A host of Denver’s finest helped Dan Craig release his new EP at the Bluebird on Saturday. Photos by Brian Carney.
As an instrument, the male voice is an oft-overlooked and sadly underappreciated one. But at Saturday’s Dan Craig EP release at the Bluebird — with openers Ellison Park and His Parade of Elephants, Hello Kavita and Ian Cooke — proved that male vocals can be just as powerful and evocative as any guitar lick.
Ellison Park started off the show with a duet, featuring the talented and ubiquitous Mr. Tim Pourbaix. It was a sweet and quiet little song, with voices as feathery as the half-remembered whispers of a teenage love. But when followed up by Park’s wonderfully explosive full band, it was clear that this opening band would be a force to reckon with.
Park’s voice wavers from a quiet tremolo to a full-fledged Brian Setzer wail, but seems most in its element in a sort of Jack Johnson middle ground. Backed up by jazz-influenced rock with a definite Denver twang, Park’s hollowbody guitar brings a western flavor while zylophone and casiotone offer the requisite quirk.
After a short break, Ian Cooke arrived with his signature white cello case and took the stage. Cooke has been working in earnest to perfect his live-looping technique, which raises his buskery stage presence into the realm of the surreal and orchestral. While live looping treads the line between gimmick and genius, Cooke’s talent and vocal stylings assure that he remains well on this side of one-trick pony status.
Even more impressive is that with his last show-stopping number he shut up the crowd that had been chattering noisily throughout his entire set. All the more impressive is that the song “The Rot,” from his latest album, was made with nothing more than Cooke’s voice, his cello and the little box that snatches the sounds made by both. By the time the cello had squeaked its last, Cooke had finally captured the house’s attention.
Hello Kavita, not to be outdone, encouraged the crowd to make some noise with a singalong to their dead-on cover of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something In The Air.” The band’s set went on to completely justify the buzz they’ve been receiving lately, with a sound somewhat like what you’d get if the members of Sparklehorse and Wilco got jumbled up in customs. But even with the local supergroup pedigree of Hello Kavita’s musicians, the band’s strongest point seemed to be the sexy, throaty vocals of frontman Corey Teruya. His voice blazed through each song, bringing each song a dimension of roughshod emotion.
The retro rock sound of Hello Kavita gave way to a different kind of sound altogether when Dan Craig came onstage to promote his latest EP. His music brings the best elements of the singer-songwriter genre: the cadence of a train crossing the prairie, strikingly harmonized vocals and lyrics as sweet and lovely as a pretty girl without makeup.
Craig’s enthusiasm for his music energizes even his sleepy songs with a certain barnburning passion that can keep a crowd awake even as the show goes past midnight. Craig finished the night with a stellar cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” and a song whose lyrics told us to sleep like we were sure that we are loved. I can confess that I very nearly did sleep such a sleep on the bus ride home.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and new contributot to Reverb.
Brian Carney is a Denver freelance photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.
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