The Brooklyn Vegan party at Barbarella and Swan Dive was a bit of a catastrophe at first — plenty of bands late and wide swathes of time without music at a music showcase. Some might question the overall relevance of the taste-making website, but redemption was in sight: Damien Jurado, inside, crooned his folk, even if the loud crowd overcame him more often than not.
Fergus and Geronimo exhibited rolling rhythms and a 1950s swagger that hinged upon la-la singalongs. Obits, the venerable and aging punk outfit followed, after an MC microphone mishap that near decapitated some spectators. The group jams more live than on record, yet is incredibly angular — frills be damned. Menomena was still thrilling live, despite the recent loss of Brent Knopf. The sweaty, packed room was regaled with something of a greatest hits and tunes from the recent “Mines” were robust. Still, as the Portlanders cycled through “Rotten Hell” something (or more accurately, somebody) was missed.
The Strokes played a gigantic, packed and free show at Auditorium Shores. It can’t be overemphasized how crowded it was but the raucousness was welcome, the now-vets dusting off songs from every record in their catalog. The new songs — from a welcoming and unexpected “Angles” — were a joy to hear. Much of the show was marred by wind-swept sound or chatty ladies within earshot, but when the Strokes were on, the Strokes were on. “Reptilia” and the new “Taken for a Fool” — the best track on the new record — raged, claiming a section for the New Yorkers’ relevance. Once the fireworks started during “Hard to Explain” and then “Last Nite,” it was all extra credit.
Later at Emo’s, Retribution Gospel Choir made a bit of a mark, sometimes out-pacing its Low expectations (front man Alan Sparhawk’s other project). Cass McCombs was misplaced, his intricacies lost outdoors on the drunken crowd. Owen Pallett was quite the opposite and steered one of the best sets so far at South by Southwest. His loops and voice were piercing and his fomenting talent nonpareil, a cap and a final fantasy for anyone’s night.
Colin St. John is a Denver writer and a new contributor to Reverb.
Robert Castro is a Denver photographer and veteran contributor to Reverb.