By: Vic Abreu
Lvl To The Road is an ongoing segment where our writers will be covering the shows, local scenes, and weird little parts of towns outside Gainesville during their travels. We kick it off with Vic Abreu as he travels around New England and the Southwest.
My back is sore as hell after driving through five states. Five very beautiful, vast, and empty states. After a brief crossing into West Wendover, NV (a town consisting of three casinos and a giant cowboy statue), I made my way through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. They were all breathtaking – literally. Florida-humid oxygen is almost as scarce in the Southwest as finding food cooked without green chile; that’s not to say I didn’t love every second of it. If you poke your head around, there are some phenomenal coffee spots in extremely odd places. Deep Creek Coffee Company’s pulling from a La Marzocco out in front of the beautiful red cliffs of Zion National Park, and I had no better cappuccino in the Southwest than at Iconik Coffee Roasters in Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe itself is worth a visit. It’s fun, warm, and sleepy, home to a CBD oxygen bars and artist installations occupying old bowling alleys. While I was there, I tried my best to find traces of a local scene or shows happening in town, but it looks like there’s not much going on in the way of DIY or underground music. Better luck next time Santa Fe!
Denver’s a different story. It’s a city proper. You’ve got a financial district, a downtown, little Greek diners (shouts out Sam’s Diner) and swanky ass bars. The area surrounding Denver is gorgeous and I get why John Denver changed his last name – but the city itself was a little… off. I took a walk down past the ballpark towards a Denver City Market and couldn’t help but notice the sheer amount of gentrification. It was cool grabbing kombucha by a flotation tank place for a moment. It was worse knowing this side of the city was gutted to make way for boutique business. I had to keep pushing to find Denver’s grittier, more authentic self; I found it waiting on Colfax Avenue. This area, right behind a giant city park, is where I traced Denver’s musical heartbeat. Lost Lake seemed like a good choice of a venue, so in I went.
Lost Lake felt like home. It could’ve been plucked straight from downtown Gainesville and plopped straight onto Colfax Ave. The usual routine occurred – ID, cash, Xs on both hands, and I stepped into a big open floor facing a logo’d stage, a lot like the High Dive. The bathroom was an elbow-to-elbow urinal/toilet duo but otherwise covered in band stickers. No walls, just band stickers. I loved it. Super Bummer hopped on stage.
What I like about Super Bummer is how much they remind me of that really small era in the mid-to-late 2000s when bands like Arcade Fire and Band of Horses were pumping out seriously jaded alt-rock songs. Super Bummer was a lot like adding a dash of punk energy and noise to The National– it took me by surprise by how comforting it was to listen to. They drew a decent crowd. We were all swaying to their melodically punchy riffs by the end of the set. If you’re a fan of Foals and the National, check em out.
Alright, we’re getting more my speed. Male Blonding is a local four-piece making fairly good alt rock with post-punk influences thrown in here and there. Songs like Nudist Beach have those icy, high-strung riffs you’d expect from modern post-punk, almost mathy in nature. With every jangle and yelp, the crowd seemed to creep in from all sides. I’m not gonna lie, asymmetric song structures get me and Male Blonding managed to break them out enough to keep me hooked. Check them out if you like Ought, but also a little more conventionality.
Lithics came down to Denver all the way from Oregon. There’s an immediate frenetic energy that permeates the crowd when they first start playing a song- and the bassist rips one of the most creative post-punk basslines I’ve heard in a while. Nothing gets me going more than a bassist having fun and he stole the goddamn show. Their vocalist chirped out lyrics while she kept hammering out angular riffs that hit like cold iron. The crowd worked up to an equal frenzy. I leaned over to the door guy to compliment his boots and found out this was pretty typical of the scene. Denver apparently loves its post-punk and I’m all here for it. Lithics, while a little more softer and more accessible than Protomartyr, still treads the same ground and I’d highly recommend it to fans of the latter.
All in all, the Southwest was pretty sick. I expect to be visit again soon and spend a little more time poking in and out of bigger cities. Those red rocks are hiding great music and I’m definitely bringing back its story.