Best Shows in Denver 11/1/18 – 11/7/18

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Tank and the Bangas will perform at The Ogden Theatre on Friday, November 2, 2018 with Big Freedia and Naughty Professor, photo by Gus Bennett Jr.

Thursday | November 1, 2018

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The Goon Sax, photo by Ryan Topaz

Who: Holy Wave w/Pale Sun
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Holy Wave is a band from Austin, Texas that weaves together a kind of motorik beat driven, Krautrock wall of sound mixed with the sort of folk and rock and roll that produced the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. So sort of garage psych but more imaginative and with more nuanced, layered songwriting. With the band’s most recent album Adult Fear, it’s drifted in a more 60s futurist pop direction akin to Pink Floyd gone French pop akin to a psych garage version of Stereolab. Pale Sun’s dense washes of mind-bending tones and hypnotic rhythms will be a good match as its own atmospheric rock has some resonance with weirdo electronic music.

Who: Dia De Muertos Celebration with Altas, Plume Varia, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Church Fire
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Four of Denver’s best bands on one bill for this celebration of Dia De Muertos. Altas’s instrumental rock music conjures the visual element for you in your mind with its dynamic compositions and keen sense of texture and rhythm. Plume Varia’s downtempo dream pop is not something you get to see much live these days—an effective and evocative blend of R&B, synthpop and darkwave. Vic N’ The Narwhals found a way to keep surf rock vital and not another victim of genre oversaturation. Church Fire has long been the band to embody an instinct for great pop hooks, emotionally electrifying and confrontational performances, raw chaos and noise and making elements that aren’t often in one place work in a way that’s accessible and powerful. Church Fire will release an album at the end of the year and change up its direction so you may see hints of that in its upcoming live shows.

Who: The Goon Sax w/Teeth of the Hydra and Chromadrift
When: Thursday, 11.1, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Brisbane, Australia’s The Goon Sax harnessed the strong melodic lines and harmonic jangle one heard in C86-era pop bands and those on the Sarah Records imprint, or as heard by bands clearly influenced by that sound, into some surprisingly thoughtful and incisive songs for a trio of teenagers. The group’s 2016 album Up to Anything may sound like a new indie rock album on the surface but there’s something more durable about the compositions like The Birthday Present with less fuzzy edges. With the group’s 2018 album We’re Not Talking finds the band making exceptionally realized use of space and textural elements that give the emotional quality a surprising vividness while enhancing the impact of the introspective lyrics. Opening the show are two experimental bands from Denver, both more on the ambient end of the spectrum, including Chromadrift whose soft, post-rock-esque compositions capture the feeling of fall and winter with an uncanny accuracy. Teeth of the Hydra’s moody, organic drones feel like music for a Bela Tarr movie.

Friday | November 2, 2018

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Surfbort, photo by Renee Parkhurst

Who: Black Lips w/Surfbort and Dirty Few
When: Friday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Lips are still that notorious garage punk band from Atlanta from whom you’re never 100% sure what you’ll get but the show will be energetic and border on the chaotic. Which suits the energy and aesthetic of Denver’s Dirty Few. But like Black Lips, the band has a gift for solid pop songwriting and Kim Phat’s vocals give otherwise fairly gritty songs an interesting combination of lightness and intensity. Surfbort from Brooklyn breaks modern punk convention in a variety of ways. Not with the music so much as it sounds a bit like 80s and early 90s punk as if the band cutting its teeth learning to play along to The Damned, Crass, Black Flag and Tribe 8. But Dani Miller looks like a real punk who has seen some rough days but is now channeling that into powerful vocals not unlike an American Eve Libertine thirty years hence. The band’s debut full length Friendship Music is everything punk should be—loud, sometimes obnoxious, irreverent and willing to experiment with sound as a complete and utter middle finger to convention and expectations. Miller is in her mid-20s and her bandmates in their 40s and 50s so there is a sensibility and dynamic that makes this band always a little different and for the better.
Who: Tank and The Bangas and Big Freedia w/Naughty Professor
When: Friday, 11.2, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Some of New Orleans’ finest will grace the Ogden stage tonight. Tank and The Bangas’ flavor of that hip-hop, jazz and R&B hybrid is deeply eclectic, gently lively, layered and uplifting in a way that feels sincere and wholesome without being hokey or self-righteous. It’s the musical equivalent of a nutritious meal with a perfect blend of delicious flavors that mutually enhance and satisfy all palates. Big Freedia is a pioneer of sissy-bounce but at this point really pushes hip-hop in interesting directions with his larger-than-life live show and refusal to be contained by an aesthetic that might contain the prodigious energy of his musical instincts. Live, Freedia’s songs can go off the rails in surreal and heady directions because of that more open-ended songwriting style and performance. Maybe now Freedia has honed the act and songwriting to be more precise in its effectiveness but one of Freedia’s main appeals is a nearly overwhelming sense of liberation from convention. Naughty Professor is a six-piece, improvisational jazz-funk band on the more experimental end of that sort of music—an example of when a real jam band can make some magic on stage rather than self-indulgently wank.

Who: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/Sen Morimoto and Triplip
When: Friday, 11.2, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is an artist everyone that think they’ve seen everything should check out because he is like a recombinant DNA mad scientist of musical genres. Punk spirit, sometimes sound, always that energy fused with hip-hop, avant-garde improv, weirdo funk, indie jazz and whatever else goes in to give life to his unusual song ideas and surreal-yet-meaningful-and-insightful-playful lyrics. Maybe he’s too weird to go to some bigger level of touring but don’t count on it and see him when he’s still playing these smaller rooms.

Saturday | November 3, 2018

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Drahla, photo by Bianca Wallis

Who: Quits w/Americas (Chicago), Reptoid (Oakland) and Arctobog and Bert Olsen
When: Saturday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Denver based noise rock band Quits shares the Seventh Circle stage with math rock/neo-emo band Americas from Chicago, Oakland’s menacing, industrial-esque, noise rockers Reptoid, poetry/avant-garde punk lo-fi act Arctobog from Denver and Folk Implosion-esque lo-fi rock project Bert Olsen.

Who: Hot Apostles, The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Crimson Days (Robin Heitman, Nathan King, Garrett McGaugh and Nicolas Kjolhede)
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Nicolas Kjolhede recently moved back to Michigan after around a decade in Denver where he performed in the rock band Cutthroat Drifters. His signature moves, his clear passion for the music and his affable nature made him a true fixture in Denver’s underground music scene. Tonight he’ll perform with one of his new bands, Crimson Days, at the Squire Lounge with other noteworthy rock bands whose own musical vision isn’t limited to simple subgenre convention and who managed to be straight ahead rock bands with personality and not miming past classic rock glory as has been the temptation, unresisted, among too many bands today.

Who: Tera Melos w/Rumble Young Man Rumble and Dandu
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos definitely puts the weird in math rock with technically challenging song structures and dynamics. Radical shifts in direction like a post-hardcore Don Caballero gives Tera Melos’ songs a wiry momentum that one might expect an early band on the 31G imprint or out of late 90s DIY scene Providence, Rhode Island. Dandu from Denver can vibe with the math rock and angular jazz flow but its own music is also brimming with atmosphere.

Who: CT-X (Captured Tracks 10 Anniversary Tour) w/Drahla, Lina Tullgren, Wax Chattels
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Indie record label Captured Tracks is celebrating its first decade with tour featuring a fairly representative slice of it roster. Wax Chattels is what might have been called a dance punk band fifteen years ago but it’s far noisier and keys rather than guitar and reminiscent of 90s post-hardcore, synth heavy bands like The VSS and Milemarker. Lina Tullgren’s songs would fall within the realm of dream pop if they weren’t imbued with an urgency and sense of melancholy. Drahla from Leeds, UK is a post-punk outfit that has adopted a bit of the unpredictable guitar melodies one would have heard in Sonic Youth from the 80s or from northeast Canada’s noisier guitar bands like FRIGS or Preoccupations.

Sunday | November 4, 2018

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Wild Nothing, photo by Cara Robbins

Who: Love Hope Strength benefit w/The Alarm
When: Sunday, 11.4, 3:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: The Alarm may not have been as famous as U2 (in fact The Alarm toured as support for U2 on the 1983 War tour), The Call or The The but its music was within that wheelhouse of uplifting, melodic, thoughtful rock with songwriting that tapped into the brighter places in your imagination. Its 1987 hit “Rain in the Summertime” remained a staple of college radio and modern rock format radio stations for years. In 2005 singer and main songwriter Mike Peters discovered he was suffering from a form of leukemia which inspired him to start a foundation called Love Hope Strength which benefits those suffering from cancer and raises awareness of the issues those stricken with the malady face. It’s an afternoon show so you can catch the band and help out a good cause and, you know, have plenty of time for everything else on a Sunday that you might get up to.

Who: Wild Nothing w/Men I Trust
When: Sunday, 11.4, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: When Wild Nothing first emerged to a national audience, albeit on the more underground circuit, the group’s C86-inspired jangle rock seemed to incorporate post-punk moodiness and rhythms struck a sweet spot for a lot of people who maybe though the whole “chamber pop” thing and the wave of bands imitating 60s and 70s rock was wearing thin. That singer/guitarist Jack Tatum could convincingly evoke The Smiths without completely ripping off the Mancunians certainly had an appeal when the music industry seemed inundated with artists aiming for the mundanely rustic. The band’s 2018 album Indigo is a natural progression from its earlier records but its breezy melodies and synth washes are reminiscent of Kitchens of Distinction, The Teardrop Explodes, The Church and maybe even Soft Boys. And yet, Wild Nothing has added to the post-punk cannon by not at all sounding like a clone of any of its influences through finding consistently inventive ways of melding the aesthetics of electronic music, rock and pop.

Men I Trust from Montreal is a decidedly independent band whose DIY ethos one doesn’t often associate with a group making lush, jazzy, R&B-inflected dream pop. Fans of Toro Y Moi and Purity Ring will find a good deal to like about this trio.

Monday | November 5, 2018

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

Who: Molly Burch w/Jesse Woods and Pure Weed
When: Monday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Molly Burch’s 2017 debut album Please Be Mine was remarkable not just for Burch’s delicately powerful voice and uncommonly superbly voiced instrumentals, but for how Burch can not only write from a place of hurt but doing so with an awareness of the humanity of those who hurt her and who she undoubtedly hurt in return. Her use of words honors the complexity of life and relationships with an immediacy and accessibility that usually comes a few albums in. Her sophomore effort, 2018’s First Flower finds Burch focusing more on exploring fraught moments of relationships outside the realm of the romantic as well as her issues with anxiety with the same insight and warmth that characterized her previous work.

Tuesday | November 6, 2018

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Acid Dad, photo by Devon Bristol Shaw

Who: Acid Dad, Serpentfoot and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Acid Dad is one band that answered the question about whether a band could come out of the rock milieu/era when psychedelic garage rock and surf was the prevailing trend and still have something interesting to say using similar musical language. The answer is, of course, yes, and the band’s self-titled LP may be a nod to stuff like Wooden Shijps, Ty Segall and early psych classics but its subject matter is a refreshingly different take on social issues and personal travails. At times you’ll hear echoes of Madchester and Spacemen 3 as in the song “Marine” and early tracks like “Brain Body.” But even in their more languid moments there’s an energy to Acid Dad’s performances that makes them more than a cut above of the bands that sound like they listened to “Anemone” by Brian Jonestown Massacre too many times and made it their template except when they want to fuzz up some lazy surf rock licks. The local support for this show includes Fort Collins’ Serpentfoot who do that surf and psych thing better than most because there’s more than a little bite to its lively songs. Denver’s Emerald Siam draws on some of the same influences as Acid Dad but comes from a place of deep knowledge of garage rock, psychedelia and post-punk out of which it has woven a bright, sometimes brooding yet expansive, and uplifting yet gritty futuristic rock and roll.

Who: Jim James w/Alynda Segarra from Hurray For the Riff Raff and Andrea Gibson
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Jim James is of course known for his iconic work in My Morning Jacket. But his solo albums are always worth checking out and his 2018 album Uniform Distortion was, according to an April 2018 interview with NPR, inspired by his “fascination with The Last Whole Earth Catalog.” Whole Earth Catalog being the visionary publication that took emerging awareness of ecology, sustainability, DIY/self-sufficient culture and shared uncommon knowledge with anyone open to a counter cultural perspective grounded in fairly pragmatic information. The album itself sounds like James spent some time hanging out with 70s hippies who turned their idealism into informal institutions that still exist to this day. All the while absorbing musical ideas and translating them for the current era. It’s a fascinating aesthetic of retro-futurism that takes the concept of holism seriously and applies it to the music and how it’s presented.

Wednesday | November 7, 2018

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Death Valley Girls, photo by Michael Haight

Who: Death Valley Girls w/Gymshorts and Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the Los Angeles band’s t-shirts proclaims that “Satan Worships Death Valley Girls.” And, really, wouldn’t love a group of lively hellions that so gloriously hurls together glam, punk, garage, psychedelia and shoegaze like a high camp Stooges. Iggy even appeared in the video for “Disaster (Is What We’re After),” a single from the 2018 album Darkness Rains, which is all the endorsement you need.

Author: simianthinker

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