The Congress 3.15.13 & 3.16.13
Road 34 Bike Shop and Bar
Fort Collins, Colorado
Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock
With spring closing in the winter tour season in Denver is coming to a close. We are hit incredibly hard with touring bands and live music form January through March, and it’s becoming a bit of a problem. No, in all seriousness it is a blessing and curse, as inevitably there will be a combination of incredible experiences and a handful of missed shows. The late spring seems to be a time for local acts to fill the void with Mountain Runs and weekends along The Front Range. Many bands take this opportunity to release new music and create a buzz for their summer touring schedule. One such band, The Congress, did both with stops in at Fort Collins’ Road 34 Bike Shop and Bar and a headlining gig at The Bluebird with Tori Pater Band all in support of their new EP The Loft Tapes.
On Friday night, Amy and I headed down around 9:30 PM. With a posted start time of 9:00 PM we figured we would catch the end of the opener and have a somewhat early night. However due to the CSU Rams fighting the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference Championship they postponed the opener until after 10:30 PM. This has become a common trend lately and it needs to stop. Road 34 obviously knew the game was happening on Friday, so put a note on the website or simply make the show a late start. Many of the people who were there left prior to the start of the music, because it was just getting late. On top of that The Band Wagon ended up playing longer than The Congress, but I digress.
The Band Wagon is quite simply the most bizarre and interesting cover band I’ve had the chance to see live. Led by singer Beth “Rock Star” Peebles, who teetered between legitimate crooner and karaoke diva, was a bucket full of energy and pep. Opening with Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know,” it was clear from the beginning that this was about to be an exercise in silliness. I found myself surprised at times as the musicianship of both guitarist, Jonnie Geller and bassist, CW Trumbeaux. Their talents really began to shine through on versions of The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals’ “Medicine.” Both were well executed while songs like “Love Shack” just seemed over the top. The most interesting moment came in the form of a Nikki Minaj / Bluegrass mash-up that just went way over my head. They closed their set with a solid take on “Me And Bobby McGee.” The Band Wagon recorded the show for a live release as well.
The Congress finally took the stage and blasted through a powerful set that was just short of the two-hour mark. They laid down the mood early by opening with a track off of The Loft Tapes; Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” The Congress is on fire right now, and even given the late start, small stage, and lack of Chris Speasmaker on keys, they sounded spectacular. The Congress as a power trio is certainly something to behold. They are crisp and clean in their delivery and each player is working overtime to fill the gaps. Versions of The Beatles’ “Sheep Dog” and their original “Keep Virginia” kicked the set up a notch and made the crowd tune in. My head snapped around when they ripped into Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” that oozed with The Congress’s solid rock sensibility. Scott Lane continues to impress me each time I see him perform live. Quite simply he is a shredder, and his ability to provide lick heavy sustenance to the crowd is something to be seen. Several more tracks from the new EP made it into the rotation as well including “Into The Mystic” and a stellar “Killing Me Softly.” All in all it was a great lead up to their gig at The Bluebird the following night.
Nicholas' Friday Photos
The Bluebird Theater
The Congress came out in full effect for their latest headlining show at The Bluebird. MusicMarauders and friends were there to do a five-camera shoot along with help from The 4cs Recording Group who did a 24-Track tape of the show. Stay tuned for the final product, but in the meantime let me give a rundown of the concert. We arrived early and set up our gear as The Congress sound checked. Denver has been kind to The Congress and they continue to build momentum in our fair city. The night began with a quick interview with lead singer and bassist Jonathan Meadows, who gave me insight into the recording process for their new EP The Loft Tapes.
Up first was the Tori Pater Band who is now on my radar. A band that has been on my radar for quite some time is Polytoxic, which is where Tori Pater got his start. Polytoxic continues to play their Last Waltz tribute, which has become a yearly tradition on the Front Range. Now it seems that Tori Pater is striking out on his own with Leftover Salmon alumni Bill McKay. In fact that blues infused grittiness that McKay inserted into LoS is exactly the type of music that oozes from the stage at a Tori Pater show. Tori himself is like a blend of Johnny Cash, Taj Mahal, and Vince Herman, with no reservations about dropping an f-bomb during his songs. I was informed from a dear friend that Tori is the real deal and that became obvious as he played on. His gruff delivery could have been off-putting if he wasn’t such a lovable character on stage. He rallied the audience for The Congress, and made the whole evening feel much more like a family affair. It was good to see McKay out playing as well and it was obvious that he hasn’t lost any of his chops. Robbie Peoples joined for a song before Pater promised the crowd that we would be seeing him again. If you like the blues and you want to get rowdy go see the Tori Pater Band and drink some whiskey in the process.
Speaking of whiskey, as The Congress took the stage, they informed us that they would be playing a new song, which was a loving tribute whiskey, women, and a lack of time. They quickly went into a massive version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” that seemed to stretch beyond the borders of not only the recording but the version they had played just the night before. They tossed in a couple originals with “Fallen” and “Loretta” off of their first self-titled EP. Chris Speasmaker of the Fox Street Allstars was phenomenal and added some serious texture to the overall Congress sound. After a couple more tracks from The Loft Tapes including a transcendental version of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic” they invited another Fox Street Allstar Robbie Peoples to the stage to perform songs off of his new album which he recorded with members of The Congress. Peoples hung out for a bit and he really showcased his fiery brand of Southern blues and his ability on both the harmonica as well as the guitar. He was a fun addition to the night for both bands. There was some slight technical difficulty with the amp, but it was mere moments before the show was back in full swing. Robbie exited stage left and The Congress continued on with some originals including an awesome “Fool For You” as well as a rocking “Reasons.” They gave us more off the new EP with “You’ve Got A Friend as well as set closing “Killing Me Softly.” They ended the show with a massive jam on The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane” that included both Bill McKay and Tori Pater. The Congress closed with their epic “Jonah Gideon.” It was solid show with lots of musical interplay and some serious twists and turns. Stay tuned for the video as I dive into the edit.
Nicholas' Saturday Photos