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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 TheWrath 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Body has long been a band that you could rely on to roll into town once a year or so for years before the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to live shows as we know it for a good long while. The band’s uniquely cathartic, experimental extreme metal, monolithic onslaught was something you could take for granted as an inevitability. And finally the duo returned to Denver for a show at Larimer Lounge that was not a bill of all metal or heavy bands in any conventional sense and that is part of why this show felt particularly impactful. On a personal note when I walked up to the merch table drummer/programmer Lee Buford complimented by Chari XCX t-shirt and it was sincere. I would have been surprised but The Body is a band that has made no bones about its appreciation for music far afield of that for which it’s known and its 2016 album No One Deserves Happiness paired heaviness with 80s dance tracks. For me this acknowledgment of a mutual appreciation for one of the more interesting pop artists of today set a mood for the show to come.
Less than a week prior Polly Urethane had performed with Rusty Steve for a powerful set opening for A Place to Bury Strangers. For this show Polly Urethane performed alone for a set of music completely different from her performance the previous Thursday. She had the long white cowl on hand for part of the set but performed much of the show in black with a t-shirt. Elegant piano work and operatic classical style vocals paired with an old Realistic Air Force Sound Effects record sampled directly and some of Polly’s electronic pieces.
The music felt like part of a greater arc of performance wherein Polly broke that stage and audience barrier by going out into the crowd with her extended mic chord and while on stage stood on top of monitors balancing there somehow as if setting an example of fearlessness vulnerability. When she brought her left leg up on top of the piano while leaning forward to play it and sing it challenged notions of how the instrument is “supposed” to be played in performance and gave a visual element to the show that seemed to change regularly so that you really had no chance to get bored not that the music itself gave that opportunity either as it fused classical convention with the avant-garde in equal measure and performance art as much as musical.
Anyone that hadn’t seen Midwife in a good long while, like many of us, couldn’t have been quite prepared for how much Madeline Johnston has honed her set. Not that she lacked for emotional power before and maybe it’s all just a matter of the weight of the past few years that went into the writing of the music and fine tuning its performance and presentation but every song hit deep. If your heart didn’t break from the way Johnston held pauses in the flow of the song to allow the unspoken emotional swell to build before heading back in to direct that energy to greater heights and depths you have probably lost the capacity to be affected by music. It’s just Johnston, her guitar and maybe some backing tracks and it’s spare stuff but it has all been refined for maximum evocative power at this point. You can feel the anguish and sorrow cathartically flowing through songs like the utterly crushing and devastating “S.W.I.M.” – the hazy soundscapes and perfectly accented guitar riffs coupled with Johnston’s warmly gentle vocals and ability to draw out the distillation of despair and memories of better times honors the loss she depicts in her songs in a way that hits all the emotional keys in your brain the way maybe they need to be more often.
The whole set felt like one, extended, beautiful exorcism for a few moments the sadness of the living memory of people and places and situations you’ll never get back. It was shamanic in effect and transcended simple music which is an utter rarity in live music with how Johnston is able to make your time with her feel so intimate, moving and healing.
Maybe it never hit full before but the colossal, gritty and unusual sounds that had made The Body such an interesting band in the past had always been something of an orchestration of sounds, textures, rhythms and moods that Chip King and Lee Buford orchestrate in a two person format to accomplish nuances that full bands sometimes don’t. King’s eccentric, screechy vocals have subtleties of their own and part of that is the syncopation of his vocals with guitar and percussion. Buford using both electronic drums and acoustic is somehow both utterly bludgeoning and elegant in execution like he is fully aware of how every aspect of what he’s doing has the potential to have an effect on the listener and his partner in crime King’s emotional state during the performance and vice versa. And yet it felt so spontaneous and raw it was easy to miss unless you were keyed into that dynamic between the two musicians and the crowd. King’s feedback sculpting spiraled out like a jet engine at times and within those scorched gyres of distorted guitar fragments there was a great sense of release and a joyful abandon that seemed like the reason to play and to witness music like this.
King and Buford performed with a zen-like intensity and focus yet released the energy they coiled up across the set with a dynamic force that was impossible to rest and in which to be caught up. After over a decade of seeing this band now and then this show made it obvious that The Body has built into its craft and its songwriting a lack of laurels upon which to rest and if its eclectic and prolific set of releases isn’t proof enough it’s that absorbing of disparate influences into its music that is channeled into the show that sets it apart from many other extreme metal bands experimental or otherwise.
The Trypes is an experimental, psychedelic folk band that began in 1982 in Haledon, New Jersey. It’s instrumentation began with an eclectic mix of sounds and textures so that its music was difficult to narrow down to an established genre. Fans of Savage Republic (who were contemporaries) and Stereolab will find something to like in The Trypes’ unconventional use of rhythm and composition at times seeming to favor compound time signatures and textural atmospheric elements. Its brand of folk and psychedelia sounded like it had tapped into a bit of the minimalist post-punk of the early 80s like Young Marble Giants and the more avant-garde Swell Maps whose own use of noise collage has some resonance with what you hear in a song by The Trypes. Around the mid-80s Glenn Mercer and Bill Million of influential post-punk band Feelies joined The Trypes for a time when their own band was on hiatus adding to some of this group’s artistic legacy. In 2012 Acute Records released the collection Music fore Neighbors which collected the group’s 1984 EP The Explorer’s Hold as well as unreleased demos and a compilation track not so easy to come by. But now in 2022 that compilation has been reissued on Pravda Records to celebrate the band’s 40 year anniversary and now includes songs from a 1984 showcase at the Bottom Line in New York and two tracks recorded when the original Trypes performed a reunion show in 2017. The CD is available now with a gatefold vinyl to be issued later in 2022. This interview was conducted with founding keyboard player John Baumgartner and delves into the group’s early days in New Jersey and its development and for many rediscovery.
Listen to the interview with Baumgarnter on Bandcamp linked below and for more information on The Trypes and to order the CD/download of Music For Neighbors visit the links below.
Green Typewriters formed in 2007 out of songwriting sessions between Gioja and Jared Lacy. The couple had met in New York when Jared was visiting a cousin and the two hit it off immediately. Gioja had grown up in Orlando, Florida and had moved away to get away from had felt like a narrow social circle with limited life choices at the time. The band named itself after an Olivia Tremor Control reference and its own songs came out of a similar love of transporting sounds and recording experiments and like OTC those songs ended up being as much pop as psychedelia. Green Typewriters became a bit of a fixture in Denver’s indie underground in the late 2000s and early 2010s before going on hiatus while Gioja attended mortuary school and Jared pursued graduate studies in philosophy and religion. Though the project has been around for fifteen years it had never had much in the way of official releases minus some burned CDs the band would give away at shows. So it’s 2022 EP The Solar Anus (named after the parodic essay by Georges Bataille) marks its first official release and on cassette with artwork by Wendy Danger York. The album was produced and engineered by long time DIY/underground musician Zach Bauer who some may know for his fine recording skills but others more so for his numerous experimental bands like the punk noise outfit Zombie Zombie, the doom metal-esque The Outer Neon, psychedelic post-punk group Wicked Phoenix and Can tribute band Future Days. Those who regularly attended shows at Rhinoceropolis may have witnessed Zach as a member of Spellcaster’s Rock and Roll Time Travel Committee. What is less known is Bauer’s gift for writing and recording artistically ambitious pop songs, a skill he brought to bear in helping Green Typewriters realize making fifteen years of songwriting into a coherent and vibrant set of songs.
Listen to our candid interview with Gioja and Jared on Bandcamp linked below. Green Typewriters will perform at Enigma Bazaar celebrating the release of The Solar Anus on Saturday, July 16, 2022 with Falcon’s Eye. To connect with the band visit it’s LinkTree for the appropriate avenues.
Knuckle Pups is a rock band with roots in the DIY and indie underground scene in Denver. Its music has a bit of that solid pop song craft, accessibility and a touch of the experimental infused with punk spirit. Singer and guitarist Oliver Holloway was born in and grew up in Denver and attended Jefferson County Open School as well as coming up in the Universalist Unitarian Church which gave him a foundation in pursuing his creative and intellectual interests in a supportive environment. Out if high school he became involved in the local DIY scene of house shows and spaces like Monkey Mania and Blast-O-Mat. His then band The Fainting Fansies were charged with the kind of amateur exuberance one would hope from a folk-punk band but also strong songwriting. Holloway followed that band with Henry Sugar which had a similar degree of exuberant performance but more informed by emo. Mega Gem came along shortly after that with its blend of punk and orchestral arrangements in a pop format and unlike most musical bands out of Denver at the time and now. Along the way Holloway toured the country and connected with DIY and activist communities broadly including the members of folk punk legends Defiance, Ohio and Ian Vanek of Japanther and Howardian. Hollowway still subscribes to the communitarian spirit of DIY music and culture as a core component of his approach to being in bands. Knuckle Pups is releasing its debut full-length TV Ready which combines the disparate influences of the members of the band with a unified vision of making music that is brimming with emotional authenticity, sensitively observed lyrics and strong vocal harmonies. Its eclectic aesthetic fortifies the effectiveness of the music and reflects the aforementioned punk and DIY ethos by drawing upon the collective strengths of the members of the band and embraces any perceived flaws and rough edges as part a unique creative work.
Listen to our broad ranging interview with Holloway on Bandcamp linked below. Knuckle Pups will perform at Mercury Café in celebration of the release of the album with home made CDs and t-shirts on Friday, July 15, 2022 with Jeff Cormack of South of France and Earth to Luna. To further explore the world of Knuckle Pups music and to find out about shows and to connect with the band follow the group’s LinkTree.
Ivan Nahem’s career in music reads like a who’s who of early New York post-punk and No Wave. He was in a band called Carnival Crash with Norman Westberg before the latter joined Swans. Nahem himself performed on the Swans albums Greed and Holy Money while he was a member of industrial post-punk outfit Ritual Tension from 1983 until its dissolution in 1990. The group’s confrontational energy, tribal percussion style and noisy, caustic guitar sound and deranged-sounding vocals was akin to the likes of, naturally, Swans but also Scratch Acid and Flipper. Once Ritual Noise parted company Nahem stopped being as actively involved in making music. But In 2016 Nahem and his brother Andrew started working on remixing their early song “All Wound Up.” A year later Nahem was asked by Gregg Bielski to put spoken word vocals to his tracks and the project came to be called ex->tension. But in the end Ritual Tension reunited in 2017 and continues to this day. 2022 finds Nahem releasing a new solo album Crawling Through Grass with collaborations from Bielski, his brother Andrew, Westberg, Mark C (of Live Skull), Jon Friend (Campfire Flies), Jadwiga Taba (Nac/Hut Report) and Nahem’s wife Helen. The new album is a true fusion of post-punk, musique concrète, ambient, folk, tape collage and what might be described as New Age meditation music all born out of Nahem’s yoga practice and interest in Eastern philosophy and sounds like music made in a remote monastery dedicated to universal tranquility. For Nahem it probably seems natural and intuitive to go in that musical direction but for those more familiar with his 1980s output it’s a fascinating contrast of styles and yet both seem aimed at a catharsis and transcendent experience and attaining a deep interconnectedness with others and within oneself.
Listen to our interview with Ivan Nahem below, give a listen to Crawling Through Grass and connect with Nahem at the links provided.
For some reason Ezra Furman’s reputation as a more folky indie rocker persists to this day, certainly among people who checked out of the songwriter’s career during the period with The Harpoons. And then perhaps transferring that impression onto Furman’s early solo albums. But this performance wasn’t the kind of thing you leave with any impression other than Furman is a fiery and charismatic singer and guitarist whose passion and conviction is imbued with an irresistible righteousness of purpose and deep compassion for the tender and vulnerable sides of anyone that has ever had to deal with the persecution of a society and culture that too often denies full humanity to various groups of people that are dismissed as a minority group. With rising worldwide fascism it was the kind of show that felt like a solid strike against that poisonous ideology and an act of rebellion completely embodied in the energy of the music.
Australian singer-songwriter Grace Cummings opened the show with her full band. Anyone that got to hear any bit of Cummings’ 2022 album Storm Queen may have rightfully expected a fiery performer with a gritty voice and larger than life presence. The Cummings in person seemed extremely personable and authentic with a dry and self-effacing sense of humor. But that in no way undercut her raw power as a vocalist and musician whether she was playing guitar or sitting at the piano. There was a magnetic command of the material that was both vulnerable and nuanced and thrillingly powerful. Evidently due to health issues the band was a tiny bit off their game but having no frame of reference it sure didn’t seem like anything was missing from the performance and if one has to imagine a flaw it’s that you could tell Cummings and the band would grow and refine and hone their performance and the precision with which it delivered the material in ways not yet created.
A song-by-song or strictly linear breakdown of the Ezra Furman set wouldn’t do justice to the impact of the performance. The energy was like seeing a legendary rockabilly artist from decades ago that discovered punk in their later years and embraced the raw vitality of that music completely and plugged it into a body of superior musicianship and songwriting and took that challenge to write songs about life from the perspective of someone who had to live on the edge, on the boundaries of polite society because one’s authentic self isn’t ready for prime time. But no one’s life, presented with absolute honesty even emotionally is really built for dissection and scrutiny in order to pass judgment based on a questionable barometer of morality. Something about these songs gave one the sense that Furman had long ago figured out that rock and roll and thus a liberated human spirit isn’t something that fits neatly into a box crafted by people who seek a very narrow and specific sense of psychic comfort based on a sense of existence and identity that can feel like a straightjacket to most people if they’re not trying to conform in order to benefit from a fragile power dynamic that would collapse if it faced any real resistance.
Songs came from across Furman’s solo catalog including cuts from the forthcoming All Of Us Flames (which releases August 26, 2022) like “Forever In Sunset,” “Book Of Our Names” and “Point Me Toward The Real.” The studio versions of the songs are like a modern take on a fusion of R&B and Lou Reed. Live the material felt like anthems aimed to blow open a door to personal liberation because Furman didn’t skimp on the intensity and what felt like off the cuff yet punk spiritual banter between songs. Maybe the fact that Furman is a trans woman gave the show some of its edge but really the material and Furman’s presence as someone delivering insightful emotional truth rooted in a reality informed and driven by deep personal experiences but which flowed forth as uplifting. There was a basic level of human solidarity one felt from Furman that isn’t always there at a rock show and Furman’s willingness to put herself full into committing to a premise of seizing one’s own power and ability to connect with people to remind them of their own humanity and interconnectedness with community was impossible to ignore or miss.