I learned three things from Googling Brett Dennen. First, he was one of Rolling Stone's "Artists to Watch" in 2008. Second, some fans seem to believe he has magical control over such irritations as dirty venues and sold-out shows. Third, Boise had just as much fun at the St. Paddy's day concert as I did.
But the most illuminating fact I gleaned from my cursory research is that long ago, before he became the indie-darling who has been on the road nearly nonstop since New Year's Eve of '06, Dennen worked as a camp counselor in Yosemite. This explains his bare-footed shuffles and shimmies around the stage and the fifteen-minute discourse on self-love. What it doesn't reveal is how the ginger-headed songster manages to infuse his audience with the same spirit of love and community.
Wrapping his prickly pine-needle voice around radio favorites "Aint No Reason" and "Make You Crazy," Dennen and his four-piece band balanced gentle cultural admonishment with the sweet optimism of "Blessed" and an extended version of "The One Who Loves You The Most." The packed audience swayed and sang along for the nearly two-hour performance, only growing restless when Dennen finger-picked his way through a long slow set late in the show. But like any good campfire leader, he rallied with a few upbeat numbers before offering an happy-trails solo encore.
The Knitting Factory has received a bit of criticism in the last little while, both for its sometimes awkward viewing arrangements and for its disrespectful patrons. While the noise level around the downstairs bar still creates a distracting buzz and the VIP lounge lacks enough seatingor perhaps needs to be undersoldthe crowd was nothing short of neighborly. Although cloistered close, Boise concert-goers were appreciative and attentive both for the headliner and openers Angus and Julia Stone, the Sydney-born siblings who started the show with a brief but excellent folk-influenced set. We'll have to watch for these two again. Whether it was the genial spirit of St. Patrick or Dennen's infectious friendliness, I left with a spring in my step and a promise to "Make the Most" of the festive evening.