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PAPA Woos Fans with Love Songs – Bluebird Theatre

PAPA makes the kind of music that makes you want to sing along to. The Los Angeles based four-piece kicked off a string of dates opening for Lord Huron at The Bluebird in Denver on Wednesday, and although most of the crowd may not have known the words, the band easily won them over by then end of a set rife with passion and energy.

The band walked on stage to a swelling, reverb-laden guitar riff, swinging bells on strings like a lassos, and as soon as singer/drummer Darren Weiss (you might know him from the band Girls) removed his boots, set them aside, and sat down front and center, they tore into a sweltering, raucous set of all-American guitar rock.

Despite a thin crowd at the outset, PAPA went all out from the start. Weiss pounded his drums with ferocious precision and an intense gaze, all the while delivering deep-voiced vocals perfectly. The band’s other core member, Daniel Presant, added basslines drenched in soul and inspired dance moves amongst the crowd to match his own shuffles.

PAPA has drawn many comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, probably in large part because of some well-placed keys. Piano and organ that fit in alongside soaring guitar riffs come together to create an anthemic sound that could rock as stadium just as grippingly as The Boss. It was precisely this sound that drew in the late arrivals, showing up just in time to snag a spot for headliners Lord Huron.

A few songs in and the room was starting to look like the sold-out show that it was, and these new additions began bobbing their heads in pleasant surprise. Weiss made it a point to thank the enthralled audience for coming out on a school night: “We know you have shit to do tomorrow!”, but no one in the audience seemed too worried about their plans for the next day.

The band played a mix of songs from 2011’s A Good Woman Is Hard To Find along with tracks from their upcoming album. Weiss drew chuckles from the crowd when he introduced a pleading, plinky romp called Let’s Make You Pregnant: “This is a PAPA love song,” Weiss said.

A few songs in, he paused to ask the crowd “How do I look from down there? Do I look alright?” After whistles and shouts from a few girls in the crowd, PAPA went right into a cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” that didn’t seem to resonate. They made up for it quickly with “Collector,” an original song with the repeating lyric “I just want to be quiet now” that was anything but hushed.

A blistering drum solo led into the band’s freshest single, “Put Me To Work,” and they closed out the set with “I Am The Lion King,” a song that highlights Presant’s penchant for catchy bass hooks. Weiss took a moment mid-song to step out from behind the drums to high five members of the audience, a beaming smile on his face, and snap a picture of the crowd for the Band’s Instagram account. They left the stage to cheers from the packed house, having converted more than a few of the crowd into fans with their fresh take on a tried and true genre.

PAPA’a tour with Lord Huron continues through April 5:

4/2 – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR
4/3 – Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room, Seattle, WA
4/5 – Harlow’s, Sacramento, CA
by Mark Johnson, @MarkJohnson303


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