Denver was treated to a rare double-header recently, but it had nothing to do with baseballs, bats, and gloves.
There were a few hits thrown into the mix, though, thanks to the retro-country set of standards performed by John Doe and the Sadies on July 28 at the fabulously unfashionable drinking emporium known as the Lion’s Lair.
The pairing, the songs, and the setting were made for each other. Doe (shown with the Sadies' Travis Good) left X and punk behind to team up with four rockabilly Canadians for a best of the West run to promote their recent release.
Titled Country Club, that critically acclaimed album (Yep Roc Records) consists primarily of well-worn country tunes written by some of the most legendary figures to ever set foot in the Grand Ole Opry. Doe & Co. tackled those numbers with a religious fervor at the nitty-gritty Lair, a no-frills dive bar that suddenly takes you a step back in time. More on that later.
About 10 miles north of this Colfax Avenue gin joint, it was a decidedly different scene on the same night at The Walnut Room, a cozy and clean (some would even say sterile) club about 10 blocks away from Coors Field, which was dark while the Rockies played out of town.
The folks gathering at this venue that particularly favors folk musicians were equally excited to see Greg Laswell, whose soothing sounds have been featured in movies (Confessions of a Shopaholic) and TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy).
His opening act was Elizabeth and the Catapult, a pleasant and unassuming group that plays a tastefully mixed bag of jaunty jazz, preppy pop, and not-quite-ready-for-Top 40 tunes. Classically trained pianist Elizabeth Ziman, an Alanis Morissette lookalike (only tinier and happier), fronts what usually is a Brooklyn, N.Y. trio that includes guitarist Pete Lalish and drummer Danny Molad. Bassist Emeen Zarookian has been added for the tour.
On a night of tough choices, Laswell would be the odd man out, especially for any fan of the X Man. The plan was to catch Doe and the Sadies as soon as Elizabeth and the Catapult’s stint was over. Unfortunately, the start of The Walnut Room’s bill was delayed 30 minutes, making it impossible to pull off this complete select-a-set mission, but it still made for a satisfying sampling of wide-ranging styles.
Doe, though comfortable and gracious during back-to-back nights in April with X at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, seemed more at ease, reinvigorated and totally in his element with the Sadies, four accomplished Toronto musicians who initially gained fame as Neko Case’s backing band.