Short Takes #3: February 2019

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Earth Control Pill, Leaves On Leaves

earth control pill – leaves on leaves – self-released 

Lead track “drippy tree” is an interesting and comforting collage of retro synth sampling and minimalist beats that pulse and bounce softly like one of those balloons with a grip shaped like an animal head that many people rode around on as kids. And that sort of melancholic, textured atmosphere with some white noise melded with abstract melodies layered with flowing tones and blurred beats that is suggested in “drippy trees” manifests in a variety of ways across the album without ever really replicating the feel of each song. In that way it’s reminiscent of early Aphex Twin but after the advent of modern experimental electronic dance music, tropical pop and deep house. Earth Control Pill pulls ideas together for this album as the title suggests as an organic process of layering wherein the elements complement each other seemingly naturally in the context of clearly technologically produced sounds. Altogether the songs, as sequenced, feel like a slow processing of sorrow by soothing the pains of loss while knowing they’ll never fully go away and the feeling of resignation of that reality. “Fog” strikes a somewhat jaunty note and, in fact, sounds the least like fog of all the songs though may highlight a time of fond memories connected to fog and how magical it can seem on an otherwise sunny morning. Whatever the inspiration or impetus behind this collection of music, it might be described as an ambient version of indie pop with the assembled use of discarded and currently unfashionable sounds to make something beautiful and tranquil with no obvious touchstones in contemporary commercially popular music.

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Abjects, Never Give Up

Abjects – Never Give Up – Yippee Ki Yay Records

This debut LP from London’s Abjects strikes one as something akin to a frantic, grunge-y power pop record. But in the interest of not getting lazy and being quick to pigeonhole a band, the members of Abjects come from different corners of the world and met up in the UK bringing with them a vastly different set of cultural backgrounds that does give these songs an ineffably different flavor than 90s retro bands that all grew up in countries where the predominant language is English. The rhythms have an urgency yet fluidity that makes it easier to change directions and character rapidly with guitar work and vocals that seem adept at working counter point giving the songwriting an unusual and fascinating dynamism like something one might have heard in early Blonde Redhead songs or out of Velocity Girl.

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Bison Bone, Take Up Trouble

Bison Bone – Take Up Trouble – self-released

One thing Bison Bone has always done exceedingly well is not limit its songwriting and creativity to the expectations of a subgenre of music. Yes, it’s coming from the world of country but also psychedelic rock but for the latter not in any obvious way. Its instincts seem inspired more by the hybrid country, punk and psych of the likes of The Flesheaters, Green On Red and Uncle Tupelo than much of the Americana that has come along since where it has not been too predictably been bathing in the musical DNA of early 1970s Laurel Canyon. Bison Bone’s music sounds like there is some real grit and real life experience behind it and paying of dues and not trying to mimic a beloved and trendy style of music. Take Up Trouble is urban honky tonk with the relatable storytelling intact but with a flair for wordplay and thoughtful commentary. What really makes these songs is the little details that bring the song together like the minimal guitar solo in the middle of “Hey Bartender” and the drone at the beginning of “Late December” to suggest memories of coming out of the haze of a memorable dream or of the heatwaves on the late afternoon road following a long day of driving and having a moment of reflection on what it’s all been about.

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Bruce Lamont, Broken Limbs Excite No Pity

Bruce Lamont – Broken Limbs Excite No Pity – My Proud Mountain

Like an industrial ambient rendition of a culturally hybridized folk music from a hundred years hence, this latest solo record from Bruce Lamont of Yakuza is akin to an Ian McDonald novel. The latter has written several works of science fiction and fantasy that seem aimed at subverting tropes set in places that aren’t the usual locales for fantastic fiction. The influence of anthropology and straight out cultural concepts outside the developed world is so pervasive his work has a tonality and range that is refreshingly unpredictable. Lamont’s interest in non-Western musical ideas too informs these songs of immersive textures and compound rhythms. With “Goodbye Electric Sunday” the science fiction parallels are obvious but throughout Lamont weaves a series of narratives that are reminiscent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in sounding ineffably futuristic but as a commentary on the civilization on the verge of collapse of now.

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Confluence, Closure, Start Over

Confluence – Closure, Start Over – self-released

Denver’s Confluence represented a musical rebirth for songwriter Ian Gassman whose work in other bands including his 2000s indie rock band Night Owl. The latter was more in a power pop meets Elvis Costello vein. Confluence was much more math rock in the late 90s and early 2000s sense that one heard touches of in the likes of Modest Mouse and Deathcab For Cutie. Confluence made no bones about nor held up its nose at complex arrangements and guitar solos but all in service to the song. Like it was using its technical skills to have fun and not just to show off. This record came out four years after the band was a functioning outfit and serves as a swan song and a reminder of how Confluence managed to fully integrate indie rock with musical chops and emotionally resonant vocals with a refreshingly unironic earnestness. Fans of LVL UP and Palm should definitely give this record a listen.

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Eerie Wanda, Pet Town

Eerie Wanda – Pet Town – Joyful Noise Recordings

Obvious touchstones for the 2016 Eerie Wanda album Hum would be 60s pop stars like Margo Guryan and Françoise Hardy. All of that atmospheric soulfulness and orchestrated sonic details was present in Marina Tadic’s songwriting and recording for that record. For Pet Town, Tadic stripped back some of the seeming orchestration and opted for the use of space and non-tonal atmosphere as well as raw guitar recording, fretting sounds included. The result is a more up close focus in sound rather than the nearly panoramic folk pop of Hum. Same introspective, melancholic lyrics but this time reminding one of the vibe of the Beach House’s 2008 album Devotion conveying a sense of warmth, isolation and reflection on times that haunt you with a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

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Lightning Cult, EP1: Burner

Lightning Cult – EP 1: Burner – self-released

A welcome return to the songwriting of Mike Marchant who in the 2000s and early 2010s brought an uplifting moodiness and energy to his indie rock bands Widowers and as a contributing songwriter to Houses as well as Mike Marchant’s Outer Space Party Unit. This isn’t as overtly as experimental as Widowers and the Outer Space Party Unit, nor as psychedelic as the latter. Rather it shines on Marchant’s gift for subtle dynamics and vocalizing with strong yet nuanced emotion. Throughout the EP it’s a mixture of texture and bright tones with driven and shaped by the aforementioned qualities. Marchant has struggled with serious health issues for several years at this point and one is tempted to look for that in this set of songs and if it’s there it’s more in the focus of the songwriting to put something together that feels good and honest to perform and worthy of attention beyond one’s consideration shaded by knowledge of his challenges as a human, at least not anymore than everyone faces. As such, Marchant demonstrates here why he garnered such wide attention during his time in Denver because none of this feels rote or desperate to recapture past glory. There is a timeless quality to Marchant’s music because he’s never really tried to fit in with trends while not spending much time mining the past. This EP is a great example of that. It’s not his masterpiece but if this is a comeback it’s better than many we’ve seen.

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Lying On Ice, The Dream

Lying On Ice – The Dream – Asylum Moon

Pulling apart this record to its components and influences is easy enough because there’s plenty of post-rock informing the guitar ideas, 80s and 90s darkwave and downtempo. But what it really sounds like is if someone got the essence of 80s moody Goth/post-punk but didn’t get trapped there with same production ideas and mood. There’s as much modern electronic pop aesthetic throughout the album like everyone involved is well aware of the likes of Purity Ring, Robyn, CHVRCHES and Phantogram. Composer Jesse Maddox is known more for his work in the world of taiko in Colorado including manufacturing the drums but has had a lifelong interest in dark, industrial music so working with talented dream pop vocalist Angela Cross from Los Angeles with the finished songs mixed and produced by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame the project could have been fairly predictable. But it is instead of a deeply atmospheric, sonically rich set of songs including a cover of “Smothered Hope” that shares with the original and deep melancholy and being engulfed with urgent emotions but is more in a psychedelic vein, more Tear Garden than Skinny Puppy. Speaking of the former, Edward Ka-Spel does guest vocals on the stark yet lush and cold “Surrender,” and brings to the song his signature vocals lending a sense of being at the end of one’s struggle with all the things your ego screams to cling to before acceptance of your own mortality sets in.

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Shadows Tranquil, Wander

Shadows Tranquil – Wander – self-released

Doran Robischon was once a guitarist in Gauntlet Hair and since that time there have been hints of a new musical project. Then Shadows Tranquil played shows in the past couple of years. But if you missed them there was no way to hear that music until the fall of 2018. Wander may remind anyone in the know of another Denver band, A Shoreline Dream. But only in that there are the aesthetics of electronic music underlying the songwriting. But there is more noise rock and psych punk behind the drifty push of the songs on Wander. In that way at times one is reminded of Nowhere-period Ride especially when the songs shift dynamics and add expansive layers of atmosphere and percussion only to pull the sounds back and redirect their momentum as the stream of sound progresses. The recording might be a little lo-fi for some tastes but that adds something of a tiny bit of mystique to music that sounds like the musicians skipped the late 90s and 2000s entirely and landed back in 2018 a late entry into the Holy Mountain Records (USA) catalog.

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T-Rextasy, Prehysteria

T-Rextasy – Prehysteria – Boogie Agency Records

Balancing the humorous with the meaningful and melancholy is a difficult balancing act in music, but T-Rextasy have long since mastered that art and this record simply reveals an evolution in the band’s sophistication of songwriting. “Coffee” has plenty of profane and playful double entendre while articulating a relatable frustration. The songs aren’t merely irreverent surf-ska punk songs, they’re like musical theater pieces for a play about young urban Bohemia but brimming with sharp observations as social commentary and character sketches that explore what it means to navigate the fraught political, economic and cultural environment in America today. Identity, sexuality, class and examination of one’s yearnings are discussed in story form with an undeniable affection and compassion for all the soft and hurt spots in everyone. Fans of the the melodramatic tones employed by Julie Brown in “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and the teen tragedy songs of the 60s that inspired it will find much to love with Prehysteria.

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Best Shows in Denver 02/14/19 – 02/20/19

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Kikagaku Moyo performs at the Hi-Dive on Feb. 18 and The Fox Theatre in Boulder on Feb. 19 with Weeed. Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

Thursday | February 14, 2019

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

What: An Ambient Valentine’s Day: Benefit for Resilience Rising: School Dance, Allison Lorenzen solo, Midwife, God of Water and Bell Hoss
When: Thursday, 02.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Rosehouse
Why: This show is a benefit women’s shelter Resilience Rising and includes more sonically ethereal and low key artists such as ambient slowcore star Midwife and the like-minded but less abstract artist Bell Hoss who sounds like she fled some pocket dimension that was perpetually the early 80s but where people didn’t get why Joni Mitchell is one of the coolest, most important artists in popular music.

Who: Grivo w/DH and Madelyn Burns
When: Thursday, 02.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Grivo is an experimental shoegaze/psychedelic rock band from Austin with music out on Holodeck Records.

Who: The Dead & The Daylily w/Turvy Organ, Avifauna and Tiffany Christopher
When: Thursday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This is Matthew Rossi’s first show as a guitarist in indie rock band Turvy Organ. You’ve seen him play in Tyto Alba assuming you’ve seen that underrated and great Denver dream pop band. Rossi has helped bring to that band a certain elevated emotional tonal palette and he’ll bring some of that to Turvy Organ as well.

Who: Codename: Carter w/Tonguebyte
When: Thursday, 02.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Spy-surf phenoms Codename: Carter don’t play so often but when they do, it’s a worthy catching because they coordinate outfits and write songs that remind you that surf rock can have chops and imagination behind it.

Friday | February 15, 2019

Who: Scream Screen: Poltergeist
When: Friday, 02.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Sie FilmCenter
Why: The latest in Theresa Mercado’s Scream Screen series celebrating the life of master horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper. Tonight, 1982’s haunting classic Poltergeist.

Who: The Pollution, Perry Weissman 3 and DJ AKA Miggy
When: Friday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: The Pollution is rooted in the politically conscious but non-didactic punk of the 80s DC scene but influenced by psychedelic rock and weirdo 70s prog. Perry Weissman 3 is definitely within the experimental wing of jazz. Not necessarily free jazz but that element is in there too.

Who: Maya Jane Coles
When: Friday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Church
Why: Maya Jane Coles is the UK DJ whose production and engineering work is noteworthy separate from her career as music maker. In the latter capacity Coles is known for her dark techno sets with a deep house and dub sensibility. Her compositions usually have a gently urgent quality amid moody synth swells and a finely crafted and separation of tones and textures as part of her layers of rhythm bumped along by expertly sculpted low end. Which is just another way of saying her music sounds like something you’d want to hear in the inevitable virtual experiential product of the future that tries to convey what it was like to go to a 2000s underground experimental dance music event in an illegal but safe warehouse in the middle of fall. Plenty of sonic allusions and nods to style can be found in one of her sets for the heads that work well whether you’re familiar with those references or not.

Saturday | February 16, 2019

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Turkuaz, photo by Dani Brandwein

Who: Turkuaz with Eminence Ensemble
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Turkuaz is a nine-piece, Brooklyn-based funk band whose sound is as eclectic as it is layered and multi-cultural. Though incorporating elements of psychedelia, R&B and rock Turkuaz’s sound can be readily compared to like-minded bands more associated within the cross section of jam bands end electronic dance music. Think on the more interesting end like Lotus, STS9 and The Disco Biscuits. That kind of flow of sounds and rhythms but rooted in executing the sounds with all live instrumentation and sounding more akin to Kool and the Gang or a Bernie Worrell band than something that has much in common with the EDM realm.

Who: KGNU Quarterly Showcase: The Milk Blossoms, Lady Gang, My New Dad (members of Dandu), Joshua Trinidad and Gregg Ziemba – DJs Joel Davis aka The Vibrarian and TerraSonic
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the KGNU Quarterly Showcase is, reliably, a fantastic showcase of some of the more interesting artists in Denver. The Milk Blossoms provide a gentle yet heartfelt emotional catharsis with every show with meaningful and experimental pop music by not trying to fit in any genre and giving you the raw, delicately rendered experience. Lady Gang is Jen Korte’s one woman, loop station composition extravaganza. Joshua Trinidad and Gregg Ziemba will kick the serious space jazz science and stretch the boundaries of consciousness in the process.

Who: Le Butcherettes w/Stars at Night and Viretta
When: Saturday, 02.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Le Butcherettes make weirdo prog punk within the context of what always seems like inspired performance art as Teri Genderbender channels rock and roll and mythological archetypes of her own creation at every show. Earlier this month the group released its latest album bi/MENTAL, a typically otherworldly and cathartic offering that isn’t much like anything else in rock in re-contextualizing and re-purposing tropes of the genre in creative ways.

Monday | February 18, 2019

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Sharon Van Etten, photo by Ryan Pfluger

 

Who: Kikagaku Moyo w/Weeed
When: Monday, 02.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kikagaku Moyo is a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock band whose 2018 album Masana Temples demonstrated further the band’s subtly eclectic sound rooted not just in 70s prog and psychedelic rock but also Japanese traditional music and perhaps 70s Japanese folk artists like Happy End, Karuomi Hosono, Itsutsu No Akai Fusen and Nobuyasu Okabayashi. There is a very organic quality to the band’s music, especially in the live setting where layers of sound are presented in a way that is deceptively simple. Definitely not informed so much by the trendy psychedelic rock wave of recent years. This Hi-Dive show is sold out but there is another day the next night in Boulder at The Fox Theatre.

Who: Sharon Van Etten w/Nilüfer Yanya
When: Monday, 02.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Sharon Van Etten has been releasing worthwhile and wise records for close to a decade and a half now but her 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow is her best work to date. The rough warble reminiscent of Marianne Faithful in her prime heard in “Seventeen” is thrillingly raw and the words imbued with a deeply painful letting go of ideas and associations once deep in one’s heart but no longer useful while the ghosts of those connections remain. But the whole record is flowing with the spirits of loves past and the album a gentle purging and reconciliation.

Tuesday | February 19, 2019

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Men I Trust circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Kikagaku Moyo w/Weeed and Ashley Koett
When: Tuesday, 02.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: See above for the 2.18 Hi-Dive show entry for more information on Kikagaku Moyo.

Who: Men I Trust w/Michael Seyer
When: Tuesday, 02.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some.

Wednesday | February 20, 2019

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Alien Boy, photo by Sam Gehrke

Who: Sundressed, Awakebutstillinbed, Alien Boy and Sunsleeper
When: Wednesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Around the turn of the century pop punk had all but burned out any appeal to anyone but the most die hard fans because it seemed like every other band was still mining that musical territory hoping to play Warped Tour. But then that tide went out. Toward the end of the first decade of the 2000s some musicians in the punk world embraced melody in their songwriting and the relatable and emotionally resonant and urgent quality that the best pop punk and emo had. In the decade since there’s been a renaissance of that style of music but with musicians freely incorporating elements of other musical styles and ideas. This is a good showcase of that development now long since established. Alien Boy, however, has strayed the furthest from the sonics of punk canon and thus, for this writer, it is the most interesting band on the bill with its unabashed use of moody musical ideas from punk, shoegaze, post-punk and its own focus on the most poignant moments of their lives as a loci of inspiration. The band’s 2018 album Sleeping Lessons firmly established it as one of the most interesting punk bands of recent years. Awakebutstillinbed’s crackling and ragged energy also sounds promising for the performance like a less art/space rock Rainer Maria. It’s gloriously titled 2018 album what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you is the things of which modern emo legends are made.

Best Shows in Denver 2/7/19 – 2/13/19

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Gang of Four performs at Globe Hall w/Plume Varia on February 11. Photo by DJ Markham

Thursday | February 7, 2019

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Hockey Dad, photo by Joseph Crackett

Who: Hockey Dad w/Hunny
When: Thursday, 02.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Australia is not the first place one thinks of when it comes to hockey but New South Wales has ski resorts so maybe the name of the band Hockey Dad, from Windang, isn’t as cheeky as seems but it’s a surf rock band so kudos. But Hockey Dad grew up surfing and skating so it’s sound reflects the spirit of that lifestyle more so than simply falling into trendy sound. With Hockey Dad think more like The Saints gone power pop.

Who: A Light Among Many, Kenaima, URN. and Giardia
When: Thursday, 02.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A Light Among Many is heavy drone drenched in the primal spirits of the local landscape. URN includes former members of Skully Mammoth and thus doom with a sense of humor yet somehow still gritty and epic. Kenaima sounds a collision of Converge-esque post-hardcore and thrash. Giardia is pushing the envelope of heavy music by finding the sweet spot where drone-y bass, saturated synth work, jazz-inflected drums and weirdo prog intersect.

Friday | February 8, 2019

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Marcus Church, photo by Claudia Woodman

Who: Marcus Church EP release w/Kali Krone, Artless Bravado and Sweetness Itself
When: Friday, 02.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Dustin Habel has been grinding away writing songs since at least the mid-2000s. Under the moniker Marcus Church he’s done solo work, playing all the instruments and recording the songs, as well as in collaboration with a small circle of bandmates. The prolific songwriter has perhaps not garnered the recognition he deserves for his lo-fi, Dinosaur Jr/Yo La Tengo-esque compositions, but the project’s latest effort, the Marcus F. Church EP, has a touch of jangle like something Mitch Easter might take an interest in producing—introspective and warm but upbeat. The band has been a trio for a bit now and tonight you can catch the new set of songs, as well as choice cuts from Habel’s catalog, live.

Who: Gun Street Ghost with The Regular, The Threadbarons and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Mike Perfetti has been involved in many of Denver’s most interesting bands for going on two decades in his capacity as a bassist, drummer and guitarist. But with Gun Street Ghost Perfetti gets to share his gift for storytelling. Perfetti orchestrates the details of the story and the essence of the people in them with a masterful hand with the help of his talented bandmates. It’s been some time since Gun Street Ghost has put out a record but in the live setting you’ll likely get a taste of the new material and with any luck 2019 will see the release of the group’s full-length.

Who: Sonorous: Gregg Ziemba, Alex Trujillo, Joshua Trinidad
When: Friday, 02.08, 6 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This is a dinnertime show from some of Denver’s most talented practitioners of jazz and experimental music including Gregg Ziemba and Alex Trujillo of Rubedo and Joshua Trinidad whose free jazz band Cougar Legs and psychedelic fusion project GoStar have showcased his prodigious talent. Trinidad and Ziemba also perform in Wheelchair Sports Camp. Heavy hitters.

Who: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers, Muscle Beach, SPELLS
When: Friday, 02.08, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bud Bronson & The Good Timers are one of the few reliably great and spirited straight forward rock and roll bands anywhere. A touch of punk but BBTGT aren’t trying to be limited by subgenre. Muscle Beach is impossible to simply call post-hardcore or post-metal or even noise rock but are an inspired distillation of all three. SPELLS is a C+ party punk band but they really work for that C+ and are more fun than many B+ punk acts. They’re no Refused but who is?

Saturday | February 9, 2019

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Don Chicharrón, photo by Spencer Higbee

Who: Don Chicharrón album release w/Los Mocochetes, High Plains Honky and DJ A-Train
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Don Chicharrón is a band whose blend of chicha (Peruvian cumbia with roots in popular music of the 1960s and 1970s that incorporated psychedelic rock and Andean folk music), metal, spaghetti Western and other musical forms is lively and fluid for a group of nine people who come from disparate musical backgrounds. Anyone that has been able to catch the group live knows it’s musicianship is expertly integrated so it never feels like anyone is doing too much at once. The group’s debut, self-titled full-length will be available at this show and its expansive compositions sound like the soundtrack to the Love and Rockets comic series in its multi-cultural aesthetic and ineffable sense of the futuristic.

Who: An Evening With Nels Cline 4
When: Saturday, 02.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s
Why: Nels Cline has been involved in more noteworthy music than any modern human has any right to claim including turns with Geraldine Fibbers, Wilco and John Zorn. This is one of his experimental jazz groups so expect plenty of left field improv.

Who: Esmé Patterson and band play the Songs of Prince from Sign O’ The Times w/Acuna Black and CRL CRRL
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Esmé Patterson brings together a group of ace players and collaborators to perform songs from Prince’s 1987 masterpiece Sign O’ The Times, which is entire apropos for the times we’re in now.

Who: Alphabet Soup #40: Felix Fast4ward, Furbie Cakes, MYTHirst, Yung Lurch and Dashwoo
When: Saturday, 02.09, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: This is the latest edition of Alphabet Soup, a showcase for some of the most forward thinking and innovative producers and soundscapers in Denver. The event used to take place mostly at Deerpile but with the demise of that performance space the event has been moved to other venues including tonight at Thought//Forms gallery.

Sunday | February 10, 2019

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Pedro the Lion, photo by Ryan Russell

Who: Pedro the Lion w/Tomberlin
When: Sunday, 02.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Phoenix is more than just a clever title for the first Pedro the Lion record in fifteen years. David Bazan spent years touring as a more or less solo act and releasing a series of acclaimed records. But like most artists he hit a wall at some point and in 2016 he got to the place of a low point crossroads. Two years later he was writing and recording songs that made sense for Pedro the Lion with words of reinvention, rediscovery, reclamation and embrace of the spirit of one’s past self and past creations that helped to define the person you are now. While personal to Bazan and his bandmates, one thing Bazan has been able to do as a songwriter is to write material that transcends the personal, transcends any faith or philosophical orientation that informs it and to articulate with sensitivity and kindness the struggles and pain everyone seems to experience.

Monday | February 11, 2019

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Plume Varia performs Friday, 7/27 at Gary Lee’s. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gang of Four w/Plume Varia
When: Monday, 02.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Four is the influential post-punk band that perfectly combined punk with disco and a sharp cultural critique that took aim at more universal issues in Western and global culture of the 1970s onward. After all, the band named itself after a Chinese political cabal involved in the Cultural Revolution. The first three Gang of Four albums (1979’s Entertainment!, Solid Gold from 1981 and Songs of the Free released in 1982) were a blueprint for 90s and 2000s dance punk as well as a direct influence on Red Hot Chili Peppers from the beginning (GOF guitarist, and sole original member, Andy Gill produced the 1984 self-titled debut from RHCP). But few of the band’s descendants could match Gang of Four in its intensity, sonic inventiveness much less socio-critical acumen. The band’s latest album, with its current line up, is HAPPY NOW released in 2019 via PledgeMusic. A little more topical than usual, naming, presumably, Ivanka Trump in a song, Gang of Four hasn’t exactly taken the gloves off. Opening the show is Denver-based downtempo dream pop duo Plume Varia performing one of its now rare shows.

Wednesday | February 13, 2019

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Glissline, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: SMRT, Big J. Beats, Glissline, Escapism
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Glissline is Tommy Metz who has been releasing gorgeously lush, brightly melodic, beat-driven IDM for more than a decade. As Glissline, Metz has been melding visual elements with his musical compositions for a multi-sensory experience including a well-crafted low end. It’s dance music for dreaming. Big J. Beats is a producer whose work is most often, and justifiably so, associated with hip-hop but his imaginative soundscaping transcends genre completely which is why he is one of the Mile High City’s greatest beat makers.

Who: Richard Thompson Electric Trio w/Ryley Walker
When: Wednesday, 02.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Richard Thompson was one of the leading lights of influential folk project Fairport Convention. He also played guitar on the first two Nick Drake albums. From the 1970s onward, Thompson has created a body of work that should be more well-known outside folk circles with brilliant rock and pop songs. There is also his prodigious work as a collaborator and contributor to other people’s recordings. His final album as the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson, 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights is a masterpiece of folk rock. Following the tour for that record the Thompsons split and Richard went on to a critically acclaimed and prolific solo career as well. As the name of the group suggests, this will be a showcase of Thompson’s electric music rather than the acoustic songs, though you never know, maybe Thompson will bring in some of his classic material written originally for acoustic but reconfigured for the electric trio. In 2018 Thompson released the dark and moody 13 Rivers.

Best Shows in Denver 1/31/19 – 2/6/19

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Bert Olsen performs at 3 Kings Tavern on February 1. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 31, 2019

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Stereoshifter, Denver Meatpacking Company and I’m a Boy
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Alternative blues rock, second wave grunge and flamboyant, emotionally charged rock and roll with an ear for classic glam and the future.

Who: Starjammer – Empire of the Mantis
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden brings his visionary multi-media, multi-instrumental one-man band to 3 Kings to demonstrate that “Avant Garde/Dub-Reggae” is not some kooky gimmick but an evolving futuristic music that is truly a synthesis of deeply experimental improvisational music and the production style that enhances a broad spectrum of sonic frequency, textures and rhythm.

Who: Endless, Nameless, Honey and Salt, Obtuse, Admiral and more
When: Thursday, 01.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Kind of a math rock show with Obtuse who certainly draw on 90s and 2000s math rock for some of the inspiration but is thankfully more focused on the emotional possibilities when you don’t get tripped up on the time signatures and precision but use those as needed to express the raw nerves of a generation that late capitalism is trying to toss in the dumpster but not without some very articulate resistance.

Friday | February 1, 2019

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Broncho, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Maemyth, Galleries, Bert Olsen and matherial
When: Friday, 02.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: All the other bands on the bill are worth your time. But Bert Olsen, not named after anyone in the band, makes the kind of punk that is atmospheric, probably inspired in part by The Cure and early Christian Death, noisy and vividly emotional and not trapped by the need to sound like another era of punk. Bert Olsen is charting its own path and Hunter Wood’s vocals are both melodic and demonstrating a willingness to crack and distort to fit the mood of the moment. More rock music in general would benefit from such instincts but a lot of it is self-tamed and conditioned, traditionalist stuff.

Who: Broncho w/Pinky Pinky
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Too many artists and “comedians” have ruined irony for probably another generation by abusing its possibilities and basically by not being ironic, just wannabe surrealistic and too much of a broken person’s public diary presented as entertainment. Broncho didn’t fail in its employment of irony by making sardonic yet sincere commentary on American culture and life. When singer/guitarist Ryan Lindsey was in The Starlight Mints he injected some color into the tail end of the wave of indiepop that emerged in the early 90s. With Broncho it’s more rock but out of step with the tendency of a lot of modern rock music to be trapped entirely too much in past decades. The band’s latest record is 2018’s Bad Behavior.

Who: King Eddie, Briffaut and BabyBaby
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: King Eddie began as something of a fairly predictable psychedelic rock band but by that time and the release of its 2017 album it completely refined and reinvented itself into one of the most interesting and creative bands in that realm of music. Briffaut is sort of freak folk, psychedelic indie rock but sounds like it was made by people who cut themselves off from outside influences for half a decade or more. Because of that, it’s music is always interesting and left-field.

Who: Dry Ice, Slugger, Satellite Pilot, Rose Variety and Ludoesmusic
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Apparently Dry Ice is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. If it’s album 2018 Technicolor Yawning is any indication it sounds like the product of suburban boredom and thus this far into the band’s career means it’s sort of all over the place style-wise but that also means its not locked into being a particular genre and its eclectic quality yields some interesting material that might not have been possible had its members been channeled into a particular local scene. Slugger makes a case for garage and psychedelic rock inspired by classic rock not being totally played out.

Who: Boldtype, The Gamits, Reno Divorce and No Bueno
When: Friday, 02.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Manuel Lopez was the passionate and affable drummer of Boldtype who recently passed away. This is a benefit show for his daughters and will include performances by his band as well as some of the best local punk rock bands that came up at the same time his group was coming into its own.

Saturday | February 2, 2019

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Mozes and the Firstborn, photo by Nick Helderman

Who: The Parrots + Mozes and The Firstborn, Billy Changer, Super Bummer
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Mozes and The Firstborn from Eindhoven, The Netherlands came up during the peak of the 2010’s garage rock revival and toured internationally relatively early on its career. The band was always a little different from the other garage rock bands of that period because its sound was closer to power pop and its musicianship and songwriting had some uncommon refinement. In 2019 the group released its latest record Dadcore. To be fair, the band doesn’t sound like dadcore so much as its the typically Dutch dry, self-effacing and layered commentary on the cultural phenomenon and its own hearkening back to classic songwriting and what some may see as the quaint notion of guitar rock in the twenty-first century.

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Sunk Cost, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: GNO, Calambre, Sunk Cost, Kid Mask, Flesh Buzzard, Corgi Commander
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: A kind of harsh noise and harsh sounds show with some of most interesting artists operating in that mode in Colorado right now.

Who: The Pamlico Sound, Queens of the Galaxy and The Jessicas
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Pamlico Sound is a funk band lead by Will Baumgartner who went to Woodstock as a kid and who has been involved in the 80s No Wave movement as well as some of the more unexpectedly inventive and imaginative jam and funk bands from Colorado over the past two decades. It’s a spectacle and highly entertaining as Baumgartner is an engaging and unconventionally charismatic performer.

Monday | February 4, 2019

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Ron Gallo, photo by Chiara Danzieri

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Monday, 02.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ron Gallo is from Philadelphia but his solo work sounds like he spent some time in 1970s New York in the early punk scene with a wiry energy. Of course if psychedelic garage rock hadn’t happened his 2018 record Stardust Birthday Party wouldn’t have sounded like a bit like a manic Sparks. Whatever the touchstones might be, Gallo is one of the most dynamic rock musicians of the current era. Perhaps co-headlining is the psychedelic prog band Post Animal whose own spirited performances transcend any specific genre of music.

Tuesday | February 5, 2019

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Post Animal, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: See above on 02.04 for Ron Gallo and Post Animal.

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Yoke Lore, photo by Wes and Alex

Who: Yoke Lore w/LP
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Adrian Galvin was once a member of synth-heavy indie pop band Walk the Moon before going solo a few years back. His work under the name Yoke Lore is decidedly different from Walk the Moon in having softer edges while showcasing Galvin’s inventive use of layered sound in his songwriting with bright synths accenting his vocals with an evocative flair. He is currently touring in the wake of the release of his 2018 EP Goodpain as an opener for R&B-inflected indie pop songwriter LP.

Wednesday | February 6, 2019

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The Drood circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: The Diablo Montalban Experience, The Drood and Claudzilla
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 9 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Weird Wednesday is as suggested by the name quite a bit this time around with keytar rock sorceress Claudzilla, experimental pop/psych band The Diablo Montalban Experience and The Drood. The latter often performs in costumes that look like a cross between anti-hero crusaders for cosmic justice and occult ritualists with music that fans of Legendary Pink Dots may find very much to their liking.

Who: P.O.S. w/Calm. and DJ Fundo
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: P.O.S. is the Minneapolis-based rapper whose talents and range as an artist go far beyond including his masterful production on his own work as well as his musicianship in other bands including Gayngs, Marijuana Deathsquads and many others. He’s in good company with his sonically adventurous beats paired with Denver’s Calm., a duo comprised of Time and Awareness whose literate and incisive raps and deeply atmospheric production is always surprisingly impactful. Their latest release, 2018’s Things I Learned While Dying in Denver is one of the most sharply critical yet hopefully albums of the past few years.

Q&A: Hackedepicciotto

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hackedepicciotto performs January 30 with DBUK at Lost Lake. Photo by Sylvia Steinhäuser

Hackedepicciotto is an avant-garde, multimedia project formed out of the collaboration between Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto. Hacke is the bassist and one of the sound designers in influential industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten and de Picciotto is an internationally renowned author and musician in her own right as well as a co-founder of the now defunct electronic music festival the Love Parade in Berlin. Their work in various projects across the past few decades has been rich, diverse and prolific. As Hackedepicciotto the duo has produced a body of work that explores the ways in which what some call late capitalism and its fallout with widespread gentrification in cities and the consequences for those who have carved a niche as creative people and those who are drawn to doing so.

De Picciotto wrote a remarkable graphic novel published in Europe in 2013 and in the USA in 2015 called We Are Gypsies Now in which she outlines how she and her husband, Hacke, came to realize they were basically being priced out of their longtime home of Berlin and how it was becoming a city that was increasingly losing some of its character, of decades if not centuries, as a place generally open to and welcoming creative types and lateral thinkers of all stripes. That realization inspired the couple to travel around where they could perform in search of a new place to call home. In the end, as you will read below, de Picciotto and Hacke came to some conclusions about the state of the world and their hometown. That subject and their discoveries since have been the subject of at least two albums, 2016’s Perseverantia and 2017’s Menetekel. A powerful expression of despair can be felt throughout both albums but in the end, Hackedepicciotto believe not the platitude that things will all work out but that hope for making a better future is not a naive concept. We interviewed Hackedepicciotto via email in 2018 following their 2017 tour of North America.

Queen City Sounds: How did you come to record Perseverantia in the Mojave desert? Is there anything about that setting or the circumstances of being there then that inspired documenting your travels up to that point?

Danielle: We have been traveling art nomads for over seven years now and at one point we ended up in Joshua Tree. I fell in love with the starkness of the desert. It is incredibly inspiring because it brings you back to life’s basics so we recorded not only “Perseverantia” there but I also recorded my solo album “Tacoma” during the same time period. I would have loved moving there immediately but Alexander does not have a drivers license which would have made it difficult for him to move around freely and it is very far from Europe where we do need to be quite often so we decided to put it on hold for the time being. I still do have the dream of owning a small cottage there to retreat whenever possible.

Alexander: The desert is vibrating with energy. You might say that it’s a barren and lifeless landscape, but it really is radiant with life. There’s hundreds of plants and creatures within every square inch. Also there’s no apparent boundary, few geographical features blocking your view. All of that does have a very inspiring effect and gave us the opportunity to look at our work from a different angle. We gave up traditional song structures and arrangements thankfully due to those surroundings.

QCS: What seemed like the most likely places to find a sanctuary for creative types as you had in Berlin in the 80s and to some extent in the 90s? What ultimately made those places not quite what you were looking for?

Danielle: Joshua Tree and the Hudson Valley both seemed like the perfect places because they are not overpriced yet, have a great artists community and are beautiful nature-wise. Hudson Valley was basically the decision we made after five years of contemplation. In the end effect we did not move there for two reasons: 1) we were originally invited to do an artists residency in a private art space there for a year and had planned to use that as a starting point from where we could look for work and connections. After we told the curator that we would accept his offer he informed us that as we had stopped drinking his invitation was not open anymore as that would bother him whilst drinking. (!) The art residency was obviously a very unprofessional one and we are happy it did not go through but it did shock us to be confronted in such a manner on something we were rather proud of having achieved so we started looking around once more when 2) the elections happened. That was the second shock which brought us back to Berlin to try and understand what is happening in the world at the moment.

Alexander: Well, ultimately we didn’t manage to discover a place, a city or a community that would live up to the West-Berlin standards and we realized that it would be silly to even try looking for that. Instead it is imperative to understand what “[survival of the fittest” really means, because it is not about strength, or appetite or ambition, it’s about being able to adapt, so we should all let go of the romanticized, sentimental and awfully nostalgic notion that anything could be the way it once was again and rather try to make things happen in any given place. Not being twenty anymore sort of reduces the options though, of what I am willing to invest myself into.

QCS: What circumstances do you think made Berlin such a great place as a sanctuary for artists? How might such a situation be attained now even given the dire state of the world?

Alexander: Not only were we perfectly secluded from the rest of the west, the special status of our elitist little village informed the selection of people, who would go there. You wouldn’t be drafted into the [mandatory] year of military service if you were a registered citizen of West-Berlin, so all the freaks who’d have a problem with the system represented by the army and whatnot, could safely realize their personal utopia there and because of the presence of the allied forces stationed by the winner nations of the Second World War, we had quite a good connection to what was happening abroad internationally, in London, New York and Paris to some extent, if you will.

Danielle: In the 80s Berlin was an island which was completely subsidized because of being an island within cold war communism. That meant that everything was very cheap and money was not an issue. You could work in a cafe two times a week and pay your rent and food from that so art and music were not done with commercial interest in mind. This brought about that Berlin became a madcap laboratory of unusual sounds, ideas and experiments which would nourish creativity all over the world. Personally I think that this is the key to being able to live a healthy, humane life and make oneself free of our insane world: find a place to live which is cheap and spend your time not trying to earn money but to do things that really mean something.

QCS: Have you found havens to stay while you travel? How has being on the move regularly now impacted the legal aspects of being able to travel and other mundane matters most people take for granted?

Danielle: We have many homes now and they are mainly influenced by our friends. We have discovered that the saying “home is where the heart is” is true and that the heart is mainly there where one has good friends. Because of traveling so much we have met incredible people all over the world and those havens are places that give us strength and hope. We try to travel to their cities regularly to create a net connecting all of them with like minded people and in this way spread the strength that we receive.

Alexander: I used to enjoy air travel a lot more than I do now with all those security and luggage regulations “The Man” is imposing on us. What equipment we are able to bring and what not is having considerable impact on our work. That is maybe a good thing, because we have to calculate and re-adjust the weight and efficiency of every detail in our cases over and over. We travel with a scale and make sure that all our checked luggage is maxed out.

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Hackedepicciotto, We Are Gypsies Now tour 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

QCS: Why do you feel times have changed and it seems more like a dog eat dog world? That makes it sound like you gave up on the idea of finding a sanctuary like Berlin used to be. Have you?

Alexander: I am grateful to still be able to make a living with music. We are doing pretty well in comparison to almost every other profession. I do really cherish to get to put my energy into creating something meaningful, rather than having to do some kind of slave labor or, even worse, to get paid for being a heart-[less] and soulless corporate prick, in order to pay the fucking rent. And yes, thank God for our wonderful friends who have our backs.

Danielle: Negative news is everywhere and reading it all the time can be very depressing. But there are very many positive things happening all the time and it is important to concentrate on them and give them your support. It just takes more time to find out about them—I try to keep my Facebook page free of negative news and post as much positive news as possible to prove this. There are a lot of small communities getting together everywhere, in the US and Europe, connecting people that are environmentally aware and that actively work on changing things. These communities are incredibly inspiring and one can either join them or learn from what they do and try to integrate this into daily life. All of them are as inspiring as Berlin used to be but in different ways. Berlin’s most creative times were in the 80s and 90s which is now quite some time ago and it would not make sense to turn back time. The world has changed and we need to look into the future not into the past.

QCS: When you speak of displaced people, the thousands of homeless souls you speak of in your press release, what is the essence of what you think many of us have lost in the wake of what made Berlin unaffordable in the way it used to be but also many other cities in the world where creativity found a home?

Danielle: Society has become corrupted. We all seem to believe that what the companies want us to think and we need to become free of this because it is not only killing our health but also our souls.

Alexander: Change, transcendence and reform [are] imperative for the survival of mankind. Luckily it can’t be avoided and will happen anyway no matter how hard reactionaries will cling to their valuables. You have to start with yourself and try not to be too frustrated with the ridiculous amount of time it seems to take for everyone else to get into it.

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Hackedepicciotto, Menetekel tour 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

QCS: The word “Menetekel” means “the writing on the wall” and I take that to mean that what was happening to the creative community and the social and physical infrastructure that made a creative life a viable option and possible to thrive is now happening to everyone. That is to say, in our capitalistic world where rampant greed is the only protected value, creative work is not valued and seen as a luxury and thus more or less the first thing to go, to be sacrificed. My melodramatic language aside, what made the collective despair of the world seem like particularly fruitful material for your new record?

Danielle: When we record it happens instinctively and we were quite surprised how dark some of our tunes had become. It is always interesting to record first and then speak about what happened because that way you can see what your subconscious is saying. Here in Berlin we work in an area that is very poor and in which a lot of refugees are put. Their collective despair can be felt palpably, being displaced is terrible. Living in a country after having lost your family, your job, your home only to arrive somewhere where you are considered a subhuman, cannot speak the language and have almost no prospects besides being alive is unimaginable for anybody that has not experienced it. I think we felt a lot of this despair besides the feeling of homelessness we felt whilst traveling ourselves. When you travel a lot you can experience transcontinental shifts on a one to one daily basis and our world is changing at a breakneck speed. Most people do not think it will affect them because they refuse to see the writing on the wall and go on numbing their minds with fatty foods, alcohol and non stop media. If people do not wake up it will soon be too late.

Alexander: Menetekel is about waking up to the reality of our condition.The reference to the word as it is used expressing impending doom in German, is a biblical story found in the book of Daniel, chapter five.

QCS: Obviously the dark intensity of the album matches the subject matter. How does performing this music along with your visuals affect you revisiting the music and channeling that kind of vibe?

Danielle: It makes me want to find as many ways as possible to help change things to a brighter future.

Alexander: Ideally we create with the vibrations of our music and Danielle’s imagery (if we have it) a bond between the audience and us, the performers. By sharing the moment together in the given venue, we get to connect and experience reality as a unit, a community. Separation is an illusion and with our art we try to overcome that false view of the world.

QCS: The final song is “Crossroad.” What kind of crossroad do you feel humanity and human culture may be at this time? What do you see as possible paths that seem likely before us?

Danielle: I think that people have to realize that they cannot wait for others to save us. We are the others. Every single person is responsible to make change possible. As we can see with elections: every body that does not vote makes evil possible.

Alexander: Know thyself. Stop buying into consumerism. Quit drinking and go vegan. Meditate. That’s a start.

Best Shows in Denver 1/24/19 – 1/30/19

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hackedepicciotto performs January 30 with DBUK at Lost Lake. Photo by Sylvia Steinhäuser

Thursday | January 24, 2019

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant w/Dead Pay Rent, Mr. Atomic
When: Thursday, 01.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Meet the Giant, perhaps unintentionally, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps entirely by plan, has drawn on both 80s and 90s sounds at a time when the various aesthetics of those decades are firmly back in vogue. Downtempo, brooding post-punk, the rhythms of sample-driven composition and emotionally rich vocals make for a band that sounds instantly like something beyond having an appeal to nostalgia while drawing on a hint of that. The group spent nearly a decade honing its songcraft and chemistry as a unit and more than a small amount of the intimacy that comes out of such extended wood shedding comes through in the music like you’re getting to experience that connection that friends have who can share much with each other and be real. Many bands put on some kind of ego-driven facade fueled by a kind of borrowed rock and roll myth bravado. Meet the Giant comes about its rock and roll power honestly and with tender emotions laid bare, which is always more compelling than tough guy strutting any day of the week. Do yourself a favor and see them or at least check out their remarkable 2018 self-titled debut.

Who: DSTR, eHpH, Cutworm
When: Thursday, 01.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: DSTR is Destroid, a project of Daniel Meyer who some may know more for his work as half of influential EBM band Haujobb. Distorted vocals, imaginative soundscaping, strong, pulsing beats and menacing, glitch-hazed atmospherics. Denver’s eHpH has been making an interesting hybrid of industrial rock and dark EBM of their own but refreshingly unlike any of their peers in the Mile High City. Cutworm is a bit of a left field choice for a bill like this if its 2018 Swallow EP is any indication with its sound being unfruitful in placing in a particular genre box. Its sounds range from modern downtempo darkwave to especially beautifully moody IDM. Live, though, Cutworm definitely brings the industrial edge into the production.

Friday | January 25, 2019

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Klaus Dafoe, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Red Tack, George Cessna and Blindrunner
When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Red Tack is the solo, somewhat weirdo singer-songwriter project of Ted Thacker who should be remembered widely for being in 90s alternative rock band Baldo Rex and later as a member of indiepop band Veronica. Whatever his pedigree, Thacker has remained one of Denver’s most interesting songwriters and personalities. George Cessna is the son of Slim Cessna of Auto Club fame. The younger Cessna’s own work is both not too surprising considering his father’s legendary musical legacy but he is far from a carbon copy and his use of raw sound and atmosphere in his recordings and his wide ranging musical style in a broader realm of Americana and weirdo folk is noteworthy on its own merits.

Who: faim (record release), Line Brawl, Euth, Moral Law and Targets
When: Friday, 01.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Hardcore band faim is releasing its latest seven inch through Convulse Records and celebrating the occasion with a few of Denver’s and Wyoming’s best hardcore acts.

Who: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2
When: Friday, 01.25, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Tobe Hooper passed away in 2017 leaving behind a legacy of unusual and influential films beginning, in terms of impact, with 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie so graphically violent and darkly disturbing for the time, because it felt more like a documentary than the mostly tame horror cinema up to its release. In 1986 he released the sequel as a horrifying kind of parody. Between that, the 1982 Poltergeist film, 1985’s space vampire spectacle Lifeforce and numerous other films, Hooper’s unique cinematic vision will be celebrated for years to come including this month-long or so series hosted by Theresa Mercado kicking off this night on the director’s birthday.

Who: Flaural, Panther Martin and The Eye & The Arrow
When: Friday, 01.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The kind of line up you want to see more often in the realm of indie rock with Flaurel’s psychedelic pop, Panther Martin’s visionary lo-fi rock and The Eye & The Arrow’s re-working of Americana into something we’re not hearing ad infinitum on playlists and radio stations with a fairly vanilla stream of content.

Who: Klaus Dafoe, New Standards Men and Simulators
When: Friday, 01.25, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Klaus Dafoe seems to be a sort of instrumental rebirth of late 90s to mid-2000s indie math rock but deconstructed to be more fractured and potentially more interesting than some of the bands mining that neo-mathcore/emo sound of late. Simulators are the kind of post-punk that carves out the overtly atmospheric quality for stark contrasts of tone and angular rhythms that somehow still flow without getting splintery and yet, despite that intentional minimalism, bursting with Bryon Parker’s raw emotional vocals.

Saturday | January 26, 2019

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Hippo Campus w/Now Now
When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m.
Where: The Ogden
Why: Hippo Campus has been writing finely crafted pop songs since its early days and challenging itself to make each record reflect not just personal and creative growth, qualities you’d want in any band worth your continued attention, but an evolving approach to larger cultural narratives. The group’s 2018 album Bambi offers no pat answers or platitudes. It is a record brimming with questions instead of the instant opinion/instant expert tendency that permeates our culture from the way people interact and present themselves on social media and how one must conduct oneself in various contexts lest one be thought indecisive rather than recognizing and learning to identify nuance—not in a way to placate all sides but in order to avoid the hubris of being unaware of one’s own limitations of knowledge and comprehension. It can be enjoyed as just a solid pop album but there’s a great deal of dimensionality and content for anyone wanting to listen deeper.

Who: A Celebration of 1/26 with Weird Al Qaida, Gregory Ego and Mermalair
When: Saturday, 01.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Weird Al Quaida is an avant-garde punk/noise/psychedelic band from Denver that doesn’t perform often. Definitely for fans of the more rock end of Sun City Girls.

Who: Space Jail, Snaggletoothe and Claudzilla
When: Saturday, 01.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Space Jail might be described as a psychedelic synth band. Snaggletoothe as psych prog. Claudzilla as a one-person keytar rock weirdo extravaganza. All in likely the only venue in Aurora where you might see music anywhere within he realm of these bands.

Who: Soulless Maneater, Sliver, Endless Nameless, Fox Moses, Equine
When: Saturday, 01.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Soulless Maneater is somewhere between the best death rock band in Denver and a moodily creepy doom band. Sliver is “Diet Nirvana.” Fox Moses sounds like a gloomier neo-grunge band and all the better for that. Endless Nameless sounds like a hybrid of math rock, shoegaze and post-rock—not that those are mutually exclusive concepts. Equine is the avant-guitar and synth solo project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater guitarist Kevin Richards.

Sunday | January 27, 2019

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Sumac, photo by Anne Godoneo

Who: Sumac, Divide and Dissolve, Tashi Dorij
When: Sunday, 01.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Aaron Turner’s guitar work and songwriting in partnership with fellow musicians has helped to define some of the boundaries of the more experimental, heavy music. As the leader of Hydra Head Records he also encouraged the development of that music throughout the 90s and 2000s. As a member of Isis, Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer, to name a few projects, Turner has crafted consistently interesting material that is undeniably within the realm of metal but with an ear for abstracting sounds into noise and then back together into coherent expressions of emotion outside the realm of standard songwriting in the genre. With Sumac this may be especially so in particular the band’s 2018 album Love In Shadow where the trio takes the concept of love at its most primordial level pre-marketing device, pre-narrowing the concept down to a relatively trite, or at least limited, word casually thrown around. Also on this tour is Bhutanese guitarist Tashi Dorij whose noisescapes could be considered loosely as avant-garde but also seem to contain a kind of personal ritualistic expression. See his own 2018 album gàng lu khau chap ‘mi gera gi she an example of the sorts of music you’re in for during his set. Since Dorij and Turner have collaborated on at least one record maybe you’ll get to see some of that this night as well.

Tuesday | January 29, 2019

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The Maykit circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nadia Bolz-Weber – The Shameless Book Tour
When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover — Colfax
Why: Nadia Bolz-Weber is the activist and Lutheran pastor whose 2014 memoir Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner & saint traced her personal growth from a kind of bohemian comedian to sober theology student and pastor. The book, brimming with irreverent humor and sarcasm as well as plenty of illuminating insights into human psychology, whether you’re Christian or not, struck a chord with a fairly sizable audience. In humanizing challenges many people face, Bolz-Weber made a good case for how we can embrace an expanded sense of our own best selves. In July 2018 left her pastoship of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. Now she is releasing her new book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. As a candid reexamination of “patriarchy, sex, and power” (from the Tattered Cover website), Bolz-Weber will likely further cement her reputation as something of a refreshingly maverick religious thinker and writer.

Who: Big Paleo album release w/Places Back Home, The Maykit and Quentin
When: Tuesday, 01.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Denver-based math rock Big Paleo is releasing its, presumably, debut album. One of the opening bands, The Maykit, may not be math rock but its intricate musicianship and songwriting and Max Winne’s indisputably sincere vocal delivery will be a standout of the evening.

Wednesday | January 30, 2019

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Mallrat, photo by Michelle Pitris

Who: Gnash w/Mallrat and Guardin
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Mallrat is Grace Shaw from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Since high school, Shaw has been writing sophisticated pop songs that bring together elements of electronic dance production, hip-hop style beats and the informal structure of modern indie rock—really an ideal synthesis and vehicle for expressing one’s ideas with nuance but a direct emotional quality. Her 2018 EP In The Sky is an interesting blend of contrasts: dusky atmospherics speckled with bright highlights, onomatopoeic cadences and vivid lyrics and soaring, saturated melodies dissolving into introspective minimalism. Headlining the show is Gnash, aka Garrett Nash, who released his debut full-length We on January 11, 2019. Nash made waves with his early breakup EPs and his far better than average beat-driven R&B.

Who: Hackedepicciotto w/DBUK
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hackedepicciotto is a multi-media, experimental music duo comprised of Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke. De Picciotto was one of the founders of the long-running electronic music festival The Love Parade in Berlin. The festival was initiated as celebration of innovative electronic music but also as a subversive kind of demonstration for peace through love and music. Hacke is the bassist for influential industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. The aforementioned couldn’t completely encompass either artist’s work, output and collaborations and it would be worthwhile to explore their work in depth. But with this project the two bring together a set of skills in composition, performance, film making and storytelling. The word “immersive” gets thrown around a lot these days but it definitely applies to a Hackedepicciotto show. It isn’t just that the sound design and visuals and songwriting are striking, they are, it’s also because before it quite became a widely articulated phenomenon, de Picciotto, in her 2013/2015 graphic novel We Are Gypsies now vividly and powerfully captured what it’s like to be noteworthy, internationally renowned artists have to uproot from one’s home and home city of decades due to gentrification. Then, as explored in further detail on the 2016 album Perserverantia and 2017’s Menetekel how the way the world economy functions now globally has not only all but dismantled the way independent artists and not-so-independent artists can live, function and thrive. The albums alone are worthwhile experiences in the listening but the live show is where you truly get to experience a deep emotional manifestation of faith and hope nearly crushed by despair at the state of things supported by a drive to seek what must be better over the horizon. There is no naivete to the work, de Picciotto and Hacke both know they can never really regain what they once had, but a reminder that one’s compulsion to pursue one’s life work can be a beacon through difficult times. The duo’s latest release is the 2018 meditation soundtrack Joy.

Who: The Pink Spiders w/Television Generation and Smile Victoria
When: Wednesday, 01.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Pink Spiders are a power pop band from Nashville who had a minor hit in 2006 with “Little Razorblade” from their Ric Ocasek-produced album Teenage Graffiti. Smile Victoria sounds like it’s still wearing its Pixies and others 90s alternative music fairly freshly. But not in the neo-grunge kind of way as the trio has more atmosphere and melody than some of its peers tapping into the same era. Television Generation somehow perfectly blends grunge with power pop without sounding like Nirvana or like Cheap Trick gone metal. Is there a bit of sonic DNA in there out of Love Battery and Buzzcocks? Probably but live the band has plenty of grit and emotional darkness to keep it from ever feeling derivative.

Best Shows in Denver 01/18/19 – 01/23/19

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Cursive performs January 18 at The Bluebird Theater and January 19 at The Fox Theatre. Photo by JP Davis

Friday | January 18, 2019

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The Crystal Method, photo by Chapman Baehler

Who: The Crystal Method w/Yoko b2b iAM_Jacko and Skeena
When: Friday, 01.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: In the 90s The Crystal Method blurred any boundaries that may have existed between various subgenres of electronic music of the time. Rather than specialists, The Crystal Method freely experimented with forms, styles and genres yet crafted a sound of their own with an emphasis on strong beats and a grittily otherworldly, moody atmospherics. The duo’s 2018 record The Trip Home is proof that it hasn’t spent the past two decades insisting its initial vision should dictate the rest of its music while also borrowing heavily from methods and sounds from the past and during the intervening years. If a big beat industrial synth pop album was a thing, The Crystal Method made one.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Friday, 01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Hot Rize, the Colorado-based bluegrass band, is celebrating four decades together with a pair of shows at The Boulder Theater. Its members were hanging out and working at the Denver Folklore Center in the 1970s and learning the craft and methods of that music before essentially popularizing bluegrass to an ever widening audience from the 1980s onward. Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, Hot Rize’s aesthetic of what Nick Forster called “human sized music” impacted the aesthetic of the music on A Prairie Home Companion—old timey music for an era where bigger, louder, better, less elegant seemed to be the order of the day beyond even music. Even if bluegrass isn’t your thing, Hot Rize is an especially compelling live band whose good humor and sheer charisma always makes for an enjoyable performance.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Cursive is one of the bands that put Omaha, Nebraska on the musical map as a place from which noteworthy music was being made. By the time the group garnered more than underground and regional prominence it had evolved its sound out of its early post-hardcore roots and incorporated a diverse set of musical ideas and sounds that proved influential on 2000s indie rock with raw emotions placed in the context of vibrant, atmospheric sounds and textures to give the band’s songs an immersive, even cinematic feel. The quartet’s latest, Vitriola, is vintage Cursive in all its haunted, orchestral, emotionally heightened glory. Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon is one of the few newer bands making rock music that’s difficult to pigeonhole to a specific subgenre bandwagoned in the past five to seven years as its not garage rock, not surf rock, not neo-grunge and not psychedelia. And all the better for it. Fuzzy, lively pop songs.

Who: Corsicana album release w/The Milk Blossoms, These Bashful Claws, John Lensing
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Dream pop band Corsicana drops its debut album at this show—the sparkling, gentle yet uplifting Perennial.

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Future Generations, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Magic City Hippies w/Future Generations
When: Friday, 01.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Magic City Hippies at least have a name that gives a clue what you’re in for. Its posi-hip-hop-inflected funk and downtempo pop is what you would hope New Age-esque hippies might glom onto after getting tired of de-fanged EDM and jamtronica. Opening act, Future Generations, came to their lush and layered songwriting through the production angle early on when singer/programmer Eddie Gore was making beats for friends and his own early experiments in music. As the band came together and brought in ideas and instruments the fledgling band was able to build and learn together without the overt influence of previous bands. Thus its pop songcraft while accessible is clearly coming from a direction where the band is consistently absorbing new sounds and methods so that the band’s creative evolution is part of its act of writing songs. The Future Generations 2018 album Landscape may sound like a solid, buoyant pop album, because it is, but there are plenty of sonic Easter eggs in there for discerning listeners.

Saturday | January 19, 2019

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Chella and the Charm, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chella & The Charm w/Jennifer Jane Niceley, The Threadbarons (duo) and Many Mountains
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Chella & the Charm’s forthcoming EP Good Gal is the heartbreaking work of Americana genius you need to have in your life in 2019. Chella has identified several strands of our collective pain as a culture and manifested them in a handful of songs with energy and compassion.

Who: Cursive w/Summer Cannibals and Campdogzz
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: See January 18 entry on Cursive and Summer Cannibals.

Who: Womxn’s March Mosh III: Bonnie Weimer, The Pollution, Lady of Sorrows, Death in Space, Cheap Perfume, burlesque performance by Slut Game Strong
When: Saturday, 01.19, 3-8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: After the official Womxn’s March in Denver, this show will happen with proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood. It’s a chance to see experimental banjo songwriter Bonnie Weimer at 3 p.m. when the event starts followed by a diverse evening of music including psychedelic punk band The Pollution, operatic darkwave act Lady of Sorrows, guitar/production project Death in Space, political punk band Cheap Perfume and its delightfully irreverent sense of humor as well as a feminist burlesque performance from Slut Game Strong.

Who: City Hunter release of Deep Blood w/Death Scenes and DJ Dead Body and Yung Sherm
When: Saturday, 01.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Horror-themed, costumed hardcore band City Hunter will play one of its rare shows in support of the release of its 2018 LP Deep Blood on Youth Attack Records. Expect some serious hijinks on the performance side with what will also be a short set because the band’s longest songs are under three minutes with many under a minute. Fitting for a band whose lead singer looks like the masked killer from an early 80s slasher film. Opening is Death Scenes which is Scream Screen’s Theresa Mercado who will show morgue slides accompanied by music from Kevin Wesley of noise project Prison Glue.

Who: Hot Rize & Friends w/Michael Cleveland, Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: See January 18 entry for Hot Rize and its 40 year anniversary shows.

What: Punk Against Trump 2019 – Allout Helter, Cheap Perfume, Over Time, Sorry Sweetheart, No Takers
When: Saturday, 01.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit
Why: Some of Colorado’s best, overtly political bands gather once again put on a show in protest against the POTUS Trump. But it won’t be a dour, didactic affair because all of these bands are about having fun and airing out legit social and political grievances.

Tuesday | January 22, 2019

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Oryx circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rockin’ For Roe: Oryx, Rotten Reputation and Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 01.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: “Roe” as in Roe v. Wade. This benefit show for Keep Abortion Safe and Women’s Freedom Fund features experimental doom band Oryx, irreverent and heartfelt punk band Rotten Reputation and industrial synth pop powerhouse Church Fire.

Wednesday | January 23, 2019

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Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ball of Light, Toboggan, Quits and Landgrabbers
When: Wednesday, 01.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Cincinnati’s Ball of Light just released its new album Flux on January 10, 2019. It’s ten tracks of urgent, feral, noisy post-hardcore sounds like what a hybrid of Neurosis and Season To Risk might sound like. Toboggan, not the Spanish band, is a bit like late 90s emo with hooks and coherent lyrics but not short on raw emotion. Quits is the noise rock band from Denver starring Doug “Fucking” Mioducki who used to be in early indie pop band Felt Pilotes before going on to way less melodic but no less emotionally charged bands like Koala, Sparkles, Witch Doctor and CP-208. His bandmates are also noteworthy musicians from other great Denver bands but you can do some homework if you feel like it.