BY STEVE STEVENSON
The duo originally from Philadelphia now living here in Denver, School Dance, is Sam Tremble, playing the xylophone and drums, and Allison Lorenzen, who sings, plays keyboard, and charms with her subtle humor. This evening, Sam comes out to a Larimer Lounge stage covered in flowers and starts on the xylophone. Allison steps up to the mic and lets us know the first song has hand gestures that accompany it. She says that we’ll run through them once so we can get the hang of it then we can all do the song together. By this time I’m sure that I won’t like these guys. She starts with her hand gestures and sings about thirty seconds of a song about waves flowing through something or another. She tells us the second half of the song is free form hand gestures, and she sings another thirty seconds or so then thanks their corporate sponsors. Now I’m starting to think this chick just pranked us. (Below: School Dance)
The played a nice set after that, ambient melodies with lyrics. Allison’s voice reminds me of Bjork, more for her experimental quality. Sam, as I said earlier, plays the xylophone and the drums, at the same time. He was so good at it I swore he had a recorded loop of the xylophone until I walked up and actually saw him playing both. There is lots of talent in School Dance. Allison introduced the last song by saying that they reserve a space right up front for someone to perform an interpretive dance, and that in fact, they have never played this song without an interpretive dancer. By now the rest of the crowd is catching up with her humor and is really enjoying this set. And, yes we did get a dancer. It was wonderful, fun, and my chakras are in line.
From Brooklyn, New York, and on tour with Here We Go Magic is Big Thief (above). Creatively lead, and fronted by Adrienne Lenker and her right hand man, Buck Meeker. Adrienne plays guitar and sings, as does Buck, swapping leads and vocals effortlessly. Adrienne has a Karen O/Patsy Cline quality to her voice. She is mostly influenced by male singers, which I find particularly interesting.
Their set was full of diverse tracks that played with tempo and slid neatly around the pop and country genres without being afraid of getting discordant and noisy. Lyrically they are intelligent and folksy; musically they strutted to the edge and hung out there. The last tune was an as-of-yet unrecorded song that Adrienne said will be on the new record. It’s called Mary and was easily the “grooviest” tunes of the set. As a few of us were standing around being impressed by this band, one guy remarked, “Our [Denver’s] music scene is cool, but this is a whole different standard.” Adrienne gave me an acoustic EP that her and Buck did recently, I will let you know what I think of that later.
New York’s Here We Go Magic (pictured at top) is out running around in support of their latest release. Since the last record the band has changed a lot, so it’s pretty much Luke Temple and Michael Bloch on the new album Be Small, but they did bring a few other musicians with them as they stopped by the Larimer Lounge on a warm-for-November Tuesday evening. Warm enough that I rode my motorcycle. I walked in and was greeted by the bartender (who fronts her own band btw). I spent the evening chatting her up while she poured. She had some insights into what we were seeing from an angle that I normally don’t get to experience, so that worked out doubly well.
Here We Go Magic came off sounding a little 1970’s prog-rockish, with a dose of Crosby, Stills and Nash this night. They proved to be well versed in those long musical interludes, jam-bandy, but not annoyingly so, with that indie coloring-outside-the-lines sound, and I would even swear that I heard some Les Claypool in some of the rhythms. It was an interesting mix of sounds to be sure, one that I found to be musically exciting, not so much experimental, but adventurous. Playing with sound seemed to be the theme of the night. Their set wasn’t flashy, just the boys getting down to it with a mix of some of the new songs off Be Small, and more familiar tracks. As a band that evolves its sound pretty consistently, I think they have incorporated some of their original sound in this new version of Here We Go Magic.