Flobots Rise with No Enemies

by John Zelazny, Time Out Music Columnist
In October of 2007, Flobots released their proper debut album, “Fight with Tools.” A song called “Handlebars” was on that record, and that song has been played far and wide, and you can probably sing it in your head right now if you try.

“I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars … ”

At that time, I loved that song and had for a couple years. Because I am from the same neighborhood in Denver as a few of the founding members, I had known about the Flobots for a while and their bass player, Jesse Walker, gave me a copy of their previous EP at a mutual friend’s wedding.

I had seen the Flobots a handful of times at a small bar on South Broadway called Herman’s Hideaway, a spot they played a lot as they became a prominent Denver band. When I heard “Handlebars,” I knew it was good, and I wanted to listen to it over and over, and so did everybody else. It was going to be a hit; it just took a couple years.

That song and the Flobots’ refreshingly positive message about social change took them on a sold-out national tour in a huge tour bus through 2008. They had a universal appeal combined with marketability. I saw them again that year when they played a free show at the base of the Aspen Mountain during the X Games and then didn’t see them again until they played the Belly Up last Monday, Jan. 2, when they opened for Nahko and Medicine for the People.  

 Courtesy photo

Even though they have exchanged a few of the musicians, they are essentially the same band, focused around two MCs. Jamie Laurie is the backbone of the Flobots and he founded the band. With an uncanny ability to rhyme, he is possibly too smart for the alternative rap/rock music that they play.

Back in the day, Laurie would sometimes hold up a piece of cardboard with a word scribbled across it. He would then rhyme phrases that were all acronyms of the word on the cardboard. It’s hard to even describe, and when it worked out it created an unfathomable scenario. Unfortunately, this technique was not used during their performance on Monday night.

The Flobots played their set as solid as ever, bringing in a large crowd for an opening act. They took the stage for an hour and played all of the songs that everybody wanted to hear, finishing with “Handlebars” and then “Rise.”

At their heart, the Flobots are a pair of quick-witted MCs, backed by a groovy rhythm section and a classically trained violist. Their sound explores and discovers new territory in live hip-hop. They are currently working on another album and I can’t wait to hear it.

The Flobots have risen to the top and then rebounded, and they are exactly where they want to be. They will always be a band that I knew before anybody else, and I would bet that I have not seen them for my last time. Hopefully they come back to Aspen soon because the Belly Up suits them well.

John Zelazny’s claim to fame is that he was once on a tennis team with the Flobot’s lead singer’s younger brother. He appreciates your comments at zelazny@aspendailynews.com.