Music fanatics love to brag about their "I was there" moments:
"The Promise Ring gave me a group hug after a really emotional house show in Detroit." Or, "James Murphy was crashing on my living room floor when he wrote 'Losing My Edge.'" Or, "I saw three members of The National play at Packard Hall last Thursday."
OK, maybe that one's not quite on the same level. But last week's Lanzendorf Experiment show — featuring National band members Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums, respectively, and touring member Ben Lanz handling guitar and vocals — still had its share of hipster cliché. Songs averaged 10 minutes, taking their cues from '70s krautrock band Can, albeit with much less structure and much more distortion. Katey Sleeveless from local band Eros & The Eschaton also sat in for most of the set.
Meanwhile, Fuel/Friends blogger and Chapel Sessions curator Heather Browne — who's had more "I was there" moments than the rest of us combined — spent some time with the group last Wednesday at Shove Chapel.
Although it was only an open rehearsal, she says, "the tapes were rolling and the video camera capturing, so we might see a sneak peek as a non-traditional Chapel Session on Fuel/Friends." Lanzendorf Experiment may also release the full session recording at some point in the future.
As for the Packard Hall gig, I had to bail early for another show, which led to the strangest juxtaposition of genres since I left a Madonna set halfway through in order to catch Cabaret Voltaire.
"You Colorado rednecks sure look good in camouflage," Brad Paisley told the World Arena crowd as he segued from "Camouflage" to "Moonshine in the Trunk."
But even as Paisley pandered to locals with references to Colorado women, a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way," and big-screen footage of Peyton Manning, he still managed to radiate a remarkable sincerity. What's also amazing about the contemporary country hitmaker is his ability to bridge America's cultural divide to the degree that you wonder whether there really is one.
Take, for instance, the video of Paisley's White House performance of "Welcome to the Future," a song he wrote the night of Obama's 2008 election. Look closely, and you can actually see him tear up at one point during the guitar solo that follows the final chorus: "He-e-ey, wake up Martin Luther / Welcome to the future."
Earlier in the song, Paisley's sentiments on race relations are all the more apparent: "I had a friend in school / Running back on a football team / They burned a cross in his front yard / For asking out the homecoming queen."
Released in 2009 following 10 straight No. 1 country singles, the song pissed off lots of conservatives, much as "Accidental Racist" did with their liberal counterparts four years later.
Musically, the Arcade Fire-style chant and synthesized strings of "Perfect Storm" were more the stuff of rock ballads than down-home country, yet it all somehow fit together in concert.
It also didn't hurt that Paisley is a stunningly talented and tasteful guitarist. His extensive and inventive solos, although not as frequent as in years past, never failed to amaze.
So now that Colorado Springs has indulged its experimental rock and arena country urges, what's next?
My recommendations would include Kevin Mitchell from A Black Day and Fidel RedStar celebrating the release of his new CD at Zodiac on Saturday.
The Imperfect Mr. Mitchell is an exceptionally solid effort, especially on standout tracks like "Rude Boy," which finds Shawn Wayne's fluid bass and beats accompany The ReMINDers' Aja Black as she delivers the distinctive vocal hook: "Them a-call me rude boy, let me make it very clear/ You know, we don't give a fuck / Tear it down, turn it up, buckshot, burn it up."
Also on Saturday, look for Tony Exum Jr.'s homage to Frankie Beverly & Maze at Stargazers. In honor of the R&B hitmakers' sartorial preferences, he's also inviting the audience to wear all-white attire.
"It just hit me while driving to a gig, like a musical epiphany," says the jazz-fusion artist of his idea for the tribute. "Frankie Beverly's Maze is to barber shops, Saturday-morning chores, and backyard barbecues, what sugar is to Kool-Aid. This music means just as much to me as hip-hop and the saxophone combined."