Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 02/15/18 – 02/21/18

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Church Fire performs Friday 2/16/18 at BarFly. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Thursday | February 15, 2018

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Night Beats circa 2011 at Rhinoceropolis. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Who: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/Night Beats
When: Thursday, 02.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: B.R.M.C. has tried out different sounds and ideas across its career. From its 2001 post-punk/shoegaze debut album, to the bluesy 2005 record Howl and now the refined, gritty depth of sound field of 2018’s Wrong Creatures. What is most noteworthy with the album is that the band has managed to make a rock and roll record without obviously ripping off some worn out classic rock tropes. The trio also incorporated industrial soundscaping and noise without ever sounding like one of those forgettable 90s industrial rock bands. An achievement in itself. Opening is Seattle’s mutant psychedelic rock quartet Night Beats. On its latest album, 2016’s Who Sold My Generation, it sounded like the band had shed the garage rock elements of its earlier sound in favor of noisier, stranger music like guys had gone on a spiritual journey into the wilds of the Cascades accompanied by the music of Chrome, Spacemen 3 and Silver Apples and come back into the welcoming arms of 13th Floor Elevators before writing their new material. When a lot of modern rock bands are playing it safe at least it seems as though B.R.M.C. And Night Beats don’t want to bore themselves or us.

Who: Eventually It Will Kill You Vol. III: Many Blessings cassette release w/Natural Violence, Prison Glue and Law of the Night
When: Thursday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: If you’re just dropping into the Meadowlark after your rigorous parkour and yoga workout tonight, just go elsewhere. This is a noise show and a celebration of the release of the latest Many Blessings tape, Ripe Earth. The album, released on Brian Castillo’s new Kill You Club imprint, is nearly seventy minutes of deep cavern soundscapes that sometimes come off like the decayed transmissions of a broken broadcasting A.I. of the future that generates otherworldly true crime style fiction, the likes of which regular humans would never come up with on our own. Prison Glue is Kevin Wesley, formerly of local noise rock legends Hot White, and every set is different but always some interesting noise experiment and never quite in the same format. Also on the bill is Natural Violence, a project of Homebody’s Michael Stein. Not really noise per se and more like a synth-driven soundtrack to a crime drama written by Paul Reubens. The 2017 EP Synthetic Peace was one of the more interesting releases of last year.

Who: Voight, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Anime Love Hotel and Dream Hike
When: Thursday, 02.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: A different kind of noise show tonight at Syntax. Voight isn’t a noise band though both Nick Salmon and Adam Rojo both more than merely dabble in their solo npose projects, Stye and Diffuser respectively. Its own noisy post-punk songs are somehow both moody and confrontational, haunting yet visceral. Breakdancing Ronald Reagan put out the Harsh Noise cassette on Self Sabotage Records at the end of January, a collection of pieces that live up to the name of the album but also proof that even harsh noise can have nuance, composition and musicality even if it’s put together to push buttons, assault the ears and otherwise transform expectations of experience for something coming out of a P.A. anywhere. Dream, Hike is more in the world of experimental, electronic dance music but Dean Inman is no stranger to his chosen format of expression with sound to challenge what purpose the music serves as something to experience by making beats that aren’t purely for people to chill out and passively dance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that Dream Hike is more than the times when he makes music designed for that sort of thing as well.

Friday | February 16, 2018

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Atomga, photo by Atomga

Who: Atomga Aga EP release w/The Dendrites and Jericho Son of None
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Atomga is one of a few Afrobeat artists in Denver with the sprawling lineup to manifest the mixture of jazz, funk, Ghanaian highlight the polyrhythmic music of West Africa that was pioneered by composer/musician and political figure Fela Kuti in the 60s and 70s. The band’s new EP Aga is four songs and it sounds like the band has delved into more Middle Eastern musical ideas. In the live setting, Atomga has a forceful and celebratory presence. Also on the bill, one of the few great Denver ska bands, The Dendrites. Great because they don’t sound third wave or overly two-tone revival or trying to be some other band. There’s a lot of imitation in ska but The Dendrites are originals.

Who: Hands of Midnight, Roger Green and Church Fire
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Hands of Midnight is an electronic project that seems to be operating at the intersection of dub, psychedelia and deep house. Half of the group is Bill Murphy, former guitarist with the late, great Denver post-punk band The Swayback. Roger Green has been all over the place musically having perhaps first come to prominence in Denver with space rock/pop band Idle Mind. Though likely more well-known for having been a member of dream pop band The Czars, Roger Green’s avant-garde and experimental music like his typewriter orchestra is some of the most interesting sonic art the guy has been up to. He has also written some fine singer-songwriter music and a long-time lecturer on the psychedelic experience and the associated music. For this bill, who knows? Maybe Green has a secret electronic dance music set up his sleeve. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth witnessing. To call Church Fire an intense electronic dance/dream pop band would be like saying Alejandro Jodorowsky made the original midnight movie.

Who: Murs w/Stay Tuned, ItsEvi and ROOKE5
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Murs more or less got his big break, if such can be said without overstating the point, as a member of influential underground hip-hop collective Living Legends. But since then he has more than made a name for himself as a solo artist for his literate, perceptive and vibrantly emotional lyrics. These days, as back in his early days, Murs’ voice is refreshingly out of step with hip-hop trends. He raps and speaks his words while rendering his vocals musical without singing. It’s a bit of an older approach but one that Murs has successfully creatively evolved across his long career. His new album, A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable on March 16, 2018. One of the opening acts for this bill is Stay Tuned which includes one of Denver’s best producers, DJ Awhat, and two of its most charismatic MCs, Ichiban and Mane Rok. Their shows are an audio-visual experience that puts a clever and incisive spin on personal experiences as well as some of the most on point social commentary out of Denver.

Who: Zavala, Mux Mool, Big J. Beats
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Zavala is a Chicago-based artist whose beats and modular synths puts him in league with the better IDM and dub techno artists. His latest album is Fantasmas. Mux Mool is originally from Minneapolis but he’s been working with Michael Menert of Pretty Lights on Club Scout and has relocated to Denver. His brand of IDM is a kind of brighter and more playful hip-hop beat making. Big J. Beats may be known locally as a hip-hop artist but his beats are in the realm of 90s and 2000s alternative hip-hop with his creative use of noise, sounds and atmosphere, like he’s crafting soundtracks to chill, fantastical realms you’d really want to visit.

Who: Judge w/faim, Screwtape and Fortune’s Fool
When: Friday, 02.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Judge formed in 1987 as hardcore was well on its way to splintering as a subculture. But in presenting a more militant than ever straight edge image and adopting a harder sound, Judge had the kind of desperation, immediacy and pointedly political messaging of the newly grindcore Napalm Death whose own 1987 album created a blueprint for a different style of extreme music. So it only seems fitting that local heavy hitters in the hardcore realm, faim and Screwtape, are two of the opening bands because both bands are pushing hardcore into interesting directions at a time when that music could really use some innovation that doesn’t water down its essential appeal.

Saturday | February 17, 2008

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The Hits’ cover for the new album, Breakthrough. Image courtesy The Hits.

Who: The Hits album release show w/Love Stallion, Hot Apostles, Sharone & The Wind
When: Saturday, 02.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Denver’s The Hits is releasing its second full-length album BreakThrough tonight. The album is fourteen tracks of gritty, melodic rock songs that balance energetic drive with an unpretentious poetic sensibility. Yes, the songs are about love, life’s frustrations and conflicted emotions. But the latter is what gives the band’s songs a subtle complexity that far too many rock bands either try to avoid or are incapable of in the first place. Hot Apostles is a like-minded band but with more of a bluesy, hard rock flavor. And, again, Hot Apostles bring to the songwriting not just the passion but a mature person’s perspective on relationships and life in general. Likely opening the show is Sharone & The Wind. Since the band’s inception in the Spring and Summer of 2016 it has quickly evolved from a piano-centered hard rock band to a darker, more metallic without being metal, project with a surprising level of emotional intensity coursing through the music. The band has gone through a significant lineup change since the release of 2017’s excellent Storm and apparently we’ll see another record from the band this year.

Who: Murs w/Tristan Moore and Stay Tuned, Redcoat Kid, Kanon Lebron
When: Saturday, 02.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre
Why: For Murs and Stay Tuned see entry for the Murs show on Friday, February 16.

Sunday | February 18, 2018

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Real Estate, photo by Shawn Brackbill

Who: Real Estate w/Bedouine
When: Sunday, 02.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The first three Real Estate albums garnered a sizeable fan base and critical acclaim for its tasty jangle rock riffs and spare but evocative lyrics. But something about it felt a bit one dimensional and, well, tame yet promising. Seven years after forming, in 2016, long time friend of the band Julian Lynch steps in to replace Matthew Mondanile. Rather than merely stepping in as a lead guitarist to play like Mondanile, Lynch was encouraged to bring his innovative, much more experimental, guitar style to the next record, 2017’s In Mind. The well composed songwriting is still in place but there’s an added dimension to the songs that give space for experiments in atmosphere and texture. It’s rarely overt and obvious, which makes it all the more interesting an intentional choice than if the band had scrapped it’s older sound completely. At times the songs are reminiscent of Paracosm-period Washed Out or The War on Drugs, but the intersection of gently rippling rhythm and Courtney’s sparkly, melodic guitar and Lynch’s expansive sensibilities instantly made Real Estate an interesting band rather than one merely noteworthy because it touched many people’s nostalgia centers.

Monday | February 19, 2018

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The Weather Station (Tamara Lindeman), photo by Perry Shimon

Who: Bahamas and The Weather Station
When: Monday, 02.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Afie Jurvanen is the main force behind Toronto’s Bahamas. Though designated as folk, if you listen to Jurvanen’s records his compositions may have that kind of simple, immediately accessible structure and his presentation of the music has the feel of being included in an intimate performance, but his layering of sounds combines a full sound like a chamber pop band with a stripped down quality. It’s not for everyone but it does set him apart from many other indie folksters. The Weather Station got started around the same time as Bahamas, also in and around Toronto, with similar roots in folk music. But Tamara Lindeman’s vibrant voice is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. A similar cadence and tonality. Lindeman’s guitar style is composed almost as sketches of the scenes and experiences she describes in her vivid lyrics. The nuanced thinking and penetrating observational quality of Lindeman’s words matched with her moody and warm compositions, smoothly yet evocatively dynamic, make for some compelling listening. The latest release from The Weather Station is the band’s self-titled 2017 album.

Tuesday | February 20, 2018

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Company of Thieves, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Walk the Moon w/Company of Thieves
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you look at Company of Thieves’ discography it’s not sprawling with artifacts of their development as a band. If you got to see the band come up in its hometown of Chicago maybe you got a hold of some tracks, homemade CDs and cassettes. As many bands have done since Company of Thieves got going in 2007. With, according to singer Genevieve Schatz, eight line-up changes (all including band co-founder Marc Walloch) that one might expect in a band that has been around that long without breakthrough commercial success. And Company of Thieves itself went on hiatus for a for a few years during which Schatz released a solo EP and Walloch played bass in AWOLNATION. But in 2017 the band announced it was back together with a short batch of songs ready to release in the new year with lead single, “Treasure.” Though obviously a pop band, with “Treasure,” COT includes political samples as one might expect to hear in an industrial or hip-hop song and uses the sample as a jumping off point to say something when it would be easier to just have written an incredibly catchy song.

Who: Mac Sabbath w/Galactic Empire
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Yes, it is indeed that terrifying, McDonald’s-themed heavy metal band. The show is surreal and yet disturbing as only truly committed performance artists can be while putting on a show that can still be appropriate for an all-ages audience.

Wednesday | February 21, 2018

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Snarky Puppy, photo by Christian Thomas

Who: Snarky Puppy w/Sirintip
When: Wednesday, 02.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Snarky Puppy managed to bring together jazz fusion, funk, jam band free flowing, spontaneous songwriting and non-Western music without it coming off like they’re trying too hard. There is a clarity to its maximalist compositions and Bernie Worrell-esque keyboard work that suggest more than one person in the band studied pop music without being chained to its sometimes limiting conventions. Jazz may be the root but Snarky Puppy has thankfully abandoned the ossified instincts of much modern jazz as well. The band is sprawling in membership, totally coincidentally perhaps with it being from Denton from which hail The Polyphonic Spree, but the music has a coherence and focus that you’d expect from a chamber orchestra. The project’s latest record is 2016’s Grammy winning Culcha Vulcha but it looks like there’s a new record in the works with a tentative 2018 release.

Author: simianthinker

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