Dave Chappelle performs at the 2013 OddBall Comedy fest at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. Photo by Lisa Higginbotham, heyreverb.com.
Dave Chappelle seems capable of anything, and not just because he once walked away from his hit Comedy Central show, or because he left the stage after being heckled during a headlining set at last year’s Oddball Comedy tour.
He’s a pop-culture alchemist, combining comedy with hip-hop in his “Block Party” film, or popping up in random places to do marathon sets and prove he’s still a stand-up force. So when he announced a birthday show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with surprise guests, the speculation was intense. Would he show up with hip-hop luminaries? Actor-friends? Other national comics? Just himself?
The Dave Chappelle who arrived at Red Rocks on Sunday, Aug. 24 to celebrate his 41st birthday with a crowd of 9,450 didn’t have many big tricks up his sleeve. But that’s OK. Chappelle has an agreeable stage presence and a capacity for turning from tested material to nimble crowd work, and on Sunday night he at least provided a few worthy jolts to the audience.
The show run-up included a set by Atlanta’s DJ Trauma, who tried to energize the slow-to-filter-in crowd before Colorado comics Chris Fonseca and Josh Blue (the latter of which had just headlined the previous night’s High Plains Comedy Festival in Denver) showed up for short performances.
Fonseca, who is wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy, immediately mocked his speech impediment and stage presence. “Is there anyone here from Commerce City?” he asked. “Well, I’m sorry, because I can’t talk any slower.” He also took swings at disability culture in general, as when he invoked the idea of a “disability pride parade” with the thought: “There’s no parking. And it takes f***ing forever.”
Nearly a decade into its career, Future Islands is finally having its breakout year. The band plays Colorado’s Gothic Theatre on Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of 4AD.
On stage, Future Islands’ Sam Herring will shove his fist in his mouth as if he’s pulling his heart out through his esophagus. He’ll throw his arms behind his head and thrust his hips like no one is watching. Dripping with sweat, Herring will growl and pound his chest with his fist. Looking eerily like a young Marlon Brando, the frontman/singer brings to life the music of Future Islands, a synth-pop band that has been dramatically balancing dance with electronic-punk and rock for nearly a decade.
And until recently, few people were paying attention.
“We had this belief over the years that one day it’s going to get better,” said Future Islands bassist/guitarist, William Cashion. “We always believed that if we played a show for 10 people that the next time we come through those 10 people would hopefully come back and bring their friends.”
Since forming in 2006, the band plugged away, playing small clubs, house parties, art galleries and basements throughout the country.