Dave Watts Superjam 1.23 - 1.24.15

The 1up - Colfax
Denver, CO

Words & photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

Friday and Saturday at The 1up showcased many of Denver's musicians. Kicking things off were Denver Afrobeat collective, ATOMGA. I had been hearing about these kids for quite some time, and was already a fan of sax-master Leah Concialdi. They didn't disappoint. The band, which looked more like an army of vibrant color and rhythm delivered the unyielding energy and joy that Afrobeat demands. All the players were proficient and I was amazed that they were able to rein in the sound to a comfortable level with so many members.

Saturday's openers, the Chicago Afrobeat Project, were very similar stylistically, but with a slightly more refined sound. Their chops were mighty and their sound full. They were dynamic, expressive, exciting and tighter than yoga pants. The horns were synchronized through acrobatic passages, and the rhythmic element had a flair and color that rivaled Mardi Gras. Both ATOMGA and Chicago Afrobeat Project were excellent choices to set the tone for Dave Watts and Friends.

The Superjam was a deep collection of amazing musicians touching on classics and crowd pleasers all weekend. With The Motet's Watts on drums, the lineup appeared to have camaraderie and chemistry both on and off the stage. Often times throughout the weekend I noticed the various musicians marveling at each other's talents. Kung Fu's Todd Stoops appeared to gush over vocal powerhouse Camille Armstrong, and Camille got weak in the knees over Tim Carbone's fiddle-work. The rapport between Reed Mathis and Dan Lebowitz gave the ensemble added confidence, and both of them were outrageously capable. Though I had seen him before, Lebo knocked me out. He was calculated, articulate, and creative in his playing, driving the group to loftier heights. To compliment these sharpshooters, Todd Stoops was stupefying on keys. As one of my favorite ivory-ticklers in the game, his ability to take a song to Alpha Centauri and beyond have never ceased to amaze me.

With such talented people in the house, it made sense that other talent would be attracted. Gabe Mervine and Dominic Lalli played their trumpet and sax respectively. Jeremy Salken popped in on drums, Tim Carbone graced us with his soulful fiddling, and Jaden Carlson played some guitar. Overall, there was more talent in the room than anyone had a right to expect. The icing on the cake was Soul Ragga's Camille. Her presence was engulfing, her range wide, her commitment palpable, and her passion was on her sleeve. She confidently led the all-star crew through an array of tunes ranging from Rufus and Chaka Kahn to Led Zeppelin. The highlight of my weekend was when the band kicked into Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar." Lebo's playing was brilliant, transforming his acoustic guitar into a sonic weapon and laying the room to waste. Camille's vocals on "Cigar" were just as impressive as they were on the Marley covers. I was floored by her versatility.

Once again, Denver delivered a night of extraordinary music in unique fashion. I was certain the show would be good, but these cats knocked it out of the park, and considering their limited time to practice, they were exceptionally cohesive. Every one of them was a professional in every way, and the crowd got their money's worth. The weekend was outstanding and left me excited to see the next MusicMarauders Superjam, Valentine's weekend with Jen Hartswick and friends.

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