This was my first time at L2 Arts & Culture center. They are affiliated with Swallow Hill, which is a great institution we have here in Denver that helps to preserve and showcase music. It’s both a music school and a concert venue. Often musicians coming through town will teach classes at Swallow Hill. It’s the kind of place that I’m not sure every city has, but I think every city should have a place like it. A lot of my friends don’t like going to shows at Swallow Hill because they don’t have a liquor license and the shows are a very quite sit down affair. In a way I love that because you’ll never be at a show where more people respect the musicians on stage than at Swallow Hill. There are no side conversations when there is music being played everyone gives their full attention to the show. L2 is a bit removed from Swallow Hill, I think it was added to their list of venues fairly recently, and as a result there was sort of a mixed crowd. The show was still a sit down affair but they have a liquor license at L2, and it’s not exactly swallow hill. Some of the crowd wanted to party and some of them just wanted to sit and listen. This led to the strange situation of someone yelling “WOO!” and then being shushed by someone near him. It also led to one man, perhaps in defiance of the subdued tone, yelling out “Yeah, sing it Todd!” during almost every song. In hindsight it was probably a good thing he was there because if he hadn’t been Todd might have forgotten to sing it and the show would have been an unmitigated disaster. The one thing I was annoyed with with the subdued crowd was the people shushing people who were singing along. Singing along is entirely different from randomly shouting and should almost always be permissible at shows. Granted you don’t want to sing really loud and drown out the actual musician on stage but that never happened. So, enough about the ambiance, what about the show?
This is a six piece acoustic band from Pueblo Colorado. Which was kind of surprising because, Pueblo isn’t a very big town so the fact that it produced six exceptional musicians at all is surprising let alone six in the same band. Seriously these guys were pretty damn awesome. They have tons of talent. Everyone but the bass player added their voice to the harmonization they were creating, and more than one member played the role of lead singer on several different songs. Most of them played multiple instruments throughout the set and the songs that they played were exceptional. Their set was fairly short, which was necessary given the overall length of the show but I got the feeling that the crowd really wanted an encore from them, which is pretty rare for an opening act. Once again I am reminded by a band I’ve never heard of the Denver (or in this case Colorado) has a pretty damn good music scene. I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to call this type of music. I think so people go with Roots or Americana but to me it’s just plain old folk music. It always seems to me that “Folk” as a genre has been narrowed down to me singer-songwriter but that’s not really folk to me. Folk is simple communal beautiful music. It’s music that could happen anywhere, music that can be shared and passed down. That’s what this felt like to me. I could picture them playing on a porch or in a park and being just as exceptional there as they were at the show. Kind of like this:
See, that’s folk music to me. It looks like these guys are about to head out on the road so keep an eye out for them, if they come near you you should definitely check them out. At the very least join their mailing list because you’ll get seven free songs for your trouble.
Todd Snider is a consummate showman. He brings so much to his live performances, humor, stories, soul, thought provoking lyrics. It’s all in there. He self descibes his particular brand of music as Stoner Folk and it’s a very apt description. He brings a lot of what folk music has lost over the years with him in the form of humor and tall tales. These days it seems when people think folk they think politics, singer-songwriter and that’s about it. Once upon a time though folk musicians were entertainers. Before Dylan gained so much sway with his political songs he made a living on tall tales and a lot of his songs ventured dangerously close to comedy. Take a listen to Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues for an example. In fact most of Dylan’s talking blues were intended to be humorous, the message was still there but the method of it was humor. Todd Snider follows this old folk singer creed, every song has a story and what that story is might change from one night to another. It’s not about giving people insight into the songwriting process it’s about being entertaining. Luckily he’s a gifted story teller and he will make you laugh out loud more than once at his shows. He also has an affinity for stopping mid song and telling a story which is a quality I highly admire in a performer when it’s done right.
Like I said before the venue was kind of strange for this show because a lot of what he does is fun and should be experienced on your feet in a crazy crown, but it was interesting too because this venue allows you to focus less on the party and more on the songs and that’s a good thing. He has an earthy soulful voice that works very well with the music that he creates. His song waver from the humor I mentioned before to much more serious and political. He is a voice for the working man, as all folk singers should be, who calls out the rich in a lot of his songs. I love that, because I love political music. I’ve said on here before the music is an amazing agent for societal change but it’s rarely used as such these days and that bothers me so it’s always refreshing to see someone who puts politics at the forefront of their music like Todd Snider does. It’s also great that he presents these politics in a refreshing and not overbearing way.
It’s usually about this part of a post where I wonder why the musician I’ve seen isn’t more popular given the awesomeness they present but with Todd Snider I kind of understand why he isn’t selling out stadiums. This isn’t music for everyone, a lot of people are turned of by politics in music, and a lot of people might be annoyed by a man who spends 20% of his shows talking. Those people are fully entitled to their opinions, no matter how wrong they are. Todd Snider is incredible, his music is great and his shows are incredibly entertaining. So if old school folk is something you’re even kind of into you should see him the next time he comes to your town. I know I’ll be seeing him the next time he’s in Denver.
And fuck it I’m posting a second song because I really like this one: