Eclectic fiddler Darol Anger and "depressive rock" band Manatee don't have a whole lot in common, except for the fact that they're both playing here in the Springs on Sunday. So in the spirit of what one local radio station likes to call "maximum variety," I figured interviewing both artists would be a nice Reverb-kinda-thing to do.
A founding member of the David Grisman Quintet, Anger professes an undying love for Colorado and the "intense-to-the-point-of-fanatical" enthusiasm of local musicians and fans. His performance at Armstrong Hall will also feature longtime mandolin pal Mike Marshall and Swedish trio Väsen, whom he calls "one of the greatest string bands in history."
Jeff Smith, whose Black Rose Acoustic Society booked the show, is also pretty excited.
"Mike and Darol, alone and together, cover a lot of acoustic music styles, and I don't think any of their recordings sound alike," says Smith. "They're always breaking new ground, which is why they are such a good fit with Väsen."
The promoter is also enthusiastic about Väsen's use of the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish instrument that typically has 16 strings and a ton of key-actuated tangents, whatever those are, to change the pitch.
Not to be outdone, Anger will be packing his own octave violin, which he describes as "any old piece of junk that I can put four very thick strings on and get the sound of whales." On a more refined level, Anger has also begun making custom violins with luthier Jonathan Cooper. "I'm on number 2.5 at this point," he tells me. "Number 1.5 was bought by a talented student. It is not the worst fiddle ever made. One of these days, I'll keep one — if I can afford to."
Sadly, there'll be no nyckelharpas at the Triple Nickel on Sunday. But there'll be plenty of "minor-keyed, depressive indie rock," as East Bay Express critic Kirsty Evans recently put it in her review of Oakland band Manatee.
So who's more minor-keyed and mopey, I ask Manatee's Chris Dixon: his band or legendarily depressed Bay Area crooner Mark Eitzel and his American Music Club?
"American Music Club had more to be minor-keyed and depressed about," insists Dixon. "Have you seen the singer's unibrow? Jesus! Cheer up, dude! You sold a lot of records in the '90s!"
Manatee, which also includes former Coloradan Hal9000 Beers of dearly departed Denver punk band Stoli & the Beers, traffics in droney but melodic rock that draws occasional comparisons to British post-punk artists.
"We do listen to some of that stuff and enjoy it," says Dixon. "When our record came out, someone said that we reminded them of the Smiths. It's a huge compliment and we love hearing stuff like that, but it's also weird because we certainly aren't going for that sound."
After their Springs date, the band will make its way down to Austin for SXSW. (Come to think of it, so will I.)
Of course, there's more this weekend, including way too many bands at Sunshine Studios to mention. (See for yourself at sunshinestudioslive.com.) Or you could indulge your more metallic demiurges when Colorado Springs' own Non-Compliant shares a Black Sheep bill with GNR tribute band Appetite for Destruction on Sunday. Or see Denver soulstress Hazel Miller at Stargazers on Friday. Or Portland folk-gypsies Taarka at Front Range Barbeque next Wednesday. Or, you know, whatever.
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