SHOW REVIEW: Primus In Boulder (Westword 5/16/2017)


Primus Still Sucks, 30 Years Later
by Adam Perry for Westword, 5/16/2017

Stuck in a two-block line of people waiting to get into Primus’s sold-out show at the Fox Theatre, a guy in his mid-twenties told a friend incredulously, “My cousin said he’s never heard of Primus. He didn’t even know fucking ‘John the Fisherman!’”

Yes, some youngsters might not realize that 25 years ago – around the time the Fox Theatre opened – an eccentric Northern California band became an MTV staple and a household name thanks to the dark tale of Alowishus Devadander Abercrombie (long for Mud). Back then, the trio packed arenas and cracked the Billboard Top Ten. That would be like Animal Collective doing the same today.

Inside the Fox, three men wearing A Perfect Circle T-shirts discussed the dietary habits of each member of Tool. A customary “Primus sucks!” chant filled the theater, reminding me of when I was a 12-year-old Catholic-school boy wearing a “Primus Sucks” shirt and ridiculed by kids who genuinely thought Primus sucked. Last night, I felt anticipation and excitement seeing, for the first time, one of my favorite childhood bands take the stage. (Read the rest at

INTERVIEW: SERA CAHOONE (by Adam Perry for Westword 10/2/2015)


Colorado’s Sera Cahoone Found Musical Success (and Love) in Seattle
by Adam Perry for Westword 10/2/2015

Sera Cahoone, a Littleton native and graduate of Columbine High School, now lives in Seattle, where she once played drums for Band of Horses and Carissa’s Wierd. But she quickly rose to critical acclaim as a singer-songwriter with the release of a self-titled solo album in 2006.

Cahoone’s dusty, welcoming songs feature mellow, beautifully delivered country rock that breathes depth into deceptively gloomy music. Her most recent release, 2013’s impressive Deer Creek Canyon, is both hopeful and dark, paying tribute to Cahoone’s Colorado roots and juxtaposing lyrics like “My heart is breaking/and I’m the one to blame” with tasteful, woodsy alt-folk.

Recently, Cahoone’s world — one in which the sounds of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and banjo abound — merged with one filled with soccer balls and World Cup trophies, when she and Seattle Reign FC (and U.S. Women’s National Team) star Megan Rapinoe got engaged. Cahoone, who is completing a new album, discussed that and more with Westword in an interview by phone from her Seattle home.

Adam Perry: You left Colorado in 1998. What’s it like coming back?

Sera Cahoone: I love it every time. I still definitely call Denver home. Every time I play there it’s special, because my family’s all there, and friends, and it always feels good.

Do you still carry Colorado in your songwriting?

Definitely. Deer Creek Canyon was based on Deer Creek Canyon Road there. My mom lives up on top of there, so that song is about my mother and going home. Colorado is a huge part of me. I miss it a lot, but it’s too hard to move. I was so excited to play the Fox Theatre, because it’s the one place in Colorado I’ve never played. I used to go there in high school all the time. I saw Radiohead and all these huge bands there, and I was always like, “I can’t wait to play here one day.”

What was the Denver music scene like when you were just starting out compared to what’s happening now?

I feel like it’s changed a lot. I know they have that great radio station with [102.3 FM] OpenAir; stuff like that is exciting. When I was living there, I was really young and didn’t have a full view of what was going on. But there are so many great bands out of Denver now, always. I always keep an eye out for Denver bands, because there’s such a great vibe going on there, which is super-exciting to me. I want to be involved in it, but I’m not, because I’m in Seattle — but I still feel like a part of it. I loved seeing Nathaniel [Rateliff] on [The Tonight Show]. That was amazing.

How did you decide to fully shift from being a drummer to being a singer-songwriter?

When I was in high school, I would kind of mess around with the guitar, but I was super-shy, so I kind of just did it on the side. I always wanted to play the guitar, because [with] drums you can only do so much, really. I started singing a little bit, and when I moved to Seattle I started to just force myself to play open mikes. I didn’t know anyone, so I would just kind of go out to open mikes and try to get over my awkward shyness of even singing in front of people. I think I just really wanted to do something different for a while. I never expected to be where I am right now with it.

You didn’t think you’d have a career doing your own songs?

I wanted to put out a record. I wanted to do all the guitar and play all the drums; that was my goal with my very first record. I didn’t have much money, but I wanted to just do the record for myself. I sent it to KEXP here, to John “In the Morning” [Richards], thinking that it would get played on a local thing. He played it on his show, and I was like, “Holy shit.” I think it was just the demo; my record wasn’t [finished] yet. Having the huge support of KEXP got it in people’s ears, and it’s kind of just gone from there, I guess. Of course I wanted to play shows, because I felt really excited about my songs and wanted people to hear it — but I also didn’t really expect to be where I am with it.

Deer Creek Canyon had a lot of difficult but necessary life lessons, like “You’re the only one who has control of what you need.” Do you find yourself trying to live by the lessons in your songs?

That’s an interesting question. Yeah, I guess in ways, of course, something like that will come out. Sometimes I surprise myself with the things that do come out. That’s something I love about the songs, is how they do affect people, and that’s why I do what I do. So I would answer yes.

If you Google “Sera Cahoone” and “sad,” you’ll find tons of articles about you. But “Might as Well,” for instance, has melancholy music with lyrics that are romantic in a positive way. Where does that mixture of moods come from?It’s funny, because people do put “sad.” Sometimes I have people asking if I’m okay [laughs]. I’m actually a very happy person, but I’m also a very sensitive person; I think I see a lot of hopefulness in relationships and in life. But I love sad songs in general. Whenever I put music on, I like to listen to songs that make me feel something, and I’ve always loved super-somber music. So I think when I write songs, that’s just what comes out, because I listen to that kind of music so much and that’s what really gets me.

Did you listen to music that was a little twisted growing up? The Carter Family?

Yeah, I loved a lot of old country music. My mother listened to old folk records. And I was super into heavy metal in junior high. But I think when I got really into music, it was more singer-songwriter, sad music that I wanted to sit with. Tracy Chapman, for example.

It seems like it was a huge surprise to most of your fans to suddenly see you on SportsCenter. Has that kind of mass exposure grown your fan base?

I definitely have a lot more Megan Rapinoe fans [laughs]. That could even be youngsters or gay [people], so of course…. Usually it’s more in the Americana world. But I also haven’t played a ton of shows [lately]; I haven’t put out a record. So it’s hard for me to really say. But, yeah, it’s been interesting.

What’s it like to be famous in one realm and then enter a very public relationship with someone who is famous in another?

I feel like ever since I met Megan, we’ve had this connection where we’ve understood each other in a lot of ways. I mean, she’s definitely [famous] on a much higher level than me, but it’s exciting because I get to live this completely “other” life and get to go see her play soccer and not have to be doing my thing. I feel like we understand each other in this way that’s been really sweet. But, yes, it is interesting. It’s just cool to see each other in, I don’t know, work mode.

So will the new songs all be happy?

[Laughs.] There are definitely some more sweet songs in there, but I think when I write, I just love writing sad songs, even if it’s not about me. If it’s too happy, it’s hard for me. Even when I start strumming a guitar part, it’s like, “Oh, that sounds sad.” I feel like it’s more natural for me to write sad songs. I can just go to that place; it makes me feel calm.

A Conversation with Luke Redfield: “I Think of the Land First” (Westword 4/3/2015)


Luke Redfield On Being An American Songwriter: “I Think of the Land First”
by Adam Perry for Westword, 4/3/2015

Delicate-voiced Minnesota singer-songwiter Luke Redfield, somewhat of a nomad, has spent a lot of time in Boulder and Denver over the years. January found him headlining Shine and the Walnut Room, with his sometime-backup singer Patrycja Humienik, a University of Colorado graduate who lives in Denver, opening both shows as kismet&dough, with help from local collaborators Shilpi Gupta and Irene Joyce.

Jack Kerouac once wrote, “I pictured myself in a Denver bar, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!’” Redfield, who draws as much from Kerouac and other classic American writers as he does Bob Dylan and other legendary songwriters, had quite a few more words than “wow” in a Westword conversation earlier this week about his brief upcoming Colorado-only tour. Redfield plays the Walnut Room on April 7 with kismet&dough as support, and opens for Nora Jane Struthers at the Fox Theatre on April 9.

Adam Perry: Is it still winter in Minnesota?

Luke Redfield: The sunshine made me think today is maybe the first day of spring. Our local celebrity, Scott Seekins, this kind of cult hero everybody follows, wears all black in the winter and all white in the summertime, and it’s always a suit. I saw him today in all black, which means it’s technically winter.

How does the change from winter to spring affect you as a writer and performer?

It greatly affects my levels of spontaneity and happiness overall. Whenever it goes from below zero to thirty above and suddenly it’s warm [in Minnesota] I’ll pick up the guitar and write some happy songs; all winter I’ve been singing depressing shit. It’s like the song emerges from the cocoon on the first day of spring. I know as a writer and just a creative person, spring puts a jump in my step.

I just listened to your recent Daytrotter session. Do you think their images of you are getting more accurate or less accurate?

[Laughs] I think this is a pretty decent one. They’re all caricatures, so I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I’m glad the hat is on this one, because I’ve been wearing this one for a while.

Is Jack Kerouac a big reason you feel so connected to Colorado?

Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if that was always a conscious thing on my part. I read On the Roadforever ago, and Dharma Bums and all those other classics but, even though I remember him mentioning Denver a million times, I never even really thought about him. But in the past few months I’ve been kind of noticing that connection, that Kerouac really did enjoy hanging out in Denver. And then Townes Van Zandt, who I also admire, he spent part of his childhood in Boulder, and then he went to high school in Minnesota really close to where I grew up. I didn’t realize until recently that Townes and Kerouac and I have shared some of the same haunts.

You identify so much as an American songwriter; you identify so much with iconic American writers like Mark Twain. What’s it like to identify as an American songwriter right now?

I think of the land first. I kind of gave up on politics six or even years ago. In terms of the state of the country right now, at least socially and politically, I think we’re pretty lost in general. In terms of the natural splendor and diversity that America has in terms of the land and different types of people and ways of life, I think it’s like no place the planet has ever seen. We’re still in the process of seeing what the American experiment really is; it’s still a very young country. I like guys like Whitman because they tend to be microcosms of the greater country. Whitman said, “Because the poet lovingly absorbs virtually all of America’s tastes, he in turn will be absorbed by his country.” All of the great ones absorb all of the taste of the country and are absorbed.

Who’s an example of that right now?

There’s a lot of great ones; some of them we don’t even know who they are. Back in the day, if you were a poet or musician and you had a hot record or book, it got out there because there just weren’t that many. I still like the classic bards that are still living, like Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen or Neil Young, even though those [last two] are Canadian. I can’t think of any current guys that are in that tradition.

And it might be a girl, not a guy.

Absolutely. Can you think of one?

Well, Neko Case, I think…she might not go down in the pantheon of Dylan and Neil Young, but she has one foot in tradition and one being musically and socially progressive. She’s amazing.

Yeah, I love Neko Case. She’s cool. I agree.

Your last time through Colorado was your first time on tour with a backing band. What was that like?

It was interesting. It was a lot of fun and also challenging, because everyone’s on their own schedule. It was super fun to not travel alone, that’s for sure. You get to share some of the good stories with other people. I’ve had a lot of really hilarious things happen to me while I’ve been touring solo, but when someone’s there to experience it with you it’s a whole other story.

Was it easier or harder musically to play with other people?

Just different. I enjoy both for different reasons. Certainly I feed off of other musicians; when there are other musicians on stage and good synergy, then the energy is shared, so I prefer to play with a band for that reason.

What’s it like having Patrycja Humienik singing with you?

It’s cool, man. We actually had her work out some three-part harmonies with a couple other [band members] for some of the shows, so that got really fun. We had four people singing on some of the songs; I’m a big fan of harmonies.

What’s it like seeing a member of your band flowering on stage as the opening act?

I’m a big fan of her solo act [Denver-based kismet&dough] that’s being birthed. It’s really good. There’s a lot of potential there. I love it. I want everybody to flourish and to do the projects they’re compelled to,
that their hearts are telling them to do. I think every one of my bandmates has a solo project. I’m very supportive and encouraging them all.

What’s it like transitioning back to doing solo performances?

Like nothing had ever happened. Like back at home. I’m pretty versatile in that regard, I guess. I like to do both because I like variety, and I think other people do too.

ROOTS OF CHICHA (Boulder Weekly, 3/20/2014)


Boulder Guitarist Brings Latin Inspiration to Colorado
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly, 3/20/14

Though guitarist Mike Lee —  who founded the Boulder band Chicha — was a late bloomer in terms of performing, his deep love of music dates back to his childhood in the Bay Area.

“My first real exposure to music was driving around with my brother,” Lee says. “When he first started driving, he had tons of cassettes. He played a lot of Chicago. I also loved transistor radios and remember being in bed [with] the radio under my pillow.”

Then he heard Santana.

“I was blown away,” he recalls. “It was so cool, so exotic, like this other world. It was something different.”

Lee fondly remembers camping outside Oakland Coliseum at age 15 to see Santana at one of the late Bill Graham’s Day on the Green concerts, which Lee talks about with hushed tones in hindsight.

With Santana, Ritchie Blackmore (Rainbow, Deep Purple) and Terry Kath (Chicago) as his idols, Lee “dicked around on guitar” in high school and college (University of California, Santa Barbara) but, for whatever reason, didn’t start to get serious in the United States about guitar” until entering his 40s, playing rhythm in such Colorado surfrock bands as the Mahi Men and the Beloved Invaders, whose breakup led to the forming of a Grateful Dead cover band that failed (thank God) before it “got out of the practice space.”

In 2012, Lee found his groove in Chicha, a big, talent-filled Latin band that’s essentially his dream come true: playing lead electric guitar in a group that’s heavily inspired by the “something different” that turned Lee on to Santana as a kid, but more focused on toying with the native Latin rhythms and musical sensibilities that’ve fascinated Lee the last couple years.

“I really wanted to start playing out  again after the Dead thing didn’t work  out,” Lee explains. “As a guitar player  around [Boulder] it’s mostly jambands, and I didn’t wanna play that stuff.  [Latin-influenced music] was the first the  thing that really grabbed me, but electric  guitar is really not featured in Latin  music outside Santana. So I thought ‘I’d  really love to play Latin music but there’s  really no [electric] guitar in there.’”  It was then, as if by providence, that  Lee discovered his band’s namesake: chicha, a genre that’s relatively unknown “ and creatively adds electric guitar-tinged psychedelia to native Amazonian music.

“It just blew me away,” says Lee, who happened upon chicha by “rummaging around on iTunes.

“It started in the ’60s with the natives living along the Amazon in Peru. They started listening on the radio to British rock and American rock, psychedelia and surf rock. They originally adapted their native music, which is called huayno — native Andean music and music from along the Amazon; then they started adding guitars and Farfisa organs and created this new genre.”

It’s tough to characterize chicha, which has spread, in part, because of two Roots of Chicha compilations put out by Brooklyn’s Barbés Records, that are just plain mind-blowing. Describing chicha, according to Lee, is like describing rock ’n’ roll. It’s not a set of parameters so much as a spirit, though the essential idea is “ethnic folk music on rock instruments.”

Lee grew up in Menlo Park, which is famously where the Grateful Dead got its start along with Ken Kesey’s trailblazing love affair with LSD. So the genesis of chicha music — Amazonian musicians’ passion for both American psychedelic rock and ayahuasca, a powerful natural psychedelic that’s been used for centuries by Amazonian shamans — makes almost as much sense to Lee as the genesis of Bruce Springsteen’s music might make to a native of Asbury Park.

However, all this is not to say that Chicha — which mostly gigs around Boulder but is hoping to expand its audience soon — plays only chicha music, though Lee says the plan is to work in more. The seven-piece outfit (drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keys and two vocalists) draws from a wide range of Latin music and even does a Latin version of “I Will Survive.”

“It took forever to get the band together, mostly with Craigslist,” says Lee, who calls Chicha’s repertoire “modern Latin” and explains that the act tries to keep things “danceable” but really enjoys stretching tunes out to showcase its impressive musicians. Even bassist Dave Lyons takes solos.

“It’s a team concept,” Lee says.

Lee’s team opens for Latin-rock stalwart Los Lobos — a band that’s rightfully enjoyed worldwide acclaim since the mid-’80s but was memorably “tomatoed” when Lee saw the nowlegendary L.A. group open for the Clash on one of the English punkers’ final tours.

“I don’t know why people would even bring tomatoes!” Lee recalls hilariously.

No worries for Chicha on the 29th — the emerging Boulder septet is a more sensical pairing with Los Lobos than the Clash, to say the least.

Colorado Daily Interview: My Take On the Boulder Music Scene



Musician Adam Perry on Boulder’s midsized venue problem
by Ashley Dean for Colorado Daily, 1/22/2014

We hear it from bands all the time: The lack of midsized venues is a major problem for Boulder.

After watching a conversation about this play out on the Facebook page of Adam Perry — a local writer, drummer (formerly of The Yawpers) and veterans’ advocate (his day job) — we called him up to talk about it. Incidentally, he’s playing with Kristina Murray this Thursday at Boulder’s closest thing to a midsized venue at the moment, the Bohemian Biergarten.

You and other musicians have been talking about problems with the Boulder music scene.

 This music scene is not a music scene. First of all, there’s nowhere to play. If you wanna play at the Laughing Goat for a bunch of people on their laptops, you can do that, and that makes sense if you’re a new artist and you’re workshopping songs. But to actually create a music scene, you have to make money, you have to play in front of a couple hundred people and develop a scene.

With The Yawpers, we played our first show at Shug’s. That was the first show for us and the first show for Shug’s and there were, I don’t know, 50 people there … and it grew from there. The last show we played there was our CD release. We were on the cover of the [Boulder] Weekly and we had probably 250 people there and it was really something. We invited opening acts to play there and helped them out, and that’s what a music scene is all about.

And now, I mean, there are places to see music. If you wanna see a weekend warrior who plays in a salsa band or classical music or something, that’s great. The thing that I’ve been interested in since I was a kid is independent rock ‘n’ roll. Shine is not a rock ‘n’ roll venue. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if you’re into punk rock or anything dirty, even just Wilco dirty, it’s hard.

Which comes first — there being no audience for it, or there being no venue?

I think that the demand is there … I don’t think that everyone who loves music here thinks that String Cheese Incident is a cutting edge band or anything like that … When Youth Lagoon was here it was packed, or The Black Angels, it seemed like for a while they were coming every six months or so. There are a lot of students and maybe some people in their 30s who know what’s going on in music, and there are musicians here that are interesting, and they’re doing interesting things, but they don’t have anywhere to play.

I played a show with Kristina in Fort Collins a month ago at Hodi’s [Half Note] and this band Strange Americans, from Denver — I like them, and I was like, ‘If you ever play Boulder, I’d like to see you,’ and they said, ‘There’s nowhere to play there.’

Do you feel like the Biergarten is headed toward being a good venue?

The Biergarten, as far as I know, they haven’t been doing live music Friday and Saturday nights, and Thursday nights are fun, but a lot of club owners around the country seem to just want a DJ, and if that happens there, that’s pretty sad.

Yeah, it just seems like there can be no self-sustaining, vibrant music scene anywhere without a midsized venue where bands can make a following and make a living, as home base … Here, right now, either you play at a cafe or you play at the Fox, and you’re probably not gonna get to the Fox without something in between, where you can show them, hey, we’re consistently bringing in 200 people.

Do you have a sense of why midsized venues don’t survive?

 I don’t know if you were here for Astroland. That place, for a while, was bringing in amazing music … I’ve been here since 2008, off and on. There was b. side, Trilogy, then Shug’s. The rent in those spaces has been in the range of $15,000 a month, and then there’s this crazy thing about you pay the rent and then triple net-expenses. I’m not sure why there’s not a pure midsized rock venue … It seems like you need somebody with money and taste to open that kind of thing.

Any last thoughts on this?

 I just think rock ‘n’ roll is possible here. I think it’s been shown before. A rock ‘n’ roll scene where people support each other — right now it seems like most of the bands that kind of stick around here, the young bands, it seems like the way that they’re able to stay here is that their moms and dads are funding their recording, and their vans, and their rent and things. And other musicians, they know that stuff, and they know its not independent DIY, and I would love to see a midsized venue support local bands and pay them decently and create a scene here. It’s possible, for sure … We need a venue that’s not afraid to let rock bands play loud.

Youth Lagoon (“All You Need is Bugs”) – Boulder Weekly 9/5/13

All You Need is Bugs
Youth Lagoon’s wondrous weirdness comes to Boulder
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly 9/5/13

The humble Trevor Powers, who records under the moniker Youth Lagoonis somewhat of an enigma. His visionary first record, Year of Hibernation, is full of adorably cerebral psychedelic pop written in his dorm room at Boise State University and recorded over Christmas break in 2010. Before the eight-song lo-fi beauty — earnestly full of confession, hope and desperation — was even released (in September 2011), Powers had become a Pitchfork darling (they called his music “world-swallowing”) and general underground music star via the songsharing site Bandcamp.

Yes, kids, it really can happen. Not everyone needs to either have family in the music industry or rich parents who pay for a van, gear, promotion, studio time (and diapers?), etc., in order to make rock ’n’ roll a career. Write some great songs, get a couple of them out there online as free downloads, do some networking but try not to be an asshole, explore the opportunities that come your way and, if people like your music, make sure to have an amazing live show and the willingness to essentially live on the road.

In Powers’ case, after his gentle, startlingly honest synth-pop track “July” made waves online and he was picked up by Fat Possum — a respected Mississippi label that’s released albums by the likes of The Black Keys, Andrew Bird and the Heartless Bastards –— he dropped out of the English program at Boise State and prepared go east for the first time in his life, at 22.

“It’s like a stupid dream, but I’ve always wanted to go to New York,” Powers told Pitchfork before embarking on his first-ever tour, in the fall of 2011. “I’m really stoked. It’s my first time even traveling.”

Johnny Manziel this kid is not. Check out a June 2012 video interview Powers did with ABC News. Powers, looking downright pale in an oversized denim shirt, awkwardly rests against a rock in Central Park, looking like a 12-year-old version of Arnold Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter, with even bigger hair. Answering a question about how the sincere, sobering lyrics from “July” took off online, Powers says: “The whole nostalgia thing, like, to me has, like — I don’t romanticize the past at all. There’s nothing, like … I didn’t write it with the idea of being nostalgic or anything like that, you know … some people interpret it like that, but that wasn’t my intention. It’s not, like, nostalgic but it’s, like, haunting. Like, the things that haunt me, that’s what inspires me. I don’t know why that’s more inspiring than happy things, but it just is.”

It’d be easy, and cruel, to poke fun at a kid for a quote like that and compare him to the infamous Miss Teen USA contestant who made headlines in 2007 for saying “I believe … some people in our nation don’t have maps.” But Powers has a lot to say, and part of what makes the music of Youth Lagoon so inspiring and interesting is Powers’ fragile psyche, which he talks about openly. He was “freaky” as a painfully shy young boy, and is simultaneously enjoying success and dealing with the bouts of severe anxiety he’s experienced nearly all his life.

The Year of Hibernation repeatedly alludes to psychosis, most remarkably in “The Hunt,” the chorus of which includes the lines, “I have a sickness in my head that won’t go away / and by the time the bugs eat their way out of my skull / will you still say ‘I love you’? / will you still want my soul?” But, unlike Syd Barrett (no doubt a Youth Lagoon predecessor, along with Cocteau Twins) Powers says that success, if probably not fame, has surprisingly not exacerbated his anxiety. His transition from eccentric college kid to international touring musician has been smooth. He told Interview last year that success has “actually helped. Because I am able to focus on things now. I was seeing a counselor and that helped too, so I’m doing a lot better. It’s still a daily thing that I deal with, and that’s why I’m open about it, because I know there’s other people that have anxiety. So I’m open about it, but it’s definitely helped to be busy.”

Indeed, Powers is so busy that he reneged on a Boulder Weekly interview for this story, but we won’t hold it against him. The second Youth Lagoon LP, Wondrous Bughouse — which features god-size (though tasteful) production and much wider use of acoustic instruments — was released in March and is a revelation. And an incredibly weird one at that.

On the surface, one can listen to the sweeping, bass-and-drum-heavy madness of “Mute,” with its “the devil tries to plague my mind” lyrics, and joke that the big difference between Powers’ charming, heartfelt early dorm-room tracks and Wondrous Bughouse is that now he can afford better drugs. But while songs like “Attic Doctor” are unmistakably druggy, Powers is clearly a deep, talented young man making brilliantly weird music.

“Raspberry Cane,” the highlight of Wondrous Bughouselies somewhere between OK Computer and Magical Mystery Tour, with its trippy space-opera bounce and Zen-like lyrics that somehow avoid cliché (and aptly juxtapose the grotesque-but-kind monsters in the song’s corresponding music video). Upon first listen, it’s nearly impossible to hear the repeated phrase “everybody cares” and not recall the feeling within “All You Need is Love.” It’s also impossible to listen to all the layers, whether layers of production or layers of emotion and psychology, of Youth Lagoon and wonder how Powers is able to translate such complexity with a full touring band. Boulder will find out Monday, Sept. 9.

REVIEW: Black Angels & Sleepy Sun in Boulder

photos by Adam Perry

The Black Angels with Sleepy Sun
Fox Theatre, Boulder
Thursday, May 5, 2011
by Adam Perry for Westword

Better Than: A Black Angels show in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, which my brother, Jeff, told me found several members of the band appearing too inebriated to perform.

REVIEW: Earlier this week at the Boulder Theater, Glenn Danzig came to town, ostensibly to show Colorado that dark, heavy rock ’n’ roll used to be relevant, exciting and, well, awesome. And last night at the Fox Theatre, as Austin’s Black Angels shrieked, stomped, thrashed and pounded, my mind kept curiously dragging me back to the old-school AC/DC anthem, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.” Yes, the Devil’s music—as American as apple pie, baseball and (apparently) dancing with smiles on our faces after our enemies are shot through the head—is still very much alive.

And yet, unlike Danzig—who I saw knocking smart-phones out of fans’ hands and swiping expensive cameras from journalists who’d come to cover the show Tuesday—the Black Angels are nice guys (and a fierce drummer gal) who happen to play sinister, explosive music. Music that simultaneously makes you smile and worry a few evil notes might actually rip your heart out Temple of Doom-style.

The co-ed psych-rockers’ walk-on music was the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” which made their opener, Phosphene Dream’s “Bad Vibrations,” even more pleasing to the celebratory audience, high on Cinco de Mayo partying and pre-graduation exhilaration (guitarist/singer Christian Bland was sure to mention both).

“What a cool town you guys live in,” scruffy singer Alex Maas told the capacity crowd before his group broke into “Young Men Dead,” from the Black Angels’ sizzling 2006 debut album, Passover. The tribal sludge that made the band famous a few years ago is just getting better with time, juxtaposing the Velvet Underground, Black Sabbath, the 13th Floor Elevators and the Doors. Songs like “Prodigal Son” energize fans of heavy music while setting the bodies of young psychedelia lovers in frantic motion; they also somehow make sense of Maas’ comment to me an interview three years ago that his biggest creative inspiration is “the unknown.” In a town like Boulder it’s always good to be shaken awake by lyrics that don’t just tell you everything’s gonna be alright.

Phosphene Dream, the quintet’s latest LP, marks a low point in its career, with only a few highlights, including the title track and “Bad Vibrations.” The lyrics often seem drugged-out rather than enlightened and cutting; even the aforementioned standouts are just too derivative at times—occasionally parroting “Not to Touch the Earth” and “The End”—and mixing almost whimsical ’60s surf music with the dark stuff is hit-or-miss. But in concert, although the Cinco de Mayo performance was the least impressive of the three Colorado Black Angels shows I’ve seen since 2008, barely a moment was dull.

The new songs made it obvious that, like Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire, everyone in the Black Angels can—and often does—play any instrument on the stage, which brings a sense of togetherness off of which delighted audiences hungrily feed. Plus, the whimsy of Phosphene numbers like “Yellow Elevator #2” seemed to make sense in the razor-sharp wilderness of mischievous bombast that makes Black Angels concerts special; and the focused violence of Stephanie Bailey’s Bonham-meets-Moe Tucker drumming kept the Crazy Train snug on the rails—even when a fan hit her square in the chest with a full water bottle. I’d like to see Glenn Danzig’s reaction to that one.


Personal Bias: Sleepy Sun, whose frontman Bret Constantino told me after the Fox show that talented co-lead-singer Rachel Williams quit the band recently because “she was sick of being in a band with a bunch of dudes,” played a gig with my old group The Love X Nowhere in Los Angeles about five years ago. Back then they were a smattering of UC Santa Cruz kids known as Mania.

Random Detail: Judging from the Fox’s concert calendar for the rest of May, it looks like sparse times for rock shows if you’re actually spending the summer in Boulder like I am.

By The Way: The Black Angels’ encore—“Bloodhounds On My Trail,” “You On the Run” and “Phosphene Dream”— was a flawless mini-set to itself, showcasing menacing Southern Rock with a hint of the Stooges, a swirling ceremonial dirge for 21st Century paranoids, and a truly inventive, dynamic existential buildup that, in my humble opinion, probably rivaled anything the Doors ever played. The long encore boasted some of the best material from the group’s three albums—here’s hoping someone recorded it. Where’s the “Taper’s Section” at non-jamband concerts anyway?