by Maddie Casey
When I was in high school, a friend of mine ordered a shirt online from a company in Germany that said “Hurry The Cakes” on it. The shirt was nothing special, it wasn’t for a band or an event, it was just a plain t-shirt that none of us really understood. When we asked him what the hell that phrase could possibly mean, he laughed and said “that’s the point! It’s like shirts here in the US that have Chinese characters on them, no one knows what this means (in Germany), but it’s English written on a t-shirt, so it’s cool.”
That’s pretty much how I felt about the Milky Chance show at the Ogden this past Wednesday night. The show was beautiful, dynamic, interesting, and felt a lot like what I’d expect of the clubs in Berlin…but not much of it actually made any sense when you looked at it as separate pieces. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This somewhat coherent combination of unrelated elements added to the show, creating an experience that was certainly unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. It was cool - the “Hurry The Cakes” kind of cool.
I arrived without any inclination as to what I was about to see that evening. Despite their consistent presence on radio over the past few months, I still had no real idea just who Milky Chance was, and it was up to this performance to really define that for me. The opening group of the evening was a band called Mighy Oaks…a folk band. Enter unexpected surprise #1 of the night. Playing a catchy brand of quiet folk with tantalizing harmonies blended between guitars and flowing bass lines, I didn’t really see how this group fit sonically with what I knew of the headliners. I decided to go with it, and found myself pleasantly surprised by the group’s performance. The band continued over and over to tell the crowd that they appreciated us being there despite their certainty that no one in the audience had heard of them before. Although having a folk band open for Milky Chance made zero sense in my mind, I appreciated both of the groups being open to the idea of cross-genre touring.
After a short but sweet set from Mighty Oaks, totem poles and dream catchers began to appear on stage as the crew set the stage for Milky Chance. This group was from Germany, yet the stage made it feel like we had been transported into the Northern territories of Canada. Unexpected surprise #2. A little confused, a little surprised, and a bit excited, I prepped myself as the lights went down and three silhouetted figures entered the stage. Their first song filled the room easily with perfectly mixed deep bass lines ebbing and flowing behind the leading guitar line. Vocalist Clemens Rehbein approached his mic after a slow build up and began the vocals to the song “Fairytale”. While I couldn’t quite figure out if what he was saying was German or English all night long, it didn’t stop me from loving the deep, somewhat hypnotizing tone of his voice.
This show felt a lot more like a club performance than a show in a 1,600 capacity venue - more so than any other performance I’ve seen at The Ogden. Unexpected surprise #3. With low lights, a dynamic light show, and very little time between songs, Milky Chance brought their splendid, Euro-pop, reggae-laced songs to life with skill and a unique style of live instrumentation. When I say unique, I don’t just mean they were playing unusual instruments on stage, I mean that how they performed their music on stage was not your typical “band performance”. There were only 3 performers on stage that evening: two with guitars, one with a harmonica in his pocket, and one standing amidst a very full percussion setup that (unexpected surprise #4) did not include a drum kit. Watching their percussionist was almost as enchanting as the light show happening in the venue, since it was hard to really figure out just what sound was electronic from his pad/MacBook, and what was happening live. The sound for the show was also so full and immersive without being overbearing like many live tracks can be, it was hard to believe it could come from three men and a laptop.
Milky Chance certainly proved just who they really are to Denver on Wednesday night: unexpected, and surprising. Although every piece of their show separately seemed as if it couldn’t be more different, it all formed one beautifully unique, cohesive work - strangely representative of the diverse and expansive genres one can identify in songs from their Sadnecessary record. If this kind of artsy experiment sounds up your alley, grab tickets while you can to Milky Chance’s next Denver show, opening for Walk The Moon at the equally artsy Red Rocks Amphitheater on August 6th. This band playing at that venue just might be the definition of other-worldly, not to miss for sure.