Best Shows in Denver 9/15 – 9/20

Widowspeak
Widowspeak, photo by Kyle Jacques

Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).

P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton

Who: Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution 
When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.

Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones
When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.

Who: Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.

Who: Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.

Who: Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.

Who: Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.

Who: Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.

Who: Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.

Who: TOPS w/She-Devils 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.

Who: Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.

Who: Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.

 

Who: GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale 
When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.

Who: Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance
When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.

Who: Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano 
When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.

Author: simianthinker

Editor, primary content provider for this blog. Former contributor to Westword and The Onion.