DeVotchKa @ Highline Ballroom, 3/24/11
On Thursday, March 24th, just after playing at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Denver-based group DeVotchKa played a sold-out show at Highline Ballroom, here in New York City.
DeVotchKa (which translates to mean “girl” in Russian) may be slightly unknown to those not involved in the underground indie rock music scene, but they are certainly one of the most popular and most successful indie bands in Denver right now. Originally a band at burlesque shows, DeVotchKa has released five albums to date, the most recent of which is entitled 100 Lovers. They just opened for Muse in Paris, and in 2003, toured with burlesque entertainer Dita Von Teese to promote their album Una Volta. Perhaps many have heard their music without realizing it; DeVotchKa composed the entire soundtrack to the 2006 film Little Miss Sunshine, for which they received a Grammy nomination.
That night at Highline, DeVotchKa’s performance was preceded by The Bronx, who cleverly performed as their Mexican induced alter-ego’s Mariachi El Bronx, who later joined DeVotchKa onstage to play a song together. Mariachi El Bronx got a great response from the audience and really helped to set the mood for what was to come. As all four members of DeVotchKa took the stage, all very sharply dressed, their smiles were infectious. It was very impressive to see that nearly everyone in the band could play at least two, if not three, different instruments – including a sousaphone, an acoustic bass, an accordion, a violin, a tambourine, maracas, drums, and a flute. These instruments’ individual sounds helped contribute to the diverse sounds in DeVotchKa’s music, making it difficult but fun to try and define their musical style. Definitions went from “Eastern European,” to “French,” to “Latin fusion,” to “polka,” and finally to “Jewish Tex-Mex Band.”
Beautiful aspects of their performance that night included vocalist Nick Urata’s fluttering, soaring voice, Tom Hagerman’s spellbinding dexterity with the violin, and Shawn King’s powerful trumpet playing. Jeanie Schroder (bass, sousaphone) got a round of applause as she played her sousaphone, which was decorated with red lights; this, along with the two female dancers dancing behind screens on either side of the stage, added an entertaining burlesque show vibe.
Later on, Nick Urata made a toast and promptly drank straight out of a wine bottle. He and Hagerman did a cover of Neil Young’s song “Romance in the Gold Rush,” consisting of vocals and an accordion. Much applause followed the spirited performance of these four multi-instrumentalists, who clearly know how to put on a show.