The energy in Colorado was abuzz late last week as we approached the historic honey moon that fell on Friday the 13th, a rare astronomical event that won’t take place again until 2049. Needless to say, I refused to indulge myself in anything less than spectacular, and I couldn’t think of a better plan than partaking in the biggest night of music Colorado had to offer. Basking under the moon at Red Rocks all night to the exotic sounds of Thievery Corporation, Tycho and some new favorites of mine, Fort Knox Five, without a doubt satisfied the high expectations of Coloradans looking for a good way to spend this rare celestial occurrence.
Fort Knox Five started out the auspicious night with their creative, original spin on modern music. Rarely do I see an act that reminds me so much of how deejay’ing is truly an art form, and how talent like this can lift the veil of mediocrity and show just how much good mixing and production can do to a crowd. They jump-started their set with an original track off a new album from one of Thievery Corporation’s many stage personalities, See-I, setting a dubby tone and foreshadowing what was to come later in the night. At this point, the set was just as eclectic and hard hitting as I had expected it to be. I anticipated this set to be more dubby than the more hyped up Fort Knox sets I’ve seen before, such at Wakarusa and Lightning in a Bottle, simply due to the fact that they were opening for Thievery Corporation. I was enjoying myself, but obviously did not give these guys enough credit for where they would take their set. Over the course of their hour slot, I saw them transform and coalesce into a wide variety of different types of music with an ease and continuity unmatched by most DJ and production teams I’ve heard on the scene. Their set transformed from straight dub to anywhere from Latin, house, rock, with a touch of disco and everything in between, all without missing a beat on the dance floor.
Some highlights include a groovy rendition of “Little Talks” by of Monsters and Men, a house-y remix of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” all the way to their high energy, climactic closing remix of The Who’s “Baba O Reilly.” There were times during their set when I had to take a double take at the stage, realizing in disbelief that all of the sudden I was dancing to an array of different genres without even noticing it. The sheer creativity and keen ears to sound production that these guys have is top notch – they’re able to mix the unmixable. Talking to an impressed Red Rocks security guard after their set, he claimed that he had “never seen anything like that” in his ten years working at the Rocks. To get that kind of compliment from a salty Red Rocks security guard, you have to be doing something right.
After Fort Knox Five, I was watching Tycho’s blank LCD screen, eagerly awaiting to be washed clean by the lush soundscapes and cinematic visual montages of Tycho. I’ve always loved Tycho, they have a very transcendental sound, and have been said to be carrying the torch of the legendary Boards of Canada, one of my favorite groups. The difference between the two is that Tycho takes it a step further, taking the fundamentals of the otherworldly sound and combining it with danceable beats and a fluid live set. You can tell a rich aesthetic is high on Tycho’s priority list, more so than most other artists. His live show consists of his signature dreamy, shoegaze esque production and a visualizer cascading through rich, colorful landscapes of the natural world. Much like the production of Boards of Canada, something about the deep, reverb washed production that is so unique to his sound transports me to a mental space unlike any other artist I can see on the scene today.
From the opening first riff to his new album’s title track, “Awake” I felt completely immersed in the experience Tycho was providing, and after they were finished I felt more like I had just finished an hour long meditation session than a show. Scott Hansen’s production and synth work has a way of keeping you in a state of trance. From the dreamy electric piano in “A Walk” to the groovy drums and surf montage video footage from “Dive,” I was transfixed, only taking intermittent breaks to gaze up at the bright, full moon and allow myself to be filled with the giddy, humbling feeling that came when I realized just how special of a night this was.
As the night matured, the crowd was reeling from the already stellar show, and the moon hung mightily over the Denver city skyline. Thievery Corporation took the stage and opened up their set with an energetic rendition of “Forgotten People.” The flute echoed throughout the rocks like a siren, and drummer Jeff Franca set the tone of the set with an in the pocket groove to get things going. One of my favorite aspects of a Thievery Corporation performance is the rotation of a number of different singers and MC’s throughout the show, which constantly keeps things interesting while simultaneously showcasing a number of different artists.
After “Forgotten People,” the gorgeous and talented LouLou took the stage in a golden flowing dress and captivated the audience for an emotive rendition of “Take My Soul.” Though I’ve seen Thievery Corporation perform numerous times, her heavenly vocals within the acoustics of Red Rocks was a pristine match, making it one of the most satisfying live takes on ‘Take My Soul’ I’d ever heard.Their music always impresses me, especially in the live setting, as their style so artfully combines so many styles of music into one, from acid jazz to reggae, from bossa nova all the way to Indian classical music. Rob Myers, who is also a member of Fort Knox Five, was showcased on guitar and sitar throughout the night, adding even more to the exoticism provided by the singers proving ever more what an eclectic masterpiece Thievery Corporation proves themselves to be with every album and performance.
I was very excited to see them perform pieces from their new album, Saudade, which takes much less of a focus on dub and more on traditional Latin music, which I thoroughly enjoy, and the album almost sounds like its a 60’s bossa nova record with Thievery Corporation’s own twist, of course. Highlights from the track list include “Claridad”, “Firelight” and “Depth Of My Soul”, all executed with mind blowing musicianship and stage presence. I personally would have liked to see them focus more on the bossa nova side of their sound, but their more dubby, energetic tunes such as “Radio Retaliation” and “The Number’s Game” definitely got the crowd hyped in just the right way.
Watching the full, radiant moon slowly rise over the Colorado front range to the tune of one of my favorite groups was a surreal experience. The energy at Red Rocks that night was even more vivacious than normal, as the dubhungry crowd of 10,000 strong witnessed not only a fantastic show, but simultaneously a rare astronomical event. This will be my 4th time seeing Thievery at the Rocks, and every year they prove themselves to be one of the classiest, most dynamic and eclectic acts that you can see on the Red Rocks circuit.