A Night of Amazing Denver Music

SHOW #18: The Lumineers with The Outfit and Sawmill Joe at The Bluebird 5/11/12

Hey, internet. I know, I know, it’s been a while. What can I say, I’ve been busy with awesome things. I’m back now though, and that’s really all that matters isn’t it? Oh, also I saw an amazing show, which I (as I am wont to do) am going to tell you all about. So that should help.

It was my friend Natalie that suggested I go see The Lumineers in the first place. I was a bit late to The Lumineers party and I just wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea because I was already going to see Joe Pug the following night. Did I really want to do two shows in two nights again? Every time I do that it wears me out to no end, so the idea wasn’t attractive. Then I listened to a few of The Lumineers songs and I liked what I heard, then I saw that the tickets were only $10.50 and I figured that I couldn’t really pass up good music at that price.

The show ended up selling out at least a month before it actually happened. That led to a longer line for the doors than I have ever seen at The Bluebird and people paying insane prices to buy tickets. I witnessed someone purchase the $10 ticket for $60, then, just a minute or so later I saw someone buy two tickets for $200. It was kind of a bad night to actually like music because it was kind of tempting to take that kind of a profit. I fought those instincts though and I’m glad I did because what I ended up with was worth so much more than a $90 profit.

Sawmill Joe

Sawmill Joe is a goddamned trooper. You see just eight days before the show he was working at the sawmill and lost half of his right ring finger to a saw blade. I would be willing to bet that this will be the only show I ever go to where there is an act that was recently maimed in an industrial accident. Luckily for us, and really lovers of good music everywhere, the finger he lost was on his strumming hand which is much easier for a guitar player to adjust to.

The music he played was very much old school country blues, and I absolutely love the blues. It was the blue and folk music that I was raised on and I spend most of my formative years listening to Muddy Waters. It seems like it’s hard to find really good traditional blues these days but Sawmill Joe brings just that, and he brings it beautifully. His voice has this beautiful high wine that expresses so much emotion and really carries the blues well. His guitar playing strayed a bit from traditional blues at times but I get the feel that may have been related to the accident because, if he was a finger picker before, he’s having to adjust to a strum which can cause guitar music to lose a bit of its complexity if you aren’t used to doing it. Despite that and a bevy of technical issues that cause him to stop midsong on several occasions the fiddle with cords and pedals on stage his set was incredible. I just love seeing this kind of honesty in music, it’s always kind of beautiful and moving. His set definitely made me a fan.

He’s local to Denver and I’m not sure how often he gets out on tour but if you get a chance to see him. Do. I mean really how could you pass up the chance to see this:

The Outfit

These guys were a big thematic change from Sawmill Joe before them and The Lumineers after. They had a sound that felt a bit like 80s infused pop rock and they fucking owned it. Their songs were filled to the brim with catchy basslines, driving drums, and guitar riffs. It all worked together in this beautiful mixture that created an incredible and unique sound that raised the energy level of the crowd and got everyone moving.

These guys had a ton of presence too, from the moment they stepped on stage they took control of the room and didn’t relinquish it until their set was over. I liked everything that they played. It was during their set that I realized that the sound problems that I’ve experienced at recent Bluebird shows didn’t seem to be present. Now that may have been due to my proximity to the stage as I was right next to it, but still everything felt more balanced. The vocals were clear and the instruments were at a level that allowed for an enjoyment of the song as a whole. It always felt to me, at past Bluebird shows, that the most egregious offender in the over micd area was the drums. They were always just too loud and would drown everything out. That wasn’t the case here. The drums were there and they were driving and powerful but they were just a portion of the whole. I’m not sure what changed but it was very nice.

I’ve really got to give some props to The Outfit’s bass player too, the basslines in their songs were catchy as hell and it’s really rare to see a bass player shine so much in a band. They were all very good but it felt like his bass created the direction and feel for every song.

The different feel of their music created an interesting counter point to the other acts but it did so in the best possible way. The energy they brought to the stage and the crowd was the perfect opening note for The Lumineers and I really feel like they built on the show as a whole and made it just that much better.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a lot of clips of these guys performing live online, most of what’s out there is from them playing at the Parker library a few year back and it appears that they have a different line up. I’m still going to post a video but I really don’t think any of them do justice to this band.

The Lumineers

I’m not sure if The Lumineers count as a local band or not. It’s my understanding that they live here but they were formed elsewhere. I don’t really know the ‘local band’ rules, if there actually are any. I’m going to go ahead and claim them for Denver though because it was made clear throughout the night that this is their home and that makes them part of Denver and the Denver music scene. Maybe my claim is just selfish tough because they are ridiculously incredible and it’s so great to have a group this good call your town home. Especially here in Denver.

I didn’t really know what to expect. Their self titled first album was just released at the beginning of April and that coincided with my exposure to them. I’d heard a few songs online before then but the album was my first full fledged exposure and I liked what I heard but what I got in the album didn’t prepare me at all for what they were bringing to the live show. Their performance was lively, and powerful. The crowd was electric, singing along at every opportunity and the band embraced this. There was so much love going both ways, from us to them and from them to us. It was amazing and it made for an amazing show. It was so great to experience it.

Their lineup was free flowing with people moving to different instruments or, on occasion, leaving the stage all together from song to song. It created an interesting dynamic that brought a new sort of life to every single song. Their lyrics are earnest and heartfelt and moving. Their melodies beautiful. They are folk, and americana and possibly alt-this or alt-that as well, but in the end the labels don’t matter that much because they are incredible musicians who love what they do and give everything they have. I loved every moment of this show and I was glad I posted up right next to the stage because it gave the performance a more intimate feeling that The Bluebird can pull off on its own.

During their encore they came out into the middle of the crowd and played a song for us and it’s a testament to how much the crowed loved them that they shut up for that performance. You could have heard a pin drop before they started playing unplugged out there in the sea of humanity that was the crowd. It should be noted that I’m always a hug fan of artists going off mic and unplugged. There is something about an unamplified acoustic guitar that is so much more simple and beautiful than one that’s been amplified. This part of the show was the only time that I regretted being so close to the stage because they wandered quite far from the stage to play in the crowd. The choice makes sense because those of us by the stage have been close to the music all night, why not give a treat to those in the middle and back of the room?

I’m going to post two songs for you, Ho Hey because that is their hit song, and the one most people are likely to know and Dead Sea because I absolutely love it. Ho Hey is a great song but I find Dead Sea to be superior to it in every way. Perhaps it’s just the romantic in me but the chorus I find the chorus to be so beautiful. I think everyone would want to know that they meant that much to someone at some point. Actually the status of Ho Hey as their current most popular song brings up another point to me about these guys, they didn’t play it last, it wasn’t even part of the encore. They actually played it about midway through their set and I’ve got to say I liked that. It’s so stereotypical to play the hit last and when they didn’t it was refreshing. Maybe that just happened because they were playing here for a crowd that is familiar with them, but still it was nice to see.

Interestingly I’ll be seeing these guys again tonight, I bought a ticket for Joe Pug weeks ago and at some point the Lumineers were added to that show. I don’t know if they’ll be opening for him, or co-headlining, or what. Last night, before the performance, I was sort of lamenting the fact that they may have knocked Joe Pug out of the headlining spot because I like Joe Pug and I wanted to see him. After the performance though I have to say that I’ll be okay with whatever the arrangement is. I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again.

Now to the music:

And Ho Hey


2 comments on “A Night of Amazing Denver Music

  1. […] you guys remember the first time I saw The Lumineers? Man it seems like it was only yesterday. Of course that is almost entirely because it was […]

  2. […] #4 The Lumineers with The Outfit and Sawmill Joe at The Bluebird on 5/11/12 […]

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