Live at the Hi-Dive!
TEXT BY TIM HINELY/ PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS
It was my first time seeing Jon Snodgrass but I really have no excuse as between solo gigs and his band Drag the River he’s always taking one stage or another here in the Mile High City (or his home in Ft. Collins). And the guy is like a folk hero around here too. People love him. He cut his teeth in the 90’s in the band Armchair Martian (think Husker Du) then continued on in a more country direction with D.T.R. and his solo material. He’s a lifer.
On this night armed with an acoustic guitar and a ton of stories to tell, Snodgrass kept the mostly full Hi Dive audience rapt with longtime fans/friends shouting out songs they wanted to hear, knowing his catalog a helluva lot better than I do (or maybe better than Snodgrass himself). The guy’s got plenty of talent and enough charisma (helluva sense of humor, too) to deliver and he did indeed deliver. Toward the end of the set Branan joined him on stage for a few songs and all was (more) right with the world.
Bloodshot Records guy Cory Branan has played Denver at least a few other times and I kept missing him but I made it a point to be there on this Thursday night. Plus this tireless gentleman just got off the road as he spent all of March/April hitting most of the American south (the guy is part machine, I think). He didn’t disappoint. Like his buddy Snodgrass he was armed with only an acoustic guitar an playing a barrage of songs off all his records (including his brand new one Adios, on the venerable Bloodshot label…I loved his last one, 2014’s No-Hit Wonder).
On stage the Mississippi born n’ bred songwriter is a bundle of energy, half Joe Strummer and half John Prine and it appears that he has a serious love of both, country and punk rock. He’s a hard hitter on that acoustic guitar of his, slamming the string downs (he broke a few during the night) and he was no less reckless when his pal Snodgrass joined him on stage. Blasting out a Warren Zevon cover (“Excitable Boy”) while from Adios we heard “I Only Know” and the politically-charged “Another Night in America.”
Elsewhere from No-Hit Wonder we heard “Missing You Fierce’ and “All the Rivers in Colorado” (which got lots of hoots n’ yelps from this hometown crowd) and a whole bunch of songs in between (including the excellent “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis”).
Not a lot of people out there can entrance an audience when all you have on stage is your acoustic guitar and your voice but Branan is no ordinary songwriter (as I said, part machine) he sings from his heart and intelligently of the human condition (he even stated that his latest album “mostly songs about death”) and he handles these topics with grace and aplomb. If I haven’t made it clear yet the guy is the real deal, don’t miss him.