After half an hour of sitting in the van after our show at El Cid, most of the band was fast asleep, leaving Kendall and me to the driving and navigation as we left Los Angeles for Denver.
With the aid of some sleep-preventing pharmaceuticals, we took turns driving all through the night until we reached south-central Utah, where we handed the keys to Adam and Mason for the daytime shift.
Driving over some high elevation passes, we ran into heavy sleet in Utah and wet snow on the east end of the Eisenhower tunnel in Colorado. As we descended into Denver, the temperature warmed a bit, but it remained rainy and overcast.
After 17 hours of driving, we arrived at the Brooks Center for Spirituality. It is a beautiful historic church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and it houses the Brooks Center Arts, an underground all-ages music venue and art space. When we pulled up, there was quite a crowd gathered outside the space, and we were approached by Laura Goldhamer, the effective curator of the space that sets up the shows and lives on the top floor of the church.
The “church” is not so much a church in the traditional sense. It's a non-religious, holistic spirituality space that hosts free classes on meditation, yoga, cooking and also DIY shows and art exhibitions. Laura is the art director for the four-story space and seemed genuinely excited to have us play.
She guided us down to the basement where the show was already underway. We were surprised to find it already packed with people, rivaling the largest shows of our tour thus far. Drew Danburry was playing a solo set as we walked in, without an amp and with an acoustic guitar, and playing with such quiet gentleness that the entire huge crowd was hushed to silence as he plucked the strings.
It has become increasingly clear to us that the shows we play where alcohol is a centerpiece of the event are invariably less satisfying, less special. Never would you find such a large crowd so attentive in a bar. The people here in Denver were unmistakably present to experience music and each other.
After Drew Danburry played, we set up and decided to play a half set and continue later in the night. The show had been so anticipated by those present that we found we already had a lot of fans eager to see us as we took the stage (or the floor, as it were.)
The scene that unfolded was incredibly moving to us--there was so much love and positivity in the room, and we felt like we’d come home to a room full of friends we’d never met. After we played, we were overcome with genuine praise and appreciation, and we were eager to express the same sentiments back.
After we finished our first set, Laura Goldhamer set up on acoustic guitar with an upright bass player, lap steel guitar, laptop and projector. She began each song by starting a film that projected onto the back of the stage, synching with the music. The films were all stop-animation that she had shot, and were beautifully created and executed. By the end of her set, many of us had decided she’d easily been the most moving, affecting music we’d seen on our tour, or for a long time beyond that. For me personally, it was stunning.
After Laura played, a Denver band called Paper Bird played (also all-acoustically) Americana tunes with upright bass, banjo, trombone and a trio of truly lovely ladies providing the voices. Their songs exuded the same sort of positivity and optimism that we felt permeating the air that night. It was almost unbelievable how the show continued to break expectations and flirt with total perfection.
By the time we were ready for our second set, we were so filled with excitement and good feelings that we’d all seemed to have forgotten that we’d just been in the van for 17 hours straight. We played like we were riding the crest of a fast and powerful wave, and nothing could have knocked the smiles from our faces.
Denver wasn’t just incredible because it was a great show. It wasn’t just the power of the music. It was an undeniable, unspeakable sense of love and camaraderie among a huge group of people, and a feeling that we were all taking part in something that was worthwhile and was making the world a better place. For us in Mount Righteous, I think we were bestowed a fresh sense that singing loudly for happiness and community will always be worthwhile.
We were invited to stay in the space for the night, and we stayed up and cleaned the kitchen and all the dishes from the potluck that had occurred during the show. In the morning, Laura, Adam and I made pancakes for the band and we shared breakfast together before reluctantly but appreciatively leaving an inspiring place and an amazing woman.
The drive to Kansas City was about nine hours through continuing poor weather. By the time we reached Missouri, however, the sky began to clear and we rolled into town at around 7 p.m. We gathered on 18th St. for a few songs to kick off a post-Memorial Day mermaid parade, where people were inexplicably dressed in skimpy mermaid costumes in the cold weather. After a few tunes, we marched down the street, led by mermaids and mermen, toward The Brick where we’d play that night.
Once we arrived at the venue, we were fed well and felt very welcome. Onstage was Wee Snuff, an experimental and bizarre free-jazz outfit that was dressed in psychedelic costumes and contained almost entirely within a camping tent they’d set up on stage. They droned the manic jazz madness for an hour before we set up and played our second to last show to the barroom crowd.
After playing, we loaded up and headed outside of town a few miles to Kendall’s aunt and uncle’s house that was left vacant while they were on vacation. We stayed up late and enjoyed the space and solitude. We rested well and slept in for the first time in a long time, taking our chance to refuel for the last push of our tour. --Justin Spike and the Rest of Mount Righteous