I started the day getting to the gigantic avant-garde Gothic Theater in Englewood, located just south of Denver, way early for a show that I knew would be a very special occasion for the Mile-High scene. The iconic late-90’s Denver-based Indie Rock outfit Dressy Bessy was making a return to the scene, after many years of dormancy, to form an epic party with their hometown fans. They were an essential part of the Mile-High city’s music boom of the late 90’s that I just began to enjoy before leaving my job at Wax Trax and moving out East to go back to school. After working their way up through the EP and singles world, their first full-length release Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons (1999) became a celebration of Beat Group pulsations, super-catchy songs, and bursts of rocking pandemonium. That sound matured through the next few years with the California EP (2000), Sound Go Round (2002), and 2003’s self-titled Dressy Bessy, which incorporated a much harder punk sound. After switching drummers, they recorded their catchiest album to date, Electrified in 2005, which featured a shift in sonics to a hook-driven ultra-addictive sound closer to that of girl-band greats like Luscious Jackson, The Breeders, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The change worked and they were propelled to heavy airwave play although the following Holler and Stomp in 2008 didn’t seem to get much play. Now, Dressy Bessy has gotten back to the essentials of party Power Rock with an bodaciously awe-inspiring new single “Hey, Alice!,” and the promise of more to come with a Summer Singles series.
I finally realized after only a dozen or so people showed up within the first hour or so that this was the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend, and that the city was all but empty of people ready for a big show. However, the seclusion allowed me to pleasantly catch up on sketchpad time, eating my lunch, and finishing my book under a solitary spotlight in the middle of the nearly empty cavernous interior of the spacious historical Gothic Theater. The comfort of having the run of the place was extremely satisfying and once the show did start, the first act got me right into the party mood. The local The Manxx was first up, and it was hard to tell what the story was here before they began to play. With the shaggy beach-bum excellence of Trevvor perched over his keyboards that were propped up on a stack of egg crates, it could have gone either way. However, the first thing to fascinate me was the lady to his right, guitarist and vocalist Sarah Belle, who instantly reminded me of Kim and Kelly Deal (of the Breeders), and to my surprise her sound wasn’t to far off from the phantasmagorical Deal twins (that I grew up with in Dayton, OH and hung out with many times). After listening to a few of their releases latter on, I realized they normally do have a drummer, and I got a better idea of their full sound, as they have a few delightful releases to choose from, like the new Messin’ Around single, and the Want Some Weird? and the self-titled The Manxx from 2010, all of which pack a serious girl-power punch. I look forward to rockin’ out to them again soon!
The Buckingham Squares were up next, and they had a decisively different sound from the rest of the flock of girl-centric bands of the night, being more based in mid-60’s London rock sound like that of the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds. The male front-master Sam Schiel was a fun and excitable catalyst as he strutted up front and managed to get the still small but growing crowd to get up in front of the stage and dance to some old-timey rock sounds of hardcore organ and guitar-riffin’ madnesses that reminded me of garage rock pioneers like 13th Floor Elevators and The Creation.
Next, there were the new darlings of the Denver scene known as Sauna. This fearsome foursome has become quite the local hit in the last couple years, as they seem to assimilate purfectly into any scene they jump into. I first caught them letting their beach party Surf Rock souls fly free opening for Thee Oh Seas, then showing their fun campy side on the big stage as the sole opener to the B-52s at the Ogden, then harmonically wooing the crowd for Tennis, and letting their Girl Punk scream opening for Bleached. At those and many other random appearances I’ve been lucky enough to catch them at, they always manage to blend everything from 50’s Girl Group duo-wop, to raw Garage Rock, to 60’s Surf Rock, to angst-ridden Riot Grrrl rock as effortlessly as Superman taking down a butterfly. Their shows have been a bit more sparse over the last couple months, as all four have just graduated High School (that’s right, amazingly, they’re that young and fresh, only making you wonder what they’ll achieve as they mature), and this is sure to be one of the last chances to catch them before they all take off to college. Headed up by the always-adorable redhead Molly Bartlett on lead vocals and occasional keys, adorned in a stunning blue dress, bashfully swooning the audience, the band kicked through early tech problems, like a faulty guitar connection for CJ Macleod’s fuzzy surf guitar, which he playfully laughed off as he finally put on a pretty pink cord instead (much to my own heckling), and along with the deceptively tiny powerhouse Sammi (Samantha Davis) wildly blasting away on the drums and chanting along to some of the songs and Ethan kicking serious pick-heavy bass rhythms while taking quite a few leads himself, they really impressed, even when they’re a bit rusty comparative to previous shows I’ve seen. High points was their stunner for the uninitiated “I Was A Teenage Gurl,” the sandy-fun romp of “Beach Ball,” the seductively beguiling new single “Wanting You,” then inviting Robin Edwards, one-half of another Denver archetypal girl group called the Lust Cats of the Gutters, up from the crowd to play one of their songs called “Cemetery,” which had every one including the band breaking down with laughter and delight, the eternally amusing campy hard-rocking silliness of “Coctopus,” and, of course, the schoolgirl party-anthem song which just got a fancy new video called “Glitter Party” with a new straight-ahead rocker song called “Buddy Holly” shoved into the end. Truly delightful as always! I do hope they don’t stop with school in different parts of the country, as they have so much potential.
Then came the headliners, Dressy Bessy themselves, descending upon the crowd like lion tamers devouring the clowns. With a crowd full of close family, friends, and devout fans now swarming around the stage (even saying that they were born and bred from Englewood right down the street), their own redhead in charge, Tammy Ealom, took to front stage in a tiny dirl-sized 60’s-retro dress, girlish striped socks and pigtails to rock out a rather lengthy and outrageously fun setlist. Opening with a rare single from a decade ago called “Live To Tell All,” and rockin’ through with “Little TV” from their first album, playing the opener to Electrified (still my favorite) called “Side 2,” then a super fun one called “Shoot, I Love You,” and even one off a campy B-Movie called But I’m a Cheerleader entitles “If You Should Try to Kiss Her,”they never missed a beat. Honestly, after an hour and a half of pure playing perfection, and a 20-something song long setlist, I doubt if there were many songs from their catalogue they didn’t play, touching on a bit of everything. It did seem to center heavily on their last three full albums of which I’m most familiar, but sadly lacking “It Happens All the Time,” which I would have loved to have heard. Nonetheless, never stepping off key, Tammy cranked out many seriously righteous guitar solos and catchy songs with a slammingly tight band to boot, that she demanded the attention she deserved, like the red-hot momma truck stop waitress (aka Flo from Alice~ “Kiss My Grits!”) dressed up like a little girl, demanding obedience and everyone to have a blast! It was all so much fun, and, of course, ended on their smash catch-a-rific hit “Electrified.” It was such a wild and fun night and a everyone should seriously see this band!