Marisa Demarco to Perform at Titwrench Stockholm 2018 This Weekend

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Titwrench travels to Stockholm Sweden for Titwrench Stockholm, which happens this weekend running Thursday June 14 through Saturday June 16 (find details here). The festival, which celebrates experimental music and art created by female identified people and LGBT folk, has been going on since 2009, usually in Denver, Colorado. The edition in Stockholm starts off with will include European and US artists including the likes of Denver’s Rachael Pollard, R A R E B Y R D $, Church Fire and Mirror Fears as well as Albuquerque artists Cthulha, Weedrat, Chicharra, Bigawatt and performance troupe extraordinaire Milch De La Máquina. The US artists in particular could use your help to defray the costs of performing at the festival and you can contribute to the cause here or to the individual artist funds linked above.

Before Titwrench last happened in Denver in August 2017, we had the chance to speak with Marisa Demarco of Milch De La Máquina, Chicharra and Bigawatt. Demarco has long been a significant artist and journalist in Albuquerque and we spoke with her about becoming involved in DIY and underground music and art and her evolution from pop/rock musician to noise and visionary avant-garde performance artist.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Queen City Sounds: You grew up in Albuquerque, is that right? Or did you grow up elsewhere?

Marisa Demarco: Yeah, no, born in Farmington, NM but lived my whole life in Albuquerque, NM.

How did you become aware of underground and DIY culture growing up?

I was performing in just like a regular pop-rock band or whatever called Ya Ya Boom since I was in high school. I was in that band a long time when I was really feeling like I wanted to stretch my ability level and my creativity a little bit. So, I saw this ad on Craigslist where they were looking for players for Cobra Game, which is a game invented by John Zorn. I’ve heard it described as somebody who’s flipping a radio really fast through the stations. I don’t think that’s totally exactly it but that’s maybe the quickest shorthand. So I joined Cobra as a vocalist, which also I didn’t realize at the time was maybe kind of odd. I don’t think there were any other vocalists in the group at that time.

From there, I just kind of met a lot of people who became big experimental players down here and the Cobra group eventually became Death Convention Singers, which is still something that I’m involved in. It no longer performs necessarily John Zorn’s compositions or John Zorn’s game, Cobra, but it does perform compositions, like contemporary experimental compositions. We also are an art collective and do installations and that’s over many years. So, I think I joined [that] Cobra group when I was 25 and I’m 36 now, so it’s over like 11 years I kind of evolved with those other performers and through them kind of found all the faces that in Albuquerque pop up for experimental noise music and performance.

For a long time, what was happening out here was like a space would open up and be around for just a little while, like maybe a year, until, I don’t know, cops start showing up or something, and then we would go to another spot. So for a while it was just a migratory DIY scene culture out here. We also did performances that were not in established venues at all, like we did this one performance on top of the abandoned courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. You know, we were just trying things in different kinds of spaces. That’s kind of how I got connected to all that stuff.

That’s really interesting, I had no idea. I remember Ya Ya Boom played up here I believe. At Glob or someplace like that?

We played at Glob. I think the first place we played was at 3 Kings and I think there’s still a sticker in the bathroom, of our band. [Titwrench founder] Sarah Slater recently took a photo in the last 5 years or something and showed me that it was still in there.

Did you know Raven Chacon from early on?

Yeah, Raven was in the Cobra group. I think he’s one of the two founders of the Cobra group or maybe the founder and he turned it into Death Convention Singers. And there’s another offshoot of that that happens periodically, called Dirty Birdies, which is this kind of long form improvisation with many players. So there’s Dirty Birdies, Death Convention and Cobra group and those are all kind of part of the same tree branch I guess.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

 

One of the best things that happens at Titwrench every year is Milch, of course. Is that something that you kind of got going to play that, or is it something you do there, as well, in Albuquerque?

Yeah, we started it – I mean, I gathered performers together when I even just heard that Titwrench was maybe a possibility. I didn’t even know if it was for sure happening or what but Raven Chacon, who you mentioned, actually sent me Sarah Slater’s contact info and was like, “Hey, I think she’s thinking about doing a festival.” And so I sent her an email and I was like, “Hey, I would super want to come up there to that” and so I kind of got a few friends together to make a group to play Titwrench. So we formed to play the festival. And then every year since then we’ve played every single one of them. We also always do the set here at home in Albuquerque and sometimes we’ve done even more elaborate versions of the set we do up in Denver. For instance, one year Milch did a set that I think had 6 people in Denver and then we came back here and I managed to rope like 30 people into performing it. Just cuz it’s easier to travel with 6 people than it is 30.

Is it “Milsh de la Makeena,” am I pronouncing that right?

Milch de la Máquina (with emphasis on the first a in Máquina)

Pardon me for not knowing, but what’s the meaning of that name?

It means Milk of the Machine and the name is in German and Spanish. The reason is because that very first group of people that I gathered together to head up to Titwrench included a woman from Germany and also, you know, lots of people in New Mexico are bilingual and I think a couple of our members at that time spoke Spanish and English so that’s why the name is in German and Spanish, making it really challenging for just about anyone to pronounce it or understand but, you know, what are you gonna do?

Every year is a new performance and concept?

A different performance every year. There’s some people who’ve done most of the sets. I think I’m the only person who’s done all of them and I actually randomly just listed all the sets today, which I’ve never looked back and considered what each one was but I did it today because I was hunting around for some photos for something else like, “Oh I can see what all the different sets have been through all the 9 years,” you know?

You had a characterization or an idea or a concept behind all the performances you’ve had?

I was just even trying to remember all the things we’ve done and built and who was in it, what we were working into, what was going on that year. I think a lot of times Milch is sometimes intentionally and unintentionally informed by whatever’s happening in the city. There was one year, the one that’s the dress piece, the great big dress.

I remember that, at the Mercury.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Yeah, all these areas around Albuquerque were on fire. There were big wildfires and we were in the middle of this super intense drought and then at night the smoke would settle all over the whole city as if the city was on fire and the moon was this crazy red color, you know? And we just ended up writing a lot about drought. Initially, not on purpose, like not in a really intentional way but in more of a subconscious way and then as the smoke continued for weeks we were writing about it pretty directly. So that dress piece I always think of as having a lot to do with water and drought and fire. Everybody remembers the dress but there were also waterproof microphones that we had in these big jugs of water that we were using to generate a lot of the sound.

Oh yeah, okay. I didn’t make that connection when I saw that back then. I remember the frames, like the illuminated picture frames or whatever they were from another year.

Yeah, the light frame pieces, yeah.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

 

The Living Bird thing from Titwrench 201. I don’t know if you want to call it that but the performers were wearing hoods or something, and I had the impression you were simulating taking off in flight.

There was a big parade puppet, the Albatross, that’s the first one I think.

Milch is not necessarily a musical thing, it’s more like an experience in sound integrated full with a visual component.

Yeah, and it’s not like we’re like, “Hey let’s do a sound piece that includes a giant puppet” or something, it just all kind of came together that way. And I remember we were at Titwrench, the first Titwrench, and I was just like, “Aw man, did we bring something totally weird that no one’s going to understand or like?” You know what I mean? As it was getting closer to our time to perform I was like, “Did we just, like, venture way out there? Like, go too far?” You know? So I was nervous as heck that first year that we were just in some other – just not on the right trip, you know? And then we did it and it was great and everybody was really great about it. We kind of flew that really big Albatross puppet out of the building, and I remember people followed us! And I was just like, “Okay well let’s keep going until they stop following us” and we were walking down the street and it was cool, it was one of those really cool experiences, and formative for me for sure.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

I was really surprised by how interesting it is every year. I don’t really see anybody doing anything like that. I don’t know about you, but maybe that happens in Albuquerque a lot but around here, no, not at all. Nothing like that.

No? I don’t really see stuff like that out here too much, either. Although, a lot of really creative people perform all kinds of different ways, you know?

Had you done anything like that before, even remotely, performance-wise?

Like the first Milch set that happened at Titwrench?

Yeah, that kind of performance art.

Yes, the set I was telling you about the show that happened on this rooftop of this old courthouse in downtown Albuquerque. So it was supposed to be, I think, everyone performing a really quiet piece. Albuquerque’s experimental noise community worked toward really small quiet pieces and I built this rig where I was wearing all hand-built little microphones and I put my sister in all these, kind of, speakers, and theoretically the idea was, and I don’t know how successful it was ultimately, but the idea was that when we were closer together we would be feeding back and then when we were further apart we wouldn’t be. So we developed this whole choreography and system around our proximity to one another and wore these robes and face paint and did it on top of the roof and I think I was just kind of inspired by the idea of being on a roof. That was before the first Milch set and I think Raven, who you mentioned earlier, kind of considered that to be the first actual Milch set, was the one that popped out on the rooftop before I had even ever heard of Titwrench or anything.

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Milch De La Máquina at Titwrench 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

You and your sister Monica are in Chicharra together and somewhere the band is described as insect metal or something or other?

Glam insect metal.

That’s great. It’s pretty difficult to describe something like that.

Yeah, it sure is. I super hate describing things, which is funny because I’m also, like you, a writer and a reporter, you know? I find music to be so challenging to describe. I feel like we have a million adjectives that are about visual concepts and relationships and we have like, I don’t know, about 30 about sound. I’m just hazarding a guess again but sound is so hard to put into language so glam insect metal is imprecise.

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Chicharra at Sister Bar in Albuquerque, NM, February 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

It evokes a creative image that kind of fits the music.

Yeah, so mostly I just describe [it by saying] that the instruments are all basses so they’re all using low frequency and then we organize more intricate vocal harmonies up top. And then we have either two drummers or one drummer. For Titwrench this year we’re just going to have one, unfortunately. We thought we were going to manage to get them both up there but somebody has a work conflict. But our single drummer, Chris Newman, is amazing and does the job quite nicely. We’re going to play tracks from our album [Let’s Paint This Town in Craters] that’s coming out in October [2017] so it’ll be a lot of newer material that is different from what we played last year.

You have a solo project called Bigawatt. Is that something that you haven’t done in a while or is that something you do pretty regularly?

I did a Bigawatt set on Friday night. It’s the name of my solo project, which has always been really heavily influenced by R&B and hip-hop and also noise. But I interpret that quite a bit differently than a lot of the things that I’m hearing right now that are defined also as being like noise hip-hop. So, sorry to say I don’t know if those are great descriptors for Bigawatt now, either.

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Bigawatt at Titwrench 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

John Maus’ Psychic Exorcism on the Screen Memories Tour

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John Maus at The Marquis Theater, January 19, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Screen Memories, John Maus’ 2017 album, is titled as a reference to distorted memories from childhood and how so many of our memories now and our sense of time are distorted and even mediated through the screens of our everyday lives. That Maus tends to compose his songs through the ecclesiastical modes of medieval music as explored again by late 70s and early 80s synth pop pioneers like OMD, Human League and Gary Numan would seem to give his own music a quality of being of a time while also being outside it.

In contrast to the aforementioned heady intellectual concepts, Maus’ live show brought those sounds to life in a seething, visceral, powerfully emotional way. Known for this kind of performance, Maus seems to tell us that maybe we do live with mediated experience at this time but that it needn’t rule our lives and that the emotions we feel and the connections with have with others directly or through own recognition of what it must be like to witness and experience the atrocities of the world don’t have to be some abstract concept we can dismiss because we can so often just understand it as another part of the entertainment landscape, especially the way much of news is framed and presented. Maus’ highly charged performance, as though bodily wracked with the harrowing realities of the subjects of his songs, both broke the purely entertainment level of the show by being too intense and raw to truly see as a concert as well as the conceit that entertainment needs to just be art and can’t aspire to strike deeper than simple aesthetic stimulation.

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John Maus at The Marquis Theater, January 19, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

As Maus’s show progressed and he allowed himself to manifest the spirit of the music more fully it was an example of the Theatre of Cruelty in that Maus didn’t spare himself emotionally and seemed willing to break into his own subconscious to deliver something more primal than a conventional pop song. Maus is often credited with being a pioneer of hypnagogic pop and it’s easy to see why as the songs, especially later in the set, felt like a waking dream in which emotions and thoughts that maybe one doesn’t often let fly in public flowed freely—a psychic cleansing too rare in live music.

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Opening act LKDLX, photo by Tom Murphy
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John Maus at The Marquis Theater, January 19, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 6/7/18 – 06/13/17

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Of Feather And Bone perform at 71 Grind on Friday, June 8, 2018. Photo by Pale With Decay

Thursday | June 7, 2018

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Ryanhood, photo by Taylor Noel Photography

Who: Ryanhood w/Matt Cox
When: Thursday, 06.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room
Why: Ever since Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, at a minimum, popularized folk pop to a massive audience more than a few musicians have tried their hands at that style of music. But Ryanhood predates that wave having started in 2003 in Boston (now based in Tucson, AZ where Green and Cameron Hood met in high school). And beyond that, Ryanhood has established itself as a popular live act on the college and small club circuit. Ryan Green’s proficiency with guitar got him a scholarship to Berklee but as a songwriter it gives some dimensionality to the songwriting that might not be there with a musician who came to playing more casually. Green’s songs with Hood, at this point, have the polish and tunefulness of anything you’re likely to hear on mainstream radio combined with the synergy that mostly comes from musicians who have known each other for a good deal of their lives growing together as artists. The duo’s 2017 album Yearbook is a record diverse in its emotional colorings and songwriting dynamics giving its positive sheen depth and listening longevity.

Who: Stella Luce 7” release for Gloria w/Señorita Sometimes and Seven Inches of Heaven
When: Thursday, 06.07, 9 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: Stella Luce is presenting its sixth release, the Gloria seven inch, tonight at Surfside 7. The Fort Collins-based experimental rock band combines an Eastern European musical sensibility with the kind of baroque pop that The Dresden Dolls and DeVotchKa perfected. Stella Luce, though a little weirder than both, and noisier, has created a body of work thus far with the same cinematic sweep and nuanced emotional colorings.

Friday | June 8, 2018

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Isenordal, photo courtesy Isenordal

What: 71 Grind IV Day 1 (see below)
When: Friday, 06.08, 2 p.m.
Where: The Black Sheep and Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This is the major metal festival in Colorado. Independently run and promoted it features some of the most interesting acts in extreme and death metal, doom and grindcore. Things get kicked off at 2 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes in the late night hours at The Triple Nickel Tavern. For this first day you can catch Denver’s deathgrind stars Of Feather And Bone at the Black Sheep at 6:40 p.m.. The trio just started its tour in the wake of the release of its latest album, Beastial Hymns of Perversion. Immediately after at 7 p.m. on the main stage is Seattle’s black/folk metal act Isenordal will bring its layered, orchestral sound. For fans of Giant Squid and SubRosa. You can’t really miss with any of the bands but it would also be a good chance to see Wyoming’s great, grind-y, post-hardcore band Euth, Denver’s melodic doom giants, Wayfarer and Denver D-beat/thrash juggernauts Rotstrotter. Full schedule below.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
2-220 Weaken
2:40-3 Berrated
3:20-3:40 Anakusha
4:20-4:40 Euth
5-5:20 Portrayal Of Guilt
5:50-6:10 Falter
6:40-7 Of Feather And Bone
7:30-7:50 Void Omnia
8:20-8:40 Closet Witch
9:10-9:30 Gaff

Main Stage
2:20-2:40 Full Bore
3-3:20 Salems Bend
4-4:20 Rotstrotter
4:40-5 Bleubird
5:20-5:50 Zeta
6:10-6:40 Wayfarer
7-7:30 Isenordal
7:50-8:20 Brainoil
8:40-9:10 Transient w/Bastard Noise
9:30-10:40 Mizmor

Triple Nickel
11-11:20 Cursus
11:30-11:50 Ice Sword
12-12:20 Modok
12:30-12:50 Hexist
1-1:30 Tejon St. Corner Thieves

Who: Today’s Paramount, Samvega and Archipelaghost
When: Friday, 06.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: This is a bill where none of the bands really fit in any musical subscene. Nor are they trying and the show is the better for that. Today’s Paramount has bits of gypsy folk, Americana, psychedelia and metal but really it’s more like some kind of odd glam prog band that dresses up like they’re all lead gumshoes in a noir novel. Samvega similarly skirts the edges of sludge metal, psychedelic rock and prog without being tied down by the conventions of any of it. Its sonically powerful shows feel orchestrated but only in that they have played the music so much they’re comfortable executing it in a way that leaves plenty of room to change moods, tempos and emotional colorings to fit the environment. If Archipelaghost’s recent single “Spinach” is any indication, those guys listen to a lot of the better hip-hop utilizing trap tracks while crafting their own electronic beats and burned the memo on not using kinda crap autotune. Archipelaghost takes musical ideas that shouldn’t work and puts it together in a way that seems more like a beyond ironic to legit and inventive take on electronic indie pop. Meta in its musical touchstones to the point of avant-garde.

Who: The Descendents w/The Potato Pirates and In the Whale
When: Friday, 06.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: The Descendents’ story sounds like it couldn’t be true. Drummer Bill Stevenson met future Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris before the latter’s stint in Black Flag and worked for Morris’ father as a fisherman. Of course Stevenson would spend some years as Black Flag’s drummer while also playing in The Descendents, a band he started with some friends from school when most of them were still in high school. The band’s blend of pop, surf rock and punk made for one of the earliest pop punk bands and its sound and lyrics throughout the 80s articulated teen angst, insecurities and simple aspirations better than a lot of music in the mainstream ever could and thus the band’s enduring popularity and viability. Even as its music is framed in the teen experience there was an evolution in thought and complexity of emotion that happened during the course of the band’s career. These days, seeing The Descendents is a great reminder that punk, even pop punk, can be silly, kinda dumb, but also thoughtful and vibrantly energetic in ways that don’t seem tamed by the compromises mainstream commercial success has exacted on some of the bands The Descendents have influenced.

What: Intendence Film Fest Opening Party with Sympathy F
When: Friday, 06.08, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: When Sympathy F began in the early 90s Denver was in the prime of its period of urban decay. LoDo as we came to know it in the mid-90s didn’t exist. Squatters lived in buildings downtown and the Fifteenth Street and Twentieth Street viaducts led to areas of glorious industrial yesteryear. Denver felt dark, a little grimy and gritty while not as dangerous as larger cities. The band’s music, a moody, jazz-inflected post-punk, fit that milieu perfectly and it was one of the era’s classic alternative rock bands and one of the very few to have survived through the decades to now. Until a few years ago, the band had only released one record and soon it will release a third. Live, the band creates a lush but electrifying sound and for those that remember those older times in Denver, it’s like getting a taste of that vibe for the time the band drifts into its set.

Saturday | June 9, 2018

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The Corner Girls, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: 71 Grind IV Day 2 (see below for lineup)
When: Saturday, 06.09, 1 p.m.
Where: Black Sheep and The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This second day of 71 Grind IV includes performances from powerviolence pioneers Infest, longtime Albuquerque grind legends Noisear and Colorado Springs death grind band 908 which includes 71 Grind organizer Bryan Ostrow. Things get started at 1 p.m. at The Black Sheep and finishes once again in the late hours at Triple Nickel.

Black Sheep
Side Floor Stage
1-1:20 Aerial Ruin
1:40-2 Nite Kidz
2:20-2:40 Blunt
3-3:20 Minimum Wage Assasins
3:40-4 Sentient Divide
4:20-4:40 Funeral Chic
5-5:20 Bandit
5:40-6 Pavel Chekov
6:30-6:50 Test
7:20-7:40 Noisear
8:10-8:30 Remission
9-9:30 Stapled Shut

Main Stage
12:40-1 Modern Color
1:20-1:40 Fortunes Fool
2-2:20 908
2:40-3 Addaura
3:20-3:40 Haunter
4-4:20 Badr Vogu
4:40-5 Apocalyptic Noise Syndicate
5:20-5:40 Cryptic Void
6-6:30 Dead In The Manger
6:50-7:20 Un
7:40-8:10 Scorched
8:30-9 Despise You
9:30-10 Infest

Triple Nickel
10:30-10:50 The Stalk
11-11:20 Pris
11:30-12 Anonymous Inc.
1210-12:30 Saus

Who: The Corner Girls (single release) w/Vic N’ The Narwhals, Kinky Fingers and Cocordion
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: A year after excellent 2017 Popcorn EP, The Corner Girls release the “Boyfriend” single. Given the band’s gift for giving songs with incisive and irreverent lyrics titles that could come from a vapid pop song, “Boyfriend” probably isn’t just a song about someone’s boyfriend in that tired, classic vein. From the imagery of the band’s artwork to its surf-y punk sound, The Corner Girls aesthetic resonates with that of early K Records bands and 90s indie pop, which in its time was a rejection of the masculine rock world. It isn’t an attack on the latter as much as creating something not defined by it.

Who: Screwtape, Gutter Villain, The Uglys and No Chance
When: Saturday, 06.09, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Uglys somehow mixed screamy posthardcore with sludgy riffs for a sound that is like what would have happened had grunge developed a decade and a half later with The Deftones as an influence. That sort of desperation delivered with a manic intensity fits in well on a bill with Denver hardcore stars Screwtape whose songs blur the radical political with the personal in a way we need to see more of right now.

Sunday | June 10, 2018

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Who: 71 Grind IV Day 3
When: Sunday, 06.10, 12 p.m.
Where: The Triple Nickel Tavern
Why: This third and last day of 71 Grind takes place at Triple Nickel and sort of a showcase of some of Colorado’s heavy bands. Still Valley is the kind of band that maybe got inspired by the stoner/sludge rock bands with that steady, slow cymbal work going like a hypnotic metronome but its sound is more uplifting, more melodic and ultimately more transporting. In that way Still Valley has a lot in common with Earth, taking the blues roots of the music and exploring its outer possibilities. Tricoma from Denver has similar influences but its sound is more like a fierce thrash/crossover and its heaviness more cutting. The Munsens’ 2016 album Abbey Rose sounds like a doom meditation on the darkened passages and cosmic terror merely hinted at by early Gothic literature, for example Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. But whatever band or bands you catch, it’ll be a great slice of heavy music’s current underground scene.

12-12:20 Ultraviolet
12:30-12:50 Still Valley
1-1:20 Tricoma
1:30-1:50 The Munsens
2-2:20 Innoculated Life
2:30-2:50 Scepter
3-3:20 Kenaima
3:30-3:50 Gutpest
4-4:20 Commonear
4:30-4:50 Remain & Sustain
5-5:20 Bonus Surprise!
5:30-5:50 Druids
6-6:20 Tower
6:30-6:50 Article 15
7-7:20 The Mutations
7:30-7:50 Broken Dead
8-8:20 Demerit
8:30-9 SMD
9:10-9:40 Homewrecker
9:50-10:20 Sledge
10:30-11 Dead Set

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip and The Savage Blush
When: Sunday, 06.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock band that on the surface sounds like a band in that vein with some punk oomph behind it. But its shows are famously tribal affairs during which the band performs in kabuki masks, uses pyrotechnics in its sets and otherwise brings those who show up into a ritual of rock and roll chaos. Experimental jazz thrash prog band TripLip and surf rockers The Savage Blush will ably set the stage for the mayhem to follow with Daikaiju.

Monday | June 11, 2018

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Sleep circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sleep w/Primitive Man and Oryx
When: Monday, 06.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Nearly twenty years after the release of its most recent album, 1999’s until then posthumous release, Dopesmoker, the princes (naturally the kings being Black Sabbath) of stoner rock/doom Sleep released a new album in 2018 called The Sciences. Of course its laden with fanboy references to Sabbath (there’s a song called “Giva Butler”), science fiction and arcane knowledge. Oh, and cannabis. “Marijuananaut’s Theme” begins with someone taking a hit off a bong. But it seems as though Sleep has sculpted its sound ever so slightly giving it greater dynamism and fluidity. Don’t worry, the guitars still sound like the tone is in a constant state of splintering and the rhythms are off enough in the right places to be hypnotic and deftly launch the main melodies into spaces that Moebius might have drawn for one of his lost Jodorowsky collaborations—psychedelic, alien and raw. That deathgrind titans Primitive Man and doomdeath stars Oryx are on the bill just make the whole show twice as good.

Who: Violent Femmes
When: Monday, 06.10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Four decades on, Violent Femmes went from jazz-inspired folk-punk-pop weirdos who were perfect for the college rock world of the 80s to a still surprisingly powerful live band whose sound has been influential but not widely imitated. On recordings and on stage the Femmes bring in more than the usual rock instruments and since its early days the band has brought on a group of people called The Horns of Dilemma to play raw, chaotic sounds on a couple of songs in the set. For the Denver dates of the past several years The Horns of Dilemma has included avant-garde improvisational band Animal / object, a group in which Femmes singer Gordon Gano has been known to play violin. Several of the Femmes’ songs have entered the lexicon of popular music through the college and alternative rock path and even if you weren’t around or old enough for the band’s music to impact you the first time it was coming around its music has held up well because it was never grounded in any trendy sound or style but rather an premium on creativity and imagination. Go and be surprised by how of the moment and so not rote the Femmes remain today.

Who: Yes (Howe, Downes and White iteration)
When: Monday, 06.10, 2 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Progressive rock has a reputation as an overly intellectual music made by snobs for other technically proficient musicians and fans capable of appreciating the intricacies and compositional sophistication of the music. But most of those bands were seeking to create something deeply imaginative and capable of expressing ideas and emotions beyond the bare bones rock and roll sonic vocabulary. Yes wrote music that aimed to explore and articulate the dreams and aspirations of humankind. Sure, some of it got pretty out there and abstract but largely its songs came from a personal place writing about love, anxiety, fear and a broad range of emotions and the very individual experience of our struggles and triumphs. Yes just didn’t dumb it down. For this show you’ll get to see master guitarist Steve Howe, Alan White’s drumming wizardry and Geoff Downes’ gift for weaving together various keyboard and synth elements to create one of the sounds that has established Yes as a legendary live act for the past few decades.

Tuesday | June 12, 2018

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Covenhoven in Ojai, CA, photo courtesy Joel Van Horne

Who: Covenhoven album release w/The Still Tide
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Joel Van Horne has been writing beautifully introspective songs under the moniker Covenhoven for several years and now, with A Kind of Revelation, three records. It was within a week of finishing the mixes for A Kind of Revelation that Van Horne’s brother Ben died from a pulmonary embolism following years of struggling with ulcerative colitis. As with his previous releases (the 2013 self-titled album and 2015’s The Wild and Free), Van Horne immersed himself in a natural environment, taking in the patterns, energies of the place and as much of its essence as possible to drive his creative inspiration. For A Kind of Revelation that place was Olympic National Park and Big Sur. Perhaps a kind of pastoral folk and pop is the form of Van Horne’s songs but the musical language feels like an emotional recreation of the places that influenced their writing. Since it’s at the Bluebird, chances are it’ll be a full band presentation of the music where Covenhoven will share the evening with dream pop/rock band The Still Tide.

Who: Calexico w/Julia Jacklin
When: Tuesday, 06.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Calexico and Mojave 3 were doing psych-folk-inflected pop Americana before it became a massive feature of “indie” radio in the past ten to fifteen years. Calexico, though, also absorbed a good deal of Mexican folk stylistic flourishes giving its sound a more exotic edge. The group released its latest record, The Thread That Keeps Us, in January 2018. Employing keyboards and synths alongside more traditional instruments has been one of Calexico’s hallmarks from its early days but the new record feels even more expansive and open as though maybe somewhere the band aimed to simplify its sound without sacrificing its full and rich tones.

Wednesday | June 13, 2018

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Ancient Elk circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Of Feather and Bone tour kickoff w/Tomb Mold and Casket Huffer
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver deathgrind band Of Feather and Bone played 71 Grind in Colorado Springs this past weekend and it will kick of its tour in support of its new album Beastial Hymns of Perversion with this show at the Hi-Dive alongside like-minded bands Tomb Mold, from Toronto, Ontario and Casket Huffer from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Who: Sunmonks, Ancient Elk, Avifauna and GALLERIES
When: Wednesday, 06.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Sacramento’s Sunmonks has been honing its blend of R&B, indie pop and world music since 2012. Entertainment Weekly said the band was a “Worthy successor to the Talking Heads.” That seems like hyperbole and lack of life experience and knowledge of recent and older music history. Nevertheless, the band’s willingness to experiment with the form of pop music across various cultures as well as the sound and rhyme schemes to great effect makes it one of the most interesting bands to have bypassed being a psychedelic rock band but effectively making psychedelic pop music. Also on the bill is experimental, psychedelic folk band Ancient Elk, psych hard rock band GALLERIES and the windswept electropop soundscapes of Avifauna.

To Be Continued…

Meet the Giant’s Sublimely Moody Debut Album Was Worth the Wait

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

 

In an era when any musician, regardless of talent or ability, can release whatever, figuratively speaking, falls out of their head with no quality control impeding its release, Meet the Giant is a bit of an anomaly. The rock trio formed in 2009 and released its self-titled debut album on May 29, 2018. Most bands wouldn’t incubate for that long in any way. “Our first album from the beginning is basically ten years,” says bassist/vocalist Micaela Naranjo. “But we’re not on anybody else’s agenda. It’s tempting to fall into the traps of doing a genre based approach or marketing to people. But it’s not for us.”

“We were of the mindset of let’s just make music for us,” says guitarist Erin Cisney. “Keep it in the basement.”

The group germinated initially when drummer Lawrence Snell, whose shoegaze-rimmed Americana band Colder Than Fargo had recently split, talked to his friend Cisney about jamming for fun. The two would get together from 1 to 3 p.m. with electronics rigs set up facing opposite walls. In Colder Than Fargo Snell had triggered electronics as well as played drums and Cisney had extensive production work under his belt having worked for a label in England that did reissues and released albums by classic bands in their later era in which, say, the lineup might only include the original bass player. After several sessions jamming and creating some of the threads that would become Meet the Giant, Cisney mentioned he had a friend who was a bass player that might be interested in coming in to play. Naranjo heard some of the recordings, liked them and the three formed a band with no stated or unstated intention of making music to share with anyone else.

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

The English connection was something Cisney and Snell had in common. Cisney was born in Salida, Colorado but grew up in Littleton and had played in local bands like Whirling Dervish and Vena Cava before getting a production job overseas. Snell grew up near Leicester, England in a working class family but one that had an appreciation for music. Snell’s father was not into the Rolling Stones so much as American songwriters like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. Though Snell’s family sold potatoes at nearby music festivals including one memorable year at Reading when the 1986 headliners were Killing Joke, Saxon and Hawkwind.

“My dad said the first night is going to be the punk rockers, the second night is going to be heavy metal and we’re going to have trouble,” recalls Snell. “The third night it’s going to be all peace and love. But people were on acid and they robbed my mom and dad’s potato wagon and lit the speakers on fire.”

Soon after, though, Snell was taken with American music in the form of hip-hop and Public Enemy and the art pop funk of Prince. It was a heady time in the late 80s and early 90s and Snell found himself swept up in the momentum of the cross-Atlantic musical co-influence as New Order borrowed hip-hop production techniques and the Manchester “Baggy” scene synthesized the aesthetics of dance music and post-punk. That music was in all the pubs on jukeboxes in a way that might seem odd to Americans. Britpop became almost ubiquitous. “ Everybody had that first Oasis album in their car,” quips Snell. “:Even your grandma had a Liam Gallagher haircut.” That monocultural wave is what made Snell appreciate America’s proclivity for regional scenes that weren’t so closely connected. Especially at that time when not all music and culture was so easily accessible as it is now.

Colorado in the 80s and 90s seemed pretty far removed from centers of culture in general. But as with many places so relatively isolated, idiosyncratic creative endeavors develop in spite of having not much support from the immediate culture and government. Cisney played in a band starting in high school called Guru Picnic that played pep rallies and football games. But after a few months that project dissolved and Cisney formed Wasteband, which recorded an album in 1989 at Freewheelin’ Recording Studio where Denver New Wave band The Corvairs had recorded its five song demo a decade prior.

It was during his college years in Boulder that Cisney played with Platypus and shared stages with the likes of Fat Mama and Chief Broom. Boulder funk/jam/rock band The Motet was just starting up. Soon enough Cisney joined Vena Cava and his circle of friend bands would play The Fox and come down to Denver to play The Bluebird thinking it was a common occurrence within the reach of any band. But he was soon disabused of such notions.

“One show it was half full and we thought that was a shitty gig,” says Cisney. “I’ve never had a gig like that since.”

Naranjo was later in life getting into bands than many people. Coming in and out of town during colllege, Naranjo became involved in what was called the “Broken Mic Scene” which included the venues The Bank, The Park Tavern and The Flying Dog. Naranjo, who grew up in a musical family but never considered themself talented enough to be in the music scene, joined The Late Jack Redell and played with Garrett Carlin, now in art noise rock band Jane Doe. Naranjo found playing with the band comfortable and that gig led to playing in other bands like Fallout Orphan, Legendary Beep Beeps and Penelope Project. “For me being in the local scene is more about people who have the same malfunction you do,” says Naranjo.

Around 2015, Meet the Giant had written and recorded various songs occasionally sharing them with close friends and the trio felt some momentum in the band that inspired an interest in playing a debut show. The proper environment for doing so came with two shows at Rocky Mountain Sound Garden, a now defunct recording studio and rehearsal space. It seemed safer to do that more DIY type of show before heading back into the waters of bar and small venue shows that is the common experience of most bands in any city. The opportunity to break that egg was a barbecue show on a Sunday at Larimer Lounge where Meet the Giant played after a jug band and a Christian worship band.

“I like getting on a bill like that to get exposed to different sides of the scene but sometimes its a shitshow,” says Naranjo. “We chased everyone out of the bar quickly.”

But Meet the Giant persevered and found appreciative audiences in the metal scene because its own sound has a bit of grit and heaviness to it despite being atmospheric, melancholic music. Then again, bands like Kylesa, True Widow, Emma Ruth Rundle, Myrkur and Chelsea Wolfe have a crossover appeal in that way. In fact, Bart McCrorey of Throttlebomb, offered to do some recording for the band at his Crash Pad studio where he is best known for recording hard rock, punk and metal records including the fantastic 2017 Weaponizer album Lawless Age.

“The metalheads were good to us on the scene,” comments Snell. “To me they’re the last people that are genuinely into music. It’s like ska, reggae, two-tone and punk. Different music but the same ideals.”

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Meet the Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

For the new record, the band recorded two tracks with McCrorey and others with Danny Ke at Orchid Studios and Dave Schleitwiler at Sunnyside Recording Studio. But the whole album was mastered by Brad Smalling who assembled the various recordings into a sonically cohesive whole at Evergroove Studio, the place where enigmatic, experimental, instrumental band Itchy-O has been recording of late. And it is with Smalling in a studio in Taos, New Mexico that Meet the Giant recently recorded its follow-up album prior to heading out on its first tour in spring 2018 spanning June 3 through June 8.

After years of playing in bands and spending over half a decade developing its music, Meet the Giant has no illusions of rock stardom in the making or hitting it big in the local scene either. Its dark, lush, sometimes scrappy music doesn’t fit in an easily marketable genre box. It reflects a hybrid rock and electronic aesthetic that happened naturally given the band’s musical interests going in. In fact, the group has an electronic side called Shadow of the Giant that is all electronic that it may someday unveil.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the rock and electronic blend in the dark, atmospheric way that Meet the Giant does so well was out of style in a climate where entirely too much dry earnestness. Modern takes on classic rock, garage rock, garage punk and pretty but not really mind-altering psych rock seemed fairly trendy not just in Denver but nationally. Odd for Denver which long had a tradition of moody, brooding, majestic, heady bands. Given the growing popularity of bands like Black Marble, Drab Majesty and Wye Oak those tides have been turning for a few years and Meet the Giant may be emerging in the right climate for its sound.

“We’re really into the Bristol scene and common elements and retrospectively there’s probably this sort of emotional expression that’s consistent in the music that we like,” says Naranjo.

“What we’re writing is dark, for the most part. There’s an introspection and tenderness there that we all like,” says Cisney. “The spectrum for us is typically on the sadder, darker side of things but we have some throw your fists in the air rockers.”

“We’ve been together nine years,” says Snell. “We’ve been through deaths, break-ups and a myriad of stuff and the thing that has kept us together is the music, even though that’s a bit of a cliché.”

Meet the Giant’s debut album is available digitally through the usual outlets including Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon. The band will have a vinyl release show on August 10, 2018 at Syntax Physic Opera where it will celebrate the occasion sharing the stage with Church Fire and The Patient Zeros.

Best Shows in Denver 05/31/18 – 06/06/18

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Git Some perform at benefit for Miles Elliott Bellinger Webb (son of G. Matthew Bellinger) at Goosetown Tavern on Saturday, June 2. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | May 31, 2018

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Pearls & Perils, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: EVP, Mirror Fears, Claudzilla
When: Thursday, 05.31, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Industrial/dark pop duo EVP is celebrating singer/guitarist Amanda Baker’s birthday with this show alongside weirdo synth/keytar sorceress Claudzilla and Mirror Fears’ emotionally cathartic electronic compositions.

Who: Glasss Records & Titwrench Presents the 100th Glasss Show: R  A  R E B Y R D $, Gold Trash, Pearls & Perils, Rachael Pollard, EVP
When: Thursday, 05.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Glasss Records is commemorating its 100th show with an event that includes RAREBYRD$ and Rachael Pollard who will be going to Titwrench Stockholm on June 14 and 15 this year. This show is a short list of the best songwriters and, in the case of everyone but Rachael, electronic music artists in Denver right now. Whether it’s the transcendent hip-hop of R A R E B Y R D $, the noisy electroclash of Gold Trash, the soulful downtempo of Pearls & Perils, EVP’s genre-defying electronic punk or Rachael Pollard’s ability to seemingly write from a middle school diary of dreams, fears and loves with a sublime wisdom and playfulness, this lineup is impeccable.

Who: Hail Satan EP release of Rad Metal w/Dead Characters and Cönaxx
When: Thursday, 05.31, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Jake Fairly’s work as a graphic/comic artist isn’t so difficult to run into around town. Whether it’s his This is Heavy Metal comic or work he’s done for various concerns, his clean lines, use of space and compelling detail are noteworthy. He also has a band called Hail Satan that’s releasing its Rad Metal EP tonight. The band is in the vein of classic thrash and speed metal with a little punk thrown in and Fairly is its frontman. Because the title of the album is humorous while honoring what makes that style of music great, you can bet the band will embody that spirit live as well.

Friday | June 1, 2018

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Animal Years, photo by Organic Photography

Who: Giardia album release w/Church Fire, Sonic Vomit and Today’s Paramount
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: Giardia is releasing its latest album tonight. The Denver based band sounds like some kind of art-rock/fusion/prog band. Its songs while containing elements of black metal and grindcore has more in common with Goblin and Naked City. Lots of synth and keyboards and drastic shifts in tone, rhythm and texture to that it never gets bogged down in adherence to genre. Three other bands that don’t really fit anyone else’s mode so well are also playing this show. Church Fire some people probably think of as kind of a dance music band with melodic synth lines and bumping rhythms. But the music runs deeper with roots in noise, industrial, political punk and art rock. Also, vocalist Shannon Webber is an electrifying figure delivering her lines with a theatrical and symphonic intensity like a Kabuki theater performer but reigned in by no one’s muse but her own. Sonic Vomit is coming up from Pueblo to bring its noisy prog death metal and Today’s Paramount could be considered a math-y, No Wave funk band with elements of psych in its sound.

What: New Hinterland Benefit Concert: Pan Astral, Like Miller from Lotus and Flobots
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hinterland Gallery sat north of Downtown Denver for years before the inevitable happened and existence in that part of town became untenable. The gallery hosted numerous events for some of Denver’s most adventurous artists and was a hub/base of operations for the more visually inclined creators including filmmakers, painters and sculptors. It also hosted forward thinking multimedia presentations. This show is a benefit for the gallery’s new space. Performing is genre-bending electronic pop band Pan Astral who will be joined on stage by Luke Miller of Lotus and Johnny 5 and Brer Rabbit of Flobots making it a one-of-kind show for everyone that shows up and one aimed at helping out one of Denver’s true independent art institutions.

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Michael Franti and Spearhead, photo by Anthony Thoen

Who: Michael Franti & Spearhead w/Xavier Rudd and Victoria Canal
When: Friday, 06.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Michael Franti & Spearhead will release its new album Stay Human 2 later this year but for this tour you can catch the band in support of the first volume of Stay Human. These days Franti is more known for his upbeat, highly positive world-music-oriented funk and soul and rightfully so, that’s what he feels is the best vehicle for making music counter to the misguided and destructive elements of world human culture. But that roots level political orientation (he also helps to lead a yoga session around the time of his concerts in Colorado and elsewhere) runs long in Franti’s career going back to his time with industrial hip-hop groups Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy whose lyrics seem oddly prescient over two decades since.

Who: Animal Years w/Tyler Imbrey’s Ghost Revue and House With A Yard
When: Friday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: No link for this show because Ticketfly got hacked but it shouldn’t yet be sold out. At any rate Animal Years borrowed its name from a Josh Ritter album. Seeing as Ritter is one of the most literate, thoughtful and emotionally vibrant songwriters in modern pop music, you can hardly blame them. It’s also a reminder to live life to the fullest and pack as much living in with each year as if you are living seven as, for instance, a dog would. The group’s latest five-song EP Far From Home touches on familiar tones and textures in the realm of pop Americana of the past decade. But Mike McFadden’s voice has enough character to set the band apart from its peers and his words possessed with enough self-awareness and nuance of expression to be worth repeated listens.

Saturday | June 2, 2018

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Nightmares On Wax, photo by Sequoia Ziff

Who: Bassnectar and Nightmares on Wax DJ set, CharlestheFirst and Dorfex Bos
When: Saturday, 06.02, 6:30 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: Bassnectar is rightfully one of the most popular artists who took the underground rave culture and music he experienced as a teenager in the 90s to a wide audience and made it accessible with his creative hybrid of downtempo, dubstep and drum and bass. In recent years, his conceptual multi-media shows, or gatherings, have added a more intentional communal dimension to his days long stints in cities on his tours. For this second of three shows in the Denver area, Bassnectar has brought along one of electronic dance music’s true pioneers with George Evelyn aka Nightmares on Wax. Evelyn started out DJing in clubs in Leeds with his friends John Halnon and Kevin Harper with genre-hopping mixes in their sets with hip-hop, soul and funk as the root. The project found a home at then Sheffield, now London, based experimental electronic label Warp Records with it’s 1991 debut album A Word of Science: The First and Final Chapter. Nightmares On Wax operated as a DJ-based act in the live setting until the late 90s when it morphed into a hybrid of production technology and live instrumentation with a drum machine giving the band’s shows a more intimate feel. Though Halnon and Harper have long since moved on, Evelyn has continued on steering Nightmares on Wax and tonight he’ll get back to doing a DJ set but with a more modern set of tools at hand to mix and weave in an imaginative set of music.

Who: Benefit Show for Miles Elliott Bellinger Webb (son of G. Matthew Bellinger): Git Some, Pretty Mouth, Zebroids and Animal Actress
When: Saturday, 06.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: G. Matthew Bellinger was a bright and talented, but, like many artists, deeply troubled, guitarist and vocalist for the well-known posthardcore legends Planes Mistaken For Stars, Americana alterna punks Ghost Buffalo and noisy sludge rockers Ill Cattivo. When he died in 2017 under unusual circumstances it was a big blow to friends and family perhaps none more so than to his son Miles. The proceeds from this show will toward benefiting Miles and it features some of the Denver area’s best bands including posthardcore noise rock band Git Some (which includes former Planes members Charles French and Neil Keener), dream pop tinged country act Pretty Mouth (fronted by former Ghost Buffalo members Marie Litton, Jedd Kopp and Benjamin Williams) , joke punker performance art band Zebroids and slowcore-ish, math rock-esque, post-rock leaning band Animal Actress which includes former Ghost Buffalo guitarist Tommy Ventura. A lot of talent for one room and for a good cause.

Tuesday | June 5, 2018

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Black Marble, photo courtesy Chris Stewart

Who: Cold Cave, Black Marble, Choir Boy and Boy Hollow
When: Tuesday, 06.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Black Marble did something that many modern artists making music in the atmospheric post-punk vein didn’t—sound like every other band out of the neo-post-punk revival. Sure, Chris Stewart tapped into 80s bands that were precursors/pioneers of what is now called minimal synth like Iron Curtain and Solid Space. But his bass-driven melodies had more in common with experimental electronic dance music than rock. Stewart’s 2016 release on Ghostly International, It’s Immaterial, solidified that impression even if the music was even more accessible. The songs seemed to operate from a dreamlike earth, sparsely populated, perpetually late morning and soft lighting, the kind of environment that gives one time to contemplate and work out the angst in your head.

Wednesday | June 6, 2018

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A Hawk & A Hacksaw, photo by Louis Schalk

Who: A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Shady Grove Series
When: Wednesday, 06.06, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Four Mile Historic Park
Why: Jeremy Barnes some may know as the former drummer of Neutral Milk Hotel but since the early 2000s he and his wife Heather Trost have been making music inspired by Eastern European, Turkish and Balkan folk music as A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Based in Albuquerque the duo also contributed to the early development of like-minded band Beirut. A Hawk and a Hacksaw started as more or less a solo project of Barnes’ but during the recording of the project’s 2002 self-titled debut he met Trost beginning a musical partnership and otherwise since. That initial album was adopted as the soundtrack to the 2005 documentary film Zizek! about Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek. The act is now touring in support of its new album Forest Bathing and with its old world/pastoral tone, where better to experience this music than a park rather than a club. After all A Hawk and a Hacksaw had a form of Japanese nature therapy in mind for the record. According to an April 2018 article in Albuquerque Journal, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is their “forest bath of choice.” In an era when too much is created to be disposable and conceived that way, it’s a refreshingly out of step perspective for music and how to best experience it.

102 Wires, An Celebration of Atypical Guitar Art Tonight at Bar Max

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Kevin Richards of Equine circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tonight, May 26, 2018, at 5 p.m. (and running until 11:15) several of the Denver area’s most sonically adventurous musicians will assemble in the basement of Bar Max for 102 Wires. The event was organized by Kevin Richards who is known in local underground music circles for his most recent experimental guitar and electronics project Equine, which has been very prolific of late with the release of a handful of 2018 albums so far including White Majick, Der Howling, Equencing and Twins. In years past, Richards brought his knowledge of jazz chord theory to the too-post-hardcore-for-noise rock/too-weird-for-post-hardcore band Motheater, the quasi-performance art Hogsplitter, noise project Epileptinomicon and solo guitar drone band Temples. We recently sent some questions Richards regarding 102 Wires, it’s inspirations, aims and what Richards hows will be the aftermath.

Queen City Sounds: What inspired doing an event like this? Have you seen anything like this before putting the event together? Perhaps one of the late Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra events.

Kevin Richards: I don’t know that I’ve actually seen something quite like this before, although I have heard of somewhat similar festivals. The large ensemble aspect was definitely inspired by Branca and Rhys Chatham. Generally speaking, I was hoping to gather as may atypical guitarists (or guitarists doing something atypical for themselves) in one room with minimal instruction and see what happens. This fest is curated in a form, but has been intentionally fairly hands off as far as what people are bringing to the table. Hopefully this yields surprises for us all.

What will the show look like/be like and what kind of logistics and gear did you need to bring together to make it happen?

I am hoping to have people around the perimeters of the room performing, and the audience in the middle. there may be people performing solo sets, Steve Reich repertoire, original compositions, perhaps some prepared guitar, ambient loops, large ensembles, and some things that even I don’t quite know what they will be like. This should be six hours of guitar-centric musical fascination. As for the gear, I will of course be bringing multiple guitars and amps. We have performers who don’t generally play guitar and so there is a bit of borrowing happening. Logistics wise, this came together much more smoothly than I had anticipated. Max at Bar Max was great about letting us use the space for the event and all of the performers are putting in a decent amount of work to help this thing all come together. So in the end I can barely take credit for this team effort, as it should be.

With a diverse set of talents, skill sets, aesthetics and so forth, did you put any rules on how things will go and if so why so?

]The general concept/rules of the things were one, you must do something either atypical for how the instrument is generally approached, or you had to do something a bit out of your wheelhouse. Two, as much as possible this should be guitar only, so no drums, or other instruments. I think this event will for the most part adhere to both of these rules, with a couple well-reasoned exceptions. I tend to like working within musical restrictions myself as a means to foster creativity, and I was hoping this had a similar effect on others in this setting.

Why did you think bringing together a broad spectrum of musicians and guitars and whatnot would prove interesting?

How could it not? I have a certain love of the creative chaos that this type of gathering could bring. The joy from this will come from all of the things I didn’t anticipate.

What do you hope is the outcome of this show for both the people there and what might happen in post with you and other participants?

I hope that the primary outcome of this show is that we all gather together and enjoy each others company and creativity. I do hope that this gathering spawns other creative endeavors among the participants. Many have never met each other and may not even know the other exists in the same town, so that aspect should foster some interesting encounters at the very least. For the audience, I hope they see something that they have never seen before, and leave rethinking the instrument in some way.

The official schedule of events
Drew Miller 6-6:30
Large ensemble 1 6:30-7:00
Russ Callison 7:00-7:30
Large ensemble 2 7:30-7:45
Julien Miller/ Kevin Richards collaborative set 7:45-8:15
Stakes-8:15-8:35
Vahco Before-Horses 1 minute set 8:35
Sean Patrick Faling doing Glenn Branca memorial solo set 8:35-8:40
Large ensemble 3: branca memorial ensemble 8:40-8:55
Farrell Lowe 8:55-9:15
Aleeya Wilson 9:15-9:9:35
Joe Mills 9:35-10:00
Never Kenezzard Lite with Ryan Peru 10:00-10:15
Jacob Isaacs 10:15-10:35
Shawn Mlekush10:35-10:55
Equis Sub Templum – 2 large ensemble compositions 10:55-11:15

Best Shows in Denver 5/24/18 – 05/30/18

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High Plains Honky, photo by David Sands

Thursday | May 24, 2018

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Bianca Mikahn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Left Handed Electronics, Grrrl, Bianca Mikahn
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Bianca Mikahn’s combination of almost free verse poetry and beats should be well within the canon of hip-hop and ultimately is. But her delivery and her crafting of her songs has as much in common with the kind of hippie-ish, open mic, slam poetry world as it does with any hip-hop context. Mikahn’s ability to critique society at large while speaking to those issues with a compassion and positive spirit minus any note of insincerity sets her apart from most other artists. That her beats contains elements of noise and melodic ambient music makes her immediately accessible music an otherworldly dimension even as the songs are grounded in fairly earthbound experiences.

Who: High Plains Honky 7” release w/Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels Band and Danny Dodge & The Dodge Gang
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If Ronnie Milsap had gone a little more honky tonk with a grittier voice, the results might sound a bit like High Plains Honky. The group is releasing its latest seven inch record tonight at the Hi-Dive joined by a couple of other bands who are no slouches in the local country scene. Maybe comparing a Denver band to a best selling artist like Milsap seems like a bit much to some but what made him such a compelling songwriter beyond the masterful combination of musicianship and an ear for catchy and evocative melodies is the vivid storytelling. High Plains Honky have both qualities as well as no holding up of the nose at pop conventions used in a country context. “Goin’ All The Way” and “I Know Where You Go,” the two sides of the record, seem so relatable even if country music isn’t your thing. A tastefully tiny hint of psychedelia haunts the edges of the music and the aspirational, anthemic quality of the stories suggest a deep knowledge of personal reality but needing to write the songs to escape being too bogged down by current circumstances to go after what you really want while also honoring the emotions subsequent to the potential disappointment, pain and lack of resolution that is a part of everyday life. High Plains Honky invites its listeners to dream just a little bit and to embrace their heartsickness.

What: Girls Rock Denver: Showcase series 7-11 p.m.: Dressy Bessy, Rotten Reputation, Contender, Cheap Perfume, Surf Mom, The Catcalls and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 05.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is a fundraiser for Girls Rock Denver to give some of the young women who want to be involved a scholarship to this summer’s programme and beyond. For your donation you get to see some of the best local bands from the indie pop legends Dressy Bessy, punk rock phenoms Rotten Reputation and Cheap Perfume, fuzz rock feminist rock band Surf Mom and electronic dream pop start Mirror Fears.

Who: DOA and MDC
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: In the annals of hardcore outside of American coastal cities, DOA and MDC have to be considered two of the most important acts out of that movement. DOA from Vancouver, British Columbia, was one of the hardest touring bands for years, spreading the gospel of hardcore across the continent and whose album Hardcore ’81 is, perhaps apocryphally, is often cited as the first use of the term in connection to the musical movement. DOA’s political songs struck personal tones in Joe Keithley’s deft songwriting allowing the band’s music to have an appeal beyond agreeing with every iota of the band’s politics. MDC started in Austin, Texas as The Stains with similarly political punk songs that were more left than most of its peers at the time. It didn’t hurt that singer Dave Dictor seemed to havea personal agenda to push the envelope with fans in his stage persona as the ultimate freak and always with the aim of challenging reductive notions of animal and human rights. Listen to that first MDC album and it’s clear that Dictor was an unabashed critic of police brutality and creeping fascism in a way that makes those songs and their specific anti-authoritarian tone even more relevant now.

Who: The Blackouts w/Adrian Conner (Hell’s Belles) and We Are Invisible and Wild Call
When: Thursday, 05.24, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The Blackouts are an all female rock band that really shows how you can have a fairly straightforward hard rock band and not fall to the boring tropes that happen with too many bands with roots in punk and metal. Adrian Conner from the great all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Bells is also playing this show as well as Wild Call, a band whose forthcoming album is reminiscent of White Hills and Medicine.

Who: Amy Shark and Tomi globehall.com/event/1663566-amy-shark-denver
When: Thursday, 05.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Amy Shark is a pop songwriter from Australia whose 2016 single “Adore” caught the attention of tastemakers in Australia and the song was reissued by Sony Music Australia. That Shark was either in her late 20s or 30 when the song came out explains a bit how her voice and the perspective present in the song had a bit of depth and more of the weight of experience than would be the case of a pop artist a decade or more younger. Shark’s debut full-length, Love Monster, will drop in July 2018 so you can catch her live tonight at Globe Hall before everyone has heard of her.

Friday | May 25, 2018

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Demo Taped, photo by Savannah Ogburn

Who: Amber Mark w/Demo Taped and Adiel Mitchell
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amber Mark seemed to come out of nowhere when she uploaded her song “S P A C E” to Soundcloud in February 2016. Her voice strong and assured, drawing immediate comparisons to Sade for those qualities and a soulfulness one rarely hears in someone just twenty-two years old. But Mark had something to say and in subsequent singles like “Monsoon,” Mark revealed herself to be a brilliantly poetic songwriter. The 3:33 a.m. EP followed in 2017 and in 2018 Mark released the EP Conexão. Joining her on the Denver date of the tour is Adam Alexander, aka Demo Taped. His electronic pop songs are bright and upbeat but the subject matter of his songs run a broad range of subjects including struggles with anxiety and insecurity. His nuanced and layered songwriting manifested especially strongly on his 2018 EP Momentary.

Who: Orbit Service, Church Fire, The Drood and DJ Mudwulf
When: Friday, 05.25, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Denver ambient/space rock legends Orbit Service don’t play many shows these days and even less often at a dive bar like Lion’s Lair. The project’s primary figure, Randall Frazier, has been responsible for maintaining and putting together some of the best live sound in Denver rooms like Walnut Room and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox as well as championing experimental music in the local scene and collaborating with Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots fame. And that would be reason enough to go to this show but also on the bill are Church Fire, a band one might describe as industrial synth pop but its inspired and emotionally fiery performances elevates what could be considered excellent dance music to a higher level. Also, The Drood, a dark, psychedelic, avant-garde prog band.

Who: How To Measure the Weather: Tobias Fike, Ryan Wade Ruehlen, Kari Treadwell, Scott Ferguson
When: Friday, 05.25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Emmanuel Gallery
Why: This show has been described as a “migratory sound installation” meaning the performers, members of the Flinching Eye Collective, will move their respective sound-making rigs to take advantage of the Emmanuel Gallery on Auraria campus, one of the oldest buildings in Denver, and its architecture to provide a truly unique, one-off environmental sonic experience.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Colfax Speed Queen, Kenaima and Voight
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Confrontational, arty hardcore. Furious post-psych garage punk. Crushing, post-hardcore noise rock. Emotionally-charged, industrial post-punk. Also, four of Denver’s best, most interesting and always compelling and entertaining live bands.

Who: Super Bummer album release w/Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie
When: Friday, 05.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Super Bummer may be both one of the most ironic and yet accurate names in Denver underground music. The band’s melancholy compositions sure do articulate life’s downbeats with sincerity and self-deprecating humor—a rare combination. Its new album, Big Ambition, out on GROUPHUG, comes out tonight at Syntax where the band will share the stage with the broodingly melodic Americana band Eye and the Arrow and King Eddie, whose 2017 album Holographic Universe is a rabbit hole of beautifully enigmatic sounds and ideas to get lost in across its nine tracks.

Who: La Luz w/Savila and The Kinky Fingers
When: Friday, 05.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: La Luz may have originally been (and continue to be) inspired by 60s surf rock giants and the great girl groups of the era. But the Los Angeles-based group have long since made their own mark in music, especially with its 2018 album Floating Features, out on Hardly Art. Spooky and soulful, La Luz have mastered the art of nuanced emotional textures and mood so that its songs can be urgent and spend passages of sound swirling in the sweeping heat of a memory that unexpectedly rushes back into your consciousness triggered some moment or detail you encounter in the present. Denver’s The Kinky Fingers possess similar powers of evoking vivid emotions and imagery with their own surf-rooted rock songs.

Saturday | May 26, 2018

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Victoria Lundy, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Victoria Lundy, Snails and Oysters, Sporehive, Denizens of the Deep and Floating Cave, DJ sets by Franklin Bell and visuals by Orchidz3ro
When: Saturday, 05.26, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: An entire afternoon of some of Denver’s most interesting experimental and avant-garde bands. For instance, Snails and Oysters used to be just Joe Mills but is now a duo creating organic ambient music using rock instruments in unconventional ways. A project that cites psych folk legend Sandy Bull, the artist that did an arrangement of Carl Orff’s symphonic opera masterpiece “Carmina Burana” for five-string banjo and released it on a debut album in 1963, is definitely not coming from predictable places. While every act on the bill is worth checking out and nothing really much like each other, the star of the show is Victoria Lundy who at one time people might have said is better known for being the Theremin player in The Inactivists. But by now she has established herself locally as a gifted composer of electronic and ambient music with the Theremin and synth. One thing that sets Lundy apart is that her music tends to be free of transient, modern culture reference tropes and is rooted in 20th century classical and the first wave electronic music avant-garde. And yet, Lundy makes her music accessible and emotionally engaging. There is plenty of intellect going into the making of the music and the craft and technology but the art comes from the heart.

Who: 102 Wires
When: Saturday, 05.26, 5 p.m.
Where: Bar Max
Why: This is a celebration of the possibilities of guitar in music beyond the typical use of the instrument in popular or even experimental music. Read our interview with organizer Kevin Richards here.

Sunday | May 27, 2018

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eHpH, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A Life Celebration For Steve Gordon
When: Sunday, 05.27, 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: This will be an event honoring the late, great, Steve Gordon. Steve was a visual artist, sculptor and musician who contributed greatly to the local avant-garde improvisational and ambient music scenes in Denver. Steve passed away in early May following a prolonged battle with cancer but as a widely admired figure, his legacy of excellence, originality, humanity and humor will continue to have an impact in the Denver art world for years to come. For the event friends and collaborators will share stories, music, poetry, food and drink. Read Lauri Lynnxe Murphy’s excellent piece on Steve for Westword here and our own interview with the artist from November 2017 here.

Who: Textures featuring Tunica Externa, paperbark, Lepidoptera
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be John Mulville’s last show in Denver for a while as he’s moving back to Minneapolis for the duration. His ambient project paperbark has brought some of the most compelling, textured to grace Denver spaces in recent years. Generating sounds with treated modular synth tones, Mulville’s compositions suggest natural spaces with a physicality suggested by the earlier reference to texture. It’s like you experience a tactile sensation through a creative crafting of atmosphere. Though Mulville will be back through town, we won’t have the luxury of catching any of his soothingly hypnotic sets regularly.

Who: ManifestiV, Bloodied, eHpH and Keldari Station
When: Sunday, 05.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ManifestiV from Vallejo, California sounds like it came out of the intersection of the burner community that embraces both industrial music, electronic dance and New Age concepts in the use of sound. But it works though at times you expect it to be the soundtrack to some kind of hippie-esque cyberpunk video game. But who wouldn’t want to play that game? Denver’s Keldari Station sounds like it’s coming from a similar place but its own music is more pop, has more elements of dub and old school glam rock. eHpH, like the other bands on this bill, is a duo with a penchant for dark, atmospheric music. Except this duo has managed to combine EBM with industrial rock without sounding like they’re trying to fit in with the tired old Goth scene sound of the 90s and 2000s. The band’s music is more experimental, more nuanced in its emotional expressions, than bands who really want to be a new version of Suicide Commando.

Tuesday | May 29, 2018

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King Tuff, photo by Olivia Bee

Who: King Tuff w/Cut Worms and Sasami
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At the end of his last tour, Kyle Thomas was sick of the party monster persona he had cultivated for years as King Tuff. The pressure to live up to something you’re not because it benefits you professionally and to some extent artistically erodes you more than a little on the inside and Thomas was feeling it. “I was a lost soul,” Thomas posted on his website regarding the release of his 2018 album The Other. “I didn’t know who I was anymore.” The new record is certainly a bit of a departure for Thomas. Any trace of the garage rock that informed his earlier releases is pretty much gone. There is a soulfulness and an overt spirit of experimentation running through all the songs for the release. In moments its tinge of futuristic funk and glam prog are reminiscent of I Robot period The Alan Parsons Project.

Also playing this show is Cut Worms. The band’s main creative force is Max Clarke who seems tapped into a mid-60s pop sort of sound and aesthetic. There is a simplicity and clarity of melody and songwriting that we’ve heard plenty of, likely, in this era of mining past decades for artistic inspiration. But especially on Clarke’s 2018 album Hollow Ground the subject matter isn’t so clean and tidy and his songs, like the era it perhaps sonically echoes, reflect a self-aware sense of social anxiety, a painful yearning but struggling with real or endlessly imagined inability to not fuck things up somehow and a willingness to stumble and scrape through even if life doesn’t always, or never does, turn out as planned or hoped. The brilliance comes in striking that balance—being real alongside the sounds of a time many romanticize in spite of the dark and grisly underbelly of people’s lives and the culture itself.

Who: Broncho w/The Paranoyds and Valen
When: Tuesday, 05.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Broncho formed in 2010 in the wake of the dissolution of indie pop weirdos Starlight Mints. Ryan Lindsey of the latter, went on to play guitars, keys and perform lead vocal duties in Broncho. The four-piece has always been kind of an outsider in the music world in that it never really fit in with any emerging trend and was probably too weird to hit it big time in the mainstream. But Lindsey knows he doesn’t belong there. At this point, Lindsay has already done his time deconstructing pop in Starlight Mints and it’s obvious that subverting the tropes of indie, garage and psych rock this past decade isn’t as interesting as it might have been a few years ago. 2016’s Double Vanity found Broncho excavating and exploring some of the sonic ideas that Phil Elverum was onto on those final two The Microphones records, 2001’s The Glow Pt. 2 and 2003’s Mount Eerie. But without imitating Elverum’s richly imaginative and innovative soundscaping. With any luck, this version of Broncho will represent the band’s next phase of its injecting the pop format with expansive ideas and sounds.

Wednesday | May 30, 2018

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Gang of Youths, photo by Sergey Osipov

Who: Gang of Youths w/Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones
When: Wednesday, 05.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Gang of Youths’ 2017 sophomore album Go Farther in Lightness garnered near universal acclaim in the band’s home country of Australia. Rightfully so. It has the poetic insight and depth of early Bruce Springsteen and more recent from Titus Andronicus. Like both of those artists, Gang of Youths has a gift for taking the mythical/universal aspect of everyday experiences and giving it a poignantly personal expression. There’s a song called “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” that goes beyond that whole rediscovering your bliss and your passion nonsense. But it’s a whole record of songs that might seem like a collection of trite platitudes but in the end are the exact opposite. It’s highly energetic indie rock but the emotional and intellectual content run a lot deeper with Gang of Youths.

Who: Nunofyrbeeswax w/Open to the Hound, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Berlin’s Nunofyrbeeswax brings together aspects of indie pop, naïve lo-fi rock and outsider pop in its music. Good thing its on a bill with local weirdos in keytar punk Claudzilla, gritty indie pop outfit Open to the Hound and Germs-esque noise punkers Rat Bites.

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White Hills, photo by Simona Dalla Valle

Who: Ufomammut w/White Hills and Tjutjuna
When: Wednesday, 05.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Saying Ufomammut is a doom metal band from Italy is a bit like saying that Neurosis is a post-hardcore band from the Bay Area. Clearly Neurosis found some kinship with the trio from Tortona, Italy because Neurot Recordings issued the group’s most recent four records in the USA. Ufomammut’s music has elements of doom and sludge metal but its psychedelic drones and industrial sounds have more in common with the other bands on the bill than a straightforward doom band.

New York City’s White Hills has been exploring past settled territories of modern psychedelic rock since its 2003 inception. The duo of Dave W and Ego Sensation use drum machins and sampled rhythms to set a frame in which each can weave a mind-altering and hypnotic soundscape of vivid tones and dark atmospheres. The band’s storytelling and Dave’s vocals are reminiscent of what one might hear on a Legendary Pink Dots or Skinny Puppy album in which there’s no rockist self-aggrandizement or empty calories rhetoric. Dave has something to say, observations to make and narratives to give in his songs that are frankly worth listening to in themselves but couched in an immersive experience in the listening and especially so in the live setting. The group’s 2017 album Stop Mute Defeat, out on Thrill Jockey, is a major leap forward in terms of capturing the band’s masterful use of mood, texture and atmosphere to craft psychological experiences in the form of song.

Denver’s Tjutjuna rarely plays live shows these days, but the band and its talent for krautrock-inspired mind-expanding drones and percussion was always ahead of the curve of so-called “psychedelic rock” bands in the Mile High City. Like White Hills, Tjutjuna is no stranger to employing motorik beats except with a live drummer and the clear melding of the aesthetics of psych, noise and the avant-garde sets the group galaxies ahead of indie rockers who recently discovered how to maybe use reverb pedals with chorus. Quaint. Tjutjuna? Not so much.

Daphne Willis and Dave Tamkin Take the Stigma Out of Talking About Self-Care, Addiction and Mental Health Issues

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Daphne Willis and Dave Tamkin, photo courtesy Big Fish Booking

Songwriters Daphne Willis and Dave Tamkin will share a bill tonight, Friday May 18, at eTown Hall (for more information and to buy tickets click here). The two veteran musicians, who met twelve years ago playing local clubs in Chicago when both were living in the Windy City, have recently released songs with themes related to mental health and issues of self-care. As artists who have or still are involved in heavy touring, Willis and Tamkin have witnessed issues of mental health and addiction firsthand and the tone of their music seems grounded in experience rather than an abstraction of real life struggle. With their music both artists aren’t just trying to raise awareness but to humanize issues that can seem overwhelming and insurmountable.

Right out of college at DePaul, where by coincidence Willis also attended several years later, Tamkin found himself carving out a live music career tapping into the National Association of Campus Activities circuit and performing at colleges and towns across the country for eight years before meeting his future wife, Anne, and asking her to have a drink one night but she told him she didn’t have time for that because she was moving to Boulder. The couple has now been married for a decade. And Tamkin found, around that time, that he had to retool his music career considerably when changes in digital marketing were coming his way.

“Business marketing was my major and I was pretty good at getting people to Myspace at the time” says Tamkin. “Even with your website, owning those emails was your career—being able to have contact with your audience at any time. As soon as Myspace went away, I think I had thirty-thousand fans at the time, my whole career changed. I had to start over and it’s still taking me some time. So I’ve spent the last eight years not touring and rebuilding. So it’s nice to get back at it with a different point of view and I’ve been humbled. I appreciate every gig and audience I get in a way that maybe I didn’t back then.”

Tamkin found that not touring constantly forced him to reevaluate how he related to other people and himself not being on the road for six months at a time. Finding himself intimidated by the talent he found in Colorado, Tamkin took a number of years to get hooked into a local music community. And now, as a talent buyer for The Walnut Room through Homevibe Presents, Tamkin has connected with the local music world that he finds “welcoming and kind.” He also discovered Love Hope Strength Foundation, a group whose “Get On the List” campaign seeks to expand a registry for bone marrow donation and other efforts linked with music to try to help those living with cancer. Around that time he lost his father-in-law and Tamkin has encouraged his fans and peers to contribute to Love Hope Strength to give hope to people in a way that Tamkin couldn’t do for his father-in-law.

Tamkin also wrote the song “May” that was featured on Videos That Matter to address the opioid crisis in America. The brightly moody and uplifting song shines a compassionate light on what leads to abuse of opioids without romanticizing or demonizing anyone’s circumstances.

Willis has been collaborating with songwriters around the world since 2015 through her deal publishing deal with Sony/ATV. The versatile songwriter, whose work seems to know no genre boundaries, got her professional music life started early when her first acoustic EP, released when she was nineteen, got picked up for sublicensing through companies that place music in retail outlets and, at one time, through airline music channels. An executive at Vanguard heard her song on an American Airlines flight when his iPod wasn’t working and subsuently signed Willis for two albums. While that story is the dream of many a songwriter, Willis currently still self-produces much if not all of her own work.

Like everyone in America paying attention, Willis has been aware of issues of mental health and addiction for most of her life. With her father in the music industry for over thirty years in the sales and distribution wing of Sony/BMG, Willis grew up in a musical family and as a professional musician she undoubtedly saw the downside of self-medication and mental health struggles among peers and, it turns out, her own family. She wrote about this vividly and with no small amount of sensitivity in her 2017 song “Somebody’s Someone.”

“It’s autobiographical and it’s about my brother and myself,” says Willis. “It’s about every family that struggles with these issues—which is to say every family in the country has someone that struggles with depression, addiction, ADHD, PTSD [and other issues].”

Willis aimed with her songwriting to bring a more realistic perspective to a problems that seem mysterious and impenetrable to many people, especially thouse caught up in the embrace of psychological issues and addiction for whom the stigma might prevent actually getting help or treating before they become a larger problem.

“It’s become a bigger issue than it should be largely because of the stigma,” says Willis. “These issues are not like they’re not preventable or treatable. We as humans are perfectly capable of supporting each other and healing each other through all these things. But because of the fear and stigma that exists toward all of these things there’s a big barrier and we’re not able to do that. The idea of the song is to create a conversation about it. The point of the song is to take our experiences of these things to make it so basic everyone can understand it and relate to it because everyone has been there or know someone who has. People have been writing about this stuff for centuries. But I feel people have been less direct about it.”

While both Willis and Tamkin have written plenty of songs not about such dire subjects, it’s a testament to their talent, humanity and self-awareness that they’re bringing conversations into the creative zeitgeist. Doing so also highlights their insight into what makes a song work and have resonance not just for themselves but for their audiences. Witness it for yourself tonight or any other time you have a chance to see Willis and Tamkin in their element live on stage.

Best Shows in Denver 05/17/18 – 05/23/18

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Le Butcherettes perform Friday, May 18, 2018, with Hot Snakes and Git Some at The Oriental Theater. Photo by Lyndsey Bynes

Thursday | May 17, 2018

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Brian Jonestown Massacre circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Pale Sun
When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t kick off any of the handful of psychedelic rock revivals since the 60s but it is one of the few bands that had the emotional resonance and quality of songwriting that made the original wave so interesting. The BJM also brought to the music a musical sensibility that didn’t emerge and synthesize until the 90s after the impact of the alt-country and Paisley Underground of the 80s refined psych, until after house and electronica generally, shoegaze and slowcore brought about different ways to use drones, atmospheres and beats in different contexts. The BJM freely absorbed all of that sort of thing and produced more consistently interesting rock music than most bands of its era. On later records, Anton Newcombe even brought in musical ideas that one might usually attribute to synth pop and krautrock for a hybrid music that pushed far past the bevy of modern psych bands it directly influenced. Pick up pretty much any of their early records and you’ll hear those echoes across a broad stripe of modern rock music. Pick up any of the band’s albums and you’ll hear something interesting that not anyone else is doing quite as well if at all. This show will probably be a more classic Jonetown Massacre set but that just means a good deal of emotionally changed, tonally nuanced songs that come from the heart. Even people who are stuck on the depiction of Newcombe in the great 2004 documentary film Dig! have to admit that he at least seemed like a sincere artist even at his lowest points. Opening is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun, which includes former members of two of the best bands out of that realm of music that never quite hit national prominence in guitar genius and singer Jeff Suthers of Bright Channel and Moonspeed and multi-faceted drummer Kit Peltzel formerly of Space Team Electra and Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.

Who: Bevin Luna album release w/Jen Korte & The Loss and Wildflowers
When: Thursday, 05.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Like most of the musicians/bands that come out of Memphis, Bevin Luna’s songwriting is quite eclectic but not in that trying-to-please-too-many-people way. You get the feeling that Luna had to prove herself to some unforgiving audiences before she moved to Denver and started playing in the local scene in 2005. It’s rock haunted by country, traditional blues, folk and played with the energy of what a punk band should be. While not as swamp-haunted as, say, Gun Club or as countrified as Green On Red, Bevin Luna’s songwriting has roots in similar musical territory. Her new album, Baby Dragon, is fuzzier than some of her earlier music and the raw quality of the recordings really enhances Luna’s natural grit.

What: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: R A R E B Y R D $, Shocker Mom, Pearls & Perils
When: Thursday, 05.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Oh, sure, these artists play more than a few shows together. But it’s an example of some of the best bands/artists going playing shows in less-than-fancy situations to friends regardless of whether strangers will get it, thankful for friends showing up and putting on a great show anyway. To call any of these projects “hip-hop” would be technically accurate but wouldn’t encompass the imaginative soundscaping and beats and the use of natural dance moves in performing the music in a way. A short list of the most emotionally moving vocalists in Denver now would have to include KokoLa and Key Lady from R A R E B Y R D $, Robin Walker who is Shocker Mom and Olivia Perez who is Pearls and Perils. Fans of downtempo, lushly produced hip-hop and R&B should make the effort to check out these artists whether tonight or another time.

Friday | May 18, 2018

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Hot Snakes, image by Rick Froberg

Who: Hot Snakes, Le Butcherettes and Git Some
When: Friday, 05.18, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, out March 2018 on Sub Pop, is the band’s first album since 2004’s excellent Audit in Progress. And, of course, it’s less playful than Rick Froberg’s and John Reis’s other projects (Obits, Rocket From the Crypt), and has perhaps more in common with their pioneering noise rock band Drive Like Jehu. Angular, at times clashingly atonal, jagged breakdowns, the songs somehow have an anthemic quality that one might attribute to a pop punk band. Except that Jericho Sirens is a seething commentary on how every part of our culture and world civilization in general seems to be on the verge of collapse with public and political rhetoric amping up a kind of Manichaean world view in which one must pick a side or one will be presumed for you. The title of the album, alone, brilliantly and poetically clues one in on the constant state of alert that is encouraged in everyone everywhere all the time now. On this leg of the tour is Le Butcherettes, a band whose own music embodies the violence and contrasts of modern Mexico while examining the nature of identity and the role it plays in our lives and how notions of such can warp perception and impose a harmful cognitive framework. But all headiness and doom and gloom aside, both Hot Snakes and Le Butcherettes are bands whose live show is so viscerally entertaining that even if you don’t look beyond the surface level you won’t regret going. That bands aren’t creating essentially content-free art right now, though, is incredibly refreshing. Git Some, from Denver, is cut from a similar cloth and even if you see Luke Fairchild moving around like a marionette drive by forces beyond his control, what he’s singing about also cuts to the quick of the harrowing reality of modern human, especially North American, life.

Saturday | May 19, 2018

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Marisa Anderson, photo by Jason Quigley

Who: Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Marisa Anderson
When: Saturday, 05.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Marisa Anderson’s guitar compositions channel the sound of the natural world around her. Pastoral in tone with a detail of sound that suggests emotions rendered as sonic texture. Her forthcoming album, Cloud Corner (due out June 15, 2018 through Thrill Jockey), is like a step into that part of America that is off the main roads and outside the thought patterns and resultant culture that pushes us all to go, go, go at the expense of our own long term psychological health. It is music that if we take it in on its own terms reminds us to make time for being human and not the servants of modern post-industrial society. So it makes sense that Anderson is opening for one of the few bands that has maintained some sense of mystique and one that makes futuristic music commenting on world culture using a more classic music approach but not held back by a sensibility and tradition that emphasizes canon through interpreting the works of past masters. Godspeed! You Black Emperor shows how a group of small, committed people can use their talent and work to use conventional tools to demonstrate unorthodox, and even rebellious, ideas. Its 2017 album Luciferian Towers was released along with a statement reflecting a radical, yet completely sensible, view on international human rights. Maybe the band thought it better to think ahead than let the horrible leaders of the world try to dictate all its narratives.

Sunday | May 20, 2018

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Mary Lattimore, photo by Rachael Pony Cassells

Who: Mary Lattimore w/Hannah Samano and Bellhoss
When: Sunday, 05.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mary Lattimore branches out on her latest album, Hundreds of Days. It’s still the beautifully detailed, intricate ambient melodies that have distinguished her earlier releases. This time out she has experimented more with electric and electronic instruments and equipment as well as her own voice to augment her masterful harp work. Lattimore’s playing has garnered her chances to tour (as a live performer) and collaborate with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Julianna Barwick and gigs doing soundtrack work for the biographical documentaries about Marina Abramović (2012’s The Artist is Present) and Fred Rogers (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also from 2012). Lattimore’s broad expressive range and ability to write pieces with a keen ear for the percussive and tonal quality of her instruments is impressive. And timeless. Except for the electronic elements it would be difficult to place Lattimore’s music in time and seeing it live or even listening to it on a recording. Of course if you go see it live you will also get to see how visceral an instrument a harp can be even as its ethereal tones seem to float off into infinity.

What: Noise Night at Syntax Physic Opera: Ambigere (WA), Rasmussen, eMMAoWEN, Mirror Fears, Clutch Plague and Sunk Cost
When: Sunday, 05.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ultra Metal presents this edition of Noise Night at Syntax. Noise isn’t for everyone but this lineup will be a much more than the cliché of harsh noise and simple pedal chaining. Rasmussen is a member of local noise legends Page 27 but his solo work is often ambient or even in the realm of dance music. Sunk Cost is Ultra Metal founder Johnathan Cash’s harsh noise project and to some it may sound like tuning in to amplified dead stations on the radio. But there is some soundsculpting going on and the visceral impact of those sounds through a P.A.. Mirror Fears is generally known for her brilliantly crafted, melancholic experimental, industrial pop music but as part of her overall musical identity there is the sensibility of noise and the use of sound in ways that simply don’t fit into a standard pop context. Clutch Plague has a more old school industrial, beat driven sound. EMMAoWEN uses soundscaping, harsh noise and sampling to make impactful commentary on culture and touring act, Ambigere from Olympia, Washington, creates sonically tactile environments that are technically ambient but clearly on the harsh end of that spectrum because there’s nothing soothing about it.

Tuesday | May 22, 2018

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Japandroids circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wolf Parade w/Japandroids w/Adrian Teacher and The Subs
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden
Why: Canadian post-punk band Wolf Parade went on indefinite hiatus in 2010 after producing a few of the most interesting rock albums of that time. Rather than the dance punk or Joy Division-esque mode of post-punk, Wolf Parade’s dusky atmospherics were more akin to those of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Singer and keyboardist Spencer Krug’s multifaceted career in and out of Wolf Parade included stints in noteworthy indie bands Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake as well as his solo project Moonface. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner subsequently formed Handsome Furs as well as The Divine Fits (the latter with Britt Daniel of Spoon). Wolf Parade announced its hiatus was over in January 2016 and in 2017 it released Cry Cry Cry on Sub Pop. In support of the album, with clear stylistic nods to recently passed rock icons with David Bowie’s lush and emotionally rich songwriting and Tom Petty’s knack for pop storytelling, the band is currently on tour with another of Canada’s most dynamic rock bands of the moment: Japandroids.

From Vancouver, British Columbia, Japandroids played its own brand of punk and what one might call post-garage with a fiery energy at pretty much every show. Influenced by the likes of The Sonics and Gun Club, Japandroids put out an impressive, albeit relatively small, body of work at two full-length albums and two EPs (collected into a compilation humorously titled No Singles) before going on hiatus itself in 2013. And, purely coincidentally, announced it was back together in 2016 with Near to the Wild Heart of Life, which the band said in interviews was its first attempt to craft an album in a more traditional sense rather than written piecemeal in a headlong rush of being a band in its earlier days. If it didn’t have quite the urgency or ferocity of 2010’s Post-Nothing or 2012’s Celebration Rock, the traces of the record’s Replacements-esque, anthemic power pop was already present on the early material. Japandroids now just sounds bigger to match the intensity with which Brian King and David Prowse continue to bring to the live show.

Who: Kimbra w/Son Lux
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Kimbra earned her bona fides by making soulful and eclectic indie rock that reminded fans and critics of other artists. Fortunately, Kimbra had the chops and talent to warrant glowing comparisons. Her debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a combination of upbeat lounge jazz and electronic pop and reminiscent of an Amy Winehouse record. And the album was critically acclaimed, garnering Kimbra the attention of future high profile collaborators like Mark Foster, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the latter of which performed on Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo. With the 2018 album Primal Heart, Kimbra has broadened her songwriting palette and vocal range, now establishing a style that’s not so easy to compare to her peers and influences.

Who: Y La Bamba w/Malahierba, Stelth Ulvang, DJ A-Train
When: Tuesday, 05.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza was born in San Francisco to parents from Mexico and coming up she took in the folk music and folklore of Mexico. She mostly grew up in Oregon and when she formed Y La Bamba in Portland, Mendoza found musicians who shared her musical tastes and inclinations. But rather than a straightforward folk and Americana act, Y La Bamba included, of course, lyrics in Spanish as well as subtle use of electronic instruments to enhance a sense of the otherworldly present in the group’s vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation. In a way, the music suggests the feeling one gets from reading the more mystical works of Zora Neal Hurston in which the material world is very tactile but informed by the presence of the spiritual world in the subject matter and the tone of Hurston’s writing. As with Hurston, Mendoza channels her ancestors and their cultural traditions but bringing her own rich imagination and intelligence to bear in her creative interpretation and expression and extension of those ineffable influences.

Wednesday | May 23, 2018

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Wye Oak, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Wye Oak w/Corsicana
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Wye Oak is the rare band that has recognized a rut as it’s threatening to happen. With its 2011 album Civilian, the duo’s music was finding placement in film and television and that would have reinforced a creative tendency by rewarding creation using a generally specific method. So the band took some time off from Wye Oak with drummer Andy Stack moving away from Baltimore in search of being around a different sort of artistic climate in Texas and Portland. Guitarist and vocalist Jenn Wasner put time into Dungeonesse, an electronic pop and R&B project with producer Jon Ehrens. When Wye Oak was working on new music it took a different direction with less emphasis on Wasner’s admittedly imaginative and evocative guitar work and more on beats and textured, composed melodies. Thus the 2014 album Shriek and Tween, the 2016 album that all but outlined that transition from the musical thinking of Civilian to that of Shriek. The 2018 Wye Oak album The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is the kind of album a band releases after it has reinvented itself and then considered what it would like to say next before doing so.

Who: Starjammer vs. Lunetta, Atari, Sleepy Nemo, Human Hearts and Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Starjammer is difficult to categorize beyond it’s self-described “Avant-Garde/Dub-Reggae.” Seems legit as Squids Madden was recently seen playing sax on stage with Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Ogden. He will also probably bring his lighting rig to add another layer of otherworldliness to this collaborative set with Lunetta, a project that could be described as lo-fi industrial psych. Atari cuts together vinyl records to produce truly unique samples that he manipulates by hand at the live show giving less actual control over frequencies and rhythms from the sample proper. He gives the sounds the contexts and thus the art of what Atari is doing. Mahou Odd Genie & Norm L. Princess sounds like some kind of weirdo field recording project mixed with intentional music and noise. Basically, the show with the weirdest music this month unless you’re going to an Ultra Metal event.

Who: Bob Log III w/Simulators
When: Wednesday, 05.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bob Log III is a one man band who, sure, plays a mutant version of Delta blues but he does wearing a face-obscuring-ly tinted helmet and otherwise looking like maybe he was pulled from a band in Judge Dredd or a reconstituted civilization following the era depicted in the Max Max movies. When he was a member of Doo Rag, Bob Log III’s confrontational performance style won over audiences when he was opening for much more famous bands. Probably because not many people had seen anything quite like it. Opening for Bob in Denver is SIMULATORS, the noise rock/post-punk band comprised of Bryon Parker formerly of Accordion Crimes and Raleigh and Brian Polk of Joy Subtraction. The band’s jagged rhythms and blunt, to the point music should appeal to fans of Shellac because it often does sound that savage.

Red Aunts Never Let Rock Tradition Get In the Way of Its Noisy Punk Fun

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Red Aunts, photo courtesy Red Aunts

Red Aunts are headlining Fem Fest at the MCA Denver on Saturday, May 12. While the punk band, formed in Long Beach, California in 1992, isn’t as well known as some of its contemporaries, it was certainly one of the most original and beloved by those that came under the band’s spell of chaos and playfulness before it split around 2001.

The last time Red Aunts performed in Denver was on July 17, 1998 at the Bluebird Theater. The band had already come through Denver and Boulder in early April of that year playing with King Rat and Necessary Evils at Lion’s Lair and Electric Summer at Club 156. At the Bluebird show, the roots punk King Rat and the garage rock Down N Outs warmed up the crowd with impressive sets of their own. But when Red Aunts took stage, the group had an excitingly unpredictable quality that perfectly suited its its unique sound, a kind of blend of noisy punk and garage rock. Then, at one point in the set, either Kerry Davis or Terri Wahl broke a guitar string and announced, “You’d think that in seven years of being in a band that I would have learned to change my strings but I didn’t. Is there anyone that can come up here to help me with that?” Someone did. Perhaps that moment, that likely happened periodically in the band’s career, struck some as unprofessional, but to others it showed that you didn’t need to have complete expertise or mastery of all areas of one’s art all at the same time in order to do it with credibility or at all. Clearly the members of the Red Aunts weren’t letting what some might perceive as shortcomings get in the way of being a band. “Oh yeah, nor did we care,” says Wahl. “I think that was more the thing. We just didn’t give a fuuuck.”

That creative spirit liberated from the confinements of conventional thinking was part of the band from the beginning. Wahl had moved to Long Beach from Anaheim, after a stint in Fullerton, with her vintage clothing business. But she’d always loved music and as a teenager had seen and been inspired by the likes of X, Social Distortion, The Mau Maus and Christian Death.

“I would sneak out my bedroom window and drive with my friends from Anaheim to Los Angeles to see bands,” recalls Wahl. “That’s what opened my eyes to punk rock. But I didn’t start a band until ten years after that.”

In Long Beach, Wahl came upon the idea of starting her own band with her friend Debi Martini, who was already doing a music ‘zine with her now ex-husband, Edwin Lecher, called Read Life In The Big City. The latter helped put the fledgling band in contact with several other musicians around the world over the years. Before starting Red Aunts, though, Wahl and Martini had already been around musicians but decided not to be bound by the same perceived barriers to entry in starting a band.

“We all had boyfiends that were in bands and we’d end up at these parties and all they could do was talk about their stupid bands,” says Wahl. She decided she would play guitar “because it’s the coolest” and Martini said she would play bass because she thought her boyfriend had one. A friend told Wahl that his friend Kerry was moving to Long Beach from New York and wanted to be in a band as well. With the addition of drummer Lesley Ishino, Red Aunts was born, a band formed by people who hadn’t really played music before. Developing chops and honing of craft in a traditional and creatively stultifying way before getting out and playing shows was not to be part of the history of Red Aunts. “We wrote songs and learned to play our instruments as our band was going,” says Wahl. “It was awesome.”

Red Aunts wasted no time in playing live, “Right off the bat, whether we should have or not,” quips Wahl, and one of its earliest shows was with respected 80s and 90s Illinois punk band The Didjits.

“They were coming through town and the venue that they were going to play at got shut down and we were like, ‘Oh, let’s have the show in Debi’s garage and the Red Aunts will open for you!’” recalls Wahl. “It was on the Fourth of July. The only reason I remember that is that I found a miniskirt made out of an American flag and I was like, ‘Oh! That’s what I’m wearin’ for the Fourth of July! That’s the perfect outfit!’ Because you always have to pick your outfits too. That’s half the fun!”

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Red Aunts live 2017, photo courtesy Red Aunts

Early on, though, Red Aunts, like most bands, played a lot of local shows and mostly with all male bands some of whom, especially then, even now, were skeptical of an all female band, especially one like Red Auints who made no bones about their emphasis on creativity and songwriting over technical prowess. Long term having its own sound and aesthetic worked out for Red Aunts but its early peers perhaps didn’t give it the respect it would eventually earn. “In my opinion I don’t think they received us well because we couldn’t play very well,” says Wahl. “And so they were just like, ‘Oh, stupid girl band.’ As soon as we started going and touring we became way more popular than them. That ended a lot of relationships—marriages and others.”

As in much of music, many musicians forget that some of the most interesting music is made by those who are not cognitively or culturally bound by the “rules,” especially the supposedly anarchic roots of punk rock and rock and roll itself. The willingness to play and write songs without having classic skill is often key.

“Punk rock made it okay to not have to play that well,” says Wahl. “We always used that as, like, ‘Well, who cares, man? Close enough for punk rock.’ Then, as we were touring for months out of the year we got really good at playing—we got really good at our songs at least. We also got more confident and it was fun.”

Fortunately, Red Aunts found support in the local community and the larger punk scene. Some of its early releases were put out by Long Gone John on his Sympathy For the Record Industry imprint, which was then based in Long Beach. “[John] gave us that first chance of actually putting something out and he was really supportive and just a really good guy.”

Within a few years Red Aunts had built up enough of an audience and reputation to draw the interest of Epitaph Records and signed with the imprint before the release of its third full-length, 1995’s irreverent #1 Chicken as well as its subsequent records, 1996’s Saltbox and the 1998 swan song Ghetto Blaster.

“[Signing with Epitaph was] when thing really happened because being on that label meant we could go on tour because we got tour support,” says Wahl. “We took full advantage of that and we went out quite often. How you became popular was touring a lot. Before then we didn’t tour nationally. We would go up the coast a little bit but when we got on Epitaph, that’s when were able to really get out there.”

In the second half of the 90s, Red Aunts were inspired by the noisy punk bands that were signed to labels like Amphetamine Reptile, Touch and Go, Thrilljockey, Estrus Records, Empty Records and In the Red Records. At that time, as now, indie labels were the home of music that probably wouldn’t be given the time of day by major labels, especially after the early 90s when the music industry snapped back to a more conservative mode of operations rather than take chances as it had when alternative music forced a sea change in the early 90s. Certainly a band with a gift for noisy punk, wild energy and an irreverently surrealistic sense of humor like Red Aunts wouldn’t have fit in with being groomed for mainstream stardom.

One of the main ingredients in the Red Aunts sound was its willingness to throw together seemingly disparate ideas in music and lyrics, written by various band members, and make them work even when the styles and ideas seem to clash. It’s a method that has more in common with the avant-garde than punk but in itself more punk than a band making music trying to fit into someone else’s formula. For example, from #1 Chicken, the song “Detroit Valentine” sounds completely insane in the best way and its lyrics shift between cartoonish violence and romantic obsession.

“That was about Mick Collins,” says Wahl. “We became really good friends with him. Kerry had a crush on him, on his voice, you know? It was called that because he was from Detroit. Debi’s part of the song ‘I’m bound for Black Mountain me and my razor gun I’m gonna shoot him if he stands still and cut him if he run.’ I don’t know what she was talking about. But the part Debi sings and the part Kerry sings are about different things. The part Debi sings she wrote and the part Kerry sings she wrote and we just kind of jammed them together. That’s how a lot of our songs are, actually. That’s why there’s so many time changes and weird progressions and changes.”

While this method of songwriting came naturally to Red Aunts, the band, Davis and Wahl in particular, were big fans of noise punk legends Pussy Galore. “Their songs were so weird with so many time changes and chord progressions,” says Wahl. “We wanted to be like that.”

When Red Aunts split up near the turn of the century it wasn’t a dramatic blowout. Davis and Martini moved to New York and Wahl decided to focus on her catering company, which prevented any kind of touring. Wahl pretty much stopped playing music but Davis and Martini continued to play music, Davis notably as Two Tears, and Ishino went on to perform in various bands including Alaska! from Los Angeles.

Then in 2016, In the Red Records head Larry Hardy issued a “greatest hits” compilation called COME UP FOR A CLOSER LOOK subsequent to which the band approached Hardy to play the label’s 25th Anniversary Festival on July 15, 2016. Wahl had to re-learn how to play the bands songs from the group’s friend and guitar tech Zack Malner but the show proved to be so much fun that Red Aunts decided to continue and play occasional dates, life demands permitting, including, as mentioned previously, at Fem Fest in Denver on May 12, June 1 at Boot & Saddle in Philadelphia and at Rough Trade in New York City on June 2.

It’s difficult to say if Red Aunts have been directly influential on other bands but one hears that spirit of faith in one’s inherent creativity to guide one’s art as well as a wild noisy punk in the likes of Atlanta, Georgia’s The Coathangers, but certainly the band has been a good example of how originality will always be more interesting than following the beaten path. For her part, Wahl is finding satisfaction in this new chapter of the band’s history.

“I kind of feel like we’re better now,” says Wahl. “It could just be me. We’re not as drunk and I’m just having a lot of fun.”