Springdale Quartet feat. Pete Wall & Whiskey Tango 12.21.12

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Words By Brad Yeakel
Photos By J-man

The Mayan calendar expired on 12/21 and Quixote's hosted two of the Front Range's better local entertainers to celebrate. The front bar was rocking to the blended bluegrass of Whiskey Tango while the main stage hosted Boulder's Springdale Quartet. I've seen Tango quite a few times, and always enjoy their show. I don't know how they repeatedly make me forget that they are way more than a bluegrass band, but each time I am surprised when they veer off and tear into some sort of sonic groove. In the case of "Apocalypse Friday" at Quixote's, it came in the form of an epic "Chameleon" by Herbie Hancock. The banjo added a unique flavor to such a funky tune, and I was caught off guard again. Great stuff! Their second set was also filled with high energy as they played a spirited version of "White Freight Liner." Whiskey Tango reminds me of String Cheese Incident often. Besides their stylistic similarities, I have seen them perform several of Cheese's staples with an enthusiasm that surely suggests they are also huge fans of Nershi and company. If the ship was really going down, I was glad to have Whiskey Tango as the soundtrack.

In the other room, Springdale Quartet became a quintet with the addition of saxophone extraordinaire, Pete Wall. SQ is quickly earning the respect of many Denver music fans. Their progressive jazz-funk is highly influenced by Medeski, Martin, and Wood. They cover MMW often, and their original pieces are driven by a similar flavor. The one thing that's different... the guitarist. While MMW does not have a guitarist, Springdale seems to have a unique and ambitious guitarist whose style was aggressive, melodic, and untamed. While watching him deliver screaming leads, he almost appeared to be hanging on to the guitar for dear life... Like Harry Potter's first ride on a quiddich broom. From time to time I expected to see the guitar escape his grasp and fly wildly into the night. My only complaint about the Quartet was that they play a lot of the same tunes at every show. I have thoroughly enjoyed their instrumental cover of Weezer's "Say it Ain't So" yet feel they have the potential to do similar takes on a plethora of other songs. That was another reason Friday night had extra flair. From what I suspected to be MMW's "End of the World Party" to a distinctive extended "Voodoo Chile" jam, the Quartet was throwing in some extras just in case this was really the last night on Earth.

The other thing that impressed me was their use of Pete Wall. While much of the material seemed as though it was loosely rehearsed, the majority of the evening was purpose-driven, tight, technical, and inspired. Like a lot of their output, the work was too extended to be completely composed, and too intricate to be improvisational. The result was a high energy thrill ride that kept me guessing what was composed and what was on the fly. When you can make your improvisation sound composed, you have found the element known as spontaneous composition, and this is a talent that many jam-bands aspire to, but few have accomplished. It was this aspect that has made Springdale one of my favorite local acts. It doesn't hurt that they are an extremely nice group of kids too.

I had decided that if the world were to end, Quixote's would be a great place to be. At the end of the night, I was happy the world was still spinning, if only to have more opportunities to watch bands like Springdale Quartet and Whiskey Tango do their thing.

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