Polytoxic: 7th Annual The Last Waltz Revisited | 11/18/2011
When Polytoxic and the Denver Horns come together every year to perform the Last Waltz Revisited, they remind us of the difference between going to a show and going to a SHOW. Everything was in place- a food drive to support a local charity, a brilliant parade of local talent, non-stop entertainment, and an energy that danced through the ears of everyone nearby. More than that, the show was an open invitation to step back in time with them, to an era where real music and real music lovers came together and just had a good time.
Upon first glance at the stage of the Boulder Theater, one might feel as though they walked into romantic candlelit dinner for two… while also surrounded by their closest friends and family. The mood in the theater was very relaxed for a Friday night. I felt as though I had walked into a private party or a poetry slam or a séance. I suppose it was a séance of sorts- calling upon the musicians of the 70’s that made the Last Waltz its original success.
As the stage lights dimmed and the one man opening act, Buck Perigo, took the stage, acoustic guitar in hand and surrounded by candles, my interest was piqued. I had only heard rumors of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” but had never heard the monologue in its entirety and didn’t quite know what to expect. As I looked around the crowd, I realized I wasn’t alone. Those who weren’t paying close enough attention might have thought the 20+ minute guitar soliloquy was a sweet, nostalgic story of days gone by. After realizing that the story of Alice’s Restaurant is a tongue and cheek and often macabre account of two boys getting arrested for protesting the Vietnam War, I also realized the brilliance of the scene that was unfolding in front of me. I would definitely eat at Alice’s Restaurant again, and Perigo’s set turned out to be the perfect appetizer for the rest of the night.
When Polytoxic and the Denver Horns came bounding out on stage and immediately tore into Up on Cripple Creek by “The Band” I knew we were all in for a treat. This 7th Anniversary of The Last Waltz Revisited drew its usual following and plenty of new listeners that will surely join the bandwagon for next years’ show. There was so much vocal and instrumental variety that every single song was like its own mini-concert. Throughout the almost three hour long set, they performed hits from the The Last Waltz including Wheel’s on Fire, Helpless (Neil Young), Forever Young (Bob Dylan) and The Band's classic, The Weight. Staying true to the theme of the original Last Waltz, almost every song showcased aspiring local musicians alongside well-known guest artists, like the soprano saxophonist from the Motet.
The Last Waltz, originally performed by “The Band” in 1976 on Thanksgiving, showcased musical legends Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and others and was filmed by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. The highly successful collaboration of talent inspired the local Denver band, Polytoxic, to recreate the concert, celebrating local music musicians every year around Thanksgiving, since 2005.
What sets Polytoxic apart from other “Jambands” is that they’re not really classifiable, and they don’t aim to be. With elements of funk, jazz, blues, rock, and even a little bit of soul, there really is something for everyone at a show like this. Tori Prater’s growly vocals embody the spirit of Rock and Roll, while CR Gruver’s jazzy, funky keyboard skills make us wish we had all paid closer attention during piano lessons. Bringing it all together, like the secret spice in your favorite spaghetti sauce, was Chad Johnson on Percussion. The real treat of the night came from the Denver Horns- a 4-piece traveling brass section that all but stole the show, which was quite the accomplishment at an event like this. If you weren’t paying attention before, you were now.
There’s something magical that happens when people are doing what they love to do. It’s palpable, infectious, and impossible to ignore. Whether snuggled up in the balcony, stomping to every beat center stage, or howling from the sidelines, a collective happiness permeated throughout the crowd throughout the entire night. I’m proud that Boulder can play host to such a fun Thanksgiving tradition.