The Wooden Birds – Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO – 06/06/09
Having missed the Wooden Birds at SXSW, I was pleased to find out they were coming through Denver in support of their debut album Magnolia for a Larimer Lounge afternoon BBQ show. For those of you unaware of this band, lead singer/bassist Andrew Kenny is the frontman from indie rock band the American Analog Set, who are currently on an indefinite hiatus. I don’t have time or space or the exact info to give you details on Amanset’s current status, but they haven’t really toured since 2005. They did play a set at SXSW 2009, which was packed to the brim, and before that I only saw the band maybe 4 years earlier at another packed show in Lubbock.
Thus, given the immense popularity that Amanset has had in the past decade, I went to the pains of buying advance tickets for the Wooden Birds show in Denver. To my surprise and disappointment (for the band’s sake), the crowd was on the small side, probably due to a number of factors: 1) Sunday afternoon is probably not the ideal time to get people out, 2) at least a few online sites had advertised a later set time for the band, 3) hipsters hate sunlight, and 4) people are still finding out about this band. In fact, hipsters were oddly near non-existent at this show according to my official hipster assessment of counting silly hats. Officially, the silly hat count was 1, but even that hat more resembled a dad/former hipster hat, reducing the tally to 0, or 0.5, depending on your scoring method.
Crowd or not, the bands’ performance was pure perfection…and almost felt like a private show for those of us in attendance. As the band noted, they have been on tour for close to 2 months, and this fact showed clearly through the fact that their sound was unbelievably tight. The spouse noted that Wooden Birds sounded a bit like the American Analog Set and Whiskeytown had a love child, which isn’t that far off given the tight male/female harmonies and ear pleasing melodies. Considering her Stranger’s Almanac obsession, it was meant as a sincere compliment. I really had no idea what to expect because the bands’ myspace only has two songs, and unlike many bands these days, they have not released their music to stream the album anywhere. However, having gone into the show really liking the two songs I had heard (which you can find at www.myspace.com/thewoodenbirds), I was pleasantly impressed to find that I liked virtually everything they played for the set. Now I’m really anxious to go pick up a vinyl copy of Magnolia, especially after finding out it comes with downloads (unlike a certain Townes tribute album which will go unnamed, sort of).
Shows by bands that include members of more popular bands are always an interesting experience, and one never really knows what to expect from said rock stars. I really appreciated that The Wooden Birds came in with no pretention, no attitude, and no chips on their shoulder about getting asked to play a song from Kenny’s old band. Rather, they graciously played a couple of Amanset songs for the fans in attendance – yet again flawlessly. “Aaron & Maria,” by Amanset, sounds like it should have been a Wooden Birds song in the first place.
I expect that small crowds are not something that Andrew Kenny has dealt with much in well over 10 years, but if it affected the bands’ performance at all, the band didn’t show it. In fact, they looked extremely happy to be onstage playing music, almost to the point that maybe the new project was a liberating experience from his former job of being the leader of all things indie in the American Analog Set. (Probably just as possible that this is me reading too much into things though.) I also expect that crowds such as last Sundays’ are not going to be too common in the bands’ future, assuming that they keep up performances like this one. I found a definite irony in the fact that, in less than a month, this band would go from a sparsely attended Sunday afternoon show to what will almost certainly be a sold out show at Stubbs on July 4th, opening up for Explosions in the Sky and the Octopus Project. And an even further irony given that, as legend tells it, Amanset were the ones responsible for getting Explosions discovered in the first place.
Oh yeah, and the barbecue was pretty good too.