Frontman Jason Yarger was commanding, affected, withdrawn, and with that voice, inimitable.
Larimer Lounge, Denver
It was a beautiful night in Denver to sit outside—just enough of a cool breeze to keep you comfortable but not cold—enjoying a Dale’s Pale Ale on draft while chatting about music: legendary small venues that had gone by the wayside; visionary booking agents; 1970s punk rock; mediocre local bands; concerts we’d been to in college; shows we wanted to see (including the upcoming RiNo Music Festival on August 26).
The punk rock discussion was spurred by the opening act the Frights, whose sound we heard all too clearly through the open windows and doors of Larimer Lounge. The mediocrity came as a result of the second band, Gym Shorts, whose geeky power-pop/rock was no match for their ill-chosen cover of Sublime’s “Santeria.” It’s a good thing the night was so pleasant; being trapped in such a small club for 90 minutes of music and set changes would have been a bit intolerable.
Thankfully, though, the disparate (and debatable) sounds of the openers gave way to the shimmering indie-pop that is HUNNY. I had been looking forward to this show for weeks, even more so since I nabbed the SoCal six-piece’s April EP, Pain.Ache.Loving, as well as recent singles “Colder Parts” and “Vowels (and the Importance of Being Me).” Frontman Jason Yarger has a yelping singing style reminiscent of old schoolers the Cure or, more recently, Hot Hot Heat. Even with echoes of prior artists, it’s a unique sound that defines HUNNY, making its catchy, addictive songs even more memorable.
After more of a lengthy set break than necessary (heightened, I’m sure, by our now being in the club, up front near the stage, where air circulation was a distant memory), the band took the stage. Six musicians (listed on their Facebook page by first name only; in addition to Yarger are Jake, Jacob, Gregory, Kevin, and Joey) filled the Larimer’s small stage—each bearing instruments, to boot—launching immediately into “Natalie.”
Whereas the men behind him were a ragtag bunch of casually attired guys with varying lengths of hair, Yarger commanded the audience’s attention as soon as his feet hit the stage. He was attired in a buttoned-up black leather coat, pinstripe oxford shirt, plaid (soon to be revealed as high-waisted) blue and green pants, and Bordeaux-colored dress boots. His hair was brown-orange tapering to blond in the back—not quite a mullet, but close; obviously the result of a bleach-blond growout—and a tattoo snaked up the right side of his neck.
But it was his stage presence that stood out the most. He was commanding, affected, withdrawn and, with that voice, inimitable. He delivered his lyrics in a sometimes offhanded or lazy way, leaving some lines to the keyboardist and guitarist who flanked him. The crowd was young, with lots of X’s branding the hands of minors. The girls shook their hair and pumped their arms and danced and sang along; the guys stood with hands in pockets, rocking slightly. But it was obvious everyone loved them.
The set was short—only eight songs, including the five from Pain.Ache.Loving and the two new singles—but nobody seemed to mind either the abbreviated show or the lack of encore. (Did they even have another song to deliver?) “Vowels” was the perfect exit song to send us out into the still-pleasant night, HUNNY dripping sticky in our ears. Next time they’ll be on a bigger stage for sure; you won’t want to miss it. | Laura Hamlett