Viper (Denver)
The Volts (Denver)
Weather is Happening (Wichita, KS)
Whiskey Kiss (Denver)
Ryan Windham (Wichita, KS)
You’ll Be A Torso (Wichita, KS)

Denverfest lineup out TOMORROW…

…but that’s no reason I can’t engage in some speculation right now.

Let’s start with the obvious:
Christie Front Drive
Golden City
The North Atlantic

I know those guys are playing.

Let’s move to pure speculation, based on things I’ve heard, things people have said, things I may or may not have made up:
Mastodon
Cursive
Avail
The Autokinoton
Red Cloud West
Ghost Buffalo
Bailer
Mustangs and Madras
Across Tundras
Git Some
Planes Mistaken for Stars (one of their last shows)
Hawks and Doves
Think in French
Crestfallen (reunion show?)
Munly and the Harlots
Machine Gun Blues
These Arms are Snakes
High on Fire
Kylesa
Glass and Ashes

Planes Mistaken for Stars, RIP

Planes, circa 2007

Planes, circa 1997

Planes Mistaken for Stars, Denver-by-way-of-Peoria emo/punk/hardcore barbarians, are calling it quits. I’m glad that their last tour, a bro-fest blow out with Mastodon, Against Me! and Cursive, was a lot of fun and got them in front of the kind of audiences they’ve long deserved. The North Atlantic had the pleasure of touring with these guys for three months last year. They are great people and wonderful friends who, I am sure, I will know for a great many years.

I’m long going to wonder and scratch my head at the way that their last label, Abacus, chose to deal with their record. From what I saw (and granted it wasn’t everything), Abacus never really got behind the record. I never saw a big publicity push in terms of reviews, advertisements, etc. I never saw them horse trading to get Planes on bigger, better tours. I never really saw them taking any kind of active role in helping guide the band from a business perspective. Granted, that’s not the label’s job, per se, but it doesn’t make any sense to spend Matt Bayles money recording a record and get cheap when it comes to promotion and having a dedicated, hardworking A&R person work the record. It’s all too bad, because Mercy is an excellent record that, I think, could have worked to Planes advantage in the metal world, had they chosen to go that route.

I wonder what Hawks and Doves (Gared O’Donnell’s new project) will sound like. Word is that Gared is once again collaborating with original PMFS guitarist Matthew Bellinger, which can only mean good, good things. I think it might mean also that Hawks and Doves will wind up being more direct and accessible. Gared’s favorite bands, as I recall (and Matt reminded me), are the Replacements, Nomeansno, and the Police. That sounds like it would make for an interesting concoction to me.

Guess this might be another band playing their last show at Denverfest. Speaking of which, the lineup for Denverfest III should be posted later today.

The North Atlantic: drummer leaving the band (you heard it here first)

The July 27th show, at Black Box Studios in San Diego, will be my last hometown show with The North Atlantic. Our performance at Denverfest, over Labor Day weekend, will be my last show with the band, period. I’m closing in on a finished dissertation and will be setting my sights on contributing to the world through scholarship, journalism, and playing music in and around my hometown (San Diego for the present). I’d like to invite all our friends and fans in San Diego to join us on the 27th, and help us welcome our good friends Ghost Buffalo to town.

It’s fitting that my last shows will be at Black Box (in SD) and Denver, as that venue and that city really affirm my faith in the power of music to be the foundation for a community based on mutual respect and admiration. This year’s Denverfest will, I’m sure, wind up being one of my fondest memories.

Since getting started eight long years ago, Jason, Jason and I have worked to write inspired music, share it with our friends and fans and form lasting fellowship with other musicians around the country. In my opinion, we’ve been very successful at all three. I love the two of them more than I could ever adequately describe, and I wish the two of them success, courage and brilliance in all their future musical endeavors. Whatever becomes of The North Atlantic in the future, you can be sure I will be their number one fan.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the people who have sustained our musical pursuits, in ways large and small. It means more to me than you will ever know.

Oh, and touring bands, don’t worry: my living room is still in the game!

Love,
Cullen

Lock up your daughters (and sons): Ghost Buffalo is on their way…

Ghost Buffalo is coming back to San Diego for an August 2 show at the Zombie Lounge. Their last show in San Diego was at the Rosary Room with Jason Hendrix (solo, semi-acoustic) and Red Cloud West, and it was a barnburner. Like Red Cloud West, the most obvious touchstones for Ghost Buffalo’s music are Southern California country-tinged acts like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Also like Red Cloud West, the story is complicated by their absorption of darker influences, ranging from Nick Cave to neo-noir rockers like the Afghan Whigs and Souxsie and the Banshees. The product is a surprisingly catchy, almost radio-friendly take on country rock.

Ghost Buffalo’s music is the guided by the married songwriting team of Marie Litton and Matt Bellinger. Marie’s voice is soaring and tender at the same time, a beautiful instrument that’s oddly juxtaposed against her tiny frame. Matt played guitar in Planes Mistaken for Stars (up to and including 2005’s Up in them Guts), and his playing in Ghost Buffalo continues to demonstrate his facility for blending conventional guitar-god influences with decidedly left-center, hardcore-inspired flourishes. You’ve got to love someone who plays solos that are equal parts Joe Walsh and Ian Mackaye. They’re also Denverfest veterans, which virtually assures that they’re great folks to watch and get to know.

Thanks to local indie-electro rockers Qu’est-ce Que C’est and Another Zeke Productions for making the show happen. It’ll be at the Zombie Lounge on August 2. I’m excited. If you give their songs a chance, my guess is that you will be, too.