Poor Man's Whiskey w/ Michael Kang 2.24.12

The Oriental Theater
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock

Heading down to the Oriental Theater in Denver, the only name on the bill that I had seen before was Michael Kang. My expectations were low even though I had heard rave reviews about Poor Man’s take on the Pink Floyd classic. First up was Dead Winter Carpenters opening the show. Hailing from North Lake Tahoe, California, this roots rock band blends elements of folk, blues, jam, bluegrass and more. They put on an interesting show to say the least. They opened up with a rowdy "How To Make A Living 101."

SET I: How To Make A Living 101, Devil Town, Find Your Home, Sun Don’t Shine, I Shot Him, Tahoe Gal, From Here to San Antone, One Foot In The Gutter, East On 8, Take Your Mama, Cabin Fever

I have to say that I was impressed with what Dead Winter Carpenters brought to the table. They had an easy-going feel to their sound, but with an urgency to their heavy hitting tunes that got the crowd moving. The Oriental is a great room that has recently gotten a second wind with Jay Bianchi doing more bookings and getting more shows into this timeless venue. The tall ceiling makes for a somewhat boomy effect on the sound, but this is my only real criticism for the location. The crowd filtered in throughout the opening set, never reaching capacity but definitely filling properly. The bulk of the crowd consisted of Highland and Lo-Hi neighborhood yuppies with a mix of wooks and randoms. When you are this far from downtown it’s hard to pull a sell out, but it was definitely close to 2/3’s full. Dead Winter Carpenters were the exact right choice for this opening slot, and they were like a Velcro match to Poor Man’s Whiskey. Both bands were a blend of bluegrass and blues with a rock edge. With their relentless tour schedule and ability to make new fans with every show it won’t be long before they are taking the headlining slot on marquees around the country.

Poor Man’s Whiskey started their show with a set of their standard material. Well, standard with a few bells and whistles in the form of Michael Kang and Katy Rexford. They opened with "Like A River."

SET I: Like A River, Let’s Go Out, Angeline, Cousin Billy, Sierra Girl, Mexico, Truckee Tracy, PMS, Abigail, Deal, Orange Blossom Special> River Trance

SET II: Dark Side of the Moonshine Set – Speak To Me/Breathe> On The Run> Time> Great Gig In The Sky> Whiskey> Us And Them> Any Colour You Like> Brain Damage> Eclipse, Humboldt Hoedown, Whiskey In Heaven

ENCORE: (Acoustic On The Floor) Wish You Were Here, Rocky Top, The Weight

The show was literally jam packed with music. Calling themselves a “High Octane Hootenanny,” their live experience lived up to this title in a big way. Musically these road worn travelers show their unbelievable array of experience with every beat. Thinking they are simply a bluegrass band was a huge mistake on my part. Leaning more to the slamgrass of bands like Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey was a journey through both the acoustic and the electric. Highlights from the first set included an impressive jam on Abigail as well as a mesmerizing "Orange Blossom Special" into "Rivertrance" with Michael Kang taking the lead. I’m so used to seeing Kang on his electric mando with String Cheese and only busting out his fiddle occasionally. Seeing him perform exclusively on this instrument was just one more perk of this show. They ended their set with a notice to the crowd to stay tuned for Dark Side of the Moonshine.

Poor Man’s Whiskey came back in full Wizard of Oz regalia with the film being projected on the screen behind them as they began this much-anticipated set of music. Performing with a much more stripped down acoustic sound, this bluegrass rendition of the Pink Floyd fan favorite was truly a spectacle. Perhaps the most insane track of the show entitled Whiskey, which was Poor Man’s version of Time. A couple of helpers came out on stage carrying a basket of beer and Jason Beard used the sound of the can opening as an effect in the opening of the song, before they ripped into this extraordinary version. Their modification of Brain Damage was also a highlight of the show. After "Eclipse" they ended the second set with a few more originals including their tribute to Humboldt County growers.

As Poor Man’s Whiskey closed the show they came onto the floor of The Oriental Theater with their instruments and picked a few songs for the crowd campfire style. Playing "Wish You Were Here," "Rocky Top," and "The Weight" with members of Dead Winter Carpenters as well as Michael Kang was almost too much. It was a great way to end the evening, which pushed to almost 2:00 AM as we finally left the building. Overall it was a great night of music and truly an exhibition of musical prowess and creativity. I would definitely watch it from start to finish again.

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