Date: Friday, February 17th 2012
Line up: Ballyhoo! P-Nuckle, The Disciple
Location: Marquis Theatre. Denver, CO
The Lower-Downtown neighborhood in Denver, CO was busier than a usual Friday night. It was only 8:00pm and Larimer Street was already full of party goers, beer-drinkers and, in turn, Denver’s homeless looking for change. The parking lots were full and house music was already resonating from the dozens of bars and clubs in the area. I was once again headed to the Marquis Theatre. Whether by design or coincidence, the Marquis has quickly become a “must stop” for many of the bands in the rock-reggae scene. In the past eight months the venue has hosted the likes of Passafire, Tomorrows Bad Seeds, The Toasters, Pacific Dub and Authority Zero.
I was headed to the Marquis to see reggae-rock veterans Ballyhoo! courtesy of Soda Jerks who were responsible for the nights happenings. This would be the second time I had seen Ballyhoo! in the last six months. I first saw them play live at the Ogden Theatre during the “Last Calls and Liabilities Tour” when they teamed up with fellow Law Records alum, and rock-reggae powerhouse, Pepper along with the Expendables. At the time, I remember thinking how impressed I was with the band’s stage presence, energy and ability to connect with the crowd. I expected the Friday night show to be no different.
After standing outside the theatre for a short time, I received a text message from fellow Pier collaborator Michael Patti reading, “I’m one block away.” Mike had just relocated from his beloved San Diego, CA to Denver, CO, and was getting his first taste of the Denver music scene. Tonight was Denver’s first opportunity to impress the Pier’s editor, and help him forget–for only a short time–that he was actually listening to rock-reggae in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, miles away from the sandy beaches and ocean of SoCal.
Upon entering the venue, we grabbed a quick beverage and put together a game plan. We would spend the night talking with Ballyhoo!, creating concert photos and, most importantly, enjoying the show. To accomplish our first goal we headed to the back of the venue to meet up with the guys from Ballyhoo!. After a brief hang-up with security, we ran into Ballyhoo! bassist J.R. Gregory (aka Mista J)–who quickly solved our access issues and escorted us downstairs. The guys welcomed us in typical reggae-rock community fashion with east coast head nods and Cali-handshakes.
We spent the better part of an hour chatting with the guys, who upon entering were boasting that another Ballyhoo! fan got their logo tattooed on them and uploaded it onto their Facebook. The logo is this outlined face with spikey hair, that could easily be a spitting image of Howi as a teenager. Howi said he drew it when he was younger and now has become the group’s accommodating visual and new tattoo for the hardcore fans.
We continued to hear stories from their “Daydreams” tour that kicked off early February. They talked about the previous night’s exploits (all PG-rated, by the way), which included: an unfortunate $40 a night lodging situation in Northeast Denver with a housekeeper that wasn’t looking to provide fresh towels, and an ode to a girl named “Lolita” sketched behind a mirror in one of the rooms on the wall. The room also came with what appeared to be blood splatter in the bathtub that Howi noticed before taking a shower. And all of this was free of charge! Moral of the story: any hotel under $40 may have drug dealers posing as housekeepers and may have been a crime scene; whereas rooms $41 and over just require you to sleep in your clothes.
At 10:40 Ballyhoo! came onstage to a youthful and energized crowd. They opened with “Evil Penguin” and kept the energy high throughout the set. About halfway through the night the guys gave a shout-out to The Pier and invited me onstage to snap a few shots of the crowd and the band. Ballyhoo! ended the set with “Cerveza,” only to return moments later for the encore. Prior to kicking into the song, lead singer Howi Spangler decided to accommodate the crowd by asking, “What do you want to hear?” There was an immediate response from the crowd, who began yelling out incoherent song titles. However, one song title came through loud and clear, as an audience member yelled, “Go F*ck Your Mother,” to which Spangler jokingly responded, “I think that is a Pepper song!” After some more back-and-forth with the kids in the front row, they decided instead to cap off the night with the piano heavy ballad of “Ricochet.”
As the night came to a close I began walking back to my car. I thought about how I was, once again, impressed by lead singer Howi Spangler and keyboardist Scott Vandrey abilities’ to connect with the crowd. Not to mention, Spangler’s delivery makes him one of the best vocalists in the genre. Ballyhoo! provided a high energy show and a near perfect delivery of songs, new and old. No matter what coast you represent, or what side you take in the reggae-rock “east vs. west” debate, Ballyhoo!’s performance proudly represented the entire genre. Not to mention, thanks to Ballyhoo!, I have a feeling that the show helped The Pier’s editor Michael Patti get closer to curing his SoCal “hangover.”
Ballyhoo! Set List:
The Front Porch
The Friend Zone
Say I’m Wrong
I Lately Notice
Close to Me
Article & Photos By: Kit Chalberg