An evening at the Fillmore.
Saturday, in Denver, the local Fillmore branch hosted a handful of up and coming/hitting the big time pop-power-rock bands, notably including San Francisco's Matt Nathanson, and Jacks Mannequin, headed by the former lead singer of Something Corporate. My elitist music sensibilities, and yes, I'll freely admit that I'm a huge elitist indie-music asshole, usually preclude me from attending this type of show. I'm not proud of that, though I suppose I must carry pride enough to spout about it for nearly the entire opening paragraph of this post. Point being, this was an unusual show for me to attend, but one that was fulfilling, clattering and bombastic.
Matt Nathanson is not terrible. Let me say that. But his entire stage presence was predicated on tapping the cultural capital of the all ages audience in attendance. He, between John Mayer-esque wank ballads and soft-rock tunes, mentioned Gossip Girl, Hannah Montana and made multiple Disney original programming references that could only have been to benefit the droves of just-post-tween girls swooning at his deluge of "Your Body Is A Wonderland" rip-offs. Am I sounding bitter? Really, beyond even that his music was tolerable, if mostly innocuous and uninteresting. Lyrically it was as dense as Dr. Seuss and by no means as pleasing. Musically it was tight, driving, major-chord heavy and mostly bland. But, one of the hipster gals down front of stage threw him a bra, and he made a Flashdance reference that earned a sliver of redemption. Ultimately, the kid knows his audience of which I am not a member and that made his time on the stage excellent for an MST3000 style running critique. Verdict: Fun, but wanky as hell.
Jacks Mannequin was an altogether different beast. A band led by a piano, but not carried by it to the extent of Coldplay made for a raucous show. I'll betray my hand a bit and say that I had visited the Newcastle tap several times (5) by the time the headliner hit the stage. So, as they cranked up the volume and mashed, like an illiterate badger, at the keys on back to back songs I began to lose interest. There's also the simple fact that the Fillmore is likely the most acoustically-challenged venue in Denver, outside of the alley behind a porno theater and that guy Barry's garage. In short, not knowing the band, who were very clearing reaching the entire rest of the crowd... and not being able to adequately hear the words or pick out the nuances of piano, guitar, bass, drums made parts of the show difficult to fully immerse myself in, but still enjoyable. Another factor: Jacks Mannequin is a radio darling on 93.3FM, and I've not listened to the radio consistently in years.
The best part of this show, aside from my company, and a darling couple my friend and I met during intermission were the handful of Jacks' songs that opened with a gorgeous, intricate piano line and then built to the rocking explosion of drums and guitar that makes any good song great and very danceable. They especially impressed in utilizing the minor chords that make even the most lyrically upbeat song physically lamentative and take full advantage of the beauty inherent within a piano. Jacks Mannequin were the elder statesmen of the show and carried themselves with that air, not flinging current (and negligible) pop culture references into the crowd, but letting their music do the talking. Verdict: Excellent. Jacks piqued my interest enough that I would like to hear the recordings to see what lies beyond what the Fillmore "acoustic-ally" drowned.
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