This is a neat musical scene we run in. It’s a scene where even the biggest and most popular artists can be found sitting at the bar before they go on stage. There are few barriers and less ego between you and the people making the music you love. As a result, should you choose, you can build these miniature friendships with the bands. Don’t get me wrong, when I call them “miniature friendships” I don’t mean that as a slight, what I mean is that they’re not like regular friendships. They’re based around small conversations a couple of times a year that are eventually jettisoned by the electronic conversations that brought us together. That said, within the scene they’re still genuine and everyone still remembers each other’s names when they’re in the same town and knows bits and pieces of one another’s personal lives. That’s the real appeal of these little festivals I go to. Sure, you’re gonna see a lot of awesome music, but at the same time you’re gonna get to hang out with a lot of friends for the weekend to catch up, drink together and bullshit about typical crap like sports. The result is the musical version of a family reunion, which explains why people from as far away as Florida, New Jersey & California would descend upon Denver, Colorado for two nights of music.
I arrived early Friday afternoon, and after navigating the airport/super shuttle maze to the hotel I elected to take a small nap in an effort to offset the time difference. The lineup for Friday night was Look Mexico, In the Red, Jr. Juggernaut, Josh Small, Austin Lucas, Jon Snodgrass and Joey Cape. I made a point to get to the show early enough not to miss anything since that’s what I came for and, really, after cooking dinner (Yes! My hotel room had a stove…more drinking money!) what the hell else was I gonna do? I wasn’t even at 3 Kings for 10 minutes before finally getting to meet Virgil (Suburban Home owner) in person. The guy is as genuine and nice in person as he is on the internet and managed to hang out with folks all weekend, while also making sure everything kept moving along smoothly. Meeting him made me even happier about the praise we pile on his label and I take back that apology I made about the amount of coverage we’ve been giving SH last week. I’m not sorry and you can expect more. Before the first notes of the weekend were played I also ran into one of my favorite people in music, Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage. Hugs and small talk were exchanged and the the show began.
Most of the early bands Friday were bands I wasn’t terribly familiar with. Look Mexico was pretty enjoyable while In The Red was really, really heavy. Jr. Juggernaut was entertaining enough and their singer sort of looks like Seth Rogen. However, it was Josh Small who provided me the first wow moment of the weekend. Josh is small in demeanor but has a powerful presence on stage. Later in the night I was talking to him and I said he was like a tenor version of William Elliott Whitmore. He really appreciated that comparison, so I thought I’d share it with y’all. I really have no idea why I’ve ignored him all this time. I’ve heard his name but never bothered to check out his music. If you’re in that same boat, now is the time to stop. Trust me. After Josh the night just went nuts. The elevation (or the fact that I cooked and ate a huge dinner) was allowing me to drink a ridiculous amount of whiskey without really feeling it as Austin Lucas took the stage. About halfway through Austin’s set Two Cow joined him on stage to perform a mini-set of Austin’s songs, Two Cow style. Holy. Fucking. Shit. It was the muscle of Two Cow meshed with the grace of Austin, and it was completely ridiculous. I’m saying it now. I want to see a Suburban Home Under The Influence release of an Austin-fronted Two Cow so the rest of world can experience it. This whole ‘Two Cow killed it’ attitude will be a running theme. Outside of Tim Barry, they were the stars of this particular weekend. Jon Snodgrass had the arduous task of following the AustinTwoCow amalgam and he did it with the grace and professionalism that has come to define Jon. He came up and started running through crowd favorites like a pimp serves up hoes. What’s that? Wanna hear “Me & Joe”? “Me and Joe went out to California…..” If you were there you know what I’m talking about, and if you weren’t then you need to start getting out to more Jon Snodgrass/Drag The River shows. Not to be outdone by Austin, Jon also brought the Two Cow boys up to finish up his set, and watching that happen reminded me of how much I miss Drag The River proper. After Jon’s set I had to go. The East coast/Midwest time difference + an obscene amount of whiskey had won the battle and I shared a cab back to the hotel and called it a night over some reheated dinner.
Saturday got started early ’cause the Suburban Home garage sale started at noon and promised some of the SH roster playing in an intimate acoustic environment. That sentence should really clue you in to the level of sheer awesomeness that occurred on an otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon. I’m not gonna go into too much detail about the show at SH’s office, ’cause I think some things are best left for the people that were there, and even if I wanted to tell you about it I don’t have the grace with words that would be required to relay how it went down. I was expecting (and I think the original plan was) minisets by some of the musicians in attendance. What happened, however, was so much more organic and spontaneous, as Josh Small, Tim Barry, Devon from The Takers, Micah and Shane from Two Cow, Austin Lucas, and Andy Thomas (Suburban Home employee) passed around a single guitar, playing songs and telling stories for a couple of hours. Honestly, Saturday afternoon alone easily made the trip worth the money. After the music I headed back to the hotel to watch some NCAA football, cook some dinner and grab a nap before Saturday night (the main reason I came up to Denver) kicked off.
Saturday night’s line up was The Takers, The Revenge, Mike Hale, Ninja Gun, Chad Price, Two Cow Garage and Tim Barry. Since The Takers are one of the bright spots of Florida music, I had zero intention of missing their set, so I arrived at 3 Kings nice and early. Now I gotta admit, for the first couple of hours of Saturday night I was a little off my game. I’d gotten drunk in the afternoon only to go back to the hotel and take a short nap. If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t you will once you turn 21. I am happy to say that The Takers did Florida proud, while once again proving to me that they’re the best thing in Gainesville at the moment. I’m going to be honest, I used the bulk of The Revenge (who, IMO are horrible), Mike Hale and Ninja Gun’s sets to try and get my groove back (drink more whiskey), watch the OU/USC game and bullshit with various folks, so I don’t have too much to say about them. By the time Chad took the stage, though, I was front and center (albeit a little wobbly). Chad’s set included some tracks from his upcoming album, as well as a few crowd favorites. Chad was followed by the emerging juggernaut that is Two Cow Garage. In the middle of their set I sent the following to Facebook: “Two Cow Garage is making America wish they were in Denver right now.” Now I know that’s not true, but that’s only because most of America is lazy as fuck and has no idea who Two Cow is. As a side note, when I started ninebullets the Drive-By Truckers were my hands-down favorite band on earth. Over the years Lucero has managed to wrestle that belt away from DBT. Nowadays, Lucero has one serious contender for the crown in Two Cow. Two Cow put on a typically blistering show that may have even surprised some of their own faithful.
Next up was Tim Barry. The fact that I am staring a new paragraph for Tim’s set is important. It’s the best literary equivalent I can think of to show Tim’s set the same amount of reverence the crowd and the weekend’s bands showed him. I do a lot of shows every year. A lot. Probably five (or more) for every show you see. I’m not saying this to brag, I am saying this to convey the significance of what I’m about to talk about. Not since I saw Konrad Wert (Possessed By Paul James) freeze an entire field in their tracks have I seen the reverence to an artist that I saw on Saturday night when Tim Barry played. Touring bands see a lot of people play and usually they’re more than happy to BS and converse during a set, but as Tim played I surveyed the crowd. Every band present was crowded stage right or at the door to the back. Every fan/attendant was pushed as close to the stage as they could get with a drink held forward as they screamed every word of every song. Almost every person in the bar stopped and watched Tim and he delivered in spades (as if anything else would be possible). Tim probably won’t ever experience any form of commercial success and time will most likely cover all of his material, but I imagine he is okay with that. Tim’s music is a lot like him. It’s here, it’s now and there ain’t an ounce of fake, simile or metaphor about it. And when you witness that you have to stop and appreciate it, much like all of Three Kings did that night. Tim could easily become the face of this genre if he wanted to, but the simple fact is that it ain’t that important to him and you gotta love that.
That was it. I woke up and left, still drunk, on Sunday morning, leaving another awesome weekend in another state behind me while wondering how the Buccaneers might do that afternoon back home (they got bitch slapped). I’m poorer in pocket but richer in experience and (albeit miniature) friends, and that’s what life’s about. I love everyone (especially the travelers) I met this weekend. We’re kindred spirits and good people and hopefully, one day, we’ll hear every band we love on FM Radio. Till then, we’ll bump into one another at various nondescript weekends/festivals around this country and drink, reminisce and catch up, perfectly content in our own anonymity.
See y’all next year.
Two Cow Garage – Should’ve California
Josh Small – Come Down
Drag The River – Old Sad Songs
The Takers – Curse of a Drunk
Tim Barry – Avoiding Catatonic Surrender
The plan was to take a bunch of photos but as is the norm I watched more and photoed less. The pictures I did take can be seen here and if you watch Jana Miller’s site I imagine you’ll see a lot more posted there in the coming days/weeks.