The Acoustic Cool Down: Iron and Wine & Brett Dennen

Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock (

After the rage fest that was Summer Camp, I took advantage of a more subdued form of entertainment, the acoustic show. Luckily for me, living in Denver makes it never too hard to search out any type of concert experience. I had the privilege to catch Iron and Wine as well as Brett Dennen less than a week apart. Acoustic music soothes the soul, plain and simple. It was a way for me to get grounded and focus on the true basics of what I love.

It was my first time seeing Iron and Wine and I must say that Sam Beam has truly evolved. What began as a simple singer-songwriter shtick has morphed into a full-on band with elements of jazz, lounge, gospel, and rock. He still maintains his acoustic base but the show was much more than I expected. First of all, there was a diverse crowd that comes with the territory when you wander off the well-worn path of jam. It was everyone from grandma and grandpa to the overly enthused college kid.

I guess that’s what I like about Iron and Wine. Sam has such an approachable sound that there is no telling who will drink his Kool-Aid. I took the opportunity early on to get down front and snap some pictures. They sounded great and the entire left side of the floor was bouncing away as Sam conducted his band. I, like many others, got my first taste of their music when Sam did his beautifully rendered cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”, literally transforming the song from an electro-pop number into a folk tune.

It was at that point that I began to dig a little deeper into the Iron and Wine catalog. It is an interesting array of music that never ventures too far from its acoustic roots. The show at the Boulder Theater was no different. I was with good friends and took the rare opportunity to zone in on the show. It was over quickly by jam standards as Iron and Wine only played for a little over an hour and half, but it was a solid set of music and I felt warm and fuzzy as I wandered out onto the Pearl Street Mall.

That next Wednesday was Brett Dennen at The Ogden in Denver. I first heard Dennen’s music, ironically enough, at Alpine Valley for a Phish show. I was immediately struck by the power and sincerity of his lyrics. He writes at a level usually reserved for names like Dylan and Crosby. And believe me I don’t make those comparisons lightly. He has a sense of the world that is rarely seen from songwriters his age. Sure, some of his stuff is bubblegum, but it’s the definitely my flavor of chew.

I met Amy in Fort Collins and we drove back down to the city together. We found our friends just as Dennen made his way to the stage. I was truly surprised at the caliber of band he had assembled. They had an incredibly full sound and they were definitely in synch. He focused on tracks from his new album Loverboy which included “Sydney” and “San Francisco”. Brett Dennen also has a very approachable sound, and again the crowd was very eclectic, including everyone from frat boy to hippie. I think that shows the power of acoustic music as the unifying factor. It just makes hearts happy, and Brett, having gotten his start as a camp counselor singing around the campfire, knows how to accomplish that. He encored with a solo acoustic version of “Ain’t No Reason”, which sent the audience soaring before inviting the rest of the band back onstage to close the show. It was another great night of music and I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

I find that it’s very enlightening to break away from the norm from time to time. And for me, that required engaging in some acoustic music, although I found that what I thought would be a series of straight singer-songwriter style shows was much, much more. It’s liberating to see new bands without expectations. It helps to widen my perspective to see music from an uninitiated point of view. This time around, the music of Brett Dennen and Sam Beam were just what the doctor ordered.

Video of Iron and Wine @ The Boulder Theater:

Video of Brett Dennen @ The Ogden:


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