This was one for the books. Midday Monday my good friends who own two of the best independent record stores in the country (Fingerprints in Long Beach and Park Ave. CDs in Orlando) hit town for a week of relaxation and a couple of shows at Red Rocks. Little did we know it would turn into one of the most memorable music weeks ever! First up was Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s triumphant return to Red Rocks. After Neil’s health scare a few years ago, and his use of bands other than Crazy Horse, it seemed like he might never fully rock again. All worries were set aside the minute he walked on stage and blasted into “Love and Only Love” from his sonic assault of an album Ragged Glory and then blasted right into “Powderfinger.” It was obvious Neil and The Horse were firing on all cylinders, as the volume was high and the guitar solos fierce. Through the night Neil played at least six brand new songs. He has stopped using the flowery prose of the poet and exchanged it for the carefully worded language of the journalist. He has just finished work on his autobiography and each song felt like a chapter, describing parts of his life. The details were touching as he recounted “walking like a giant” as a young man in the 60’s and now, “floating like a leaf on a stream.” It was a different style of writing for Neil, but it felt completely appropriate and fitting for a man his age. The two plus hour show traversed a lot of territory, but it was all fully satisfying. I don’t think anyone went away unhappy as the band galloped through new and old material with a renewed energy and purpose. One of the other record store owners I was with had a connection and after the show we got to go on the tour bus and talk to Neil and his long-time manager Elliot Roberts. Neil is psyched up about sound innovation and is deeply involved in some real cutting edge technological advances that might just change the way we hear music. He was animated and funny and brilliant and pretty much everything you hope for when meeting your heroes. He also looked great; he was thin and clear-eyed and just full of creative energy. We walked off the bus about a half-hour later floating on air.
Next we had a day off from concerts, but I did bring my friends to our Chris Daniels in-store on Tuesday night. Again, this was another moving and profoundly musically satisfying experience as local legend Chris Daniels brought it all home with a beautiful 35-minute performance of songs from his new “album of a lifetime” Better Days. Chris has gone through a brutal battle with Leukemia over the past couple of years and has thankfully come through it and delivered his most emotionally satisfying set of songs ever. He opened with the funny and timely “Medical Marijuana,” but quickly got down to business offering stunning versions of some of the heaviest material on the album. His band, which consisted of some truly great veterans of the Denver music scene (Randy Amen: drums and vocal, Kevin Legge: bass, Chris Daniels: guitar and vocal, Clay Kirkland: harp (harmonica), Sean McGowen: guitar, Andrea McGowen: vocal) just tore it up, and reminded us that Chris is not only a fabulous musician, singer, songwriter, but he is also one of the most accomplished band leaders the state has ever known. Several of the younger, hipper employees at Twist and Shout singled this in-store out as their favorite ever because of both the superb level of musicianship and the resonant nature of his songs as well. We felt emotionally drained and buoyed at the same time, which is what great art is supposed to do to you. We are all lucky to have Chris Daniels in our midst.
Wednesday comes and it is Jack White fever at Twist and Shout. Rumors of a secret gig at Twist are rampant even though we haven’t heard anything about it. I bring my friends by the store, and we were all surprised at the sight of a line of White Stripes fans outside just in case it happens. The store is hopping with people checking it all out and it feels like a holiday. It seems like it probably isn’t going to happen so we decide to check out the new Clyfford Still museum. This is another great addition to Denver’s cultural quiver, and something for us all to be proud of. As we left the exhibit about two hours later I called the store and asked if there had been any Jack White sightings. An employee told me they had just heard that the show was going to take place at an auto-detailing store on west Colfax. He gave a brief description where, but no information about time. On a lark, we decided to head to that part of town and just see what we saw. As soon as we approached Colfax and Federal I could see a crowd and then I saw the Third Man Records traveling record store truck. Holy shit, this might actually happen! We quickly parked and as we were walking over to the crowd of about 300 people we heard a roar go up. We got there just as Jack White and his band launched into four incredibly high-energy songs…in a parking lot…on Colfax. It was one of the most thrilling, spontaneous, guerilla rock and roll moments I have ever experienced. You could tell the crowd was all pinching themselves in disbelief. It was truly surreal and an all-time high for this long-time White Stripes fan.
We floated up to Red Rocks that night and witnessed a mighty Jack White show that covered all his bands and proved without a doubt that Jack White is one of the heirs apparent to the legacy of great rock stars. His show was brash and ballsy and hit all the right notes. He sang great, soloed beautifully on guitar and led his large all-female band through a tight and satisfying set. The whole experience with Mr. White showed what an incredible grasp of his own career he has. He stormed into Denver and made everyone’s life just a little bit more fun and interesting. This guy gets it!
As we crawled back to Denver that night my heart was swollen with pride for the amazing music town we - all us fans - have created. It is truly miraculous that we live in such a great place with such an awesome music scene. Here’s to US.
- by Paul Epstein