Some shows just scream to be written about. By the end of the night the narrative already exists. When I sit down in front of the computer the next day, it’s just a matter of transcribing what the artist(s) have already delivered in the form of their performance. My best reviews are not really reviews at all, they are simply the written account of what went down inside a particular venue on a particular night. I am in no way a music expert. I am not a musician, so how can I be expected to critique what is happening on the stage? I cannot. That’s not what I do. I would be a fraud if I tried. What I do, or at least what I try to do, is document the feeling of being at the show. The primary reason I do this might surprise some of you, but I assure you it is the truth — I do this so I can go back and experience these performances over and over again. The only reason I don’t just record my thoughts in a private diary is that I think others might benefit from the words I write. Maybe they weren’t able to make the show and they want to know what it was like to be there. Maybe they were there and want to compare their experience with someone else’s. Maybe they are going to attend the show in another city and want to know what to expect. I believe these are all valid reasons to share my thoughts with those who are receptive.
That being said, there are some shows that cannot be put into words. There is something tangible about these shows. No matter how many words are at my disposal, I cannot convey what it was like to be there. I don’t mean this in a dramatic way. It’s not to say that these shows are so mindblowingly extraordinary that they cannot be expressed in words. It’s just that there is something about these shows that moves those in attendance in a way that can only be experienced live. Deafheaven and SubRosa exemplified that type of show at Marquis Theater on Sunday night. So please don’t confuse the words that follow as a substitute for seeing these bands perform. If they are ever in your vicinity…go to the show!
I have been a fan of Deafheaven for a few years now. I was at their first Denver show, when no one else was. I was singing their praises before it was cool to like them and I will continue to sing their praises now that it’s cool to “not” like them. I am lucky enough to have discovered and experienced their form of music before the debate over what “kind” of music it is (and isn’t) became more deafening than the band itself. I won’t dwell on the controversy surrounding their sound and those who attempt to label it, because it really doesn’t matter. Having spent time with George and Kerry, back before Sunbather catapulted them into the critical consciousness, I can assure you that there was nothing controversial about how this band started. Deafheaven is simply about making music that combines their various influences, not espousing an overarching philosophy of any kind. These are the same guys who were completely stoked to be given free food and booze in Austin during Fun Fun Fun Nights in 2012 — they were drunk as hell and in awe of Russian Circles, after having destroyed the inside stage at Red 7. I don’t want to put words into their mouths, but I doubt they give a shit how you label their music. They are having fun making and performing it…and you can take it or leave it.
Sunday night at Marquis proved that success hasn’t gone to their heads. Kerry was out front with a big smile on his face before their set, adding people to the guestlist and shaking hands in between tweets about Beyoncé’s sexlife. George took the time to dedicate the performance to the deserving members of SubRosa. These were the same guys who were lost among the hardcore kids at Blast-O-Mat in 2011. Yet their stage presence had matured. No less intense and unhinged than the past few times I’d seen them, but tighter — George’s insanity seemed almost choreographed, yet no less genuine, as he sacrificed himself to those in the front row. And this is where words break down — where an outsider might just hear (see) a wall of sound, with a frontman screaming unintelligible agony at a room full of people, those in the sold-out crowd were filled with ravenous rapture. We might not have lived the events that birthed Sunbather, but we were drawn into the dream. The liner notes reveal profound poetry, but the actual words are unnecessary in understanding what Deafheaven are projecting in their performance. There is something universal about this music. It’s the reason this band have found a receptive audience in such diverse circles. It’s the reason they won’t be playing with hardcore bands at DIY spaces anymore. It’s the reason they can sell out the Marquis Theater. And it’s the reason you won’t be seeing them play such a small venue next time around.
As amazing as Deafheaven were, I don’t want to take anything away from SubRosa. In fact, after seeing Deafheaven quite a few times, SubRosa were the main reason I made it out on Sunday. A female-fronted psychedelic doom (if I had to put a label on them) act from Salt Lake City, they are by far one of my favorite heavy bands working today. Saying their music has layers might be the understatement of the year. This band has two violinists, and to see Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack in action was worth the price of admission alone. You would think that they would visit their neighbors to the East more often, but in the years since No Help For The Mighty One, this is the first time they have made it to Denver. I had been waiting for this performance for quite some time, and although it was a criminally short set, it was worth the wait. I just hope they realize how appreciative the crowd was. They need to come back and make good on the promise those 30 minutes showed. More Constant Than The Gods is a soul crushing album, and standing front row for “The Usher” was achingly moving (mentally and physically…the ground was literally shaking), but only sharing three tracks was almost cruel. I am really looking forward to seeing them perform a full set sometime soon.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t attend the Salt Lake City or Denver dates, you probably won’t see these two bands on the same bill anytime soon, but Deafheaven will be on tour for the foreseeable future. So go check them out. Create your own narrative.
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