GRiZ Electrified With His Multi-Dimensioned Live Band At Red Rocks

Grant Kwiecinski AKA GRiZ blew us away with his Live Band Performance at Red Rocks on Friday!   He assembled about a 15 person band including himself on the saxophone, his partner in crime Muzzy Bear on the guitar, surprise guest performances, back up singers, drummers of all kinds, multiple brass instruments and even a flute player! We had the pleasure of seeing them at their rehearsal the night before, but nothing prepared us for the production they put on at Red Rocks. The cohesion that all of these instruments had blended GRiZ's mostly electronic style of music with a more instrumental funk that had people dancing all night long! 

Although GRiZ has been mostly absent on social media in the past few months, we could tell the second he stepped on stage that he loved seeing all of his devoted fans. We saw so many people wearing his merchandise that says things like, "Ain't bad, Always rad", "All we need is more love" and "Good will continue." These little reminders of spreading positivity and love were seen and heard all through out his live band performance as well! 

Two Parts Purchases Underground Music Showcase from The Denver Post

Two Parts, the Denver-based marketing and experiential agency, has purchased the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) from The Denver Post Community Foundation. The UMS has been the city’s largest, annual multi-day indie music festival for more than 17 years. 

The UMS mission to promote local, underground music by hosting hundreds of performances across dozens of venues is a testament to Denver’s vast and vibrant music scene, which made Two Parts want to get more deeply involved. 

“We have developed some of the city’s most unique craft beer, food, and maker-focused events,” said Casey Berry, co-founder of Two Parts. “We are excited to incorporate all of these experiences as we jump into planning UMS with full force. The UMS is a staple event among the city and was built on the same local-first mentality that we have at Two Parts. We look forward to carrying the torch for the next generation of UMS.”

Colfax Speed Queen slaying during last years UMS (Photo Credit: Aly McClaran)

This is a major achievement for Two Parts and further shows their commitment to showcasing and supporting Denver’s growing small business industries. Two Parts will continue to build on 17 years of fantastic Colorado-focused lineups, and add to the experience with some exciting new components in 2018. 

Providing Denver with the best experiences around locally-driven products and quality establishments has always been Two Parts’ mission—and taking over the UMS further expands on that promise. They have previously injected music into the events they produce; the addition of UMS to the portfolio marks their first major music festival, one they are excited to pour their love and expertise into with the goal of creating the ultimate Denver weekend.

Thee Oh Sees perform at UMS (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

“I am excited to see what Two Parts does with the UMS. Their reputation for executing quality events and their commitment to craft makes them the ideal team to lead the next phase of the festival,” said Kendall Smith, former director of UMS. 

The 2018 UMS will feature hundreds of bands from July 26 - 29. In addition to local music, the 2018 UMS will feature national acts, even more craft beer, food, spirits and beyond. Two Parts is excited to create a live music experience that immerses both festival newbies and seasoned veteran attendees. 

“As someone who has attended and been apart of the UMS for years—it’s always been a dream of mine to run the festival from the ground up,” said Tobias Krause, event manager and Two Parts’ choice to lead the UMS. “I started out covering the festival as a journalist, and eventually worked my way into the fold to become the local talent buyer and showcase coordinator. With Two Parts purchasing the festival, I’m excited to have the opportunity to take the festival to the next level. Denver’s music scene is and has been producing some of the best acts around, and we’re excited to showcase that talent in 2018 and into the future.”

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater 7/1: Indulgent as a Fourth Gin and Tonic

July 1st saw Conor Oberst’s Salutations tour at Boulder Theater, a set that spanned all ages of Oberst, from his early project Bright Eyes to his most recent solo album Salutations (2017). Known for his tired raconteur-turned-barkeeper vocal style and general self debasement, Oberst has been the recent recipient of criticism and doubt of his merit as an artist. Yet Oberst performed with the musical leverage of any other professional musician; a commanding stage presence and a sound quality nearly parallel to studio level recording. 

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

Oberst has defined the subculture of emo-indie music since the early aughts. A veteran musician and prolific song-writer, Oberst has carved his own whiskey sodden hovel in the music world and nestled himself cozily into it. Including the beloved, rose colored and honey-sweet I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning, Oberst captained over fourteen albums with Bright Eyes. Since his contributions with Bright Eyes (1998-2011) the man has gone on to create over seven solo and collaborative albums with indie label Sub Pop Records. 

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

The placelessness and angst Oberst’s work feeds off of has become expectable. With narratives of New York winters warmed by cups of wine in stranger’s apartments, wandering aimlessly through the streets of Mexico, or passing time in a local watering hole, all of his projects are instantly recognizable via Oberst’s tone and visage. But while his lyrics speak of a past life in which our loves were great and our sorrows even greater, his performance at the Boulder Theater was refreshingly present. After a suitably fantastic and heart-wrenching set from Oberst’s long time friend, Tim Kasher, the theater settled in for a look at one of its most raw, burdened heroes.

Oberst’s recent work has refashioned the storied sound of American folk. Oberst has transformed the tradition of twangy, downtrodden and universally relatable country-pop lyricism and crafted his own achingly personal inflictions. The setlist included the first track on Ruminations (2016) “Too Late to Fixate” and “Barbary Coast (Later)”, alongside classics such as “Train Under Water” and “Southern State”. The performance filled the theater with their thickly layered instrumentation, and the band (which included members of The Felice Brothers, session drummer Jim Keltner, Gillian Welch, M. Ward, Jim James and Maria Taylor) had a palpable chemistry, considering their artistic stature, and that they’ve contributed to various Oberst projects. 

Conor Oberst is as indulgent as a fourth gin and tonic, and that is exactly why we love him; sardonic and in the vein of Father John Misty’s addled distaste for all things modern and ‘of the self’ and ‘of the world’. Oberst is a figure we love to love nearly as much as we love to write him off as ‘just a sad-sack guy’, as he embodies all the moody and morose aspects of our most ungrateful, hedonistic and all-around selfish selves. But that is exactly why we’ve loved him, even if ‘it’s complicated.’

Conor Oberst switching out his guitars at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

Conor Oberst switching out his guitars at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

For all his faults, faces and personas, his contributions are seminal to music history as a whole. Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes and the like are defined by their lyrical vulnerability and the brittle reality of addictions, breakups, and other popular neuroses of the 21st century. Their work is honest, at times ugly, at times downright painful, but always honest. Time shows that people will connect most with unbridled honesty. For that reason, Oberst and Kasher are still standing, living long past the era when I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning or Cursive’s (Kasher) Domestica was nested in your six-disk spinner. In an age where we all curate our identities to the most minute degree, and social media is all smiles everything, one can make the argument that Oberst is still all the more relevant, and his persona is not necessarily a tool to use, but a construction of his artistic bravery. 

His weary intonations and general, unabashed and drunken self-effacement are at times to swallow, dripping all their immoral humors:

“My wife takes a vacation/ One she can't afford/ I go fishin' the alleys/ For someone to escort/ No, I don't mind the money/ It beats betting on sports/ And though it might get expensive/ It's cheaper than divorce.” 

But we’re fucked if we deny that admitting your trespasses isn’t the first step. Now, you may be thinking that Oberst has been at it for a little while too long here, hitting the wall of his own self, continuing the legacy of tortured male artists such as the late poet John Berryman (The Dream Songs). And you’re not wrong either. But for all he is, he is a talented musician, and his performance at the Boulder Theater alongside Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) and others proved him so. 

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

Conor Oberst at Boulder Theater, 1 July 2017. Photo: Jocelyn Rockhold

The Salutations album and tour was met with much criticism and apprehension from Pitchfork seeing as Salutations 2017 was a short side-step from Ruminations 2016, which consisted of acoustic, solo tracks, and showed a rawer, more intimate side of Oberst. Ruminations, which was well received, stirred the theory that he may soon be shedding the cocoon of his former 2005 self who was defined by “protest song and smack-addled narcolepsy.” Salutations (released a year later) was a somewhat shallow reproduction of Ruminations with a backing band consisting of seven of his best friends and the track-list was shuffled. According to Pitchfork, at least.

But the folk-flagellant Oberst’s recent album Salutations 2017, though a short side-step from Ruminations 2016, for all its criticisms, gives its predecessor a stronger spine. The secondary album (a diptych of sorts) reiterates and strengthens its predecessor. And given that the Ruminations tour was merely half the size of the Salutations tour, Oberst may have merely wanted to give a wider breadth to his listenership. All in all, Oberst still remains a accomplished and capable musician, and a major contributor to the indie-folk subgenre as a whole. 

Author: Kendall Morris, Music Writer at Ultra5280

New York's The Dig Brought Denver Psych-Pop Clarity @ Larimer Monday 3/27

The Dig played an exclusive set at Larimer Lounge on Monday comprised of their newest Bloodshot Tokyo (2017)- a refreshing offshoot from predecessors Tame Impala and Dr. Dog. The Dig bring the raw relatability of the primary in their clever lyricism and tonality, yet elevate the mood with the syrupy psychedelia of the latter. The quattro has palpable magnetism; their far reaching harmonies were layered yet concise, dripping with charming clarity while remaining danceable and effervescent. 

Photo Kendall Morris

Photo Kendall Morris

Photo Kendall Morris

Photo Kendall Morris

David Baldwin and Emile Mosseri fronted the stage with a strange at-home electricity. The show was to be their last of the tour, thus they were familiar with set and stage, but also ready to blow whatever pent energy they had left post-road. 

Emile Mosseri took to the ledge, drenched in magenta light, channeling light, mild-and-airy vocals which Baldwin closely shadowed. Keyboardist Erik Eiser sifted through the melodies and keyboard settings with quick hands and quicker bare feet; his maze of wires included a varied pedal assemblage, multiple keyboards and synths, and a plastic water cup expertly tucked into his discarded sneaker for safe sips. 

On tracks like Jet Black Hair their pedalwork crafted intricate waves and rifts with oblique attention, while on others such as Bleeding Heart (You Are the One), synthy beats drove the set into saturation. Their set was largely explorative; sounds drifted over the crowd for interminable moments before flitting off into another pop-beat configuration. 

The Dig’s new sound is easy yet invasive and implacable. Their sound worms into your limbs and may just start moving them, but it posesses a cerebral and candid quality that is often impossible to mimic. While The Dig’s new release Bloodshot Tokyo is in conversation with the larger forces in the psych-pop movement, it remains it’s own entity, dolling out it’s own particular creativity rooted in it’s New York upbringing.

We’re excited to see where The Dig is going, particularly with their newest release. Their set is not to be missed, and posed as a reminder of the weird magic of music, the art of crafting songs with full-blooded entities out of the smoke in the barroom air. 

ULTRA EXCLUSIVE | New Music From The Savage Blush

You saw them play UMS 2016; the High-dive house-guests were piled high to see the high water set of The Savage Blush, Denver's favorite family band comprised of Rebecca and Josh WIlliams. But where have the sibs been since? Hunting wild-game in South Africa? No. Living off of drippings from the ceiling? No. Watching Full-House? No.

The Blush have been on what they termed a months long "desert-sabbatical". For the Blush, their desert hours entail a lot of dirt, dust, and writing music in their camper van. The perfect storm that results in that gritty sand-in-your-eyes sound. Their fresh minted singles will make you want to sell your belongings and become a desert rover too. 

Read our interview with Rebecca Williams here, and listen below for Ultra5280's exclusive release of The Savage Blush's 'Singles'. Available on Bandcamp.