ALO :: 09.02.04 :: Cervante's Masterpiece :: Denver, CO
Attending a show at Cervante's Masterpiece is always an interesting venture, as residents of Denver can attest. It's located in the heart of the roughest neighborhood in the state, and getting there is half the battle. Thursday night proved no exception as we braved a few unwarranted jeers from random people on the street before finally making it through the front door.
Once inside, it's easy to forget the outside world. A gorgeous bar extends the length of the back, with an ample dance floor surrounded by two levels of tables, couches, and futons. Quite simply, it is the plushest indoor venue in Colorado, and one of the nicest in the nation.
The venue was virtually deserted at around 9:30 that night, with a couple dozen people scattered about the premises. The mood was (by default) relaxed, and while the crowd began to slowly filter in through the night, an intimate setting provided the backdrop as the Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) graced the stage.
The four-piece band came out and began their abbreviated set. Clearly these guys have been playing together for a bit, as finding a groove seemed second nature to them. By "a bit," I mean 15 years. There was great communication in the music itself, as it became difficult at times to discern which parts were composed and which were improvised. The one soft spot the band has is the same one most groups in the "jam band" genre have: vocals. I could very easily be in the minority on this (as others with me didn't think anything of it), but the vocals were average at best.
Like virtually all concerts, however, I didn't go to see ALO because of the vocals... I came to see the music. In this aspect the band didn't disappoint. Guitarist Dan Lebowitz is a superstar in the making. He sports a Takamine acoustic guitar, which sounds remarkably similar to a hollow-bodied electric. He approaches each song thoughtfully; content to lie low in the opening segments, then bursting forth with a spirited lead upon finding an opening in the music. His inspiration stems from a number of different influences, though it is difficult to single anything out--a sign of an excellent musician.
After taking the first couple numbers to get a feel for the room, ALO began to open things up a bit. The grooves became a bit edgier and while the playing remained tight, the music became more free-flowing. The few patrons formerly nodding their heads on the side of the floor began to move towards the center of the dance floor as the band and crowd became better acclimated with one another. Slowly but surely, ALO was beginning to make their presence felt.
The band ended things with a bang. The guy working the monitor boards called it "Festival Implosion." Bassist Steve Adams called it "Walls of Jericho," and my buddy called it "unreal." Call the song whatever you'd like, it was the single best live performance I've heard from any band in months. The band kept building up momentum in the song, and released Lebowitz into one crescendo after another. While the chord progression was slightly reminiscent of Phish's epic "Fluffhead," the song itself was surprisingly fresh and inventive. (Plus this guitarist actually hit the changes in the song--sorry for the cheap shot, Trey!)
ALO is a band that has thrived on the local scene of California for a number of years, and are finally starting to make the move eastward, making good music and a number of fans along the way. Even though the band has been together since junior high, there's still a sense they are rising stars on the live music scene. As solid as the musicianship was, I would be remiss not to mention the songwriting abilities of the group--they truly stand out. The band has a number of different attitudes and styles and a song for each. The brevity of the performance only gave the audience a sampling of their overall ability, but that brief taste would prove enough to find many making the trek up north to Boulder a few nights later for a free concert.
This is a band that has a great deal of natural talent, and is adept at traversing a number of musical genres. Lebowitz alone is worth the cost of admission. If you're in the market for something new and fresh, or just want a reason to get out of the house on a weeknight, ALO provides the perfect excuse to grab a couple friends, a couple pints, and enjoy a night of solid music from a group that obviously enjoys what they're doing.
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