I found out about Denali from some internet source back around the beginning of the millennium. Maybe it was a record label website, maybe it was something about DC/Virginia bands. I don’t really remember. But at some point I downloaded a couple sample songs, “Gunner” and “Relief” and they were heavy in rotation on my old laptop of the era… ah, Winamp days… So innocent, so pure. Anyhow I picked up a CD of theirs years later and also liked it. By which point the band had broken up. So I was interested in seeing them ever since their name popped up on a Black Cat schedule months ago.
It turns out they are well worth seeing. In my mind I had categorized them as something akin to Portishead, only more rocking. That was mostly a stereotype based on those first two songs that I knew by them. Live, they reminded me of other bands, too: the darkness of old 4AD goth bands like Cocteau Twins, the lush post-hardcore sound of bands like Trail of Dead, the sad metal drone of bands like Jesu. These are great influences and I definitely enjoyed the show.
Still for all those other influences, it was interesting to hear them tell the crowd that the first song they ever wrote was “Gunner” — the moody Portishead-ish song I had so long admired. My own experience is that the first songs you write with people end up being the worst… for them it was the opposite. I hope they’re enjoying their reunion and that they still like playing “Gunner” because it is one of those songs that still could be a fluke hit someday.
Can’t find youtube clips from the show, but there are some old ones floating around. Here’s a great version of “Gunner” from a show in Richmond last year: