• Live Reviews

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at The Empty Bottle on Oct. 27, 2011

written by: on October 31, 2011

Gauntlet Hair, signed to Dead Oceans, seem like two innocent, young Midwestern gentlemen originally from Chicago. New to the scene, they drew quite the crowd Oct. 27 at The Empty Bottle.

Despite having been dubbed “Worst Band Name” by Pitchfork, the band embraced what it considers to be “a big achievement.” Not only are the now-Denver dwellers familiar with names, faces and places of Chicago, but both Andy R. and Craig Nice have familial ties to the city and were happy to see their nuclear and extended families at the venue. The guys made sure this fact was known, mentioning between each song—to kill time while restringing beaten-up guitars—how elated they were to have Ma and Pa there.

Yes, some technical difficulties made for some endearing, yet awkward transitions after band members’ violent strumming led to missing strings and blistered thumbs. Lead singer and guitarist, Andy R., asked somewhat rhetorically and to no one in particular, “What should we play guys? What can we play?” The crowd loved this.

Improvising on stage with not a shred of shame, hollering to random faces, inciting call and response, Gauntlet Hair did it all. The sound was gritty, and the vocals were irreverently vivacious. It fit like a jagged piece in The Empty Bottle puzzle—a piece many others before it had tried to place, but couldn’t quite fit.

Headliners, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, led by New Zealander Ruban Nielson, packed up and moved to Portland. The band quickly became a small household name. The members came on stage with notable deliberateness. Along with the band’s film, sound and merchandise crew, devotees’ glazed-over faces watched a painless set-up (accomplished in record time) and a set list primed to perfection (played magnificently without a glitch). Clean and smooth, “Ffunny Ffriends,” the band’s “hit” off its hardly full-length self-titled LP on Fat Possum, drove the crowd wild.

Perhaps the song came a bit prematurely at No. 3, and like herds of sheep, fans who had waited nearly hours hours to witness Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s live set began to sneak out fastidiously and almost immediately after the hit came to fruition.

However, there was not a “miss” during this ambitious show. Each band contributed its own flavor to the evening—a flavor so mouth-watering and tempting that bellies and ears were filled, growling, ringing and glowing as the night came to an end.