When you see the all-vocal rock band Face, your first job is to lose all preconceptions of a cappella music. Forget old-time gospel-hour tunes. Ix-nay on boat hats, candy-striped shirts and suspenders. In fact, if you check out the singers’ website to form an expectation, you won’t find the phrase “a cappella” anywhere. That’s because this sizzling group of seven guys just might be the original a cappella iconoclasts, busting the typical image to smithereens as they create a sound and style all their own.
“When people start thinking a cappella, their brain goes in a certain direction: doo-wop, vocal jazz, gospel or college a cappella,” says Mark Megibow, a former drummer and now Face’s vocal rhythm section (beat-box). “But that’s not what we’re doing.
“I start by saying we’re an all-vocal rock band, with seven guys using the full range of what the voice can do to create sound, not (just) singing. It doesn’t sound choral, even though (the music is) all coming from the voice.” Clearly, the guys are hitting the right note, because audiences all along the Front Range are packing Face shows night after night. “We’re a live act, first and foremost,” says Megibow. “You listen to our CD, and there’s even a promo (video) you can watch, and it’s a little closer to what we are, but it still doesn’t get the point across. Not until you’re there at the show do you get this … ” He falters.
“We don’t know how to describe it,” he finally admits. “But we don’t question it because there’s something really cool going on. How do we appeal to all audiences, all ages? I have no idea. It’s not something we would have considered that we could do.”
But appeal they do. Teens, young adults, middle-aged, old — every listener becomes a happy vessel for the go-for-it attitude that Face pours into every song.
“Somewhere along the line we realized that we’re reaching people in a very real way, and it’s humbling,” Megibow says. “God, I wish I could explain it in a way that didn’t sound righteous. But every demographic comes up after the show and says to us, ‘You’ve inspired me to … ’ fill in the blank: relearn something I once knew, pick up an instrument, learn (beat) boxing. And it’s happened so many times now that we’ve taken it on as a mission, to share this with as many people as possible.”
A consistent partner in Face’s mission is Nissi’s, an intimate performance venue and small-plate bistro opened last year in Lafayette. Under the leadership of owner and booking agent Teresa Taylor, Nissi’s has quickly become a go-to spot for music lovers all over the Denver area — and a favorite venue for top-shelf performers, including Hazel Miller, Pete Wernick, Nelson Rangell, Wendy Woo, Todd Park Mohr and Sonny Landreth.
The nearly nightly acts run the musical range from jazz to bluegrass, acoustic to rock, Celtic to soul. Recently voted Boulder County’s Best Place to Hear Live Music, Nissi’s simultaneously garnered an award for the Best Restaurant in east Boulder County, thanks to its affordable, sophisticated, yet family-friendly menu drawing from the best of Spanish, French and Mediterranean influences. For example, you can share (or keep to yourself) a pizza with fresh pesto and balsamic reduction; seared scallops with truffle oil and greens; Gorgonzola tenderloin with mashed potatoes; or chicken satays with peanut-curry sauce. (Save room for dessert.)
Face performs at Nissi’s about once a month — “They’re the closest thing we have to a house band,” says Taylor — and they’re still selling out three or four weeks in advance.
“But there’s a reason that we keep going back there, and it’s not just because we’re selling out; it’s because we like the venue,” says Megibow. “We’re impressed with everything at Nissi’s, front to back — the extraordinarily friendly people, the great service, the great food, wine and beer. Plus we know our audience is going to get a great experience because of the intimate setting. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The whole thing is just really classy and well done.”
And when tenor Jayson Throckmorton cozies up to a blushing woman in the front row and croons Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love,” everyone in Nissi’s enjoys the moment, while the other six musicians create an ensemble of sounds — bass line, harmony, snare beats — that amplify and beautify the goofy, upbeat lyrics. The playful interaction is fun, the music is seamless, the whole room is happy.
These guys have it going on, and their horizon is bright.
“Obviously, we’re all performers, and we all fantasize about being household-word rock stars,” Megibow laughs. “But that would be the gravy. What inspires us is the fact that there’s some kind of magic going on. We so enjoy each other, we so enjoy making music, we so enjoy performing, we so enjoy our audiences, and we have so much fun. That’s what comes across so clearly to the audience, and they become a part of it.”
If You Go
Nissi’s, 2675 North Park Drive, Lafayette, (303) 665-2757.
Bistro hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour: 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Featured music acts: 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., plus a second show at 10 p.m. on weekends.
For Face concert dates and venues, check out www.facevocalband.com.
Boulder-based freelance writer Elisa Bosley (www.elisabosley.com) covers travel, food, health and other subjects. Her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Sunset, Healing Lifestyles & Spas and other publications.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.