Karl Denson's Tiny Universe's Beastie Boys Tribute Show
As a child of the eighties and a huge fan of all of Karl Denson’s projects, this show was a must see for me. I have a long relationship with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (KDTU), that includes some of his first epic shows at the Fox Theater in Boulder and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival late night shows at the House of Blues about a decade ago, where the band stayed at our hotel. In addition, the days of break dancing to the Beastie Boys and seeing them even as recently as five years ago in Philadelphia and Bonnaroo lay dear to my heart, especially in the wake of MCA’s unfortunate recent passing.
It was a sold out show at the historic Boulder Theater, and the crowd came to paaaaarty! The opener was keyboard player David Veith playing dj and keyboards at the same time keeping the crowd at bay until the band was ready. Veith has been a producer for the band since its inception. His studio in San Diego is a frequent hangout of the Denson crew and a home to many movie scores including the documentary ‘Meeting David Wilson.’
I was in the front row awaiting the band, and out they came with three KDTU songs including “Front Money” and “Outta Sight.” This got the crowd going, but many had confused looks on their faces longing for some Beastie Boys songs. Just then, Denson invited Kyle, OG, and DeLa from Slightly Stoopid. The first notes of “Paul Revere” sent the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd bounced and sang along to a great duplication of Ad Roc’s distinctive voice. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” had the audience singing along into the microphones of the three rappers. The KDTU horns were very apparent and for “Brass Monkey,” and Denson sang his praises for MCA before “Fight for Your Right,” as the dedicated were starting to get loose on the floor. Between these two songs one of the rappers handed me his pineapple drink since I was in the front row. I really did not know what to do with it, so after a few moments I set it down on the stage. As soon as the first notes of “Sabotage” came on, one of the craziest mosh pits that I have ever seen started on the floor. These huge guys started throwing their weight around, as the band and rappers let it all fly.
Just then, the highlight of the first set for me started. “Root Down,” one of the Beastie’s funkiest songs was played. This was the first time that I really started missing Brian Jordan from the band. No one can replace his wah wah pedal funk/jazz guitar. The longing continued as they played the instrumental “POV.” The set closer really hyped the electronic robots in the crowd with “Intergalactic Planetary.” A guy dressed in traditional Beastie Boys garb came up the front row and raged with me. I even saw him and took a picture with him at set break outside the theater.
The first set was on fire! Denson mentioned toward the end of the set that they were planning this before MCA was passing, but then they were even more motivated after he passed. This was also the debut of Karl Denson on guitar. He played toward the end of the set, while also playing the keyboard for this sell out show in Boulder.
The second set began with one of my old school KDTU favorites, “Ruff, Tuff, & Tumble.” I recall an enormous dance party over a decade ago in Boulder to this song that still resonates to my funk senses. “Bag of Funk” kept the hips shakin’ throughout the crowd, and a bit later, Denson played one for Levon Helm. The Beastie Boys songs came back for a “Sure Shot” and “So Whatcha Want,” fostering a relentless dance party. KDTU’s own “Elephants”, characteristically long and funky, delivered as usual, with it’s body-flailing groove that culminates with the signature “elephant call” trumpet. The final two cover were pleasant surprises: the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and the White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army.” Never before had I heard a funk band attempt to play the latter, and this take was executed very well by the band.
It’s always a great time at a Karl Denson show, and with the addition of the Beastie Boys tribute and the covers, this show was off the charts. There was not a disappointed person in the crowd. The Boulder Theater emptied on the streets with people glowing.