Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. took the stage last night at the Hi-Dive in Denver clearly on a mission from God. Wearing their traditional Nascar-style track jumpsuits and big ol mesh trucker caps, the Detroit duo of Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott made their debut in the great city of Denver on a tour supporting the release of their debut album, It’s a Corporate World. Back in March they played at the Fox Theater in support of Tapes ‘n Tapes, but last night they were at the helm of their own tightly packed ship.
DEJJ is a fine up-and-coming addition to the indie music circuit with a unique sound that helps them stand out in the vast sea of indie bands. They’re poppy, but the way their voices meld over a bed of electronic samples, loops, beat and old-school drums, bass, guitar and keyboard is noteworthy. The Detroit duo drew a densely packed, enthusiastic audience, and were truly grateful for the turn out and dressed (or undressed) accordingly. Upon taking the stage, they peeled off their Nascar gear to reveal their Sunday’s best--three piece suits. But, as to keep it real, they never shed their ball caps.
With two large sets of the letters JR spelled out in incandescent light bulbs occasionally flashing on and off, they rolled through 90% of their new album and a few choice cover songs. They’ve got great taste and pretty bad-ass execution when it comes to covers. The “God Only Knows” (Beach Boys) was on the mark vocally and enhanced with a hint of electronic accents. Gil Scott-Heron’s “We Almost Lost Detroit” got suped-up into a straight rocker with electric guitar riffs and almost Bob Marley-esque vocals. “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood, which coupled with “Nothing But Our Love,” comprised the “Love Encore” to end the evening.
“Skeletons,” with it echoing vocals and rim tapping percussion was a perfect example of the duos intricate lyrical interplay, complex but extremely soothing and catchy. “Vocal Chords” grabbed the audience’s collective attention with it’s jazzy riffs and falsetto range, and the familiarity associated with it being previously available on the groups EP probably helped the crowd identify with and groove to it. Same deal with “Simple Girl,” familiar by anyone who’s been paying attention to DEJJ, and instantly likable to a first time listener.
The songs on the new album came across as equally crowd friendly. “Morning Thought” had all kinds of really neat sonic things going on, electronic and otherwise, but then you get this blanket of really hooky, inviting vocals that simultaneously contrast and perfectly compliment the instrumentation. Same with “An Ugly Person on a Movie Screen”--it comes in with samples and a “vintage” drum machine beat, then rides over a subtle keyboard line with the comfort of a Paul Simon song.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. for some reason isn’t the type of band name that makes most people think of a two piece indie band capable of butter vocal harmonies over a plate of keyboards, electric guitar, bass, drums and various voice processors, synthetic samples, drum machine beats, and an occasional saxophone. Kind of evokes an image of a southern rock or country or something. Those who have ventured past any hang ups with the name have been rewarded. Those who made it to the show on Saturday have been enlightened by a couple of charming, high energy performers currently the loose with a license to kill.