Photos by Derek Miles
Review by Ben Waligoske
Looking back at my notepad – soggy, crumpled and full of scribbled down thoughts from last night’s The Congress EP release show at The Bluebird Theater – I’m struck that I find myself reflecting on not just the evening’s music, but especially the atmosphere and “good time” camaraderie that the Denver-based group has cultivated around their music.
My evening began, as it did for several of the band’s fans last night, just up the street from The Bluebird at a band organized pre-party at Park House Tavern. Members of The Congress, Tori Pater Band and their guests gathered to enjoy drinks and laughs prior to them hitting the stage. A great gesture of appreciation from the bands to their fans. And the social environment and live band at the early event really helped to loosen people up for the forthcoming show.
From there, fans migrated to The Bluebird see Tori Pater and his band kickoff the evening’s featured music. Pater, a guitar-playing Denver stalwart that many readers may recognize from the now legendary “The Last Waltz” performances his longtime group Polytoxic puts on each year, brought his well-honed Southern soul and rock style to the stage, pleasing the crowd that had assembled early and playing a set befitting the evening’s atmosphere; rowdy and rocking. Pater was also joined by Robby Peoples (harmonica/guitar), who is personally one of my favorite rising Denver music scene stars, and Congress members Scott Lane and Jonathan Meadows for a number, adding to the community feel of the night.
As the opening set closed and the stage was switched over for The Congress, I looked around and realized that The Bluebird had really filled up – not quite a sellout but damn full – and I thought to myself how great it is to still see a band draw a good crowd for a good old fashioned rock show.
The Congress then took the stage to a round of applause and opened with a newer tune of theirs, a Scott Lane-penned number titled “When I’ve Got The Time.” With a bouncing bass line and Meadows’ delicate delivery, it served well to draw the crowd in and prepare the room for some of the more well-known material yet to come. As last night’s show was an early EP release party for the band’s latest cover record titled The Loft Tapes, they wasted little time in showing off some material from the release, jumping right into a soulful, smooth rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On.”
The Loft Tapes features Chris Speasmaker on keys and he shined on the soul classic, delivering a tastefully extended Rhodes solo and adding some great depth to The Congress’ already full sound. Fans of the band should be quite familiar with the main trio’s technical talents – Meadows’ unforgettable voice, Lane’s prowess as a guitarist and Mark Levy’s intricate drum work – but ‘Speas on the keys is a very welcome addition to the group that in my mind helps to broaden even further the range of emotions the band is capable of conveying.
As the show continued, the band sprinkled in original material in choice spots while working through more of the EP’s material; including tunes written by Curtis Mayfield, Van Morrison, Roberta Flack and more. All of which were crowd pleasers and featured some crowd assistance on the choruses.
Really, the night was about singing and dancing along with friends to some great soulful music played by real musicians with real instruments; something “them Congress boys” are quickly becoming known for both locally and nationally.