You Me & Apollo at the Hi-Dive 02/02/13 (photos, review)By John Moore | February 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
Janis Joplin lives … in the body of a wiry little white dude from Fort Collins with a bush of Charles Manson hair and oversized Jeffrey Dahmer eyeglasses.
Not to mention that serial killer voice.
The rising indie-folk band You Me & Apollo is regarded by some as first in line to be Colorado’s “next big thing” — a queue that’s been moving swiftly enough of late to qualify as an express lane.
Brent Cowles walked right out of the 1970s and onto the Hi-Dive stage on Saturday, unleashing a soulful voice on Denver audiences that alternately evoked Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and even Billie Holiday — or at least a falsetto Mick Jagger. Cowles is proof that you don’t necessarily need to have the moves like Jagger to be to a rock star, or even the looks. But it sure helps to have a voice like Mick’s — and a soul like Billie’s.
From the outset, Saturday’s EP release party looked like an outcast’s fantasy come true — here was this room packed with Prom Queen-worthy women swaying and shrieking in awe of the dorkiest kid in class. But Cowles went quickly about warranting their love with a torrent of seductive, gravel-tinged wails that suggested a life lived much longer than his 23 years.
In its first Denver headlining appearance, YM&A’s promise was made undeniably clear: There was stomping. There were clap-alongs. There were sing-alongs. Those who only know the five-man band from the few recorded laments it has posted online were surely pleasantly surprised to discover what a fun and upbeat outfit it can be live. Even if Saturday’s coming-out party went on longer than it really needed to. Many new bands struggle to fill out a full set list when they transition to headliners. Not so YM&A, whose detailed set list Saturday swelled to 28 titles, planned all the way down to who talked when in-between songs. There was some grousing from entrenched fans that it took so long for the band to get to its go-to stuff. That was because of an unnecessary over-reliance on old-school covers.
While the crowd loved hearing funkified standards like “Stuck in the Middle,” “Midnight Hour” and “Time of the Season,” you run the risk of being labeled a wedding band when you play too many of them. That’s not what the curious came out to see Saturday. They came to see what the latest local buzz band has to offer that is all its own, and that is considerable. Look no further than slow-burners like “Before I Die” and “Opener,” and the party-party dance song, “Oh My Molly.” That song is an absolute lock to be the band’s eventual breakout hit. It’s Cowles at his best (and made even better whenever he’s making smooth harmonies with guitarist Jonathan Alonzo).
The music business is fickle, but it’s not rocket science. From the beginning, stardom has pretty much come down to any band’s ability to make the girls either swing or sway. Cowles does both.
Will YM&A follow 2012 local breakouts by the Lumineers and Churchill? Enough people presumed so after Saturday’s success that the exit talk invariably focused on what evil record execs will do with Cowles’ signature frizz: Cut it? Pull it back? Leave it? (Consensus: anything but leave it.) That all sounds so silly, but just know — this is a seriously bushy head of hair. Even Cowles lamented how hot it was under underneath it all — on a winter night in Denver.
The band’s more important and immediate concern is building on its momentum for a showcase concert in Los Angeles next week, followed by tours of both coasts and a potentially game-changing slot at South by Southwest in March. To make that all happen, there was talk from the stage of a possible fundraising show coming up with the Knew and A. Tom Collins. Talk about hair. Between those three bands, there would be enough of it all in one place to render every big-hair band of the ‘80s bald by comparison.
John Moore founded The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in 2001 and served as deputy sports editor, rock writer and theater critic at The Denver Post. He now writes for www.CultureWest.org. Follow him on Twitter here. (@moorejohn)