On a pre-holiday weekend with loads of other choices, the Hot Congress Records showcase at the Bluebird Theater drew a good crowd on Friday. The label, home to a number of excellent local acts such as Colfax Speed Queen, Fingers of the Sun and the comedy collective, Fine Young Gentleman put together a lineup of talent, with Science Partner, the Blue Rider and headliner Princess Music. Shady Elders also appeared on Friday, whose ready-for-college-radio sound earned them a performing slot at 2013 CMJ as well as opening sets for Devotchka, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Wild Nothing.
Improving with every performance, the Blue Rider is now, certainly, Denver’s pre-eminent garage band. Even though the band only released a 10-track EP last September, the musicians are experienced live and capable of playing “sloppy” as needed.
The Blue Rider channel an energetic blend of Nuggets-era garage, surf, Southern R&B and psych. This is all colored exquisitely with just about every ’60s rock organ reference, from Question Mark and the Mysterians (“ 96 Tears”) to the Iron Butterfly. It’s the perfect music for dancing, drinking, driving way too fast or having angry sex. Sonic stomper, “Out West” closed the show on a sweaty, greasy high mark.
Following a powerhouse set like that wasn’t easy, but the first class musicians of Princess Music pulled it off. Performing songs from their August release, “Odobenidae,” the band’s five regular members were augmented, after a bit, by the addition of six other musicians, to form an eight piece (two additional string and four wind instruments). A mini-orchestra with guitar, bass and drums, filled the Bluebird with expansive sound textures rarely heard in a rock venue.
Singer/bandleader Tyler Ludwick and company dazzled with baroque Chamber Pop compositions that challenged and rewarded listeners. The friendly crowd was rapt throughout, particularly the female members down front. Princess Music’s set built to a blissful, trance-inducing finale that sent the crowd home happy. Already more popular in Europe than the U.S., Princess Music is a Denver band to keep an eye on, particularly for anyone looking for music that avoids well-worn trends in indie music.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Ty Hyten is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.