Gentle Groove: The Hidden History of Grunge in the Modern City

Central Saloon

We wound down the hills of Queen Anne, one of the many ritzy districts in the thriving Seattle metropolis. With the water in the distance and the incredibly steep streets, it felt like we were in San Francisco. Past the buzz of a busy city on a Tuesday, we ended up in Belltown, the most densely populated area of the city. We pulled into a graffiti covered alley and hopped out of the car.

However this wasn’t graffiti like you’d see on the wrong side of the tracks, rather this looked like some sort of artsy hipster scene. We walked up to the elaborate and ornate alley entrance to Black Dog Forge, a blacksmith shop that’s been in operation for a quarter century. Fittingly, two black dogs walked out and greeted us, along with the sounds of machinery and metalwork emanating from inside.

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Swans Show Review

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Venue: Gothic Theater

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 09/10/16

Inebriation Level: Behaved Myself

Describe Swans music in one word: Ugly. Throughout their 34 year career, Michael Gira and crew have been hard to classify, ranging from Post-Rock to Experimental to Noise Rock. However one thing remains consistent: Take all the dissonance our ears hate and musicians are taught to avoid, and that ugliness is Swans.

I discovered Swans with their 2012 album The Seer, which ended up being hands down my favorite of the year. Their followup in 2014 To Be Kind was much more abrasive and punishing, yet I still had to agree with many in the music nerd community and call it one of the best of the year. Now with the recent release of The Glowing Man, I daresay those dudes have done it again.

Getting somebody to join me in a quest to hear some loud and ugly music was going to be a challenge, and I was prepared to fly solo and hope no one noticed that weirdo by himself like my last Post-Rock show catching Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Then I remembered I had a friend named Swan. No one would want to miss a show with their namesake, not even Swan, so away we went to the Gothic Theater in the one and only Englehood, Colorado.

We arrived to a maybe half-full venue, with a crowd that was disappointingly devoid of too many hipsters. Using my uncanny ability to scout out the best spot in the house, we posted up behind the ADA section with a clear view of the stage. Since I shared that sweet tip with you, make sure to use it anywhere but Denver. You’re welcome.

The band walked out on the stage and looked like a bunch of cranky old men ready to play Lynyrd Skynyrd covers at the local Elks Lodge. To say they were unassuming was an understatement with the onslaught of noise we were about to receive.

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Black Mountain Show Review

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Venue: Larimer Lounge

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 05/07/16

Inebriation Level: Buzzed (I may have woken up hungover that day)

The year was sometime in college. I was staying at my parent’s in boring I mean beautiful Castle Rock, Colorado for the summer. I went to the cultural hub of the city, which was the library (good for you Castle Rock). Back then, I would borrow CDs and burn them, the precursor to illegally downloading music. Aren’t I such a respectable music nerd? I was trying to complete my Black Sabbath collection, mainly because they’re really awesome, and in the ‘B’ section I picked up a CD with a mountain on it that said “Black Mountain” on the cover. It turned out to be their just released self-titled debut album. I figured I’d give it a try and threw it on the speakers later that day. The rest is history. Why do I remember that, yet still have to think for about four seconds anytime someone asks me my age? No idea.

They released a deluxe 10 year anniversary reissue of their debut back in 2015, and I got my hands on it a couple of months ago. I wondered, what ever happened to Black Mountain? I’d always wanted to see them live and had been patiently waiting for a new release after a six year hiatus. I kind of thought they had broken up. Then, just like that, a two day stint in Denver and the new album IV. Ask and you shall receive. I would like to ask for a million dollars. Worth a try, right?

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor Show Review

 

Venue: Ogden Theatre

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 02/08/16

Inebriation Level: Sober (cut me some slack, it was a Monday)

I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it. My ears aren’t still ringing right now, they genuinely hurt. My mind is completely worn out, like I just took a three hour physics exam. Few bands challenge the listener like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Post-Rock kings from that friendly country to the North. If you value music as an art form and choose genuine music over entertainment like Pop and Rap, this is a concert you must see.

This was the first show I ventured to alone, and before you accuse me of not having any friends and being socially awkward, let me explain myself. If you’re trying to convince someone to go to a concert with you and they don’t know what Post-Rock is, you have to say “Experimental instrumental rock.” That probably scares them a little. Then they ask what the band is called and you say, “Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Of course then they say, “What the Hell is wrong with you?” Finally, they ask when the show is, a reasonable question. You respond Monday, and well, by that point, you’re flying solo. Or maybe you just don’t have any friends. Crap.

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Chasing Ghosts: The Search For Answers On The Mississippi Blues Trail

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I was in the middle of nowhere. I drove an hour south of Memphis, down a maze of directions I had to hunt for online. I didn’t know if they were correct, but I had a mission in mind. It didn’t make any sense, but I just kept driving. I passed confederate flags waving proudly in front of ramshackle houses. I went up and down rolling hills that reminded me of southern Indiana by my alma mater. I crept by a sea of green on both sides of the road, with foliage covering every inch of the ground and creeping up the trunks of the trees. Then I turned on Kimbrough Chapel drive and felt a rush of excitement. It was like I found my place on a treasure map and the trunk full of gold was just ahead.

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Billy Joel Show Review

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Venue: Pepsi Center

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 09/16/15

Inebriation Level: Too Sober For Comfort

For some reason, when I was a kid, the very first bands I jammed to were The Beatles and Billy Joel. I still have those cassette tapes (damn I feel old) in a box somewhere. My Dad was a huge Beatles fan, so that made sense. No idea where the Billy Joel thing came from, but Hell, I figured it was about time to see him live.

The Piano Man wasn’t on the top of my list like The Rolling Stones or Neil Young, but I’d heard rave reviews about his shows. I wasn’t expecting one of those epic jam kind of shows, but one of those play all the hits kind of shows.

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Charles Bradley Show Review

Venue: Bluebird Theater

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 09/12/15

Inebriation Level: 12 Hours Of Straight Drinking

The Screaming Eagle of Soul was coming to Denver and I wasn’t going to miss it. I’d been jamming since his 2011 debut and know he’s about as close as you’re going to get to old school Soul. I had finally just watched his documentary on Netflix (while chilling of course) to get all hyped up for the show. It was Soul time.

Convincing someone to come along proved to be damn difficult, which doesn’t make sense, because everyone needs a little Soul (I think that’s a song). Finally I convinced my man Brad to come along, but the problem was we had some other plans that day. With a volleyball tourney in the morning and a food/drink festival in the afternoon, we were quite liquored up come Saturday night. By the start of the concert we had a solid 12 hours of drinking under our belts, and because I was so drunk, I actually got to the concert on time. Pretty sure that has never happened ever.

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Neil Young Show Review

Neil Young, before he got really pissed off at Starbucks

Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheater

Location: Morrison, Colorado

Date: 07/09/15

Inebriation Level: Tasty Buzz

So seeing The Rolling Stones was number one on my list. Yet it just so happened that number two on my list was making his way to Red Rocks a couple of weeks after. Figured if I’d gone this far, no use turning around again. So I decided to bite the bullet and see Neil Young as he played a two night stint at the iconic venue in Morrison, Colorado.

My usual concert confidant Aaron and I snagged up some tickets for his second show on Thursday and I realized why I missed him on his last tour to Red Rocks. Dude was expensive. Of all the concerts I’ve been to at Red Rocks this was the most expensive one by like triple. I thought hippies didn’t believe in money?

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The Rolling Stones Show Review

Someone else took this picture who had way better seats than me

Venue: Arrowhead Stadium

Location: Kansas City, Kansas

Date: 06/27/15

Inebriation Level: Too Full On Soul Food To Get Drunk

Number one on my list of shows was The Rolling Stones. I mean, we know Keith Richards will somehow live to be 100 with a careful mix of hard drugs and booze, but the rest of the guys are, well, old. I had to catch them while they’re still touring. Maybe I’ll look back at this 10 years from now, when they’re still rocking stadiums, and laugh at the immediacy of having to see them. But this time around, The Stones was a must.

The last time they toured in 2013, they skipped my fair city of Denver, CO for bigger markets. I wrote them an open letter imploring them to come out to the Mile High City, but alas, it was ignored. This time around, they skipped my fair city for smaller markets. So through the plains of Kansas it would be to finally see The Rolling Stones.

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The Ultimate Guide to the Great American Beer Festival

 

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Ah beer, the lifeblood of ‘Merica. So a review about a beer festival…on a music blog? You know I love beer around these parts. TRR even has a radio series called Mixed Brew where I crack a beer and see where the playlist goes from there. Beer and music go together like yin and yang. Potatoes and gravy. Simon and Garfunkel. Okay, I’ll stop.

Now if you love beer, the Mile High City is the place to be. They brag about their beer in California, in Oregon, in Michigan, and in Wisconsin, and I have to say, well done in those great states. But nowhere else can you find more breweries per capita or the largest beer festival in the country, The Great American Beer Festival.

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