Best Shows in Denver 9/27/18 – 10/3/18

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Courtney Barnett headlines The Ogden Theatre on September 29 and 30 with Waxahatchee. Photo by Pooneh Ghana.

Thursday | September 27, 2018

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: 2X4 Duo Fest: Smashy Claw, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Gold Trash and Gort Vs. Goom
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This second annual edition of 2X4 Duo Fest features four duo bands (thus the name, of course). For this edition, as with the 2017 event, organizer Logan Rainard of Gort Vs. Goom assembled a genre-diverse bill. His own band, Gort Vs. Goom would have been considered punk 40 years ago before what that was supposed to sound like got more or less settled by some codification of the genre. Bass, drums, vocals and raw power with some nods to prog and art rock. Gold Trash is part noise, part electroclash and general pop chaos. Sugar Skulls and Marigolds would probably fit easily into a broadly metal world except the band’s musical range includes their “acoustic” set which sounds more like ghostly post-punk. Smashy Claw is what would happen if a couple of very self-aware geeks decided to get into writing eccentric alternative pop songs. Only if those geeks weren’t wasting our time with filking and had a real knack for good songwriting.

Who: Too Many Zooz w/Honeycomb
When: Thursday, 09.27, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Too Many Zooz is a percussion and horns-driven jazz band that performs a style of music it calls “brass house” in that it employs acoustic instruments to make sounds that are like the use of samples in an electronic hip-hop beat. The group has performed with Beyoncé on the strength of its chops and creativity and its own albums and shows are an impressive display of what one can do with instruments you’re using to seeing in other contexts once you engage your imagination to see their possibilities in others. The group recently released a video for the single “Car Alarm” in which the trio brilliantly plays around, yes, a car alarm and makes it work.

Who: Slothrust w/Summer Cannibals and Iress
When: Thursday, 09.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Boston’s Slothrust combines a kind of jazz-inflected R&B mixed with fuzzy rock. It’s sound has been compared to the 90s revival of the past few years but the structure of its songs often have more in common with hip-hop than grunge and its quieter more introspective side with soulful folk. Its new record, 2018’s The Pact, brings these sides together well in a well-sequenced album that has the eclectic musicality and depth of expression in its thoughtful lyrics that we’ve come to expect from the band.

Also on this tour is Summer Cannibals from Portland, Oregon. The band’s sound defies easy categorization beyond hard rock but it has some loose around the edges wildness akin to Babes in Toyland and L7. Except Jessica Boudreaux’s voice is both melodic while cutting through the fuzzy sparks of the band’s driving forward momentum. Some might call Summer Cannibals garage punk but it’s guitar work is much more compelling than most of that wave of music and its musical vision more coherent as well.

Friday | September 28, 2018

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Too Many Zooz – Pug In A Tub Tour w/Honeycomb and The Alcapones
When: Friday, 09.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: For Too Many Zooz see above for 09.27 at The Bluebird.

Who: Gary Numan w/Nightmare Air and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: For those somehow not familiar, Gary Numan beyond his 1979/1980 Top 40 hit “Cars,” was a pioneer of the use of synthesizer as a compositional element in pop music. His old band Tubeway Army was a post-punk project and that sort of moody, brooding element continued on into Numan’s career under his own name. Throughout the 80s, Numan explored themes of alienation, the impact of technology on human civilization and psychology and the ways technology could be used to write and produce music. Numan also experimented with integrating other styles of music outside his perceived repertoire and his body of work and through the 90s were an obvious influence on industrial music generally and industrial rock specifically. In the 2000s Numan has delved further into conceptual work in his songwriting especially his two most recent albums, 2013’s Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and 2017’s Savage (Songs from a Broken World). Numan is no stranger to using dystopian science fiction ideas or even simply examination of possible futures extrapolated from the present in his music but Savage is one wherein he posits a near future where global warming has caused a worldwide desert. In seeking answers what remains of humanity seeks answers in ancient religion rather than trying to deal with the world as it is with disastrous results. As with most science fiction a warning with some uncomfortable truths about humans contained within it and a suggestion to seek creative solutions rather than what we think is tried and true.

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Guerilla Toss, image courtesy the artist

Who: Guerilla Toss w/Black Belt Eagle Scout and H Lite
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Guerilla Toss came up through the underground/DIY music world of Boston and New York where it experimented with musical ideas and concepts, developing what might be described as weirdo electro No Wave funk. Except that wouldn’t encompass completely a sound and performance style that includes the threads of punk fury and wiry energy, noise, prog and the avant-garde. The group recently released its latest album Twisted Crystal, an album that seems to transform some of the band’s frantic, nervous energy into dense yet beautifully expansive atmospheres while using its angular dynamics straight into those more fluid. It’s a fascinating mixture of ideas and sounds that is both alien and comforting in a way that a surreal cartoon or live action show from your youth can be.

Who: Modern Goon, Luxury Hearse, A Light Among Many, New Standards Men album release
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Distillery
Why: New Standards Men released it’s new album People Wonder digitally on September 24. But it’s celebrating the release of the record with this show with like-minded peers at Denver Distillery. The Denver-based band has been releasing some of the more interesting experimental heavy guitar music of recent years in the Mile High City but the material on the new album has as much in common with 90s, dark math rock legends like A Minor Forest and Don Caballero as it does with even an adventurous doom band of today though some of that style of deep droning is present on the songs “Tanned Womb” and “Thirteen Alaskan Islands/Pacific Blood.” But it’s the sparkle and drift over the driving fuzz that makes the music breathe and invites the imagination to project onto its soundscape.

Who: Flahoola, To Be Astronauts, Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver Meatpacking Company may hearken back to early alternative rock in the grunge vein but it does so with a charming self-consciousness that transcends any mere nostalgic kick. Flahoola as well but their sound is more like an early 2000s melodic stoner rock band that injects more energy into the rhythm.

Who: Weaponizer and Necropanther
When: Friday, 09.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: Two of the best bands from Denver that in another era would have been considered thrash but thrash already happened and today’s metal bands that aren’t going for pure throwback cachet have been influenced by a broad spectrum of music, heavy and otherwise. Weaponizer’s more gritty style is like a more menacing, grind-esque, speed metal. Necropanther’s sound is closer to melodic death metal but a little too animalistic in the vocals for all of that.

Saturday | September 29, 2018

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What: Whaaat!? A Festival for Games and Experimental Interaction
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: ATLAS Institute at CU Boulder
Why: This is a one day event dedicated to experimental games (arcade/video, tabletop et. al.) with featured speakers on the subject of gaming and development. Mattie Brice is not just a game designer but an activist in the games industry whose work includes Mainichi, in which players take on the role of the daily life of a transgender person. Her work has also been important on the subject of diversity in the gaming world generally. Pippin Barr, like Brice, is a game designer and educator who teaches game design and programming. Barr’s games are often unconventional and challenge traditional notions of what computer games can be including The Artist is Present, inspired by and involving performance artist Marina Abramović’s piece of the same name. The event gives attendees a chance to witness and participate in cutting edge games and interact with some of the minds behind them. Those interested should register at www.whaaat.io.


Who: Ned Garthe Explosion, Oxeye Daisy and Church Fire
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ned Garthe Explosion makes a good case for why modern psychedelic rock isn’t dead. Even from early on, the show itself has been chaotic and colorful enough to be worthy of the term psychedelic in not only sound, content and presentation. And yet, the songwriting has always been solid and interesting. Oxeye Daisy has seemingly leapt past 90s alt-rock nostalgia into a musical zone that, sure, bears the influences of that era, that is more energized atmospheric pop than anything throwback. Its sound is very much of the present and fans of Wye Oak and Japanese Breakfast should take note. Church Fire has secretly and not so secretly been one of Denver’s most engaging live bands for not just its irresistible dance beats but its willingness to go beyond the map of middle-of-the-road accessibility mixing in noise, industrial dynamic edge and Shannon Webber’s impassioned vocal delivery.

What: Industrial Music For the Masses Vol. 2: DJ Ed Gein and eHpH
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Milk Bar Green Room
Why: Denver EBM/industrial rock band eHpH has been hitting a strong creative vein of late crafting vibrant and engrossing atmospheric electronic music shot through with a palpable emotional power. Always interesting, the duo is now starting to hit its stride as a band.

Dr. Hamburger

Who: Belly Eater, Curt Oren, Real Dom, $addy, Oxygen Thief and Dr. Hamburger
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Fairly broad spectrum of noise and related music at this show. Belly Eater from Ohio is sort of a noisy, Atari Teenage Riot-esque breakcore punk band. Chicago’s Curt Oren does avant-garde audio-acoustic music including processed saxophone. Real Dom from Iowa threads together synthwave and noise. $addy makes bizarro video game music for stuff way more interesting and haunting than Sad Satan and without the disturbing baggage of the latter. Oxygen Thief is true bedroom techno dungeonwave, or something. Dr. Hamburger has landed in Denver from Rochester, New York to share his processed real time environment noise. Somehow none of these acts sound anything alike and the bill is better for it.

Who: Chelsea Wolfe w/Russian Circles
When: Friday, 09.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Chelsea Wolfe’s knack for making deep, dark, loud music was built on a foundation of the dynamics and sonics of acoustic, old world folk music. Along with her channeling her experiences with sleep paralysis, anxiety and other psychological trauma into her art, Wolfe’s music has an unexpected depth and emotional intensity beyond anyone trying to pen her music in as doom or Goth or neofolk or anything so narrowly defined. For this tour she’s sharing dates with instrumental metal group Russian Circles whose own music seems to come from a primordial place from which all ancient religions and rituals find their root. Although associated with metal, Russian Circles sounds like its music origins are steeped in posthardcore and, like Wolfe, ancient, certainly pre-Christian, folk music.

Who: Lyrics Born w/Indigenous Peoples, AG Flux and Bukue One
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Tsutomu Shimura used to call himself Asia Born because he was actually born in Tokyo. But early in his career he changed his hip-hop moniker to Lyrics Born so that the perception of his work would be a product of its own merit rather than through some essentialist filter. To his credit, Lyrics Born’s fluid delivery and vocal centered, funk-driven, songs bring an experimental dimension to a style of hip-hop that sounds like something from a classic 80s era rather than something that is pushing stylistic boundaries. Lyrics Born is now touring on his first album in a few years, Quite a Life.

Who: Cuckoo, Magpies (MT), Grave Moss and Surrender Signal
When: Saturday, 09.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Magpies got started in Havre, Montana, close to the Canadian border, in 2006 and given its bright, introspective indie rock probably didn’t find too big an audience at home before moving to Missoula in 2012 where, like most bands that don’t have some kind of marketing budget or an influential PR team, it plays to small rooms regularly. But the band did what not every group does, it went on tour and has released multiple albums including 2017’s Annex. Brooding, fuzzy and anthemic, it’s something for fans of Rainer Maria and Eleventh Dream Day.

Rounding out the bill are three Denver bands that resist pat classification. Cuckoo may have at one point sounded a little like a math rock version of a hardcore band but now that math-y side has become more dominant with intricate guitar work in the context of a spare and simple songwriting context. Grave Moss is sort of like a death rock band if that band wasn’t brooding so much as burning with nervous energy and dynamics. Surrender Signal’s mixture of introspective moods, cool melodies peppered with atonal highlights and emotional urgency is reminiscent of acts on the Teenbeat imprint and early Merge Records.

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Saturday, 09.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Courtney Barnett’s witty, self-effacing songwriting goes beyond merely clever wordplay and a poignant observation here and there. It’s often as though she’s tapping into a modern contemporary zeitgeist or able to express her experiences, feelings and imagined scenarios in a way that is immediately relatable to anyone that has taken some time to ponder what life is all about or at least be amused by circumstances that resist immediate interpretation. Throughout her career, Barnett has been especially adept at humanizing anxiety as experienced. Barnett doesn’t treat the experience as simply a condition to be treated in a clinical fashion, rather she articulates with telling details and humor how that emotional wrecking ball affects one’s life in a myriad of ways, shining a compassionate light on its several darkened corners of in the psyche. You can pick up anywhere in Barnett’s catalog and get a record worth taking the time to delve into but her 2018 album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a seemingly more subdued affair sonically speaking if not so much in the words. When you call songs “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” you’re not mincing words and on the new record Barnett spares us the niceties in favor of personal truth.

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee is no stranger to laying bare a powerful vulnerability in her own songwriting and performances. Her own storytelling has a warmth and intimacy that when coupled with the spacious, expansive quality of the music an impact that lingers with you long after the song is over. Crutchfield transmogrifies the fear, uncertainty and anxiety at the heart of the experiences of most people living today in this crumbling and increasingly demanding civilization into anthems of to soothe and comfort without sugarcoating the way things are. Waxahatchee released the Great Thunder EP in 2018.

Sunday | September 30, 2018

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Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Who: Courtney Barnett w/Waxahatchee
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett see above for 09.29.

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Earthless, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Who: Earthless w/Mad Alchemy and Green Druid
When: Sunday, 09.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: San Diego’s Earthless is on a surface level a sort of bluesy psychedelic rock band akin to Mountain or Uriah Heep. Except with a modern sensibility like its members have already heard and been imprinted a bit by peers like Dead Meadow and Sleep. But Earthless’ embrace of the imagery of natural mysticism and the aesthetics of kosmische musik gives its music an air of otherworldliness even as it employs rock and roll sounds and rhythms that may be familiar to many of its listeners. Its new album, 2018’s Black Heaven, has the band following the rabbit hole of its musical intuition down paths it might not have taken if the songwriting was consciously crafted with standard song structure.

What: Textures: Chromadrift, Blank Human and Ancient Inc. 
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase features dream pop/guitar drone artist Chromadrift, Blank Human’s modular synth compositions (Blank Human’s Dan Coleman is also in experimental electronic/industrial duo Luxury Hearse) and Ancient Inc., a project that uses field recordings, ancient acoustic instruments and production to create its textured sonic atmospheres.

Who: Brighter Death Now w/Theologian, Echo Beds, Page 27 and Gruesome Relics
When: Sunday, 9 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: As Brighter Death Now, Roger Karmanik has been a prolific and influential maker of forbidding industrial soundscapes and noise. His now defunct record label Cold Meat Industry introduced the world to some of the most innovative and challenging music of its time from 1987 to 2013. This is a rare chance to see the Swedish artist live in Denver with a handful of like-minded local acts.

Monday | October 1, 2018

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Presets, photo courtesy the artist

Who: The Presets w/Blood Red Shoes
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Presets from Sydney, Australia is a duo making the kind of electronic pop that on the surface is fun, high energy dance music. But their latest album, 2018’s Hi Viz makes it more obvious the depth of influence and innovation going on underneath what seems obvious. “Beethoven” and other tracks are reminiscent of the dark, cavernous, mysterious club vibe that was an aspect of the music of Underworld in the 90s—a calming tone amid urgent rhythms. Along with fellow Sydney electronic artist Flume, The Presets helped to bring Australia’s dance music world to a global audience. Even though Hi Viz, as the name suggests, was aimed at broadening the duo’s potential fan base with a diversity of musical ideas loaded into the tracks, the experiments also made for one of the more interesting electronic albums of this year thus far.

Who: The Breeders w/Sasami and Boyhollow
When: Monday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alternative rock band The Breeders came through Colorado in the spring touring in support of its 2018 album All Nerve. While one of the band’s stronger efforts of the past twenty years it also includes an interesting pick of a cover song with “Archangel’s Thunderbird” by classic psychedelic prog band Amon Duul II. The band is also bringing along Sasami as in Sasami Ashworth, former member of Cherry Glazerrr, on her solo tour in the wake of the release of a couple of acclaimed singles.

Who: Lucy Spraggan w/The Dollhouse Thieves, Sarah Slaton
When: Monday, 10.01.18 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Lucy Spraggan is a singer/songwriter from the UK who was already making a name for herself as an artist of note before auditioning for The X Factor and, in fact, had already signed to Columbia before any episode in which she appeared aired to the public. Spraggan is an LGBTQ activist in the UK and she and her partner foster disadvantaged children and that points to the compassion and and emotional strength of her songwriting. 2017’s I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing is brimming with the aforementioned along with an irreverent and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humor. Spraggan’s new album is set for release in 2019 but for this tour you may get to hear some of that material.

Who: IDLES w/Bambara
When: Monday, 10.01.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: IDLES from Bristol, UK put out an album in 2018 called Joy as an Act of Resistance. A bold title and one the band was able to live up to at a time when too much of punk is fairly traditionalist in most ways. Musically it’s more experimental than a lot of punk and could be considered post-punk but the vibe is there and the critique of cultural distraction as aspirational reward, fake do-gooders, self-destruction and toxic masculinity is refreshing. Also on the tour is Brooklyn, New York’s Bambara. There’s a lot of darkwave-inspired bands and a new post-punk revival that’s been going on for nearly a decade but Bambara manages to stand out with some genuinely deep personal darkness in the vocals and sonics reminiscent of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and The Birthday Party in post-come down mode. It’s own 2018 album, Shadow On Everything, delivers on the promise of that title.

Tuesday | October 2, 2018

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at Oriental Theater circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: <PIG>, eHpH, Offerings to Odin, and DJ n810
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Raymond Watts of <PIG> has been an influential figure on the sound and aesthetics of industrial music going back to the early-to-mid 80s as a producer, an artist and a sound engineer. While touring with Einsturzende Neubauten he had to tangle with a challenging live sound situation with that band’s use of large art pieces and experiments as noisemakers as well as more conventional instrumentation. He contributed to some of KMFDM’s most interesting work and with <PIG> he was an innovator in both industrial rock and finely sculpted ambient music. For this tour it’s mostly going to industrial rock but Watts’ stage performance draws on the antics of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford and the aesthetics of a Kenneth Anger’s 1963 film Scorpio Rising. Or if not, that’s what it looked like while he was touring with Ohgr over the summer of 2018.

Who: Vase Vide w/Patrick Hale Coyle and Housekeys
When: Tuesday, 10.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: Vase Vide is yet more proof that Colorado Springs is “hiding” some of Colorado’s most interesting bands. Sure, synth pop, but too weird and inherently experimental for just that. Daniel Oglesby’s and Kellie Palmblad’s vocal layers and treatments are certainly accessible but challenge conventional notions of what forms pop music can take. Along with the music and visual presentation of the band, Vase Vide may not be so well-known in Denver but the quality of the imagination going into its music and concept should garner the group national and international attention.

Wednesday | October 3, 2018

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Dr. Hamburger, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Enji, Dr. Hamburger and Gothsta
When: Wednesday, 10.03, 9 p.m. doors/9:15 show
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: October’s Weird Wednesday will be extra weird with video game electronics/guitar looping from Enji who will probably perform in an unusual mask. Gothsta is Weird Wednesday host Claudia Woodman’s keytar band and so a bit of glam presentation and the odd but on point cover. Dr. Hamburger is Cameron Farrash from Rochester, New York whose layers of textured beats, drone, harsh noise and ambient tones creates a surreal, even otherworldly ambiance.

Author: simianthinker

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