Karl Denson's Tiny Universe & Juno What?! 2.22.13

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn

Karl Denson is a man amongst men. There are not many saxophonists out in the jamband world who have infiltrated the scene like my main man Karl D has, and it’s for good reason. Denson is a classically trained musician with skills that range from saxophone to flute to keyboard and recently he has even taken up the guitar. But what makes this guy so special you may ask? Whether he is killing it with the Greyboy Allstars, sitting in with the String Cheese Incident, or touring around the world with his own Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Karl Denson makes his presence known all over the place. With his most recent trip to our great state of Colorado, Denson brought along his namesake project and raged it up and down the Front Range.

Juno What?!, a Motet side project featuring drummer Dave Watts, keyboardist/talk-box extraordinaire Joey Porter and keyboardist Steve Watkins, opened the Boulder Theater show with a BANG. This electro-funk dance party of a band is not a show you want to miss, as my feet did not stop moving for the entirety of their hour-long set. The crowd was grooving, band was jamming and the energy in the room kept growing and growing with each funky cut Juno What?! threw down. I have really taken a liking to this band, as they seem to improve both their music and wardrobe each time I see them. With their usual matching white tracksuits hanging somewhere in the back the Juno What?! gentlemen were the perfect fit for an opening act as their funky grooves and toe-tapping beats got the party to a rocking start with the packed Boulder Theater dance floor being the place to be. But would the Motet members steal the thunder from the main act and run away with the first place of funk trophy?

I will give it to Joey Porter and his buddies, they made a great attempt at trying to steal the spotlight from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, but on this night no one could match the fortitude and crisp sounds of Denson’s saxophone. Flanked by talented musicians on his right and left, Karl D. has a true knack for continuing a funk party if one has already begun. This night was no disappointment as the “Tiny Universe” was on a full face-melting mission. With covers such as “Seven Nation Army” and “Hey Jude” not only did Denson reach all age groups attending the show, but the musical force which they were playing with could be felt anywhere in the theater. Juno What’s Joey Porter sat in for the funkified “Seven Nation Army” and his keyboard solo was one of my personal highlights. Denson’s guitar player DJ Williams and trumpeter Chris Littlefield were absolutely shredding on their respective instruments, which gave a nice even feeling to the band. But Denson was the star of the show nonetheless and his skills were eminent as soon as his lips were touching the sax.

Jumping from saxophone, to flute, to lead vocals, and even a little bit of hand percussion, Denson made sure to give the Boulder crazies a great show. Us Boulderites were also treated to the lovely Kim Dawson on lead vocals for a couple of songs including The Doors “Light My Fire.” Ms. Dawson fit perfectly into the funky horn-led group and her addition to the stage only enhanced the crowd’s experience with deep soulful vocals and that beautiful smile of hers. The night kept getting better and better with each tune transitioning nicely right into the next and even though the theater was no where near sold, out the vibe was contagious. Every time I see the “Tiny Universe” I walk away more impressed than the last time and I don’t see any end in site for Karl and his funky friends. With Furthur in town the scene at the Boulder Theater was calm and contained, which provided us funk-seekers with ample dance floor space and short beer lines. I highly recommend catching Juno What?! and the “Tiny Universe” the next time they come into town, or really any project with Karl Denson’s name attached to it. I promise you will not regret it.

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