Everything Is Alright | Motion City Soundtrack's "Commit This To Memory" Anniversary Tour Review | Saturday, Februay 21, 2015

It’s been ten years since crazy-haired Justin Pierre first posed the question “Are you feeling fine?” to fans of the Moog-riddled pop-punk that is Motion City Soundtrack. Despite all the changes the years have brought to us, we all stood together on a snowy night last Saturday answering that same old question with the answer of “Yes, I feel just fine” in chorus at the top of our lungs. Fans new and old filled the Gothic Theatre despite the snow to help the midwestern band celebrate the tenth anniversary of their this most critically acclaimed album Commit This To Memory. In the past ten years the group has continued to release music, putting out three more albums with another on the way later this year, but the passion surrounding the tracks of their Sophomore release has been proven to be insatiable. Accompanied by recent radio darlings Brick & Mortar, as well as another familiar face of the past, William Beckett (formerly of The Academy Is…), Saturday’s show was a beautiful mix of new and old from beginning to end, mixing nostalgia and passion with excitement and forward progress. 

Motion City Soundtrack. Photo credit: Maddie Casey.

Opening the night was the two piece Brick & Mortar based out of New Jersey. This band has seen an absurd amount of love from the local alternative radio station 93.3FM (KTCL), and it seems to be paying off. The band played at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs last week and will be back in another three weeks to play as a part of KTCL’s annual St. Patrick’s Day “Kegs and Eggs” lineup at Lodo’s on Friday, March 13th. Making use of tracks and drum pads to accompany the strictly bass-and-drums duo, their live sound was surprisingly full for their small stage presence. Lead singer Brandon Asraf’s interaction with the crowd was unique from anything i’d ever seen before: quirky, quiet, yet deep and connected. He took time between each song to speak with fans about the meaning of each song, and his personal belief that success can come from anyone and anywhere. Coming from humble beginnings themselves, it’s fabulous to see such a passionate group working their way into the touring community so quickly. The band’s discography currently only contains a 7-song EP, which gave them just enough material to fill their 40-minute set. Opening with “Keep This Place Beautiful”, the group’s radio singles like “Locked In A Cage” and “Hollow Tune” certainly got the most applause, but fans were bobbing and moving throughout the set. Although their songs sound great live, their show leaves room to be just as exciting as the music they’re performing, which can only really be perfected by playing live more and more. You can bet we’ll be there the next time they come through Denver, excited to see the progress and change. 

Brandan Asraf of Brick & Mortar. Photo credit: Maddie Casey.

After a quick changeover, the duo on stage morphed into the one-man act of Mr. William Beckett. Known best for his days as the frontman for Fueled By Ramen darlings The Academy Is…, Bill Beckett has been touring as a solo act for the past few years, using his full name as a stage handle and performing much more pop-centric songs compared to the alternative sounds of his past. Although the focus of the evening was the celebration of Motion City Soundtrack’s album anniversary, it was hard to neglect that this year also marks the 10yr anniversary of The Academy Is…’ debut release Almost Here. I hadn’t really thought much about how much old vs. new material I expected out of Mr. Beckett until he opened his set with a beautifully reimagined version of “The Phrase That Pays” and was immediately sent spiraling into what he referred to as “Nostalgia City” for the rest of the night. Seeing Beckett’s name on the bill was certainly a nice addition to a show I was already excited for, but I hadn’t realized how happy i’d be to hear his music until his set started, really making it the unexpected highlight of the night for me. Like Brick & Mortar, Beckett took time to talk about the history of each track he was playing during his set. Talking about his time touring with Fall Out Boy, and working with Cobra Starship’s Gabe Saporta on a music video idea, it was amazing to realize how much time has passed since all of these bands ruled my musical conscious. Playing acoustic versions of his new tracks, Beckett’s new music reflects growth and experimentation for the artist. Mixing fun harmonies and unique instrumentation with his recognizable writing style, it was really great to hear so much progress and change in the music he’s creating. I haven’t seen him perform his new material with a fully fleshed out band yet, but after playing even three of his new tracks, it’s certainly been added to my “to-do” list. Playing more old tracks like “Down and Out”, “About A Girl”, and the fan favorite “Attention”, he ended the last song of his set with the line “let’s get fucked up and die” sparking an uproar from the audience, proving just how ready they were for what was to come next.

William Beckett. Photo credit: Maddie Casey

Charging onto stage to kick off the evening’s highlight, Motion City Soundtrack didn’t hesitate as they kicked off the night with the chords of “Attractive Today” - the crowd was going insane, belting along every word as Justin Pierre attacked the microphone. I’m a huge fan of the anniversary tour “fad” that’s going on right now (especially since I personally credit the music produced from 2003-2006 as the reason I chose to pursue a career in music), but there are certain pieces to this concept that can be problematic…like when the hit single of your record happens to be the second song of your album. Although fans were ecstatic to hear “Everything Is Alright”, it did feel a bit odd to hear the group’s hit single so early in the evening. While it made for an electric beginning to their set, anyone who wasn’t a diehard fan of the group didn’t have as much left to look forward to after the first ten minutes. It might have made things a bit weird for the passive listeners in the audience, but again, playing the album front to back is kind of the point of anniversary tours. I back the group’s choice to stay true to the record, and even though some may have seen it as a speed bump in the show’s set list, the rest of the night was a dream set for any serious fans of the group. Group crowd sing-alongs to “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die” and “Together We’ll Ring in The New Year” gave way to an encore filled with B-sides and fan favorites like “Invisible Monsters”, “A Life Less Ordinary”, and second encore including “Last Night”, “Capital H”, “This Is For Real” and “The Future Freaks Me Out”. 

Although the band’s live dynamic has certainly shifted in the past decade, their passion for performance and the enthusiasm of their fans has certainly stayed the same without fail. A true treat for those who choose to treasure these older records, the Commit This To Memory anniversary tour was all that it should have been: a fabulous homage to times past, and a great celebration of the shared love of music that keeps us all going to shows no matter how much snow falls in one single day.

-Maddie Casey

New Music Tuesday | Misterwives' "Our Own House" Review

We all well know that it’s impossible to make a second “first impression”. Bands are breaking on the radio before they even have an album out on the shelves, giving artist’s less and less time to solidify their sound prior to the world casting judgement. This is making freshman releases increasingly more important compared to years past when a band’s success could be based on their ability to triumph over the age old “Sophomore Slump”, and New York based Misterwives certainly seem to have taken that into account with their freshly released debut album Our Own House.

Most folks by now are familiar with the bands radio hit “Reflections”, the funk-riddled pop hit that’s crushed Top 40 charts over the course of the past few months, but that song merely scratches the surface of this band’s impressive skill set. The track listing of this album walks listeners through a perfectly orchestrated display of the bands stylistic abilities, keeping one entertained, intrigued, and actively listening from beginning to end. The album opens with the powerhouse title track “Our Own House” - pulling listeners in with mysterious piano chords quietly accompanying vocalist Mandy Lee until the band explodes into the chorus. Ebbing and flowing through tempos and emotions, Our Own House progresses from the pure pop of “Reflections” into the half-time love song “Oceans”, and anthemic tracks like “Best I Can Do” and one of my personal favorites, “No Need For Dreaming”. Taking things slower with tracks “Coffins” and “Vagabond”, the band’s experimental choices in melodies as well as tempos truly give vocalist Lee a chance to showcase her exceptional talent. A voice without any kind of present day competition, Lee sings with tangible power and passion. Mix that with her unique vocal range and the “ethereal” feelings evoked by the use of her falsetto, it’s impossible to deny the power of her voice (In case you don’t believe me, take a quick listen to the jazzy outro of “Oceans”, and tell me that’s not beautiful). Pair this with the driving rhythms and well crafted melodies, and Our Own House quickly becomes one of the most tantalizing pop releases of the past three years.

I’m very anxious to see how this well-crafted collection is presented live, but lucky for us Coloradans, we don’t have to wait very long as Misterwives are set to play a sold out show at The Bluebird Theatre on Monday, March 9th, followed quickly by an absurd amount of sets throughout SXSW Music Week down in Austin, TX March 16-23rd. If you’re a fan of pop, horns, dancing, or simply damn good music, I implore you to give Our Own House at least one listen before it’s accepted into pop-culture’s default catalog.

An Evening With Dr. Dog | Review | Ogden Theatre | February 19, 2015

Sometimes the best way to take a trip back in time is to take a step forward. The gentleman of Dr. Dog seem to be experts of this time-warped notion — capturing the sounds of lo-fi, psychedelic rock from the 60’s and 70’s with a beautiful, modern twist, easily proving the idea of history repeating itself. The six-piece from Pennsylvania gave fans in Denver the optimal chance to witness their unique musical stylings since opener Hanni El Khatib could not make the show, leaving Dr. Dog to perform two full sets at The Ogden this past Thursday night.

Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog. Photo credit: Maddie Casey

We haven’t seen Dr. Dog live since they played “Lynxapalooza”, the University of Colorado Denver’s inaugural campus concert in 2013. Playing that show with groups like The Antlers and Blind Pilot, Dr. Dog was an uplifting crowd pleaser mixed into an otherwise mellow lineup. Thursday’s show was almost the opposite as the band chose to open for themselves, giving them optimal time to play both deep cuts as well as fan favorites that spanned the tempo spectrum. A group with uncompromising musical skill, this sextet took full advantage of their extra time on stage, switching places, switching instruments, jamming out on songs like “Heavy Light” and “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”. Digging as deep as 2007’s We All Belong with the track “Alaska”, the band took no shortcuts through their discography, leaving fans from every era of the band’s changing styles happy. Although the band surprisingly skipped over songs like “The ABCs” off their very first EP Toothbrush, I personally enjoyed hearing newer songs off records like Be The Void fleshed out live. This group has perfected the daunting task of producing new records that have the same warmth and “lo-fi” feel of decades past, and although the sound is a welcome change for listeners at home bouncing through albums, I feel like the group’s raw musical abilities are sometimes overshadowed by their minimalistic recordings. In order to really understand the skill, talent, and beauty that is the musicality of Dr. Dog, one must see them live and hear them unfiltered and unrestrained - Thursday felt like the perfect showcase for fans both new and old. The whole room was bobbing and jiving from the beginning of set one to the send of set two, still calling for an encore as the group finished “That Old Black Hole” - after already playing for nearly two full hours. The band seemed to enjoy this unique show opportunity, with bassist Toby Leaman noting “We’re doing two sets tonight, and we don’t get to do this very often! We hope y’all enjoy it as much as we will”. 

Dr. Dog.  Photo credit: Maddie Casey

A beautiful show both musically and visually, we had a blast rocking out with these retro-fitted rock-n-roll gentleman all night long. If harmonious, 60’s-style California pop sounds up your alley, do yourself and check into the clinic of Dr. Dog as fast as possible. The band is out on tour through the end of April with mewithoutYou, and are slated to open for Dispatch this summer at Madison Square Garden. No word when they’ll be back through Denver, but we hope to see them return soon. 

- Maddie Casey

Show Alert | Red Bull SoundSelect's Brownout do "Brown Sabbath" This Tuesday at Hi-Dive

You guys should realize by now just how much Ultra5280 loves Red Bull Sound Select. A beautiful, new-age platform where fans can collaborate on playlists, discover new artists, and get access to hundreds of super cheap - and sometimes even free - concerts a year? This program sits at the forefront of new-age music discovery, and we’ve loved taking advantage of Denver being chosen as one of the first markets for SoundSelect to call home over the last year. We’ve covered multiple SoundSelect shows over the last year, and featured SoundSelect artists like CRL CRRLL, In The Whale, and The Epilogues at numerous Ultra5280 events. 

SoundSelect is continuing to work hard on the artist development portion of it’s program, helping bring young artists to new fans across the globe, and they’re kicking off year two in Denver by bringing Austin-based group Brownout to the Hi-Dive this coming Tuesday, February 24th. The group describes themselves as “hardcore Latin Funk”, and I’m really not sure what could be more tantalizing than hearing each those words used together to describe one single group. Supported by Denver SoundSelect artists The Yawpers and Dragondeer, Brownout Presents “Brown Sabbath”, the group’s re-imagined versions of Black Sabbath songs. SoundSelect events like this Tuesday’s show are open to the public, but members of the SoundSelect community get first dibs on discounted tickets, as well as fun bonus’ that come with each event. Fans who join the SoundSelect community before 9pm on Tuesday and RSVP to the event online will be eligible to get tickets to the show for a measly $3 dollars (no, we’re not kidding), while tickets without RSVP will be $15. In case you needed more of a reason to come, the first 50 fans through the door of the show that night will receive a free Illegal Pete’s burrito. Good music and delicious food - what more could you ask for? 

This Tuesday’s show is the first of many amazing performances Denver will see from SoundSelect artists this year, and registering with the SoundSelect community is the easiest way to guarantee you don’t miss a minute of fun. Register online at www.redbullsoundselect.com/login, and while you’re there, be sure to RSVP for this week’s show. Hope to see you there - you know we’ll be getting down.

White Arrows & Shady Elders | Larimer Lounge | February 18

Larimer Lounge is always the venue that you look back and say, "I saw that band at Larimer Lounge and look at them now!" That's exactly how I feel about the bands we saw on last Wednesday night. But first, let me preface this review with an apology. First and foremost, I am deeply remorseful for using the hashtag #rockordie during Slow Caves set. I see now that it was a grave mistake and I am forever indebted to Castro and to our followers who had to see that. Secondly, I am sorry for this review being so late. I was one of the many fools who decided to venture up to the mountains for the "snowpocalypse". Which resulted in lot and lots of I70 closures and sitting in my car writing this story in my mind. Anyways, I hope that you fine readers can see past all of my imperfections and still find the time to check out these bands.

This was our second time seeing White Arrows, the first time we saw them was when they opened for The Neighbourhood at The Ogden Theatre. This time around there were less screaming tweens and more swooning 20-somethings. White Arrows definitely has this mysterious, rocker vibe down to a tee and the crowd was picking up what they were putting down, if you can catch my drift. To put it into perspective, in order to get decently close to the front one would have to elbow through 6 chicks staring doe eyed at the musicians and risk a perfectly manicured scratch to the forearm. For good reason though. Their looks and "swag" as the kids are saying were definitely on point, but more so than anything, it was their music.

White Arrows has upgraded from pop-punk into their own distinct genre. Ranging from indie undertones to rockish roots, they've fully grown into their skin. Throughout the night they introduced us to some new songs along with peppering in some of their classics. The new tunes were a refreshing surprise as it maximized the unique sound I mentioned earlier. They seem as though they've stepped away from poppy-ness of their youth and upgraded into full-blown indie heartthrobs. Also, they decided to bring Shady Elders along with them for part of their tour which is just another degree of awesomeness.

Shady Elders was the very first band that I saw play at Larimer Lounge. They opened for Youth Lagoon and immediately I was taken with how amazing they were. Listening to Shady Elders play is reminiscent of your first heartbreak where you were left sulking around solemnly and devastated. Where the only thing that dried your streaked cheeks was finally finding THAT album (you all know what it is...Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst...) that understood exactly what you were going through. The addiction you felt to the album at such a young age, is exactly how every song they play makes you feel.

Lead singer and guitarist, Fox Rodemich has a voice that is like an ethereal lullaby coupled with a Stevie Nicks-esq  raspy-ness. It is beautifully unique and hard to put down in words. We recommend checking them out and listening for yourself. They're Denver local and play a lot of shows around the city. Or as our Managing Editor, Castro likes to do when he finds a new band he loves: grab a bottle of his favorite merlot, pop in a pirated version on Fifty Shades of Grey and listen and cry to the album all night long. 

Check out both White Arrows and Shady Elders on Spotify and iTunes!

Hundred Waters Coming To The Bluebird Theatre This Saturday

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Verdugo

One of our favorite bands is currently on tour and will be headlining The Bluebird Theater this Saturday Hundred Waters always puts on a great show when in Denver (We have seen them on a few occasions).. They'll be out on tour supporting a new version of The Moon Rang Like a Bell (Pitchfork's #38 album of 2014) comprised entirely of remixes by fellow forward thinkers (Illangelo, Dirty Beaches, Shigeto, etc). As a bonus incentive we want to send one lucky winner and a guest to checkout the show, check out our Facebook Page for all the details.

Hellyeah | Concert Review | The Summit Music Hall | February 14, 2015

Texas-based metal group Hellyeah spent Valentine's Day here in Denver and they didn’t come alone. Archer, Like a Storm and Devour the Day were also in tow this past Saturday to help support the metal super group consisting of Mudvayne lead vocalist Chad Gray, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, bassist Kyle Sanders and former Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul. While known for their hard rock party vibe, the band has chosen to take their music into a more serious tone with their last two offerings, albums Band of Brothers and Blood for Blood.  This new direction for the band has made for some killer new music which we were excited to hear firsthand this past weekend at the Summit. 

The night started with new band Archer from Santa Cruz, California. Supporting their upcoming debut album, Culling the Week, frontman Dylan Rose has a very Zakk Wylde-esque stage presence and was very energetic and interactive with the crowd. Bassist David De Silva has a very thunderous sound and harmonized really well with Dylan. Drummer Keyhan Moini thrashed on the drums and held it all together as the quickly filling venue got into the groove.

Next up came New Zealand based group Like a Storm. Lead singer Chris Brooks came out with a didgeridoo which captivated the audience as they took over the room. I had not heard of this band yet, but the crowd respond to them as if they were headlining the evening. They also performed a cover of Coolio’s “Gangsters Paradise” and AC/DC’s “TNT” complete with singer Brooks jumping into the crowd to sing and mosh with us. At this point in the evening, it was clear that everyone was in full-on "rock" mode.

New band Devour The Day hit the stage next and opened with their set with the song “Respect” from their debut album Time and Pressure. Their sound is punchy and heavy, and their stage presence is very in your face. A really good combination for a great live show and the crowd responded accordingly the pits got more aggressive.

By now the crowd was primed and ready for Vinnie Paul and crew as Hellyeah opened the show with tracks “ Hellyeah” and “Matter of Time”. The audience was in lead singer Chad Gray’s clutches as he loomed over the audience and bumped fists with the audience. The next song “Sangre Por Sangre (Blood for Blood)“ had new bassist Kyle Sanders spit what appeared to be blood directly into Chad Grays face. As he was singing and screaming directly above me, his face was dripping onto me and my camera. For a split second I was concerned about getting my equipment damaged but that was immediately overridden by sheer excitement; this kind of stuff is exactly why I love metal shows! 

Bassist Kyle Sanders was completely in his element as his massive dreads thrashed about the stage as if they had a life of their own. New guitarist Christian Brady appeared and performed like he had been in the group since it’s inception. Guitarist Tom Maxwell riffed through the crowd and was clearly into his own zone as spit dripped from his mouth while he performed. Former drummer from the legendary band Pantera, Vinnie Paul, was on point as his drum sound is extremely distinguishable and reminiscent of the Cowboys from Hell Days.

Vinnie Paul and the boys did not disappoint, and made it clear that they were very thankful for fans still choosing to show up despite the holiday, and still supporting live music. Right up to the last encore “Cowboy Way”, Hellyeah’s live show is not one to be missed as it’s intensity was something you could feel. HELLYEAH! 

- contributor Dave Burke from Mammoth Metal