Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Summer of Sound (Part I)

Summer 2015: the season that is.

In between the sometimes-gratifying, too-often-frustrating DIY home projects my wife and I have been getting ourselves into, the family wedding that now stands at less than a week away, and the numerable one-off gigs I've been able to be a part of, I've found myself neck deep in work with both Modern Suspects and Hillary Hand. As I've written about already, the Suspects have been crushing the summer festival scene here in Colorado, and we're not even close to finished with it yet. Hillary has put together a new band since releasing the EP we've been working on for the past few months, and I'm thrilled to report that our sound going forward - like the record itself - is definitely something of which people are going to want to take note. The work this season has been great. Busy and hectic, yes, but great. I am fortunate beyond words to get to work with the musicians I do.

But in addition to all of that stuff I've been doing myself, there's another aspect to this summer that can't go unmentioned (read: 'unblogged'). Summer is concert season, after all. And, given the number of performances I've been able to absorb lately, 2015 might just take its place as the single best year of live performances I've ever experienced.

Zac Brown Band @ Coors Field
My wife and I began our summer hijinks by attending the first-ever live music performance in the history of Denver's Coors Field (recognized more widely, of course, for being the home field of the Colorado Rockies). Now, granted, my wife didn't exactly know we were going to this show: I used it as an opportunity to surprise her for her birthday (which was a few days afterward). The Zac Brown Band brought its own unique and spectacular brand of country music to town that night, and given both the event's historical significance as well as it's taking place during Independence Day Weekend, the band delivered...

...and delivered seriously.

To put it mildly, these cats can play, and they've used the past few years to carve out an altogether unique identity for themselves in the midst of a genre that continues to grow ever more rote & generic. ZBB shows are packed with musicality, genuine patriotism, and an ever-so-unexpected set of cover tunes that all meet up to create a fast-paced and energetic roller coaster of a performance. It's hard to imagine that many other contemporary bands come close to this level of showmanship.

Rush lights up the audience @ Pepsi Center
A handful of days later saw Rush's R40 tour grace the Pepsi Center. In what is probably going to be the trio's final performance in Denver (as Neil Peart is starting to show symptoms of arthritis in his hands and elbows), the band delivered a true retrospective: beginning their show with selections from their most recent Clockwork Angels release and proceeding systematically backwards through their 40-year career, all the way to a final encore featuring the song Working Man, the band's first-ever single. As the show progressed backwards in time, the music, the stage setup, the instruments, and even the lights progressed with them: the songs from the '80s featured laser lighting, those from the '70s dry ice snaking across the stage. Even Peart's drum kit got a facelift during the intermission, and the second half showcased the legend on a set built to look like the one he played on records like Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves.


The Rush show served as a celebration of a four-decades-long career that has seen one of the most unique and masterful bands in rock 'n' roll not only survive, but thrive, despite their rejection by popular radio and print media. Rush has proved for more years than I've been alive that great music has staying power because people really do want to hear it. There are those who, despite the entrapment and allurements of mediocre & redundant pop culture, still want to be blown away by the music they choose to listen to.

And, to wrap up the first half of our summer concert series, my wife and I took in another performance by the great Bruce Hornsby at Denver' Botanic Gardens. The setting for shows like this is about as informal as it gets, with concertgoers situated all around the stage on a small amphitheater-style lawn. There are no significant stage elements to speak of (in terms of lights or pyrotechnics or what have you), so the music truly becomes the star of the show. And there are few artists more suited to headline such a show than Bruce Hornsby.

Hornsby's sets are notoriously casual & jazzy, with the man himself calling out tunes to the band as they go, signaling for solos and endings, and doing his best to put on a 100% unique performance each and every night. There are no set lists or predetermined arrangements, so whatever the audience is getting, they can rest assured it's a show like no other. The informal setting of the Botanic Gardens fit Hornsby's performance style perfectly, and, as always, he showcased his magnificent songwriting, virtuosic playing, and almost infinitely broad sense of musical appreciation in a way that leads one to think he might still be in his artistic prime.

Bruce Hornsby's stage @ Denver Botanic Gardens
It's a huge breath of fresh air for me to partake of performances like these. They serve not only as awe-inspiring experiences in and of themselves, but also as reminders that all is not lost when it comes to the condition of music in the 21st century (from either the standpoint of a musician or fan). To try a metaphor: in a world seemingly obsessed with novels written for 15-year-olds, it's good to know that we still have the work of  Neil Gaiman, Dennis Lehane, and Cormac McCarthy to read, appreciate, and celebrate.

It's good to see marvelous music still doing well amidst what seems like an overwhelming onslaught of petty & disingenuous pap. It's good to know that real musicians are still out there getting it done. It's good to know that there are other people still interested in hearing the best they can get their ears on.

So the summer of sound continues. There are more shows to play and more shows to attend coming up next month, and then...

....well, then, I'll be on a tour of my own.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, shall we?


No comments:

Post a Comment

Animated Social Gadget - Blogger And Wordpress Tips