Dennen channels positive energy on tour

Molly Schreiber

For decades, the evolution of music has been chronicled by the changing trends and social implications of the art.

Upon entering the Brett Dennen show at World Café Live in Philadelphia, it became unclear exactly which decade it was.

With patchouli-doused hippies peppered in between plaid-clad hipsters and high school tweens sandwiched between wrinkled wine drinkers, the diversity of the crowd was striking.

Of course, this diversity is directly related to the underlying message of Dennen’s music.

As he so elegantly phrased it in a phone interview, Dennen’s goal is to “bring music with a message to the people who want to hear the message.” And, for Dennen, that message is one of peace, love and optimism.

Even in the midst of his 54 city “Hope for the Hopeless” tour and his preparations for a European tour with the Fray, Dennen’s positive buoyancy remains in tact.

In conjunction with his positive message, Dennen integrates philanthropy into his art.

As the founder of Love Speaks, an organization designed to promote change and community action, Dennen explains “I always try to incorporate some sort of a non-profit organization or charity in my concerts …[it’s] a merger of music and people and an organization that’s working for a cause… that’s sort of the way we bring it all together.”

In addition to his work with Love Speaks, Dennen has recently teamed up with the Life is Good Company.

The organization, co-founded by Villanova alumnus Bert Jacobs, has been working with Dennen to promote “Good Tunes & Good Vibes,” a philanthropic effort to sell T-shirts at concerts to raise money for impoverished and abused children.

Dennen chose Life is Good because he says, “It’s good for getting the word out and I think the company in general has a really good message.”

Just as his opening act, a 20-year-old songstress named Angel Taylor, finished her set, a team of stage hands set out guitars, plugged in amps and lit four sticks of incense.

Behind the stage hung a painted tarp, sporting the logo of Love Speaks: a little boy drawing a heart.

After a lengthy interlude, Dennen and his band mates took the stage without introduction or commentary.

With his guitar sitting awkwardly high and his green bandana securing his long red hair, Dennen dove into the first track from his new album, “San Francisco.”

With hips swaying and a Supremes-esque penchant for wagging his finger and waving his arms, Dennen lent a sense of humor and quirkiness to his catchy songs.

Throughout the show, his playful dancing and inane theatrics grew in frequency and absurdity.

As Dennen revealed to the Villanovan, his pre-concert rituals are contingent upon his level of stimulation.

“If I’m feeling bored and uninspired, I maybe like to have a drink or something like that,” Dennen says. “I like to kind of get comfortable, kinda warm up my fingers, just get loose.”

Judging by his demeanor on-stage, Dennen was both bored and uninspired; while his vocals did not suffer, his clumsy dancing and unfocused eyes suggested a lengthy pre-concert “warm up.”

In spite of his demeanor, his vocals did not suffer.

As he performed “Heaven,” a standout track from his new album, Dennen stood with arms outstretched and open palms, channeling an emphatic preacher of sorts.

With his priestly stance, Dennen sang of the woes of discrimination and the hope for equality.

After playing a few more songs, Dennen remained loyal to his word and took a moment to promote the Life is Good cause.

After a consistently positive response from the crowd, Dennen earned roars of approval as he plays “Crazy.”

With audience members clapping in time and singing the chorus, Dennen engages the audience and, in return, the audience infused him with energy and vigor.

While the show lacked innovation, Dennen’s performance was solid. The instrumentals were well executed, the vocals were on pitch and the acoustics were virtually flawless.

With Dennen’s name on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “10 Artists to Watch in 2008,” 2009 promises to be a prolific year for the up-and-coming artist.

As he promised his fans during the concert, Dennen will continue to spread a positive message and facilitate the cultivation of a “positive scene that will hopefully grow.”

As long as Dennen continues to unite the young with the old and the hipsters with the hippies, we can applaud him for more than just his charitable benevolence and social conscience.

We can applaud him for his talent as a musician who transcends the dynamics of a the decade and challenges the status quo.