In 1994, Spell looked to be on the cusp of a wave that promised to transport the trio along the same path Nirvana had paved the few years before. Friday night’s set at the Bluebird — the band’s first live performance since July of ‘95 — showed that what looked to be a sure-shot to fame would have been well-deserved, if only it had panned out.
When the set started, two-thirds of the band — drummer/vocalist Garret Shavlik and bassist/vocalist Chanin Floyd — were already local celebs from the Fuid and Twice Wilted. It was the addition of guitarist Tim Beckmann that really solidified Spell’s sound — and that near-perfect blend of garage rock simplicity and Sonic Youth ingenuity defined Friday’s show, too.
Once onstage, the band immediately settled into a fast and steady tone with “Little Kings,” and then ramped up to “Dixie,” from its sole LP, “Mississippi.” The two quick tunes shattered any notion that Spell might show any rust after such a long time apart. The group maintained energy through songs like “Seems to Me,” “Superstar,” “Straight to Hell,” “Hazel Motes” and “Safe” — only occasionally missing a note here or there, but enjoying every minute. Shavlik and Floyd’s harmonies lent the night a definitive ‘90s tone, and showed off both of the musicians’ talent and staying power.
After a short break, Spell ended the show with a raucous cover of the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” joined by Beckmann’s brother Arnie (of Buckingham Squares and recently of reunited Fluid sets), John Henry and Orie Bender (of the Kulwicki twins’ band Purple Fluid) on vocals.
’57 Lesbian featured bassist Matt Bischoff in his second set of the night on guitar, after leading the Buckingham Squares through a wild, punky opening set, and Floyd in her first set on bass. The band’s proto-punk, grungy sound was as on point as Spell’s — and left us wondering if Bischoff ever plans to slow down, or to show any aging. After all, he’s also been a longtime Denver scenester, having done time in the Fluid and the Frantix back as far as the ‘70s, and countless other bands.
The night held a slight air of gloom, too, being the second fundraiser for the twin sons of recently deceased Fluid guitarist Rick Kulwicki. As a giant banner with his visage looked down over everyone from behind the bands, the sadness was easily countered by excited reunion screams, recounted stories and more than enough hugs.