Previous events

Foxxes, Automatic Iris, Left Hand Shakes

Syntax Physic Opera, 554 S. Broadway, Denver

Join us for a night of indie rock music, small plates and drinks at Denver's one and only "medicine show," Syntax Physic Opera.

Schedule:

9:00: Left Hand Shakes

10:00: Automatic Iris

11:00: Foxxes

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Big news! 

This blog has been quiet for a while. There’s a reason for that. We’ve been seizing every spare moment we can get to tend to a new crop of recordings. And it’s very nearly harvest time! We’ve been fortunate to record for a second time at The Keep Recording with Nick Sullivan. I can’t say that it’s any less nerve-wracking the second time, but we’ve learned a lot and we’re trying out some new tricks. 

Some songs that have been evolving for years now, and others that are brand new. Our first acoustic recording. My first time playing bass, or singing lead. The multi-talented Glenn Hermanson on guitar. A whole lotta tremolo. Some home-brewed beer. The sound of one of my favorite instruments, the transistor organ. And some of what I think are Amanda and Courtney’s most soulful performances to date. We’ve poured everything we’ve got into these songs, and we’re really excited to share them with you. Follow us on youtube/Instagram/facebook/twitter over the coming days for a brand new track, released in anticipation of our return to the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in just a few weeks. Hope to see you on South Broadway! 

-Michael

Swallow Hill Music Changed My Life 

Swallow Hill Music Association changed my life. No, really. Let me explain why. 

Swallow Hill Music is an extraordinary institution for a lot of reasons. It brings together an informed and enthusiastic community of listeners with musicians, mostly but not exclusively acoustic, both touring and local, both legendary and unknown. It offers high-quality musical instruction for both kids and adults. It provides day jobs for musicians! It allows adults to make creating music a meaningful part of their lives. And, perhaps most of all, it brings people together. That’s not just a platitude – it’s an incredibly important thing in these polarized times. 

The concerts. Swallow Hill is a great midcontinent destination for touring acoustic musicians, and brings them together with an eager, informed, and welcoming audience. It’s particularly remarkable for crossing normally-impermeable generational divides – you’ll see 20-something hipsters listening raptly to grizzled folkies, and plenty of white hair (like mine) checking out the latest group of kids figuring out their own take on folk-rock traditions. I’ve got a head full of memories of astounding Swallow Hill-sponsored shows – the incomparable Roseanne Cash and her band. Greg and Pieta Brown. JOHN PRINE!!! Personally, I love the fact that Swallow Hill also welcomes some of my favorite songwriters a little bit outside of the folkie mainstream. Saint Vincent and David Byrne, with horns, in the pouring rain at the Chatfield Botanic Gardens! The woefully underappreciated Lloyd Cole sharing an acoustic set of literate, heartbreaking songs and wry wit. Psychedelic genius Robyn Hitchcock captivating Daniels Hall with a set of surreal tales of love and death. 

Swallow Hill also is a great resource for families. My wife and I have been bringing our twins to classes there since they were little more than infants. Just recently, my four-year-old son made his stage debut – a crack band featuring Chris McGarry and Trent Nelson, among others, was putting on a Friday night live band karaoke show, and he invited himself up there to sing the choruses of his favorite song, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” I’m not sure I’ve ever felt prouder. 



Swallow Hill brought music back into my life. Like a lot of us, I listened obsessively and played in bands in high school and even college. But then I gave in to the pressures that tell us that music is for kids, or professionals, only. I picked up a guitar occasionally, but music was mostly just for consumption, not creation. Then, a few years back, my wife (perhaps to stop me from playing Dylan covers in the home) encouraged me to take a class at Swallow Hill. In Vicki Taylor’s Core Guitar class, everything changed. I realized that music doesn’t have to stop mattering when you take a full-time job, that there’s nothing to stop us, as adults, from continuing to learn, to create, and to make music together. 

The teachers are extraordinary. To mention but a few, Vicki Taylor, with her amazing ear and profound knowledge of what makes a great song, and how it’s put together. Chris McGarry, who taught me to love Mississippi John Hurt. Aaron McCloskey, who taught me that how carefully you listen matters more than how much you play. The amazing Jeff Rady, whose guitar and pedal steel wizardry is an inspiration. It continues to amaze me that we now sometimes get to share stages with musicians this good. 

I was lucky enough to join a class that didn’t end at the classroom door, but spilled over into nearby bars every Wednesday night, an endless floating jam session. In Swallow Hill classes, and these pub jams, I didn’t just learn songs, but also how to listen more and play fewer notes.  As a result, I was lucky enough to join a caring, supportive community of people united by a love of hearing music and making music. A community that spans generations, backgrounds, and political views. In a world of political polarization and automated social media sorting, Swallow Hill is a rare place where people can (usually) put aside political differences and care for one another a fellow humans and music lovers. 

Swallow Hill is also where the dream that eventually turned into Automatic Iris was born, but I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll save that story for another time. 

Oh, and we're playing there, Saturday February 25th. It's a little bit hard to believe. As should be apparent, Swallow Hill is a very special place for us, so we're going to do our very best to make it a memorable show. Hope to see you there.

-Michael

Happy New Year! 



Happy New Year from all of us. Here's a video of Camera Obscura performing "Happy New Year." Whether you're out on the town or at home with your loved ones, here's wishing you all a joyous New Year's Eve. See you in 2017!

I'll have a blue Christmas without you 


"I'll have a blue Christmas without you."

We can say that about so many artists the world lost this year. David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Prince, Gene Wilder. World affairs aside, you've been a shitty year, 2016. But I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the works these artists left us. I firmly believe that it's art that brings us together and helps us endure and make sense of the world and our own hearts in trying times.

Despite all the loss and hurt in the world, there are things I'm grateful for from 2016. Family, the good fight, and bandmates. We did a lot of things in 2016 that were just dreams in 2015. We made an EP! We played the UMS! We played at legendary places like the Hi-Dive, the Larimer Lounge, the Oriental Theater, and the Denver Public Library! We learned a lot about recording, live sound, songwriting, and each others' talents. We learned more than ever about how to weave a single piece of music out of five threads.

Amanda worked with Open Air mastermind Dave Fender and a all-star team of Denver musicians (Scott McCormick, Neil McCormick, Guy Stakelin, and Josh Trinidad!) in paying tribute to 2016's lost heroes.

Seriously, don't miss this one. "Dearly Departed: Colorado Remembers 2016," a series of Colorado artists performing the music of artists who passed away this year, airs soon on Open Air 102.3 FM:

Friday 12/30 4 p.m.
Sunday 1/1/17 1 a.m.
Sunday 1/1/17 10 p.m.
Monday 1/2/17 6 p.m.

I'll offer gratitude once more to just a few of the people, bands, and institutions who believed in us and gave us a chance in 2016. To name just a few - the Denver Public Library, Faceman, the Hi-Dive, Girls Rock Denver, Globe Hall, Scott McCormick, Safe Boating Is No Accident, Strange Americans, Nick Sullivan, and the Underground Music Showcase.

We've already got a lot more planned for 2016. We've got lots of new songs we're very excited to share. We've got plans for more recording. We're returning in February to the place it all began - Swallow Hill Music - for an intimate set of songs new and old.

So thank you all. Our music is our small gift to you - listen for free courtesy of our friends at the Denver Public Library at:

https://volumedenver.org/

So Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Hold your lovers, family, and friends close and cherish one another. Now, more than ever, we wish you peace on Earth and good will to all mankind.

-Michael
 

Volume: Denver Public Library's Local Music Project 

Automatic Iris's EP, Escape Routes, is now featured on the Volume website for free download and streaming at https://volumedenver.org/

Volume is a local music website that will allow Denver Public Library card holders to download and stream music from local bands and musicians, DRM-free.  Any Colorado artist is encouraged to submit their music for the site, which plans to feature over 200 albums at any given time. Thank you to the Denver Public Library for their support of Colorado artists!
 

A hard rain's gonna fall 


We've been busy playing quite a few shows (including supporting some of our favorite institutions, the Denver Public Library and Girls Rock Denver), so not much posting here. But I wanted to share a particularly exciting event.

About a year and a half ago, in May 2015, Automatic Iris played our first-ever show at an amazing do-it-yourself music festival called Faceman's Journey to the Sun. It was a wonderful and terrifying place for our first appearance as a band, surrounded by dozens of amazing acts, with a homemade rocketship hanging somewhat ominously overhead.

Well, Faceman (aka Steve) is doing it again, this time with an even bigger event called Faceman's 100 Year Storm. 69 bands over two days at the Oriental Theater. It's a hell of a lineup, with many of our favorite bands including (but not limited to!) The Outfit, Strange Americans, Bison Bone, Safe Boating Is No Accident, Altas, Chris McGarry, Poet's Row, Bleak Plaza, Kissing Party, Anthony Ruptak, the Far Stairs, Tomahawk Fox, the Filthy Casuals, and many, many more . . . and of course Faceman. If you love Denver music, this is your opportunity to mainline the stuff.

Hope to see you at the Oriental!

When You Believe 

A wise man once said, "When you believe, they call it rock and roll." That kind of summarizes how I feel about Denver's Strange Americans. It's weird that these guys are at once bona fide rock stars and really nice human beings. If you ever start to fear that rock and roll is dead, go to a Strange Americans show and you will be reassured. Thanks for having us at the party, gentlemen.

It was a beautiful Sunday of music at the Larimer Lounge. The gorgeous harmonies of Poet's Row ornamented by some delicious steel guitar. The ferocious drumming and fiery postpunk riffs of Wire Faces (whose inspired drummer/frontman Shane also played drums for Friday's Somerset Catalog show). U.S. Tygers, visitors from an alternate timeline where Nashville recognized the genius of "Sweetheart of the Rodeo."

Can't quite believe we got to be part of such a great day of Denver music. Won't soon forget this one.

Why I Love Denver 

Last night I took the family to a free outdoor concert by the delightful Somerset Catalog at the Clyfford Still Museum. Despite the light rain and unseasonably cool August weather, there were lots of enthusiastic fans (according to Facebook this was, sadly, the excellent band's last Denver show), delicious exotic sausages from Biker Jim's Gourmet Hot Dogs, craft beer (not just IPAs) from Baere Brewing, tiny handmade ice cream sandwiches, a fair number of dogs, free admission to the museum, and a polar bear promoting the Yes on SCFD campaign. I knew it was going to be a good evening when the band sound-checked with New Order's "Age of Consent" (meanwhile, up in Golden, Glenn's other band was also faithfully re-creating this classic). The kids were a little bit nervous about the polar bear, but had a great time dancing to Somerset Catalog and running around looking at the huge abstracts at the "paint museum."

You're free to mock all of this, including a green-mohawked dog, as hipster pretension but I think that would really miss the point - all this music, food, and art is the product of people deeply devoted to mastering a craft and making something distinctive.

The whole rainy-yet-joyous experience prompted me to reflect on what makes Denver such a great city for families,artists, and everyone right now. There's a critical mass of enthusiasm and support for the crafts that makes it possible, at this moment, for people to pursue their dreams of making stuff that isn't mass-produced. Whether that's food, fermented beverages, music, art, comedy, podcasts, or museums. City Park Jazz, the food truck scene, MCA Denver, and the SCFD -  these are events and institutions that try to put the city's creative products in reach of everyone. I only hope that Denver manages to find ways to confront the rising cost of housing, so that rents don't put life here out of reach of the aspiring artists, brewers, chefs, comedians, and musicians who make it such a great place to be right now.

-Michael

BBQ and more BBQ 

Lots of news!

Hope you all had a great UMS. We witnessed amazing sets by Strange Americans, Safe Boating is No Accident, The Still Tide, Eros and the Eschaton, and more. Then topped off four days of debauchery with a band outing to bask in the epic sadness of The National at Red Rocks. Plus Amanda nearly lost her glasses to the Hi-Dive in connection with a crowd surfing incident at a Bud Bronson and the Good Timers show. It really doesn't get any more nerd rock than that. Except maybe playing a Rock the Library set at the public library, which we're doing in October.

Some great shows coming up. This Sunday (8/21) is a Larimer Lounge afternoon BBQ show with an all-star lineup of great Denver bands - the gorgeous harmonies of Poet's Row, the high-energy post-punk of Wire Faces, cosmic American music from U.S. Tygers (a UMS highlight), headlined by the aforementioned Strange Americans.

Thursday 8/25, at Globe Hall, we have our first-ever show supporting an internationally touring band, Louisville KY's Quiet Hollers. I really like their songs (check out "Broken Guitar"!), and their band portrait shows five bearded dudes and one badass-looking cat, so I'm personally pretty excited about this. Also, barbecue. Seems like this is a common theme for us. Although we did mix it up with some delicious gyro sandwiches late one UMS night.

Also, don't forget, October 5 at the Park Hill Branch Library. Nerd Rock 4 Life.

I added a "Media" tab to this website in case you should want to read the lies we tell the press, or the lies the press tell about us.

Peace,

Michael

Amanda recently was featured in this musical tribute put together by Open Air's Dave Fender, celebrating the late, great Gene Wilder with a true supergroup of Colorado musicians:

Celebrating Gene Wilder

  • A Colorado Wilder supergroup:
    •  Amanda Gonulsen - Vocals (Automatic Iris)
    •  Scott McCormick - Piano (Lee Avenue)
    •  Guy Stapleton - Guitar (Poet’s Row)
    •  Joshua Trinidad - Trumpet (Go Star, Wheelchair Sports Camp)
    •  Neil McCormick - Bass (Safe Boating is No Accident, Kid Reverie)
http://www.cpr.org/openair/story/dearly-departed-2016-colorado-musicians-celebrate-music-legends-we-lost-this-year