My notes say that only fifteen or so people, including me, saw Sauna play at Treefort (they had the bad luck of going on at the same time that Of Montreal performed on the main stage). Not counting the members of the four bands who played this night, the crowd boiled down to about the same size. That wasn't so bad, though. For one thing, I thought that the modest audience suited a more intimate venue like the Crux as opposed to a larger one like the Linen Building. Also, it included Eric Gilbert (who worked the soundboard), Jeremy Jensen from The Very Most, Keesha Renna and a handful of folks from the Caldwell scene.
Local trio First Borns got the evening off to a fine start. Their murmured vocals, solemn bass hooks, droning guitar riffs and quick, clipped yet rock-steady drumming made me think of New Order or The Jesus and Mary Chain gone surf-rock. Each song had its own distinct identity yet still fit within the group's minimalistic sound, which spoke very well for their writing and arranging skills. I couldn't really make out the lyrics, but the music was so appealing that I didn't care.
After First Borns came Sauna. This Denver-based group had had some trouble getting here--their van had broken down a couple of times on the road, and they said that they'd even managed to break a tow truck--but they sounded raring to go during their soundcheck. Their set made good on that promise: they played even better than they did at Treefort. Molly sang the irresistible punk-pop tunes in a slyly serene, girly voice. Ethan chipped in with some charmingly flat harmonies and quietly propulsive basslines. Adding some spice to the mix were Sammi's unquietly propulsive drumming and especially guitarist CJ's dollops of feedback and terse, bulls-eye solos.
|photo by Megan Mallan Stoll|
Sauna's playful music benefitted from some yellow balloons, which the audience bopped and popped over the course of the night. They were such a perfect touch that you'd have thought the band brought them along, but no: this show doubled as a birthday bash for a handful of folks in the crowd (and a couple of people in the other bands).
After Sauna came the Seattle-based trio Orca Team, whose surf-tinged, danceable, slightly ominous rock fell midway between Sauna's spunkiness and First Borns' moodiness. Leif Anders's gently insistent singing and rumbling basslines intertwined with Dwayne Cullen's nimble drums and Jessica B.'s hazy guitar. Their sharp groove got the crowd moving, and their strong melodies and hooks maintained the tuneful standard established by the earlier bands.
Tennessee-based trio Paperhead played last. Instead of hanging ten, their retro-60's sound came straight outta the garage by way of Andy Warhol's Factory: deadpan vocals, trebly guitar, eerie organ tracks, amphetamine-crazed drumming, artfully poppy tunes, looooonnng instrumental passages. Their music evoked both shiny happy people holding hands and midnight ramblers putting their fist through your steel-plated door. The perfect finale for the night.
Sidenote: Here's a picture I took of Keesha Renna doing some serious swinging with a guy during Paperhead's set. When I showed it to her, she just scoffed that her posture wasn't what it used to be. I dunno, looked okay to me...
You can find info about these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Megan Stoll for her cool photo.