Friday at the Boulder Theater, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe threw one of the funkiest dance parties of the year thus far. Though a Further show in Broomfield and fresh snow in the mountains kept the show from selling out like the last time Karl was in town, the theater was nonetheless alive with energy from start to finish.
The show was full of collaborations with members of the hometown funk favorites, the Motet, including an opening set by their 3-piece side project, Juno What?! The band’s self-avowed disco booty funk, highlighted by the dueling talk box vocals of keyboardists Joey Porter and Steve Watkins, pumped up the room. Retro originals like “Body Double” and “ElectroCity” set the tone for a take of Eddy Grant’s classic “Electric Avenue.”
Per usual, the night was dominated by the versatility of Denson as a bandleader and his talented ear for catchy melodies. Karl seamlessly alternated between soulful lead vocals on tracks like “Chance With You” and playing saxophone, flute and an array of percussive bells and whistles.
Almost all eight members got a chance to shine, notably the searing guitar solos of DJ Williams and trumpet work of Chris Littlefield. Bassist Chris Stillwell was his usual laid-back self and paid extra close attention to guiding sit-in drummer Dusty Simmons — who Denson announced had only been with the band for a few weeks. With such limited experience, Simmons’ playing was remarkably confident and locked in with the other moving parts.
A late-set surprise brought the Motet’s stunning singer Kim Dawson to the stage for a handful of tracks that included a sultry take of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” A second guest appearance by Joey Porter was perhaps the highlight of the night with a funkified version of The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army.”
There is little doubt the tiny universe of Boulder will continue to have nothing but love for Karl Denson.
Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb. You can reach him at Nate@EcoVessel.com
Joshua Elioseff is a Boulder based photographer of everything, a self-professed music junkie and regular contributor to Reverb. Check his photos out on Facebook or his website.