Joshua Novak @ the Hi-DiveBy | February 28th, 2008 | No Comments »
Joshua Novak bested the opening bands at the Hi-Dive last Thursday. Photos by Reverb contributor Brian Carney.
Denver’s Andrea Ball has been pretty aggressive with her basic viral marketing skills the last few months, continuously putting her virtual self and music in your face. Sometimes you just have to refuse a MySpace friend request simply to find the will to see for yourself. Unfortunately, Thursday night was not the night for Andrea to be convincing enough for a “yes” click.
The music was touching once mixed with some drinks, but touching just won’t cut the thick air this music scene has lately created. She maintained a captive, fair-sized audience (including one member that stated how she was a great specimen of “hipster cat-nip.”) Ball may be fine in a couple years, but for now the soul and the moves are just a bit under-done. Her piano, vocals, lyrics and backup instrumentation was so close to something, but mostly I would have liked to see her get a little dirtier with it.
Second act Carbon Choir gets credit for trying, but just couldn’t find its voice. The only thing moving the people was the need for a smoke or another drink. “Who is this, the Counting Crows?” was a line overheard. It was then that I realized even the Counting Crows would have made this night more rich in character. The vibe morphed into something out of a college party as the band started playing — enough to make anyone start pacing for Joshua Novak to arrive.
It’s possible Carbon Choir’s sound was not meant for the setting that night and might be fair game for the suburbs. Not one person was drunk enough to really get into it — not even in the band. Lots of carbon, but absolutely no choir. Rob, the door guy, turned out to be the best second act in the joint. He helped pass the time with some old-fashioned small talk and laughs that revolved around tuning out the music.
Before you could blink vanity took the stage, happier than ever to be there. Joshua Novak has been walking a solid line with his music for some time now. He’s always been willing to stand on the stage alone, but over time has created a rich, full backup band. The instant the music began you could feel the difference in professionalism and heart compared to the others. Bassist Giovanni Toninelo carried himself like a pro, not only keeping up but creating a center stage for himself. Drummer Kit Peltzel can happily pull a dance move out of anyone with his pounding pop percussions.
Lucky for everyone that was paying attention, the band had one of Denver’s elite singer-songwriters, Ian Cooke, on cello. Cooke threw his strong arm into the mix perfectly by plucking and bowing his way through songs like, “The Singing Forest,” “Heart Hits the Wall” and “Thieves.” Novak can’t even stand still in his own set, making everyone else do the same. His sexy, hip-shaking-moves slap you around while the vocals and lyrics tear you down, making you beg him for a second to breathe.
With lyrics like “I don’t want to know what you do at night when I’m gone,” listeners got a gut-punch and the uneasy feeling that maybe even they should be worried. Xandy Whitesel, the Hi-Dive’s sound guy, has been known to some bands (including Novak’s) as their ‘unseen’ band mate. It’s understood when you get that “ah-ha!” moment and realize lyrics and instruments are clearly heard and not just seen. Whitesel came through on this night yet again by giving listeners a near-perfect mix.
Novak explained his live set as, “Bold, lacking in pretension, with a hint of sophistication.” The man is nothing less than adorable, honestly lacking in pretension yet fully engrossed in elitism. After the show, Novak’s display of same-day-burned CDs wrapped in blank holders next to an endless supply of stickers was endearing, but it is hoped that this underground hopeful finds a place with his heart-tugging, radio-friendly pop music.
Check out more of Reverb contributor Brian Carney’s photography.