Best Shows in Denver 04/18/19 – 04/24/19

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Oko Tygra releases Assistoma at the Hi-Dive on April 19. Photo by James Holden Cromwell.

Thursday | April 18

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Lady of Sorrows and Dead Orchids
When: Thursday, 04.18, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series features Lady of Sorrows which is a combination of luminous, synth-driven post-punk and spiritual operatic vocals. It would be a misstep to compare it to Dead Can Dance or Enya or something like that but fans of either might find Lady of Sorrows interesting. Dead Orchids is on the darker end of post-punk but bluesy and gritty.

To Be Continued…

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Best Shows in Denver 4/11/19 – 4/17/19

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Earl Sweatshirt at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on April 11, photo by Steven Traylor

Thursday | April 11

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.

Who: Life After Earth and Brother Saturn
When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.

Who: Slow Magic w/Covex
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Who: Dead Characters, Obtuse, Bernie & The Wolf Rita Rita, Fragile Fires
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Who: Great Falls w/False Cathedrals, Muscle Beach, Fathers
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Who: Blacc Rabbit w/Shark Dreams and Jeff Cormack
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | April 12

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Lusine, photo by Sarah M

What: Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.

Who: Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.

Who: Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh
When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Tandem Bar
Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.

Saturday | April 13

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Jane Siberry, photo courtesy the artist

Who: DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.

Who: Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: People’s Building
Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.

Who: Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe
Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.

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Shana Cleveland, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.

Who: Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide
When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.

Sunday | April 14

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Swervedriver, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”

All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.

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Failure, photo by Priscilla C Scott

In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.

Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.

Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.

After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.

2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.

What: Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.

Monday | April 15

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Ex Hex, photo by Michael Lavine

Who: Ex Hex w/Moaning
When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.

Tuesday | April 16

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Buke & Gase, self-portrait

Who: Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.

Who: Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.

Who: Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.

Wednesday | April 17

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HEALTH, photo by Faith Crawford

What: HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station
When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.

Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.

Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.

Porlolo Encourages Existential Self-Care With New Single “I Quit”

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Porlolo, photo courtesy the artist

On the new Porlolo single “I Quit,” Erin Roberts lays out in no uncertain terms her departure from a job that has worn out its welcome in her own life. And ending situations and internal desires that have lead down the path of exhaustion and being worn thin from unreasonable demands placed on her psyche from without and from within. Perhaps the inspiration was being fed up with her full time job, the kind where one is not paid enough for emotionally and physically demanding work and where perhaps “other duties as assigned” were added with no adequate compensation. And sometimes there is no such thing as the latter. Early in the song Roberts sings “I don’t wanna be cool anymore, I quit/I don’t wanna be you anymore, I quit,” later “I don’t wanna be yours anymore, I quit” and speaks to social pressures that tug at everyone in some way at some time that become so egregiously tiresome. Somehow Roberts makes her litany of those things that erode us from the inside trying to carry them in our hearts seem not so difficult to ditch.

Recorded with Anna Morsett and Jake Miller of Still Tide and James Barone (of Beach House, formerly of Moccasin and Tjutjuna, also producer of the forthcoming Porlolo full length due in October), Roberts taps into the sense of liberation and casting off of psychic weights on one’s time and any hooks into one’s identity and self-expression as demanded by far too many jobs. Roberts has long been a bit of a musical chameleon and one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and while “I Quit” could be said to be informed by Brill Building or Southern California pop, Roberts’ feisty spirit and just shy of surreal sense of humor shines through and gives the track some undeniable zest.

Best Shows in Denver 4/4/19 – 4/10/19

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Acid Mothers Temple perform at Larimer Lounge on April 8. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | April 4

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Speakeasy Series opener: Demoncassettecult
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Glasss Records is kicking off the 2019 edition of its experimental music showcase the Speakeasy Series at Hooked on Colfax tonight. The artist ringing in the season is Demoncassettecult, Glasss’ Vahco Before Horses solo loops, noise, sample and and synth based soul project.

Who: A Light Among Many w/Ghostsong Elegy and Endless, Nameless, Causer
When: Thursday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Abstract doom juggernauts A Light Among Many returns from its latest tour with this show with experimental guitar/prog band Endless, Nameless, South Dakota post-rock band Ghostsong Elegy and the debut of Causer.

Friday | April 5

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Modern Leisure circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faim, Sore Eyes (Springs), Bi-Proxy (first show, members of Herse, Caffeine and Eternal) and Implied Risk (first show)
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Faim is one of the great, noisy hardcore bands from Denver. Eruptive and pointed in its energy. If you go, you’ll also get to see the first show from a couple of other like-minded bands who are keeping local hardcore alive and interesting.

Who: Kyle Emerson w/Anthony Ruptak and Modern Leisure
When: Friday, 04.05 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Three of Denver’s great songwriters on one bill. Kyle Emerson’s pastoral psychedelia has enough interesting musical flourishes in each song to elevate his work beyond most of his peers. Anthony Ruptak’s conceptual songwriting steeped in his sensitivity to the world around him and deeply informed by his compassion for his follow living creatures, human beings most certainly not excluded, gives his compositions a warmth and richness of emotional expression. Casey Banker of Modern Leisure has been writing insightful and well-crafted pop songs with an undercurrent of intensity and self-awareness that has made his songs going back to his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls incredibly compelling.

Saturday | April 6

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Doo Crowder circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Doo Crowder w/Rachael Pollard
When: Saturday, 04.06, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Doo Crowder, former member of indie pop orchestra Pee Pee and indie rock/punk band The Dinnermints, is finally releasing his album One For the Losers (& Other Pilgrims). His earlier releases have all been insightful explorations of the human experience in its myriad manifestations. The new album sounds like he took the Harry Nilsson route and added great production flourishes and imaginative treatments to solid yet minimal foundations of song. He does not spare himself self criticism (listen to “Doo Crowder Song”) but as with every Crowder record there’s much more than meets the eye while not hiding the essential meaning. It’s made to be able to be taken on and comprehended at one’s leisure and in the ways that suit you. The first truly great indie pop record of 2019 and one of the best of the past decade by virtue of sounding effortless while clearly being the product of much work, much soul-searching, much refinement and in the end something that feels like it manifested like a perfect backed good that is delicious and nutritious and makes the labor that went into it part of one’s appreciation of it.

Who: FAVX w/Ned Garthe Explosion and Total Trash (tape release)
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: FAVX from Madrid aren’t easily musically defined outside of rock. But it’s sometimes noisy, sometimes driving, sometimes poppy, sometimes heavy, sometimes whimsical but always emotionally nuanced music is performed with great enthusiasm. Good thing because Ned Garthe Explosion, for a bunch of guys who have been playing for “10 trillion years,” you know, since the Big Bang or whatever has happened several times, they’re able to muster some verve in humorously delivering their surreal punker than punk and psycher than psych songs. They’ve been road dawgz since before there were roads and after people didn’t need roads where they were going and back to no roads and then roads again. The never ending cycle. Seems legit. Total Trash is comprised of current and former members of Lil’ Slugger, Eye Beams, Fissure Mystic, Fingers of the Sun and Quantum Creep. Which means nothing if you’ve not been steeped in Denver underground music for the past decade and a half but it does mean that the band’s music and songwriting has the level of sophistication and sonic inventiveness that is immediately striking and, well, it doesn’t sound much like any of the aforementioned. It is more melancholy but the sonic details and evolving dynamics across each song of its debut album Field Guide (released this night) give the music a sonic depth, diversity and emotional complexity that seems rarer than it should be these days.

Who: Dirty Few “Losing Our Minds Farewell Show” w/Gymshorts, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Lloyd and Saviour
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Sure, sure, “party rock” and the Stone twins raise hell, cans of beer tossed on stage and off, rowdy, nearly unhinged performances, some of them sloppy and chaotic. But always performed with heart with songs that are fun, surprisingly well-written and which encapsulate an era of Denver music that all but began and ended with Dirty Few. So the group will probably pull out the stops for this final rager with some of its friends and peers including the great power pop band Bud Bronson & The Good Timers from Denver and Lloyd and Saviour from Boise.

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Kero Kero Bonito, photo by Tracey Ng

Who: Kero Kero Bonito w/Jaakko Eino Kalevi
When: Saturday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Kero Kero Bonito sounds like its music is made in the early morning as the sun is rising and also as the sun is setting. That sometimes hazy quality of light that can blur the landscape some as the sun comes to dominate the sky or retire for the night over the horizon, burning away fog and casting colorfully through the dusk pollution. Even from its earlier more straightforward electropop phase its lush production and fluid dynamics has given the band’s songs an air of self-awareness that feels futuristic while tapping into the cooler end of classic commercial pop sensibilities. The band’s producers, Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, were influenced by Japanese hip-hop and pop and found Sarah Bonito, herself half-Japanese, who could give voice to a synthesis of cultures particularly since Bonito sings and raps in both English and Japanese. The group’s 2018 releases, the TOTEP EP and the album Time n’ Place, displayed the influence of rock bands, at least according to interviews with Fader and i-D, like Mount Eerie and My Bloody Valentine who are no strangers to creating and sculpting atmosphere in ways that feel entirely organic. Formerly pretty much all electronic instrumentation and vocals, for its current tour Kero Kero Bonito is bringing on board a guitarist and a drummer. Difficult to pigeonhole, one might even clumsily call it indie dream jazz, Kero Kero Bonito’s international flavor of the amalgam of hip-hop, dance music, J-pop, downtempo lounge and melancholic guitar rock is undeniably interesting.

Opening the show is Finnish multi-instrumentalist and producer Jaakko Eino Kalevi whose 2018 album Out of Touch could be a cousin to the aforementioned Kero Kero Bonito’s album Time ‘n Place. Its tone has a liminal quality that allows for the melodies to operate at an almost subconscious level, dream-like. A decade ago maybe someone would have called it “chillwave” and it resonates with the better end of what made 80s synth pop bands and their own production methods so compelling and ultimately influential.

Who: Bad Sounds and Broods
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Bad Sounds are opening for the great electro pop band Broods. But its blend of R&B and hip-hop beats, like a modern take on the rich musical hybrids that were part of the 70s Stax roster, will probably win over more than a few fans. The duo’s 2018 album Get Better goes beyond mere throwback imitation and with expert production and attention to sonic detail it attains the soulfulness of some of its influences.

Who: An Evening With Spiritualized
When: Saturday, 04.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Even at his most soul-and-R&B-inspired moments, and there are many on Spiritualized’s 2018 album And Nothing Hurt, J. Spaceman brings to bear a broad range of subtle emotional expression and its counterpart as a controlled tidal wave of feeling. The shows also tend toward a well-selected set list that gives the performance a dynamic quality that somehow feels just right. Folk, soul, R&B, ambient space rock from across Spaceman’s career in Spiritualized. Maybe you’ll even get to see the band cover Laurie Anderson’s “Born Never Asked” as its been known to do well beyond the 1995 touring cycle for Pure Phase.

Sunday | April 7

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SUSTO, photo courtesy the artist

Who: SUSTO w/Whitacre and Frances Cone
When: Sunday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: SUSTO’s new album Ever Since I Lost My Mind has all the sophistication and beautiful subtlety of instrumentation of its previous records. But this time it sounds like the band has added a layer of atmosphere that gives the typically affecting and introspective lyrics a more focused immediacy that can be a bit slow slipping into your mind but when it hits it strikes deep. SUSTO excels at giving the songs room to breathe and manifest and bringing listeners in with a warmth of tone and a sense of understanding.

Monday | April 8

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Mdou Moctar, photo by Nikkl Cells

Who: Acid Mothers Temple w/Yamantaka//Sonic Titan
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple may “only” have been around for nearly a quarter a century but its rotating and core membership, including band leader guitarist Makoto Kawabata, has roots going back to Japanese folk, psychedelic, noise, punk and prog bands of the 70s and 80s. With AMT the musicians create a mind-bending sonic experience that blurs the lines between the aforementioned genres of music to make the kind of space rock that should inspire a generation of manga artists writing stories in a future where interdimensional and intergalactic communities are interacting, thriving and exploring worlds and cultures as yet unimagined by our current creative collective unconscious.

Who: Mdou Moctar w/Galleries and Kwantsu Dudes
When: Monday, 04.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: It’s incredibly rare to get to see a musician from Africa in Denver much less a Tuareg phenom from Agadez, Niger like Mdou Moctar. The guitarist is an early adaptor of traditional Tuareg guitar pop into the electric context. As with the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baaba Maal and, of course, Fela Kuti before him, Moctar’s lively and fine crafted songs (steeped in folk music of Africa and the Islamic world) garnered fans outside of Africa. Because of that touring has been a viable prospect including his current run through the USA. His latest album is 2019’s Ilana.

Tuesday | April 9

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Claudzilla, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: WaZeil & UaZit w/Claudzilla, f-ether and Kandin
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: UaZit’s music is like if alternative hip-hop got even weirder and more experimental. Working with WaZeil the production and sound design is even more unusual like what Harmony Korine might make if he went into creating music after Mister Lonely. F-ether isn’t quite as much of a weirdo but his original and playful take on electronic music craft is decidedly outside the conventions of that broad genre. Claudzilla, though, full-on weirdo since its “keytar rock” with surreal lyrics and let’s just call it eccentric picks of covers but surprisingly solid renditions of the originals through her peculiar lens of interpretation.

Who: Erik B & Rakim w/Stay Tuned
When: Tuesday, 04.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Erik B & Rakim are clearly one of the most influential duos in hip-hop. Rakim’s rhyming had great versatility and range because he broke with the simple rhyme schemes of early hip-hop and had more in common with free jazz and free verse poetry. So while not sounding too avant-garde the duo’s music could be as out and fluid in its rhythms as its presumed jazz influences. Eric B’s heavy use of sampling and creatively crafting and sculpting the sounds could also be heard echoed in most hip-hop since the 1987 release of the Eric B & Rakim album Paid in Full. Splitting in 1993, Eric B & Rakim reunited in 2016 to perform live in 2017. Will there be a new record? We can only hope but for now catch one of the legends of hip-hop on this tour.

Wednesday | April 10

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Morlox, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: HXXS w/Church Fire, Morlox and Feigning
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: HXXS from Portland, Oregon make a kind of dance-dub darkwave with glitchy edges. When minimal synth was all the rage in various corners of the American underground, HXXS seems to have taken that foundation and the sort of 8-bit crushed beat-making to make a surprisingly playful, surreal form of synth pop. Good match with Denver’s Church Fire whose tribal industrial dance music came out of similar impulses toward melding hip-hop beat production with dark, noisy pop informed by insightful, sociopolitical commentary. That the group worked with gifted producer Morlox whose career has been steeped in the noise, glitchcore and underground hip-hop scene in Denver and beyond makes this booking perfect. Haunted, dark drone project Feigning is just a bonus.

Who: DeVotchKa
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 6 p.m.
Where: Twist & Shout
Why: It would help if you bought a copy of the 2018 DeVotchKa album This Night Falls Forever in order to get first entry into this intimate show at Twist & Shout. Otherwise, the Denver-based gypsy-punk chamber pop group usually doesn’t play places smaller than The Gothic. The following night the band will perform at e-Town in Boulder.

Who: Boy Harsher w/Special Interest and Poptones DJs
When: Wednesday, 04.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Boy Harsher show is sold out but if you can get in you can see the fog-shrouded, enigmatic, New-Order-gone-full-dub-minimal-synth duo Boy Harsher at a small club before its crowd expands to larger venues.

Church Fire’s Video for “Mechanical” Is A Testament to the Power of Transformation in Our Lives

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Church Fire at Titwrench 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Denver’s Church Fire recently became a trio with Kate Warner (formerly of Mirror Fears) joining Shannon Webber and David Samuelson in crafting a sound that melds noise, industrialized hip-hop influenced beat making, electronic dance music and emotionally charged pop. Church Fire also infuses its performances and words with political content that dives deep and examines deeply rooted issues of systemic, cultural and personal issues that can be tricky to examine much less untangle in a way that the band, with its visceral presentation doesn’t abstract so much as clarify in a way that isn’t intellectualized even as it doesn’t lack for sophisticated thought and nuanced emotion as manifested in art.

Recently the band released its video for the song “Mechanical” from its fantastic 2018 album Summer Camp Doom Diary. Visually it’s striking and on par with the more imaginative dark fantasy and horror cinema. It also represents well the feel of the band’s shows that operate as a cathartic, mystic, pagan ritual dance. It’s a song and video that embraces and works through, integrates and transcends personal and cultural darkness in a productive way that doesn’t preach yet doesn’t wax vague in its meaning. Church Fire is nothing if not direct. We recently sent some questions to the band regarding the video done with Cheyene Grow of the video collective 75 Ohms. Read on after seeing the video immediately preceding.

Queen City Sounds: How did you come to work with Cheyene Grow and why was working with him a good fit?

Shannon Webber: Cheyene and Ryan Peru (75 Ohms) are fantastic visual artists who have veejayed a lot of shows we’ve played over the years. We love their glitched out retro VHS style and the way they live-loop video recordings and add fascinating and fun effects. Having seen what they do live, it was really exciting to have the chance to visit Cheyene’s studio in Colorado Springs to do some filming, and we couldn’t wait to see what he’d do with the footage. Cheyene’s been active in Colorado underground scenes for years, dragging a huge analog setup to shows to create live visuals like no one else. The splicing of organic, live footage with retro neon effects and glitchy visual noise feels like a natural visual representation of our music. As an artist, we trusted him to take full creative license to create a new version of our music through his visual art. ‘Mechanical’ is about transformation in a lot of ways, and we were thrilled to see how Cheyene would transform the song.

There’s a kind of “lost VHS tape” quality to the video. Was that an aspect of the video you discussed with Cheyenne? What do you like about that kind of aesthetic?

This style is pretty quintessential for Cheyene and 75 Ohms and it has a lot to do with why we wanted to work with him. In our music, we like to get lost in darkness and light and to hold more than one extreme at a time, and Cheyene’s video techniques do the same. Using direct footage of something as simple as our heads gives it a natural, intimate and raw feel. Combined with his visually noisy techniques, bright colors, distortion and glitchiness, one gets an experimental, dark and exhilarating feeling watching the clips. It adds a striking intensity to some already pretty intense but simple headshots and keeps the momentum of the video and music going strong.

While not new and it now occurs to me resonant in ways with the name of the band and pagan black metal, there is a kind of tribal pagan mystic aspect to your performance garb including an antler crown. What is the significance of that for your band? With a lot of those early Norwegian black metal bands there was some reference to cleansing the land of non-native religious structures built over traditional Viking holy places and thus a call for a return to an older, more primordial native spirituality. American black metal bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, of course, are more obviously oriented toward nature and the preservation of that as part of holistic view of our existence. 

Our identity as a band definitely continues to grow and has developed a lot even after changing our name to church fire in 2012. When David made this crown, it felt like a portal was created for us to step into when we perform and write. The crown itself, actually preceded our aesthetic. Initially, it wasn’t an idea inspired by anything in particular and honestly had no greater vision behind it other than it was curious to us and felt powerful. It was a very organic transformation for us. I think the image and feeling of the crown and our masks have felt more powerful for us as time goes on, and allows us to let go of our everyday identities and step into the new worlds that we’ve created with each other through our music. It feels transcendent and liberating to us but is not connected to any existent culture, image or community for us – not intentionally, anyway.

That said, after we stepped into the crown, the flowers, the lights and the masks, we have been able to even more fully relish in a dark, earthy but surreal experience. There is a sense of the divine feminine and of the power of nature in those images, of a softness, a strength, and a darkness, and that’s where we come from when we write and perform. To keep these unshakable, powerful and ancient images in our minds when we create and perform makes our own experience with our art more fulfilling and transcendent, and we hope others tap into those feelings and are inspired as well.

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Church Fire’s Shannon Webber at Hi-Dive for December 29, 2018 release of Summer Camp Doom Diary. Photo by Tom Murphy

“Mechanical,” tell us a bit about what inspired this song and its tones and sense of urgency.

I was sitting on a beach in Oregon watching the waves roll onto the shore, sifting through rocks and shells, thinking about how drastically these artifacts have changed over more time than we can fathom; how they used to be huge and jagged, perhaps, and are now smooth and small and have creatures living inside them. I started thinking about all the ways that we transform throughout our lives and beyond our lives, transitions that we have no awareness of having undergone whatsoever; how some of the most powerful things that make us who we are, make reality what it is as we know it, are really tiny, delicate waves washing over us, so small we can’t even feel or see them; and that this version of everything we see, feel and know to be true is only what it is in this instant and instantly is forever changed again under a new wave.

We fancy ourselves in so much control, able to eliminate our desires if they don’t suit us, able to cure illness before it ever afflicts us, but the waves will still take over. It’s beautiful to be tiny and insignificant. It’s unrecognizingly powerful to transform and to be changed by the earth and Her elements. In writing the song, the meaning started to transform as well. In watching Cheyene’s video, the meanings continued to change, touching on gender and identity and transformation of these aspects of ourselves as well.

In 2018 Church Fire played a kind of one-off, special set that was some kind of black metal/noise/industrial set. Was this video a kind of precursor to that or inspired by that? What about the sorts of feelings you’re able to conjure playing that side of your music do you feel are different from and/or complimentary to what most people have seen/heard from Church Fire? I feel like your live performances always had that dark yet cathartic quality and that your latest album brought that out more in your recordings.

We’ve been secretly playing some doomy sludge guitar/drums drek for fun for a few years now, and when we were asked to play the Noise vs Doom festival last year it seemed like the only appropriate way to show up! [The] March 14th [show] at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, with The Drood, blackcell and DJ Mudwolf, [was] our first show with David playing drums and Kate Warner (Mirror Fears) on electronic music. We’re not a duo anymore! We feel honored to work with one of the most talented and hard working musicians in our scene and to transform our own music and push our limits in new ways.

Statement from the visual artist (Cheyene Grow)
One of the many things I find compelling about Church Fire is how they can simultaneously occupy seemingly diametric spaces. You could argue they are too noisy to be pop, too poppy to be noise. Too theatrical to be punk, too punk to be theatrical. Too goth to be cyber, too cyber to be goth. The list goes on.

I wanted to embody that contrast with visuals that would occupy conflicting spaces. So went for a look that felt aged and dirty, while also being clean and cyber-futuristic. Shannon has an intense and very engaging stage presence that I wanted to feature. So, instead of trying to put forth an actual narrative of transformation (which the lyrics capture well), we went with a performance piece and tried to incorporate transformation elements into the performances and the visual effects. The video glitches serve as way to mechanically degrade the image and make it feel like old film, while the core image maintains a certain high-end integrity.

The next Church Fire show is at the Hi-Dive on April 10 with HXXS, Morlox and Feigning

Best Shows in Denver 3/28/19 – 4/3/19

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Dilly Dally performs Friday 3/29 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Michelle Homonylo

Thursday | March 28

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artistEugene Chadbourne

Who: Creative Music Works Fundraiser: Special guest Eugene Chadbourne
When: Thursday, 03.28, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Mighty Fine Productions
Why: Creative Music Works is, according to the event page, a “nonprofit organizartion providing educational and performance opportunities for musical innovators.” Meaning the organization furthers the endeavors of artists whose work often falls outside the traditional commercial and popular music environment—the people pushing the boundaries with form, method and conceptualization. CMW members Janet Feder, Mark Harris, Scott Kinnamon, Elena Carmerin Young and Isaac Linder will contribute to a performance as well as avant-garde music legend Eugene Chadbourne.

Who: Starjammer w/Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 03.28, 4-7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Starjammer’s “avant-garde dub reggae”/performance art/home made instrument rig glory is paired tonight with one of Denver’s poetry greats and forward thinking hip-hop experimentalists, Bianca Mikahn.

Who: Rob Sonic w/The Maybe So’s, Brett Gretzky and Hakeem Furious
When: Thursday, 03.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Rob Sonic has had a fairly distinguished career for his innovative hip-hop projects Sonic Sum and Hail Mary Mallon (which included Aesop Rock and DJ Big Wiz). What has made his various efforts interesting is his use of a fairly different palette of sounds from many of his peers. His 2018 album Defriender lays out moods and textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-punk or deep house track or an industrial noise song. Denver’s The Maybe So’s is a duo that also weaves in unconventional electronic music and samples of organic percussion into its flow of beats and poetry.

Friday | March 29

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American Culture, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dilly Dally w/Chastity and American Culture
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: On Dilly Dally’s 2015 album Sore the group sounded like a bit like a weird mixture of Bully and Courtney Barnett. But to be fair, it was probably something in the universe/confluence of influences across a broad swath of the collective musical consciousness. But with the 2018 album Heaven, Dilly Dally has expanded its range as a band and there is more brooding, atmospheric darkness flowing through its fuzz-laden riffs. It’s song “Doom” is more doom in tone and emotional resonance than a lot of what passes for such in the doom genre. But its inherently introspective yet expansive melodies keep the music from wallowing in stagnation. Along for this date is fellow Canadian band Chastity who are definitely more well within the realm of doomy noise rock. American Culture lately has straddled the line between indie pop, post-punk and psych country jam rock minus the wacktitude.

Who: Furbie Cakes, Space Monkey Mafia (MN), MTHirst, Fancy Pantz, Shocker Mom, Luxury Hearse and Wooflet
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: A show chock full of weirdo electronic bands, ambient and noise. And then Shocker Mom who is making the most heartwarming and healing sad beats currently being made.

Saturday | March 30

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Hand Habits, photo by Jacob Boll

Who: Hand Habits w/Tomberlin and Porlolo
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Meg Duffy may be more well-known for being a touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. But with the release of her album placeholder under the moniker Hand Habits should garner her plenty of attention for her own creative efforts. Superficially its mid-tempo moody indie folk but her words go deep into thoughts and feelings we don’t want to entertain but must face honestly. Not necessarily obvious and brutal trauma but the subtler pains that can deeply haunt you every day and from which are more elusive in evading. Disappointment in self, reflecting on one’s suddenly seemingly damning mistakes and the cognitive dissonance of the complexity of conflicting feelings about people, situations, existential ponderings and life in general that are all valid. Her tonal choices are all interesting and the perfect companion to explicating and maybe untangling and processing the aforementioned.

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Robyn Hitchcock, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Robyn Hitchcock
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall
Why: One thing that isn’t so obvious about seeing Robyn Hitchcock playing solo or with collaborators is how his simple but richly detailed guitar work is creatively varied and incorporates percussive elements with an expressive delicacy that focuses the emotional impact of his songwriting. He seems to be an endless well of interesting and poetic stories that make even what some may consider his lesser records worth a listen. Pick a point in Hitchcock’s career and you’ll find some of the best songwriting of that period whether while he was a member of The Soft Boys, his work with The Egyptians or The Venus 3. Like a magical-realist (emphasis on realist) novelist, Hitchcock’s songs offer observational insight into the human psyche through an intensely personal window.

Who: Jeff Carey, Sigtrygur Sigmarsson, Diffuser, Flesh Buzzard, Joshua Westerman. Sunk Cost and Page 27
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Noise shows are pretty infrequent in Denver these days but this one is a showcase for some of the best noise acts going and not in the vein of the cliché harsh noise/shakebox feedback sculpting mode. Much more craft, imagination and originality here with Denver noise legends Page 27, former Austin-based noise prankster Sunk Cost, Adam Rojo of Voight’s Diffuser noise-scaping pieces and raw noise punk Flesh Buzzard. Among others.

Who: Black Dots, SPELLS, Lawsuit Models, Girl Scout Heroine and Good Family
When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: A fairly traditional punk show with less of the fashion victim thing than usual. SPELLS wears costumes and get a solid B for the music but hey, that’s better than you get a lot of the time. Girl Scout Heroine includes former members of The Geds and The Blast-Off Heads.

Who: King Buffalo w/Pale Sun and The Lycan
When: Saturday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: What King Buffalo is doing, to some extent, we’ve seen a lot of over the past decade—drone-y, blues-y, doom-y psychedelia. But to give the band its due, if 2018’s Longing To Be The Mountain is any indication, it didn’t just adopt some motorik beats, it takes that sonic vehicle to places of heightened emotional impact beyond just hypnotic drive with occasional flourishes. Also it’s songwriting is much more creative and not grinding away at the same vibe and pace for an entire record. King Buffalo often reaches moments of true sonic sublimity in a way that transcends any genre associations. Pale Sun will bring a different kind of atmospheric heavy as the trio’s finely honed space rock has similar roots as King Buffalo but whose music touches subconscious places in the mind with both tone, rhythm and emotional vibrancy. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers channels the visceral quality of the music well with his singing but he’s also tapping into something in the collective consciousness in the performance as well.

Monday | April 1

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Olivia O’Brien, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Olivia O’Brien w/Kevin George
When: Monday, 04.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Olivia O’Brien was about fifteen years old when she got a boost up as a singer and songwriter after garnering the attention of Australian pop artist gnash who discovered her through her posting of a cover of one of his songs on Soundcloud. Over the past four years, O’Brien has recorded with gnash and released a string of singles. “Trust Issues” from 2016 revealed a thoughtful sensibility and self-awareness that can be uncommon in general but definitely in a teenager. O’Brien’s R&B and soul inflected pop and commanding, emotionally nuanced, stage presence will probably find a wider audience after this current tour and the April 26 release of her debut full-length Was It Even Real? For now, you can see her at a small club like Larimer Lounge.

Tuesday | April 2

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Ten Fé, photo by Eleanor Hardwick

Who: Ten Fé w/Ten Miles South and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Been Moorhouse and Leo Duncan got their start busking in London before recording their 2017 debut album Hit the Light. Before taking the music on the road, the duo brought on board a band to fill out the sonic details. The group’s 2019 album Future Perfect, Present Tense sounds remarkably sophisticated for a relatively new band. Its particular incorporation of synth into songwriting might remind some listeners of The Call or later-era The Sound, but without the punk edge. That’s no knock on the music because its softness doesn’t quite wax into the 70s Laurel Canyon worship that’s been en vogue of late. Rather its the sound of a band exploring and refining where it will go next while perfecting an exquisitely lush minimalism without sacrificing the textural details that have made its songwriting noteworthy up to now.

Who: Vanilla Milkshakes digital album release show
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Its been four years since Vanilla Milkshakes released Tall People Have No Feelings. Line up changes and a release of a cover of “Breed” by Nirvana in 2018 later, the grunge-y pop-punk band (singer/guitarist David McGhee makes no bones about being influenced by The Offspring) has released its best record with Punching Cows. Recorded with Jack Endino and guitars tracked through one of Kurt Cobain’s old amps, on the record McGhee’s vocals are clearer and stronger, the songwriting more focused. But the idiosyncratic quality of the lyrics and McGhee’s vocals, which is one reason none of this comes off like a band that would be playing that final Warped Tour. The sense of melody and tight rhythms give even the most melancholy of the songs (“Mommy Said to Get a Job” and “Green And Sober” for instance) a buoyant quality that doesn’t seem to downplay the real feelings and experiences that likely inspired the song. There are enough rough edges to keep the record interesting throughout. The band performs infrequently these days so this is a good opportunity to see the Vanilla Milkshakes in a small venue with the jokes from stage inserted between songs. Besides, drummer Frank Registrato is a wizard at helping keep things on track with no heavy hand and the sheer finesse and power of his playing.

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Hop Along, photo by Matt Allen, OctFest

Who: Hop Along w/Summer Cannibals
When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Frances Quinlan performed in early versions of Hop Along as a solo acoustic act for the first four or five years until putting together a fledgling band around 2009. Even before signing to Saddle Creek Records in 2014, Quinlan’s songwriting was not short on imaginative storytelling like she was imagining the lives and situations she encountered in either her everyday life in Philadelphia or on the road and extrapolating it into colorful imagery and a keen sensitivity and insight into the subjects of her songs even when the inspiration is drawn directly from her own life. Any band that names its album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018) has a healthy sense of humor and the absurd without drifting into self-parody.

Wednesday | April 3

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Gort Vs. Goom, The Far Stairs, The Pollution
When: Wednesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: None more weird for Weird Wednesday. Gort Vs. Goom are like the post-Devo, prog punk version of The Fugs. The Far Stairs is a deconstructionist pop project that sounds like more well-crafted pop than most bands trying to fool us into thinking they’re not utter frauds. Plus sometimes there’s a Robyn Hitchcock cover involved which bespeaks of an unspoken artistic ambition far beyond the usual. The Pollution got back to punk through burning through on hardcore, psychedelic rock, krautrock and Kiwi rock and taking bits and pieces of each to put together a Frankenstein’s Monster of music where you can’t find the sutures.

Best Shows in the Denver Area 3/21/19 – 3/27/19

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R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | March 21

What: Throwing Thimgs, Bert Olsen (tour kickoff), Sad Dance Party and Zealot
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Bert Olsen is taking its post-punk/death rock pop songs beyond Denver for a tour and kicking it off with this show alongside other musical misfits like Zealot, a pop band that is deep under the influence of The Mountain Goats—texture rich melodies, irrepressibly upbeat and crackling with wiry energy.

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Rubblebucket, photo by Rob Abelow

What: Rubblebucket w/Twain and Toth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Rubblebucket reached deep into its members hearts in search of the material for Sun Machine, which discusses the struggles of life, death, heartbreak, despair, a yearning for rebirth into a next, better chapter of life while sitting in the depths of one’s psyche. The live presentation of this material, alongside the group’s fine earlier work, is done with an exuberant sense of theater.

What: Equine Tour Kickoff w/Death In Space, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Radiant Filth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Equine will be taking his abstract guitar compositions on the road for a series of shows out to the east coast. Calling it ambient or “prepared guitar” isn’t quite accurate as Kevin Richards brings to bear a technical knowledge of tone and chord structure applied to his imaginative ear for an interesting and compelling arrangement. To launch him on his way are local peers in the like-minded Death In Space whose own guitar and loop experiments will be on full display as well as J. Hamilton Isaacs and his way of making analog synths make playful and bright dance beats and melodies.

What: Bright Light Social Hour w/Rubedo and Other Worlds
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Austin’s Bright Light Social Hour will treat you to an uplifting blend of ethereal tones and motorik beats. If psychedelic rock went a little bit synth pop and the emphasis was on soothing vibes rather than simply pursuing wild sonic gyrations, it might sound like what Bright Light Social Hour has perfected. Denver’s Rubedo is one of the opening acts. The trio has evolved its sound, aesthetic and conceptual thrust over the years. But lately it’s been a nice balance of heartfelt, soulful vocals and blues-inflected art work with intricate yet intuitive changes throughout its songs. It’s a band whose themes are essentially uplifting and on accentuating the positive but never with a heavy-handed and corny take.

Friday | March 22

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Marchfourth, photo by Andrew Wyatt

What: MarchFourth w/Southern Avenue
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: MarchFourth predates by several years but is otherwise spiritual kin to Denver’s Itchy-O. Both used to have “Marching Band” as part of their name due to the robust horn and percussion sections of both bands. But wheres Itchy-O embodies a more experimental, darker, post-apocalyptic ritualistic side of the music, MarchFourth plays an eclectic kind of instrumental funk. Both are an eye-catching spectacle the likes of which you’re not likely to quite see with a more conventional band format. At a MarchFourth show you’ll also see acrobats, dancers and stiltwalkers with members dressed in a dazzling array of color and personalized detail.

What: Rubie Gold, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS and Talk Perfect
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: nIGHtIMEsCHOOLbUS is the downtempo hip-hop collaboration between Otem Rellik’s Toby Hendricks and Robin Walker of Shocker Mom. Emotionally tender, borderline ambient beats and warm vibes.

Saturday | March 23

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Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

What: Spine, Raw Breed, Cadaver Dog, Videodrome and Mob
When: Saturday, 03.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Aggressive hardcore night at 7C with some of Denver’s best as well as Spine from Kansas City/Chicago. If those guys drive to practice that truly is hardcore.

What: R A R E B Y R D $ tape release w/Bulldozer Boy
When: Saturday, 03.23, 9:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: R A R E B Y R D $ is releasing its debut tape MIXTO$ at this show as well as other merch. The album was released digitally in 2018 under a slightly different name on Glasss Records but underwent a remixing via Tyler Breuer whose work as a musician and producer in various bands in Denver brought a different sensibility and ear to the proceedings. The experimental hip-hop trio will celebrate the occasion with a show including downtempo-jazz beatmaker Bulldozer Boy.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll: Night 4: Sweetness Itself, Rachael Pollard and Death In Space
When: Saturday, 03.23, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Get Your Ears Swoll is a monthly music event at The People’s Building in Aurora. Rachael Pollard has been playing her fragile, playful, thoughtful, introspective songs in and around Denver for twenty years or more. The music feels like you’re getting glimpses into a private universe of talking animals, rainbow bridges to other dimensions and some of the most confessional poems written by anyone. Her shows invite you to connect with the better part of your own psyche. Death In Space could be anything at this point since Aleeya Wilson has integrated synths and guitar with loops. Only expect something interesting and sonically spare but not simplistic.

Sunday | March 24

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Liz Phair, photo courtesy the artist

What: Liz Phair w/Califone
When: Sunday, 03.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Had Liz Phair only released her 1993 album Exile in Guyville, her place in music history would have been set. The album was a deep, sophisticated, at times profane, feminist exploration of the dynamic in far too many music and creative scenes then and now in which men dominate and sideline women (or anyone that can be sidelined for reasons of identity) in subtle and not subtle ways. Her stories are so vivid and capture a truth so poignant they sound personal but they were not, Phair was just particular adroit in her portraits verbally and emotionally. Since then Phair has written straight ahead pop songs, fuzzy alternative rock, soundtracks and done sound design work so that her more recent albums seem like experiments integrating her career as a musician. Live she’s not the type to refuse to play her classic, beloved material and her sense of humor and sensitivity makes for a captivating time.

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Sunday, 03.24, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Carla Bley was a major figure in 60s free jazz and her 1971 album with Paul Haines (father of Emily Haines of Metric), Escalator Over The Hill. Called a “jazz opera,” Escalator combined avant-garde jazz and folk and one has to assume it exerted influence on the spontaneous compositions of French prog band Magma. While Bley has played in various configurations large and small this Denver show, her first in around thirty years, will be a trio performance with Andy Sheppard on saxophone and Steve Swallow on bass.

Monday | March 25

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Monday, 03.25, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: For Carla Bley see above.

What: Centered Volume 5: Paperbark, Entrancer, Street Soul Nekyia and Pameshen
When: Monday, 03.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jacob Isaacs has been putting together some of the greatest, underground showcases for artists of synthesizer music in the Denver area with his Centered series. This edition includes modular synth artist Paperbark. John Mulville lived in Denver for a handful of years where he became entrenched in the avant-garde and ambient scene with his atmospheric work that projected a tactile sensibility like sculpture done with sound. Entrancer’s own modular synth work has absorbed the influences of old school avant-garde electronic music as well as techno. Both Paperbark and Entrancer also draw inspiration from the production side of hip-hop and while it may not be so obvious in their work with more adventurous hip-hop artists embracing noise and experimental music of late the connection seems obvious especially when the waves of this music hits you in the live setting where its visceral impact is undeniable.

Wednesday | March 27

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Jerry Paper, photo by Monika Mogi

What: Jerry Paper w/Ava Luna and Ashley Koett
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lucas Nathan was involved in making noise and psychedelic music before he finally decided to start making electronic music to disabuse himself of his prejudices against it. Because of that his music has a truly unusual and original take on what is essentially sample-based composition and retro-futurist weirdo hip-hop.

What: Palehorse/Palerider, Nox Novacula, No Gossip In Braille, Voight
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Post-metal, post-deathrock, post-punk, post-shoegaze. The kind of bill that should happen all the time but rarely does when artists so unlike each other (beyond all being some kind of rock) have sounds that compliment each other well.

What: Deafheaven, Baroness and Zeal & Ardor
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Baroness is on the verge of releasing its latest double album Gold & Grey. The band that has distinguished itself in the realm of sludge metal with intricate and imaginative guitar work and solid vocal harmonies has said that the new record will be the last in its series of color-themed titles. Seeing as guitarist and singer John Baizley is one of the most distinguished and sought-after visual artists in metal and music generally, it’ll be interesting to see what themes emerge from here. Until then you will likely be able to hear a good deal of the new material on this tour with blackened shoegaze band Deafheaven and experimental black metal outfit Zeal & Ardor.

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artist

What: Eugene Chadbourne / Ryan Seward, Bret Sexton / Farrell Lowe
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Eugene Chadborne has been one of the important figures of avant-garde/free jazz for over four decades. Born in Mount Vernon, New York (just north of NYC), Chadbourne grew up in Boulder, Colorado before leaving for Canada to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War. Can hardly blame him. When he came back to America, he moved to NYC where he worked with Henry Kaiser and John Zorn and was encouraged by Anthony Braxton to keep with playing music rather than enter into a career as a journalist. Chadbourne’s prolific output, not fully documented on his Wikipedia page of course, has encompassed a broad range of musical styles and ideas. He has collaborated with Fred Frith, Sun City Girls, Camper Van Beethoven and Charles Tyler (who worked with Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman). For this performance, Chadbourne will perform with Colorado based improvisational/spontaneous composition artist Ryan Seward with a performance from other Denver area heavy hitters in the local avant-garde scene, who frequently perform with Seward, Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe. Chadborne will also play a fundraiser for the nonprofit Creative Music Works on Thursday and we’ll provide the information on that event in our next show listing.