Words: Alexander Wolff
Images: Jason Woodside
Denver is one hell of a place to be a live music fan on New Years Eve. With multiple acts that have big draws setting up shop for more than one night, one has choices. Quite a luxury indeed! So, with Widespread Panic and STS9 both having headlined multiple-night runs in town, you are surely wondering what else went down around Denver on the last two nights of 2010.
[All photos by Jason Woodside]
East coast experimental Americana outfit Railroad Earth was booked for three nights at the Ogden Theater leading into the start of 2011. The group wound up playing four after announcing a January 1st performance during the show on the 30th. That night, the first set started off with a bit of a lull, the band having selected slower numbers that were lacking in any sort of extended improvisation, albeit tightly executed. Both the first exploration of the night, as well as the highlight of the show came in the form of a swelling, spacious jam out of Head that they pushed with a four-on-the-floor rhythm to a nice peak before bringing it home.
The second set did not disappoint, as the band came out hard with a guest vocalist for Mighty River and Peace on Earth, and a rocking double-fiddle jam in Reuben’s Train. Out of 1759 came an extended jam setting up the segue into Seven Story Mountain, and they kept the energy going through the rest of the set into the encore. A solid showing.
The Motet, one of Colorado’s best kept secrets, played to a sold-out crowd at Cervante’s Masterpiece Ballroom on New Year’s Eve; now that sounds like a party. Before The Motet would bring the funk parade to the dance floor, there was an interesting set of music to get through first. Boston roots-reggae act John Brown’s Body played a wonderfully impressive set of music. With their thick dub lines, syncopated horns, spacious improv and tight vocals they got the dance floor kicking and skanking. READ ON for more…
At about a quarter to midnight, quite some time after JBB finished their set, the crowd began getting restless, unsure as to whether they would be dancing into the New Year or just clinking glasses and moving on along, but with just minutes to spare, the semi-official house band of the state of Colorado took their positions. The next couple of hours would be a blur to most; a nearly consecutive string of songs spanning decades and transcending records, some being recognized only by a select few while others set the house on fire.
Rhythm section locked in, horns blaring, vocalists wailing – there’s not much that can stop this groove assault. The thing about the Motet is that where most bands will play funk, these guys own it. This is a group of musicians that are not afraid to slink back and find the pocket, nor are they hesitant to take wild risks with untamed inventiveness and natural gusto. The joy this band seems to take in preparing a set of music for a special occasion is truly inspiring, and they certainly did not disappoint on this particular evening. Cervante’s was clearly the place to be in Denver on New Year’s Eve.
It is truly amazing how one relatively small city in the middle of the mountains can contain so much life and imagination. What’s more, the music scene only continues to grow and thrive here. 2011 is going to be a big year for music in Denver.
Here’s a gallery of Jason’s shots from Railroad Earth’s December 30th concert as well as the John Brown’s Body/Motet New Year’s Eve show…