True to the classic spirit of Rock and Roll, and a hard hitting member of the so-called rock revival movement, Super 400 have rediscovered the beauty and simplicity of the power trio. Kenny Hohman's guitar work is at times deliciously thick and crunchy, and at others soaring and smooth, kind of like his voice. And he's got a killer rhythm section, with Joe Daley pounding out the heavy notes on the drums while the perpetually sexy Lori Friday pounds 'em out on the bass. Lori also does the artwork for the Super 400's albums, including their recently released third album called "3 and the Beast." Hailing from the state of New York and journeying all the way to the Great Divide, Super 400's show Friday night at the Boulder Theater was a welcome treat, even for a town that's been blessed with the likes of Rose Hill Drive, another purveyor of three piece, classic style rock. It's no coincidence either that Rose Hill Drive is at the top of Super 400's MySpace list of friends - they've got a lot in common.
Super 400 played many of the songs off their new album on Friday night, and worked in a cover of Zeppelin's "Moby Dick" near the end, drum solo and everything. Trios often have a hard time filling up the space on a large stage like the one at the Boulder Theater, and I often thought the band looked somewhat out of place - it was the kind of raucous, high energy affair that would have been perfect in the basement of some dingy bar. Few though their numbers may have been, Super 400 had no problem rocking the entirety of that high-ceilinged cavern, making excellent use of both physical and auditory space. And they kept kicking 'em out until after 1 am.
Despite the rock solid denouement that was Super 400, the event as a whole had its ups and downs. Denver area band Meniskus started the night off right with some high energy gypsy rock. Another trio, but with guitar, violin, and drums, Meniskus touches on elements of rock, pop, psychedelic and trance music with a little bit of 80's style song craft thrown in. They stuck mostly to the harder, louder, and angrier material on Friday, and the screaming violin work of Eric Ostberg was pleasingly accentuated beyond the levels you'd find on their recorded works. In fact everything was kicked up a notch, just the way live music ought to always be. Backed by the quasi-dance beats and occasional synthesizer work of Chris Wright, the haunting tone of the violin combined with the clean and clear notes of the Bryan Bardusco's acoustic guitar provided the elements of mood and atmospherics that define Meniskus's unique sound, and its no surprise that they are considered one of the Denver bands to keep a close eye on. It was a lot of sound for a three-piece departed from the traditional simplicity of three-chord rock. But the subtle complexity of Meniskus is part of what make's them fun to watch, that and the pleased-as-a-school-boy looks they get in their eyes when they know they're kicking ass.
The low point of the show was the middle, with a set by Denver's Goodbye Champion. Five obviously talented musicians, and masters of the song-long crescendo, theirs was not a problem of skill for me, rather it was one of atmosphere and aesthetics. After the high-impact performance by Meniskus, Goodbye Champion's songs seemed a little low key, and somewhat predictable. I mean, what's the point in having three guitarists and throwing in a ton of rising action into every song if you're not going to top it off with a blistering guitar solo? And if you're really hitting on something and getting into it, an 8-minute song really isn't that long, contrary to the proclamation made by singer/guitarist/keyboardist Steven Vidaic, who seemed to consider playing an 8-minute song some kind of feat of strength. A little too hypnotic, a little too many unpolished vocal harmonies, and a little too Emo, that was my take. But maybe it was just me. After all, their recorded music is pretty good (again, on MySpace), and a lot of people seemed to be enjoying them on Friday night. And to their credit, their performance was not totally devoid of killer solos. They worked one into the final three minutes of their last song. I saw potential in it, but I could have done with a few more of them. It was a good note to end on, however, and that one last song is definitely the one I'll remember. Too bad I can't remember what it was called.
But the absolutely sensational set by Super 400 more than picked me up again, and I left on a surge of adrenaline and pillow-ear syndrome. They had the crowd bouncing from note one, and didn't let up until they walked off stage. Although it wasn't in a bar, the intoxicated guy spilling his beer behind me and yelling about how much he loved "the bass player" made me feel like everything was in its right place. Its a long trip from NY, but I hope they make it again soon.
To see more photos from this show, please visit the Gallery.