Colorado might be drowning, but for those who were not trapped by raging brown rivers of debris, it was a perfect night at Red Rocks for Channel 93.3’s Big Gig. Acting as the first of a two-night stand with local (not-so-indie) folksters, The Lumineers, the flash flood warnings turned out to be just that — warnings. Besides a few drops of rain, it was one of those refreshingly cool September evenings among the monoliths. Seriously, as the clouds broke up to expose the stars above, it was almost hard to imagine we were literally surrounded by crumbling infrastructure. That’s not to say we forgot our neighbors in need — unlike Lotus the night before, The Lumineers made it clear that the show would go on despite our soggy condition, but that Ticketmaster would be offering refunds for those who could not make it for any reason. The bands also teamed up with the Conscious Alliance to send around a giant collection plate for those who had lost their homes. Volunteers made their way up and down the stairs throughout the night.
It might seem almost callous to be out enjoying a concert while others are suffering, but the show really did have a feeling of solidarity. We spoke to those sitting next to us more than usual — we compared photos and stories about our own experiences with the storm. We wished each other luck with whatever problems we were facing. When The Lumineers introduced themselves as a band “from Denver, Colorado”, it really meant something.
I moved here 5 years ago, and I’ve felt like Colorado has been home for quite awhile, but last night, at my 60th Red Rocks show, it really hit home that I am part of a statewide community.
Local talent might have been the main course on Friday night, but before the Grammy-nominated band took the stage, fellow folkies Family of the Year and Langhorne Slim were served up to whet our appetite. I was slightly familiar with L.A.-based Family of the Year because I really liked 2010’s “Summer Girl”, a song that failed to make the set, but they left me hungry for something with more substance. Luckily, Langhorne Slim was exactly what I needed. No disrespect to the headliners, but Slim and his band, The Law, stole the show. I saw these guys open for Lucero at the Bluebird a few months ago and they blew me away.
Proving to be more than just a small show opener, Langhorne Slim & The Law had absolutely no problem managing an iconic stage in front of 9,000+ people — half of whom had never even heard of them before. After warming the crowd with a couple songs, Slim demanded we get up out of our seats. “These are freak-out dance songs — no one braved the flood to sit on their asses!” And while they weren’t all dance songs, in fact “I Love You, Goodbye” was nothing but an incredible heartbroke solo with a single white light on the brokenhearted man himself, they were all worthy of a headlining set. This man and his band solidified my belief in them, but more importantly, they left thousands of new believers satisfied. I’m expecting to see the name “Langhorne Slim & The Law” in lights at the Bluebird or Ogden next time around.
Now, I’m going to be honest here, I think “Ho Hey” is a catchy tune, but I have never been a huge Lumineers fan. Even though they are local and play frequently, I have never even bothered to see them live. It’s just not my flavor of music — at least not the way that they do it. Avett Brothers were fun for awhile, and I will admit to liking a couple Mumford songs, but when the “indie” folk explosion happened, I just couldn’t keep up with all the brothers and sons that were jumping on the wagon. It all started to sound the same, and besides living in Denver, The Lumineers were no different than the rest of them. At least not to my ears. So I was at Red Rocks last night for a few reasons, but seeing The Lumineers was not one of them.
Reasons: (in order of importance)
1. My wife likes them
2. It was at Red Rocks
3. Langhorne Slim was opening
But after seeing them, I’d like to add another reason, one I was not aware of until she took the stage — her name is Neyla Pekarek.
According to Wikipedia, Neyla Pekarek’s role in The Lumineers is cello/backing vocals, but she is something much more important than that. She IS the differentiator. This girl should NOT be held to backing vocals. She is amazing on that cello, but when her voice soars, she puts Wesley’s vocals to shame. I’m not saying he’s a bad singer, not at all, but Pekarek is nothing less than incredible. When she took lead during a new song, “Falling In Love”, I couldn’t help but feel like we were being deprived for the rest of the show. If The Lumineers gave this woman more airtime, they would be winning Grammys instead of just being nominated for them.
OK, I’ll take a step off my soapbox now, and in my normal voice I’ll admit that I thoroughly enjoyed their set. It was fun to sing along with the hits. It was fun to dance with our neighbors. It was fun to watch a new friend experience Red Rocks for the first time. The set flowed and the covers were well chosen. It was another great night on the Rocks and I can’t take anything away from them as a live act.
We deal with some crazy-ass weather up here in Colorado, and sometimes it would be a lot easier to pack it up and move away, but as I was standing there, literally encased in such natural beauty, among great people, dancing to local music, I realized there was no other place that I’d rather be. It really is the reason I live here and why I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Langhorne Slim: (partial)
Song For Sid
I Love You, But Goodbye
Take My Hand
The Way We Move
I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem But My Own
Flowers in Your Hair
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Dylan cover)
Slow It Down
Falling In Love
American Music (Violent Femmes cover)