LOHI Music Festival: 5.13.11
Words By J-man
Photos By J-man & Carly Marthis
A festival in its first year always brings great potential, excitement and anticipation. Unlike three-day camping festivals, city festivals bring a whole different vibe and crowd to the table. When I arrived in the Denver Highlands, there was no crowd. Looking around, only staff, promoters and crew were present as the gates opened. By the end of this Friday evening, the place would boast a decent turnout and an interesting turn of events.
Michigan band The Macpodz sound checked and attempted to resolve massive sound issues leading up to their scheduled time slot. I figured that due to the fact that there was not one patron in attendance, they would delay the set's starting time. They did not, however, and the Macpodz took the stage to no one. During their set, they spoke as if the place was packed...
"We're happy to be here today!" said one of the Macpodz.
"Great to see all of your smiling faces" said another.
I looked around in a puzzled fashion. The set continued with a member of the band or two trying to get the soundboard's attention. The rest of the band joined in, glancing around and while trying to be subtle, they sent obvious signals to the board. It was some of the worst sound that I have ever heard at any sort of live music experience. At the time, I hoped it was just a matter of working out the kinks and dialing it in.
Being from the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, I have seen the Macpodz more times than I can count. They have never stood out to me, but having just released a new album and for it being some time since my last Macpodz show, I went into it with an open mind. Their music has developed very little since I had last seen them... or since the first time I had seen them in 2003 for that matter.
I was impressed with Brennan Andes' bass playing and the keyboard work of Jesse Clayton, but beyond that the Macpodz brought little to the table. Their simple rhythms and melodies coupled with limited jams that went nowhere bored me to no end. The one thing that I will say that is positive, is that The Macpodz have finally switched up their setlist after five or so years of the same songs.
As I filed out of the festival grounds, folks started filling in. I left to grab some food only to return an hour and a half later for the Juno What set with a couple of friends. The place had filled in nicely! We grabbed a couple of craft brews and a spot in front of the stage for what would be our first Juno What experience.
Leading up to the show, drummer Dave Watts (Motet, Juno What) informed me that only two-thirds of Juno What would be performing and that Walter Hannah (the Nu Classics) and master bassist Garrett Sayers (Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth Band) would be joining the band. This increased my excitement for the show exponentially.
A couple of my girlfriend Carly's friends showed up late and weren't sure if they wanted to pay full price to catch just one band. They decided to stand outside of the gates and wait for the Juno What to begin to see if it was something they were into. As Juno What concluded their first song of the evening, we ran into Carly's friends who were inside and excited.
From the very beginning all of the way to the last note of their set, keyboardist Joey Porter killed it. I couldn't help but make faces, fitting to the music, as Joey destroyed the keys. In addition to Joey's key work, he contributed a massively delightful amount of talk box. It was plain to see that Joey was the creative engine behind Juno What. Dave Watts' drumming was overwhelmingly danceable and precise. Those two cats sure can through a dance party.
The addition of Garrett Sayers brought a a more jammed-out, loose sound to the stage. His soloing work, per usual, blew me away and reminded me why Garrett is one of my favorite bass players. Walter's key work added a loose feel as well as he filled-in with more grooves than the melodies which fell on Joey to play.
Somewhere towards the beginning/middle of Juno What's set, the Macpodz drunkenly made their way out into the crowd in front of the stage. Initially, they stared in amazement at the glory that was Juno What. After a song or two, trumpet player Ross Huff began collecting beach balls that were bouncing around the crowd and began walking them up to the stage one by one and rolling them onto the stage. Joey looked down with a confused look on his face. Dave Watts looked annoyed and had the look of "Who the fuck is this guy?" in his eyes.
Much to my dissatisfaction, the sound issues that plagued the Macpodz continued in the second band's set and right-on into Juno What. It was literally some of the worst sound that I have ever heard at a show. It looked like the staff was clueless. The speakers, monitors and individual instruments kept coming in-and-out which triggered the staff to climb around onstage during the set. Luckily for the crowd, Juno What's talent and vibe trumped the sound issues as most folks in the crowd seemed oblivious. I glanced up to once again see the trumpet player of the Macpodz approach the stage to hump the speakers. Folks looked at the situation with sympathy in their eyes, both for the band, who was looking down at guy, and for the fool himself.
All nonsense aside, Juno What put on an incredible live show. Highlights from the show include killer versions of "Electric Avenue", "If You're Feelin' This" and "Ain't Afraid to Work". They announced to the crowd that they had copies of their new album, Shameless, available for a dollar at the front of the stage, and folks who were immediately sold on the product approached the stage. I myself bought about ten and proceeded to hand them out to friends and folks getting down.
The set concluded with an extremely receptive applause from the crowd. We made our way backstage to thank the band for having us out. Garrett and Joey, per usual, were as delightful as can be. I told Joey that he "scares the shit out of me..." to which he laughed and proceeded to tell us that he would be joining Yamn over at Cervantes. We considered the options, but ultimately like many evenings, our night would conclude at Quixote's...