Image of a guitarist playing onstage

Denver has the pleasure of hosting a pair of instrumental-heavy groove rock trios on March 9th. SunSquabi and lespecial will headline the show, which includes openers Big Something and Underlux.

The Mission Ballroom is the site for this epic reunion of bands who toured together in late 2022. Sadly, Colorado just missed that joint endeavor. The groups also played at lespecial’s Le Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, held in October 2023. That event featured a unique B2B tandem set, with members of both bands together onstage.

The Centennial State did get plenty of chances to see SunSquabi in the past year. The electro-funk masters headlined The Ogden Theatre on February 17th and 18th, played at Sonic Bloom in June, and headlined Shine Music Festival in August 2023. They also toured statewide in between those dates.

It’s been a bit longer since prog-rockin’ power trio lespecial graced a local stage, however. The outfit’s last visit was to Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, also back on February 18th of 2023. Unless you attended lespecial’s festival, or your concert clone allowed you to be at both band’s shows at once last year, this is your shot! I was lucky enough to experience the next best thing. I caught night one of ‘Squabi in February ’23, then lespecial the next night. The upcoming March show will be an action-packed thrill ride of riffs and jams!

SunSquabi plays at the Ogden Theatre in Denver to a packed house and laser lights shine brightly

Homegrown Success Story: SunSquabi

Hailing from nearby mecca of mountain jam music Boulder, Colorado, SunSquabi is a Denver favorite for good reason. Their onstage energy and musical diversity make each set a memorable experience. They’ve been playing together since 2011, and their synergy is evident.

The band features Kevin Donohue stylin’ on lead guitar, and he also handles mixing and DJ duties. Blastin’ the bass is Andrew Clymer, who also slides over to synth duties. Rounding out the triumvirate is Boston native Chris Anderson, who pounds out percussion for the group.

Currently filling in for Anderson on drums is Scotty Zwang, who will join the group for their winter tour. Per a recent post, he’s also had a hand in creating some new music in the studio. Maybe we’ll get a taste of some unreleased goodies!

Beyond their prominent Colorado dates in 2023, SunSquabi toured extensively across the U.S. Included were festivals like Okeechobee, Summer Camp, and Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain. They also played artist-crafted events like the Disco Biscuits’ Biscoland and GRiZ’s Ursa Major.

SunSquabi plays onstage with the band in action as the crowd looks on

That group dynamic that defines SunSquabi live shows shines brightly on their studio albums. Recent release Arise, which they debuted in October of 2022 at Ophelia’s in Denver, showcases their diversity. Based on experiences during the Covid pandemic and the shutdown of live music, Arise is a moody masterpiece.

The album’s first single was titled “Elephant Song.” The track includes the smooth saxophone slinging of Dominic Lalli (of Big Gigantic fame). The subsequent single, “Middle of the Night,” is a righteous reggae rocker featuring Iya Terra. Throughout the album, the band’s lighthearted livetronica style is on display.

lespecial

Boasting a sound just as unique, if a bit darker and heavier, is the East Coast outfit lespecial. Their vibe on some songs can be described as prog metal mayhem meets math rock precision. Other pieces are more playful, even mischievous at times.

Spunky bass licks that Les Claypool would approve of come courtesy of Luke Bemand, who also handles synths. Jonathan Grusauskas grinds out guitar rhythms that alternately hammer and haunt. Drummer Rory Dolan rumbles the thunder, which rounds out the trio’s sound. The entire cast contribute to the band’s ethereal, sometimes psychedelic vocals, often acting like another instrument.

Prog rockers lespecial play onstage at Chicago's Riviera Theatre

Equally ambitious in 2023, lespecial toured consistently, including numerous festivals. Their most recent release, Odd Times, reached the masses in September 2023. If the album were an animal, it would be a cuttlefish. Not exactly cuddly nor fishy, the creature is adapted to blend perfectly into its surroundings. As with each of their recordings, Odd Times blends sounds seamlessly from seemingly endless genres.

Early tracks on the record are in-your-face rock featuring big bass sounds, slamming drum beats, and shredding guitars. One of my favorite cuts, “Del Mondo Strangewich,” comes on with a taste of twangy banjo and builds to a funky foray of spacey guitar-driven bass. Ambient echoes mark the opening of “Snell’s Fleet,” which plays out like the soundtrack to a circus-themed horror flick. Meanwhile, “Tonberry” is pure science fiction delight.

Time to Make a Move!

Poster for SunSquabi and lespecial concert on March 9th, 2024 at Denver's Mission Ballroom

Now that the rush of the holidays is over, it’s time to make plans for 2024. If you’re feeling lucky, head over to Party Guru’s contest page and enter to win a pair of tickets to the show on March 9th. If you’d rather assure your spot at the Mission Ballroom, get your tickets via AXS. Or maybe do both, and bring some friends if you win? Whatever you decide, don’t wait too long, as the show is a couple of short months away!

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