Jul 272014
 

UMS logoGonna try to keep this one short and sweet–I have a gig myself this morning, and still have to get down to the Underground Music Showcase for Day 4 after that.  Meanwhile, while exhausted, I’m still enjoying 2014s version of the UMS, just like I do every year.

Yesterday for me was a combination of catching some great acts I hadn’t seen before, and catching up with a few of my favorites. Among the ones I heard for the first time:

Sarah and the Meanies–a great pop/rock vibe with a bit of soul thrown in.
Pull the Alarm–my friend Nick has been trying for months to get me to catch his new band. Finally got the opportunity. Wasn’t disappointed. Solid, heavy rock, well-played.
Idlewhile–This Longmont-based act offers an eclectic twist on Americana that makes them both interesting and enjoyable–and they don’t limit themselves either. (I think even heard something akin to Tejano in there.)  Only unfortunate thing about their set at SoBo Church was that there weren’t more people there to hear them.
Wiredogs–Holy crap. That’s all.
Lara Ruggles–Another friend in the scene that I’ve known for awhile, but our paths never crossed for me to see her perform live.  An awesome songwriter with a great voice. Glad I caught her this time.
The Griswolds–I didn’t know who these guys were–I didn’t know they weren’t local (they’re from Australia)–I just saw a bunch of buzz on the Twitters and dropped by to see what everyone was going so nuts about.  Seeing them play 3 Kings Tavern, I had a feeling I was witnessing history, because it’s pretty obvious these guys won’t be playing intimate venues much longer.  Watch this band. Seriously.

As the day progressed, I also had the chance to catch a few of my ongoing favorites.  Megan Burtt drew a healthy crowd to the Irish Rover for her set with a full band–which, by the way, ought to become a thing.  These guys were, as we say in the “biz” when they’ve got a solid groove, “hitting the pocket.” Jen Korte’s Dirty Femmes performed in a warehouse setting (perfect fit for ‘em), and they killed it as always. And Dan Craig and Jessica Sonner (Craig) basically took up residency at SoBo Church for multiple sets in various incarnations (Dan solo, Jess solo, and later the two of them as Oh, Starling)–and I managed to catch at least part of each set, ’cause I’m just loyal that way.

So…one more day to go.  Here are some promising picks for the last day of UMS (NOT a comprehensive list):

In the Whale (Hi-Dive, 3pm-Reverb Day Party)
My Body Sings Electric (Hi-Dive, 4pm-Reverb Day Party)
Petals of Spain (The Hornet, 4pm)
Wire Faces (3 Kings Tavern, 6pm)
Land Lines (Irish Rover, 6pm)
Vices I Admire (Illegal Pete’s, 6pm)
Ivory Circle (SoBo Church, 6pm)*
*yes, there are lots of great acts at 6pm…I have no idea where I’ll end up
Red Fox Run (Illegal Pete’s, 7pm)
Poet’s Row (SoBo Church, 7pm)
Wiredogs (3 Kings Tavern, 8pm)
Edison (Moe’s BBQ, 8pm)
Instant Empire (Blue Ice, 9pm)
The Parlor Pickers (Gary Lee’s, 10pm)
John Common Superheart (Irish Rover, 11pm)

So, okay–not so short and sweet. Enjoy the last day of UMS 2014!

Jul 262014
 

UMS logoSomewhere in between the moments of crazy danger (i.e., the car crashing into Skylark Lounge just before the first set) and the moments of crazy wonder (i.e., the brilliant full double rainbow that elicited hundreds of Facebook pics), Day Two of the Underground Music Showcase was just crazy good.

For me, much of the time last night was spent in one place.  After spending a few ear-bleeding moments with post-hardcore act Caramel Carmela at Moe’s, I ventured down to South Broadway Christian Church, where I ended up hanging out most of the evening (with a few ventures around the corner to the Irish Rover to catch a few choice songs from The Maykit and Rachel and the Kings). Not only did many of my personal picks just happen to be at SoBo Church last night, but thanks to the acoustics, it also happens to be one of my favorite UMS venues.

I arrived just in time to catch folk act Covenhoven tuning up (the full-band version, not simply Joel Van Horne and his guitar). It was fairly obvious that this is a band that’s gaining traction around Denver considering the large crowd that braved the lack of air conditioning, and considering their responses to the music.  Let’s just say when a mostly downtempo folk act can bring an audience to their feet during the last song, you’ve come across one of those moments of magic that musicians (and music fans) live for.

Covenhoven was followed up at SoBo Church with a quieter (but no less compelling) solo set from Americana songwriter Patrick Dethlefs, after which the volume went up again with a great set from indie-rock act Navy–who have been a bit sparse around town the past few months, but who reportedly are ramping up for more shows in the near future.

In order to make it back for most of Saturday, I called it an early night so I could get some writing assignments done in the morning (including, it would seem, this piece). Looking forward to a rich day today.  Here are a few promising picks for Day 3 of the UMS (again, NOT a comprehensive list):

Sarah & the Meanies (Punch Bowl Social, 3pm)
Wiredogs (Irish Rover, 4pm–closing out the SpokesBuzz Day Party)
Jessica Sonner (South Broadway Christian Church, 5pm)
Megan Burtt (Irish Rover, 5pm)
Dan Craig (South Broadway Christian Church, 6pm)
Post Paradise (Illegal Pete’s, 6pm)
The Belle Jar (Gary Lee’s, 6pm)
Pull the Alarm (Brendan’s, 7pm)
Natalie Tate (Gary Lee’s, 8pm)
Shady Elders (Hi-Dive, 9pm)
The Photo Atlas (3 Kings Tavern, 9pm)
Lara Ruggles (South Broadway Christian Church, 9pm)
Ark Life (Hi-Dive, 11pm)
The Epilogues (3 Kings Tavern, 11pm)
The Raven and the Writing Desk (Irish Rover, midnight)
My Body Sings Electric (3 Kings Tavern, midnight)

Jul 252014
 

UMS logoAfter an extended period of silence, The Oomph is reactivated (which is to say, I’m back) — just in time for the 2014 Underground Music Showcase.

I’ll talk more about changes in The Oomph after the UMS, but for now, let me use this as a bit of a diary to talk about Day One (yesterday), and share some picks for Day Two (tonight).

First of all, the UMS is my favorite Denver music fest, and it continues to grow year by year. While opening night crowds are usually a little sparse, they definitely were NOT sparse this year.  By the time the 9:00 hour rolled around, most of the venues I visited were at or near capacity–so I’m thinking the UMS may be breaking attendance records again this year.

I started out Thursday night at the Hi-Dive to catch psych-rockers Hollow Talk, who started late and stalled on their opening tune, but managed to hit their stride soon after.  A pretty solid opening once it got started.  Afterward, I hiked up to The Hornet to catch a Nashville-based artist named Christian Lee Hutson (well, actually, it was Christian Lee Hutson and a female friend on BGVs). A really cool vibe for those who like their country “old-school”.

Wandering down Broadway, I stopped in for a few minutes of local act Somerset Catalog, a self-described “bubble-gum doom pop outfit” comprised of bandmates from Poet’s Row and The Big Get Even.  I could tell within a minute why the Irish Rover was packed to the gills.  Keep your eye on this band.

From there, I wandered down to Skylark Lounge to catch the last 10 minutes of Calder’s Revolvers, which turned out to be the best 10 minutes of music I heard all night.  A solid soul/rock flavor, the kind that scratches the inner itch of a musical soul like mine. Definitely gonna make more time for these guys the next time around.

Other honorable mentions of the evening go to Science Partner at Skylark Lounge (who are consistently great to listen to, and fun to watch), and folk artist Elin Palmer at The Hornet, who recently began performing again in Denver after spending several years in her home country of Sweden (welcome back!).

MY PICKS FOR DAY TWO

Just so you know, I generally leave main stage coverage to the other guys, so if you’re coming to the UMS for the headliners, hang out there, and you’ll hear some good music.  If you’re like me and you are looking for gems in the smaller venues, here are just a few bands worth checking out Friday night (obviously NOT a comprehensive list):

Kyle James Houser (Skylark Lounge, 6pm)
A Mouthful of Thunder (Illegal Pete’s, 6pm)
Covenhoven (South Broadway Christian Church, 7pm)
The Maykit (Irish Rover, 7pm)
Rachel and the Kings (Irish Rover, 9pm)
Navy (South Broadway Christian Church, 9pm)
Disgrace the Traitor (Moe’s BBQ, 10pm)
Flashbulb Fires (Illegal Pete’s, 11pm)
Strange Americans (Irish Rover, midnight)
The Yawpers (Skylark Lounge, midnight)

Jan 312014
 

jeff mcqIf you have been following this blog for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that my posts have been a bit sparse lately. I think a bit of explanation is in order, particularly for the benefit of my friends in the Denver music scene who might be wondering where I’ve been and what I’m up to these days. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share some personal thoughts with you.

I have not fallen off the earth, nor have I abandoned the music scene here. Not at all. I happen to believe the Denver music scene is one of the best and most affirming music communities in the nation, and I remain committed to doing what I can to help local artists succeed.  However, after blogging about this music community for four (!) years now, and trying to juggle full-time writing responsibilities with this labor of love–and also feeling like my role in this scene is changing and expanding–I have felt a need to take a little time off to breathe, regroup, and do some soul searching about how I can be more effective in supporting this awesome music scene.

Part of this soul searching has involved a fresh exploration of my own creative gifts. The truth is, I have a rather unique approach to being a music blogger in that I am a lifetime songwriter and musician myself. When I began covering the Denver music scene, I never intended it to be my only role within it. When I first moved here, I was taking a breather from making music, but lately I’ve begun rediscovering this part of my life. Thus, for the past couple of years, I’ve spent a bit less time reviewing shows, and a bit more time actually playing them. Currently, I play two Sundays per month at a local coffee shop with some friends, just for fun, and I’m even taking a paid gig here and there as a keyboardist.  I have also been working on composing (some of you reading this have heard the film score I wrote for my son’s short film). Additionally, I’ve spent about a year apprenticing in a local recording studio, learning audio engineering in order to hone my skills within my own home studio.  So there’s all that.

But there’s more.  For some time, I’ve been pondering how I might offer more to this music community than just writing good things about good musical artists–I want to do something a bit more tangible.  I have a few things still in the incubator that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet. But if you’re a Denver musician or a Denver music fan, and you’ve wondered or cared whether I’m still around, please know that my recent lapse in activity has not been for the purpose of doing less, but rather, looking for ways to do more to support the music scene here. I look forward to sharing some of these ideas with you in the near future.

So what can you expect over the next few months? Here’s what I can tell you:

1. My self-imposed break from writing here at the The Oomph will last for the next couple of months. When I return around the end of March or beginning of April, watch for a new look for the blog, and a slightly different format.

2. I will very likely be discontinuing my writing for Examiner.com. That outlet has served its purpose. My old articles will still be available there as far as I know.

3. I am still writing and editing over at Music Is My Oxygen, and will be for the foreseeable future. Just posted an interview with Priscilla Ahn there this morning, in fact. My pet project over there is the DIY Music category, where I share helpful information for indie artists similar to what I have done on my sister blog The Developing Artist. Just reposted an interview with Jessica Cole of Lyric House that’s worth reading.

4. Speaking of indie artists, here’s something that might be helpful:  I’ve written an e-book for DIY musicians as a work for hire for a client of mine, The Recording Connection. It’s a 58-page e-book about thinking like a musical entrepreneur, and it features interviews with LA producer Warren Huart and Denver’s own Katey Laurel.  It was just released last week, and right now, The Recording Connection is offering the e-book for free. If you’re a DIY musician, you may find some valuable info in there. All you have to do is go to the web page and download it.

5. I hope to have more to share about my plans for a deeper involvement in the Denver music scene within the next few months, probably sometime this spring.

Meanwhile–don’t be surprised to find me popping up here and there at Denver shows, and don’t hold me to complete radio silence on this here blog. If I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it. :)

Also, if you are in the area, feel free to drop by La Dolce Vita Coffee in Olde Town Arvada the second and fourth Sunday mornings of each month. I’m there playing and singing under the moniker “Jeff and Friends.” My good friends Mark Asimus and Monica Sales are regularly there to help out, and we’ve also had friends from the Denver scene like Dave Preston and Rachel James drop by to play.

Finally–it’s been awhile since I did any Live Music Weekend Picks here, but if you want to brave the cold to see some great shows in Denver this weekend…my friend Angie Stevens has a great show planned tonight (Jan. 31) at Soiled Dove Underground, and tomorrow night (Feb. 1) is the new album release show for My Body Sings Electric over at the Marquis Theater, and also Lara Ruggles’ birthday show at Leon.  You can’t go wrong with any of these shows. :)

So here’s to the future! Please stay tuned…

Dec 302013
 

Andy-Palmer-Hazard-of-the-Die-Cover1I’m waaay behind on my music listening this year (watch for some changes to The Oomph in the upcoming months), but I could not let 2013 go by without letting you know about one of the best folk-rock releases to come out of Denver this year: Andy Palmer’s Hazard of the Die.

I first introduced you to Andy Palmer’s gravelly, Tom Waits-esque voice a couple of years back. Since that time, Palmer has continued to mature both in sound and in songwriting, and the proof is found in Hazard, carrying an innovative blend of folk and rock elements (evidenced by everything from a plucky string bass to some searing electric guitar work), and a storytelling songwriting style that belies Palmer’s age. (I don’t actually know his age, just that he’s younger than me. I think.) The record clocks in at just around 30 minutes (a long EP or a short LP, take your pick), but each of the eight songs is packed with character and will merit repeat listens. Favorite moments for me include “The Monk,” “Heart of Colfax” (which contains some of that searing guitar work I mentioned), and “The Defendant,” a colorful look through the eyes of the accused (“Luck is hard if you have my life / And a man in a robe…is rolling my dice.” Love that!) Oh, and the production work from industry vet Warren Huart (Aerosmith, The Fray, Howie Day) doesn’t hurt one bit.

Andy Palmer is currently offering Hazard of the Die on a name-your-price basis on his Bandcamp page–and it’s definitely worth naming a decent price. Meanwhile, check out the video for “The Monk” below and see what you think.



Nov 252013
 

LissieWhen the mournful single “Everywhere I Go” first came on my radar a couple of years ago, I immediately wanted to know was singing it. Turns out it was Lissie, a smoky-voiced folk-rocker from the Quad Cities of western Illinois who also happened to have a Colorado connection (she spent time in the Ft. Collins music scene as a CSU student).

Over the summer, I had the privilege of interviewing Lissie for Music Is My Oxygen in anticipation of her new album Back To Forever. Since the album came out, I’ve found it to be some of her strongest work to date, and I’m really digging it.

Lissie is planning a tour stop here in Denver next Monday, Dec. 2 at the Gothic Theatre, and her PR department has offered The Oomph Music Blog a pair of free tickets to the show to give away to one of our readers. If you’d like ‘em, just be the first person to leave a comment with the correct answer to this trivia question:

Which Fleetwood Mac song did Lissie cover that appeared on the soundtrack for the film Safe Haven? (I’ve turned on Comment Moderation until we have a winner.)

The contest is only open until Thanksgiving. Good luck!






Oct 282013
 

glowing house albumOkay, I have to say a couple of things for disclosure purposes about the video I’m about to share. First–I have family involved in the project (it was directed by my son, Joshua McQuilkin). Second–I consider the band in the video, Glowing House, to be among my personal friends. (Okay, the second disclosure isn’t that big a deal–I’m friends with a lot of the bands I cover.)

At any rate, it’s been a good year for Glowing House. Not only did they release some of their best work to date in the form of their latest EP The Down and Out, but their single “Nobody Follow Me” from that EP found a song placement in the VH1 television show Couple’s Therapy. Not to mention that at the time of this writing, the husband-and-wife core of the group (Jess Parsons and Steve Varney), are within days of becoming first-time parents. Yeah–that sounds like a pretty good year. :)

Anyhow, despite whatever involvement I or my family members may or may not have had in the project, I think “Nobody Follow Me” is a great song, and I think the official video does it proud–even if I do have a reason to be a little biased. :) See what you think.

Sep 272013
 
Varlet. (Photo: Glenn Ross)

Varlet. (Photo: Glenn Ross)

Wanna know where to go to see some great live music this weekend in Denver? Truth is, it’s everywhere–but here are a few suggestions to narrow the search for you. You’re welcome.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Denver indie-rock act Varlet are having a special CD release show at the Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway in Denver, to celebrate the release of their album American Hymns. Also performing are Tjutjuna, Attic Attack and Champagne Charlie. Tickets are $10 each, available from the Hi-Dive; service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 21+.

Local rock act Wiredogs (formerly The Hate) are also having a release show for their Resistance EP at the Marquis Theatre, 2009 Larimer in downtown Denver. Opening acts include False Colours, Head Injuries and Poor Me. Tickets are $10 each, available from Soda Jerk Presents. Doors at 7:00 PM. This is an all-ages show!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

Denver indie-folk act Jen Korte & The Loss are headlining at The Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut St. in Denver. Also performing are Chimney Choir and Clouds & Mountains. Tickets are $8 each, available from The Walnut Room; service charge may apply. Start time is 8:00 PM. Ages 21+.

Local indie-rockers Vices I Admire are headlining a show at Moe’s Original Bar B Que, 3295 S. Broadway in Englewood. Opening acts include Strip the Stars, Pull the Alarm and Clara Finn. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 day of show, available through Moe’s; service charge may apply. Doors at 8:30 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 16+.

Happy weekend!

Sep 202013
 

RiotFestBeen a couple of weeks or so since I posted weekend picks–went on vacation, then had to recover from vacation, you know how it is. Then last week, there was a catastrophic flood affecting many areas around our community. (Please keep this area in your thoughts and prayers during the next several months as it’s going to take awhile to recover.)

But there’s a lot to talk about in the Denver area this weekend regarding live music. If you can’t swing the time or money to catch RiotFest (info below), there are still some great shows to see around town. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 20

Indie-folk act Covenhoven (aka Joel Van Horne, formerly of Carbon Choir) will be having a much-anticipated CD release show at The Walnut Room, 3131 Walnut St. in Denver. (See more information about the new project here.) Also appearing are Poet’s Row and Megan Burtt. Tickets are $10 each, available from The Walnut Room; service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM. Ages 21+.

Denver rockers The Epilogues are returning from a multi-state road tour for a show Friday at the Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway in Denver. Also appearing are The Echo Chamber and Viretta. Tickets are $8 each, available from the Hi-Dive (service charge may apply). Doors at 8:30 PM; show starts at 9:30. Ages 21+.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 21

Speaking of the Hi-Dive, go back Saturday night to see Patrick Dethlefs‘ 7″ release show, with a free 7″ vinyl record with each ticket purchase. Opening acts include Ark Life and Kristi Stice. Tickets are $12 advance, $14 day of show, available from the Hi-Dive; service charge may apply. Doors at 8:00 PM; show starts at 9:00. Ages 18+.

BONUS PICK: RIOTFEST SEPT. 21-22

RiotFest is coming to Denver this weekend, and thankfully, the flooding rains did not affect the festival grounds, so the show will go on, a short drive east of town at May Farms, 6401 US Hwy 36 in Byers. The lineup for the tw0-day event is impressive, featuring some of the biggest names in punk, alternative and modern rock: The Replacements, Iggy and the Stooges, Blink-182, Brand New, AFI, Public Enemy, AWOLNATION…over 3 dozen acts in all. Included in the lineup are performances from several Denver-based bands, including DeVotchKa, Breathe Carolina, Bop Skizzum and Wovenhand. Tickets are still available through the RiotFest website, staring at $54.98 for a one-day pass and $99.98 for a two-day pass; service charges apply. Camping is available for an extra charge. This is an all-ages event! For all the deets, visit the RiotFest website.

Have a happy and safe weekend!

Sep 132013
 

covenhovenMany in the Denver area are familiar with Joel Van Horne as the frontman for atmospheric indie-rock act Carbon Choir (whom I’ve profiled here on this blog from time to time). Carbon Choir has since called it quits, and in the meantime Van Horne has taken a completely different direction–toward folk.

His new album is being released under the moniker Covenhoven, named after the log cabin in Wyoming built by his grandfather, where Van Horne spent summers as a kid. “Some of the best and lasting memories of my life are from this place,” writes Van Horne on the Covenhoven website.  “This music comes from that place… this refuge that I hold dear.”

Indeed, the songs on the record call to mind the places of natural beauty and the fond memories evoked by such a place. With an understated, reflective style reminiscent of Bon Iver, in effect, Van Horne transports the listener to his childhood, allowing us to experience the feeling of a place most of us will never actually see–and yet, we can relate to it because many of us have such a place within our own memories. This is music that is real, because it comes from a very real place, both physically and emotionally.

jvh

Photo: Lucia de Giovanni

I have to say, I really like this turn Van Horne has taken. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him perform acoustic sets from time to time, and have really liked his songwriting style, even while playing unplugged versions of Carbon Choir tunes. While it might seem on the outside to be a drastic change of course, those of us familiar with Van Horne and his songwriting abilities can see this is a natural evolution for him.

Covenhoven will see its official release with a show on Friday, Sept. 20 at The Walnut Room in Denver, but you can sneak a listen to the entire album this week over at OpenAirCPR from Colorado Public Radio. You’ll be glad you did.