We all know the drill: Countless musicians have obsessively studied the recording techniques and studio skills of their idols, attempting to recreate or pay homage to classic albums and aural textures. Hardly any of them, however, seem to really take notes on those artists’ live approach.
Chris Adolf falls among the latter. The head of the Denver folk-punk band Bad Weather California, Adolf has spent the last half-decade deciphering the concert prowess of acts from Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond to Bob Dylan — an artist to which he’s often compared — and that studying has been paying off.
“I spent the first part of my musical career when I was a teenager and into my 20s learning how to make weird sounds, getting inspired by (Denver-based music collective) Elephant 6 and the home-recording movement,” said Adolf, 31, taking a break from installing sprinklers earlier this week. “I was bored with that, so the last five to seven years my area of focus has been live performance — people that really kill it and are known for giving it 150 percent every time.”
Those skills, now legendary among the Denver underground scene, will be on display Saturday at the Hi-Dive when Adolf’s band releases its new album, “Young Punks,” with help from a who’s-who of Denver indie folk and rock acts.
Adolf spent part of his childhood in a tree nursery and now landscapes by trade, so it’s no surprise he knows how to (ahem) cultivate talent. Formerly recording and releasing records under the name Love Letter Band, Adolf’s current group is composed of Joe Sampson (Wentworth Kersey, A Dog Paloma), Adam Baumeister (Littles Paia) and Logan Corcorancq (teamAWESOME!). The band possesses an explosive onstage chemistry, Adolf acting as the fire-breathing cult leader while the rest fan his sermons with ’60s-leaning solos, longing pedal steel and steady beats.
In fact, the band’s recent tour of the West Coast won over so many new fans, another tour is already planned for July. “People would come up to us and say, ‘Man, I’ve never seen anything like that. We don’t get stuff like that around here, even in San Francisco,’” Adolf said. “And we’re lucky enough now that we get to play with good bands like Mt. Eerie, Dave Dondero and White Fang.”
As pleasantly volatile as Bad Weather California can be live, that sound translates into satisfying cohesion on its new album. Recorded in Adolf’s basement, the loose, wide-open feel of “Young Punks” is evident from opening track “New Religion” through The Band-inspired organs, reverb-heavy guitars and thick choruses of nearly every other track. “We weren’t trying to make something polished, but I would like to someday make something sound good on the speakers in my mom’s car,” Adolf said.
The aesthetic inspiration for the record came from listening to albums by Bob Dylan, The Band and Bob Marley — artists with half the equipment at their disposal of your average indie band in 2009.
“We handcrafted this, and the things you make by hand aren’t as clean and slick as the things you make in factories. That’s partly why States Rights (a Portland, Ore., indie label) is putting it out,” Adolf said. “Even though we use Pro Tools in conjunction with tape machines, it’s still like knitting something as opposed to buying something. I mean, I buy a lot of cool music and clothes at Target, but this is the opposite of that.”
John Wenzel is the co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning arts and entertainment writer for The Denver Post. He recently published the book “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” and edits the Get Real Denver blog.