October 21, 2007

"What Lesson Were You Trying to Teach? Was It 'Happiness Is Always Slightly Out of Reach'?"

Denver is the love of my life, and one of the biggest reasons for this is a little place that goes by the name Rhinoceropolis. Rhinoceropolis is run/lived in by some of the sweetest, most charming folks in Denver. These people open up their house weekly (some weeks it's almost nightly) so that a smattering of the underground scene can get away from the craziness that is living in (or, possibly, around) this world. Part sanctuary, part art house, part a great many other things, Rhinoceropolis has become like a best friend to me ... a best friend who knows everyone cool and talented, and invites those people over for a good time, and that is exactly what happened last Tuesday.

Every time I go to Rhinoceropolis, I attempt to bring as many friends as possible, not because I don't like to go the shows alone (2 summers ago that's basically all I did ... now since I know the people who live there so well it'd be nearly impossible to feel like I've gone there alone), but because I think everyone needs to experience the gloriousness that is Rhinoceropolis. Because of it's location (it's a little hard to find), and the late hours the shows usually go to (they usually start around 9 or 10PM and end 1 or 2AM), it's hard to get my friends to understand how crucial these shows are to their culturing. This time I was able to convince my friend Sean, who had gone with me once before, and understood the importance of the shows at Rhinoceropolis, and Royce, who had heard me hype up the shows, and was eager to get in on it.

We arrived early, so we chatted with the bands and the people who live there, looked at art, and generally BS'd with each other and the other random people who were there. Time passed, and finally Brittany of Married in Berdichev! (one of the residents of Rhinoceropolis) went over to her equipment, said she was starting, turned the main room lights off, and began. Married in Berdichev! started out as a side project for the Mannequin Makeout lead singer, but, from the lack of MM shows, I'm left to assume that it has morphed into her main project. I've mentioned her in older blogs, but, to refresh memories, Married in Berdichev! is mainly an A Cappella project, where Brittany utilizes a looper pedal, building off of beats she makes with her voice, and then singing over them. She has long since abandoned solely using her voice, and has picked up multiple mixing pedals and random instruments, looping them into the song by recording them with the microphone. She has been experimenting with a sort of "wall of noise" sound for a few months now, and all I can say is that it is by far her best material. Her performance was a mixture of her "wall of noise" material, and then her pop songs, which she said she only performed so that the touring bands got a taste of what else she could do. Always a treat. I wish the recordings I have by her matched the intensity of her live shows.

Married in Berdichev! - Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening
Married in Berdichev! - It's Hard Replacing
Married in Berdichev! - Nose Knows

Alphabets, a new project by the multifaceted Colin, was up next. I recognized Colin from his other projects and stints as an additional member of some of the other local bands, but this was the first time I'd ever seen him perform solo. His music was dance-oriented distorted noise which, really, couldn't seem to get loud enough. Don't get me wrong, I had the ear plugs in and was glad for it, because it was hella loud, but the bass just didn't seem to hit as hard as it should have. His stuff was interesting and weird, two things which I certainly love, but, as of now, I can say I'll be happy when his stuff progresses a little.

Alphabets - They Must Be Invisible
Alphabets - I Can Feel the Earthquake
Alphabets - Tropics, Billions

The Blank Tapes was the first touring band to play. I'd spoken with Matt (the man behind The Blank Tapes) prior to the show about this and that, at one point talking about Paleo, and through this I discovered that Matt is a genuinely good guy, which I really think shines through in his songs. Unlike Foot Ox and French Quarter, one couldn't instantly associate with his lyrics, but his music spoke for itself, pacifying and conciliatory, but still full of passion. Opening Paleo style (standing and singing un-mic'ed playing a ukulele), then going on to perform Scott H. Birim style (playing guitar and using his feet to hit a bass drum and high-hat), the Blank Tapes was a great beginning to the rest of the evening.

The Blank Tapes - This Is What's Inside

The Blank Tapes - Why Must I Fall In Love
The Blank Tapes - Part The Clouds

Foot Ox was the first of the Arizonians to play. Since Foot Ox was basically just Teague and his guitar, his set up took all of a minute or so, and we were quickly back to sitting in a semi-circle, in a story-time fashion, and listening to Teague rattle off his short tales of woe and regret. Channeling folky guitar-punisher's of the past, Foot Ox wailed some of the most touching, if not down right arresting, lyrics I've heard in a long time. "You're staring at your sleeping 3-year-old daughter, just remember she can't survive on Top Ramen and tap water," the title of this blog, "We are a split personality parody, you're lacking in sincere sincerity," lines pertaining to crying out birds that pick away at the crier's bones, "." Apparently playing nearly every song he could remember (which were not hard to fit, as the majority of his songs are under 2 minutes), his leaving the "stage" was met with general woe, but excitement for the other acts.

Foot Ox - Carriers
Foot Ox - Wet Blanket
Foot Ox - New Boyfriend
Foot Ox - I Take My Life Seriously

Alas, Alak, Alaska, the stage name of Jocelyn Noir, was up next. She set up the Blank Tapes' bass drum and high hat (which were only utilized for a song or two), wrapped herself up in the random Christmas lights that were on the ground, set up the mic, and just laid into her set like hobo to a steak. Her almost dead-pan delivery and continuous flow between songs, stopping only twice to coordinate with Stephen of French Quarter, who occasionally provided backing vocals, put me in a somnambulistic state, lulling my senses and putting me adding to the euphoric state started by The Blank Tapes. Loved it. The weirdest of the 3 Arizonians, but just as good.

Alas, Alak, Alaska (unfortunately she was the only one I didn't get any music by, but here's her myspace, which has 4 wonderful songs)

3rd of 3 Arizonians, French Quarter was the closer for the glorious evening. Stephen (the main/usually-only member of French Quarter) went on so close to right after Alas, Alak, Alaska that no one bothered to turn the lights back on or get up or anything. Looking back, I'm honestly suprised I didn't mention him on my blog the first time I saw him. It's not the fact that he sounds surprisingly like Ben Gibbard, or the fact that he does a most terrific cover of "Stayin Alive" (I am SO not kidding), but that no matter the season, no matter the make up of the audience, when he performs, you feel like it's just you, him, and 4 or 5 friends on a camping trip, trading ghost stories, stories of past loves, and dreams of how the world could be. His songs are depressing and hopeful. French Quarter is why I hate the friends I have who don't believe me when I tell them they need to join me at Rhinoceropolis.

French Quarter - Bold With Fire
French Quarter - In June
French Quarter - Stay

The show ended rather late into the night, but it was more than worth it. Rhinoceropolis, and, I suppose, Denver ... well done ... well done. I'll be hosting a French Quarter live set soon. Be on the lookout.

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