Best Shows in Denver 9/28/17 – 10/4/17

Mirror Fears_Jul30_2017_TomMurphy_web
Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy


Who: Holy Fuck w/Emerald Siam 
When: Thursday, 9.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Holy Fuck uses a combination of conventional and non-musical devices to make music that sounds like a high energy electronic band without using software, loops or samplers. If that’s the band’s aim it’s live show is a ferocious and relentless in its flood of sounds and musical ideas in a very visceral way. In July, the group released a new EP, Bird Brains, recorded live in a studio further establishing the fact that most bands would require a bevy of synths, drum machines and software to achieve similar results. Opening is Denver’s Emerald Siam. Yeah, Denver veterans and legends in the band who made great, atmospheric music in bands like Twice Wilted, The Bedsit Infamy and Light Travels Faster. But Emerald Siam stands on its own and over the past year and a half the group has delved further into dark, moody melodies and creative guitar tone separation that really opens the music in a way many other guitar rock bands seem to ignore these days. The result is a depth of sound that is enveloping and hypnotic like driving on a fog enshrouded road at night.

Who: Kim Boekbinder, Mirror Fears and EVP 
When: Thursday, 9.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Kim Boekbinder is New York by way of Montreal artist/musician whose work challenges preconceived notions in society and of what art can be, should be and what it can impact and who can be involved in its creation. Her 2013 album The Sky is Calling includes a collaboration with astronomer Phil Plait. So you know the live show is going to be far beyond any standard faire. In 2017 she released NOISEWITCH, an album for which every song is said, according to her website, to be “a spell cast on the audience.” Don’t worry, it’s going to be benevolent stuff. Seeing her would be enough to go to this show but if you go you can catch the industrial/punk/Goth stylings of EVP whose songs have incisive and thought-provoking statements on sexism, the nature of human relationships and our inborn ability to derail our own lives. But wait, there’s more: Mirror Fears. Kate Warner started the latter while still performing in an excellent, shoegazey indie rock band called Talk All Night. But as that band started to go inactive and crumble, Warner had more time to devote to her solo project and in time her inventive and riveting beats and fragile yet powerful vocals have come together for a sound that has roots in the underground and alternative rock that was the foundation of Talk All Night as well as the noise, industrial and experimental music world that has embraced Mirror Fears as one of its own. While still relatively unknown in Denver, Mirror Fears has been creating some of the most interesting music coming out of Denver at the moment because Warner has established her own sound that would appeal to fans of industrial music, electronic dance music and noiseniks alike.

Who: Tristen w/Jenny O and In/Planes 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Tristen could be yet another indie singer-songwriter the likes of which we’ve seen come and go for the last decade and a half or so. But there’s an underlying sense of something different in her songwriting. Maybe it’s because she’s someone who had to figure out unconventional ways to record and share her music in the early days of her career. Could be because she’s a keen observer of human behavior and has turned that quality into music making her own life experiences fodder for songwriting as well. Her 2017 album is called Sneaker Waves suggesting Tristen has an offbeat sense of humor as well—never a bad thing. Also on the tour is Jenny O whose background in jazz actually didn’t ruin her creativity. Instead, the chops she learned going that route in college gave her the tools to compose songs with a subtle yet expansive dynamism. Her new album, 2017’s Peace & Information is like a finely textured, downtempo pop record on which Jenny O takes some chances and goes beyond what you might have come to expect from her already respectable back catalog. “Intuition” in particular bears comparison to the likes of Aldous Harding and Kate Bush with its dense yet expansive synth work and wise and insightful words.

Who: Moodie Black, Night of the Living Shred, ROÄC and It’s Just Bugs
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar/Carioca Café
Why: Moodie Black is a Los Angeles-based hip-hop group. If you’ve seen the band there’s plenty of live instrumentation but rather than some outright jazz or R&B direction, Moodie Black is more what might be called an “industrial rap” band. It has the confrontational quality you’d expect out of any kind of punk or gangster rap group but with the noisy soundscaping you might even expect from a like-minded shoegaze or post-punk band like A Place to Bury Strangers or Pop. 1280. It’s Just Bugs is like-minded but with soul-oriented beatmaking more like something you’d expect to hear from an Anticon or Rhymesayers artist. Just mix in some harsh noise in the beats here and there. The rest of the show is metal or grindcore done by people who have a deep appreciation for hip-hop and vice versa.

Who: Junius, Black Mare, Mustard Gas & Roses and Ghosts of Glaciers 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Junius from Boston has been developing its cinematic sound, some might say post-metal, since 2003. Post-metal probably gives the impression the band sounds a bit like Isis, Pelican and Jesu. And it does. But there is more overt melody and conventional song structure in the music of Junius. Is 2017 album Eternal Rituals For The Accretion Of Light sounds both tribal and futuristic, like something that would suit a soundtrack for a sequel to John Christopher’s The Tripods series. Ghosts of Glaciers from Denver is an instrumental post-metal band whose focus on songwriting over soundscaping is a great fit for the bill. While not as active for a few years, the band is back to playing regular shows and showing how you can have epic instrumental metal without being doom. Black Mare is the solo project of Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Math Horseman. On Death Magick Mother, her second record as Black Mare, Timms comments on the misogyny and political turmoil of the current era with a sprawling, majestic, darkly moody guitar work and fluid rhythms that is as brutal as it is entrancing.

Who: Severed Heads, Pankow, Echo Beds and Blackcell
When: Friday, 9.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Severed Heads is an industrial and electronic dance band from Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1979 as Mr. and Mrs. No Smoking Sign by Richard Fielding and Andrew Wright, the project brought on now sole remaining early member of the band Tom Ellard that same year. Initially using tape loops, synths and other sorts of non-standard noisemakers, Severed Heads must have been a bit of a head scratcher for many when it adopted that name before the turn of the decade. However, around the world, Severed Heads was making the kind of experimental, even avant-garde, music that resonated with music that was already being created by the likes of Nurse With Wound, Smegma, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and, soon enough, Einsturzende Neubauten, Coil, Test Dept. and Skinny Puppy. By the mid-1980s, Severed Heads had evolved its sound becoming almost an electronic dance pop band and later enjoyed a bit of commercial success with the 1988 single “The Greater Reward.” But Severed Heads always had its roots in the weird and there was no mistaking the group for a mainstream band even as some of its material garnered that level of popularity. Ellard announced the end of Severed Heads in 2008 but in subsequent years the band toured with Gary Numan and have done one-offs here and there. But in 2016 new material appeared and now is a rare chance to see the legendary band at all much less in an intimate venue.

But wait, there’s more. Pankow is a band that formed in East Germany in 1981 when rock and roll was very much frowned on in the DDR and the communist world generally. Pankow even wrote songs critical of the repressive East German regime and their music wasn’t widely released for years. Their sound might be compared to the likes of industrial/EBM band Nitzer Ebb except more pop though no less energetic and confrontational.

Denver’s Echo Beds and Blackcell are opening the night. Echo Beds has mastered the integration of analog industrial sounds produced by voice, striking an oil drum and guitar/bass and electronic elements in percussion, sampling, synths and sound processing. Depending on the show you catch it could be the more tribal-esque side of the band or the more ambient experiments it has engaged in over the last year and a half. Those unfamiliar should think more along the lines of the aforementioned Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department. Blackcell is one of the longest-running bands in Denver in general having begun in the early 90s. The duo has developed various musica ideas across its entire career but of late its use of synths and circuit bent devices has propelled its music beyond the industrial and more noise-oriented music of its early days. Not sound design so much as a reimagining of what that music can be utilizing new methods and technologies and basically not getting stuck in a stylistic rut that no longer seems relevant. Blackcell remains ahead of the curve.

Who: New Ben Franklins & The Ghost of Joseph Buck 
When: Friday, 9.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: New Ben Franklins are probably considered by many to be a kind of alt-country band and maybe it is. In the way that the Beat Farmers, Green on Red or even Mojave 3 are so. Singer David DeVoe spent some years making dark, atmospheric music as a member of Denver-based post-punk/Goth band Fiction 8. But his musical interests have always been diverse and the appeal of the spare songwriting style of country proved strong. NBF is a kind of synthesis of DeVoe’s interests and could never be limited to merely alt-country or post-punk but, rather, a fascinating blending of it all with DeVoe’s signature songwriting style that is never just one flavor, never just one texture and never boring.

Who: Future Islands w/Jenny Besetzt 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Future Islands was one of the most high profile bands of the Wham City collective in Baltimore. The trio toured DIY spaces around the country in its early days including Denver’s own Rhinoceropolis where the band played a couple of times before finding increasing popularity for its wonderfully unusual, soulful pop songs. The band got a big break into the mainstream with its appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on March 3, 2014 and singer Sam Herring’s dancing and other stage antics becoming a sensation on the Internet. In 2017 Future Islands released its latest album, The Far Field, on 4AD.

Who: Japanese Breakfast w/Mannequin Pussy and The Spirit of The Beehive
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast has a knack for perceiving small but significant nuances in the dynamics of human relationships and issues of race and gender. Her albums, 2016’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet reflect Zauner’s insights with humor and stark and poetic sincerity. The downtempo pop and hazy atmospherics of a Japanese Breakfast song draw you in and convey the themes of the song directly to the heart and Zauner is a powerfully vulnerable and unpretentious performer. It’s an especially effective blend of style, presentation and honesty. Mannequin Pussy isn’t a contrast so much as a great compliment to Zauner’s music as a punk band that didn’t get hung up on the usual sounds, tools, methods or looks of being punk. Its songs are witty takedowns of sexism, ignorance and harmful and outmoded cultural narratives in general. Sonically, the band is reminiscent of Babes In Toyland’s ferocious intensity, Versus’ experimental guitar pop and more modern punk bands also not straightjacketed by tradition like Tacocat. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was a true statement about American culture at the dawn of Trump’s America.

Who: Diorama of the Cosmos
When: Saturday, 9.30, 7-10 p.m.
Where: Fiske Planetarium (Boulder)
Why: Katy Zimmerman and Genevieve Waller are Denver-based artists that challenge prevailing modes of thinking by experimenting with the forms and conceptions of existing phenomena. This time out, the solar system and space and our way of thinking about how things have to be. The statement from their event page: “Part craft project and part teaching tool, the handmade model of the solar system fashioned out of cardboard, string, and Styrofoam is an iconic children’s activity. In an installation created expressly for the Fiske Planetarium, Katy Zimmerman and Genevieve Waller pay homage to this kid tradition with a speculative representation of the solar system. Assembling together fictional suns, moons, planets, and stars into imaginary patterns and orbits, Waller and Zimmerman present a departure from the faithful diagram. They posit that the place where science and fantasy meet is rich with possibilities and will enable us to envision new worlds, rules, and dimensions of thought.”

Who: One-Eyed Doll w/Doll Skin, Sharone & The Wind and Rotten Reputation
When: Saturday, 9.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: One-Eyed Doll is a Goth punk/metal duo from Austin that has been playing the kind of music that would have been in a Goth version of Jawbreaker. Meaning it almost seems like a self-aware studio project that makes the music to present a concept with strong imagery, like informal branding with an underlying sense of humor. Rotten Reputation is a punk band that on the surface level might seem fairly straightforward but its mascot, Nancy, is a headless, armless, legless mannequin that also serves as kind of a merch booth. And its songs challenge sexism and the almost populist fascism exemplified by the Trump administration. Sharone & The Wind has come a long way from when singer Sharone Borik performed under her own name as a kind of singer-songwriter act. Over the summer of 2016 Borik assembled the first incarnation of the rock band to flesh out her songs and the result was something like a hard rock band but driven by Borik’s piano work and powerful voice. A new line up came together in 2017 that fully frees Borik up to front the band with music that has progressed further in a dark, hard rock direction.

Who: The Black Madonna and Gerd Janson
When: Saturday, 9.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Club Vinyl
Why: The Black Madonna has become one of the premier electronic dance artists in the underground but at this point she’s only underground only in that she’s not yet known to a mainstream audience. Her set at Sonar 2017 was lauded for her signature fluid transitions using a very unconventional playlist and samples. Marea Stamper (aka The Black Madonna) has spent time cultivating her skills and knowledge at all levels of the electronic dance world from promotions, management, running a label to production and more and it lends her actual music an unspoken authenticity and grit.

Who: Goldie w/Fury, Grym and Goreteks
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Goldie got his big break to the world through his graffiti art but in the 90s he became a producer of electronic music and an innovator of jungle and breakbeat. On his debut solo album, 1995’s Timeless, Goldie showed how breakbeat rhythms could easily drive a soulful pop song in “Inner City Life” and give it an experimental edge that popular electronic music generally didn’t have before. Goldie has remained an innovator and an influential music producer. And you may have seen him in The World Is Not Enough and EastEnders if you knew to look for him.

Who: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 w/Atomga
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Seun Kuti is Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti’s youngest son and he is leading one of Fela’s classic bands. Opening is Atomga, one of the most legit, Fela-inspired, Afrobeat bands in Denver. So it’ll be a great night of Afrobeat with legendary musicians and a great local band carrying on that tradition of the blend of funk, jazz and traditional African music that got Fela in trouble with the Nigerian government throughout his career.

Who: Rock For Tolerance – SPLC Benefit w/Surrender Signal, Electric Thinking Machine, Gestapo Pussy
When: Saturday, 9.30, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Gestapo Pussy Ranch is a snotty punk rock band which includes former KTCL and KBPI disc jockey John “Whipping Boy” Wilbur. So it’ll be a lot of irreverent humor (the name should spell that one outh, though) and a lively rock show benefitting Southern Poverty Law Center. The $5 cover goes directly to the SPLC

Who: Dark Descent Records 8th Anniversary show: Spectral Voice (album release) w/Ritual Necromancy, Ascended Dead, Grave Ritual and Blood Incantation
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive – Sold Out
Why: Death metal/doom band Spectral Voice is releasing its latest album, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing at this show. One of the most brutal yet haunting bands out of that genre today, Spectral Voice has slowly been carving its own legacy of dark, heavy music across the globe for the last few years. Also on the bill is the quasi-legendary, like-minded, band Blood Incantation. It’s not the kind of metal show for everyone but for those that appreciate uncompromising sounds and aesthetics, it’s hard to beat.

Who: The Slants w/Princess Dewclaw and Surf Mom
When: Sunday, 10.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Slants is an all-Asian American dance punk band from Portland, Oregon that recently testified before the Supreme Court of the United States on the right to trademark the use of the band name. And won. Their sound is sort of a retro synth pop thing but more rock like The Epoxies. Princess Dewclaw from Denver sounds like a pop punk band that has a riot grrrl sensibility including the subject matter and synths. Its 2017 album Walk of Shame reflects an outsider perspective on the punk and art scene with poetic abstractions of fear, insecurity and rage into creative constructs and pop culture references. But it doesn’t blunt the message because its delivered with such passion. Surf Mom is a duo that is quickly growing beyond the surf part of its name and now has more in common with The Jesus and Mary Chain with its abrasive, face burning, spiky guitar tones than the garage surf stuff of the past decade. That is except that there is no detached emotionalism in Molly McGrath’s vocals—her voice and messaging is direct, pointed and incisive.

Who: Dead Rider w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Quits
When: Sunday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Todd Rittman was once the guitarist in experimental noise rock band U.S. Maple before those weirdos broke up in 2007. Which is the same year the great electronic punk band Sleaford Mods started. Coincidence? Definitely but since 2009 Rittman has been a member of Dead Rider, a band much more electronic than U.S. Maple and sharing some of the same aesthetic and socially critical sensibilities of the aforementioned band from Nottingham, England. That Denver’s own bizarro noise rock Quits, which includes former members of Hot White, CP-208, Witch Doctor and Sparkles, seems only fitting. What is perhaps more unusual is Wheelchair Sports Camp on the bill but beatmaker/vocalist/lyricist supreme Kaelyn Heffernan has always incorporated unusual samples in her hip-hop as well as playing with players capable of taking jazz into previously unknown territory.


Who: Ambersmoke, Admiral, Brother Saturn
When: Sunday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Ambersmoke is an L.A. based shoegaze/sound collage band touring in support of its latest album, Lay My Bones Beneath the Valley Oak. Many bands claim My Bloody Valentine as an influence but Ambersmoke actually seems to have taken the hazy, lo-fi soundscaping aspect of MBV seriously and done interesting things with similar methods and sounds with guitar, of course, but also synths and sampled impromptu noisemakers. Denver’s Brother Saturn is more an ambient project but using highly processed guitars and voices. The project’s 2017 album Apollo, Can You Hear Me? Is almost like a post-Tim Hecker, melancholic sequel to Brian Eno’s 1983 album Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. Except that has a quality that suggests the soothing of a pain buried inside the psyche—a slow moving spell of healing.

Who: Wolves in the Throne Room w/Pillorian
When: Monday, 10.02, 7
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Wolves in the Throne Room may have been dismissed as “hipster metal” by some people as it gained popularity among fans who normally wouldn’t be into metal. WITTR had and has all the classic black metal elements from the feral voices, stark, death metal guitar played with a ferocious intensity. And its whole aim was to express the forces of nature and the ambient energy of the Pacific Northwest. This resulted in music that while definitely black metal, like some of the band’s cousins in Europe and other parts of North America, it had an atmospheric sound that suggested more than a dark spirit reclaimed from conquering cultures. There is no corpse paint on stage or references to Satan in the music of WITTR, as though they took the pagan aspect of its philosophical underpinnings seriously. At the height of its popularity in 2011 the band announced it would be curtailing its touring. But five years later the group was touring in a limited capacity once again. On the 2017 album Thrice Woven, Wolves in the Throne Room returns to playing black metal after 2014’s Celestite, the brilliant, synthesizer companion album to 2011’s Celestial Lineage.

Who: Lords of Acid w/Combichrist, En Esch, Night Club, ITSOKTOCRY and Christian Death
When: Tuesday, 10.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Lords of Acid definitely splits the line among industrial music fans. The project has unabashedly embraced industrial music, EBM, club dance music and an outrageously trashy aesthetic or cartoonish sexuality. But no matter what you think of the specific subject matter of the songs the fact is that the live band is a lot of fun. Band leader Praga Khan has been known to push his bandmates off stage into the crowd and then not exempting himself from such playful indignities. Night Club is a darkwave band co-founded by former Warlock Pinchers and Foreskin 500 guitarist, and longtime Metalocalypse collaborator (among other noteworthy film and animation projects), Mark Brooks. Christian Death is obviously the incarnation of the band with Valor Kand on guitar and lest fans of the band forget, Kand was the main guitarist on the band’s great second album, 1984’s Catastrophe Ballet. And live the band performs songs from across its entire career. If you go and don’t expect something impossible and quaintly fanciful like Rozz Williams, who is dead, and Rikk Agnew you might actually enjoy the show.

Who: Drab Majesty w/DJs Boyhollow and Slave 1
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Milk Bar
Why: Drab Majesty’s music is like a fully synthesized combination of David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and super hip science fiction movie soundtrack. Fans of Roxy Music will love this. So will fans of Cocteau Twins and vintage Clan of Xymox. Deb Demure is also a great songwriter whose 2015 album, Careless, was the go-to album for fans of dark post-punk for an entire year. 2017’s The Demonstration helped to expand Drab Majesty’s audience well outside the Goth and post-punk subculture not by compromising Demure’s artistic vision but because it turns out it wasn’t just people identifying as Goths could find something to appreciate about the deep and stirring atmospheres of the music and its futuristic vision.

Who: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Other Worlds
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard sounds like it has to be a stoner rock band. And that’s partially true as the Australian psychedelic rock band doesn’t hold its nose up and creative use of hard rock and metal tropes in crafting its mind altering songs. Known for an exuberant live show, King Gizzard actually seemed to live up to its absurdist, cartoonish name in the best sense. He group is currently touring in support of its 2017 album Sketches of Brunswick East.

Who: Zealot, Teacup Gorilla and The Far Stairs
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s Weird Wednesday at 3 Kings, which happens the first Wednesday of the month. Booked and hosted by Claudia Woodman, the series showcases some of Denver’s most unusual bands whether or not that is obvious by looking at or listening to the artists in question. Zealot is the latest band from Luke Hunter James-Erickson who is most well known for his pop bands The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and For Keeps. But he’s always had a leg in experimental music and noise with Wind Does and now Zealot. Teacup Gorilla is the kind of band that could only happen when people were never told they shouldn’t do a strange glam rock band and one of Denver’s most original and interesting bands because they’re following no one else’s trend and not aiming to have anyone follow theirs. The Far Stairs is the current band of Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Can’t say I’ve seen the band have it on good authority it’s quite unusual and partly so for how Livingston is able to make something so unusual accessible.


Author: simianthinker

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

%d bloggers like this: