From Denver to Boulder w/ PMW 2.25.12
Casa De Paul Brown
Words By J-man
Photos By J-man & Carly Marthis
Who is Poor Man's Whiskey? Are they just another gimmicky cover band exploiting the popular music of a past generation or could their original music stand on it's own? How was it that Michael Kang got signed on to this project? I had a lot of questions as my curiosity peaked leading up to seeing the band for the first time. It was a Friday afternoon in Denver, CO and Carly and I had a date with PMW w/ Michael Kang at The Casa De Paul Brown! We swung by Quixote's True Blue to pick up a stack of tickets for the evening's show at The Oriental Theater, which I would be selling to the attendees of Paul's Pickin' Party. As fantastic folks and familiar faces flooded into Paul's place in Denver's Lower Highlands, food was catered in from The Highland Tap & Burger and drinks were poured. By the time the band arrived the party was buzzing!
I ducked upstairs to use the restroom where I found Michael Kang on the computer in Paul's guestroom, with his fiddle in hand, practicing.
"Hey! What's up Man?" Kang said excitedly.
"Looking forward to hearing what Poor Man's Whiskey is capable of!" I responded
"You've been keeping busy, huh?" Michael said with a smile.
At which point we went into a discussion about how the Colorado scene is thriving, as we compared it to other music communities such as NYC, NOLA, San Fran, etc. I was excited to catch up with Micheal as I headed downstairs to the packed main level of Paul's house. Ton's of tickets were sold to excited fans and friends as the band drew their instruments from their holsters. It was time for a musical shoot out.
One Set: Stuck in Colorado, White Freight Liner, Friend of The Devil, Pig in a Pen, Sweet Child O' Mine, Midnight Moonlight, Wagon Wheel
The music was fairly roots oriented with a rowdy edge to it. The songs and instrumentation were fun and the vibe was through the roof. Folks danced and sang in Paul's living room as the band entertained. The evening was one the most intimate musical experiences of my life and as the short set wrapped up I reflected on how grateful I was to be in Denver among such wonderful people as Paul, his girlfriend Shelly, my brother Brandon, his girlfriend Katie and of course Carly!
I left Paul's house that evening feeling so energized, but unlike the rest of the party, Carly and I made our way not to the Oriental Theater for PMW w/ Kang, but to Quixote's where we would catch The Henhouse Prowlers. As we left, we could see Kang in the upstairs window practicing. I felt some regret missing the show, but looked forward to my next PMW experience, which came sooner than expected.
This is where our coverage should have ended, but in fact this is the point where the story took a crazy twist...
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The Highland Tap & Burger
The following day Carly and I had brunch plans with friends. We recommended The Highland Tap, as it has quickly become one of our favorite new spots. I shot Paul a text that read "We're heading to the Tap for brunch, you should join us for a drink" which to my delight he responded "We're here, see you shortly." Walking in the door of The Tap, I was thrilled to see Paul and Shelly joined by PMW and Michael Kang! "Pull up a table!" Paul said, as I sat down next to Kang.
We dined while I was caught up to speed on the previous evening's happenings and crazy stories. As PMW talked about that evening's show in Boulder, I reflected on my plans. "Since Carly is hanging out with the girls and I tonight, you should go with the guys to Boulder," Shelly said with a smile. "Yeah, we've got room," Paul said with a smile. With that, my evenings's plans were set. I would be riding to Boulder with PMW's manager Eric Walton, Kang and Paul.
A couple of hours later I found myself at The Casa De Paul Brown once again, loading the car for our short trek to Boulder. We listened to Sirius Jam On and at one point I told the guys how I had met Carly at String Cheese Red Rocks, to which we all had a good laugh.
The Fox Theatre
Arriving at The Fox, soundcheck ensued before the band went it's seperate ways in search of food. I recommended Mamasitas, a little Mexican restaurant next door to The Fox. We were joined by the bulk of the band for a meal before heading back to the greenroom at The Fox. PMW picked and warmed up as great energy built up backstage! Just prior to showtime the band called everyone in for a huddle (myself included)! As the energy began to peak, the band made it's way upstairs to a respectable crowd.
PMW's first set began in plain clothes with the band plus Katy Rexford (Fiddle) on "Lets Go Out." Katy exited the stage as the band played a great version of "Down Under," substituting lyrics such as "You better drink, you better drink whiskey." Katy returned to the stage for "Good Morning," before the band brought out their guest of honor. "Old Joe Clark>Cripple Creek" brought Kang to the stage for some duel fiddling with Katy. At first Katy seemed timid/hesitant, but as the set went on she loosened up and dug into the music. The banter between songs was entertaining and was often led by Josh Brough (Banjo, Keys).
PMW teased the crowd as Kang returned to the greenroom following just one song. We sat and chatted about Michael's schooling and what it was like growing up in Berkeley and Oakland. As we talked the band launched into "Country Song," encouraging the crowd to participate vocally. As "PMS" started, Micheal laughed and told me to listen to the words of the song. It was indeed a song about PMS. With the first few notes of "Catfish John" I headed upstairs to catch the jam. Their version was near perfect and left me grinning. "Stuck in Colorado" followed after a lengthy story about Josh being arrested the last time they were in Boulder and the song stemming from that experience. Katy and Kang once again joined in on the pickin'.
What came next was one of the highlights of the show. "Orange Blossum Special>Rivertrance" had the crowd roaring and dancing like crazy. I was overwhelmingly impressed with the playing of Sean Lehe (Guitar). Sean ripped through some incredible acoustic and electric guitar work. Equally impressive was Kang on "Rivertrance," a song that he has made his own. With the closing of the first set, there was a dash for the door from fans, as the band retreated to the green room. I joined to see what antics would take place during their transformation into the characters of The Wizard of Oz.
Looking around the room I saw Paul Brown tying the strings of Michael's Tin Man costume, as well as Katy and PMW's road manager braiding Josh's hair. A gentleman who was introduced to me as "String Cheese's Accountant," commented on who the obvious Dorthy would be, as there was only one woman in the band. As I glanced over at Josh, who's hair was braided and who was wearing a country dress, I commented that he may be mistaken in his assumption. The energy was really light and really loose as the band huddled once again before taking the stage for what would be billed as their "Dark Side of The Moonshine" set!
The crowd cheered and the room filled in once again. It was great to see a group of grown men in costume, so light-hearted. The second set was a hodgepodge of Bluegrass, Rock and Jam. According to the setlist they played "Darkside," "Willie" and "Rockstar." For me, I was having so much fun that I lost track. The music was really enjoyable and I was really impressed with Jason Beard (Guitar, Mandolin) who seemed to be having a blast. The rhythm section of Aspen Stevenson (Bass) and George Smeltz (Drums, Suitcase) was also extremely sound, creating some cool rock moments.
The second highlight of the evening came next, with the band closing their second set and taking an encore on the main floor of the room. "Wagon Wheel," a crowd favorite closed the evening with folks gathered around the band, singing, dancing and many holding up their cellphone cameras. The moment made the hair on my arms stand. I'm not one for cheesy moments, but this felt real. I was really impressed with Poor Man's Whiskey.
Backstage the party was on as the band was excited about the show! Slowly the evening wound down, with The Fox clearing out completely and load-out wrapping up. We said our good-byes and headed back to Denver. Back at Paul's house we reconnected with Shelly and minutes later Carly walked through the door to find me sitting on the couch in the living room with Paul on his back and Kang doing yoga. She looked at me and smiled... What a night!
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