Tuesday, April 6, 2010
It is a relatively rare occurrence that I attend a concert with the primary intent of watching the opening act, especially if I don't know the headliner's music at all. It's not intentional really, but often local openers are stuck on a bill for no good reason other than hoping they'll bring a few people in. I think the last time I went to a show for the opener was to see Centro-matic open for Jason Isbell roughly two and a half years ago, although that part of the story isn't terribly important. Saturday night we went to see Denver artist Nathaniel Rateliff open for The Low Anthem at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. I first came to know of Rateliff last summer when he opened for Bon Iver for the sold out show at the same venue, and have been following his music ever since.
In short, Rateliff has gained some substantial notoriety in the past year, signing to Rounder Records, being fussed over at CMJ and SXSW, and getting press from the likes of Vanity Fair for his upcoming album on Rounder Records. I had actually intended to see him at SXSW this year, but being a Denver band, I figured I could catch them again without much trouble. And I was right. Interestingly, Rateliff's current band began as a side project from his band Born in the Flood, but at this point, the side project has become the main project. BITF co-founder Joseph Pope III now joins Rateliff's new band, although with the similarities in lineup between the two bands, the differences between the two is striking. Compared to the indie pop of Born in the Flood (see "Anthem"), Rateliff's current band finds their sound on a musical road much less traveled, yet the strength of the vocal harmonies and instrumentation are immediately captivating.
The crowd on Saturday night was one that I could most succinctly characterize as the NPR crowd. I don't mean that in any derogatory way, but compared to say, the Band of Horses crowd, this one was a good bit older, and substantially less concerned with their hip-ness. Unfortunately for the bands, the crowd was relatively sparse, although as a listener, I admittedly enjoy the less congested shows. What was most impressive about this crowd was how quiet and attentive they remained for all of the bands. Having just come from SXSW, where everyone talks all the time, through bands they like and dislike, this was a very welcome environment.
Nathaniel Rateliff put on a very solid performance, with songs mostly from his upcoming record, In Memory of Loss. The band played a full set of strong music, including "Early Spring Till" and "Brakeman," and my personal favorite, "Shroud." I am utterly baffled that "Shroud" does not appear to be on the upcoming album, so I honestly don't know if they are saving it for a later release or if some other factor is behind this. You can still find the song for free on their Daytrotter session, or just the single song for download here (scroll down to mid-page), or you can watch a video of it below. More on the album, etc. at a later date though.
As for the Low Anthem, I went in with little previous knowledge of them and few expectations, but came away fairly impressed. I don't know that they would explicitly characterize themselves as a concept band, but they go great lengths to capture a sound of times past, with very heavy influences from early folk music such as Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Guthrie, at least as I perceived them. The music is typically slow to moderately paced, and while this is not a band you will pump your fist to, they do well in representing a foundational piece of Americana history. The show's first openers were Ramseur Records' band Frontier Ruckus, who I found to have a good sound, and some decent potential. I don't know their catalog well, but I almost instantly give respect to artists that Ramseur supports.