As we made our usual walk from Cheeky Monk to the Ogden Theatre on Sunday night, we were among an unusual crowd for that particular stretch of Colfax. James Blake was in town for the first time and his presence brought out a unique crowd — a procession of the fashionable otherwise unknown in the Denver music scene. Sure, the usual suspects were out hawking tickets, scrounging for smokes and asking for change, but their potential clientele were of a different cut than those who frequent events like the Global Dub Festival. Unlike a young Mr. Blake circa 2010, I don’t want to offend the purveyors of American dubstep, or the youth who throw themselves off the edge of sanity for the “drop”, but it would be a lie to say this particular show didn’t attracted a mature, refined, and downright more fashionable audience than anything Skrillex or Rusko will ever see reveling in their pretty lights…
But that’s because James Blake is something completely different than anything you’ll witness in the resurgence of the U.S. rave scene. It doesn’t make sense to even speak about him in the same sentence, yet time and time again the conversation turns that way — prompting Blake himself to comment on ‘brostep’ when he should have been above speaking out against any scene in which he is not a part. James Blake is an incredible producer, I task you with finding a relevant DJ working today who will argue that point, but that is only one side of the coin — or should I say EP. As we saw on Sunday night, the tracks from Blake’s EPs are extremely repetitive, bass heavy, wrinkles in time that send the female audience into howls of ecstasy which would not be out of place at the Mega-Dub festivals. But it’s the majority of the material — the tracks that appear on his two full length albums — that really showcase what makes James Blake special.
There is a piano-driven folk singer side of James Blake which recalls Justin Vernon more than William Bevan. It’s this human side, spread thick over his massive (yet fragile) layers of bass, that achieves the impossible by giving electronic music a soul. This diverse, but inseparable skill set is what makes it possible for a sixteen year old girl in the front row to dance (or at least sway) all night, while a 40 year old man sits in the balcony and sips a drink, and have them both enjoy the experience equally. This is what happened on Sunday night. James Blake, and his band of two, seamlessly traversed the intricacies of (british) dubstep and (british) folk with steady hands and clear heads. The light show was classy, not flashy. The music and production spoke for itself, so Mr. Blake didn’t have to. He just sat there at his keyboard and let those in the crowd decide how to be moved. It was the right call.
James Blake was an indie darling when he performed a limited number of shows in small venues across the U.S. in 2011. Tickets sold out instantly and were going for hundreds of dollars on craigslist. This time around he doesn’t seem to be getting the same type of attention. But that’s ok. It might almost be better that way. This is a performance you want to see in an intimate setting with an intimate partner. I would hate to see it become something other than that.
Air & Lack Thereof
I Never Learnt to Share
To The Last
Our Love Comes Back
Limit to Your Love
The Wilhelm Scream
A Case of You