After honing their live show, I hope they’ll come back, this time on a bigger stage, and with a strong, memorable image.
Marquis Theatre, Denver
Although the headliner was We the Kings, I bucked the system and went only for two of the four (!) openers. Both Plaid Brixx and Astro Lasso have recent(ish) EPs, each of which I love, so I had high hopes for their live sets.
Sadly, I don’t think either delivered to their potential. Never have two bands been more in need of a “look,” something to command the audience’s attention. Neither act’s music came across as powerfully as it should have, either.
Taking the stage second was Astro Lasso, a Pennsylvania two-piece borne out of alternative rock band Kingsfoil. Frontman Jordan Davis and drummer Tristan Martin squeezed onto the Marquis’s already overstuffed small stage with a guitar, keys, and kit. With Martin locked behind the drums, apparently “sick as a dog,” it was up to Davis to steal the show…and he didn’t. He made the most of his small space, but the live songs didn’t come across as solid as the recordings. Even worse, his trademark gorgeous falsetto got lost in the mix.
Look-wise, though, Astro Lasso had none. When you’re just two guys on a stage, you really need to look the part. Have a color scheme, wear dress shirts and ties, something. I realize Martin was sick—in fact, his publicist said he nearly canceled the show—but on a normal night, he needs to somehow be more of a presence. Exaggerated moves, impromptu solos, even backing vocals would leave more of an impression.
Still, there’s no denying the guys are talented; their just-released self-titled EP is evidence of that. After honing their live show (admittedly, this was one of their first as Astro Lasso), I hope they’ll come back, this time on a bigger stage, and with a strong, memorable image. (And perhaps some backing musicians?)
Up next was Plaid Brixx, a trio from Columbus, Ohio. Check out their band photo (above); they look every part indie rockers, don’t they? And their music—a dark/new wave throwback to the late 1980s—is solid; it grabbed me at first listen.
Unfortunately, the guys barely resembled their band photo. With longer hair and a pimp ’stache, singer Chris Duggan looked more like a used car salesman than a frontman. His voice was clear and strong, but his appearance/presence worked against him. On stage, he was awkward, overly enthusiastic, gawky, even. He frequently squatted (why, I have no idea), disappearing from all but the fans in the front row, and even bestowed us with a handstand (a handstand!) at the end of the set. Just…no.
Like Astro Lasso, the guys in Plaid Brixx (in addition to Duggan are Jared Sawaya on keys and Mark LeRose on drums—although to be honest, I don’t even recall what they looked like) failed to present a unified, cohesive front. A plaid shirt with rolled-up sleeves didn’t convey preparation; it suggested a lack of consideration, more of an “I just rolled off the tour bus and onto the stage” vibe.
Still, I danced, sang along. Plaid Brixx’s sound was better than their predecessors, which was at least something. Hopefully, some members of the audience previously unfamiliar with the band signed the mailing list; I’m sure they would enjoy the EP.
I really hate to be critical of these bands, because both are quite good. Maybe my expectations were too high; I don’t know. Probably the small venue, cramped stage, and imprecise sound had something to do with it. But really: It was the uncommanding stage presences that struck me the most. Like Astro Lasso, I really would love to see Plaid Brixx again. I just hope they look more the part of a confident, commanding band. Both bands deserve to be seen at their best—and the audience does, too. | Laura Hamlett