It’s Wednesday night, in a venue in east Downtown Denver, and this place is no stranger to a stiff drink and a good show. The space feels reminiscent of a dive bar that you’d get a good whiskey sour with a jukebox and perhaps a pool table or two; and yet it is incredibly relevant, full from entrance to exit with a crowd ready for casual hipster with a singer/songwriter twist. Twenty and thirty-somethings line the walls while boisterous echoes of laughter and conversation make this frigid winter night feel particularly warm. Larimer Lounge boasts that this brick two-story is ideal for hosting “up and coming musicians”, both local and national touring alike. However, on this evening, the audience knows they are for more than just an up and comer from the Midwest.
Haley Bonar is on tour with her 7th full studio album, Impossible Dream, and she is absolutely long overdue in the mile-high city. She graced the stage in a shimmering striped sweater, not to be confused with the “ugly sweater” variety of the season but more along the lines of bringing back the 90’s in trending way. Black tights, rolled up denim shorts and white converse complete the casual cool presentation and the audience hoots and hollers as she grabs her electric guitar.
The hour-long set is a divine mixture of old and new songs, “Kismet Kill” and “I Can Change” are the clear sing-along fan favorites off the new record. Each member of the four-piece backing band is essential, adding sonic fullness to her gentle yet secured vocals and following her lead, allowing her to be the catcher of the eye. Solid connection with each musician, one could imaginatively place themselves relaxing under the summer stars, as if there were earbuds in and listening to the tracks right off the album. No attention is removed from the stage as Haley easily maneuvers between electric guitar to acoustic, to keyboards to synth, and then back to electric. Most impressive was the three-minute instrumental, heart-and-soul-full ballad that was played mid set, capped with roaring applause and a demure “thank you” from Haley.
The crowd cheered and clapped at the conclusion of each song, and yet in between, the room would be quiet and still. It was that all were waiting for the next move, anxious as to what song would be next. Initially, Haley jokingly thanked the audience for being so gracious and polite. Performing in bars and nightclubs, that is definitely the environment an experienced musician is used to being faced with. A polite and tame group is another story, and eventually that grew to allow a bit more conversation between her and the audience.
Haley even recalled the last time she was in Denver (2008!) and told a story, she was the opening band for what turned into a very raucous burlesque show proceeding shortly after. What a different experience to compare with tonight at the Larimer Lounge! A room that was there for her, to support her and her music, no stripping post show required. She made sure to note that it won’t be so long between now and her next visit and the audience was very grateful to hear the news. Rounding out the set with a single song encore, Haley left an impact on Denver that we are sure anxious to have again!