Best Shows in Denver and Beyond January 2023

SUNN O))) Shoshin Duo performs at The Gothic Theatre on January 31, 2023
Shadows Tranquil in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Autumn Creatures w/Cherished, Bloodsports and Shadows Tranquil
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Autumn Creatures is a band from Colorado Springs whose music bridges the worlds of ambient, post-rock, orchestral post-metal, dream pop and outright shoegaze. So on a solid bill with Denver’s Cherished which has emerged from its early incarnation as more a post-punk and death rock band into the realm of shoegaze but with tweaking the edges of the aesthetic with unconventional vocal tones and rhythms that shift easily from drifty to direct. Bloodsports also from Denver is hitting the sweet spot of slowcore and shoegaze with introspective vocals and flares of noise to give what might be a more amorphous aesthetic some dramatic definition. Shadows Tranquil also doesn’t trade in subgenre adherence by thoroughly fusing chilly shoegaze with a touch of emocore and mathrock but all aimed at expressing direct emotional resonances with a maximalist sonic approach with an impressive level of musical detail and dynamic nuance.

Verhoffst in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Noise Brap: Barbie Bloodbath, Muttering, Verhoffst, Kneiffii, Sheet Metal Skingraft, Wontanii, Ghost Thief, Wolf Larva, Avarice and Mumble w/DJs Ursa, B2B and Combat Sport
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: The concept of the brap was coined by Skinny Puppy and was even the title of the 1996 edition of its Back and Forth Series (3 & 4 for that iteration) which collected early instrumental demos and live recordings from earlier in the decade of collaborative electronic improvisations. And for this show the various artists in the local noise/electronic industrial/glitch scene will be teamed up with another for sessions throughout the evening and into the night.

Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.07
What: Summit Quartet & SeFa LoCo
When: 7-9
Where: Mercury Café (Jungle Room)
Why: This is an evening of live improvised music featuring Right Brains Records artists Summit Quartet which includes Swedish pianist Walter Thompson and long time Denver-based avant-garde saxophonist and educator Mark Harris who has performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Roger Waters and Cab Calloway and locally known for his time in art rock projects Thinking Plague and Hamster Theater. Also on the bill is SeFaLoCo which includes not only Matt Smiley and Ron Coulter from Summit Quartet but long time local masters of improvised music Farrell Lowe and Bret Sexton.

Open Mike Eagle, photo from Bandcamp

Sunday and Monday| 01.08 and 01.09
What: Open Mike Eagle w/Video Dave and DVNEHPPY (w/Azon Classic) (on 01.08) and w/S.iah (on 01.09)
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge (01.08) and The Coast (01.09)
Why: Open Mike Eagle has been created “art rap” for more than two decades and has long been a star in the modern alternative rap world. His new album A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse (2022) is a fine dose of his always creative and imaginative lyricism casting every day situations in surreal terms that reveal insights what might otherwise be mundane and everyday situations. The album includes contributions from Armand Hammer, Aesop Rock and opening artist Video Dave. His beats go beyond mere choice sample processing and have a cinematic and literary quality in their own right creating a layered listening experience.

Skyfloor in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.12
What: Alphabet Soup #56: Funk Hunk, Savage Bass Goat, Yung Lurch, Furbie Cakes, Skyfloor
When: 9
Where: The Black Box
Why: Alphabet Soup returned in 2022 for every second Thursday of the month at The Black Box to bring you a bevy of local, eclectic and forward thinking dance and techno not getting showcased much at any other event or venue plus there’s no cover.

R A R E B Y R D $ in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.13
What: R A R E B Y R D $
When: 6-10
Where: Rainbow Dome
Why: Rainbow Dome is a project rooted in visual art and community building and this Capricorn Season-themed event involves roller skating, a dance party and a performance from hip-hop trio R A R E B Y R D $ whose music is brash, tender, emotionally rich and deep and incorporates a diverse sound that is an amalgamation of electro soul, ambient, R&B, alternative hip-hop and techno. If one were to count the top live music acts in Denver at the moment these people would have to be included.

Friday | 01.13
What: Modular Synth Night: Enemy Sender, ALX-106, Love Cosmic Love, Sine Mountain and Kent_ucky
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: As the name of the event suggests this is a showcase for some of the local modular synth artists. Normally a show like this happens at a place like Black Box or maybe Fort Greene or with the artists separately at other spaces open to pure electronic music and the more avant electronic dance and techno music but that it’s happening at a venue like Hi-Dive is a testament to what those in the know already knew and that’s that there has been an blossoming interest in synthesizer music beyond the confines of EDM and electronic dance music for many years and maybe a sign of more events like this to come outside the usual venues.

Church Fire in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.14

What: Coastless Creatives Presents Void: Feat. Closegood, Cole3K, Church Fire and Polly Urethane
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Closegood is an experimental R&B duo originally based out of Los Angeles and may still be. Its 2021 album THOTFORM was a colorful set of music that sounded like a bit like R&B, glitch, hyper pop and something that one might expect on the Orange Milk label. Cole3K is similarly-minded in sound with a more hip-hop infused cadence but with production that sounds like the rapid fire shifting pulse of modern life. Church Fire is a hyper political electronic dance industrial trio from Denver but lately it has been incorporating production ideas from the realms of glitch and hyperpop in finding ways to express the reconciliation of self with a fragmented and fragmenting world in a time of great change and crisis where world governments, especially great powers, focus on pointless conflict and a charade of identity politics while the world burns and no one holding the reigns of economic and political power is taking a leadership position to address our collective challenges with the environment, authoritarian politics, economic inequality connected by the domination of global oligarchy. Church Fire’s music is in opposition to that and creating an oasis of joy and solidarity while performing it. Polly Urethane is an evolving visionary artist who seems comfortably situated in creating works that cross the boundaries of classical music, opera, noise, industrial, performance art, dream pop and post-punk. Her shows are an exercise in fearless confrontational challenge of the artist and audience dynamic.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 01.17
What: Alice Does Computer Music, Certain Lives, Polly Urethane and Lanx Borealis
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Alice Does Computer Music is a New York City-based synth pop/hyperpop artist who incorporates cello into her immersive and playful soundscapes. Fans of Mitski may appreciate this artist’s particular brand of pop composition. Lanx Borealis is a Denver-based, dark ambient electronic artist whose work is in the realm of the sort of thing you might expect to hear on the long running Hearts of Space program on public radio. You never really know what kind of set you’re going to get from Polly Urethane and this might be a repeat of her show the previous Saturday or something more improvised or something new but always imaginative and powerful.

Blondshell in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 01.18
What: Suki Waterhouse w/Blondshell
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Blondshell is the stage name of Sabrina Teitelbaum, a songwriter based out of Los Angeles whose singles have been making the rounds since 2022 when she started touring a bit as well on a national level. Her surprisingly fiery rock songs with lush pop hooks and commanding vocals as heard most recently with the December release of her “Veronica Mars” single are appealing enough but live Teitelbaum is a bit of a mysterious creature whose nearly acrobatic stage poses executed with an unaffected calm adds another dimension of performance style one doesn’t often see at a show like she’s incorporating yoga practice into the performance while keeping it theatrical and emotive. Suki Waterhouse is perhaps best known for her acting and modeling career having appeared in the films The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and Ana Lily Amirpour’s gritty horror thriller The Bad Batch (2016) to name but two. In 2022 Waterhouse released her debut album I Can’t Let Go through Sub Pop as well as an EP called Milk Teeth after periodically releasing a single starting with 2016’s “Brutally.” Waterhouse’s hushed vocals and introspective, spacious, cinematic songs offer some insightful and nuanced perspectives on modern relationships.

The Mañanas in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.20
What: The Velveteers w/The Mañanas and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Velveteers return from a year of playing big out of town shows with their scorching yet joyful brand of blues rock and psychedelia with two performances and this night the Denver show with two of Denver’s finest. The spirited garage rock/power pop group The Mañanas and their breezy rhythms and sound like something that might have happened had indiepop bands taken even more of a cue from tropicalía. Pink Lady Monster seemed to emerge onto the Denver scene fully formed with an aesthetic that perfectly amalgamates dream pop, psychedelic rock and downtempo in a way reminiscent of both Broadcast and Blonde Redhead.

Friday | 01.20
What: Kool Keith w/Stay Tuned and DJ boyhollow
When: 7
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Kool Keith is the eccentric and influential rapper whose music with Ultramagnetic MCs and Dr. Octagon alone earn him an important place in the history of hip-hop. His surreal wordplay, profane humor and chameleonic style coupled with numerous alter egos have exerted a clear influence on hip-hop since the 1980s as a creative figure with a singular and evolving vision. Opening is the great, Denver-based crew Stay Tuned whose own style of hip-hop with two MCs is not short on imaginative culture and media commentary set to supremely creative beats in the vein of the likes of Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest. DJ-ing the show is legendary track selector boyhollow whose long running alternative music dance night Lipgloss recently went from a weekly to a monthly event.

The Velveteers in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: The Velveteers w/Shady Oaks and The Nova Kicks
When: 8
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: This night The Velveteers play a hometown show with Americana inflected blues and garage rock band Shady Oaks and Denver indie rock band The Nova Kicks.

Instant Empire in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.21
What: Instant Empire w/A Mouthful of Thunder and A Place for Owls
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Since 2011 Instant Empire has been threading together classic New Wave sensibilities with introspective and hazy melodies. A Mouthful of Thunder is the latest band from Stephen Till formerly of Hearts of Palm and Black Black Ocean. Who? At any rate, Till’s sensitive lyrics and knack for dynamic melodies and inventive hooks are present here too as evidenced by its 2020 album Careful Now. A Place For Owls released its excellent self-titled debut full length in 2022 and sure it can be lumped under the clumsy umbrella genre designation of indie rock. But there is a level of orchestral composition that brings to the music a full and rich sound that complements well its yearning and existentially explorational lyrics.

Saturday | 01.21
What: Lykotonon w/Ritual Aesthetic, Noctambulist, Morningstar Delirium and DJ Swarth
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lykotonon includes members of Wayfarer, Stormkeep and Blood Incantation and its music might be described loosely as experimental black metal in that it’s more in the realm of Wolves in the Throne Room than Darkthrone and underpinned with spooky electronics that give the music an otherworldly feel. The group recently released its new album Promethean Pathology (2022) and this might be seen as something like an album release show since the record dropped on November 25. Also on the bill are like-minded denizens of the more interesting end of local extreme metal.

Grief Ritual in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 01.22
What: Velnias w/Ghosts of Glaciers and Grief Ritual
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Velnias is tricky to pin down in clear terms because its music isn’t just doom or progressive psychedelic black metal. But its appealingly forbidding yet melodic and epic songs have found an audience well beyond its unlikely hometown of Nederland, Colorado where it’s not just banjos and jam bands. Ghosts of Glaciers will be a good complement to the bill with its own progressive, doomy post-metal and Grief Ritual’s cutting, hardcore-influenced is a relentless assault on authoritarian nihilism.

Nightshark in 2006, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 01.26
What: Nightshark w/Quits, Tripp Nasty, Sense From Nonsense
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Free jazz/noise rock avant-garde legends Nightshark is playing its first show in over a decade and its first with saxophonist Becca Mhalek in more than fifteen years. The trio of Mhalek, Mike Buckley and Andrew Lindstrom were staples of the Denver underground scene in the 2000s playing small clubs, drive bars and DIY spaces regularly with its mind-altering musicianship and wild energy. Later incarnations of the group included the likes of Neil Keener of Wovenhand fame and Brittany Gould who some may know for her transcendent ambient folk project Married in Berdichev. But the classic trio was the longest lasting and the lineup for this reunion. Sharing the stage will be some other luminaries of the 2000s and 2010s Denver DIY world with composer and modular synth artist Tripp Nasty who has recently launched a new lathe cut label called From the Desk of the Sick Librarian which released the new Sense From Nonsense record. The latter is the solo micro soundtrack and synth and film project of Tom Nelsen who many may know from his tenure in both mutant garage rock band Vicious Women and industrial post-punk phenoms Echo Beds. Quits will also bring its noise rock madness and eruptive energy to the show with former members of White Dynamite, Sparkles, Hot White and Felt Pilotes. All killer.

Pink Lady Monster in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Church Fire, Velvet Horns and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Church Fire will grace the west side with its politically charged industrial dance party and raw emotional power. Velvet Horns is supposedly a pop punk band in the queercore vein and that’s true enough in essence but there’s nothing corny about its intensity and storytelling, like they aimed right for the vulnerable emotions that is part of the best of pop punk. Pink Lady Monster’s art pop psychedelia always seems to have a paradoxical mysterious immediacy with songs that defy easy genre tagging as its songs aren’t readily comparable to any obvious influences.

Circuit des Yeux in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Circuit des Yeux and Bleak Mystique
When: 7
Where: The Coast
Why: Experimental indie folk artist Haley Fohr has been releasing fascinating records as Circuit des Yeux since at least 2010. Her spectral, almost classical compositions and otherworldly and dramatic vocals seem like something that one might expect from another era or parallel universe in which Alice Coltrane is a figure in her more New Age period was cited as an influence alongside Magma as much as any classic rock or folk artist. Her 2021 album -io is like a long lost Nico record with shades of Julia Holter and Laurel Halo but of course Fohr’s unique and always boundary pushing style.

Haunt Me in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 01.27
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Julian St. Nightmare
When: 9
Where: The Crypt
Why: Haunt Me is a darkwave post-punk band from Austin, Texas that often performs in a nearly choking cloak of fog so that its echoing melodies seem to indeed come through to you in a disembodied manner grounded by hypnotic beats. This swing through Colorado includes two dates, this one at The Crypt with the confrontational and fun occult darkwave dance style of the inimitable Hex Cassette who always breaks the barrier between audience cajoling performer and manic dancer in the audience. Julian St. Nightmare’s songwriting as a post-punk band is consistently pushing the barriers of the musical style with not only superior musicianship and diverse songwriting but great style and stage presence.

Sunnnner in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 01.28
What: Haunt Me w/Hex Cassette and Sunnnner
When: 8
Where: Trident Booksellers & Cafe
Why: This second Haunt Me show this time in Boulder out back of the Trident book store on the west end of Pearl Street Mall not only includes Hex Cassette but Denver trio Sunnnner whose weirdo post-punk and noise rock is so idiosyncratic in its presentation it is psychedelic rock by default. Meaning the group is much more exciting and interesting than any possible hints of roots in garage rock might be there.

Why Bonnie, photo by Grace Pendelton

Saturday | 01.28
What: Why Bonnie, Sun June and Porlolo
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Why Bonnie began as a songwriting outlet for singer/guitarist Blair Howerton but by the time of its 2018 debut EP In Water the project had developed into a full band. Howerton’s vivid lyrics and command of loud and quiet dynamics and crafting of warm, evocative melodies has yielded a richly diverse body of work that has been described as shoegaze Americana but the band’s music has more in common with the likes of Rilo Kiley, Soccer Mommy and Julien Baker than Mojave 3. The group’s 2022 album 90 in November is a collection of stories of unromanticized nostalgia. That approach lends the songs an unusual and fascinating aspect of being able to appreciate one’s past as it is and not to over or undervalue how you’ve grown as a person and the ongoing process of personal development. Veteran pop Americana legends Porlolo from Denver opens the show with Erin Roberts’ own insightful takes on personal folly and a life lived without fitting neatly under a subcultural umbrella.

Kali Malone, photo by Mauricio Guillen

Tuesday | 01.31
What: SunnO))) w/Kali Malone
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In its SHOSHIN (初心) Duo configuration SunnO))) returns to its core, original live form with founders and guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson performing its signature heavy volume ritualistic drones dealing in what they refer to as “profound valve amplification, spectral harmonics, distortion and volume.” From the beginning the duo has crafted primal waves of sound that serve as some of the heaviest ambient music rooted in an abstract rock instrument foundation, warping and mutating both aesthetics in an alchemical synthesis that is transcendent and glacially crushing. Don’t go expecting a doom band, sure it’s not quite the same without long time collaborator, the singular vocalist Attila Csihar, but all configurations of SunnO))) offer a mind-altering live experience unlike any other band in the world of heavy music or really any other. Opening the proceedings is Kali Malone. The composer grew up in Colorado and moved to Stockholm, Sweden in her late teens and has become internationally renowned for her avant-garde works of drone and modern classical music. Anyone that saw Malone performing at house shows and DIY spaces in Colorado got to see an early form of Malone’s gift for meditative, minimalist soundscapes but her 2019 album The Sacrificial Code brought her to wider international audiences. Her new album, the gorgeously layered and transportingly murky Does Spring Hide Its Joy (January 2023) includes contributions from SunnO)))’s Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton released on O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint on 3 LPs and 3 CDs.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond December 2022

Palm performs at Larimer Lounge on December 6, 2022, photo by Eve Alpert
Wild Pink, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 12.01
What: Wild Pink w/Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Wild Pink’s John Ross wrote one of the great story albums of recent years with 2021’s A Billion Little Lights and its themes of coming to terms with adulthood while staying connected with one’s creative life and navigating the temptations to ditch music as the occupation of adolescence. And how through creative work one can explore an evolving sense of meaning that hits you throughout your thirties and the rest of your life. 2022’s ILYSM (an acronym for “I Love You So Much”) takes that perspective to examine the details of life that deepen one”s bond with the people in your life. Knuckle Pups in from Denver released a deeply self-reflective album with 2022’s TV Ready in which the ambitious pop band fuses radical vulnerability with a compassionate honesty that is not nearly common enough in the realm of indie rock or any form of music today. Sometimes earnestness can seem like a pose but with Knuckle Pups it seems inspirational in its lack of pretension.

Cold Cave in 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.02
What: Cold Cave w/Voight and Hex Cassette
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave has been mostly been releasing singles and EPs since the most recent full length album Cherish the Light Years came out in 2011. His most recent Fate in Seven Lessons (2021) is well within the realm of modern darkwave post-punk with his usual gift for teasing grit and darkness out of the songwriting although plenty of the music has a beautifully melodic melancholia reminiscent of New Order. Eisold has also been involved in a bit of writing including his work with the late, great Mark Lanegon on the book of poetry Plague Poems (2020). Opening the show are two Denver acts. Hex Cassette’s confrontational industrial dance music challenges notions of the role of artist and audience and breaking that barrier for a collective experience. Voight seems to be making good on its threat of completely injecting techno into its own searing shoegaze-infused post-punk and emotionally intense music.

Cannibal Corpse, photo by Alex Morgan

Friday | 12.02
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 1: Cannibal Corpse, Dark Funeral, Immolation, Black Anvil, Onyx and In The Company of Serpents
When: 5
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: This unique event includes some pretty extensive beer tasting for those so inclined but the real reason is to get to see some of the great extreme metal acts of today. That includes death metal legends Cannibal Corpse whose over the top gory lyrics have been banned in various countries despite how obviously absurd they are in the vein of the most demented horror movies of the 80s but really just more creative than a lot of those films. And the music itself stands up well in upholding the brutality of the lyrics with a technical proficiency worthy of the name of the band. Get there early to catch the bluesy, cinematic doom band from Denver In the Company of Serpents who don’t play Denver as much as they once did these days.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest Denver 2022 Day 2: Pig Destroyer, Skinless, Wayfarer, Of Feather and Bone and Wake
When: 4
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Day two of this event includes more noteworthy acts out of the broad world of extreme metal including performances from Denver’s masters of cinematic doom, Wayfarer, the caustic death grind onslaught of Of Feather and Bone, the blackened grind of Calgary’s Wake and grindcore legends Pig Destroyer whose contorted and savagely brutal music is a fitting companion to JR Hayes’ darkly incisive lyrics about human experiences on the edge.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur

Saturday | 12.03
What: Soccer Mommy w/TOPS
When: 7
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Sophia Allison has been writing music and performing as Soccer Mommy since she was in college before dropping out and moving back to Nashville to pursue her career as a musician full time. It helped that she had a record deal with Fat Possum which released her debut album Clean in 2018 before she turned twenty-one. The album’s emotional openness and unabashed embrace of unconventional melody and song structure while crafting undeniable hooks garnered the record widespread critical acclaim. The most recent Soccer Mommy album Somtimes, Forever (2022) was produced with Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never and the team-up brought to Allison’s particularly confessional lyrics and always imaginative guitar work an experimental edge and sound design element for the songwriter’s most musically adventurous recording of her career thus far. Additionally, the lyrics probably startled listeners that expect artists to be vague in their sentiments in a pop song setting but hasn’t Allison been poetically pointed and vivid in her words all along? Opening the show is Montreal’s indie pop band TOPS whose gentle yet passionate compositions seem like they’d be pretty light and airy live as well but at the show the band seems to exude an unexpected vitality.

HaemoGoblin, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday | 12.03
What: HaemoGoblin and Fast N Loose at L. Lazer art opening
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10 cash)
Why: HaemoGoblin is an electronic duo that will be performing what it calls a ritualistic invocation. Calling the performance “Inauguration” what you will see is a “mini stage play set to music, designed to disorient, disturb and ‘shake awake’ the audience for a half hour or longer.” What will this look like? Well, veteran carnie frontwoman Ortenzia von Deadworry and S.S.G. her “summoned demon” synth player will definitely bring some theater to an often very predictable local music scene. Also on the bill for this art opening featuring the work of L. Lazer is Fast N Loose is a Motorhead tribute band.

The Soft Moon in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.04
What: The Soft Moon w/Nuovo Testamento and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Luis Vasquez was a little ahead of the curve when he launched The Soft Moon in 2009. Originally a solo project, The Soft Moon evolved to become more of a live band that brought Vasquez’s songs of nervy energy and anxiety-purging urgency to life. His most recent album is 2022’s Exister which in the wake of one of the most challenging periods in recent world history on a wide scale is a catharsis of overcoming the enervating influences that come your way and considering the mere continuation of existence a triumph in itself. The songs seem to have leaned more into the industrial side of Vasquez’s songwriting with some real visceral power driving the moody atmospherics. Los Angeles-based darkwave/synth pop band Nuovo Testamento opens the show.

Hembree, photo by Jonny Marlow

Sunday | 12.04
What: Hembree w/Little Hurt, False Report and Mae Mae
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hembree from Kansas City, Missouri that formed in 2015 and its big break to a national audience was the placement of its single “Holy Water” in an Apple ad during Super Bowl LII. The group’s tight rhythms serve as a foundation for the rest of the songwriting to stretch out whether into focused, unadorned rock songs or expansive, moody pieces and the techno-underpinned indie funk that is at the core of its sound. The group’s new album It’s a Dream! is a record tinged with nostalgic examinations of the roots of current anxieties and insecurities expressed in hazy melodies and resonating tones driven by a hypnotic beat. On the surface it may sound like another current indie rock offering with more than its fair share of more imaginative songwriting but Hembree really charts an internal journey in which one is prepared to exit the gauntlet of lucid dreams trapped in feeling everything until it makes sense and after one is able to move through tangled emotional memories.

The Lemonheads, photo by Barry Brescheisen

Monday | 12.05
What: The Lemonheads w/Bass Drum Of Death and On Being an Angel https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/443688
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: The Lemonheads are one of few still extant bands to have come to prominence during the alternative rock era that didn’t quite fit in with the more trendy subgenres that made that era one of the most vibrant in the history of popular music. Its own brand of power pop was a vehicle for the songwriting of only constant member, singer and guitarist Evan Dando. The latter seems to have an ability to look into situations and people and extrapolate poetic insights with a compassionate perspective. The title track of the group’s 1992 breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray isn’t just about a troubled person who doesn’t fit in with any school and its politics, it’s about feeling like a perpetual outsider and the rest of the songs on the record are vivid stories about people we all know and might even be in a way that didn’t comport with the tales of desperation one heard in a lot of grunge and too “dark” for more faux posi faire of that era to now. Ever since The Lemonheads went on hiatus in 1997 and returned to operations in 2005, the group hasn’t been prolific with original material but Dando’s interpretations of artists that have influenced him on Varshons (2009) Varshons 2 (2019) have been a peek into what Dando’s brain has latched onto for inspiration and perhaps for this performance we’ll get to hear what the veteran songwriter has been up to in recent years. One thing is for certain his own songs have aged far better than those of many of his contemporaries owing in part to the gentle but raw honesty of the songwriting. Also on this bill is Bass Drum of Death originally from Oxford, Mississippi whose blues tinged noisy garage rock has a refreshing level of grit and menace befitting the name of the project.

Monday | 12.05
What: W.A.S.P. w/Armored Saint
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: W.A.S.P. is the kind of band out of the glam metal era in Los Angeles of the 1980s that more than any other group out of that world that courted controversy. Its music was and is a spirited, melodic hard rock with a strong sense of theater even in the songwriting. Sure its cover art for its debut single “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” with the circular saw codpiece offended people that took it more literally than could even remotely be intended. Certainly former guitarist Chris Holmes looked the buffoon drunk in a pool with his mother sitting by in the 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years seemed to affirm the extreme and self-destructive hedonism associated with the band. But at its best W.A.S.P. were avatars of a music scene that could be cartoonish, bombastic and puerile while offering an alternative to a conformist puritanical culture with its lurid and triumphant storytelling. Perhaps co-headlining though less notorious is Armored Saint who also started in 1982 in Los Angeles and also pre-dated glam metal though often associated with that world of music due to the big hair and knack for solid melodic hooks. But like W.A.S.P. there was something with more edge than most of its glam rock contemporaries. While never quite having any mainstream breakthrough hits, Armored Saint was a staple of 1980s metal that has held up better than much of the music out of the 1980s Los Angeles heavy metal scene has.

Water From Your Eyes, photo by Ana Fangayen

Tuesday | 12.06
What: Palm w/Water From Your Eyes
When: 7
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: As Water From Your Eyes, Nate Amos and Rachel Brown have made a career of using an eclectic and ever evolving palette of sounds to explore ideas and concepts through what could be considered dance pop. That is if your frame of reference might be the experimental electronic and punk out of New York and Los Angeles of the last fifteen years. Its 2020 album 33:44 is something you’d expect more out of a band on the Northern Spy label with its beautifully dire, ambient and modern classical soundscapes that are almost an homage to Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” crossed with Howard Shore’s work for the films of David Cronenberg. But the duo’s most recent album Structure at times sounds like what might have happened if Aphex Twin in writing Selected Ambient Works Volume II had decided to turn those into pop songs. Except that Water From Your Eyes inserts enigmatic spoken word elements that serve as a a meta narrative that re-configures traditional album structure and gives the whole album a non-linear quality made cohesive by reimagining the nature of how creative work is structured. Fitting that this arty yet incredibly accessible group is sharing the stage with Philadelphia’s art rock weirdos Palm touring in support of Nicks and Grazes, an album that sounds like the band challenged its members to go on separate retreats to clear their minds of contemporary influences and to immerse themselves in non-musical art forms and come back to make the kind of psychedelic rock record that comes across like a collage of playful daydreams and arranged in a way that brushes aside conventional structure itself.

OFF! photo by Jeff Forney

Thursday and Friday | 12.08 and 12.09
What: OFF! w/Zulu
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: OFF! is of course the newer hardcore project fronted by legendary vocalist Keith Morris formerly of Black Flag and of Circle Jerks. The current lineup includes founding member Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides on guitar and as of 2021 Autry Fulbright II on bass and Justin Brown on drums. After an eight year hiatus on releases, OFF! released Free LSD in 2022. It’s still the searing hardcore sound you’d expect from the group but there are some clear differences with what sounds like synth and other ambient sounds giving the songs a psychedelic feel that wasn’t so much a part of its earlier sound. A refreshing update for a band that still maintains the intensity and edge without being stuck in a stylistic rut. Opening both dates at the Hi-Dive is anti-racist powerviolence band Zulu which injects its music with R&B samples and eschews the tough guy stance of hardcore.

Pond, photo by Matsu

Friday | 12.09
What: Pond w/Cryogeyser — rescheduled to April 16, 2023
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Pond has shared membership with Tame Impala over the years with lead singer Nick Albrook being involved with both bands for a few years and Kevin Parker serving as drummer in earlier years and as a producer until 2020. The polished psychedelic pop of its first eight albums was helped in no small part due to Parker’s influence in the production department but with the 2021 album 9, Pond has given us its most interesting record to date with more grit in its overall sound, some edge to its funk elements and a willingness to embrace some rawness in its sound as well as take its atmospherics into a realm flirting with space rock. Los Angeles-based jangle fuzz trio Cryogeyser opens the show with its melancholic, lo-fi dream pop.

Obituary, photo by Tim Hubbard

Friday | 12.09
What: Obituary w/Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation
When: 5:30
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Obituary is touring ahead of the 2023 release of its new album Dying of Everything. After nearly 40 years as a band exploring the outer edges of the death metal format and pioneering some of that aesthetic it can be challenging to have something new to say with your music and a return to form can be tedious. But Obituary this time decided to stick to writing a strong set of material worthy of its pre-1997 split output. The dire messaging delivered with still convincingly brutal vocals but without cartoonish lyrics. Rounding out the bill are Seattle grindcore outfit Cattle Decapitation who are somehow both keenly aware of the absurdity and cruelty of modern human civilization and the need to ridicule the hubris of our species without making light of the situation in which we and other animals find ourselves due to a tolerance for savage forms of economic and social organization. And yes, grindcore/death metal legends/pioneers Carcass and Swedish, melodic death metal group Amon Amarth and its proclivity for lyrics about the Viking Age and a time before the Christian domination of Nordic culture.

The Smile, from the band’s Facebook page

Saturday and Sunday | 12.10 and 12.11
What: The Smile w/Robert Stillman
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Smile is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead fame with drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet. The trio made its debut at Glastonbury Festival in 2021 and its music produced during the limitations of association and collaboration during the COVID-19 lockdown emerged as an intimate and spacious, lonely set of melodies and fragile emotional expressions. In 2022 the group released its debut album A Light for Attracting Attention. The record is contemplative as one might expect with the musicians involved but also vulnerable and open in sentiments embracing a massive level of uncertainty and peril that continues to flow seemingly unchecked in a world beyond the ongoing pandemic and perpetuating a sustained anxiety that will have untold impacts for decades to come and written about in history books or their equivalent in some future time should such indulgences be permitted in a post-authoritarian era. The Smile seems to have written a record from the perspective of people keenly attuned to these concerns and not knowing if they’ll live long enough to see better days but not being attached to a sinking spirit of despair.

Bartees Strange, photo by Luke Piotrowski

Wednesday | 12.14
What: Bartees Strange w/Pom Pom Squad and They Hate Change
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Bartees Leon Cox Jr. has worn various hats in his career both musical and otherwise. But he is perhaps best known for his music under the moniker Bartees Strange following his stint in in the post-hardcore band Stay Inside. With the release of his 2020 debut Live Forever, Cox has proven himself a master of writing emotionally nuanced and vulnerable pop songs that incorporate elements of indie folk and, synth pop and hip-hop but with a production element that seems to make the music and its complex arrangements hit with a stirring immediacy. Fans of Twin Shadow will hear some similar sonic touchstones and the sophomore album Farm to Table (2022) revealed more of Cox’s gift for genre bending to great effect in delivering songs that are at once deeply personal and politically charged.

Twin Tribes, photo from Bandcamp

Thursday | 12.15
What: Twin Tribes w/Dancing Plague and Plague Garden
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Twin Tribes from Brownsville, TX have garnered no small amount of buzz for its blend of minimal synth and post-punk and a kind of vitality amid melancholic tones. Its most recent studio album Ceremony (2019) sounds like songs written during a flurry of peak emotions and capturing the urgency and desperation of a recent breakup. In most cities of size, Twin Tribes is performing in medium sized clubs but in Denver we’re fortunate to be able to catch the popular band in a small club like HQ. Dancing Plague is a darkwave solo act from Portland, OR whose dusky synth pop is like a darker OMD with some touches of influence from John Maus. In the interest of full transparency, the author of this blurb is in Plague Garden, a noteworthy post-punk/New Wave band from Denver.

ABANDONS, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.15
What: ABANDONS w/Old Soul Dies Young, Almanac Man and Fainting Dreams
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This show is a nice split of experimental noise rock and shoegaze. ABANDONS might at another time be considered a post-rock band but in its mix one hears bits of post-metal, noise rock and ambient and it live shows have a visceral quality with music that one might more expect to be performed in a more meditative spirit. Old Soul Dies Young is the kind of band that happens when guys who were way into post-hardcore and doom drop that sound palette for something more melodic and atmospheric but with the same level of sonic bombast. Almanac Man is like a collision of doom and borderline aggressive, Chicago style noise rock. Fainting Dreams is the kind of dream pop band that comes about when its members maybe came up through hardcore and death metal and are shedding the aggression and mathematical precision and heaviness for radical vulnerability and dreamlike tones.

Organ, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.16
What: Sounds for Charity: Avarice, Organ, No More Cheering, Gabriel Albelo
When: 7
Where: Glob
Why: Proceeds from this show go to Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Warm weather gear and hand warmers also accepted. For your donation you can catch the glitch industrial dance stylings of Organ, Gabriel Albelo’s solo performance of his heavy psychedelic rock, Avarice’s dark, menacing industrial techno and the prepared noise environment soundscapes of No More Cheering.

Meet the Giant in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Love Stallion w/Shanghai Metro Temple and Meet the Giant
When: 8
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Love Stallion is basically an 80s style glam metal band and if that’s your thing they’re definitely on the better end of the modern version of that with of course stage antics and style and the level of musicianship you’d expect. Shanghai Metro Temple is a fairly straight ahead indie rock band that sounds like it is heavily influenced by late 90s alternative and hard rock. Meet the Giant fuse downtempo electronic pop with post-punk, heavy shoegaze and imaginative soundscapes on the production end.

Wave Decay in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Bluebook w/Wave Decay and Mon Cher
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Bluebook these days isn’t the experimental indie folk jazz band of its early days. Instead there is a darkness and not so buttoned downed, controlled intensity to the performances. Seems like Julie Davis is letting her flaws, anxieties and dreams hang more loosely with this version of the band and that has just meant its music has blossomed more and its sound palette greatly expanded with the inclusion of formery Monofog and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake singer Hayley Helmericks on drums and backing vocals, Jess Parsons on keys and other instrumentation and maybe even Anna Morsett on guitar. Wave Decay is the kind of band that sounds like it took the door through psych garage into more shoegaze sounds and all the better for it. Mon Cher’s music is a particularly transporting and lies somewhere between dream pop and downtempo jazz.

Milk Blossoms in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 12.17
What: Milk Blossoms w/Meek and Knuckle Pups
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Knuckle Pups write radically vulnerable and thoughtful indie pop in the classic mold and its 2022 album TV Ready is both heartbreaking and uplifting. Milk Blossoms play a rare show with Michelle Rocquet now that she spends much of her time in New York City for professional and academic pursuits. So with this configuration of the band you’ll get the full dual vocal effect of powerfully rendered, tender pop songs that are irresistibly twee and cathartic.

Master Ferocious in 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 12.18
What: Never Kenezzard w/Zingaro, Sea of Flame and Master Ferocious
When: 3
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Never Kenezzard don’t really fit in with the metal scene so much though its blend of progressive rock sensibilities, doom and psychedelia finds it in a particularly more interesting corner of that realm of music. Sea of Flame are a sludge rock/doom band whose epic arrangements are not the rote edition of what doom has become. Master Ferocious somehow mix classic power metal with glam rock without seeming corny because the musicianship is so strong and the performance bordering on theatrical.

Alaska Thunderfuck, photo by Albert Sanchez

Sunday | 12.18
What: Alaska Thunderfuck Presents: The Red 4 Filth Tour
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alaska Thunderfuck is perhaps best known for her competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race but over the last several years she has cultivated a pop music career. Steeped in modern electronic pop and a showcase for her outsize stage persona. Her latest album Red 4 Filth leaves behind some of the camp and humor of previous releases with a more obviously sincere set of pop songs that bring together sounds from hip-hop and classic modern pop including a cover of “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base.

Faceman in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.22
What: FaceMan Western Jupiter vinyl release, Tivoli Club Brass Band and Anthony Ruptak
When: 7
Where: The Skylark Lounge/Bobcat Club
Why: Faceman celebrates the release of its latest album on vinyl as well as making available on vinyl for the first time its 2016 album Wild and Hunting. The band fronted by Steve Faceman has long offered finely crafted pop Americana with an experimental edge though its new album Western Jupiter shows an embrace of a more straightforward approach to songcraft. But every release is fulled with songs that have heartfelt and sharply observed lyrics in stories about life that feel like they’re part of your life because Steve has honed in on an aspect of culture and social reality that seems to be in the air in that moment. In years past Faceman has put on theatrical performances with set pieces and costumes that help to illustrate the music in dramatic fashion in collaboration with local visual artists who have helped to make these outfits and elaborate sets and pieces of artwork like the stage Megalodon of several years ago or the huge tornado of paper made for the epic Faceman’s 100 Year Storm event of 2016 at The Oriental Theater in which Faceman invited 100 bands to perform. So there’s a bit of community involvement and creative vision behind what drives the band even if it’s not necessarily abundantly obvious from listening to its excellent songs on their own.

SORROWS, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Baby Baby, Gila Teen, SORROWS and Ray Diess
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Baby Baby is the indie dream pop project of Lily Conrad. Reminiscent of bedroom pop artists of the late 90s and 2000s and has the aesthetics of lo-fi but with better sound production than much of that stuff often had. Gila Teen is the genre defying emo-shoegaze-post-punk band whose eccentric songs nevertheless always seem to be a direct line into the anxieties and affections coursing through the cosmos at the given moment of the performance. SORROWS is an emotionally charged downtempo band comprised of vibrant vocals, elegantly crafted rhythms and electronic production. Ray Diess is one of the Denver scene’s most compelling darkwave pop artists operating today.

Julian Street Nightmare, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.23
What: Fast Eddy, Julian Street Nightmare and Morning Oil
When: 8
Where: Globe Hall (free)
Why: When garage punk and the more mundane end of psychedelic rock collapsed under the weight of its own hubris and fake excitement some of the people who were on one end of that broader scene with any talent or imagination had to do something different and Fast Eddy came out of that milieu as a solid power pop band. Julian Street Nightmare create music from a thrilling nexus of post-punk, surf rock and art rock. Morning Oil sounds like it took some bit of inspiration from the better part of 80s glam metal and The Dead Boys.

Tuesday | 12.27
What: The Roots and BIG K.R.I.T.
When: 7
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Roots are the influential, jazz rooted hip-hop band from Philadelphia that many may also know for serving as the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Its use of live musical instrumentation has always set The Roots apart from most hip-hop groups whose use of samples is most often used to craft the beat and thus its live performances have a powerful physical presence that is impossible to duplicate otherwise. Big K.R.I.T. is the acclaimed rapper and producer from Mississippi whose eclectic production and socially conscious lyrics seem to hit at a very grassroots level of appeal with an accessible sound and a way of presenting heady ideas in a way that is both creative and personally relatable.

Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.29
What: Watch Yourself Die, Voight, Sell Farm https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sell-farm-voight-wyd-at-the-mercury-cafe-tickets-481076160747?aff=ebdshpsearchautocomplete
When: 8
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Watch Yourself Die is kind of a post-punk supergroup comprised of members of Hex Cassette, Ray Diess and Julian Street Nightmare. Voight has long blurred the line between shoegaze, post-punk, darkwave and techno and infused it with emotionally intense live performances. Sell Farm might be an indiepop band but one that doesn’t see a reason why heavy dub and industrial music can’t be a part of the overall wheelhouse of sounds going into the project’s eclectic but always interesting songwriting.

Thursday | 12.29
What: Discomfort Creature w/Curious Things, Nightfishing
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Discomfort Creature is a punk band from Denver whose lineup includes current and former members of Gamits and Uphollow and this show signals the vinyl release of its 2021 self-titled debut on Snappy Little Numbers now that Chris Fogal is back in town for the occasion from his current residence in Switzerland. The record is an energetic fusion of pop punk and the more angular, Dischord-esque variety of punk.

Brotherhood of Machines at Deep Club event in 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.30
What: FOANS, Brotherhood of Machines (album release) and Luxury Hearse
When: 9
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: FOANS is the brainchild of producer Andrew Dahabrah whose melancholic house and techno music has been at the center of Denver’s underground dance music world for several years. Luxury Hearse is the project of Dan Coleman (Blank Human) and Rin Howell (Psychic Secretary) that breaks the barrier between techno, ambient and musique concrète. Brotherhood of Machines is apparently returning with its first new release and album in over six years. The project live has been a mysterious and sonically rich example of where ambient, abstract industrial, techno and noise converge to produce a sound that establishes a deep sense of mood and place.

To Be Continued…

Queen City Sounds Podcast S2E27: Seraphim Shock

Seraphim Shock in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Seraphim Shock has been spinning its tales of the dark side of American society informed by themes of the occult, Satanism, hedonism and resistance to a puritanical culture that often causes the trauma and neuroses that drive dysfunction. Seraphim Shock’s music is an expression of solidarity with living with that legacy and purging it. It’s second full length album Red Silk Vow released in 1997 to great local fanfare in the local Goth scene with shows in which lead singer Charles Edward garbed as a Victorian Vampire, top hat and all, orchestrated a stage show with bandmates in corpse paint. Whether one was fully into the music or not the spectacle was undeniably compelling to the point where it helped to elevate the music in its Goth-industrial aesthetic. Generally snubbed by the local press and a good deal of the local scene in Denver, Seraphim Shock has forged a path as a band untethered to the usual local scene politics and its limitations. The group’s second ever show in 1994 was in Phoenix and most of its Denver shows since the mid-90s have been at larger venues like The Aztlan Theater, The Ogden Theatre and The Gothic Theatre rather than the gauntlet of dive bars and small clubs in no small part due to Edward not seeing his group as simply a local outfit. As the years went on the band’s style adopted a more hard rock sound and Edward’s stage appearance evolving into that of more a sinister yet benevolent glam rock professional wrestler look than a lord of the undead, think a body sculpted Goth super hero. In 2022 Edward and Seraphim Shock celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Red Silk Vow as a continuation of Edward’s creative vision as he ushers in the next chapter of the band with its impending release of the second chapter of The Fairmount Chronicles which launched in 2020. The stage show is back to being as theatrical as the early days with Edward exuding the undeniable charisma and commanding presence that has been a feature of the live show for decades.

Listen to our interview with Charles Edward on Bandcamp and go witness Seraphim Shock’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary celebration of the iconic album Red Silk Vow at the Oriental Theater on Saturday, November 26, 2022 (doors 7 p.m.) with Dead on a Sunday, Whorticulture and DJ Celebrytie as hosted by the always enteraining, sardonic raconteur Sid Pink For more information on Seraphim Shock and to find music and merch, please visit the links below.

seraphimshock.com

Seraphim Shock on Facebook

Seraphim Shock on Instagram

Seraphim Shock on Apple Music

Queen City Sounds Podcast S2E22: Holy Fawn

Holy Fawn, photo by Matt Cardinal

Holy Fawn from Phoenix, Arizona is a four-piece that has been exploring and evolving a sound that brings together an introspective ethereal soundscape with a heaviness of mood that reflects a depth of feeling found on all of its recorded output. From its 2015 debut EP Realms to its 2022 album Dimensional Bleed one hears in the music of Holy Fawn expansive melodies and tonal brightness paired with a textural grittiness that feels like a cathartic and transcendent journey into deep emotional spaces. In that sound one hears echoes of obvious influences in realms of shoegaze, post-rock, black metal and the more atmospheric post-hardcore and emo with lush swarms of intricate guitar and intertwining rhythms. But there is also an element of musique concrète to the songwriting bringing in field recordings and tape collages to augment a sense of layered meaning and lending Dimensional Bleed in particular a cinematic quality that can create a rippling shift of sonic focus in every moment of a song. Without attachment to a specific style of music, Holy Fawn is able to deftly navigate and even embody multiple genres at once as suggested by the title of its new record.

Listen to our interview with Alex Rieth of Holy Fawn on Bandcamp and follow the band at the links provided. Holy Fawn performs at the Marquis Theater on Sunday, November 13, 2022 with SOM and Grivo.

Holy Fawn on Facebook

Holy Fawn on Instagram

Holy Fawn on Twitter

Holy Fawn Link.to

Holy Fawn Merch

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond November 2022

Enumclaw plays Globe Hall 11.3 and 11.4, photo by Colin Matsui
Jeffrey Lewis, photo from artist Bandcamp

Tuesday | 11.01
What: Jeffrey Lewis w/Gila Teen and Emily Frembgen
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jeffrey Lewis is a cartoonest best known for his long running Fuff series (formerly Guff) and one of the leading lights of what some music commentators have dubbed the “antifolk” movement of the 1990s and 2000s. What that means in practice is very lo-fi sometimes folk-punk songs that are stories from everyday life of an unvarnished honesty that fans of artists like Daniel Johnston, Wolf Colonel and Moldy Peaches will appreciate for how it makes few concessions to commercial music convention in the songwriting, the raw performances and in the released recordings. But there’s something real and emotionally resonant that feels like something that isn’t mass produced the way a lot of commercial pop and non-pop music lending the music a quality that isn’t just vital but life-giving. Similarly-minded formerly Colorado-based, experimental folk pop artist Emily Frembgen is on the bill as is the post-punk/avant-emo/heart-on-sleeve weirdo pop duo Gila Teen.

Mercyful Fate promo photo (1980s) by Ole Bang, photo from mercyfulfatecoven.com

Tuesday | 11.01
What: Mercyful Fate w/Kreator and Midnight
When: 6
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Mercyful Fate was a band that was part of the first wave of black metal during its initial run from 1981-1985. Fronted by King Diamond, a theatrical vocalist whose operatic vocals meshed well with the progressive, melodic guitar work and with its sinister stage presence the group exerted a massive influence on thrash and death metal on the musical level and in terms of aesthetics and the subject matter of its lyrics. Its first two albums Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath are rightfully considered genre standouts. It might be said that the outfit sounded like an evil version of Judas Priest but its songwriting was markedly different with progressive rock roots more obvious. After Mercyful Fate split in 1985 King Diamond went on to a respectable and arguably equally influential career with a band under his name. But from 1993 and onward the band has spent periods reunited, releasing new material along the way. It’s just fortunate that this show is happening on the Day of the Dead with thrash legends Kreator also sharing the stage.

Polly Urethane in 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.01
What: Sloppy Jane w/Niis and Polly Urethane
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sloppy Jane is a post-punk band from Los Angeles whose 2021 album Madison is an orchestral and baroque pop affair more akin to something in the realm of a 2000s chamber pop band than its earlier sound, a raw, dark punk sound. Founded by Haley Dahl at age fifteen the group’s 2015 debut EP Sure-Tuff sounds like hours of absorbing Hole, Lydia Lunch and early death rock and moving onto the realm of underrated art punk bands like Mika Miko. In the early years of the band a bassist named Phoebe Bridgers added to the mix before moving on to an acclaimed singer-songwriter career of her own and establishing Saddest Factory, the label that is home to Madison. Niis, also from Los Angeles, sounds founded on similar roots as Sloppy Jane but with a more cutting and fuzzy sound yet the same kind of emotionally stirring and ragged exuberance. Its cover of Elastica’s “Connection” from its 2020 Not Niis EP captures the unhinged spirit of the original in a more punk mode. Opening act Polly Urethane combines an elemental kind of performance art with eruptive emotional energy with the elegance of classical music sensibilities and distills it into an unforgettable live show that feels like anything could happen.

Magdalena Bay photo by Lissyelle Laricchia

Wednesday | 11.02
What: Magdalena Bay w/BAYLI
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Magdalena Bay is a synth pop duo based out of Los Angeles. Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin met while in high school as part of a music program but formed their own progressive rock band before forming the current project in 2016. With some early releases under its belt, Magalena Bay dropped its debut full length Mercurial World in October 2021 but haven’t been able to properly tour in support of the album until now. The album like the group’s website taps into some retro aesthetics and uses them in a self-aware but creative new ways. The website mercurialworld.com looks like an old Geo Cities website and all across the record one hears sampling of 8-bit sounds that give it a touch of grit while perhaps invoking the sounds of artists like Charli XCX and the original Crystal Castles. Opening act BAYLI recently released her Stories 2 EP and lead single “act up” and the attendant music video presents a complex and nuanced take on relationships and identity and the ways we interact with the world around us. Its sultry vibes and synth infused R&B sound isn’t so easily defined by narrow genre designations as its themes utilize a strong but gentle pop hook that renders it possible to accomplish in under three minutes what an entire movie can often fail to accomplish with nearly as much grace and poetry.

BAYLI, photo by Javier Luggage
Enumclaw, photo by Colin Matsui

Thursday and Friday | 11.03 and 11.04
What: Illuminati Hotties w/Enumclaw and GUPPY
When: 7 (11.03) and 8 (11.04)
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Enumclaw’s new album Save the Baby is an update on its raw and vulnerable sound somewhere on the outer fringes of an unlikely alchemy of post-punk and emo. The band has always been adept at building an inspired imperfection into its songwriting in a manner similar to what Dinosaur Jr has done since its own inception. The emotional core is what hits the hardest and the vocals are a little rough around the edges but seem to somehow fit the moment perfectly. For the new record Enumclaw has refined the raw power of Jimbo Demo and tightening the dynamics without sacrificing the unvarnished feel of the music that made it so appealing from the beginning. It’s fairly rare that someone more or less begins their music career as a recording engineer but that’s what Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties did before she got her musical project off the ground in 2017. In 2021 Illuminati Hotties released its second album Let Me Do One More and reaffirmed the project’s status as expert purveyors of punk infused pop hooks and imaginative song titles and subjects like “Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism” and “Joni LA’s No. 1 Health Goth.” Fortunately, the songwriting is fully capable of embodying the implied social critique with the meta humor one would hope to hear. GUPPY from Los Angeles somehow makes delicate guitar work and twee sensibilities come off as punk and its 2022 album Big Man Says Slappydoo has enough pop culturally aware irreverent humor to seal its punk bonafides.

Cuffed Up, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 11.04
What: Cuffed Up w/Shadow Work and Wiff
When: 6/6:30
Where: HQ
Why: Cuffed Up from Los Angeles came together in 2018 inspired in part by the post-punk coming out of Ireland and the UK in the 2010s. Acts like Fontaines DC, IDLES and Shame set a template of politically conscious rock music with a personal immediacy set to a headlong pace and imaginative, atmospheric guitar work and impassioned vocals. With two EPs under its belt including the 2020 self-titled and 2021’s Asymmetry, Cuffed Up is proving itself to coming to be worthy of its influences. This is a bit of a one-off show in Denver hinting that maybe Cuffed Up is working with a local producer or album mixer but whatever the reason for this jaunt from California it’s a rare opportunity to catch the band before it becomes the subject of much buzz.

Friday | 11.04
What: Os Mutantes w/Claude Fontaine https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/435716
When: 7
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Fitting that legendary and influential Brazilian psychedelic rock and Tropicália band Os Mutantes are touring in the wake of its home country’s recent election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva aka Lula to the presidency over his fascistic opponent former president Jair Bolsonaro. The band was associated with the dissident movement in the late 1960s during the then Brazilian dictatorship so it’s playful and otherworldly music had a subversive element and a soundtrack to a countercultural moment. Its 1968 self-titled album is a bonafide classic of world psychedelic music and Os Mutantes had a bit of an international following before splitting in 1978. The band reunited in 2006 and has been touring on and off since and having released three new albums following that reconvening operations.

Townies, photo by Mike Clark

Friday | 11.04
What: Hi-Dive Anniversary Night 1: The Spits, Zebroids, Colfax Speed Queen, Townies
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Hi-Dive has been operating since early November 2003 and will celebrate the occasion with two nights of shows including this oe with the garage punk legends The Spits, punk rock tricksters Zebroids, psychedelic garage phenoms Colfax Speed Queen and Townies, a band of Denver expatriates to Trinidad who have an element of humor at the core of its identity of the band despite having serious rock songwriting chops and musicianship.

Of Feather and Bone, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Saturday | 11.05
What: Hi-Dive Anniversary: Warthog, Of Feather and Bone, Candy Apple and Spiritual Poison https://hi-dive.com/event/warthog-of-feather-and-bone-candy-apple-tba
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Hi-Dive Anniversary festivities continue for a second night with veteran, NYC thrash crossover quintet Warthog, psychedelic death metal legends Of Feather and Bone, noise rock/hardcore trip Candy Apple and Ethan McCarthy’s other noise project, the more ambient and orchestrated sound environment Spiritual Poison.

Kevin Morby, photo by Johnny Eastlund

Saturday | 11.05
What: Kevin Morby w/Coco https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/?event_id=427528
When: 8
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kevin Morby came to prominence in experimental folk group Woods when he was living in NYC in the mid-2000s and then with his band The Babies with Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls. But once he moved to Los Angeles he firmly established his solo career with the 2013 debut album under his own name, Harlem River, a record paying homage to his former home city. Morby’s creative arrangements transcend specific music styles so that when you hear his music its the songwriting that catches your attention more so than trying to frame it into a stylistic context. Maybe its his attention to rhythm and structure with texture in the flow of melody like he listened to a lot of mid-70s Sly & The Family Stone, Devendra Banhart and the breadth of Bob Dylan’s output. His latest album This Is a Photograph is his most thematically and emotionally direct album to date and its pastoral introspection doesn’t feel like a pose or pretense but rather a vehicle at illuminating honest and deeply observant personal insights. Opening act Coco released its self-titled debut album in 2021 and the project includes Maia Friedman (of Dirty Projectors, Uni-Ika Ai), Dan Moland (Lucius, Chimney) and Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo, Dustrider). There is a great use of space in which the group casts sultry moods and soulful soundscapes to accompany gorgeously melodic and warm yet lonely vocal harmonies. It’s the kind of slowcore pop one might expect more out of Low when that band isn’t going fully into gloriously avant-garde mode. The elegant bass lines and and a willingness to let the physicality of the performance of the music to leak into the recording gives it an immediacy and grounding that matches the tenor of the way the musicians sync so perfectly with their voices.

Cloakroom, photo by Vin Romero

Sunday | 11.06
What: Cloakroom w/Seer Believer and Cherished
When: 8
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cloakroom’s 2022 album Dissolution Wave might be seen as a Utopian concept space rock album about creating a parallel new world to process and replace the world as we know it with all its environmental degradation, political and social decay, oligarchic domination and the commodification of all levels of our lived experience. It’s like a western doom record with the core idea being a technology, the generator of the titular energy, that obliterates all existing creative work and abstract thought including all ideologies, philosophy and much of what we take for granted as the foundations of our civilization. Except there is “the Spire and Ward of Song” that filter human imaginative accomplishments so that only the best ideas and creations can get through and fuel the continuation of the world. The album also finds the band branching even further into melodic accessibility with broad vistas of dream-like pop hooks drifting in distorted haze and sheets of discordant tones. The effect is mutually complementary. It’s also among the best shoegaze albums out of the past decade and the perfect blend of dense atmospherics and transporting tonal drifts. Opening are Denver shoegaze bands Seer Believer and Cherished, the latter being a group that seems to fit in well in this realm of music as well as post-punk for its vibrantly vulnerable moods.

Patriarchy, photo courtesy the artists

Monday | 11.07
What: Patriarchy w/Street Fever and Sell Farm, Kill You Club DJs
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Patriarchy is currently touring in support of its 2022 album The Unself and proving itself purveyors of a sound that perhaps has some roots in Gothic industrial sounds and saturated synth tones and a darker form of dance music. Fronted by Actually Huizenga, the group’s aesthetic perfectly blends the hyper real, stark visual style of 80s slasher films, Giorgio Moroder’s cinematic compositions, David Lynchian noir and both ancient and modern mythology for its performance style and the content of the music. It’s a band that embraces the theater of camp and its exploration of themes about sex and power in society and personal relationships is provocative and thought-provoking while delivering a bombastic and challenging music that is also danceable and joyous in its catharsis.

Echosmith, photo by Nightdove Studio

Tuesday | 11.08
What: Echosmith w/lostboycrow and Band Of Silver
When: 7
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Echosmith is a pop band that formed in 2009 in Chico, California. The former and current quartet are siblings Sydney, Noah, Graham and Jamie Sierota (Jamie having taken a break from the band from 2016-2022). Adopting the moniker when the group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2012 (previously having performed under the name Ready Set Go!), Echosmith released its debut album Talking Dreams in 2013 which yielded the hit single “Cool Kids” about not really fitting in with the popular crowd but being comfortable with being different. Following the performance and touring cycle behind the debut album on a major label, Echosmith found itself saying yes to every opportunity to advance the band and listening to industry people in helping to further their career and that meant long term that there wasn’t enough time to write and develop new material aside from an occasional EP until the group took steps to do so in time to issue the sophomore album Lonely Generation in January 2020. With the onset of the pandemic and the enduring and continuing impacts on tour and thus supporting a new record Echosmith had time to reassess its priorities and reconnect with the ideas and inspirations that initially got the group off the ground into a serious project and during that process went with a more open approach to its songwriting as heard on new singles “Hang Around” and “Gelato” hinting at the new chapter of Echosmith’s creative development. Recently “Cool Kids” garnered some renewed interest when it was used in TikTok videos by the likes of Demi Lovato, Drew Barrymore, Lindsay Lohan, Addison Rae and Hayley Kiyoko who felt the song expressed their own feelings about looking back and seeing how far they’ve come as people. The trend of utilizing the song has garnered more than six million views to date. Echosmith in response to that did a new version of the song with a new music video with “Cool Kids (our version).”

Charles Lloyd Ocean Trio, photo by Dorothy Darr

Tuesday | 11.08
What: Charles Lloyd Ocean Trio feat. Gerald Clayton and Anthony Wilson
When: 6/7
Where: MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater 2644 W. 32nd Ave, Denver, CO 80211
Why: Charles Lloyd is a tenor saxophone and flute player and one of the few remaining legends of the age of jazz in which he performed with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy and other leading talents of west coast jazz. He also formed his classic quintet in 1966 with Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett and Cecil McBee. Their 1966 live album Forest Flower is said to have built an audience among fans of rock, fans of jazz and the hippie counterculture that was on the ascent. Lloyd was also an early adopter of incorporating the music of various cultures beyond his own American context into his compositions. Lloyd is also one of the most prolific artists of his generation who has continued releasing albums through ECM and Blue Note including the 2022 twin albums Trio: Chapel and Trio: Ocean. His imaginative arrangements and creative performance style both elegant and forceful has kept his work vital and consistently worth a listen.

Tegan and Sara, photo by Pamela Littky

Tuesday | 11.08
What: Tegan and Sara w/Tomberlin
When: 7
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Tegan and Sara Quin are twin sisters who formed their pop project Tegan and Sara in 1998 in Calgary. Multi-instrumentalists, the Quin sisters first started getting a name for themselves in underground music circles more widely with the release of the 2000 album The Business of Art. Warm vocal melodies, gentle yet exuberant energy and tender, declarative, observational song have been part of the Tegan and Sara sound since early on and even though they have refined their songwriting and performances and collaborated with numerous other musicians there is a comforting consistency in knowing that a new Tegan and Sara record will have some words of condolence, of emotional clarity and an articulation of struggle and finding the right tone of humor in unexpected situations. This is also true of their new album Crybaby which released a week after the October 14, 2022 premier of their TV series High School (based on their 2019 memoir of the same name) on Amazon Freevee. Of course the live show will feature the duo’s signature, highly engaging stage banter and commentary on the state of the world and sharing the bill for this night is experimental folk pop singer-songwriter Tomberlin whose 2022 album i don’t know who needs to hear this captured a relatable impulse to restlessness and personal set of songs the speak to a yearning for connection and tranquility in a particularly troubled time in human history.

Photo by Patrick Houdek

Wednesday | 11.09
What: Meat Wave w/Moon Pussy and SPELLS
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chicago’s Meat Wave in true tradition of that city’s underground music is difficult to define precisely. Fans of noise rock in the Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go vein will find much to like. There is a touch of the angular intensity of Shellac there and a melancholic desperation channeled into cathartic bursts of noise that dissolve and reform in raging passages. Its 2022 album Malign Hex not only has one of the best album titles of the year but imbued with a seething urgency balanced with a touch of near meditative atmospherics that break and dive off into unexpected directions. It sounds both conflicted and resigned and isn’t that one of the prevailing spirits of recent years with thwarted and then blunted frustrations waiting for release but let to hang and rot and transform into a mutant form of lingering neuroses that is still playing out in the culture. Meat Wave gives that decay and psychic poison a thrilling outlet. Denver pop punk band SPELLS may seem like the party group of every season but its own lyrics give form to an adult will to do something of significance only to find that the machine has you locked in for a mediocre fate so you decide to mock the situation and make the kind of music that rebels against being so unceremoniously shuffled off into the extra person column of modern civilization. Moon Pussy and its wiry and explosive dynamics takes the surreal absurdity of the life and world we have to contend with every day and transmutes it into an irresistible sonic release that every time makes you think maybe rock music isn’t dead after all.

Moore Kismet, photo by Brandon Densley

Wednesday | 11.09
What: Slander: Thrive on the Rocks w/Virtual Riot, Moore Kismet, Leotrix and Saka
When: 6
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheater
Why: Slander’s Thrive on the Rocks show will of course feature the well-known dubstep band. But get there early because Moore Kismet will have a set. Their 2022 album UNIVERSE is a deep dive into exploring the possibilities of modern electronic dance music production and songwriting. Where another artist might embrace a trope of the style of music, Kismet takes it somewhere else with an imaginative playfulness that draws you in with every track with its attention to every sonic detail culminating in tracks that are flowing with energy but soothing to the mind at once. Its a riveting mix that is innovative and arresting in unpredictable ways even if you’re a veteran of electronic music or don’t even really get it. With its supreme sound design and creativity UNIVERSE is worth a listen and Moore Kismet is a young artist who seems set on helping to change the world of electronic dance music for the better.

MSPaint, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 11.10
What: Militarie Gun w/MSPaint, Public Opinion and Dirt Sucker
When: 7
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Militarie Gun is set to release the deluxe edition of its 2021 album All Roads Lead To The Gun on November 18. The Los Angeles-based hardcore band has those confrontational vocals but there’s something more arty about its guitar work and rhythms more like an old DC post-hardcore band of the 80s but more rooted in modern hardcore. Regardless of its actual roots it has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting bands out of the current wave of punk and hardcore. MSPaint from Hattiesburg, Mississippi sure seems to play some hardcore shows and the intensity of its performances are in that vein in terms of energy but its own music is a fusion of that spirit and bass and synth driven post-punk with songs that capture perfectly the fractured spirit of the American culture and consciousness. Its 2020 self-titled demo is truly one of the most original sounds coming out of the milieu of hardcore and the live show is a barn burner of inspiration and enthusiasm.

Hermanos Gutiérrez, photo by Larry Nlehues

Thursday | 11.10
What: Hermanos Gutiérrez
When: 7
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hermanos Gutiérrez is a two piece band comprised of brothers Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez. It’s an instrumental project that fuses the traditions and influences of their Ecuadorian mother and Swiss father and the 2022 album El Bueno Y El Malo sounds like a hybrid of Santo & Johnny, Neil Young’s soundtrack work for Dead Man (1995) and a more modern form of pasillo. The introspective pastoral quality of the music is gorgeously tranquil but suggests long journeys and a searching spirit as each song explores nuances of mood and emotion while capturing a sense of place both physically and in the mind.

Hex Cassette, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 11.11
What: Specter Poetics (Omaha goth pop), Jeff In Leather (Omaha techno pop), Hex Cassette, Pattern Screamers (angular new wave)
When: 7:30
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: Denver Blood Cult presents a night of darkwave from Nebraska but also includes a performance from Denver confrontational industrial dance legend in the making Hex Cassette. His friendly cajoling of the audience from stage paired with music that is aimed at evoking a spirit of excitement in the face of a bevy of overwhelming challenges internal and external. Pattern Screamers might be described as an art punk band based purely on its 24-Hour Write-A-Record Challenge EP and the song “Grocery Store” and “Internet.” Specter Poetics bridges the worlds of synth-infused post-punk and dark New Wave revival. Jeff In Leather is more techno dream pop dance music style.

Saturday | 11.12
What: Mister Water Wet, M. Sage, snowfloer and Aspen Colorado
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Mister Water Wet is a Kansas City-based artist whose prepared environments and ambient drones found an especially evocative form on the 2022 album Significant Soil. M. Sage spent many years helping to keep Fort Collins weird with his experimental pop bands and his own tape collage style experiments in creating unique soundtracks to spaces of his own imagining. Aspen Colorado is a side project of performance artist/experimental modern classical/industrial darkwave artist Polly Urethane. Might be the only performance of Aspen Colorado and this is your chance to catch what will likely be an interesting showing of that. Snowfloer is Derrick Bozich’s solo project and you may know him as a guitarist in Sound of Ceres and formerly of Ancient Elk and Grease Pony among other projects more in the realm of indie rock.

Holy Fawn, photo by Matt Cardinal

Sunday | 11.13
What: Holy Fawn w/SOM and Grivo
When: 6:30
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Holy Fawn from Phoenix, Arizona is a four-piece that has been exploring and evolving a sound that brings together an introspective ethereal soundscape with a heaviness of mood that reflects a depth of feeling found on all of its recorded output. From its 2015 debut EP Realms to its 2022 album Dimensional Bleed one hears in the music of Holy Fawn expansive melodies and tonal brightness paired with a textural grittiness that feels like a cathartic and transcendent journey into deep emotional spaces. In that sound one hears echoes of obvious influences in realms of shoegaze, post-rock, black metal and the more atmospheric post-hardcore and emo with lush swarms of intricate guitar and intertwining rhythms. But there is also an element of musique concrète to the songwriting bringing in field recordings and tape collages to augment a sense of layered meaning and lending Dimensional Bleed in particular a cinematic quality that can create a rippling shift of sonic focus in every moment of a song. Without attachment to a specific style of music, Holy Fawn is able to deftly navigate and even embody multiple genres at once as suggested by the title of its new record. Also on the bill are two of the other current master practitioners of heavy atmospherics. SOM whose own 2022 album The Shape of Everything is brimming with uplifting and illuminating sonics and Grivo from Austin, Texas whose album Omit (also 2022) reveals a gift for shaping transporting drifts of luminously dense melodies.

Exhumed, photo courtesy the artists

Monday | 11.14
What: Exhumed w/Escuela Grind, Vitriol, Molder
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Deathgrind legends Exhumed bring the tour in support of its new album To The Dead to Denver. Formed in 1990 when vocalist and guitarist Matt Harvey was fifteen years old, Exhumed has gone on to carve out its place in the canon of extreme metal. Its gory lyrics have always been a metaphor for consumerism and political issues and like a good horror movie provides an outlet to explore the horrible things humans do to each other in the name of a religion, a political affiliation, out of greed or any other unsavory motivation. To The Dead is another fine visceral litany of raging dismay in Exhume’s prolific catalog.

Beth Orton, photo courtesy the artist

Monday | 11.14
What: Beth Orton w/Heather Woods Broderick
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Some people may know Beth Orton for her unforgettable collaborations with legendary producer and electronic music artist William Orbit in particular “She Cries Your Name” and her contributions to Orbit’s song “Water From a Vine Leaf.” But Orton’s album under her own name have been eclectic and sonically rich including her 2022 album Weather Alive. Orton’s hushed, soulful vocals and ear for deeply evocative melodies and unconventional production has garnered her a bit of a cult following over the past three decades. But Weather Alive is a bit of an unexpected entry in her catalog as its attention to detail and the crafting of atmosphere and mood in the context of masterfully crafted songs makes it perhaps her finest offering to date.

Masma Dream World, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 11.15
What: DUMA w/Masma Dream World, Knife Band and Watching People Drown
When: 7
Where: The Coast
Why: Masma Dream World is the solo project of multi-disciplinary artist Devi Mambouka that incorporates elements of Butoh, drone, theta frequency and ambient music. In 2020 the debut Masma Dream World album Play at Night but likely didn’t get a proper airing to a wide public because November 2020 was in one of the depths of the ongoing pandemic. The record is a mesmerizing listen that taps into parts of your brain that feel like a direct connection to the subconscious and one’s ancient ancestors. The use of percussion and unconventional tonalities and shamanic vocals creates a real moment throughout the recording as Mambouka makes sacred psychological space with the music opening a path to a mindset that exists outside the usual and unrelenting considerations of narrow materialism and demands on time at every moment from multiple sources. The music is a journey into a headspace that is always there for you to access but which can seem blocked from your conscious mind by habits of living that prioritize the needs of a corrosive economic system rather than what fortifies your life for real and that of everyone else and the rest of the world generally. It’s a therapeutic listen that exists outside the bounds of musical convention. DUMA (“Darkness” in Kikuyu) is a band that has emerged out of the underground metal scene in Nairobi, Kenya. Martin Khanja and Sam Karugu released their2020 self-titled debut during the height of the current pandemic and thus international touring has been all but impossible now. So fans had to give its harrowing and stark and frenetic soundscapes online or through purchasing a record from Nyege Nyege Tapes. The haunting and riveting soundscapes crafted by the two musicians is unlike most anything you’re likely to hear anywhere that is undeniably rooted in grindcore but also lo-fi industrial and imbued with a political awareness and existential angst that gives it a rare and very real edge.

Brothertiger, photo by Tonje Thilesen

Tuesday | 11.15
What: Brothertiger w/Neo Tokyo Philharmonic
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Oh the 2022 self-titled Brothertiger album John Jagos demonstrates what sounds like a great deal of growth as a songwriter. Certainly he has emerged from being one of the leading lights of chillwave in the late 2000s and 2010s having grown beyond the confines of that microgenre. During the early months of the pandemic Jagos acquired vintage samplers and synths manufactured by Ensoniq employed by sophisti-pop artists of the 80s influenced by the lush and dusky sounds of Roxy Music’s 1982 album Avalon. Think ABC, Level 42, Prefab Sprout and Spandau Ballet and Everything but the Girl. There’s a soulful quality to the collection of songs that hearkens back to a time when people were coping with dire international tensions and the looming threat of authoritarian domination but needing an escape into something that released some of that tension. There is a soothing quality to the album whose lyrics also seem to look to a near future where people are able to build a life and forge one without as much of the persistent oligarchic boot to the neck where anyone can take the time out to contemplate what to do with your ample leisure time. It’s not an album that ignores the current state of things but one that recognizes that sometimes we all need an interlude out of that pressure for a bit and the ability of music to provide that emotional space.

No Age at Glob on August 28, 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 11.16
What: No Age w/John Wiese and New Standards Men
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: No Age is a noise rock/art punk duo based in Los Angeles, California. Drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt and guitarist/vocalist Randy Randall had been in a band called Wives from 2001-2005 that had been a staple of the underground/DIY music world at the time. But Spunt and Randall scrapped the name and took their then musical ideas and recast their efforts as No Age with their first shows under the new moniker in early 2006 with their second show at the legendary DIY space The Smell in April of that year. From the beginning there was a refreshing lack of pretension and exuberance in the sound of No Age. Like a fusion of The Ramones at its most raw and the lo-fi experimentation and tape collage aesthetic of The Microphones. Within the often grainy and charmingly unvarnished early recordings one could hear a joyfulness and embrace of lived experiences that could contain and express a broad range of emotions and ideas in a manner often spirited and tender. There was always an element of vulnerability to No Age’s version of punk that transformed the music into something immediately accessible, like an unspoken invitation into a shared experience of thoughts and feelings it’s easy to think of going through alone and in isolation. No Age as artists and as a band have always approached its music and its operation as a band with a community spirit and that underlying ethos is something one an hear and feel in all of its albums and at its live performances. The group’s 2007 debut full length compilation of its early EPs and singles Weirdo Rippers (FatCat) is a fantastic introduction to the core No Age sound with a title that captures what you’re in for hearing, that is to say exciting music for people who embrace being different from mainstream expectation. From 2008-2013 No Age was signed to SubPop which helped to push the band to wider audiences. The most recent No Age album People Helping People (Drag City, 2022) is one of its most daring to date and bringing into the mix more fully the musique concrète element heard from its beginnings with gorgeously dream-like tape collages set alongside its signature vital rock songs. It may be the most fully realized No Age album to date and sonically among its most arresting. Opening the show are instrumental noise rock mutants New Standards Men who answer the question of what one might get if weirdos who were into Ruins, Talk Talk, Patrick Shiroishi, John Zorn and Tangerine Dream might do. Also noise legend John Wiese who has long been a part of the Southern California DIY underground.

Thursday | 11.17
What: Till The Teeth w/Pythian Whispers, Laudanum Quilt and Doc Box
When: 8
Where: Glob
Why: Till The Teeth is a Seattle based duo of Sandesh Nagaraj and Jonathan Rodriguez. Its releases thus far suggest a compositional style that employs techniques of soundscaping one most often associates with musique concrète, ambient, noise, prepared environment and ritual drone inspired in part by non-musical experiences, ideas and concepts whether cinematic, explorations of pure imagination or simply being struck by everyday occurrences and encounters. And the local openers come from a similar approach to making sound art. Laudanum Quilt whose prolific output for the last more than half a decade has put soundtracks to imagery, stories, quasi-mythologized personal experiences and the union of urban and rural environments. This author’s own project Pythian Whispers properly became a band when friends with a mutual interest in cinema, non-conventional music and other visual arts made music together and continued evolving beyond harsh ambient noise, experimental electronic music, drone and psychedelic abstract prog into whatever realms of sound came together through spontaneous improvisation.

Thursday | 11.17
What: Dead Boys w/The Briefs, Suzi Moon and Fast Eddy
When: 7
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Dead Boys are an influential early punk band from Cleveland, Ohio whose only constant member Cheetah Chrome was also in proto-punk band Rocket From the Tombs with Peter Laughner who also contributed to the early music of post-punk legends Pere Ubu. The band’s 1977 debut Young, Loud and Snotty with its ramshackle sound and raw and abrasive style proved influential on punk and glam metal going forward. The group’s volatile energy yielded one more album We Have Come For Your Children (1978) before the band broke up for what would have been good in 1980 with lead singer Stiv Bators going on to pioneer a kind of glam death rock with Lords of the New Church. With some brief reunions since then lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome put together a line up of Dead Boys in 2017 that has been touring the classic material on a semi-regular basis.

Drab Majesty in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 11.18
What: AFI w/Drab Majesty
When: 7
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: AFI is one of the longest running bands out of the first wave of emo and one of the genre’s most inventive and stylistically versatile. Bridging the worlds of the kind of “horror punk” one associates with the sound of the Misfits, post-hardcore and gothic rock, AFI reintroduced an unabashed visual style for its live performances early on as opposed to the usual punk street clothes style favored by many if not most bands out of punk and emo. Altogether the musical and performance ideas have long helped AFI to stand out from the music scenes with which it has been most often associated. And certainly the choice of post-punk/dream pop duo Drab Majesty as an opener for this tour is an inspired one since the group’s fans seem open to AFI’s proclivity for making music with a similar appeal and presentation. Those unfamiliar with Drab Majesty, its darkly dream pop post-punk is like a more haunting take on the kind of experimental guitar rock of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and a darker and more gritty flavor of the similarly gossamer toned and emotionally charged sound one hears in Cocteau Twins.

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

Friday | 11.18
What: Turnover w/Yumi Zouma and Horse Jumper of Love
When: 7
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Turnover has come a long way since its more pop punk roots as heard on its 2013 debut album Magnolia. Its 2022 release Myself in the Way comes across as a hybrid of dream pop and indie R&B with some synth pop style. Yumi Zouma is the indie pop band from Christchurch, New Zealand whose 2022 album Present Tense has a paradoxically hushed enthusiasm with delicate songs buoyed by an energetic spirit. Horsejumper of Love is a post-punk band from Boston whose albums have been lumped under the designation of slowcore. But anyone that has seen the band knows there is an understated intensity and darkness to its live performances like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the kind of brooding and visceral quality to be heard there.

The Legendary Pink Dots in 2022, photo courtesy Randall Frazier

Saturday | 11.19
What: Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service and The Drood
When: 5
Where: Mercury Café
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots have left an indelible imprint on the worlds of psychedelic rock, post-punk, Gothic rock, the avant-garde, noise, ambient, industrial, synth pop and electronic music since its inception in1980. Fronted by Edward Ka-Spel, the Pink Dots have evolved through various lineups and shifting musical styles exploring musical and non-directly musical ideas for over four decades now leaving in the wake of that path of experimentation and rich a prolific body of work all worth a listen. From the late 80s through the early 90s there was a sea change in the band’s music as its membership expanded and its songwriting style shifted toward the kinds of lush atmospherics and dreamlike melodies and textures of 1990’s Crushed Velvet Apocalypse and even more fully on the 1991 album The Maria Dimension. That era of the band reached wider audiences and established The Legendary Pink Dots as a cult band with a wide international following from the alternative rock era to this day. Its enigmatic yet colorful and highly emotionally charged story songs provide a kind of parallel narrative to established cultural paradigms, sagely commenting on the prevailing culture in which we all live and which we all navigate and offering insight into civilizational themes and expressing deeply personal reactions to and thoughts on he lived human experience. The group’s highly imaginative and creative music never abstracts feelings but finds a way to make the complicated and difficult explicable. The live shows are a cathartic celebration of life and dreaming and seeking and finding deeper meaning set to sonically rich and transporting soundscapes. In 2022 the Pink Dots released its latest album The Museum of Human Happiness on Metropolis Records and following that, welcomed long time booster, publicist, tour manager and friend Randall Frazier of Denver space rock/ambient band Orbit Service into the current lineup alongside Ka-Spel, long time multi-instrumentalist Erik Drost and live engineer/producer Joep Hendrikx. Opening this show will be Frazier’s psychedelic ambient group Orbit Service and psychedelic, art rock, post-punk mystics The Drood.

Cheap Perfume performs on November 30 at Hi-Dive, photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.19
What: Riot Grrrl Party feat. Cheap Perfume, Tammy Shine
When: 6
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This is an event hosted by Gogo Germaine whose book Glory Guitars recently released to critical acclaim as the highly entertaining and touching memoir of a teenage punk. This event in addition to performances by the powerful, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume and the solo project of Dressy Bessy frontwoman Tammy Ealom as Tammy Shine there will be live burlesque with Becky Taha’Blu, Paloma Nectar, Siouxsie Cupcakes and Siren Sixxkiller, then readings by Gogo Germaine and Hillary Leftwich with Molina Speaks perhaps MCing the evening.

Dead Voices On Air in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 11.20
What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Edward Ka-Spel (solo) ft. Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa and Dead Voices on Air
When: 4
Where: Mercury Café
Why: See above for Legendary Pink Dots. But for this evening Ka-Spel will perform solo with contributions from Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa and ambient music legend Mark Spybey of Zoviet France and his current project Dead Voices On Air.

Sunday | 11.20
What: Primo Premier Wrestling’s Emergence w/Wrestling Fiend: Arlo White and musical guest An Hobbes
When: 5:45/6
Where: The Roxy Theatre
Why: Arlo White has been involved in various ends of Denver music and art for decades with punk and art rock/concept bands like Dead Bubbles, Sparkle Jetts, The Buckingham Squares and others. He has also curated unique shows in a house space hosting the likes of Mercury Rev and Ken Stringfellow. Now White has assembled a performance as Wrestling Fiend. A lifelong fan of the gloriously absurd and dramatic art of professional wrestling and its stories and bombastic events, White reconnected with professional wrestling during the pandemic and found in it a path out of the stasis and despair of the current era. With his production company/media outlet Hypnotic Turtle he has teamed up with Colorado’s longest running independent wrestling promotion company Primos Premier Pro Wrestling. The show will feature pro wrestling, live painting and a musical performance from philosophical nerdcore rapper An Hobbes.

TITUS, photo courtesy the artist

Sunday | 11.20
What: Arrows In Action w/TITUS and Lady Denim
When: 6:30
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: TITUS has found a way to combine hip-hop and pop punk in a way that draws upon the virtues of both forms of music to make something that might not work with another person’s songwriting. His infectious guitar hooks and emotionally raw and vulnerable lyrics that resonate with the heart on sleeve style of the best pop punk and emo bands of the turn of the century while also informed by the instinct for authenticity that is the backbone of any hip-hop worth your time. The result is a refreshingly sincere body of work thus far including his singles “Love Myself” and “SiCK ABOuT U” that seem to eschew bravado and embrace a sensitive spirit. Opening on this tour with Gainesville, Florida-based Arrows in Action and its likeminded fusion of pop rock and even more tender than usual emo seems like a solid pairing.

Black Flag in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 11.21
What: Black Flag, TSOL, The Dickies, Total Chaos. https://theorientaltheater.com/event/396181/So-Cal-Punk-Invasion-Tour
When: 6
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: This tour includes some of the most influential bands out of the Southern California punk underground of the late 70s and early 80s with godfathers of hardcore, Black Flag whose current shows manage to remind one of the brilliantly creative guitar work and rhythms that long time band leader Greg Ginn helped to usher in to a punk world that was increasingly becoming more conformist. TSOL too switched up its own sounds across decades rather than stay stuck in a musical rut and at times embracing a dark, moody post-punk sound alongside its searing hardcore style. The Dickies are one of the longest continually running punk bands in existence starting in the banner year for punk of 1977 and with songs informed by a healthy and irreverent sense of humor while early on helping to establish a style of music that would become pop punk.

The Garden, photo by Ashley Clue

Monday | 11.21
What: The Garden w/Machine Girl
When: 7
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: The Garden is a band formed by twin brothers Wyatt and Fletcher Shears and true to its name suggesting growth and evolution the group defies easy categorization. Sure you can see one of their exuberant live shows and hear the influence of pop punk, Green Day in particular, but its visual style is reminiscent of somehow both Suicidal Tendencies and that band’s own embrace of graffiti aesthetics and the kind of theatrical glam of Slipknot or more unlikely but possible Malfunktion, particularly on the singles for its 2022 album Horseshit on Route 66. But the music seems to dip into the realm of electronic music and art rock but thread that into its punk sensibilities completely for a sound that fits in with a modern disregard for narrow genre in songwriting. Which makes opener Machine Girl and its own industrial dance/glitchcore music and borderline unhinged performances seem like a natural choice and one for which its fans have been prepared with The Garden’s own evolution in daring new directions.

Oruã, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 11.22
What: Oruã, Laminate, Horse Bitch and Totem Pocket
When: 7
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Oruã is a band from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that has for more than half a decade been crafting a particularly sonically dense blend of Krautrock, free jazz and Tropicalía. Its 2021 album Íngreme made more clear an incorporation of ideas from library music and indiepop. Also on the bill are Irish noise rock group Laminate, quirky, Denver-based pop punk indie folk mutants Horse Bitch and hazily atmospheric shoegaze group Totem Pocket.

Reverb and the Verse, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 11.23
What: Reverb and the Verse
When: 6-10
Where: Bonacquisti Wine Company
Why: Reverb and the Verse has been a staple of the more experimental edge of Denver hip-hop since the late 90s with its vital mix of socially and politically astute lyrics and masterful electronic soundscapes. Its 2022 album BLACKWALL is its final intended album and a barn burner of a record that fuses industrial beats with passionate vocals and expert production that gives the record the feel of something from the future commenting poignantly about the deeply conflicted and imperiled time in which we find ourselves. Think Moby and Nine Inch Nails collaborating with Chuck D for an album to be released on Warp Records.

Secret Shame, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 11.25
What: Secret Shame w/Verhoffst, Voight and ilind
When: 9
Where: The Crypt ($10)
Why: Secret Shame formed in Asheville, North Carolina in 2018. Its members came from the local punk scene and the music they made together was, summed up by a quote found on one or more of its online accounts, “too punk for Goth and too Goth for punk.” But however its sound might be best described its style of dark post-punk struck an immediate chord with people that got to see the fledgling band and even the debut basement demo from 2016 revealed a band that was tapping into emotional spaces resonant with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Xmal Deutschland. Its songwriting quickly developed into the songs that would comprise its energetic self-titled 2017 EP and the 2019 full-length debut album Dark Synthetics. In that vital mix of death rock and synth-infused post-punk one could hear an emotional vulnerability that told stories of struggle and abuse sometimes couched in terms of cosmic horror. And yet there was a core of honest feeling that bled through the metaphors and abstraction. For the 2022 album Autonomy, singer Lena had been working from a place of wanting to not obscure her lived experience and emotional truth and one hears that reflected directly in the music too. It’s still beautifully moody and moving but less haze and more direct tonal expression. Also in the new set of music are more conventionally accessible melodies without sacrificing the grit and darkness that has made the group’s songwriting so compelling since its inception. Autonomy is an album by a band that has come into its own while also a demonstration of an evolution from where it’s been and hinting at further exploration of where the music can go when you feel like you can craft your art from a deeply personal place without needing to couch it in the stylistic terms of anyone else or their narrow expectations. Opening is noise sculptor Verhoffs, techno DJ and avant-garde electronic music composer ilind and industrial post-punk shoegaze techno aspirers Voight. Listen to our interview with Secret Shame here.

Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 11.25
What: Emerald Siam, Jacket of Spiders, Juliet Mission and Shadows Tranquil
When: 7
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Four of Denver’s best live rock bands on one bill doesn’t often happen but the day after Thanksgiving if you choose to show up to Enigma Bazaar you can witness the dark yet triumphant and emotionally expansive music of Emerald Siam, the blues edged, gritty art rock of Jacket of Spiders, Julie Mission’s perfection of transforming brooding shoegaze sounds into expressions of pure joy and Shadows Tranquil’s synthesis of math-y emo, shoegaze inflected metal and psyche cleansing, atmospheric post-punk. Sometimes for an all local bill you have to think maybe one or two of the bands are merely okay or there’s a clear headliner. But not for this show.

beabadoobee, photo by Erika Kamano

Saturday | 11.26
What: beabadoobee w/Lowertown
When: 7
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Lowertown is an avant-pop duo based out of Atlanta. Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg met in math class in high school and bonded over a mutual and deep appreciation for jazz. Weinberg was a classical pianist with aims of going to the conservatory and Osby was a fledgling yet prolific poet. Before graduating in 2021 the two released the Honeycomb, Bedbug EP (2020) and the critically acclaimed The Gaping Mouth EP after high school in September 2021 having been picked up by the Dirty Hit imprint. Those EPs revealed a great deal of creative sophistication and development with songs that tapped into electronic music aesthetics, pop, angular post-punk, jazz and folk for a sound that feels intuitive in a way that speaks directly to the lived emotional experience in a way vulnerable and knowing and comfortable in not being so certain. The 2022 debut album I Love To Lie retains all the insightful introspection but the songwriting seems more straightforward and accessible and its content is the most clearly political and incisively observant. “Bucktooth” in particular addresses gun violence, political extremism and the seemingly everyday crisis mode that pervades not just American culture but the state of much of the world. It’s an album written from the perspective of youth and informed by an underlying hopefulness in the face of the dire possibilities and likelihoods and its catharsis of that anxiety is heartfelt and immediately striking. Filipino-British artist Beatrice Kristi Laus performs as beabdoobee and though only 22 has garnered a solid cult following for her early EPs released in 2018. Her breathy, expressive vocals are a compelling contrast with her expert crafting of lively, fuzzy guitar work and a seeming gift for delivering music with a raw spirit and a keen ear for creative melodies. Initially maybe her music seems completely beholden to 90s rock, especially on 2022 album Beatopia, but the sensibility has a touch of meta quality like Laus is soundtracking a 90s coming of age movie she has in her head infused with nosalgia, which fits in with the songwriter’s citing movie soundtracks as an influence on her own work and a desire to make music for films.

Seraphim Shock in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.26
What: Seraphim Shock 25th Anniversary w/Dead on a Sunday, Whorticulture and DJ Celebrytie and hosted by Sid Pink
When: 7
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Seraphim Shock has been spinning its tales of the dark side of American society informed by themes of the occult, Satanism, hedonism and resistance to a puritanical culture that often causes the trauma and neuroses that drive dysfunction. Seraphim Shock’s music is an expression of solidarity with living with that legacy and purging it. It’s debut full length album Red Silk Vow released in 1997 to great local fanfare in the local Goth scene with shows in which lead singer Charles Edward garbed as a Victorian Vampire, top hat and all, orchestrated a stage show with bandmates in corpse paint style. Whether one was fully into the music or not the spectacle was undeniably compelling to the point where it helped to elevate the music in its Goth-industrial style. As the years went on the band’s style adopted a more glam metal sound and Edward more like a sinister yet benevolent professional wrestler look but more sculpted and more like a Goth super hero. This show celebrates the release of that first album and ushers in the next chapter of the band with its impending release of the second volume of The Fairmount Chronicles which launched in 2020. These days the stage show is back to being as theatrical as the early days with Edward exuding the undeniable charisma and commanding presence that has been a feature of the live show for decades. Also here for the proceedings is the classic Seraphim Shock MC, the sarcastic and sardonic MC Sid Pink so maybe we’ll also see a return of his irreverent game show, Think Pink.

SRSQ, photo by Nedda Afsari

Monday | 11.28
What: SRSQ w/Causer and Polly Urethane
When: 7
Where: Lost Lake
Why: SRSQ (pronounced “seer-skew”) is the solo project of former Them Are Us Too singer Kennedy Ashlyn. Her operatic vocals brought a good deal of emotional weight to the gorgeously ethereal guitar work of the late Cash Askew for a powerfully evocative combination. Her 2018 album Unreality was a tender and engulfing meditation on loss and grief cast in lush and hazy synths and soaring vocals. Her new album Ever Crashing is a statement of rediscovery of a firm sense of self with the usual elegantly evocative synth but including an expanded sound palette of guitar, string arrangements, live drums and other percussion alongside Ashlyn’s singularly expressive voice. People that got to see SRSQ during her time touring in the wake of the release of Unreality know that Ashlyn’s native charisma and emotional vibrance as a performer is undeniable.

Rosegarden Funeral Party in February 2020, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.29
What: Rosegarden Funeral Party w/Vio\ator and Faces Under the Mirror
When: 7
Where: HQ
Why: Rosegarden Funeral Party from Dallas, Texas has been blurring the line between shoegaze and post-punk since its inception. Frontperson/guitarist Leah Lane strikes a commanding figure while delivering impassioned vocals and atmospheric guitar wizardry while drummer Dylan Stamas triggers samples and orchestrates the sweeping rhythms with bassist Michael Doty, synthesist Michael Ortega layering the music with vividly cinematic melody. Lane helped to write and produce and perform on (as well as doing the artwork for) Vio\ator’s 2021 album Solitude and the broodily icy tones and gritty synth and bass driven music is the sound of an autumn spent in isolation. Faces Under The Mirror from Denver has been crafting some of the better EBM around since 1994 without much recognition beyond the Mile High City but whose moody yet energetic music is imbued with a sense of joy in the live setting.

To Be Continued…

Live Show Review: Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22

Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Puscifer’s most recent tour felt like more than a bit of rock and roll theater performance art. From the press photos of the band dressed up like parallel dimension Watchmen futuristic noir superheros replicated for the live show to Maynard James Keenan performing in character in more than one role to the stage sets and interludes between songs it was a full production from its early public announcements and intentional and conceptual aesthetics and execution. Chances are much of this was planned all along when Existential Reckoning was planned for the roll out in 2020 before the pandemic put all the brakes on anyone doing any shows much less a full fledged tour on every logistical level. It’s easy to imagine Maynard and the rest of the band having these ideas ready but this live show had the energy of pent-up exuberance let loose so that while not rough around the edges, there was an intensity that felt real and not an act in spite of the performance art aspect of the show.

Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Of course the show included what seemed like the whole Existential Reckoning album in its entirety and set up as a concept performance with Keenan and Carina Round on the ground level of the stage and on an upper area for various songs and for the final sequences of the show. It all felt like a futuristic rock and new wave glam rock fusion with sly social commentary. For most of the show the band forbade people in the audience from taking photos and such as perhaps an attempt to keep the focus on the show and its content and, well, the reason we all showed up to see the art rock glory of the band giving an exuberant performance informed by humor and intelligence. But what stood out most in some ways were the regular interludes in which the music took a pause and the video screens were filled with the image of Keenan as a mutant hybrid parody of Max Headroom and a conspiracy theorist TV show host and unleashing some of the most cartoonish and ridiculous examples of the kind of rhetoric you might expect and done so with a surreal glee that was the perfect break from the rest of the show. And yes, the concert in general had a level of stagecraft and content one doesn’t often see outside of a Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead gig so Puscifer in delivering arguably the best record of its career thus far did so with a riveting live show and the mix of humor and bombast you’d hope to experience.

Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Puscifer at Mission Ballroom 7/6/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Live Show Review: Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22

Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Kraftwerk went beyond the 3D presentation for the 2022 Red Rocks show. Seemed like it couldn’t work when the light was still strong well into the evening but apparently it was oddly effective and surreal if you got a pair of the glasses to fully take in that aspect of the performance. But even without the glasses whoever set up the sound for this night managed to give the renowned amphitheater a robust level of sonic fidelity adequate to one of the greatest and most influential bands of electronic and popular music.

Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy

On stage Kraftwerk walked on to a platform on the stage that gave the impression that we were watching the quartet on a television lending the whole show a meta quality that enhanced the group’s own implicit commentary on society, media and technology by employing the simple prop of a familiar cultural artifact write large from which to project the music to the audience. Behind the four members of Kraftwerk was one projection screen and when 8-bit graphic numbers counted to eight it was clear the concert would open with “Numbers.”

Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Across the evening with so many of Kraftwerk’s great songs from the breadth of its recorded catalog one thing that had to have struck anyone close enough to see the expressions on the faces of the band and their movements is how much they put themselves as humans into the music even though they appeared to be standing at consoles simply pressing buttons and looking impassive. But Ralf Hütter looked impassioned at points and with the projections flowing depicting the settings and actions of the song it was the members of Kraftwerk that kept this music grounded in a shared human experience of music made using science seemingly written for cyborgs but performed by physical people and not an A.I.. Not that Kraftwerk might not find that a useful element of its compositions going into the future.

Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy

It’s easy to think of songs like “The Model,” “Autobahn,” “Trans-Europe Express,” “Tour de France,” “The Robots” and “Spacelab” as existing and best enjoyed purely in the mind but the low end and the broad frequency range of the music hit strongly and moved through you in this environment in a way that made it feel like the most transcendent music in the world. This music many of us have heard for most or all of our lives but maybe weren’t fortunate enough to witness other times Kraftwerk made a stop in Colorado came to life as day turned to night and even when the wind rose precipitously and the group left the stage for an intermission and came back it seemed to accentuate how Kraftwerk’s sounds and ideas have weathered well the decades and still sound fresh, unusual and strikingly original.

Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Kraftwerk at Red Rocks 6/30/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Live Show Review: Sunflower Bean at Bluebird Theater 6/11/22

Sunflower Bean at Bluebird Theater 6/11/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunflower Bean has garnered some criticism for being icons of indie music rather than a genuine indie band from early on. But live its eclectic, multi-genre approach to songwriting somehow works even though it hasn’t exactly translated into a break into the mainstream. What this date in the support tour for its new album Headful of Sugar showcased the idiosyncratic band dynamic beyond the broad range of sounds and songwriting styles that spans the group’s catalog. The way each member had turns to shine throughout the set and within songs and the interplay like a handing off of the spotlight and sharing support roles seemingly effortlessly and without anyone seeming to push their ego into the mix unless the moment called for it.

Opening act Big J Beats, one of the great Denver hip-hop artists/producers, photo by Tom Murphy
Sunflower Bean at Bluebird Theater 6/11/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Shifting between styles across the set wouldn’t be possible if the trio didn’t have a command of a range of aesthetics from shoegaze, post-punk, psych, garage rock, R&B and electronic dance music. At times it could come across as a new band still finding its own sound but with songs developed to a high degree and maybe it’s intentional but this aspect of the band, there from its early tours, brings to the show a built in quality of the uncalculated, something most bands shed often by the time of their first album and certainly by the second, settling into a sound and sensibility that can feel limiting but also provides a coherence that points to stronger creative development. For now it seems Sunflower Bean realizes that the period of a band still figuring itself out can be personally rewarding. Rather than rushing to nailing what it’s about, Sunflower Bean streamlined its performances yet for this show we got to see the band bursting off the rails of its own disciplined presentation and it is in those moments that point to the group’s possibilities and creativity. Much of the set list came from the new record including opening with the title track but plenty of the highlights from earlier albums like the title track of Human Ceremony, “I Was a Fool,” “Twentytwo” and non-album track “Moment In The Sun.” Somehow none of it seemed dated because maybe, as has been pointed by various critics, this band reflected indie trends at every point in its career it also didn’t get tethered to one in following its own instincts in songwriting and the material took on the shape of the energy put into it the playing of it which felt somewhat off the cuff and in the moment even if obviously well practiced.

Sunflower Bean at Bluebird Theater 6/11/2022, photo by Tom Murphy
Sunflower Bean at Bluebird Theater 6/11/2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Live Show Review: Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Although we’re going to have to wait to see the full Failure documentary until 2023, for the 2022 segments of said cinematic biography of the band screened in lieu of an opening act for many if not all dates. In a sense the testimonials of Hayley Williams of Paramore, Margaret Cho, Jason Schwartzman, Tommy Lee, Maynard Keenan, David Dastmalchian, Troy Sanders of Mastodon, Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, Matt Pinfield, Butch Vig of Garbage and Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups opened the show with pithy and often poetic commentary on the impact of Failure on their lives and their music. And as compelling as these tidbits were they were a simple approximation of the band the way a written review can only be an abstraction of the visceral impact of the music and Failure’s gift for emotionally gripping, cinematic soundscapes as songs.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Often a band will have the drummer placed in the background but not so with Failure on this tour or on recent tours and maybe going back to the beginning. No, Kellii Scott is the engine and the glue that holds together Greg Edwards’ quiet intense energy as a musician and Ken Andrews’ more luminously volatile yet introspective expansiveness. It’s what makes the contradictions of the band’s music make sense and come together as forcefully and as gracefully as it does.

Ken Andrews of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Perhaps it was Margaret Cho who sagely referred to this music as “Space Goth” as it was melodramatic and dark and dreamlike, conflicted, gritty and ambient, industrial beats feeding into an evolving sonic infrastructure. There was something elegant in the underlying menace of so many of the songs and a sense that each song could scorch out from within. It all felt like it was on the precipice of an all consuming abyss and yet buoyed up by a desperate yet fatigued hope. The first two thirds of the set drew largely from the earlier albums and the more recent records and all of it seemed like a grand adventure through harrowing emotional spaces and built into each a thread of the promise of catharsis. And it all lead to the end of the show featuring the the final third of Fantastic Planet. “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” “Another Space Song,” “Stuck on You,” “Heliotropic” and “Daylight” were an arc of songs that felt mythic and like the kind of science fiction story you wish someone could make into a movie instead of the corny claptrap that passes for genre most of the time because it doesn’t often contain the weight of emotion and penetrating self-examination contained in those five songs. In the context of the album it was like hearing the epic conclusion of a classic science fiction trilogy but with modern sensibilities—like an art rock band helmed by Clifford Simak and A.E. Van Vogt.

Kellii Scott of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy
Greg Edwards of Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

If you weren’t already completely drawn in by the whirlpool of melodic fuzz of “Another Space Song” then the strains of “Stuck on You” obliterated that resistance on into the tone grinder and transformative rumblings of “Heliotropic” and toward the epic heights and mythical denouement of “Daylight.” It was a musical experience that makes you forget other bands matter for a few days and that Failure had played the Bluebird Theater and not some gaudy enormodome like Ball or Wembley Arena because the music felt built for that scale.

Failure at Bluebird Theater 6/8/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond August 2022

The Wild Hearts Tour featuring Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker at Sculpture Park August 7, 2022, photo by Alysse-Gafkjen
Horse Jumper of Love, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 08.01
What: Horse Jumper of Love w/Cryogeyser, Cherished and Fainting Dreams
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love is that rare band that can somehow be simultaneously a post-punk band and a psychedelic Americana band. Its new album Natural Part has a haunted grittiness that is at times reminiscent of Big Star at its gloomiest and Built to Spill in an introspective mood. Cryogeyser might be considered a bit of a slowcore band even though plenty of its songs aren’t so slow and employ jangly guitar in the way Lush did in its more pop songwriting. Cherished used to be called Lowfaith and thus an intense deathrock band with knack for moody atmospherics. Fainting Dreams is a Denver-based slowcore duo whose introspective/melancholic songs shimmer and incandesce and bloom with lingering moods.

Psychedelic Furs in July 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.02
What: The Psychedelic Furs w/X
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Psychedelic Furs and X probably need no introduction as bands who in the first case popularized post-punk for a mainstream audience and in the second made arty, literary punk that didn’t shy away from its own roots in country and rockabilly while embracing the ferocious energy of the scene in which it found itself. Both began in 1977. The Furs in London, X in Los Angeles. The former had songs on movie soundtracks most notably the title track, as it were, of the 1986 John Hughes film. The latter were stars of the first underground punk movie of long lasting influence and notoriety, 1981’s The Decline of Western Civilization. Both wrote some of the most memorable songs of their time and genre. Both had many years off between their heyday and their most recent albums but with the most recent albums being among their best. And both still put on a compelling and powerful live show that will sound good in a place like Mission Ballroom.

Florist, photo by Carl Solether

Friday | 08.05
What: Florist w/Marc Merza
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Florist returns with a full band album with 2022’s self-titled album. Though the band is often dubbed with the indie folk label, fair enough, its gently atmospheric music sounds like it was written while contemplating deep feelings and thoughts while having the time to let the mind stretch out in a calm place and replicating that mood in the songwriting. The textural elements of the instrumentation, even when Emily Sprague has composed with her analog synths, are part of the appeal of the band’s music as it establishes a tactile as well as sonic intimacy that sets the band well apart from many other artists whose work is described as indie folk and on the new album there are parts that sound like musique concrète and field recordings used both in the mix and recreated with instruments. It makes for a different kind of listen than the usual pop arrangements that inform the music of most bands. Fans of Mega Bog will appreciate the unconventional style yet immediate accessibility of what Florist has to offer.

The Derelicts, photo by Christina Rogers from thederelicts.net

Friday | 08.05
What: The Derelicts w/Cyclo Sonic and Cease Fire
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Derelicts are a punk/garage rock band from Seattle that formed in 1986 around the same time as Mudhoney who had similar musical roots and sensibilities. Maybe they both listened to a lot of The Saints and Radio Birdman. Known for bombastic performances and frontman Duane Bodenheimer’s irreverent stage banter, The Derelicts have remained a bit of an underground legend known among connoisseurs of late 80s and early 90s punk. Chances are The Derelicts encountered The Fluid during that late 80s period when the Denver-based band toured to the Pacific Northwest and played shows with like-minded groups among bands that would go on to form the core of grunge because The Fluid too was a band influenced heavily by the Stooges, garage rock and the like and arguably the most influential punk/post-punk band out of Denver in the 80s and 90s whether other bands know it or not. Matt Bischoff was the bass player for The Fluid but he’d also been in an earlier punk great Frantix from Aurora, Colorado whose single “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic” definitely strikes an immediate chord. These days Bischoff plays guitar in Cyclo Sonic. Sure musically it’s not a big leap from his other bands but fortunately for us Bischoff and his bandmates including Arnie and AJ Beckman formerly of garage punk band The Choosey Mothers and Jif Jipers of punk legends Rok Tots have written a some vital slabs of incredibly catchy punk which can be heard on their 2020 album Candied Rats and the earlier EPs. Cease Fire is a street punk band from Denver that includes former members of The Purple Fluid including Richard Kulwicki, one of the sons of the late great Fluid guitarist the senior Richard “Ricky” Kulwicki.

Angel Olsen at Larimer Lounge 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 08.07
What: The Wild Hearts Tour: Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen w/Quinn Christopherson
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Wild Hearts Tour is a showcase of three of the greatest songwriters to have emerged in the past fifteen years. Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen are all artists who earned their reputations with strong songwriting and an inventive take on their specific musicianship styles establishing their own artistic voice early on in their respective careers. And each has gone on to push the boundaries of expectation for what they would do creatively with a body of work that is inventive and emotionally rich. As performers all three women have an openness and freshness of presentation that lends the show an air of the spontaneous that is consistently strikingly compelling. Van Etten’s 2022 album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a bit of a departure from some of her earlier work with a sound that’s so spare it might throw off older fans but it also has an intimacy that has always been a part of her appeal as a songwriter but this one feels so very up close and direct. Julien Baker’s early releases proved she is a gifted songwriter able to take a very stripped down presentation of the music and letting her powerful and emotive voice speak for itself with wit and perceptive observations of self and of being a human navigating a life often fraught with challenges and discouragement. Her 2021 album Little Oblivions greatly expanded her sonic palette as a songwriter with extensive use of electronics and deep atmospheric elements and yet none of it hid and rather enhanced the expression of a startling and thrillingly raw lyrics that just hit so powerfully with an urgent and honest exploration of conflicted feelings and working through emotional trauma in a way that felt maybe a little too real for some listeners. Angel Olsen has been refining and reinventing her songwriting style and sound since her 2011 debut EP Strange Cacti and with her first full-band release 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness her career seemed to take off. Her creatively expressive vocals lent itself well to stories drawn from her own life and observational songs about the impact of culture and one’s own history on the psyche. Her evocative and pastoral guitar work and voice have worked powerfully in tandem across her career as she freely incorporated aesthetics and musical ideas into her work but always somehow being able to speak to underlying emotions that often defy cogent expression but which Olsen has been able to bring forth across six albums including the classic country flavored 2022 album Big Time which does draw upon an older aesthetic but is fully modern in execution which is no mean feat. Won’t be a subpar moment of music on stage for this show.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen
White Hills, photo by Alex Carter

Sunday | 08.07
What: Telekinetic Yeti w/White Hills and Hashtronaut
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When one thinks of gloriously epic psychedelic metal Dubuque, Iowa is probably not where you’d expect a band like Telekinetic Yeti to come from though the state has long been home to many musical surprises over the years. The duo’s new album Primordial released July 8 on Tee Pee Records, home to some of the cooler heavy psychedelic and doom bands of recent years. “Stoner rock” started getting super stale around 18 years ago but fortunately some of those musicians evolved in to doom metal and then the weirder musicians recognized that Black Sabbath and Sleep both didn’t bother with splitting up heaviness and psychedelia and in fact saw how they could complement each other well in creating mind-altering music. Telekinetic Yeti is of that vintage. White Hills has long been one of the best heavy psychedelic bands going since forming in 2003. Also a duo, White Hills has fortunately been impossible to pigeonhole because yes there are elements of metal, krautrock, space rock, post-punk, ambient, noise and the avant-garde in the group’s music the entirety of its career and each record has been an attempt to do something different in terms of sonics, songwriting, structure, emotional colorings and the potential for performance that goes beyond simple songwriting. The forthcoming The Revenge Of Heads On Fire out September 16 on Cargo Records UK is definitely a stretch into the kind of space rock territory fans of Hawkwind will appreciate. Denver’s Hashtronaut are also fellow travelers of the tripped out, slow burn, heavy psychedelia.

Death Bells, photo by Kristopher Kirk

Sunday | 08.07
What: Death Bells w/Pendant and Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Bells formed in Sydney, Australia in 2015 but moved to Los Angeles in 2018 in search of greater horizons of developing and sharing its unique brand of post-punk. The sophomore album New Signs of Life was a refreshingly spare and stark set of songs with hushed moods and strong melodies. Its new album Between Here & Everywhere seems to have incorporated even more synths and electronic drums for an album that has even further refined the band’s use of repetition as an emotional mnemonic element that has an effect like connecting with ripples of water in the mind all while one hears in the arrangements an element of haunted folk. But one thing is for certain, Death Bells is not really making music in line with the more trendy sounds of modern darkwave and post-punk.

WILLOW, photo by Dana Trippe

Sunday | 08.07
What: Machine Gun Kelly w/Travis Barker and WILLOW
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Machine Gun Kelly is someone whose blend of hip hop and rock you either like or find odd but one thing he has done outside of providing fodder for tabloid news is champion up and coming artists of promise in the realm of pop by bringing them on to his recordings and/or on tour. This time that artist is WILLOW. The latter for sure had a leg up in the realm of entertainment as the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. But not all children of famous, wealthy people end up doing anything of interest beyond casual curiosity. Fortunately Willow Smith isn’t just skating by on those connections even though they have certainly helped her out along the way. Her musical career thus far has been one of reinvention and exploration from early, teenage pop music to her 2021 album lately I feel EVERYTHING in which she debuted a knack for writing pop-punk songs that really do articulate the overloaded feelings of adolescence well and with lyrics that go beyond tropes of the genre. Look for WILLOW’s new album <COPINGMECHANISM> due out later in the summer, the early singles of which find the songwriter evolving further in her fusion of styles and incorporating them into her own sound.

Marissa Nadler at Lost Lake in 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 08.08
What: Marissa Nadler w/Bluebook
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Marissa Nadler is one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. Her musical style that may default to comparisons to folk, Gothic Americana, dream pop and what might be described as pastoral metal has an emotional vibrant and intense yet expansive quality that has rendered her music probably too dark for even the psychedelic and freak folk scene and not hard rock enough for heavy music purists. And yet there’s something compellingly otherworldly about Nadler’s songwriting that has rendered all of her albums and collaborations unique and requiring the listener to enter the songwriter’s emotional universe, one which has direct resonance in a universal sense as Nadler’s mezzo-soprano vocals and intimacy with the roots of her own psychology translates well into a personal myth making and storytelling that is instantly captivating. Her latest album The Path of the Clouds may be her finest yet as she was forced to compose the songs during the depths of the first phase of the pandemic and its companion EP the The Wrath of the Clouds reveals a broad range of emotion and an attempt to move through the anxiety and anomy the ongoing crisis is visiting upon everyone with any level of sensitivity. Bluebook these days is very much in sync with the broodingly brilliant energy of Nadler’s own work especially in the band’s current arrangement like a darkwave-flavored chamber folk band.

Tuesday | 08.09
What: Church of the Cosmic Skull w/Lord Buffalo and Keefduster
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church of the Cosmic Skull sounds like it listened to a lot of Ya Ho Wha 13 along the line of arriving at its unusual brand of psychedelic chamber pop. Lord Buffalo has a vibe like the guys in the band went out into the desert and tried to find signs of the Great Spirit in the dark and forgotten places of the landscape and returned a little haunted, a little mad and a little inspired to make expansive, psychedelic rock to reflect those kinds of journeys outside mundane pursuits.

Ian Sweet, photo by Lucy Sandler

Thursday | 08.11
What: Ian Sweet w/BNNY
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When Ian Sweet released its album Show Me How You Disappear on March 5, 2021 it was right before an extended period of great uncertainty for live music and music careers in general and the industry surrounding all of that. Perhaps it’s a bit too ironic but also oddly good timing for that record to have come out as its psychedelic pop was an exploration of anxiety, the traumas that fuel it and working through the paralyzing guilt that crashes into your brain when you take on the responsibility for the trauma inflicted and overthinking what could have been and what could be in an endless spiral of self-reinforcing, internalized punishment and turmoil. The album’s songs feel like both a realistic depiction of the feelings of processing the aforementioned and a salve on the psychic turmoil that can feel like an inescapable trap. In 2022 Ian Sweet issued the Star Stuff EP which deals with similar emotional territory as Show Me How You Disappear but feels more at peace in its exquisite atmospherics even when it hits some deep melancholic notes. Chicago’s BNNY has been writing similarly emotionally tender material but its own music is more in the realm of slowcore and dream pop. Singer Jess Viscius sounds like she’s singing out of a book of private thoughts and writings drawn from extensive self-examination and deep observation. He group’s 2021 album Everything is reminiscent of both Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 in its beautifully billowing tonal aesthetic.

HELP, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 08.11
What: Red Fang w/Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough and HELP https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/436500
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Red Fang is the sludge/doom metal band based out of Portland, Oregon who have managed to carve out of a niche for themselves in a crowded field with imaginative music videos, a healthy sense of humor and songwriting that goes beyond simply making melodic heavy music paired with superior tone sculpting. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are playing a collaborative set with a performance of the 2020 album Stygian Bough Volume I. In typical fashion there is a lot of delicacy and nuance in the crushing and transporting heaviness of the music like a mini-metal orchestra but without the cheesiness of some of the more melodic death metal bands, just mystical, haunting soundscapes that feel like a heroic journey through dark places. Opener HELP is a noise rock band also from Portland whose songs seethe with a rage against the power structures that have been increasingly making life more challenging and unsustainable for most people and in the end all life on earth as well. Unabashedly political that sensibility can be heard in its clashing, twisting, angular assault of drums, guitar, bass and vocals with a triumphant spirit we don’t hear often enough and the 2022 album 2053 is worthy of Killing Joke at its most righteously caustic.

Jordana, photo by Sophie Gurwitz

Friday | 08.12
What: Local Natives w/Jordana
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Local Natives have thus far made a pretty good career out of writing the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with undeniably great vocal harmonies that incorporate superbly executed falsetto which isn’t easy to pull off. Opening artist Jordana released her latest album Face The Wall. Jordana Nye played all the instruments and did much of the production for the record. It’s a deeply introspective, confessional set of songs that feel open and gently but strikingly honest. What is perhaps most striking about the songwriting is Jordana’s mastery of transitions and orchestrating the layers of atmosphere. A lot of pop music has solid production or it wouldn’t work but Jordana’s work on the album draws you in and while very real about issues of anxiety and uncomfortable truths makes it all seem like something you can survive even if you may or may not overcome your life’s struggles for good or in the ways you had anticipated.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.12
What: DUG, Moon Pussy, Quits and Almanac Man
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: DUG is comprised of former members of the great noise rock band Buildings from Minneapolis. Noise rock can be a generic term so in the case of DUG it sounded like they took some inspiration from Laughing Hyenas and The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid in equal measure. Moon Pussy from Denver has a catharsis embedded in its eruptive and sometimes caustic but also angularly mind-altering riffs. Quits somehow sounds colossal and on the verge of breakdown and breaking out at the same time making its own sonic barrage exciting and engrossing. Almanac Man somehow splices together an unhinged sludge rock with math-y posthardcore. Like if Clutch and Neurosis had a baby.

Saturday | 08.13
What: Lost 80s Live A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, The English Beat, Naked Eyes, Missing Persons, Stacey Q, Animotion, Dramarama, Tommy Tutone and Musical Youth
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Could be kind of a mess, this many bands on one bill but of course all the acts will get limited stage time to play their 80s hits. But it may also be one of the only opportunities you get to see the legendary and pioneering New Wave band Missing Persons who were always different from its peers and still a compelling live band. Also Flock of Seagulls wrote plenty of evocative, moody synth pop beyond its own hits but will they play songs like “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” or “The More You Live, the More You Love”? Wang Chung is most well known for hits like “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” but its score for the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. proved that the group was capable of crafting enduring art pop of urgency and intensity. Hope if you see their set they’ll indulge a track or two from the soundtrack.

Hooveriii, photo by Alex Bulli

Sunday and Monday | 08.14 and 08.15
What: Hoveriii (with Moose and The Crooked Rugs on 08.14 and with Nolan Potter and Petite Amie on 08.15)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge 08.14 and Vultures 08.15
Why: Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”) recently released its new record A Round of Applause. The record is only eleven tracks and all roughly the length of a radio friendly pop song but it feels like a sprawling yet progressive affair of kaleidoscopic tones and a strong streak of experimentation in what sounds and structures the group was willing to indulge as it took the time to explore what it could do in the studio in shaping and crafting a sound that was fairly different from the jam band stylings of its 2021 album Water For Frogs. Urgent yet playful, the new album finds Hooveriii operating with a focus and economy of style without skimping on imaginative sonic excursions outside the established songwriting lines.

Bodega, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Monday | 08.15
What: Bodega w/The Sickly Hecks and Flora de la Luna
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bodega is a Brooklyn-based art punk/post-punk band whose offbeat sense of humor and fascinating fusion of New Wave rock and the kind of pop band Brian Eno might have started had he not attached himself to Talking Heads and U2 for several years. Its sharply observed lyrics cast modern life in sharp contrast to its historical roots and the legacy thereof at least on its 2022 album Broken Equipment—a title that is such a great metaphor for the tools we’re given to navigate and make sense of the world handed down to us and making do the best we can.

Spaceface, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: Spaceface w/Petite Amie and Pleasure Prince
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: For the past decade Spaceface has been crafting otherworldly, psychedelic pop and its 2022 album Anemoia is a genre swapping, colorful sonic collage of sounds and ideas that seems to free associate styles from across decades. A core of fuzzy guitar and ethereal melodies evoke 70s R&B and funk while the songs often sound like summertime music for a place the band !!! might vacation after being woken from cryogenic slumber in 100 years after a generation as yet unborn has dismantled the foundations of our dysfunctional civilization in favor of something more nurturing and fun for everyone. But really its just gorgeous, retro-furturist psychedelic music that somehow sounds hedonistic without coming off corny. Petite Amie is a similarly-minded band from Mexico City whose own music has lush, downtempo funky vibes like they absorbed the entire ABBA catalog along with heapings of Broadcast, Daft Punk and taking in the films of Sofia Coppola. It has that dreamlike quality that exudes benevolence and mystery like few bands do. It’s the kind of music those of us who remember going to roller skating rinks in the 1970s and 1980s wish we could have been listening to instead of the too often tepid pop hits of the day. The band’s 2021 self-titled album is grand showcase of transporting sounds and soothing soundscapes.

Petite Amie, photo courtesy the artist
…And You Will Knows By the Trail of Dead, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/New Candys https://www.eventbrite.com/e/and-you-will-know-us-by-the-trail-of-dead-with-new-candys-tickets-356700158777?aff=odwdwdspacecraft
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze.

Wednesday | 08.17
What: The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Canadian electroclash pioneer and producer Peaches is touring for the anniversary of the release of her genre landmark album The Teaches of Peaches (2000). The album broke Peaches aka Merrill Nisker to a more mainstream audience despite its playfully profane and unabashedly sexual lyrics. Perhaps its biggest hit “Fuck the Pain Away” is a classic of modern electronic music and Peaches’ confrontational and genre bending live show blurs the boundaries between hip-hop, electronic dance music and punk in a way that both challenges preconceptions and welcomes listeners and those who are there for the show to open up to new ways of thinking about subjects you thought you already knew your thinking about.

The Weeknd, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 08.18
What: The Weeknd
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Empower Field at Mile High
Why: Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd has spent the last decade and a half building a career as one of the most compelling songwriters and producers in popular music. Whether he lends his imaginative soundscaping to R&B, hip-hop, pop or his unique and powerful interpretation of synth pop or lending his skills to the works of other artists, Tesfaye seems to bring a creative sensibility that finds and brings forth the hidden potential in the music and helps that to highlight and enhance the work overall. His new album Dawn FM (2022) bridges all his musical worlds while also being one of the great darkwave records of the past decade. Expect a spectacle for this show especially given the of necessity large format venue as the songwriter seems the type to want to give people something extra for the trouble of showing up and following his music in general.

The KVB in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 08.18
What: The KVB w/M!R!M
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: UK duo The KVB caught the attention of shoegaze and post-punk heads with its early releases starting a decade ago and garnering a bit of a cult following for its highly stylized multimedia aesthetics and seamless synthesis of electronic music and the aforementioned styles. Its 2021 album Unity is a further exploration of the techno production that has informed the band’s music since its early days as fused to downtempo pop in hazy melodies shot through with a forceful energy. M!R!M is the solo project of Jack Milwaukee whose 2022 album Time Traitor recalls a strange blend of early TR/ST and mid-80s synth pop and thus darkwave style but with some R&B sensibility in the beat making.

Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday – Sunday | 08.19 – 08.21
What: Down In Denver Fest
When: 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday, 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturday, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Sunday
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: In the decay of local culture curation born of a robust local media covering music and the arts in a systematic and interested rather than neglectful manner local music coverage and festivals seemingly lack an awareness of the history of the community of the arts and the context in which new artists emerge. This festival was conceived of when in 2021 the UMS, which had been an actively communitarian endeavor in years prior, seemed to have lost its mooring and sense of mission and musicians representing a swath of local music cut out of that sprawling event realized they could put something together that was very much about the local scene and the people who make it up. Assembled in about a month to six weeks the 2021 edition of Down in Denver was a well orchestrated showcase of some of the best local music at any festival all year. This year the event is slightly bigger but in the same format of two stages and now the first day is a free pre-party featuring some prime local talent as well. No skimping. Look for our extended coverage with interviews throughout this week with some of the artists performing and photographic shares on the Queen City Sounds IG account throughout the weekend. To purchase tickets and for the detailed and most up to date lineup and schedule check the link above or here.

Saturday | 08.20
What: Barstool Messiah album release show for Whiskey Baptismal featuring Erica Brown w/Cyclo Sonic and Dust Beneath Dirt
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Barstool Messiah is celebrating the release of its thunderous and soulful new album Whiskey Baptismal with a performance including legendary soul, blues and R&B singer Erica Brown whose vocals in her own music are reason enough to go see the show but whose talents have graced numerous records including the aforementioned and artists one might think well outside her realm of musical expertise. Also on the bill is the exceptional garage punk band Cyclo Sonic comprised of former members of the Fluid, Frantix, Rok Tots and Choosey Mothers.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 08.20
What: Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival Feat. NOFX w/Pennywise, Circle Jerks, The Suicide Machines, Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Dwarves, The Bridge City Sinners, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, PKEW PKEW PKEW, Cheap Perfume and All Waffle Trick https://www.fiddlersgreenamp.com/events/detail/429519
When: 11 a.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Until this tour one would have said that the Jawbreaker tour was the punk tour of 2022. But there’s no need for competition in punk or music and this event happening at Fiddler’s Green includes some of punk’s most important bands of both the pop-punk and hardcore era. And also the great Colorado Springs, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume whose powerful and irreverent songs dismantling patriarchal behavior and human cruelty in general are always worth a gander. It would be facile to list off why every band on the bill matters but Circle Jerks, this might be the last time you get to see them on some kind of national tour. The group began after singer Keith Morris departed Black Flag and his combination of deep contempt for vested authority and surreal and pointed sense of humor found a vital outlet in a new band Circle Jerks which produced a body of work so potent and creative beyond simply being foundational to hardcore that its early records still sound fresh and telling it like it is. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the group’s Wild in the Streets album and thus the setlist might lean a little heavy in that direction. The tour earlier in the year proved the Jerks still have the fire so maybe, just maybe, they’ll tour in 2023 for the 40 year anniversary of its 1983 classic Golden Shower of Hits.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, photo by Danny Clinch

Tuesday and Wednesday | 08.23 and 08.24
What: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats w/Caroline Rose
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nathaniel Rateliff first made waves in Denver with his alternative rock band Born in the Flood. The atmospheric, heartfelt music that came out of that project garnered the songwriter and his bandmates fans far and wide and was poised for at least indie fame when it was invited to be on a live music program Matt Pinfield was helming, recording one of the pilot episodes. The show never aired. Rateliff went on to do some solo music as The Wheel which became a band with local musical luminaries and long time collaborators and friends and it too seemed poised for success in the kind of indie success most bands never quite achieve and that didn’t happen either. Nevermind the quality of the material, the music world is fickle and people just as worthy out of Denver have been overlooked for decades. But then Rateliff got together some friends for a band called Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The name probably came along after the music, as these things go, but the 2015 self-titled debut album yielded a left field and unfortunately locally ubiquitous hit in “S.O.B..” But even if you got sick of hearing it in Denver it finally propelled Rateliff into mainstream success and he took some friends along for that ride that one can tell from interviews he knows can end at any time so now the band is simply enjoying that success while it lasts and is now touring in support of its “COVID” album The Future which is the blues, Americana rock blend that has kept the band in the musical mainstream but there is an interesting spaciousness and stark production at points that point to an acute awareness of the fragility and tentative nature of life and what we take for granted when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable. It’s also the band’s best record of its three thus far.

Wednesday| 08.24
What: Mizmor w/Heretical Sect, Spiritual Poison, Cronos Compulsion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Mizmor’s 2022 album Wit’s End is a meditation on the caustic effect of superstition gone wrong and the extolling of destructive irrationality above compassion and intelligence. In the language of colossal, atmospheric blackened doom it seeks a path through a time of civilizational darkness. Heretical Sect is a blackened death metal outfit from Santa Fe whose spooky atmospherics are driving and not really cartoonishly menacing and the content of shows 2020 album Rapturous Flesh Consumed shares some thematic sentiments as the new Mizmor record. Spiritual Poison you won’t get to see too often and it’s one of Ethan McCarthy’s always interesting noise projects, this one more ambient and enigmatic than even Many Blessings.

Extra Kool and Time of Calm. August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.26
What: Extra Kool album release w/DJ Jon Blaze and Calm.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Englewood Tavern
Why: Extra Kool almost never performs live anymore but Danny Vincennie aka Extra Kool has been writing some of the most heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking and creative raps of the past two decades and more. This night he’s releasing his latest album Not A Ghost…But Dead Inside and it’s proof that if you do something with integrity for your entire career everything you put out will have artistic merit and this album is on par with his entire catalog. Also playing this night is the political and also intensely creative hip-hop duo Calm. with their own literary raps and some of the most colorful, moving and beautiful beats in the Colorado rap game and beyond.

Joan Osborne, photo by Lynn Goldsmith

Saturday | 08.27
What: Madeline Peyroux and Joan Osborne
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities
Why: Joan Osborne burst onto the national music scene with her hit album 1996 Relish and the single “One of Us.” One might be excused to not being into the single so much and perhaps misjudging Osborne’s other music based on the ubiquity of the single in the year or three after its release. But anyone that got to see Osborne around that time whether on one of her own tours or her appearances on the Lilith Tour in 1997 and 1998 witnessed a passionate performer with a raw, authentic style that couldn’t fail to leave a strong impression of the singer/songwriter as a performer and human capable of projecting her feelings and connecting with the audience in a seemingly direct way. For this show, Osborne will performs Relish in its entirety. Madeline released her own noteworthy debut album Dreamland in 1996 as well. The record garnered her a bit of a following but her 2004 follow-up albums Careless Love marked the beginning of her prolific subsequent career as one of the most popular jazz singers of the past couple of decades.

Monday | 08.29
What: Marissa Nadler w/Seance
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Vultures
Why: See above on 08.08 for Marissa Nadler.

Reptaliens, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Cults w/Reptaliens and DJ Boyhollow
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Reptaliens from Portland, Oregon may at initial contact seem like a cool, fairly downtempo, psychedelic indie pop band with earworm vocal melodies. But the more you delve into its lyrics and the subject matter of its albums something far stranger emerges with songs inspired by left field science fiction, bizarre pop culture artifacts and esoteric knowledge. After all who names an album VALIS after the 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick based on true events with possibly metaphysical experiences with an alien intelligence. Headliners Cults enjoyed real indie buzz in the early 2010s when its self-titled debut was released on Columbia. Fortunately the hype wasn’t overblown and Cults’ dream pop offerings had some vitality as evidenced by its often spirited live shows.

Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters w/Totem Pocket, Innerspace, Abandons and Brother Saturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is an all post-rock/post-metal show featuring Salt Lake City’s Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters who might more rightly be considered a shoegaze band with Kate Hoffmeister’s dusky vocals. Abandons is the kind of band who maybe came out of an early interest in progressive metal and art rock that evolved into a skillful crafting of soundscapes and textures in broad, dynamic strokes without writing music aimed at fitting in with a genre or subgenre which is why it’s difficult to make comparisons except to describe the music except partially as sculpted waves of mood. Brother Saturn is Drew Miller’s post-rock project which means some blissed out guitar tonal compositions and electronics that are the more visceral side of his other projects in ambient music.

Elder, photo by Anait Sagoyan

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Elder w/Belzebong and Dreadnought
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ELDOVAR – A Story of Darkness & Light (2021) pretty much established former Massachusetts-based progressive metal band Elder and German psychedelic band Kadavar as purveyors of a heavy art rock that is as creatively ambitious as it is compelling beyond any ability to appreciate the technical skill going into it or the theory. It’s cinematic in the way that mid-70s Genesis was and the delicate touches in the composition give context to heavier passages and the album doesn’t get stuck in the tropes of any genre. Yes, we’ve heard epic, science fiction flavored hard psychedelic rock before but this album feels like something different and worthy of a listen to anyone with an interest in psychedelic rock and where doom can go when it’s not stuck in its familiar habits. Dreadnought is a band whose tribal, heavy pagan psychedelia is a good fit for a bill like this where there isn’t a tired formula guiding anyone’s music.

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.