October 21, 2017
Article By: Morgan Howard
Photography By: Christopher John
Gypsy punk, dark cabaret, indie folk and indie rock. These are a few of many genres used to describe the music produced by the four person, and countless instrument group that makes up DeVotchKa. The Denver born group got their start backing burlesque shows in Hollywood, and garnered even more fame when front man Nick Urata, was asked to write the score for the Oscar winning movie Little Miss Sunshine(earning the group a Grammy nomination in the process). With the nomination, the group skyrocketed to the front of media attention; and Urata would go on to compose many other scores for well-known movies, such as Crazy Stupid Love, Paddington, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and most recently the introduction for Netflix’s show and Lemony Snicket’s work, A Series of Unfortunate Events.
DeVotchKa’s music is unlike anything one might have heard before. It blends well executed electric rock ballads, with the musical influence of countless instruments--ranging from the accordion to the lesser known theremin. Alongside Urata is Tom Hagerman, masterfully switching between the accordion, violin, piano, and back again to compliment Urata on the guitar and bouzouki. Jeanie Schroder stands to the right, plucking at the upright bass and owning the ginormous sousaphone, to ground the music. Schroder was also seen pulling out a flute at one point, to give the music a much lighter tone. Shawn King backs the entire group on drums, and stuns the audience with his song as he whips out his trumpet and holds his own among the many instruments involved in each song. Together, all these instruments and musicians craft a sound that fills the room to no end.
What DeVotchKa does so well, is transport you with their music. The large array of instruments and Urata’s enticing vocals takes the listener on a small trip around the world. They bounce seamlessly between genres, mirroring Polka, Salsa, folk, country, and rock. Urata’s crooning vocals often sound like a canto straight from an Italian Opera, almost mimicking the likes of Muse’s dramatic and soulful ballads. One song might be playful, as the audience dances along with vigorous enthusiasm and hands in the air; While the next might tug at one’s heartstrings more than anything else. They play with emotions, and keep the audience engaged by pulling surprises at every turn.
As the group delves into one of their more well-known numbers, “How It Ends,” the devoted crowd goes silent, (only for a minute), to absorb the entrancing opening of the song conducted by Hagerman on the accordion. As the tempo picks up speed and Urata draws a long note to open the song, four women quietly sneak out from backstage, dressed in sparkly jumpsuits that catch the lights. As they walk across the stage, two large acrobatic circles drop from the ceiling. Before the audience can really absorb what is happening, there is a full on aerial show going on to match the speed of the music as it rises. As the song winds down, the women slowly depart and the concert continues on as it had before, proving DeVotchKa seems to go to the extra length in getting a good surprise out of the audience.
When the band hits their last note-- a collective of the musicians’ and all of their instruments worthy of a sharp intake of breath, the audience alongside the acclaimed music group, raise their hands in the air to match Urata’s rising vocals and crescendoing tension on the guitar. Balloons float from the ceiling as people keep them bouncing back and forth amongst the audience, under lights blaring warm tones of red and orange. The song ends and the band comes together, holding hands on stage as they take one big, final bow. Everyone in the room is smiling and the band makes a slow exit to feverous applause.
Rolling Stone called them, “The best little Grammy nominated band you’ve never heard of.” DeVotchKa is a band that epitomizes the idea of a happy surprise. Their music is all over the board and manages to successfully cater to a wide variety of audiences. The band excels in creating a collective atmosphere, as people around the Boulder Theater came together to twirl and dance, putting their hands in the air without a single thought. Any group who can achieve this atmosphere earns an extra round of applause. DeVotchKa certainly didn’t disappoint.