[Above: headliners Gnarls Barkley]
Under the July sunshine, the SoCo Music Experience took over an
open-air lot outside Coors Field in Denver on Saturday. The free
festival drew thousands of Denverites for sunshine, interactive games,
booths, and, of course, the free music.
[Above: Eagle Seagull]
Sitting on one of the
ubiquitous red inflated Southern Comfort couches that peppered the lot,
the first act I took in on the main stage was Nebraska sextet (and
Paste Emergent artist) Eagle Seagull. The band's gorgeously anthemic,
multi-instrument songs were punctuated by singer Eli Mardock's raw
and caustic vocals, and climaxed over frenetic beats. Themes of love
and loss wove through the group's music, with song titles like "Your Beauty
Is A Knife I Turn On My Throat." The band also mentioned a new EP in September,
titled You're The Reason Why I'm Afraid of Dying, with a second
full-length to follow in January.
With music alternating
seamlessly from the main stage to the local stage sponsored by Denver's
Westword alt-weekly, there were nonstop performances from 2pm until
Gnarls Barkley closed things down under the stars. On the local stage,
Denver band The
Hot IQs once again proved themselves one to watch. They
always draw a delighted response from the crowd with their hard-driving
powerpop with a smartly catchy edge to it. Drummer Elaine adds panache
and a solid backbone to every song as she drums with a smile on her
face and effortless cool. The large facially-pierced lady next to me
was impressed, yelling, "Hey, guys, your drummer is like seriously hot.
No, SERIOUSLY." Sexy percussionist or no, this band is always a treat to see live.
free festival also provided attendees with plenty of distractions
between bands. Folks were lined up to try their underhand beanbag
throwing at the best-named game ever, Cornhole. There were also options to pose with a giant SoCo bottle at
the SPIN photo booth, get heckled at Simon Says in the SoCo
lime tent (I failed), or even front a homespun rock band in the Rock
BandI gave Thom Yorke a run for his money).
samples of everyone from Nirvana to Snoop Dogg to the Beatles alongside
his accessible beats and breaks. This act seemed equally popular with
the newly-initiated spectators who found themselves unable to stand
still and also the cadres of festively dressed, rabidly dancing
Bassnectar fans that turned out in force, taking the stage to
dance alongside Ashton. With long locks of hair often obscuring his
smiling face, Ashton drew everyone in to his set in front of a
mile-a-minute visual show flashing on the screen behind him. Ashton
also appeared to be enjoying his set as much as the crowd, often
counting off the beats with his fist pumped into the air, or looking at
the crowd with a giddy sense of anticipation right before he dropped a
new sample in, with barely-contained glee to see how we would react. He
can take satisfaction knowing that he incited a huge party under the
[Above: Blonde Redhead]
The multilingual Italian/Japanese trio Blonde
Redhead brought an oasis of spacey, haunting melody after the throbbing
beats of Bassnectar. Keyboardist/guitarist Kazu Makino had an oddly
unsettling yet beautiful voice that floated over the nervy and
sometimes challenging intertwining guitar riffs. After first thinking
the sun was getting into our brains, we realized we were not seeing
double, and that lead singer and drummer Amedeo and Simone Pace are
actually twin brothers, who together laced up the structure of the
songs. Their set was impressive and nothing short of intense.
crowd numbers swelled by sunset in anticipation of the set from Gnarls
Barkleybeachballs to the sound of the beat. After covering the Violent Femmes
and working their way through some material from their new album The
Odd Couple, Cee-Lo sat down for a few acoustic lovebird numbers.
Towards the end of their set they finally unleashed their smash hit "Crazy," leaving fans sated as they shuffled
out from a great day of free music.
SoCo Music Experience is continuing its trek across the country this
summer with upcoming stops in San Diego, Calif., Madison, Wis., Saratoga, N.Y. and Tempe, Ariz.
Read more of Heather Browne's writing at I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS.