Best Shows in Denver 01/11/18 – 01/17/18

 

01StVincent
St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 11, 2018

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Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

Who: Erica Brown w/The Movers & Shakers 
When: Thursday, 01.11, 2 shows doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Powerhouse blues singer Erica Brown has been a staple of Denver music for decades at this point. Sure, she has shared the stage with numerous noteworthy blues and R&B musicians including Al Green, B.B. King and the like and that’s cool. But more importantly, Brown’s powerful voice has been present not just in her own bands and solo efforts but also in Denver music in general. She has done vocals for Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band and weird funk group Cherry Bomb Club (which later meant joining Warlock Pinchers on stage for their 2010 reunion shows). She has contributed to albums from Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Xiren. Erica Brown is a multifaceted talent who has done things on her own terms and established a reputation for excellence that is all but unique in Denver.

Who: Infernal Coil, Inoculated Life, Augur and Heathen Burial
When: Thursday, 01.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Could be described as the industrial grind show since it involves Boise, Idaho’s Infernal Coil, Colorado’s own Heathen Burial, the hanging buzzsaw atmospherics of Denver’s Inoculated Life and the ritualistic vibe of black metal band Augur from Denver as well. It’ll be at Mutiny so it’ll be intimate in the back area for such a show with such abrasively gloomy music. Perfect.

Who: Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer, FULL BLEED, Lepidoptera
When: Thursday, 01.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: It’s Musical Mayhem, the monthly (or is it bi-monthly?) showcase hosted by Claudia Woodman and simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. You never quite know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be a little different, as it were, and worthwhile. Full Bleed says “Droney psychedelic stoner metal shoegaze instrumental improv RöCK from Denver.” Lepidoptera is meditative guitar, field recording and keyboard-y soundscapes. Bonnie Weimer, though, has been in various projects in Denver over the years including her solo project. “Banjo Bonnie” may play some traditional banjo stuff in her set but mostly its originals that take a familiar sound in unfamiliar directions.

Friday | January 12, 2018

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I’m A Boy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ice Troll, New Standards Men, Paperbark, Venereal Crush and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Ice Troll is a sprawling psychedelic, doom prog band. Paperbark uses modular synths to create deeply textured ambient drones. Venereal Crush from Dubuque, Iowa is probably well within the realm of noise but its compositions feel like ambient music or composed sound environments using organic/live instruments alongside incredibly minimal synths. Is New Standards Men post-rock? Maybe so but it is also reminiscent of a doomier, more melodic Laddio Bolocko or Dazzling Killmen. Fortunately bands like this and some others playing venues up and down South Broadway are helping to keep the neighborhood a little weird in the face of Nü Denver tourist culture.

Who: Deer Creek w/Still Valley, Piojos and Drune
When: Friday, 01.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Moon Room at Summit Music Hall
Why: The doom/sludge rock thing kinda died off in Colorado around a decade ago but mutated and turned into something maybe even better. Deer Creek has its roots back to the older sludge scene and remains one of the heaviest bands in Denver. Piojos includes former members of various heavy acts from Denver and Pueblo including Black Lamb. But pedigree aside, the sharply irreverent humor of Piojos can be heard all over its excellent 2016 album Fuck Everyone in Pueblo. Need it be mentioned they’re based in Pueblo and some people didn’t get the humor? Still Valley from Colorado Springs is classic sludge doom in the vein of Sleep, Acid Bath and Grief.

Who: Surrender Signal, Laurium and Old Sport
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: BarFly (Alamo Drafthouse, West 4255 W. Colfax location)
Why: Surrender Signal’s gritty melodies and fluid dynamics are reminiscent of Lungfish and East Coast post-punk/post-hardcore bands of the early 90s. Maybe a little Jawbox, Slint and Quicksand are in there too. Old Sport blurs the line between post-hardcore and melodic math rock and doesn’t skimp on the raw energy and passion in its performance.

Who: I’m A Boy, Grammar School and Teacup Gorilla facebook.com/events/136041710495512
When: Friday, 01.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: I’m A Boy is one of the few straight ahead rock and roll bands that doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to tap into the realm of classic rock. That’s because singer/guitarist Jimmi Nasi is a gifted songwriter in his own right who has a knack for knowing when a song works rather than lean on someone else’s music as a prop. Bassist Whitney Reher and drummer Jeffrey Mince provide a simple but dynamic jumping board for Nasi’s melodic gyrations, Nasi and Rehr striking poses because it’s more fun for them and more enjoyable as someone there for the show. Teacup Gorilla manages to write glam rock with inventive atmospheres and a theatrical flair of their own. Apparently Grammar School is bringing ragtime back.

Saturday | January 13, 2018

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Sgt. D’s List, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Choosey Mothers
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The Choosey Mothers came out of Denver’s 80s punk scene with former members of bands that are even difficult to find online like the Trontils and Malice in Wonderland. But the Mothers established themselves as a raw punk band of note in the 90s at a time when the Dead Silence, Burnt Fase and, of course, The Fluid were exerting a strong influence on Colorado punk generally. This reunion show is to celebrate the 50th birthday of Sam Grampsas of The Mothers so it’s only fitting the show, which is free, is happening at Mutiny Information Café which is run by other smart, old school Denver punkers.

Who: Mr. Atomic, Television Generation and Meet the Giant
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: When a lot of 90s fuzz rock gets co-opted by a new generation of wannabes a watering down of what made that older music worthwhile is inevitable. Fortunately, these bands pushed that kind of rock and roll into more interesting territories and actually rock rather than playing AT it. Television Generation, sure, sounds like they got put into a deep freeze in 1993 Seattle and woken up in recent years. But its songwriting is strong and they’ve absorbed influences that have come along since grunge imploded in the mid-90s. Meet the Giant sounds like what happens when people who may have tried to make sludge rock got bored and wanted to write dynamic songs that would be fun to play instead of living up to a stoner rock cliché in their garage.

Who: Sgt. D’s List (S.O.D. Tribute), Hallowed Screams (Slayer tribute) and FUBAR
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Sky Brewery
Why: Normally tribute bands are kinda wack. But Sgt. D’s List is comprised of veterans of Denver’s grind, death metal and thrash scenes who bring to life the music of a S.O.D., one of the early crossover bands and tongue in cheek in a way that no one would do these days for obvious reasons. That band included members of Anthrax and Nuclear Assault and became an influence on metal and hardcore from its 1985 inception.

Who: Hot Rize 40th Anniversary
When: Saturday, 01.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: A gala celebration of one of Colorado’s most influential bands, Hot Rize, who helped to make modern bluegrass accessible to a wide audience without watering down the virtues of the music through attaching it directly to other genres of music. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of bluegrass, go check out Hot Rize and see an engaging live act whose musicianship and songwriting speaks for itself beyond genre. For this event, the band will bring in friends/guests Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas and more

Who: Shattered Mirrors – GSTV, Ritual, Julian Black and guest DJ Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ
When: Saturday, 01.13, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Box
Why: This is the newest music night hosted by DJ Ritual. This edition including a guest DJ set from Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ. Given Erickson’s dry yet surreal sense of humor, he may end up playing a bunch of dance-worthy stuff that isn’t in what one might presume to be his musical bailiwick.

Monday | January 15, 2018

02StVincent
St. Vincent at Bluebird Theater, February 13, 2010. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: St. Vincent: Fear the Future Tour
When: Monday, 01.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Annie Clark was once a member of Polyphonic Spree but as St. Vincent she has long since distinguished herself as one of the most interesting songwriters and musicians of the past decade with a string of albums that explore the nature of identity, the complexities of dreams and aspirations and the way unexamined social norms warp our natural growth. Her latest album, 2017’s Masseduction, seemed more personal than previous offerings and hit with the emotional nuance and finely crafted dramatics of a J.G. Ballard novel.

Tuesday and Wednesday | January 16 and 17, 2018

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DIane Schuur. photo courtesy dianeschuur.com

Who: Diane Schuur
When: Tuesday, 01.16 and Wednesday 01.17, two shows each night, doors 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Diane Schuur is cooler than most of us because her mentors include Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra. She has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Quincy Joes, Dizzy Gillespie and BB King. Among others. Her emotive vocals and expressive pianowork has garnered the admiration of her peers and a fanbase appreciative of an artist that doesn’t just have chops but the soul and poetic, lyrical sensibility to guide her songcraft. She’s playing four shows in Denver, early and mid-evening shows, on both Tuesday 1/16 and Wednesday 1/17.

The Strong but Gentle Sound Catharsis of Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, 11/1/17

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

When Slowdive announced in January 2014 that it would perform at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona of course speculation began about a new album. But the band wisely promised nothing it couldn’t deliver. The tour in various corners of the world including North America re-established Slowdive as one of the premier bands of ethereal guitar rock and one whose aesthetic and sound ideas reflected its interests in ambient and electronic music. But Slowdive’s appeal beyond the transporting sounds has been the deep emotional sweep and sense of intimacy within its songwriting. How can one not be struck by the peeks into the revelatory private moments and dreams exposed by songs like “Sing,” “Albatross,” and “Blue Skied An’ Clear”? What might have surprised long time fans that never got to see the group before it split in the mid-1990s was how forceful its emotionally-saturated sound could be.

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

When Slowdive released its self-titled album in 2017 it was a relief to learn the band didn’t try to replicate the vibe or the feel of any of its previous records. Among other efforts, when Slowdive split in the mid-90s Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead and Ian McCutcheon (no longer in Slowdive) went on to do Mojave 3, Christian Savill to Monster Movie and other projects and Simon Scott to Televise, Lowgold and The Sight Below. Halstead also had/has a noteworthy solo career. Somewhere in those experiences, it seems as though the current members of Slowdive refined their songwriting skills, absorbed ideas and sounds that weren’t around or as developed over twenty years ago. Whatever the roots of the new Slowdive songs, they are a fine successor to the heartbreaking dream pop of Just For a Day, the hypnotic brooding and intensity of Souvlaki, the abstract soundscapes, dub sculpting and mind-altering minimalism of Pygmalion. There is a warmth, a comfort, a soothing capacity from a place of mature psychological development. It is the kind of record only people past their thirties could have written all too aware of the poisonously soporific quality of nostalgia that hits most of us in our mid-thirties as middle age comes hurtling down with its own challenges and fears and the temptation to tune out anything new can be irresistible. The self-titled Slowdive album achieves a timelessness in bypassing the existential terror and a reminder to keep dreaming and find enjoyment in life while not ignoring the fact that life’s challenges and struggles are not unique to a certain time in your life even if their faces and qualities change.

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

The show at The Ogden Theatre on November 1, 2017 itself was a reflection of a band that seems to enjoy playing its music for a larger and likely more appreciative crowd. Many of its new fans grew up with the kind of electronic music and aesthetic that informed Pygmalion, the record that lost the band its record deal with Creation but one that was more forward thinking than the records of many of its contemporaries. That said, most of the shoegaze bands that have reunited over the past decade to release new albums have done so without wasting our time with subpar comeback albums. And in putting on shows that more than live up to the legends of times past. Perhaps even surpassing them. When the early strains of “Golden Hair” the Syd Barrett cover, those of us that only ever heard the recorded version on reissues and compilations had no idea what we were in for and as the sounds swirled up and up in volume and density it was a sonic, cyclone of ethereal fire that transformed from a deeply haunting, overwhelming experience into a heightened sense of catharsis of melancholy. In short, though drawing on another artists material, it was the embodiment of Slowdive’s project as a band—the feelings may hit hard, hurt so thoroughly and stick with you but you can make it through intact if you allow yourself to experience them in their fullest extent.

02Slowdive
Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Set List
Slomo
Slowdive
Crazy For You
Star Roving
Souvlaki
Avalyn
Catch the Breeze
Don’t Know Why
Blue Skied An’ Clear
When the Sun Hits
Alison
Sugar For the Pill
Golden Hair
No Longer Making Time
Dagger
40 Days

04Slowdive
Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
05Slowdive
Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
07Slowdive
Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver 01/04/18 – 01/10/18

Rubedo
Rubedo at We Labs, November 15, 2013. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 4, 2018

Princess Dewclaw
Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | January 4, 2018

Who: Hot Trash, Creature Keeper, Princess Dewclaw at Lost Lake
When: Thursday, 01.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Hot Trash from Sewell, NJ is a punk band that seems like its members grew up on a lot of 90s pop punk and emo but then discovered the roots of that music and absorbed a great deal of Rites of Spring and Fugazi. Its clipped, angular guitar riffs reveal the latter but its bratty yet melodic vocals are right out of 90s post-hardcore and pop punk. Denver’s Princess Dewclaw have some of that brattiness in their vocals but it comes off more like righteous outrage at being the “beneficiaries” of misogyny American style. With keyboards and guitar work that goes beyond any kind of standard punk, think more Milemarker than AFI.

Saturday | January 6, 2018

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Who: iZCALLi (album release) w/Rubedo (album release), Wes Watkins and El Cro
When: Saturday, 01.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Maybe the next iZCALLi album will be called Casas Del Santo. But seriously, the veteran rock and roll band based out of Denver is calling its new record iZCALLi IV. It is the group’s first bilingual record, it’s previous efforts with songs in Spanish, and with any luck will bring the band, which has been putting on highly energetic shows since its 2005 inception, and playing in various scenes and subscenes in Denver. Many bands garner attention from press and garner a following quickly but iZCALLi has had to grind and play Mexican restaurants and other restaurants that happened to have a P.A. for karaoke night or some other kind of music. But iZCALLi’s power as a live band was undeniable and before ever really releasing an English language song on an album, the group attracted fans for its strong songwriting and charismatic stage show.

Joining iZCALLi in releasing an album is Rubedo whose Vaca is its first album since 2014’s Ikey Owens produced Love is the Answer. Though not benefiting directly from Ikey’s magic, Vaca reflects his legacy of excellence and truth with eleven songs that to some extent documents the mourning process of a mentor and friend. But across the record the songs are a celebration of Ikey’s life and his influence on the people around him and how people can inspire each other to achieve their dreams with integrity. The previous Rubedo albums are worthwhile on their own, representing the era in which they were made, but Vaca may be the most emotionally nuanced and deep record the band has released to date. The exuberant bursts of emotion and wiry energy of Rubedo’s core sound is there but the gentler atmospheres and the evidence of a band pushed further into craft if individual members pushed further than they’d been before makes for rewarding repeated listening.

Who: Tennis w/Brent Cowles
When: Saturday, 01.06, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Yours Conditionally, released on Tennis’ own label Mutually Detrimental, came out in 2017 and seems to have pushed the band’s cachet higher among a wider audience since it’s playing The Ogden this time around. The record isn’t envelope-pushing enough to garner a lot of kudos from music critics. It’s still the sort of Laurel Canyon circa 1973 pop sound with 2000s production updates on the mixing and mastering end. It was also written during a four-month sailing trip along the West coast of the US and Mexico. That might justifiably make one think the band is trying to recapture some past glory of its first album. But the songwriting is better and Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have clearly developed their craft to a fine degree. Beyond that, Tennis is never really given the credit it deserves for articulating many of the internal conflicts, aspirations, insecurities, anxieties and uncertainty in America without hitting you over the head with it and without having to dumb it down.

Brent Cowles long ago established himself as a songwriter of note separate from his old band You, Me and Apollo. His 2017 Cold Times EP puts him in good company with Tennis invoking another era of music. Except there’s somehow this sense that Cowles listened to or otherwise absorbed a lot of mid-90s Pulp while writing those songs. That is to say that there’s a decadent yet romantic undertone to the idealistic overtones of his songs. That mixed quality will probably give Cowles’ songwriting some durability that many of his peers may lack.

Who: SPELLS 7” release w/Hooper and Lawsuit Models
When: Saturday, 01.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SPELLS shows are a punk rock party for people who are wise enough to remember that 80% is good enough. But their version of 80% is a bit higher than many punk bands who don’t look like they’re having fun even if they’re bashing out the tunes. The band will release one of its collectible 7”s this night and on the bill are other excellent bands that are technically punk but open up the format quite a bit in Hooper and Lawsuit Models.

Sunday | January 7, 2018

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

Who: R A R E B Y R D $ w/Bianca Mikahn, Abeasity Jones, A’Dula and MC Big House
When: Sunday, 01.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This Glasss Records showcase highlights its excellent hip-hop roster. Bianca Mikahn has spent several years honing her poetry and production skills all while being heavily involved in Denver’s performing arts community and youth outreach. Her own work is passionately honest and while informed by hip-hop, incorporates elements of ambient and noise to create a mood and a texture, something tangible, in her beats. Abeasity Jones brings a playfulness and wit to his raps that are almost a detournement of the bravado that underlies entirely too much hip-hop. R A R E B Y R D $ is sometimes a duo, sometimes a group. But whatever the configuration, the project will draw you into their vision of a better, more nurturing, more loving world that also doesn’t pretend that the struggles and pains we’ve all experienced never happened. Even if you’re not wanting that, its beats are a transporting and intimate flow of sounds and rhythms that one might compare to more dreamy IDM acts and alternative/underground hip-hop legends cLOUDDEAD or imaginative modern artists like Kari Faux and Jonwayne.

Monday | January 8, 2018

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Euth in its previous incarnation, Caged Bird Songs circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Stoic/Euth tour kickoff w/Echo Beds, Old Sport and faim
When: Monday, 01.08, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Stoic and Euth are both hardcore bands from Laramie, Wyoming and both are kicking off their winter tour in Denver at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Helping to celebrate the occasion are three of Denver’s best bands with a connection to hardcore. Old Sport is a kind of a math rock/emo band in the vein of early 764-Hero or lo-fi Jawbreaker. Faim has such a feral, aggressive sound it’s difficult to know what to compare it to except for maybe the relentless pace of Converge minus the math-y instincts but with all the splintery dynamics and thrillingly abrasive melodies and punchier low end. Echo Beds is brings together the confrontational, organic catharsis of hardcore with classic industrial music in the vein of Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept. and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Wednesday | January 10, 2018

Surf Mom
Surf Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cowgirl Clue w/Surf Mom, Sweater Belly and Meeting House
When: Wednesday, 01.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ashley Clue appears to have tapped into a personal creative mythology akin to the otherworldly, surreal, bright and glittery world that is that of Akiko Higashimura’s manga series Princess Jellyfish, a place where the characters live in an apartment building in Tokyo populated by otaku women and where men are forbidden to enter. Her colorfully upbeat pop songs are strange but playful and accessible. Apparently, according to Jocelyn Rockhold of Medium, Clue has mainly been DJing queer dance parties around the world and performing select shows in larger cities so this is your opportunity to catch her live act in a place like Denver. Opening are Meeting House, Sweater Belly and Surf Mom. The latter with its gritty surf garage sound may be a bit out of step for some electronic pop stuff but both Cowgirl Clue and Surf Mom off an alternative to the patriarchal vision of art and music channeled to you daily. Gold Trash is a more obvious fit being an experimental electronic project that expands on the possibilities and palette of dance music while challenging societal norms and stereotypes in its lyrics.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Mind-Altering Groove at The Ogden

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King Gizzard at the Ogden Theatre, October 4, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

The presentation of the live show from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard matched the ambition that the group brought to bear in 2017. The latter refers to the band’s having released four noteworthy albums with a fifth which will supposedly drop before 2017 is over. Even if it’s not looking good at the time of this writing that that will happen, any band releasing four albums of worthwhile material that isn’t basically all the same is impressive enough.

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King Gizzard at the Ogden Theatre, October 4, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

The Denver show on October 4, 2017 at the Ogden Theatre happened before the November release of Polygondwanaland and the set list drew on the albums I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (2014), Nonagon Infinity (2016), Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) and Murder the Universe (2017). This suggesting the band hasn’t yet incorporated much of the material from Sketches of Brunswick East (2017) or the aforementioned Polygondwanaland as yet for the live show. Given the rich visuals and theatrical presentation of the music and all the logistics involved in producing and releasing that much music in a single year, King Gizzard has plenty of time to tour on its new albums and to make the kind of concerts that will make the experience of that music with creative integrity.

What we did get to see in Denver, though, was a show from a band whose music has been stamped with various genre designation from garage rock, to metal, to psychedelic rock to progressive rock. All fit. In that way, one has to compare King Gizzard with modern groups like The Black Angels and one of the progenitors of its sort of mélange of styles in Hawkwind. Those two bands draw easiest comparisons because like those, King Gizzard’s vibe is one of manifesting a culture and community and mindset that goes beyond the band. Hawkwind’s links to folk music and the tribal spirit thereof and aiming for something more cosmic and otherworldly in its songwriting is something one finds in King Gizzard’s songs that seem to be about other dimensions and utopian futures and parallel cultures. Who, after all, calls a song “Horology”? Flying Microtonal Banana overtly tapped into non-western music not just tonally but in terms of its compound rhythmic structure which both Hawkwind has long done and which The Black Angels weave into their own music so deftly it can be tricky to figure out how their sometimes simple melodies can be so hypnotic and mind-altering.

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King Gizzard at the Ogden Theatre, October 4, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

The band’s visuals traversed the various musical worlds that King Gizzard traversed throughout the show. The organic, the abstract, the meta-media sense of being on a TV screen writ large on the sort of big screen on which many of us saw films in school—creating a sense of a shared moment of mutual education borne of being put into a mindset outside of everyday life. Maybe that’s a stretch but that’s what psychedelic music, at its best, accomplishes, challenging your existing worldview by inviting you on a journey beyond your known boundaries of experience. In the case of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, though, that journey was not jarring so much as welcoming enticing while not shorting you on heady moments of intense emotions along its iridescent grooves.

King Gizzard
King Gizzard at the Ogden Theatre, October 4, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
King Gizzard
King Gizzard at the Ogden Theatre, October 4, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Wolves in the Throne Room in 2017 Making the Stage a Campfire Ritual

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Wolves in the Throne Room at The Black Sheep, October 2, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Wolves in the Throne Room dispensed with the usual stage lighting at The Black Sheep. The Olympia, Washington-based black metal band retired from the standard touring circuit several years back partly because the environment didn’t suit the music or the experience the band wanted out of playing live shows for itself and for fans of the earthy, transcendent beauty of its music. This time out the band was touring in support of Thrice Woven, its first full-length album not tied to a previous release since 2011. Some of us would have loved to have seen a live performance of 2014’s all-synth Celestite, the companion to 2011’s Celestial Lineage, but that will probably never happen.

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Wolves in the Throne Room at The Black Sheep, October 2, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

At any rate, Thrice Woven is the first album following the trilogy of Two Hunters, Black Cascade and Celestial Lineage and the album, and the live show, felt like a band that had to pare back and reinvent itself using the parts it had lying around in the wake of what some critics might have called career suicide when the band announced its last lengthy tour in 2011. There’s something majestic and accessible about Wolves in the Throne Room that reached a wider audience than many of its peers—the kind of accessibility that was propelling the group to wider audiences including people who otherwise had little interest in metal or heavy music in general. The material for Thrice Woven is probably too long format for people conditioned by the brevity of pop music to find fully engaging but for this tour, Wolves in the Throne Room created a stage set like a pagan holy place with structures and patterned design work to enhance the sense of the intimate yet otherworldly with the illumination provided by lights imitating the orange of campfires and braziers burning the incense to clear the space of unwanted influences. In the background, a blue stage light cutting through oranges, reds and purples and reds like stark moonlight penetrating the haze that made the figures on stage indistinct. The latter effect seemed to hint that the band wanted the identities of the players to matter less than the music and the experience itself—a shared ritual to dissolve, for an hour or two anyway, the demands and destructive culture of the modern world.

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Wolves in the Throne Room at The Black Sheep, October 2, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Something about the relentless, sometimes abrasive, flood of sounds from stage was indisputably uplifting and cathartic. Like a cleansing of the mind through the tribal sounds and a sense of having participated in an experience crafted to express a mystical experience. With songs with titles like “The Old Ones Are With Us,” “Mother Owl, Father Ocean,” and “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon” it seems apparent that a certain meaning, not merely an aesthetic, was being conveyed suggesting a reminder of our ancient roots as a species that unite us, a connection that holds potential for a positive future. There wasn’t much stage banter but that would have just broken the spell and WITTR tends to be good at not ruining the moment.

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Wolves in the Throne Room at The Black Sheep, October 2, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver 12/14/17 – 12/20/17

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo Joseph Nienstedt

Thursday: December 14, 2017

f-ether
f-ether, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Corey Daggers, Snaggletoothe and f-ether
When: Thursday, 12.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is Musical Mayhem at The Skylark Lounge part 1 (part 2 is in two weeks) for December. Typically it’s somewhat an extension of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday meaning it’s the weirder end of Colorado live bands and occasionally an underground touring band. The night is simulcast by Hypnotic Turtle Radio. This night, zombie surf rocker Corey Daggers will be performing. As will improvisational noise rockers Snaggletoothe and experimental electronic dance legend in the making, f-ether. It’s 21+ because it’s a bar but it’s also a free show.

 

Who: Prayers
When: Thursday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Prayers, the band that coined the genre Cholo Goth, return in the wake of the release of its 2017 album, Baptism of Thieves. Part industrial, part electro death rock, part synth pop, Prayers has from the beginning articulated a gritty personal vision that is both profane and philosophical, compassionate and poetic about the harshness of everyday life for many people. Perhaps the whole Cholo Goth thing is a gimmick in a way but there is no denying the power and charisma of the band in the live setting. Recently Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley collaborated with former members of Christian Death (Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone) on the Cursed Be Thy Blessings EP.

Friday: December 15, 2017

The Milk Blossoms
The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Nicole Atkins w/The Milk Blossoms and Chella Negro
When: Friday, 12.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nicole Atkins is at this point a veteran songwriter whose combination of classic pop (think pre-1960s), indie rock, psychedelia and American lends her music a ring of familiarity while not really sounding like anyone else. Her clever wordplay and bright voice makes it easy to forget the brutal, yet not cruel, emotional honesty of, for instance, her 2011 album Mondo Amore. Atkins’ new album, 2017’s Goodnight Rhonda Lee, finds the songwriter finding new ways to make some fairly stark self-reflection seem hopeful and in turn helps you to find ways to forgive yourself without letting you off the hook. Atkins may be quasi-famous, and rightfully so, at this point, but she’ll be in good company with the local openers. The Milk Blossoms make fragile yet powerful pop songs with unconventional elements. Somehow the ukulele doesn’t seem like a quaint affectation as it deftly expresses the delicate emotional colorings within and on the fringes of the deeply affecting voices of Harmony Rose and Michelle Rocqet. Chella Negro has long been a singer-songwriter in Denver and the whole time she’s managed to write songs that go beyond surface subject matter. Even when one of her songs is overtly about this or that, within those stories Chella dives deeper and digs out those kernels of truth merely suggested at by most other songwriters and finds a way to articulate them in a way that’s relatable to almost anyone.

Who: Alphabet Soup #29: Rare Byrd$, Adam Selene, MYTHirst, Furble Cakes, Chromadrift, DaShwoo and Preston Safeway
When: Friday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Deerpile
Why: This is mostly a hip-hop show with some chill vibes. Chromadrift is an ambient artist whose songs don’t sound like he just put together the money to buy a Yamaha DX-7 and a cheap drum machine to plug into an SP-404. It’s like he’s tapped into a place of true calm and solace somewhere in the recesses of his dream states and made them into songs. Rare Byrd$ is secretly in the top three hip-hop groups in Denver and the group’s songs are incredibly compassionate feminist mantras designed for anyone looking for music or art in general that is strong but has no truck with brutality. As if an old school gangsta rapper/producer ditched the violent imagery and brutal beats for a message of love in both specific and bigger picture senses accompanied by smooth beats possessed of a transcendent and transporting beauty.

Saturday: December 16, 2017

Night Grinder
Night Grinder, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Grotto album release w/Restivo, Moon Atomizer and Night Grinder
When: Saturday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Denver’s Grotto is releasing its latest album, Spring Drips, this night. Its instrumental music combines the hazy, blissed out sensibility of downtempo IDM with electro-acoustic soundscapes. The beats are both sculpted electronics and organic-sounding like something you’d hear from Bonobo or Sound Tribe Sector 9 but an aesthetic closer to the playfulness and dreamlike quality of early Björk. Also on the bill is noise/industrial artist Night Grinder. The latter is the solo project of Cribsy Gacy who some from the Saint Louis noise scene might remember for his time in various bands The Icebergs, Monster Sized Monster and Street Justice. Using bass, vocals, various electronic devices in layers, Gacy captures the sense of civic decay and economic neglect along with the accompanying desperation many of us will find familiar but not often articulated in music.

Who: Esme Patterson w/Susto and Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 12.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When Esmé Patterson was in Paper Bird her talent was clear and obvious. There was a lot of talent in that band in general. But it always seemed that she had to tie her self-expression and imagination in the context of that band to an aesthetic that while it clearly had an appeal for many people, probably felt limiting. By 2012, Patterson wrote and released her debut solo album All Princes, I. To anyone only superficially familiar with Paper Bird it might not have seemed too removed from the music of her old band. In fact, it was a stylistic leap in a different direction without ditching what made Patterson’s vocals and songwriting noteworthy—warm vocals that both sound like something very present but evoke something you might have heard on FM radio in the 70s. Her lyrics even then balance well imaginative storytelling with commenting on human relationships with other people and with ourselves.

2015’s Woman to Woman found Patterson taking even more chances as a songwriter by writing songs in response to iconic pop songs of the last few decades including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” a song down there with “Under My Thumb” in terms of being incredibly catchy, well-written songs but with lyrics that might make you think differently of the artists in question. In each case Patterson is creative, sometimes humorous, and thought provoking. With We Were Wild from 2016, Patterson’s experiments and expansion of her musical palette from her previous albums paid off well on the new set of songs. Some of the reviews of that time talked about how unfocused the album seems to be but some of that came off more wanting to expand horizons and ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut. It also matched Patterson’s own inner experience of examining her own life, which isn’t always such a cut and dry, linear process—it’s more emotional, experiential and intuitive. The record is the embodiment of that too. If it didn’t always work at least the impulse was right. What the album, and Patterson’s newer, as yet unreleased, material revealed most vividly was that the songwriter’s guitar work with its chiming, percussive strum was more reminiscent of something like The Cramps or Jeff Buckley than the folk/Americana roots not to mention her willingness as a vocalist to embrace the wilder end of emotional expression beyond that warm, delicate strength that helped make her name.

Who: Decemburger 2017: Bongripper, Call Of The Void, Serial Hawk, Weaponizer, Abrams, The Munsens, Weeed, NightWraith and Sceptres
When: Saturday, 12.16, 3 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you’re in the mood for a broad spectrum of extreme metal tonight, get to this show at the Hi-Dive. Call of the Void blurs the line between grindcore and death metal with its stark and unrelenting songs. Weaponizer is sort of a combination of black metal and thrash so the songwriting is there but its aesthetic has that chaotic quality that makes black metal so interesting. Its latest album Lawless Age that would be a good name for the era we’re in or one that we seem to be heading into. The other bands on the bill would be worth your time too if you want to see heavy music that isn’t straightjacketed by purist genre emulation.

Sunday: December 17, 2017

Esmé Patterson
Esmé Patterson, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Susto and Down Time
When: Sunday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: For the great Esmé Patterson see the write-up above. In addition to the Charleston based alt-country/Americana band Susto, is Denver’s Down Time whose indie rock songs are really not being constructed in a conventional sense seeing as it is partly centered on the drums with Davie Weaver playing drums and sometimes bass at the same time. Alyssa Maunders sounds like a long lost member of Young Marble Giants and her minimal guitar work is more a texture than a vehicle for melody. Justin Camilli’s own guitar work matches Maunders’ for melodic textures but his keyboard work is truly standout. The richly saturated tones aren’t as obvious on the band’s excellent debut EP, 2017’s Good Luck!, but live it’s striking. Fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Foxygen should probably at least give Down Time a listen.

Monday: December 18, 2017

Gary Numan
Gary Numan, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gary Numan w/Me Not You and DJ Slave 1
When: Monday, 12.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan has been an innovative artist in the post-punk, new wave, synth pop and industrial rock genres while being a foundational artist for the latter three. Numan made waves in his homeland the UK with “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” with his old band Tubeway Army. But he crashed into the international mainstream with his 1979 hit “Cars.” Numan’s blending of science fiction imagery with a sound suggestive of a future neither utopian or dystopian pre-dated and yet was somewhat the aesthetic of cyberpunk, which, as with Numan, was influenced by the visionary and literate novels of J.G. Ballard. Throughout the 80s Numan further experimented with music technology and developed a sound that anticipated and influenced the production of 90s industrial rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory. With 2017’s Savage (Songs From a Broken World), Numan proves that twenty-one albums into his career he isn’t out of ideas or things to say or sound experiments to explore. This time out the theme of the album is the most overt in adopting the subject of the environment and its impact on human cultures whether those cultures acknowledge them or otherwise.

Tuesday: December 19, 2017

Agnostic Front
Agnostic Front, photo by Todd Huber

Who: Agnostic Front w/99 Bottles, Street Priests and Ultraviolet
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Agnostic Front was one of the bands that helped establish New York as a late entry into the first wave of hardcore in the 80s. Early on the band had that more original hardcore sound of loud-fast-rules but by the late 80s, Agnostic Front was one of the pioneers of crossover. While claims of the band having been nationalistic and fascist skinheads are laughable when you look into what its songs are about, the band has always had a tough and uncompromising image. And part of that image has also been its working class politics that embrace being a thinking person in a climate where you’re encouraged to dumb down and obey. At least in its music and its presentation thereof, Agnostic Front was having none of that. Anti-war, anti-oligarchy, pro-social justice, pro-solidarity in the face of fascism, Agnostic Front may be one of the older bands in punk but like many that have stuck around, for example D.O.A. and Subhumans, its sense of political ideas have refined giving the old fire in their belly a different kind of edge.

Who: An Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: Tuesday, 12.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Who can say they’ve had charting hits over decades and did production work for bands as different as Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith Group and XTC? Todd Rundgren’s own music has been on a steady path of evolution since first playing out in rock bands in the 60s and his more recent albums demonstrate his explorations of modern electronic musical styles, 2015’s Global being a good example, while writing music that combines a classic songwriting sensibility with newer sounds and aesthetics that don’t seem awkwardly incorporated, as on his 2017 album White Knight. Throughout most of his long career, Rundgren has adopted new technologies and methods of creating and presenting music and his tours, even for dates at a medium-sized theater like The Oriental, have long been multi-media affairs to enhance the impact of the music. This tour is billed as the “White Night Tour” with hits from across his career so who can say what you’ll hear, especially from a guy who seems averse to the rote and whose catalog is twenty-seven albums long.

Wednesday: December 20, 2017

Mandy Yoches
Mandy Yoches circa December 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Agnostic Front w/Combat Force and Line Brawl
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: See the entry for Agnostic Front above. Also on the bill are Denver hardcore bands Combat Force and Line Brawl. The latter released a worthwhile ripper of a record, Worse Off, in April 2017.

Who: Mandy Yoches w/CRL CRRLL
When: Wednesday, 12.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Mandy Yoches has done vocals for various bands over the years but in the last handful of years she’s been performing under her own name or with her band The Hell Knows. Her melodious, soulful voice and palpable sincerity are a powerful combination. Yoches doesn’t perform too often but you can sometimes catch her at the Goosetown on a Wednesday in any given month including this night when she’ll share the stage with electro-hip-hop artist CRL CRRLL. Ever since the line between hip-hop beatmaking and experimental electronic dance music soundscaping was obliterated some years back, many artists have been able to tape into a wide variety of musical ideas to craft inventive and compelling music. CRL CRRLL just happens to be one of the most interesting artists occupying that intersection of styles and you can find him playing events like Cloak & Dagger as well as hip-hop and avant-electronic shows with his accessible but forward thinking songwriting.

INVSN at Larimer Lounge 9/18/17: Vital Comfort in a Time of Crisis

INVSN
INVSN, September 18, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

In a year where it seemed as though the hateful dullards of the world, especially in the USA, were puzzlingly victorious in gaining political office and influence, INVSN released a bracing antidote to all of that with The Beautiful Stories. But, as you might expect, the Swedish band followed up the album with a good deal of touring. Which one might think of as praxis seeing as the songs on The Beautiful Stories are all imbued with a humanized radical politics.

INVSN
INVSN, September 18, 2017

For anyone that ever saw The (International) Noise Conspiracy and The Refused, a high bar of expectation was there. Both of those bands delivered some of the most viscerally energetic live shows of their time. Singer Dennis Lyxzén seemed almost superhuman in his acrobatic stage moves and the raw forcefulness of both bands was inspiring. That Lyxzén and INC bassist/vocalist Sara Almgren are members of INVSN promised a lot alone. Fortunately, the band brought the kind of ferocity and exuberance they would need to make a larger venue show compelling and even inspiring to Larimer Lounge, a venue with a capacity of 250. Like no one told them that they’re playing a place many locals think of as a dive bar even if it isn’t—as if they would skimp and deny themselves the joy of their own music. Not a chance.

INVSN played liberally from The Beautiful Stories and balancing musicality perfectly with a flamboyant performance style, Lyxzén wrapped the mic up over a roof beam and sang from the floor, dancing with people in the audience at one point. At various other points jump spinning off the bass drum and leaning backward to the point his shoulders touched the floor while not missing a note. He was Iggy-like in his way of not only commanding the stage but in moving more energetically than most musicians half his age.

INVSN
INVSN, September 18, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Theatrics aside, Lyxzén engaged the audience with words acknowledging the perilous state of things in American and international politics. There was no empty bravado. There was an admission of the level of despair that anyone with any sensitivity and cognizance of the situation must feel. But there was plenty of humor too that had little to do with the rise of fascism. The fog the band used throughout the show swirled in the wind of the air conditioner and Lyxzén observed that it made it “feel like we’re in a Whitesnake video the whole time.” It was a nice reminder that a state of constant outrage is exhausting and so is anticipating the next wave of shit coming down the pike from various sources. INVSN’s show embodied a sense of hope and humanity in a time of acute crisis and a hint that it is that route that will help give us the will and heart to turn back that tide even if many great struggles lay ahead.

INVSN
INVSN, September 18, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
INVSN
INVSN set list for September 18, 2017 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Tom Murphy