Willi Carlisle, Dylan Earl & Johno Leeroy 12.2.21

Lost Lake Lounge Denver, CO

Words by Martin Smith (Whiskey and Wax Trax)

Photos by Melissa Evans (medoesphotos)

Willi Carlisle and friends had the Lost Lake Lounge dancing and singing along with an amazing night of country and folk music that brought joy, celebration, and even a few tears on a Thursday night in December. Willi joked that he was happy to see so many people show up on a “school night” to listen to him perform his moving songs and stories. The crowd would have stayed all night if they could. It was a great lineup from top to bottom with local country artist Johno Leeroy kicking off the show with his blue collar southern rock sounds, Dylan Earl with 90’s throwback country vibes, and Willi Carlise headlining with his raw, emotional folk songs. 

A Willi Carlisle show, or Uncle Bill as Dylan calls him, is truly a wonderful experience. He exudes passion and authenticity in everything he does. He really connects to every person in the crowd as he weaves in stories from his own life as a pansexual folk artist from Arkansas, tells the stories of struggling immigrant farmers in the early 20th century, and cracks jokes about how attractive the audience may or may not be. Willi opened the show as he so often does with the acapella “What the Rocks Don’t Know” which had the crowd singing along right from the get go. He also played some of the new songs from his album to be released in 2022 like the “Big Tent”, a song about inclusion; “Van Life”, a song about living on the road; “Last Magician in Tulsa” a song about loneliness that left the audience in tears; and “The Grand Design” about loss, during which he was joined by Dylan Earl on stage. To the crowd's delight he also played his most popular diddies “Cheap Cocaine” and “Singing Knives.” Dylan’s band, who played guitar and keys, accompanied Willi on almost every song but he still maintained his presence as a “one-man-band” busting out the squeezebox, guitar, banjo, and harmonica. It wouldn’t be a Willi Carlise show without a few tears. They started to flow when he played his new song “Dry County Dust." He concluded the show with two sing-alongs; the fun and silly “Bow Howdy Hot Dog” and, another tear jerker, “Angels.”

There is a lot of great music coming out of Arkansas these days and Dylan Earl and his band are more proof of that. They played a great country set with a 90’s country sound, but not the cheesy shit, more the Randy Travis or George Strait sound but with a little more drinking and cussin’ edge. If there were more room on the dance floor I’m sure the crowd would have been two-steping but they settled for the high school-prom-hands-on-hips slow dancing. Dylan has that perfect 90’s NASCAR look to match his sound with his cowboy hat, mustache, rhinestone cowboy shirt with fringe, and rose tinted Oakleys. Willi joined them on stage for a couple songs providing fiddle (really more like violin) accompaniment. Based on conversations between the sets Dyan surely made some new fans with his amazing performance.

Johno Leeroy opened the show with his local Denver based band. I had seen Johno perform a solo before and I was a little nervous that some of that intimacy and connection to his workingman’s country/blues songs would be lost with a full backing band, but I was wrong. The band added more depth and really brought a more southern rock sound to Johno’s songs which turned out to be a great match. The venue had a good size crowd from the beginning as anybody who has heard Johno before wouldn’t want to miss him playing his beer soaked and smoke filled tunes.

The Lost Lake Lounge is a great dive-bar venue in the heart of the entertainment district on Colfax in Denver. The venue is on the smaller side but makes for a perfect setup for more intimate shows like this one. Fans had the opportunity to mingle with the artists between sets and after the show and purchase the NASCAR and 4x4 themed merch from Dylan and Johno as well as Willi’s dope t-shirts and tour posters. For a “school night” there were plenty of people enjoying themselves, singing, dancing, hollering and saluting the bands raising their PBR and Coors Banquet tallboys throughout the night. Melissa's Photo Gallery www.willicarlisle.com




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