Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver was host to Banyan on Friday night. Although outside it was snowing, inside was a hotbed of eclectic tunes and raw energy.
California-based Banyan is fronted by Stephen Perkins, the long-time drummer of Jane’s Addiction. The ever-revolving lineup of Banyan, which has featured the great Rob Wasserman and guitar virtuoso Steve Kimock, left fans hoping the show would never end.
Punk rock legend Mike Watt assumed duties on the bass guitar and was nothing short of outstanding. Watt established himself with Minutemen and Firehose in the 1980s, and recently joined Iggy Pop and the Stooges on their recent tour in Europe. Willie Waldman on trumpet and Clint Wagner on guitar rounded out a lineup that took Denver by storm.
The performance began with hard-charging drum beats from Perkins in a series of instrumental tunes that got a mild response from the crowd. Waldman’s trumpet styling was the perfect compliment to the thunderous rhythms from Perkins and Watt. Watt’s bass pounded out heartbeat-like notes as the rest of the band fed off each other.
The small crowd of about 150 really woke up with a rendition of the Stooges classic “Fun House,” which Watt took the vocals on. Watt also sang on covers of another Stooges song, “1969,” the Funkadelic tune “Maggot Brain” and the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Born On the Bayou.”
With Watt handling the singing, it got to the point that every time he got anywhere near the microphone, the crowd would let out a roar. Watt wore what could have been the same plaid shirt he had on the cover of Minutemen’s 1984 release “Double Nickels on a Dime.”
Many people came to see Watt, but there is no doubt this is Steve Perkins’ band. With his drum kit in the center and at the forefront of the stage, it is hard to not be overwhelmed by Perkins’ fast tempo and flailing Mohawk. What may have sounded like chaos on stage to many people was actually well thought out and produced a great response from the audience.
“I came to see Perkins, but I didn’t realize how good this was gonna be,” said Kevin Bruener, 23, of Denver.
The show covered a broad spectrum of themes that spanned from psychedelic jam-oriented segments all the way to hard-core punk rock, all of which were accompanied by the sinister sound of Watt.
Artist John Bukaty painted a musically inspired piece while onstage with the band during the performance. Bukaty is well known for such works and is present at festivals all over the country.
The highlight of the evening was probably the high-speed version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” The band played through this long arrangement with the same energy they produced throughout the evening, and really left the crowd stunned.
The crowd was so excited that most did not believe the show had ended. The audience stood flat-footed and waiting for more even as the house lights came on 10 minutes after the show ended.
“I wish they could’ve played all night,” said Mandy Wright, 22, of Denver.