Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 27: Elder Island

Elder Island, photo by Nic Kane

Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK where Katy Sargent, Luke Thornton and David Havard met at university. Starting life in the early 2010s as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even more avant-garde folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. At that point in the band’s history its three members were multi-instrumentalists who had learned to integrate its broad sonic palette with imaginative arrangements and creative production. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Listen to our interview with Elder Island on Bandcamp and go see the UK trio at its shows in Denver at the Bluebird Theater on 5.20 and in Boulder at The Fox Theatre on 05.21.

Live Show Review: Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22

Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Chicago’s noise pop band Dehd interestingly enough played the first show of its Spring tour in Denver at the Bluebird Theater. Perhaps not so unusual since, apparently, singer/bassist Emily Kempf has been spending a bit of time in New Mexico of late. But this show was very Chicago-centric with another Windy City trio on the bill with darkwave industrial group Pixel Grip. Stylistically it would take some effort to find bands further apart. But both represented distinctly different side of a city known for bands with eclectic influences.

Pixel Grip at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Pixel Grip’s Rita Lukea took the stage alone at the beginning of the show with just a microphone and backing tracks for the first song. And that would have been compelling enough for a whole set such was Lukea’s commanding presence as a singer. But when Tyler Ommen and Jonathon Freund came on to take up places on synths and drums the sonic signature became more saturated and the rhythms deeper and with such a rich low end that it reminded those in the know of a techno show at a warehouse somewhere at which the people holding the event bring in real gear. Lukea’s vocals remained strong but there was also a completely unaffected vulnerability in her performance that was powerful on its own, that coupled with an utterly sincere way of engaging with the audience that helped to make the music immediately and constantly accessible.

Pixel Grip at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

You can have listened to every Dehd record and not be prepared for the sustained bursts of joy the band exudes on stage. Often lumped into loose categories like post-punk, garage rock and surf rock, Dehd is all of those things but its spirited performance somehow incorporates a healthy, self-deprecating Midwestern sense of humor with songs that are a direct line to heartfelt emotion transmitted with great sincerity and enthusiasm to the audience. The presentation of the music is that of self-aware bravado infused with a startling vulnerability that strikes in unexpected moments in almost every song. In that way Dehd came off like a party band that gave up the uninspired hedonistic lyrics for something with more depth and soul.

Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Much of the joking from stage came from Kempf who said she was a Virgo at one point (which it turns out isn’t simply a joke) and asked the crowd where they were on the astrological spectrum, getting some humorous responses. And almost as a non-sequitur Kempf asked “Where have all the cowboys gone” and maybe that Paula Cole hit got teased by the rest of the band. The synergy of what seemed like a loose performance but which really wasn’t was a fascinating display of contrasts.

Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Throughout the show one couldn’t help but be impressed with how Dehd could stretch way out with the melodies and then come back together in tight dynamics with both Kempf and singer/guitarist Jason Balla throwing themselves bodily into the performance singing from their core while Eric McGrady, no slouch on performing with his entire body either, seemed like a tranquil and steady presence standing up and playing his small set of drums. He made it look easy but the music demands creative and imaginative percussion. But the force of the performance didn’t just come from that visceral intensity, it came in the moments when the songs went atmospheric and introspective and the vocal performances weren’t simply fiery and earthy, they evoked complex emotions with a disarming simplicity. The vocals on “Disappear” and “Dream On” are some of the best of the band’s impressive catalog and the latter surely a standout on the group’s forthcoming full-length Blue Skies (due out May 27, 2022 on Fat Possum), from which more than a couple of songs in the set were taken though there was plenty from Flower of Devotion, Water and earlier releases. Ending the encore with “Desire” seemed like an exclamation point on a set of all high points. If Dehd is right now a bit of an indie cult band the exuberance of its live shows and how so many of its songs linger with you should propel it wider circles before too much longer.

Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Dehd at Bluebird Theater 5/2/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 26: ADULT.

ADULT. at Larimer Lounge 10/13/18, photo by Tom Murphy

ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux.

Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp and go see ADULT. live at Hi-Dive on Saturday, May 14, 2022 with Kontravoid and Spike Hellis.

Live Show Review: Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022

Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Waxahatchee’s most recent album Saint Cloud released two weeks into the first phase of the global pandemic in 2020 so fans didn’t get the full force of the songs in the live setting for many months and perhaps not until this 2022 tour. But that setback didn’t seem to diminish Katie Crutchfield’s enthusiasm and spirit for the music and this performance at the Ogden Theatre in Denver showcased the record in almost its entirety with some choice cuts from earlier records. But Saint Cloud was the focus of the generous nineteen song set.

Madi Diaz at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Opening the proceedings was Madi Diaz. The prolific singer-songwriter stood on the large Ogden state with her drummer Adam Popick and held your attention with her luminous and strong vocals accompanied by her spare yet expressive guitar work that conveyed a distinctive yet grainy tone. It was an effect that set her apart from many other artists operating with a similar palette of sounds. Diaz hadn’t spent a lot of time live performing for two years either and expressed a great deal of gratitude for people taking the time to give her 2021 album History Of A Feeling a listen. Her songs about the pitfalls of relationships hit with a wit and nuance of understanding that provided both a clarity and an embrace of the messy emotions that can flood your brain when you’re in the moment. “New Person, Old Place” was especially poetic and vivid in its imagery but her whole set felt very intimate and strikingly honest but not cruel and a good fit as an opener for Waxahatchee.

Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

One of the recent times Waxahatchee performed in Denver was also at the Ogden on September 30, 2018 opening for Courtney Barnett and accompanied by an electric guitar player to her acoustic and no one else. Of course the songs were good and Katie Crutchfield’s vocals strong and her lyrics personally incisive. But this time out, headlining her own show, Crutchfield had a bass player, two electric guitarists that also played keyboards and a full kit drummer. Yet with this expanded line-up the singer lost none of that intimate feel and air of vulnerability bolstered by confidence and a fluidity in the transitions between songs throughout the show.

Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

The aesthetic was reminiscent of an old country concert with Crutchfield in what might be described as a minimalist ball gown. And that little bit of theater gave the show a slightly different quality than if Crutchfield was dressed up in something less formal. The vibe seemed Memphis that combined the rustic with a touch of glamour reinforced before anyone took stage by “The Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star playing over the sound system as the introductory music. The effect made the Waxahatchee songs seem more intimate and impactful. It also helped to bring in focus Crutchfield’s lyrics which always seem so direct in tone whether singing to someone in the song or addressing herself, a quality that gives the sense that she’s singing directly you about something you’ve experienced in your own life. The wordplay seemed even more effective as with the playful and clever couplets of “Hell.” Perhaps less obvious was the way all three guitarists, if one includes Crutchfield, synced together to create truly elegant and subtly intricate guitar melodies that created a nuanced atmosphere within which Crutchfield’s commanding voice and presence could stand out and stand clear.

Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

“Lilacs” was dedicated to Madi Diaz whose own songs of romantic mishap had a similarly poignant resonance and Crutchfield told us that “This song is a breakup song so if anybody needs that, this is before you” before performing “Never Been Wrong.” The set took us through a broad range of human emotions but always with great creativity and nuanced insight. The self-deprecating, melancholic insecurity of “Singer’s No Star,” struggles with one’s own shortcomings on several songs but definitely on “War” and existential uncertainty and coming to terms with not necessarily knowing which is the best path forward as on “St. Cloud.” Waxahatchee covered a lot of emotional territory without trying to put a try hard polish of positivity on anything with the underlying suggestion that despite how deeply you feel that you’ve got nothing left and things seem like too much to bear that you can find some thread of a reason to at least keep struggling and enjoy momentary joys and strong feelings that burn through the mundane haze of every day life now and then. So it seemed entirely appropriate that the set proper ended on the song “Fire” from Saint Cloud after beginning the show with “Oxbow” to suggest some heavy work ahead. And if that isn’t impressive set order planning it’s hard to say what would be.

Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy
Waxahatchee at Ogden Theatre 4/22/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 25: Reverb and The Verse

Reverb And The Verse, photo by Tom Murphy

Reverb And The Verse has been going in Denver since 1999 when Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai (aka Providence) met through friends who figured they might gel as a duo. Between Etter’s technical wizardry with synthesizers and production and Simbai’s deft and thought-provoking wordplay Reverb And The Verse became a staple in the local underground music scene. But their wide-ranging musical interests and eclectic aesthetics always seemed to make them perhaps too experimental or not otherwise right for the hip-hope scene and too hip-hop for other scenes. And yet Etter and Simbai have produced an impressive body of work across ten albums including their 2022 and final album BLACKWALL. From jump it’s a decidedly different and engrossing album that hits like a secret and great industrial or darkwave record but with a hip-hop production aesthetic (of course much of industrial production was inspired by hip-hop sampling techniques and sequencing) and Simbai’s commanding vocals and incisive social analysis. One would hope that in an era when Vince Stapes, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Tyler the Creator, Death Grips, Moodie Black, Dälek and clipping. thrive that Reverb And The Verse would have been embraced by a wider audience but time will tell. BLACKWALL is arguably the duo’s finest moment across a catalog of consistently impressive and imaginative work with something to say with poetic finesse. All of it can be found on the Reverb And The Verse Bandcamp page.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Etter and Simbai to discuss their backgrounds in music, engineering (not the musical kind) and the ideas and experiences that shaped their extraordinary music. Listen below on Bandcamp and look out for a vinyl release later in 2022 and, with any luck, live performances of these songs and news of what the artists will do next.

reverbandtheverse.com

Reverb And The Verse on Instagram

Live Show Review: IDLES and Automatic at Mission Ballroom 4/19/22

IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Somewhere between when IDLES last played Denver at Larimer Lounge on October 1, 2018 and 2022, the Bristol-based rock band turned from small cult band to much wider international following going from a room that supposedly has a capacity of 250 to Mission Ballroom at 3,950. Who can say what happened. Maybe more people got on board when Ultra Mono came out during the peak months of the pandemic and Crawler in the fall of 2021. Its appeal has certainly been much broader than might have been suspected four years ago. The group resists easy and obvious genre tags like punk and post-punk much less post-hardcore but the spirited performance, the explicit anti-fascist bent of the lyrics and the attitude of this show even on such a big stage sure made it feel like IDLES came out of the punk or at least UK pub rick lineage.

Automatic at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22., photo by Tom Murphy

Automatic from Los Angeles opened the show with its minimalist aesthetic. No guitars but bass, synths and drums with all three members performing vocals with Izzy Glaudini (synths) doing most of the leads, Halle Saxon (bass) doing many of the backing vocals and Lola Dompé (drums, daughter of Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus fame) putting in lead vocals at various points in the set. Musically it was reminiscent of minimalists like Young Marble Giants with a touch of Stereolab and Delta 5. They seemed like a retro-futurist pop band with a visual style that resonated with a 1990s vision of a band from 2049. In some ways the music recalled the unconventional rhythms and otherworldliness of Suburban Lawns or LiLiPuT and the mix of organic sounds with the more electronic was well-integrated and imaginative. The new Automatic album Excess releases on June 24.

Automatic at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22., photo by Tom Murphy

Automatic at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22., photo by Tom Murphy
IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy

With the forcefulness and aggression inherent in its live energy IDLES could both alienate and inspire people. What made the band appealing to so many people early on was its stridently political yet humanistic and populist lyrics tempered with an embrace of sensitivity and openness singing of deep psychic pain with a raw and refreshing honesty and authenticity. The music felt like a way to redeem aspects of UK “lads” culture by cutting out the misogyny and, well, working class manifestation of racism and xenophobia while preserving the energy that is exciting to music aimed at that demographic. Because it was so authentic and real and spoke in direct language, the group couldn’t help but expand its audience with people who realized those old and outmoded ways didn’t belong to their core identity. At the aforementioned show in Denver, IDLES utterly erased the barrier between attendee and performer with lead singer Joe Talbot spending most of the time off stage and among the people who showed up with an infectious energy that swept you up in the the momentum the band built throughout the show.

IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy

This performance expanded on the raw charisma and power of the smaller show and translated it all to the much bigger stage. Was it punk? Sure, but more like an AC/DC show minus the wack lyrics and lines about wanting to cut your cake with their knife. Mark Bowen wore a dress and cut back on what might have been seen as the hypermasculinity of the performance if the sensitive and thoughtful songs about personal struggle, pain and loss could be missed in the sheer, visceral excitement of the show. Never once did anyone in IDLES seem to complain about the altitude, they just poured themselves completely into the show. Lee Kiernan often seemed to be dangled and whipped about by powers beyond his control and toward the end of the set Bowen went out into the audience and sang. Kiernan stepped down off the stage and played among the people and Talbot too went out into the crowd—things that you don’t often see at a place like Mission Ballroom.

IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy

All of the antics were certainly worth going to the show alone but it’s the songs of IDLES that were most riveting. Beginning the show with the appropriately titled “Colossus” and on into a roughly nineteen song set that included the tender yet intense “Mother,” the nihilistic yet transformative “Crawl!,” the surreal yet poignant “A Hymn” and closing with “Rottweiler” IDLES were on fire. One thing that seemed perhaps not so obvious but striking is that with a show like this with songs such as these IDLES is putting into practice a way for people to question their angst, their masculine identity and their aggressive impulses and channel that energy in ways that are more compassionate and humane rather than pretend its not there which is as creative a project as any overt musical goals. Before “Rottweiler” Talbot informed us that “There’s one thing we don’t love and that’s fascism and this is an anti-fascist song by an anti-fascist band.” Ending on that note of unity but showing where one of the lines is with acceptable behavior and worldview IDLES didn’t preach so much as make an easy statement of solidarity with the human condition and how fascism erases those conversations between people.

IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy
IDLES at Mission Ballroom 4/20/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond May 2022

ADULT., photo courtesy the artists
Dehd, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Monday | 05.02
What: Dehd w/Pixel Grip
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Chicago’s Dehd amalgamated and stripped to their essence strands of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelic garage rock that might have informed the trio’s bands prior to forming this group in around 2015. The result has been a body of work including what tracks have been released for listening of its fourth album Blue Skies (due out May 27 via Fat Possum Recordings) that consistently deconstructs recent trends in indie rock to create something somehow familiar yet decidedly different. Its inventive rhythms seemingly counter to the R&B flavor of some of its songwriting yet works well in spite of fusing styles so otherwise incongruous and as a live band there is a wash of atmospherics and moods that nonetheless comes across as focused and energetic. Sometimes its early records can when listened to in small samples don’t seem to convey this quality of the band but a deep dive on their records seems rewarding for the attentive listener. Pixel Grip is also from Chicago but its mutant blend of industrial disco synth pop would sound like a noise version of commercial pop if not for its eccentric streak in processing sounds and disregard for convention. Like a more accessible Atari Teenage Riot.

Mudhoney, photo by Niffer Calderwood

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Mudhoney w/Cyclo Sonic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Mudhoney is arguably the pioneering grunge band that cohered an aesthetic and attitude beyond the earlier explorations of Green River. Its wild dynamics and ramshackle rock and roll is almost like the early Replacements but more rooted in garage rock and punk. Mudhoney is also a charismatic and highly entertaining live band whose music isn’t inherently silly but despite the immense talent of its membership this group doesn’t take itself too seriously. Opening is Cyclo Sonic which includes members of various important Denver punk bands including Choosey Mothers, Rok Tots and of course Matt Bischoff of influential garage punk legends The Fluid who may have been an influence on Mudhoney and countless other bands of that era.

Tuesday | 05.03
What: Interpol w/Matthew Dear
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Most people who haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years, unless they’re also too young for it to have mattered, have heard of Interpol. More than most other bands of its time and of the so-called “post-punk revival” in the late 90s and early 2000s its brooding and widely dynamic post-punk reached the widest audience. Its 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was probably among the most played record in college dorms, hip bars and indie dance nights of that time outside of The Strokes’ 2001 classic Is This It. Paul Banks’ controlled yet highly emotional vocals jibed so well with Daniel Kessler’s nuanced and expressive guitar atmospherics and Sam Fogarino’s ear for subtle detail in percussion alongside Carlos Dengler’s duskily melodic bass lines. Dengler hasn’t been with the band since 2010 but Interpol continues to make evocative and beautifully moody music including its forthcoming 2022 album The Other Side of Make Believe. Brilliant experimental pop artist Matthew Dear could probably have a headlining tour of his though hard to say it would be at Mission Ballroom but you get to see his scintillating songwriting and performance on the same bill with Interpol so treat yourself and don’t skip the opener this time. It’s been 4 years since the release of Bunny so maybe Dear will treat us to new material.

Moodlighting in April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 05.05
What: Moodlighting album release w/Mainland Break and Style Animal
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver dream/twee pop band Moodlighting is released its debut album Boy Wonder at the beginning of April and is now celebrating the occasion on this night. Musically the group sounds like it came out of the more recent bedroom pop aesthetic with strong melodic lines and evocatively vulnerable vocals. The album seems to be an assessment of what it’s been like living your post-college years trying to establish your adult life during a global pandemic on top of the usual struggles and the things that make it all endurable from small joys to creative and personal aspirations that you know won’t manifest now but serve as a beacon to get you through the roughest stretches. Mainland Break is a power pop band with a fuzzy and urgent edge that sounds sometimes like it was influenced by the more psychedelic end of Jay Reatard and of course Ty Segall without being weighted down by the now faded psych garage aesthetic of the 2010s.

Thursday | 05.05
What: Drune w/Only Echoes, New Standards Men and Nightwalker
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Remember when there was this active organization called the Denver Art Rock Collective that put on shows featuring bands that were either inspired by or by default fit in with bands inspired by experimental rock of the 70s, 80s and 90s? Stuff like New Ancient Astronauts, The Skivies, Action Friend, Mourning Sickness and such? Maybe not. Well these bands would have fit in that milieu nicely. Drune might have had some origins in doom metal but has long since expanded into more progressive, noise and psychedelic territory as it has developed and a more interesting and original group because of it. Only Echoes is a post-metal/post-rock band that includes Austin Minney who has engineered the releases of more underground Denver bands in the DIY scene than most other people you could name as well as Alex Goldsmith who has spent more than his fair share of time in a broad range of music from hard rock band Sharone to the late, great experimental noise pop group Roommates. Only Echos releases its own album Sunsickness at Seventh Circle Music Collective on May 13, 2022 with Endless Nameless, Abandons and Old Soul Dies Young on that bill. But of course one of the current also outstanding and unusual bands out of Denver now is the art rock/prog/post-rock/space jazz group New Standards Men.

BleakHeart November 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.06
What: BleakHeart tour kickoff w/Matriarch and No Gossip In Braille
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver shoegaze/darkwave metal band BleakHeart is ready to go on a tour with Blackwater Holylight and marking that occasion with a hometown show with the colossal, doom-drone soundscapes of Matriarch and the elegantly haunted post-punk of No Gossip In Braille.

Friday | 05.06
What: The Cult w/King Woman and DES ROCS
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Cult were pioneers of post-punk and death rock in an earlier incarnation but by the late 80s were making the kind of bombastic yet moody hard rock that strode the line between heavy metal, alternative rock and the music of its early days. With charismatic frontman Ian Astbury and the surprisingly consistently inventive guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult remain a forceful live band worth your time to witness. But then there’s also the dark and dramatic metal/folk/psychedelic stylings of King Woman whose 2021 album Celestial Blues was one of the best albums of that year placing her in company with great songwriters who don’t feel the need to fit into a narrow genre yet embraced by fans of experimental music, metal and folk like Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler.

Friday and Sunday | 05.06, 05.07 and 05.08
What: Henry Rollins
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre on 05.06, Stargazers Theatre on 05.07 and Boulder Theater on 05.08
Why: Henry Rollins is of course the legendary frontman of the final incarnation of Black Flag in the 80s. And he had his own group Rollins Band from the 80s through the 2000s. But for much of that time Rollins was writing intense poems and observations about life and tales from the road that he published in various books across a prolific career as a writer and parallel to that he also did spoken word shows and arguably it is that work that is his greatest legacy as a cultural figure with insightful commentary on what it means to be a human trying to navigate an often perilous social and political landscape and try to pursue a life exploring what interests you and bring it back to inform and hopefully entertain others. His spoken word shows have always been highly entertaining and he’s usually very generous with his time. The most recent tour found Rollins sharing photographs from his extensive travels in parts of the world most of us will never go as a way to hopefully expand the perspective of people who show up. This time around who can say other than it will be well worth the time and resources invested in making it to the gig. You have three chances in Colorado over this particular weekend.

Dorothy, photo by Courtney Dellafiora

Sunday | 05.08
What: Dorothy w/Joyous Wolf and Classless Act
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Dorothy is a hard blues rock band fronted by the charismatic Dorothy Martin. A lot of bands have been tapping into classic rock and the blues in recent years with mixed and often cringeworthy, laughable results. But there’s some genuine gusto behind what Dororthy brings to the music. Could be an unusual comparison to make but imagine some 80s glam metal band with better songwriting minus the questionable lyrical content but with the bombast and larger than life energy that those bands aimed to put across and you get some of the vibe of Dorothy.

Sunday and Monday | 05.08 and 05.09
What: The Church
When: 6:30 p.m. (05.08) and 7 p.m. (05.09)
Where: Washington’s (05.08) and Fox Theatre (05.09)
Why: The Church may still mostly be known for their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way” by most people who only pay attention to a band’s Top 40 charting. But The Church has been releasing extraordinary records consistently from its 1981 debut Of Skins and Heart through its most recent record Man Woman Life Death Infinity (2017) and the forthcoming, tentatively titled, In the Wake of the Zeitgeist is likely to not be short of thoughtful, emotionally stirring material as well. And as a live band The Church has a mystique about them that is also relatable like you want to be a part of it and they make you a part of the experience. Their music is hard to pin down for genre but the psychedelic rock is there, the post-punk, the folk roots and one has to assume most shoegaze bands since the 80s has had more than a brush of influence by The Church. Two Colorado shows this tour and maybe you’ll get to hear some of the new material before it finds official release.

Monday | 05.09
What: Fontaines D.C.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Fontaines D.C. from Dublin has garnered an international cult following since the 2019 release of its debut album Dogrel. A couple of the members of the band met at college and bonded over a shared love of poetry and inspired in part by both the Beats and classice modern Irish poets like James Joyce and Yeats. And that sensibility can be heard in its narrative songs depicting the way the slow moving wrecking ball of late capitalism is crushing the life out of life for most people and their communities. Yet the music isn’t a bummer, just honest and unpretentious. Its fiery live performances early have evolved into something more nuanced and intense without losing that power and emotional resonance.

Monday | 05.09
What: Christian Death w/Luna 13 and Plague Garden
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Christian Death was the foundational band of the death rock side of early eighties post-punk and its 1981 debut album Only Theatre of Pain a classic of the genre. Valor Kand wasn’t part of the band at that time but for the group’s 1984 follow up Catastrophe Ballet Kand was the band’s guitarist and only constant member since 1983 including beyond band founder Rozz Williams departing and then doing his other projects and establishing a different version of Christian Death before his death in 1998. Under Kand’s leadership the group has explored a variety of styles and in recent years the sound has been more like a fusion of metallic blues punk and deathrock including its 2022 album Evil Becomes Rule. Luna 13 is sort of a blackened industrial metal band from Los Angeles. Plague Garden is a post-punk group from Denver that in the interests of transparency the author of this piece writes but figures people are really coming out to this show to see Christian Death.

Slow Crush, photo by Kat De Laet

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Slow Crush w/SOM
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SOM’s new album The Shape of Everything (2022) picks up where its previous releases have drifted with a colossal yet deeply melodic sound. Like a slow moving fusion of a classic shoegaze group and a doom band. Post-metal and post-rock doesn’t quite cover it because it has hooks like you’d expect out of one of the better emo and post-hardcore bands of the early 2000s except translated to something with exquisite and epic soundscaping. Fitting that SOM is sharing this bill with Slow Crush from Belgium whose 2021 album Hush is a flood of luminous sounds and grainy textures like SubRosa gone full shoegaze or Tamaryn collaborating with members of Kylesa. Clearly the transcendental metal/shoegaze crossover show of the month and likely the whole year.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 05.10
What: Metz w/Moon Pussy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Canadian post-punk/noise rock trio Metz has been evolving its beautifully discordant sound since 2008. But its 2020 album Atlas Vending though a bit of a grower showcases the band at its most dynamic, frantic and raw yet fully realized. And in many ways its most overtly political in a general rather than topical sense. Obviously Metz wasn’t able to tour in support of the record so this is your chance to catch the wiry power of the group showcasing its recent work. Opening the show is probably the perfect Denver band for the slot in Moon Pussy. The sheer eruption of sounds and nearly unhinged musical dynamics and scorching yet angular sonic assault always seems like something that could go off the rails at any moment but never does. Fans of Touch and Go noise rock weirdness or that of Amphetamine Reptile should definitely make the effort to see Moon Pussy but your appetite for that kind of sonic savagery will get filled aplenty by this show.

MXMTOON, photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Tuesday | 05.10
What: MXMTOON w/Chloe Moriondo
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: MXMTOON garnered a cult following as a bedroom pop YouTuber but her songwriting chops were clear from early on and her thoughtful lyrics expressing the yearnings of a young, sensitive person examining her own insecurities and the intricacies of her own psychology and observations on life resonate much more broadly than one might expect. Employing mostly a ukulele and her own resonant voice, MXMTOON’s performances are confident yet introspective and imbued with a fresh and spontaneous energy. Her sophomore album Rising is due on May 20, 2022.

Wednesday and Thursday | 05.11 and 05.12
What: Nox Novacula (w/WitchHands and Plague Garden on 05.11 and w/Radio Scarlet and Witch Hands on 05.12)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s (05.11) and HQ (05.12)
Why: Seattle’s Nox Novacula is a brash and energetic post-punk band whose fast-paced songs are more akin to a classic deathrock group with widely dynamic, propulsive rhythms and passionate vocals. Its 2021 album Ascension is a combination of grit and fire with vividly macabre and inspired lyrics that are dark and dramatic yet never cartoonish.

Thursday | 05.12
What: Front Line Assembly w/Rein, Choke Chain, DJs Paul and Eli
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Bill Leeb the vocalist of Front Line Assembly got his start as a member of an early incarnation of Skinny Puppy but by the late 80s he had branched off with his own with long time bandmate and collaborator Rhys Fulber called Front Line Assembly in 1986. A pioneering band of the EBM movement and then electro-industrial, Front Line Assembly built on the political consciousness of the music with its often dystopian depictions of the effects of commercialized technology and industry on human lives and civilization. But even if you weren’t into that content as much its soundscapes and mix of menacing sounds and hard, danceable rhythms has been a consistent feature of its music from the beginning up to and including its 2021 album Mechanical Soul. Swedish electro-industrial pop artist Rein is also on the bill with her soulful vocals and well-orchestrated synths and textures. Choke Chain’s distorted, ominous songs are reminiscent of early Nitzer Ebb and his 2021 EP Invoking Shadows has an uncommon edge even for the genre with Mark Trueman sounding a little like William Faith at his most unhinged.

Friday | 05.13
What: William Basinksi w/Tripp Nasty
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Outside of Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and a few others, William Basinski is likely the most famous avant-garde composer in America and certainly one whose work has been most celebrated in recent years including his now classic 2001 electronic masterpiece The Disintegration Loops. His career has been greatly varied and includes work in modern classical and ambient music and styles that are unique to him though informed by process music and tape collage. He rarely comes to Colorado and not often playing a small club. Opening is Tripp Nasty who is no stranger to classical avant-garde, noise, experimental pop music, noise rock and analog synthesizer composition. You never quite know what to expect from Tripp except that it’ll be interesting and of quality.

Fozzy, photo by Adrienne Beacco

Friday | 05.13
What: Fozzy w/GFM and Krash Karma
When: 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Fozzy is the hard rock/melodic metal band fronted by Chris Jericho. The latter most probably know from his professional wrestling career throughout the 90s and on into the 2010s and his outsized persona like he was auditioning to be the lead singer of a rock band. The early Fozzy records were mainly covers albeit pretty solid as far as that goes but more recent offerings reveal the group’s knack for anthemic hard rock as evidenced on its 2022 album Boombox. The single “I Still Burn” has all the aggression and bombast you’d want from a band like this but its lyrics are also introspective and vulnerable and lacking in the bravado that helped make Jericho a celebrity and yet that’s why it’s definitely a cut above a lot of other hard rock that might get compared to 80s glam metal which this is not yet has a similar appeal I its uplifting dynamics and willingness to indulge a tasty and tasteful guitar solo.

ADULT. circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 05.14
What: ADULT. w/Kontravoid and Spike Hellis
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers (mostly if not entirely designed by Kuperus) and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux. Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bluebird Theater, March 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 05.15
What: OMD w/In The Valley Below
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark were early pioneers of synth pop in the 1970s and turning the style of music into a mainstream phenomenon throughout the 1980s. Turned off by what today might be called toxic masculinity of too much guitar driven rock in the 70s, singer and bassist Andy McCluskey and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Humphries arrived at their own style of music inspire by Kraftwerk as solidified by their having witnessed the foundational electronic band live (McCluskey has the seat number memorized and mentions it now and then in various interviews, such was the enduring impact). The electronic post-punk of OMD quickly caught attention early on and their 1979 debut single “Electricty” was was released on Factory Records, the imprint started by Tony Wilson to release Joy Division’s records. Following a tour with Gary Numan OMD’s self-titled debut failed to chart commercially but the group had built their own studio and had a place to refine recording and composition. And with the release of their second album Organisation (1980) and the hit, anti-war single “Enola Gay” (named after one of the airplanes that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 to great horror and bringing to a swifter end World War II though at what cost, thus the point of the song), OMD garnered international popularity. Through ups and downs of popularity including the lack of love for its arguably most experimental and interesting album Dazzle Ships (1983), OMD persevered until splitting in 1989. But By 2006 interest in synth pop was starting to become more pronounced than it had in decades and OMD re-convened as chillwave, vaporwave and related musical forms gained popularity in the indie music world and then well into mainstream music. Don’t go OMD expecting to see a sedate band performing some of the most gorgeous, most heartfelt electronic-driven pop of all time. OMD plays it like they’re a punk band but with grace and humor.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Cut Copy w/Suzanne Kraft
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Unfortunately Australian band Cut Copy is playing opposite a clear influence in OMD not far from the Paramount at The Ogden. The quartet has made finely sculpted pop songs informed by not just synth pop but modern dance music and shoegaze soundscaping and guitar work since 2001 with a string of albums that seem to have pushed the band into new territory even if in what can sometimes come across as subtle ways but all are beyond a surface level massively different. Freeze, Melt, the 2020 and most recent record, hit a tonal yet highly evocative plateau that sounded like an attempt to reach a place of emotional tranquility and put that across in a set of songs for a time of great turmoil. Also, a consistently surprisingly passionate live band in spite of its ethereal melodies.

Sunday | 05.15
What: Eve 6:The Extreme Wealth Tour w/Field Medic and Jake Flores
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Eve 6 had a bunch of hit singles in the 90s and did well for itself with songs like “Inside Out” and “Leech.” Nevertheless, Eve 6 was one of those mid-to-late alternative rock acts that weren’t so bad but nothing as exciting and as innovative as what came much earlier in the decade. And yet, nothing cringey which can’t be said about all the later-era alternative music. So probably the show will be good. The band also named itself after the titular character in the “Eve” episode of X-Files (S1E11). But one thing that is indisputable is that singer Max Collins’ Twitter account is one of the most real and amusing things you’ll read from any musician in social media and that must be honored.

Collen Green, photo by Jason MacDonald

Monday | 05.16
What: Juan Wauters w/Colleen Green
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Juan Wauters was once a member of psychedelic, indie garage band The Beets who garnered some critical acclaim and popularity during its heyday of the early 2010s. His albums under his own name show a broad spectrum of musical interests. His 2021 album Real Life Situations is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson crossed with Devendra Banhart. Except that Wauters has his own sound wherein he freely goes off the conventional map. Colleen Green made a solid career out of fuzz pop songs across a handful of releases with songs that seemed like a vivid portrait of personal insecurities discussed with a poetic honesty and sardonic humor. Her 2021 album Cool found Green using her songs as a vehicle for shedding outmoded lifestyles and frames of mind that might have seemed critical to one’s identity at an earlier point in life. Her career got going at the height of the indie/surf punk explosion of the 2010s and the influence of pop punk is obvious in Green’s work but her songwriting has always been more interesting than the prevailing trends and her lyrics consistently more sharply observed.

Tuesday | 05.17
What: Nilüfer Yanya w/Tasha and Ada Lea
When: 8:30 doors 9 show
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Nilüfer Yanya is a UK-based singer-songwriter whose music is a hybrid of various styles and modes somewhere between what some might call indie folk, synth pop, jazz and trip hop. Her subtly expressive vocals alongside lush arrangements and layered textures give her songs a gentle presence with great nuance of emotional resonance. The artist is now touring in support of her 2022 album Painless.

Author & Punisher, photo by Becky DiGiglio

Wednesday | 05.18
What: Author & Punisher w/MVTANT
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tristan Shone has refined his Author & Punisher project from its early days of using his mechanical engineering skills to modify mechanical and electrical devices as controllers for sound generators and other instruments into a sort of industrial noise project. His latest album Krüller (2021) found Shone pulling back from the colossal wall of sound that characterized a good deal of his previous body of work and the melodic side of his songwriting is more obvious and enhanced as is his expert use of space and overlapping rhythms this time used with even more atmospheric effect so that one might get lost in the gorgeous soundscapes rather than be thrillingly overwhelmed by them. But don’t worry, A&P hasn’t lost its visceral edge and sense that you’re seeing a musical project from an actual cyberpunk future and not the second rate, B-movie version.

Thursday | 05.19
What: Testament w/The Black Dahlia Murder, Municipal Waste and Meshiaak
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Testament is one of the second wave of bands to have emerged foundational to Bay Area thrash metal. Its aggressive precision was rooted partly in progressive/technical metal and jazz fusion except Testament utilized those ideas to make imaginative, thoughtful, politically charged music. With Chuck Billy’s commanding bark and Eric Peterson’s and Alex Skolnick’s intricately interweaving guitar work these days buoyed by Steve Di Giorgio’s bass and now Dave Lombardo’s (formerly of Slayer) paradoxically tastefully bombastic drums, Testament remains one of the greats of the genre.

Molchat Doma, photo courtesy Sacred Bones Records

Friday | 05.20
What: Molchat Doma w/Pompeya
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Considering world events it’s fortunate that Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma (“Houses Are Silent”) is touring North America at the moment. Formed in Minsk in 2017, the trio’s sound fuses synth pop, New Wave and the sort of post-punk informed by both as perhaps most notably embodied by classic Russian post-punk band Kino. There is a melancholic and resigned tenor to much of the music as though there is a spirit of not wanting to get your hopes up too much only to have them dashed by circumstances beyond your control. Which makes it a solid soundtrack not just for a band living in Belarus and in the sphere of Russia but life under this particularly crushing version of late capitalism where you’re encouraged to grind yourself to death just don’t cause any major trouble for the powerful and wealthy. The group’s latest album Monument (2020) was to have come out the same year the band was to undertake its first tour of North America with a May 2020 date at the Hi-Dive. But the pandemic hit and the band’s cachet grew dramatically beyond the appeal of a few dozen connoisseurs of post-punk in every city of size in America and beyond. The track titles on the new record spell out a bleak present and future and despite the sound of the music it also points to an ability to resist the inevitable despair which is always key in the toughest times. This show is sold out and has been for weeks but you never know. Maybe it’ll get moved to a bigger venue or will should there be a future tour.

Elder Island, photo by Nick Kane

Friday and Saturday | 05.20 and 05.21
What: Elder Island w/JORDANN
When: 8 p.m. (05.20) and 8:30/9 p.m. (05.21)
Where: Bluebird Theater (05/20) and Fox Theatre (05.21)
Why: Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK. Starting life as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even experimental folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Kurt Vile, photo by Adam Willacavage

Monday | 05.23
What: Kurt Vile and the Violators
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kurt Vile has more than proven himself as one of the foremost songwriters to have emerged from the American indie underground with a thoughtful and evocative body of work that traverses and transcends simple categories like psych, Americana and garage rock. His new album (watch my moves) (2022) isn’t too much of a surprise to long time fans of his songwriting and its homespun charm. But where it perhaps departs a bit from expectation is in the subtle sonic details. None of Vile’s albums seem overproduced but this one, granted recorded in his home studio OKV Central, really feels like Vile was honing in on a sound like his own version of what Bruce Springsteen did on Nebraska—relatively stripped down production, spare arrangements, a sense that this could have been done on a four track with few overdubs. Which is saying something considering multiple collaborators worked on the album including Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Cate Le Bon, Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt), Farmer Dave Scher (Beachwood Sparks), Annie Truscott and Lydia Lund (both also from Chastity Belt) among others. It’s a deeply introspective and layered album that sounds disarmingly intimate so it should be interesting to see how it translates to a big stage.

Monday | 05.23
What: Weedeater w/High Tone Son of a Bitch and J.D. Pinkus
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A lot of sonic brutality for the small stage at the Hi-Dive this night with Wilmington, North Carolina’s kings of stoner rock Weedeater. Its doomy, grindy music is like a flood of caustic sonic tar like Thrones but even more metal. J.D. Pinkus will probably bring his heavier solo material rather than his excellent country tunes to this show but you just never know and either way the Butthole Surfers/Honky bassist will be entertaining and fit in somehow. Veteran, Bay Area psychedelic doom band High Tone Son of a Bitch rounds out the lineup.

Spoon, photo by Oliver Halfin

Tuesday | 05.24
What: Spoon w/Geese
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022) is Spoon’s latest album and its most arduous in terms of production and release mostly because of the whole pandemic thing that’s still going on. But, as with every other Spoon album, it finds the group exploring new songwriting and stylistic territory. Its previous album 2017’s Hot Thoughts at times sounded like an old synth pop album but with modern sensibilities informing the songwriting architecture. The new record has an immediacy that was always part of the group’s sound but the production makes the music seem very up close and its blend of soul and Americana in the more raw rock and roll songwriting with touches of the unusual around the edges and at times what seems like a sound design approach to arrangements gives the song a different dimension and aural depth than most of its previous output. Of course live Spoon has always been a lively and charismatic group of performers all around. The inclusion of Brooklynite post-punk band Geese on the bill may be a label or management arrangement but it’s also an inspired selection of an opening act as its soul, funk and psychedelia-infused post-punk is reminiscent of something Factory records would have signed in the late 80s. That or a band that would have fit in at 99 Records because its sound is so richly eclectic and its 2021 album Projector a refreshingly different entry in the post-punk canon. Fans of Parquet Courts will indubitably appreciate what Geese is offering.

Bauhaus, photo by Gary Bandfield

Wednesday | 05.25
What: Bauhaus w/Automatic and Vinsantos — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Bauhaus is one of the most influential albums in post-punk and like the best of that first wave of bands they borrowed heavily from dub, early glam rock, psychedelia and the avant-garde. Its gloomy and often hypnotically otherworldly music immediately set itself apart from other bands from a similar background with not just the art school influence and conceptual soundscaping but also the theatrical aspect of its performances as manifested in the songwriting. Its use of melodrama never seemed corny and only enhanced its mysteriousness. Of course it got boosted into a wider circle of fame by basically opening the 1983 vampire film classic The Hunger with its own enduring classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But Bauhaus never rested on its creative laurels with its albums and each one expanded what not just post-punk could be but was essentially an art rock band without the progressive rock baggage. Nearly four decades hence Peter Murphy’s haunting and dramatic warble can still give you chills, David J and Kevin Haskins’ unconventional and fluid rhythms expand the brain with compound time experiments and Daniel Ash’s guitar-as-soundscape approach to the instrument hits like few other guitarists of the era. One of the most imaginative bands of the post-punk era, Bauhaus could just be going for a cash grab, nostalgia tour but it’s not that rote a thing and its new song “Drink The New Wine” (2022) is vintage Bauhaus weirdness and inspired dreamlike moodiness. New wave-esque, minimal post-punk band Automatic, which includes Kevin Haskins’ daughter Lola Dompé on drums and vocals, is also on the bill. Their turn opening for IDLES in April 2022 revealed a band more visceral than its excellent new album Excess might immediately suggest.

A Place To Bury Strangers, photo by Heather Bickford

Thursday | 05.26
What: A Place to Bury Strangers w/Glove and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: A Place to Bury Strangers is often lumped in with the resurgence of shoegaze around the turn of the 2010s and the exquisite sound sculpting with noisy, atmospheric guitar shaped into evocative melodies definitely fit in that loose realm of music. But the knack for employing raw, nearly uncontrolled or not always reigned in noise in the mix made the music have an edginess closer to some kind of old noise rock band like Big Black or even the most unhinged guitar wall of noise that The Jesus and Mary Chain perpetrated so brilliantly on Psychocandy. This group could have skated on those core ideas but its body of work has evolved without compromising an individual vision for how music can occupy psychological spaces with not just organized tones and sonic textures but with the sheer physicality of that sound. Its most recent record See Through You (2022) on initial listen seems more pop oriented in some ways than the more avant-garde Pinned or even earlier records but with it definitely goes off into realms of experimentation that has more in common with some 2000s band that might have not decided to choose between styles and influenced by the most anti-music No Wave, the lowest of lo-fi psychedelic garage rock/punk you might find on the Siltbreeze imprint and menacing, scuzzy post-punk but with lyrics that give glimpses into a head space where a person is trying to pull themselves back together after having their heart stretched thin and feeling like they’ve hit the point of no return and finding some shred of meaning and truth in that low place as a thread to crawl back to something resembling normalcy. It’s both vintage APTBS and the next step in its sonic evolution. Glove is a post-punk band from Tampa that apparently didn’t get the memo that you can’t combine disco with synthpop, glam rock and post-punk and its music all the more interesting for it since the style side of its performance isn’t lacking either. Polly Urethane is a darkwave/industrial artist from Denver whose music has an enveloping vulnerability that feels like a memory of a dream at times even when evoking painful memories while transforming those strong emotions into catharsis. Think The Knife or Jenny Hval but perhaps inspired by the likes of SRSQ.

Thursday | 05.26
What: Faster Pussycat w/Love Stallion and Grind Cat Grind
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: In the bloated haze of Los Angeles and international glam metal in the 80s a few bands stood apart from the rest of the Aquanet-teased hair fashion victims wishing they were Led Zeppelin but couldn’t even pull off Aerosmith or Hanoi Rocks with any integrity. One of those was Faster Pussycat whose hedonistic, sleazy glam rock had a core of good songwriting and strong stage presence. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Taime Downe is one of the few people in Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) to not look silly and whose band in retrospect isn’t incredibly cringe. After the band split in 1993 Downe formed an industrial band called The Newlydeads but reformed Faster Pussycat in 2001.

Built to Spill, illustration by Alex Graham

Friday and Saturday | 05.27 and 05.28
What: Build to Spill w/Sunbathe and Distant Family
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre (05.27) and Boulder Theater (05.28)
Why: Built to Spill like contemporaries Pavement established that jammy, psychedelic guitar was not antithetical to authentic alternative rock rooted in punk and the 80s underground beyond punk. Singer/guitarist Doug Martsch had been in the more overtly psychedelic post-punk band Treepeople at the same time Built to Spill was forming but the latter became Martsch’s going concern after 1994. The singer’s unconventional yet melodious voice served as a consistently interesting and elegant contrast to the sometimes amped ocean of sound that the band could unleash during the climax of a song and as the embodiment of the music’s more tender moments. BTS’s 1997 album Perfect from Now On was a masterpiece of late era alternative rock with a wide-ranging style of songs that unabashedly indulged in thought-provoking, heartbreaking epics like “Randy Described Eternity” and the bombastically celebratory “Stop the Show.” The band has consistently provided a soundtrack to introspective exploration and contemplation on the meaning of life up to and including its 2022 album When the Wind Forgets Your Name. Most live albums are not as good as the studio albums but BTS’s 2000 Live might as well be a greatest hits album performed at the near peak of its powers surpassed perhaps only by witnessing the band in the flesh.

Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Friday | 05.27
What: The Antlers w/Wild Pink (solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Brooklyn-based indie folk project The Antlers released its first full band offering with 2009’s Hospice it immediately established itself as a band that could make powerful emotional statements with great delicacy and simplicity. The concept album is about a hospice worker and his relationship with a patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. After a hiatus of five years until 2019 due to primary songwriter and singer Peter Silberman experiencing hearing loss. While in recovery Silberman discovered he could still write music and following the 2017 release of the solo album Impermanence The Antlers returned with 2021’s Green to Gold. Opening the show is John Ross of Wild Pink performing solo. His band’s 2021 album A Billion Little Lights is one of the most affecting albums out of the indie rock milieu to be written from the adult perspective with adult concerns without waxing into self-parody or “dad rock” territory.

Animal Collective circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 05.27
What: Animal Collective w/The Spirit of the Beehive — postponed
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Animal Collective is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. Its amalgam of psychedelia, folk, electronica, ambient and the avant-garde has yielded a rich and prolific body of work across several albums that has been oft imitated but rarely in a way equal to the group’s truly idiosyncratic songwriting and eccentric methods of composing and performing music with an almost live orchestration/remixing live during performances. It’s truly transporting music, an otherworldly pop. Its new album Time Skiffs (2022) marks the return of Deakin and a robust organic tonal element in the group’s signature, unconventional percussion and what appears to be its most sonically interesting record since Strawberry Jam with its arrangements sounding like weather events coming together to make songs through a purely intuitive process that likely involved a great deal of work to make sound effortless. The Spirit of the Beehive has been making pop music that sounds like something from another dimension like Black Moth Super Rainbow turned into more of a rock band but with a live show that sounds like it’s been orchestrated like a set of medleys and remixes performed in real time.

Friday | 05.27
What: Fiddlehead w/Flower Language, Destiny Bond and Public Opinion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Fiddlehead is an anthemic, melodic post-hardcore band that for the uninitiated sounds akin to an emo band that was more influenced by Fugazi and Jawbreaker than what you might expect. Destiny Bond and Public Opinion are both post-hardcore bands from Denver whose songwriting stretches beyond the too often self-imposed limitations of hardcore.

Ezra Furman, photo by Tonja Thilesen

Saturday | 05.28
What: Ezra Furman w/Grace Cummings
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Ezra Furman and the Harpoons was an excellent band in the more indie folk vein but Furman herself had more to say in music than that loose format. And since writing and releasing music under her own name as a solo artist she’s seemed to have slowly shed obvious stylistic influences like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed among others across several albums since the literary, haunted Americana of 2012’s The Year of No Returning. With the new album All of Us Flames Furman takes into the consideration the concept of the end of the world, certainly the world as we know it, and examination the assumptions and hopes and dubious freedom from thinking the world is over and even finding proof of that with the pandemic and the failure of all political parties in America to deal adequately with the crisis even to this day nevermind the ecological disaster slow crashing through human civilization, the perils of right wing extremism entering into governments worldwide posing a threat on its own and compounding all others as fascism is completely unprepared to actually deal with the crises we face and establish a sustainable response to issues those types fail to comprehend to the detriment of all. The lead single from the new album “Forever In Sunset” is a fiercely compassionate presentation of that whole backdrop as the ambient weight that amplifies whatever mood we’re feeling but suggests we don’t have to be overwhelmed while in survival mode and the meaning and significance of our lives can and will continue beyond the immediate brace of crises at our collective doorstep. Sonically it’s like a great glam rock song with an elevated folk flavor layered with enveloping atmospheres. Which is reason enough to go see how Furman pulls this music off live. But you also get to see Australian singer Grace Cummings whose 2022 album Storm Queen has a brooding grit and fiery passion that is a little reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. But Cummings isn’t ethereal like the latter yet both songwriters have an almost spiritual immediacy and an instinct for crafting the kind of guitar rock that burns from within like the ghost of another era of music trying to manifest through her performance. For instance one hears in the single “Heaven” shades of Big Star, Tommy Bolin and Zeppelin. The rest of the album proves that Cummings isn’t just a rocker, her expressive voice and songwriting chops range far from bombastic heights to tranquilly introspective songs with emotionally vibrant performances. Fans of Aldous Harding will find much to like in Cummings’ rich repertoire.

Grace Cummings, photo courtesy the artist
Causer in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 05.30
What: Bestial Mouths w/CXCXCX and Cau5er
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with industrial noise dance phenom Cau5er and Denver-based power electronics artist CXCXCX.

The Body, photo by Zachary Harrel Jones

Tuesday | 05.31
What: The Body w/Midwife and Polly Urethane
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: With its extensive history of touring since starting in 1999 there’s a good chance that if you’ve been involved in underground music since that time you’ve seen or had a chance to see The Body from Providence, Rhode Island. The experimental duo might in a reductive way be described as a doom metal band crossed with a grindcore band informed by harsh noise. But drummer Lee Buford and guitarist Chip King really push their art into different sonic territory and in different formations with a fairly long list of collaborative releaes with the likes of Thou, Full of Hell, Unform, BIG BRAVE, and Krieg to name a few. The 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness was inspired by synth pop music and sounds it while also being one of the heaviest and most raw albums of that year that had an inexplicable and undeniable sonic nuance. Its most recent release is a split record with OAA called Enemy of Love and is harrowing fusion of doom, power electronics and intensely pointed social commentary fitting the state of the world today. But it’s not all just the sound of civilization crashing into a burning heap, there are moments when the record uses an almost ambient aesthetic to arrange the denunciation of the world’s destructive bastards and humanity’s seemingly unending instinct for self-destruction. By contrast though completely fitting Midwife is also on the bill with Madeline Johnston’s heartbreaking and soul soothing soundcapes that express a similar pain and rejection of a horrifying situation in the world in a broad and not topical sense while doing so through deeply personal songs about loss and trying to make sense of losses so deep they leave you shaken to the core. Midwife’s 2021 album Luminol provides some of the most transcendent and cathartic passages of music to address the aforementioned to have come out in the past decade. Opening this show is Polly Urenthane mentioned above opening the A Place to Bury Strangers show and will bring to this event her own music to transform trauma into inspiration.

To Be Continued…

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 24: Ov Stars

Ov Stars, photo by Nick Kiefer

Ov Stars is a duo comprised of Alice Genese and Shaune Pony Heath. Genese some may know for her tenure as the bassist in Psychic TV from 2003-2020. She had also been involved in the underground music scene around Hoboken, NJ as a member of Gut Bank and Sexpod whose own output is perhaps long neglected but worth exploring on their own. Heath was born and raised in South Africa and moved to the USA at 23 to pursue a creative life not as readily available in his home country. Genese had already started releasing music as a solo artist with her 2014 debut album Sticks and Bones and through her brother she was introduced to Heath and the two gelled personally and creatively. Their debut EP as Ov Stars, Tuesdays, is a warm and energetic blend of cosmic country circa Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, psychedelia and pop. Fans of Low and Marianne Faithful will find a good deal to appreciate in the finely crafted melodies and evocative atmospheres across the record’s five tracks. The duo is starting to perform live shows so check in with Ov Stars on Instagram @ovstarsband for live dates and notification of when the vinyl edition of the EP is released in later 2022. Tuesdays is, however, available now digitally on Bandcamp.

Psychic TV at Summit Music Hall 12/11/15, photo by Tom Murphy. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge on left, Alice Genese on right

Listen to our interview with Ov Stars on Bandcamp and if you happen to be in Brooklyn on or around June 30, 2022 you can see Ov Stars performing as part of the We Are But One – Breyer P-Orridge exhibit at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.

Live Show Review: Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Lindsey Jordan came out on stage looking like a rock/pop star from another era with what looked like a leather jacket and a lot of browns and rust colored pants. And for someone performing many songs from a fairly heavy record, Valentine, she seemed to be very upbeat and quick with the playful gestures on stage and with her band and lighthearted quips with the audience that really made the performance uplifting. There was a casual and free exchange with the audience who were attentive and supportive, a kind of rapport that set the tone for the show and somehow seemed to exist for the opening act as well.

Joy Again at at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Philadelphia-based indie rock band Joy Again opened the show and it seemed as though more than a few people in attendance were familiar with its music. Considering the group has been active since 2014 and roughly the same time frame as Snail Mail. Initially it hit like some sort of post-Mac Demarco, bedroom pop-esque band but then there was a keyboard player and a guy playing Moog and as the set went on the band’s ability to stretch out beyond initial impressions made its music more interesting and enveloping. Evidently Moog/keys player Zachary Tyndall evidently has a brother who lives in Denver and in attendance and after giving that shout out Tyndall took lead vocals for a spirited cover of “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit.

Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Snail Mail’s set list drew liberally from both Lush and Valentine beginning with “Adore U.” Although there seemed to be a sense of camaraderie and good humor on stage, Jordan ably brought the intensity to her vocal performance when the moment called for expressing the strong feelings that undoubtedly inspired the song as if reliving the song but being able to let go of that moment. And the singer’s ability to convey a broad range of emotions was impressive. It was as though Jordan summoned these memories and living in them temporarily whether those feelings have a traditionally strong expression or as in “Ben Franklin” a melancholic acceptance. All executed with a fluid command of and confidence one might not expect from songs that articulate trauma and hurt so poignantly.

Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Between songs Jordan free formed the banter almost like a comedian interacting with people. Before playing “Light Blue” along with the band off stage Jordan reacted to the enthusiasm of the crowd saying, “Come on., don’t gas an old lady up. You’re gonna make an old lady cry. Just kidding. I don’t see myself as an old lady.” Later when Jordan asked what day it was, Sunday or Monday, someone said it was Easter and the singer joked, “Bad Catholic. I didn’t come here with an Easter agenda.” In general it was a lively and charming performance that kept your attention throughout including the encore that included “Mia” and ended with “Pristine.” Given the aesthetic of the band it felt like some kind of modern take on classic pop and rock except that Lindsey Jordan’s songs are so vulnerable, open and raw it felt like a collective purging of anxiety for an evening.

Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22
Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22
Snail Mail at Ogden Theatre 4/17/22

Live Show Review: The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22

The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The Velveteers have certainly reached an interesting crossroads in their career on the eve, as it were, of their national tour opening for Greta Van Fleet following the 2021 release of their debut full-length album Nightmare Daydream. The album and its thoughtful and incisive lyrics and imaginative sound palette much expanded from its early days perhaps helped to that level with the help of Dan Auerbach’s production of the album is a creative success even if it has yet to set its performance on streaming services on fire. But this show at The Fox Theatre felt like a way to acknowledge its roots as a band from Boulder with a hometown performance before setting sail to win over the audiences of a popular buzz band operating in a loosely similar realm of rock music drawing on older blues based rock. And for the occasion the trio brought on the bill some friends from the local scene who may have emerged around the same time as The Velveteers or shortly after.

Rose Variety at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Becc from Rose Variety seemed to indulge in a string of inside jokes and references throughout the band’s set including hinting that Rose Variety had broken up or went inactive during the early years of the pandemic but that Dry Ice had asked them to open for its own first show so this quintet got things back together for the occasion. Its music sounded like a blend of shoegaze pop and psychedelic indie rock of the sort that emerged in the 2010s. The fact that the performance felt a little rough around the edges but seemed musically coherent with a strong songwriting foundation made the threads of chaos that ran through the songs and Becc’s off-the-cuff persona just added an element of excitement to the show this early on.

Dry Ice at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Dry Ice had opened for The Velveteers in November 2021 for the album release show at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, CO but if you didn’t get there early enough you missed them as I did. But listening to the band a bit online I did not expect to see a group whose music was very tight and expertly executed and was somehow both on the shoegaze spectrum with a touch of post-punk and more than a touch of riot grrrl edge and sensibilities including the final song “Don’t I Look Cute” which bassist Olivia Booth said was about killing frat boys and even brought someone on stage who claimed to be one and theatrically did so. But that aside there is something vital and visceral about the way in which Dry Ice delivers its politically/socially aware lyrics that strikes a broad emotional resonance like an amalgam of sounds and textures like there is some jazz background in the way they seem to invoke Deerhunter, Dum Dum Girls and The Slits all at once.

The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The Velveteers have their sound dialed into sharp focus at this point. And while the energy is very intentional and practiced even as they seem to cut loose in the performance it still feels spontaneous like they have built into their shows the ability to indulge going off the map for periods of time so that it doesn’t get stale for them even as they deliver a strong performance. Because it can get like that when you’re in a band. How long can you sustain the excitement for yourself when you’re playing the same songs for extended periods of time and a consistent quality of performance for the many, many people you’ll see on the road that haven’t seen you several times like many fans in your hometown may have? You build into the songwriting and in the set lists and in the songs places where you can exercise spontaneity without sacrificing cohesion. And this show was an exercise in that and rock theater generally. Sure, the group has had that as part of their shows from very early on but you can see the work put in to give people a show rather than just three musicians getting up and rocking out. Demi Demitro’s combination of vulnerability and commanding, passionate vocals and thoughtful and astutely observed lyrics really set the band apart from other groups that have a rooting in the classic rock revival of the 2010s. But with Baby Pottersmith and Jonny Fig pushing the momentum in polyrhythmic fashion and giving the music a strong dynamic foundation the music and the show seems to reach great emotional heights. And with any good fortune this will translate well to the bigger stages The Velveteers take on what will hopefully be a successful run as impetus for another creative leap forward with its next record.

The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy
The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy
The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy
The Velveteers at Fox Theatre 4/15/22, photo by Tom Murphy