The first week of school can be rough, as students are only half-awake from the slumber of winter break. When nary a soul was at the Fox Theatre when the doors opened for Boulder group Technicolor Tone Factory’s show on Friday night, could school have gotten the best of The Hill? Had we needed spring break to come in the middle of January?
This left Denver’s James and the Devil with the initially inevitable task of being the openers to a sparse room. The quintet must cure ails when they played, because people came steadily as they played their folk-rock-country stew. Lucifer himself must not have felt like coming down to Georgia that night, because he made his presence known in Boulder. Chickenscratch guitar lines, pumping fiddle, active drumming — the elements were all clicking and then some. Guitarist Buz Cruchfield was the real star of the night — the band was at its best when he indulged in his ’70s rock god lick-thrashing and stage poses. Shredding with your guitar behind your back never gets old. Someone get that dude a solo deal. Clocking in at nearly an hour, it seemed a bit long for an opening set, but no one seemed to mind, especially not the band.
West Water Outlaws followed as the hardest-rocking band of the night. One could mistake them for a four-person-deep Black Keys, but seeing as how Boulder is lacking its equivalent of The Stooges or MC5, it rocked hard enough for me. When they stomped their feet and flung their hair around, the audience kept pace. They dedicated a bluesy slower number, where bassist Vincent “Funky” Elwood switched over to organ and vocalist/guitarist Blake “Whiskey” Rooker took over on bass, to the recently deceased Etta James, and she would have been proud. A loss turned into a celebration of life — isn’t that what music is supposed to do?
Technicolor Tone Factory’s first act before playing a note was throwing glow rods to the crowd, which should give you a good indicator of how their set went down. It was certainly not a rave, but all the bass-slapping, jammy gooiness and penchant for fun made the audience forget that school had started earlier that week. Technicolor Tone Factory lived up to their name, providing loads of organic spontaneity during the course of a nearly two-hour set. Bassist Zach Jackson and guitarist Jarrod Guaderrama served as excellent vocal foils to each other, bolstering the band’s chemistry as a whole. Cruchfield even did some Chuck Berry-esque squats and jammed with the band for part of the show. Their set felt like a homecoming in energy, especially during their covers of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You.”
Guaderrama dedicated the latter to his father, who was in attendance along with his mother. Even a slight hint of negativity thrown at the band couldn’t derail them. Recently, a film company — Guaderrama speculated it was Kodak — told the band that “Technicolor” was a registered trademark and that the band wasn’t allowed to use it. Of course, the band wasn’t going to give in to the demands of “the suits.” To show their solidarity for the 99 percent, they preformed a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” as an encore. Their contempt for the Man really showed in their rendition, remaining true to the core of the song whilst adding some modern angst. Syd would have been happy, too.