A visit to the Lion’s Lair — the quintessential punk rock dive bar — on a Friday night is a good bet for premium entertainment. Last night the dive featured an unforgettable all-Denver lineup. The occasion was “Franksgiving,” an annual celebration/fundraiser for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. This year the bill featured a few of Denver’s best, deepest, underground acts in Little Fyodor and Babushka and Get Your Going, in addition to a legend almost as old and sincere as rock ‘n roll itself, Ralph Gean.
Ralph Gean has been a local celebrity in Denver for nearly three decades, after ending up in town following an already-full life replete with the heartbreak of just-missed stardom. Last night he showed that even a near-50-year history in the business hasn’t slowed him down one bit. Now in his late 60s, Gean graced the stage with his wildly passionate rockabilly genius for two half-hour sets, and had the tightly packed crowd enthralled — dancing, singing and laughing throughout. While his appearance of stringy grey hair underneath a brightly-buckled cowboy hat and a well-worn acoustic guitar cried out his age, his performance belied it. Throughout what was probably the most honest, endearing and passionate performance I’ve seen in a long time, Gean belted out rockabilly tunes in loud baritone that grabbed you and shook you until you were laughing or crying (or both). Nearly every song was a request taken from the audience, and performed as if it’d been heavily practiced just before the set. Gean’s breadth of talent and shear ambition made it look so easy and the crowd loved it all.
Gean’s performances were bracketed by two Denver “outsider” groups, Andrew Novick’s project Get Your Going and Little Fyodor and Babushka, both extreme in their own ways, both endearing and provocative. Get Your Going featured Novick and Cap’n Fresh poking fun at other acts by covering their songs in highly intelligent, mocking ways. Friday night’s set was dubbed the “YouTube Edition” with videos displayed behind the band as they recited them. The highlight was a hilarious version of “Christian Side Hug.”
Closing out the night was Little Fyodor and Babushka, a duo that has been making “angry punk rock” for years in Denver. They put on a wild 45-minute explosion of rigid, biting and angst-ridden post-hardcore. The four-piece regaled the dive with songs like “That Was A Mistake,” “Useless Shit” and “I Don’t Know What To Do.” Babushka frowned constantly in the visage of angriest grandma and Fyodor gesticulated with contorted faces beneath his mop of receding red curls. In a dream world where Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa still rule the Top 40, Little Fyodor would make the reactionary punk rock. It’s extreme, and extremely funny.