If you'll forgive the expression, the winter doldrums for local live music are slowly thawing. While Memorial Day weekend might seem like a bit of a wait, festival lovers will likely still be pleased to know that tickets for this year's MeadowGrass Music Festival are now on sale. No official announcements have been made regarding this year's full lineup, but from the rumblings I've heard, Yonder Mountain String Band co-founder Jeff Austin will be headlining the opening night.
In the meantime, I have to give some credit to the Black Sheep for continually bringing interesting shows to the table during a lean opening to the year. One such show of note you can catch this weekend, on Feb. 6, celebrates the record release of Colorado Springs power-pop-tinged indie quintet Why They Fight. The group, consisting of lead vocalist Max Barksdale, guitarists Duncan Slack and Brandon Hildebrand, bassist Joe Holden and drummer Joe Bruno, are marking the release of their new album, Empathy, with a little assistance from bands both local and national.
"We were a little rushed in the process of recording Empathy and picking this release date, but we're [playing with] some homies in the bands Histories from Missouri and Wallclouds from Oklahoma, so we figured why not?" explains Barksdale. Monument pop-punk act The Greatest Generation and locals Say the Word will also be performing.
Barksdale describes Empathy, which will be available on the band's Bandcamp page, located at whytheyfightco.bandcamp.com, on Feb. 6, as a mix between their previous, pop-oriented releases and a more eclectic indie sound.
"The main difference this time around is our songs are less about relationships and goals and more reflective on the outcomes of what I used to write about. It's a lot more emotional than anything we've released so far."
The album was self-recorded by the band at their practice space, and, according to Barksdale, care was taken to preserve the more emotionally honest quality of a small live setting.
"I'm pretty proud of one of our new songs, 'Letterbox.' It's a brand-new one, which is basically a letter to my parents. I had a falling-out with them this year, and it's really impacted me. It's just about that whole situation."
In addition to the Feb. 6 release on Bandcamp, the band is planning a physical release. Meanwhile, it will be available via major digital distributors, including iTunes, in the near future.
Wednesday, Feb. 10, marks the return of much-beloved local singer-songwriter Chauncy Crandall to the Zodiac. Crandall relocated to Florida in late 2014, but has made regular musical pilgrimages back to Colorado Springs, including the 2015 Bristol's Freewheelin' Music Fest. Joining Crandall and friends for the evening are Curtis Boucher and Chuck Dayhoff, who comprise the other two-thirds of Xanthe Alexis' arresting folk trio, The Electric Universe.
Incidentally, Crandall's homecoming show was originally planned for several days prior, but, in his own words, it "interfered with the Super Bowl" and had to be rescheduled accordingly.
A few more events worth investigating this week:
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, alternative folk group HoneyHoney hits Ivywild school, the first of several dates in Colorado, joined by ever-energetic locals Woodshed Red.
Also on Feb. 3, Denver reggae/jam band Tatanka (not to be confused with the 1990s pro wrestler, mind you) plays the Black Sheep with South Carolina reggae-influenced rock act Sun-Dried Vibes.
Friday, Feb. 5, finds Denver's perennial indie rock favorites Dressy Bessy at Flux Capacitor, joined by The Born Readies.
That same evening, St. Louis blues rockers Mike Zito & The Wheel make an appearance at Stargazers Theatre.
Rounding out a busy Feb. 5, locals Rocky Gene Wallace and Brickyard, who play a mix of blues, rock and country, celebrate the band's 10th anniversary at Benny's.
Acclaimed local emcee Stoney Bertz performs at Mountain Fold Books on Saturday, Feb. 6.
And, finally, while it's a drive, I'd be remiss not to mention notorious British post-punk act Killing Joke at the Marquis Theater in Denver on Feb. 6.
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