Sunday, May 10, 2009

Richard Buckner - Walnut Room 5/1

The long awaited return of Richard Buckner to Denver came last weekend, and as usual, it was well worth the wait. The last time he came through, Six Parts Seven was the opener and backing band, which seemed to allow him to play many of the songs off of Meadow as you hear them on the album. This go 'round, it was just Richard and his guitar(s) and effects pedal(s).

The Walnut Room in Denver has a bit of a yuppie feel to it, and the two openers (and their devoted fans/friends) didn't really help that feeling. While a bit awkward to read, I don't mention them by name because I have nothing against them personally, but I just don't listen to much music that is inspired by episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

The openers apparently brought out a ton of their parents and co-workers to the show, as the room was packed with people intently listening to them play while also checking their iphones to make sure the babysitter hadn't called since they checked the phone 3 minutes ago. Apparently the second opener is a big favorite of the venue's, as the soundman gazed at the stage like a lovestruck teenager during most of the set. He even went to the trouble of "shushing" the folks talking with the first opener at the merch table when their discussion of their favorite martini got too loud (I think they settled on the cranapple-tini). This is the same soundman who surfed the internet for the entirety of Buckner's set, but probably for the best, since I expect he probably would have just made things worse if he had tried to turn knobs.

As I've found somewhat characteristic of Richard Buckner shows, RB himself was in the audience for a good portion of the sets of each opener, politely listening to what they were doing. A great moment for me came when one of the earlier performers made a joke about how he was performing at a show and forgot the words to one of his own songs, so he just made up the rest, and while the crowd of moms and pops laughed, I turned around and saw Buckner looking at him just as stonefaced as always. Nonetheless, Buckner knows how to play the gigging game and was extremely respectful of both openers, and even seemed to muster a slight affirmative nod when the soundman brought up to him how great the second performer was.

When it came time for his set, Buckner quickly set up his equipment and began playing. I didn't have to wait long for the song I most wanted to hear, as he played "Blue and Wonder" right off the bat. In true RB style, he didn't play the album version of many songs, but rather a number of remixed (for lack of a better word) versions that really exemplify the time and care he puts into his music. As he tends to do, he blended one song right into another, either with guitar work alone, or using his loop pedal to span the gap. This made for an awkward situation for all the school teachers and GAP clerks who had come to see their friends open the show, as there was never a break where they could get up and leave. This fact set in after the 3rd or 4th song, and so the folks who weren't on board with Buckner's music slipped out into the bar-side of the Walnut Room, which inevitably was blaring with Kelly Clarkson and people cheering each other on drinking Irish car bombs.

Overall, Richard Buckner continues to please his loyal fan base by keeping an unwavering focus on his art, which combines both songwriting and performance. He finished the set with his loop pedal echoing the final notes of his set, and walked out the side door...right into a crowd of people drinking cranapple-tinis and car bombs who wouldn't have known him from the bouncer. And I'm pretty sure that's just the way he likes it.

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