Concert Review: Brett Dennen's Ginger Pride On Display At Marquee

Even if you're inclined to believe Gingers do indeed have a soul -- and as a matter of policy I take no position one way or the other on the matter -- you must concede that they do not rock. Axl Rose is the only Ginger rock star that pops quickly to mind, and it's not too much of a stretch to think the pressure of having to represent His People alone in the world of rock 'n' roll helped crack his fragile nut.

Brett Dennen is not a rock star, per se -- actually the central California singer-songwriter and noted Ginger took an opportunity to point out that he doesn't play "that sort of music" Friday at the Marquee Theatre -- but he is a hell of a Ginger and a hell of a showman. Actually, Dennen isn't so much just a Ginger as he is the spitting image of Harry Potter's little friend Ronald Weasley before Rupert Grint, the actor who plays him, got sorta cool.

Yet I'm hard-pressed to think of a better display of showmanship at any concert I've seen this year. Dennen a singer-songwriter in the mold of Jason Mraz and John Mayer, plays that distinctive but thus far unnamed genre of folky, funky, indie, jamband music I call "Fedora Rock." (You know, that stuff with jazzy vocals, acoustic guitar and an overabundance of reggae-style syncopated beats.) I could take or leave the genre, But Dennen is worth seeing anyway.

My definition of the term Fedora rock: Anyone who plays it must wear slightly overly-formal clothing, like a felt hat, suspenders, a tie or a vest with their jeans. The sound, as described, is a mixture of jazzy and folky sounds, typically paired with a singer whose speaking voice is at least marginally obnoxious. The lyrics are about general girl stuff and hippie-dippy peace love shit. There is vague reference to smoking pot but nothing over the top.

I'm not sure what Dennen himself, would call this music but he thankfully doesn't call it rock. "Do you wanna hear some rock 'n' roll?" he asked a half-full but appreciative crowd Friday night before playing "Make You Crazy." "Then you have to go another concert because we don't play that kind of music."

True dat, B.

Yeah, so, about the misuse of urban slang, as just demonstrated by me...

We all know it's Something White People Like, but it's also, apparently, Something Ginger People Love. Dennen takes it to an absurd extreme with his "Weed Money Man" joke song, which is funny, though a little cringe-worthy. It is, however, a nice change of pace, and played toward the end of the show it really re-enlivened the crowd for the big finale. (By the way, my book "Stuff Ginger People Love," which started as a joke I came up with two sentences ago), has just been given a $250,000 publishing deal and the movie rights are up for auction.)

A harmonica duel between Dennen and a bandmate -- actually, Dennen did not have a real harmonica he just mimed it while doing a spot-on imitation of the sound -- during "She's Mine" was another highlight of the night. Throughout the evening Dennen kept pulling people on stage to play with him, a shtick I find endlessly annoying if the additions don't appear to be doing something important, which all of his did. Given that, even a well-executed reggae version of "Wonderful Tonight," escapes my scorn. The keyboard solo on "Who Do You Think You Are?" had me grooving along with the rest of the crowd. The pre-encore closer, "Blessed," which came complete with a bevy of band members from the openers tossing oranges in to the crowd, had the same effect.

Dennen' style might not be totally unique, but he is probably the best performer of his type in the world right now. Take it from someone who saw Jason Mraz a few months ago, the "I'm Yours" singer may have a bigger hit than Dennen has to this point but, after seeing Dennen's impressive showmanship and fantastic sound, I'd day he'd be better suited to the role of "Guy In A Fedora Playing Guitar In The Back While The Redhead Sings" than center-stage attraction. Fedora rock goes to the Gingers.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Brett Dennen

Better Than: Jason Mraz, anywhere at any time.

Personal Bias: Yes, this is music my girlfriend likes.

Random Fact: One of Dennen's music videos, for the song "Make You Crazy," features "Candy" singer Mandy Moore.

Further Listening: "San Francisco," my favorite Dennen song.

By The Way: I love Gingers. Some of my best friends are Gingers.


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