The Congress outside the Bluebird Theater, where they’ll play a free fan appreciation show.
The Congress outside the Bluebird Theater, where they'll play a free fan appreciation show. (Picasa)
If you go
What: The Congress
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15
Where: Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-377-1666
Cost: free
bluebirdtheater.net

When The Congress takes the stage at Denver's Bluebird Theater on Aug. 15, it'll be for the fans. 

For free.

It'll be the night before they take off on a two-month tour away from its Denver home base, and is billing the Bluebird gig as a fan-appreciation show. Anyone who shows up before The Congress starts at 8 p.m. gets in for free.

“The whole state has been really amazing to us,” guitarist Scott Lane said. “We're just trying to say thanks to everybody before we leave. We're not going to be around for the wintertime, so we're throwing a party before we leave.”

Party, in this case, is defined in rock ‘n' roll terms. The Congress has a distinctly classic rock sound. There are no modifiers necessary in that label. It's gritty, strong, soulful, and in a nod to the band's roots in Virginia, just a hint of country twang.

It's an old sound, but it's not as ubiquitous as it once was and it's nice to know The Congress are among those working to keep it around.

“I think that there is some element of responsibility for carrying a torch, but I certainly don't have any grandiose thoughts about us there,” Lane said. “Instead of having to do something about it and feeling like we have to change something and having that mentality about it, it's just natural. It's just something we want to do.”

The last time the Colorado Daily caught up with The Congress, back in Nov. 2011, the band was a four-piece working on its first LP. That record was released in May and the band is now a trio, with Lane on guitar and sometimes keys, Jonathan Meadows singing and playing bass and Mark Levy on the drums.

“Our bass player had a kid and decided to go the family route,” Lane explained. “I started bothering Jonathan about playing bass. He ignored me for a while, but I had a bass and I gave it to him, and he's our full-time bass player now. 

"I think it's the best we've ever sounded.”

The quality of the new album, Whatever You Want, is more than enough to back up that theory. Where the first EP had guest musicians sit in for big horn parts, pedal steel and organ, the full-length record was mostly recorded by the remaining trio.

Lane said they were concerned about how the sound would change being down a man -- on top of not having the extra musicians from the EP at shows. 

“What ended up happening is that I had to take on the responsibility of all this stuff that used to be two guitars playing, and now Jonathan has to play this supporting roll of how to best fill out the sound or leave space,” he said. “And now we're being told that this is the best we've ever sounded and the fullest we've ever sounded, which you'd think would be counterintuitive. All we've got is a bass, drums and guitar, and you can just crank the shit out of the guitar. We've got a bigger, bolder, more rock ‘n' roll sound.”

Now that they don't have to worry about that, they've turned the problem around and figured out that the new trio configuration can work very well for them -- and it's feeling more real.

“There's a giant sense of interconnectivity in what we're doing,” Lane said. “It's so much better, in my opinion, when you go into the studio and write all these parts, when you go live, you can play it all. It represents the band more honestly.”

If you haven't heard The Congress play live since all the changes, now is the time. Besides next Wednesday's Bluebird Theater show, you can also catch them in Fort Collins this Saturday at Bohemian Nights.