Concertgoers seemed stiff at the start of Thursday night’s Glasslands show, perhaps because the recent arrival of cold weather forced them to deal with how best to handle winter coats inside of a venue. If anyone were going to alleviate that feeling, it was going to be the explosive Denver echo rockers of Gauntlet Hair, and alleviate they did, with a little help from Portland avant pop four-piece Parenthetical Girls.
Following an unmemorable set from mixed-up dance-rock trio Dinowalrus, Parenthetical Girls took to the stage with its synth-driven, dramatist brand of saccharine pop, led by captivating frontman Zac Pennington. The uber charismatic singer put on a spectacle for the Glasslands crowd, giving a highly animated performance of the first couple of songs before wandering into the crowd mid-song, mic in hand, singing all the way to the back of the venue and into the bathrooms. The group capped off its set with an especially emotionally charged number that found Pennington taking his mic up the stairs to the second level, belting lyrics while hanging from the bannister, effectively freaking out many of the upstairs audience.
After a lengthy setup, Gauntlet Hair fired into its set, igniting some commotion in the still stiff crowd. The duo expanded its lineup to four for the live setting, adding another guitarist and bassist to the combo of drummer Craig Nice (Craig Fleischman) and guitarist/vocalist Andy R. (Andy Rauworth). The chemistry between the four was not exactly fiery, with the two added players coming off as a mildly out-of-place appendage of the core duo. Speaking with Rauworth before the show, he said he wished his bandmates were more willing to sing backup, because, as he said, their songs—with big, sweeping, multi-layered vocals and choruses—were written to be performed with a gang of voices, not just one. While their songs would have sounded more full-bodied this way, they were still compelling as a more exposed, raw translation of the reverb-rich songs from their excellent self-titled debut.
Album cuts like the haunted mid-tempo jam “Lights Out” were sped up a bit and reconstructed as angular, jagged-edged re-imaginings of the band’s rounded, cavernous album versions. The soaring, stadium-sized “Top Bunk” sounded much more natural, with the contours of its catchy guitar parts becoming illuminated without their veils of reverb. Nice’s boom-clapping hybrid drum kit, comprised of a kick, snare, floor tom, cymbals and two electronic trigger pads, provided not only the driving, thunderous vertebrae for the group but was also quite an enthralling percussive exhibition. Interspersed with hilarious banter about private parts and Ronald McDonald, the Gauntlet Hair set was the kind of effortlessly fun show that puts an audience into motion, no matter how stiff it is in its winter gear.