Best Shows in Denver 2/13/20 – 2/18/20

The New Pornographers perform at the Gothic Theatre on February 15

Thursday | February 13

Serpentfoot circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Serpentfoot, Plastic Daggers and Fern Roberts
When: Thursday, 2.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Serpentfoot is a Fort Collins-based psychedelic garage rock band kind of in the realm of boogie blues and fuzzy surf rock. Plastic Daggers could be considered a punk band because it has that arch and brass energy and attitude. But with a bass and drums with dual vocals its sound is refreshingly spare yet maximalist. This is the debut show from Fern Roberts, the new band of former Emerald Siam, Overcasters and Light Travels Faster bass player Todd Spriggs.

Friday | February 14

Chella And The Charm circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Chella and the Charm w/Jen Korte & The Loss, White Rose Motor Oil, Jackie Zubrzycki, Erika Ryann
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is an event called Sweethearts of the Rodeo and features some of Denver’s greatest female-led bands. Chella and the Charm may perform some of its songs more about relationships and love but it’s never simplistic, rote pop Americana platitudes. Chella’s incisive mind poetically peels apart the zeitgeist and presents the strugges and joys with a rare poetic insight. Jen Korte is one of the most versatile and hard-working musicians in Denver whose dynamic songwriting expands the genres and styles in which she chooses to operate.

What: Bianca Mikahn, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and Shockermom
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: A showcase for some of the best and most imaginative hip-hop artists in Denver at the moment. Bianca Mikahn’s noise experiments and soundscapes paired with her poetry is always a surprisingly compelling combination. R A R E B Y R D $ breaks hearts and heals minds with their dense beats and passionate vocals and wordplay. Pears and Perils is like if Bjork went more lushly downtempo and did hip-hop. Shockermom fuses emotionally vibrant jazz vocals with ambient hip-hop and one of the best things you’ll see all month.

What: Silversun Pickps w/Eliza & The Delusionals
When: Friday, 2.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Cheap Perfume, Flora De La Luna and The Yellnats
When: Friday, 2.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Colorado Springs-based political punk band Cheap Perfume puts the fun into caustic send-ups of the misogynist aspects of American culture.

Saturday | February 15

Mattiel, photo by Jason Travis

What: Lloyd Cole
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill
Why: Lloyd Cole came to prominence in the 80s as the lead singer of the great jangle pop band The Commotions. But by the turn of the decade he had gone solo but still writing thought-provoking songs though in a slightly different style suitable to his poetic imagination. In that way he followed a similar path to Robyn Hitchcock when he left The Soft Boys. One of the criminally underknown songwriting greats of our era. Currently touring following the 2019 release of his latest album Guesswork.

What: The New Pornographers w/Diane Coffee
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: There’s always been something orchestral to The New Pornographers’ spacious pop songs. Like something assembled in a studio in the late 60s with Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks but with a modern set of musical ideas and instincts. Its 2019 album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights also highlights how despite the grandeur of its creative vision its songs manage to seem like glimpses into intimate moments of vulnerable, existential contemplation.

What: Mattiel w/Calvin Love
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mattiel has a knack for taking surreal everyday situations and turn them into synth pop epics. Her 2019 album Satis Factory does some sonic time traveling between early 60s girl group and Connie Frances-esque melodies, late 70s New Wave pop wiry energy and a contemporary ironic tone. But her delivery doesn’t feel jaded or detached, just playing with the songwriting format to comment on culture and society in a way that uses nostalgic elements to speak of the present in the past tense.

What: Pictureplane w/ DEBR4H and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Former Denverite Pictureplane jokingly coined the term “witch house” around a decade ago. But his own music transcends such easy categorization as a mélange of hip-hop, glitch pop and noise.

What: Sango w/Savon and Dante ThatGuy
When: Saturday, 2.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Eigengrau, Night of Dark Light, Causer and Human Consumption
When: Saturday, 2.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Sunday | February 16

Pinegrove, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Bernie Sanders Rally
When: Sunday, 2.16, 4 p.m.
Where: Colorado Convention Center
Why: For anyone what wants to go and see the current frontrunner in the primaries for the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate for the office of President of the United States.

What: Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Lorelai K and Faces Under the Mirror
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party if keeping the torch alive for darkwave in Dallas at its base of operations Funeral Home before moving to Los Angeles this fall. The band’s 2019 album MARTYR is reminiscent of a melding of Clan of Xymox, Xmal Deutschland and the more glam end of of Concrete Blonde.

What: Darpabong EP release and final show w/The Plastic Rakes and Secret Mormon
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Darpabong is finally releasing its debut EP leaked in 2019 at this show. The “Stoner Doom Dub” band includes members of Gort Vs. Goom so even if this final show is a bit of a goof the music will be legit.

What: Pinegrove w/Whitney Ballen
When: Sunday, 2.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pinegrove is currently touring in support of its latest album Marigold. The record is its most focused effort to date conveying a sense of space and simplicity with interlocking, textured tones lending the songs a complexity not immediately obvious. The record comes out in the wake of songwriter Evan Stephens Hall’s undergoing therapy and other work following a 2017 allegation of sexual coercion as outlined in a 2018 article on Pitchfork by Jenn Pelly. If turmoil produces better art, perhaps Hall’s efforts at becoming a better person have lead to a good deal of creative clarity as well.

Tuesday | February 18

The Jungle Giants, photo by Jesper Hede

What: The Jungle Giants w/Little Image
When: Tuesday, 2.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Jungle Giants from Brisbane, Australia combine an R&B and soul sensibility into its jaunty pop songs. Its music videos suggest an aesthetic informed by independent film and Kurt Vonnegut. Though the group hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Quiet Ferocity, in 2019 and 2020 it released singles “Heavy Hearted” and “Sending Me Ur Loving” respectively so on this tour expect to hear new material before it appears on the band’s next record.

“Chasing Crazy” by Rx27 is an Irreverent Diss Track For a World Where Love is Another Commodity

Rx27, photo courtesy the artists

“Chasing Crazy” finds Rx27 sneering at this era in which love is too often shallow, insipid, casual and commodified in a way that leeches all the grit, blood and essential humanity out of it. Online dating and the odd catalog/menu quality of it as echoed in so many areas of our lives seems to have warped our sense of what is vital and life-affirming. Singers Joie X Blaney and Msmaxine Murrderr trade lines like 45 Grave doing a tag team diss track. Though nearly shouted as a chorus, the refrain of “fuck forever” casts that throwaway word forever in its most colloquial and conceptual usage as the subjective experience that feels like forever but also as a rejection of the values of temporal and tepid rather than passionate, meaningful and enduring. The subtext of the song one might assume as being wanting the kind of love that’s transformative and deeply significant over transient and merely titillating. The line “Cry me a river hoping I will down, I would rather be alone than on your merry-go-round” is key as it poetically states a principle of wanting something that matters rather than be part of someone’s game in which everyone involved is disposable. “Chasing Crazy” blurs the line between punk, glam and death rock with a bombastically irreverent attitude toward the norms of this drab age and yet, in its own way, is the kind of love song that eschews the clichés by chasing after something that might seem crazy to some and that is something that is more than appearances and with someone whose flaws we accept and who accepts ours as part of the deal of being in a relationship with another actual human being. Listen to “Chasing Crazy” on Spotify and follow Rx27 at the links below.

The Fragile Elegance and Economy of Songwriting in Hannah Connolly’s “Meet You There” Lingers Long as a Vivid Portrait of Deep Affection

Hannah Connolly “Meet You There” cover (cropped)

In the spare acoustic guitar figure running through Hannah Connolly’s “Meet You There” we find a place to relax and take in the gentle affection with which the songwriter uses imagery to craft vibrant sense memories of the person she loves. At times her voice delivers the lines alone, at other times it’s doubled as though Connolly is harmonizing with herself. There is a sense of the early morning in the song and in fact Connolly sings “When the sun comes breaking through the dawn, I’ll meet you there/ When the waves come crashing on the shore I’ll meet you there” to express a longing without overwrought emotions. When she sings “I like driving through the canyons on the days I’m missing you, you said they look just like a green screen and I smile because it’s true,” Connolly gives a unique and rich sense of place that is immediately relatable and speaks much more about the place the person to whom these lyrics are directed has in her heart that the usual platitudes about love that drive so many songs don’t. It is in the fragile elegance and economy of Connolly’s songwriting where its power lies because it is that quality that lingers with you longer than bombastic declarations of devotion. Listen to “Meet You There” on Soundcloud and look for Connolly’s forthcoming full-length From Where You Are due out in 2020.

Annie Tisshaw Challenges the Destructive Side of Our Culture on the Soaringly Transcendent “We Can Go High”

Annie Tisshaw “We Can Go High” cover (cropped)

In “We Can Go High” Annie Tisshaw weaves her own words on how we often feel disempowered to say what must be said but we can choose to speak up with parts of Nina Donovan’s poem “Nasty Woman” made famous at the Women’s March in 2017 including the line “I’m a nasty woman, I’m not as nasty as racism, or fraud, or homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, white privilege, ignorance, or misogyny.” An echoing tonal wind flows in and flutters throughout the song as Tisshaw’s vocals travel through different sound environments while maintaining a consistency of message and conviction challenging patriarchal systems of value in various contexts. Her own line “We know one plus one but do they teach us to love” speaks much to the devaluing of emotional intelligence in a patriarchal culture to the detriment of all. The pulses of white noise later in the song are like an ascending breeze carrying the vocals and the uplifting message aloft, one that has only increased in relevance over the past few years rather than faded with time. Listen to “We Can Go High” on Spotify.

ZLEEP’s Pastoral “Endless Blues” is a Melancholic Ode to the Pain of a Love That Should Never Be

ZLEEP, photo courtesy the artists

The impressionistic, pastoral “Endless Blues” by ZLEEP, crafted from a spare, piano tones, a gentle guitar figure and harmonized male and female vocals, is a resonant and poignant portrait of a broken yet conflicted heart. Though seemingly minimalistic, the song conveys an emotional complexity that is beyond even the sum of its parts. In the song we come to understand the narrator deeply misses the object of their love because that person made them happy with a deep romantic attraction even though that loved one also had the ability to make them sad like no one else. There is a sense of being lost to that song particularly the line about dreaming in “endless blue” of being lost in love, lost in the romance of it all and lost without it. That said there is a feeling of resignation that runs through “Endless Blues” from the beginning to the end as difficult as it is to accept and that is the loss of that love is in the end for the best despite the heartache and despite the feelings of strong connection because on some level you know that holding so tightly onto a relationship that brings such pain is foolish and self-destructive. The tape hiss as white noise in the background gives the song the quality of an old record, the kind maybe you take out to listen to remind you of an earlier part of your life and which haunts you when you do. Listen to “Endless Blues” on Soundcloud.

RAHM’s Touching “To Live Without Her” is a Powerful Commentary on Modern Social Isolation as We Get Older

RAHM “To Live Without Her” cover (cropped)

RAHM gives us a real character sketch and story with “To Live Without Her.” It’s the story of an old man living in a rural area near a city in a house full of memories years after his wife has passed. With a elegant swells of atmosphere from keys and synth around a piano figure, we hear how the old man seems to have his own kind of living death without the woman who gave his life some meaning and structure, days going by, going through the motions for “twenty-one” years and sleeping through holidays and complaining about winter, looking forward to summer but with nothing much else going on and no one with whom to share his life and perhaps nudge him out of his routine. We can all fall into such habits in our lives and “live” but not truly live and come to rest in a kind of inauthentic state of personal dullness when we could choose to do something with our time other than count down the days until we die, whether we acknowledge that or not. The song casts no judgment but looks on such an existence with curiosity, compassion and recognition of how our relationships, our occupations and our friends shape us and guide us in ways that we don’t think much about, especially in the culturally and socially atomized present in which we’re increasingly isolated and encouraged toward a corrosive rugged individualism. RAHM’s song mourns that reality by casting this reality in the utterly relatable song about an old man already there as a way of seeing that possibility in ourselves as we get older. Listen to “To Live Without Her” on Soundcloud where you can also follow RAHM.

JustTizze’s Soulful and Soul-baring “City Lights” is an Uplifting Journey From the Depths of Despair to Living One’s Best Life

JustTizze “City Lights” cover (cropped)

“City Lights” by JustTizze sounds like picking yourself up from being beaten down by life but finding that final strand that lets you bask in in enough of compassion for self to sit up and consider what you need to feel like you can go on. The soulful, soaring vocals and the shift from torch song beginnings to triumphant rock and pop in the last half of the song parallels the sense of going from a flicker of life and hope to finding the will and motivation to discover the rungs of the ladder back to at least trying to live your full life again. The production style here and arc of song is reminiscent of solo George Michael from the late 80s and early 90s but it also perfectly suits the subject matter of the song. Listen to “City Lights” on Spotify and follow JustTizze at the links provided.