November 22: Japandroids, Surfer Blood

The Larimer Lounge is one of those unique venues; carved out of the dark, dank husk of an old brick building, that makes a show better by its virtue. Intimacy in live performances is always my go-to issue. Massive halls and stadiums never give a good picture of a group playing their instruments and belting out melodies. The Larimer is small enough (and far enough out of the way) that it has an air of big city authenticity, even in the little city of Denver. There's something Chicago-esque about it.

First, Eyes and Ears opens with a punk heavy, very solid show, with nice vocal harmonies between 3 distinct voices. As a young band might, though, Eyes and Ears' style and songwriting is a bit schizophrenic. Each individual composition is mostly on point, but over the course of the set last night we heard 2 different bands: one hardcore punk, and one hook-rock. Certainly, over the course of a career, The Clash filled those two band roles too, so I'm not complaining. They have excellent lead singers, both male and female, but the key will be utilizing both effectively. Eyes and Ears is a local Denver band, you can find them on MySpace.

Surfer Blood (My second show seeing these kids as the middle band. Can we call that band, the one who doesn't headline, but isn't the cold opener, the "Jan band"? Often overlooked, but with a lot of substance and talent. And never hit in the nose with a football.) played another excellent show, this time to a smaller crowd, in a room with a lower ceiling. This band is quickly becoming one of my favorites to see live. They are polished, with perfectly-composed guitar hooks and great lyrics. And, after their set, I spoke with drummer Tyler Schwarz and singer John Paul Pitts at length. This is an affable group of guys with a lot of talent. Influenced by the Pixies, Surfer Blood also has a bit of Wolf Parade and 1960s bands like The Left Banke in them. We discussed the tour, which has covered 6 weeks. Their thoughts on the Bluebird show: Schwarz said, "The problem with the Bluebird is that you can get 100 people in there, but they spread out and it looks empty." I'd strongly suggest picking up their new album Astro Coast upon its official release. Hear them here.

And then, Japandroid's destroyed everything! The wonderful thing about the Larimer is that the bar is set back from the main stage, and when you're that far back you have a drink and avoid the ear-ruining bombardment rattling around those old brick walls. Japandroids were loud, and energized and brutal. Bounding guitarist and lead singer Brian King built a wall of reverb heavy power, while David Prowse hammered the drums with an amazing violent passion. Since Japandroids are not known for "hits" the show was especially appealing. The expectation is that the band will be loud and powerful, but not that hearing "song A" or "song B" is a priority. These are pair of guys that are virtuosic at their instruments in the fast, loudest way. And it's also very clear that they love playing together, as the energetic climbing up on the drum kit and wild flailing dances indicate.

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