Best Shows in Denver 8.18 – 8.23

Downtown Boys, photo by Miguel Rosario, text by Tom Murphy

Now that the Smash Mouth show in Parker that was to happen Saturday is canceled you can make other plans either this evening or over the weekend. Here are some choice options as summer wraps up.

Who: Weapönizer album release for Lawless Age w/Throne of Belia, Rotstrotter and Chemically Crippled
When: Friday, 8.18, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Weapönizer has long been one of the best, most underrated, metal bands in Denver. It’s latest album, Lawless Age, is a showcase for how black metal, death/grind and a well-crafted rock song with hooks are not irreconcilable concepts. You also get to see excellent grind acts Rotstrotter and Chemically Crippled. Also, the show costs $6.66. Someone, somewhere involved in the show, has a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor.

Who: Future Days
When: Friday, 8.18, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Future Days is a three-piece, yet completely legit, Can cover band. It includes drummer Andrew Lindstrom who has played in noise jazz band Nightshark and sludge punk outfit Git Some. Guitarist Zach Bauer is also a veteran local musician whose versatile talent you could hear in outsider punk band Zombie Zombie and stoner noise rock outfit The Outer Neon. Bauer also has a brilliant weirdo pop album in the can that someone should help him put out. It’s like if Harry Nilsson and David Bowie worked on a secret project together. In addition to other material the band will perform “Sing Swan Song: and “More More Night” for this show.

Who: Native Daughters, Abrams and Black Lamb
When: Saturday, 8.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Native Daughters are going on extended hiatus after this show. The instrumental heavy rock band writes songs as powerful and as compelling as watching an epic adventure movie. Sharing the stage tonight is the stoner rock band Black Lamb coming out of its own semi-retirement to show how harrowing emotion and mutant blues metal can be inspirational. Denver’s Abrams is a sludge rock band that puts momentum behind otherwise slow dynamics. Because of that, Abrams is able to tap into a familiar sound while giving what could be a well-worn genre a shot of real vitality.

Who: Get Loose w/DJs Roger That & John Tyler
When: Saturday, 8.19, 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Where: The Thin Man
Why: Roger That and John Tyler are part of Denver’s electronic music world producing original music that is more like the underground techno that has been part of the more forward thinking end of electro in the world of the last ten years. Roger That once honed his craft in Berlin before returning to Denver within the last handful of years and that experience informed not just his music but the kind of soul-infused DJ sets like that which you can catch at this event.

Who: Cat Power w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 8.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Still Tide is one of many bands making indie rock relevant again. Mainly because its songwriting and use of sound goes beyond the ossified chamber pop and watered down R&B-isms that made that form of music so stale by 2008. Some may consider The Still Tide a dream pop or shoegaze band because its creative use of atmospheric elements but even without such refinements The Still Tide’s songs shine for not being entirely predictable yet accessible. Also, Chan Marshall, Cat Power, isn’t someone who is phoning it in whether in her songwriting or as a performer. She was known for hushed pop songs early in her career and then her 2012 album Sun became an embodiment of the experimental impulses on all her records up until that time. Five years later, who knows what Chan Marshall will bring to the stage? That one can have that question of a performer two decades into her career must surely be considered a good thing.

Who: Downtown Boys w/Surf Mom and Bleak Plaza
When: Sunday, 8.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Downtown Boys are arguably one of the most exciting “punk” bands today. Its new record, Cost of Living, recorded with Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto (who also produced records from Blonde Redhead and The Gossip). But pedigree and hyperbolic statements about a band being good are not enough. One should know that Downtown Boys take buoyant noise rock and play it with an irrepressible, youthful verve while singing anthems that take direct aim at social/economic inequality and the pervasive sense of fear and despair that plagues the world today. Is it any wonder that a band that is redefining or at least reinvigorating with vibrant ideas and undeniable passion comes from Providence, Rhode Island? That place that gave us bands like Arab on Radar, White Mice, Six Finger Satellite and all that great stuff on Load Records? Doesn’t seem like a coincidence and Downtown Boys is worthy of any of the aforementioned even if there’s no direct connection between the members of Downtown Boys and Providence’s great local music tradition. That the band is doing the reverse of “Girls” bands with no women in them is also cool statement in itself.

Who: PiperFest w/Colfax Speed Queen, Ned Garthe Explosion and High Plains Honky
When: Sunday, 8.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is, “[a] benefit show and silent auction for 3 year old Piper Waneka who was recently diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) an extremely rare, aggressive, and inoperable brain tumor. All proceeds go towards medical costs and quality of life expenses for Piper.” So yes, a good cause. But you get to see the great psychedelic garage band Colfax Speed Queen and Ned Garthe Explosion, a psychedelic rock band that answers the question in the positive about whether great bunches of humor and disparate musical ideas can make for a good band. But Ned Garthe Explosion is beyond merely good. Best stage banter in Denver? Maybe so.

Who: Washed Out w/Dega
When: Tuesday, 8.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Ernest Greene evolved right out of the chillwave straightjacket music journos who chimed in wanted to slap onto his music pretty quickly. Even though Greene’s song “Feel It All Around” is now synonymous with the opening music to Portlandia that the song can evoke memories of a more beautiful and tranquil time in your life almost every time is a testament to Greene’s gift for tapping into that part of your brain and memory. After exploring where he could go with guitars and a talent for writing non-wack nostalgic music, it seemed as though Greene became a little disillusioned with that musical path. All along he’d already had an interest in hip-hop production including his extensive use of samples on various records. He followed those instincts for his new album, 2017’s Mister Mellow. That it saw a release on respected experimental hip-hop label Stones’ Throw is perfect. Greene is still finding his footing after his reinvention but his ability to tap into an intospective yet hopeful frame of mind and evoke that in his listeners is completely intact. Likely he’ll play old songs but this tour will be one of the first times most people will get to see the new material that is more than a stones throw from his earlier dream pop/chillwave roots.

Who: Pleasure Prince w/Nasty Nachos and Retrofette
When: Wednesday, 8.23, 8/8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: In 2009, Lily Scott appeared on the ninth season of American Idol. While she didn’t take first place, Scott made an impression on many who saw her song. But, creatively anyway, Scott went on to much more respectable endeavors including her rock band Varlet. While Varlet didn’t become a household name, it released some great music. Scott spent some time not being so public with her music making but her latest project, Pleasure Prince based out of Brooklyn, is making its debut in Denver. Lily Scott is a real vocal talent and Pleasure Prince’s downtempo atmospherics is proving to be a good vehicle for that.

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Modern Leisure’s releases latest single “The Secret Art”

Casey Banker of Modern Leisure, photo by Paul Banker, article by Tom MurphyModernLeisure_PaulBanker1

Casey Banker has certainly left his mark on Denver’s indie rock world over the last nine years. While living in Greeley, he started The Don’ts and Be Carefuls with some friends in 2008, his brother Paul joining a year later. Although the name was a bit unwieldy the music was lively and Banker’s lyrics strikingly well composed. The Don’ts flourished at a time in Denver and America generally when indie rock wasn’t some tired thing watered down by imitation and oversaturation. And even as trends wended in the latter direction, Banker’s gift for sharp observations about his own life and the world around him remained strong and great songwriting never really goes out of style. The band split in September 2012.

Banker went on to play in member of Shady Elders in which he shared songwriting duties with Fox Rodemich. That group had a moodier, dream pop side to its sound that garnered a respectable fanbase. But there were the inevitable creative differences and resulting personal differences and Banker exited the band (which has since gone on indefinite hiatus circa July 2017). But in 2016, Banker re-emerged with a new group called Modern Leisure that more fully reflected his creative vision and sensibility.

Modern Leisure has been releasing singles since summer 2016 but its latest, “The Secret Art,” has been released (listen and download below the interview) with plans for the full length, Super Sad Rom-Com to drop on October 20, 2017. Banker recently shared some thoughts on his new band and the ways in which his songwriting has evolved since his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls. Modern Leisure performs at the Hi-Dive with Kyle Emerson and Down Time. Doors 8:30, show 9 p.m. 21+, $10. At the show you can pick up a copy of the 7″ of “The Secret Art” backed with “Girls in Black.”

QCSA: You’ve been in prominent Denver bands of the past including The Don’ts And Be Carefuls, The Outfit and Shady Elders (maybe others). What do you get to do or put forth with Modern Leisure that maybe you weren’t able to in the past?

Casey Banker: It started a few years ago after I found myself without a band again. I had just got out of the longest relationship I’d ever been in. So I moved into a cheap studio apartment in the Speer neighborhood in Denver. I lived there for about 18 months and over two summers. A little bit after moving in I started writing. The ideas came out fast. I found myself reflecting on relationships and experiences I’d had since moving to Denver in 2010. About a lot of the people that came in and out of my life and all the shows and crazy experiences I’d had. My time living in that apartment was also kind of wild since I was on my own again and it felt like the last hurrah of my 20s. Living in that neighborhood, which is near the Denver Country Club and a lot of rich people, informed the music too. Seeing such a large growing income gap felt like the end of a Denver era… Denver felt pretty different than it had 5 years ago and my life did too.

So I wrote most of the songs while I was there and when I moved out I put the band together and started figuring out how to record the album. That’s when I named it too. With Modern Leisure I’m finally able to be creatively in charge of a band, which is ideal. It’s not something I ever had before. All the bands I’d been in before had been democratic and those never worked out for me. I wanted to run things from the ground up this time, for better or worse, and felt like I had enough experience to make it work.

Why did the name Modern Leisure suggest itself to you?

Modern Leisure just popped into my head one day. I think the 2 words came from some early Blur albums. Someone mentioned to me that it sounded like an ode to The Modern Lovers and I’m just fine with that. I was also going through a yacht-rock phase at the time and felt that the name perfectly described the inviting yet schmaltzy nature of that music. The name also helped serve as a sort of mission statement that helped direct the music. It’s fun to use an abstract idea to help guide a creative process and Modern Leisure just seemed to encapsulate this weird idea of a seductive malaise that I wanted to get across. It’s also fun to say with an english accent. 

You got to experience being in a band during Denver’s DIY and indie rock heyday. What do you think the current era is better for and/or lacking in regarding being a band in Denver and trying to play shows and get your music out there? 

I don’t know if it ever felt like a heyday at the time. I started playing in bands about 9 years ago. The difference now, I guess, is that everything is much more confusing with social media. There’s a lot more internet pressure to build a relationship with your audience. I do miss how simple it was with Myspace. Making your band a brand will always seem a bit besides the point to me. But you can still have fun with it and make like coasters and frisbees which is fun. Mod Leis yo-yo’s are currently in production.

How do you think the local scene and the cultural infrastructure around it (venues, publications and radio) could do better to cultivate local music?

Open Air, The Colorado Sound, and Radio 1190 are all pillars of local music. I could’ve never dreamed that commercial-free independent music would be blasting 24 hours a day on FM but here we are. A lot of my friends listen to the those stations. Bands could be more discerning on what they are being paid by venues. A lot of artists just think it’s an honor to book a show somewhere but they need to have frank discussions on pay out and where the money is going. The venues aren’t going to do that for you so you have to come to that conversation informed. 

What is The Secret Art? Or what does it represent as a theme for the song?

The Secret Art is essentially a song about being in a terrible situation in your life and still finding a silver lining. It’s me feeling like I’m living in a real-life purgatory and finding comfort in the idea that even the people that I respect the most experience that feeling too. It’s probably the most positive song on the album. 

You’re releasing a single, why not wait to release an EP or an album? 

I booked the hi-dive a few months back thinking the album would be finished but it wasn’t. So releasing a 7” single was the next best thing. Plus I love singles. They’re so precious. 

As a veteran songwriter, do you find your focus in songwriting has changed over the years? What do you feel like you tend to write about now as opposed to the sorts of stuff you wrote about in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls? If it’s similar territory do you feel that your refinement of your treatment of subjects and putting together the songs has undergone an evolution that you can identify in how you go about things now? 

Oh for sure. I had a bit of a wake-up call on how meaningful and moving a song can be over the last few years. Inserting humor and truth inside a great composition can just elevate it another level. My old songs could be quite angsty and a little one-dimensional. Listening to artists like Destroyer, Father John Misty and Metronomy helped a lot. Subject-wise, I’m still on a similar train. I still like writing about characters. Duality and contradiction play a large roll in everything I write. Or that’s what I find the most inspiring to write about. People can be shitty but I don’t think there are too many are truly evil people out there so there’s a lot of good material to be found in just understanding where someone’s coming from.

Best Shows in Denver August 10-August 15

First Timers at Union Station, photo by Tom Murphy01FirstTimers_TomMurphy_Jul18_2017

Yeah, sure, A Tribe Called Quest is playing Red Rocks and it’s probably sold out so if you didn’t already know about it and want to go see one of the most important artists in the history of hip-hop, and probably music generally, there’s always other ways of getting tickets. But fear not, there are plenty of worthy options in the Mile High City this coming week starting tonight and here are ten.
Who: Teacup Gorilla w/The Proto Whats? and Time Traveler
When: Thursday, 8.10, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: On 2nd Thursdays at The Skylark, Claudzilla aka Claudia Woodman curate a show called Musical Mayhem that highlights some of the more interesting leftfield artists in Denver or touring acts that are beneath even the usual small club radar. This time experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla brings its outsider psychedelic glam to the event. Strong songwriting and equally vital and wild imagination is a rare combination and Teacup Gorilla is not short on either.

Who: Chimney Choir w/Alright Alright, Wildermiss and Anthony Ruptak
When: Thursday, 8.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s a Project Worthmore Benefit and in an era when refugees face a hostile world beyond the situation they faced at home it’s a cause to support onits own. But you get to see talented songwriter Anthony Ruptak as well as Chimney Choir. The experimental Americana band always brings a show that goes beyond the usual get up on stage and perform some songs well. A Chimney Choir performance is almost always high concept and involves an element of theater. Also, it’s not just a gimmick, it’s an extension of the excellent songwriting taking the experience of that music into new dimensions that usually encourage audience participation.

Who: Muscle Beach, Product Lust, Zeta (Venezuela), Alumine (FL)
When: Friday, 8.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor, 25 W. Kiowa, Colorado Springs
Why: Colorado Springs DIY space Flux Capacitor was shut down in December 2016. But with a partnership through the Pikes Peak Library District, Flux is now again open in a building on the property of the Penrose branch east of I-25 and Kiowa. Park around back. The reason to go to this show is to see some punk that’s bursting the boundaries of the sound and the style. Muscle Beach is easily one of the best punk bands from Denver disregarding rules about how much metal can be in the punk and vice versa and how “arty” a punk band is allowed to be. Turns out plenty. Same with Product Lust which could be considered a hardcore band with its energy and confrontational performance style but it’s rhythms are so beyond the punk mold and the guitar sound goes through more changes and tones to be shackled by the usual hard and fast rules of the genre.

Who: First Timers with Charming Disaster
When: Friday, 8.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: First Timers is a trio that combines Bossanova rhythms and dusky tones with punk rock attitude. No surprise considering the lineage: guitarist and vocalist Andrew Koch was in Tiger Beat in the 90s as well as weirdo punk group Veronica; drummer Denise Andert used to play in The Get It and Turbo Knife Fight; bassist Sid Pink has been a bit of a personality around Denver and played in various bands, most notably and most recently with American Fucktape. The sound sits in a nice place that bears comparison to the countrified end of Yo La Tengo, Duster’s hushed introspection and Wilco’s explorations of inner space with its unabashed blend of Americana and electronica.

Who: EyeHateGod and Primitive Man, Fathers and Boar Worship
When: Friday, 8.11, 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Primitive Man is really taking Denver music out into the world with its inimitable, nightmarish doom metal. At the live show it’s easy to appreciate how Ethan McCarthy, Jonathan Campos and Joe Linden create atmospheres so dense and harrowing it might be the soundtrack to the world beyond the interdimensional gate in Phantasm. Primitive Man drops its fantastic new record Caustic on October 6 on Relapse Records. Also, EyeHateGod melds harrowing poetry with swampy sludge rock in a way that transports you into both emotional lows and highs at once. It’s the kind of heavy show for people who aren’t into metal but metalheads will find plenty to love as well.

Who: Priests w/Lithics and Princess Dewclaw
When: Saturday, 8.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: DC-based Priests do that uncommon thing of writing songs that are charged with political and socially critical sentiments without coming across like they’re preaching. They’re just telling it like it is in the world today and there’s plenty to talk about without having to look too far for material that affects your everyday life as well that would resonate with other people. Is it punk? It is in spirit. In sound it’s more like the better late 90s/early 2000s emo bands like Rainer Maria and Milemarker in that there don’t seem to be moods, atmospheres and sounds off the palete of expression. And the live show is refreshingly raw and engaging, thus making Priests one of the most interesting and exciting rock bands going now. Denver-based art/noise punk outfit Princess Dewclaw open the show.

Who: Spiritual Cramp featuring: David J. DJ set, Echo Beds, Tragic Black, The BrickBats, Lucas Lanthier, The Pirate Twins (Scary Lady Sarah and William Faith), DJ Malefic (Memento Mori), Wake the Dead (DJs Mr. and Mrs. HoodBats and JunkYard), DJ Rickbats, Davey Bones (The Hanging Garden), Boyhollow, DJ Roland, DJ Slave1, DJ Matte Blacke and Batboy, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Vision
When: Sunday, 8.13, 4 p.m. start
Where: The Church (nightclub)
Why: It’s a kind of Goth festival heavy on DJs but hey, David J of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets, William Faith of Faith & The Muse and Christian Death. Among other luminaries including locals like Boyhollow of Lipgloss fame, DJ Roland, DJ Slave1 and DJ Mudwulf. That would be worth checking out on its own if the curated DJ set is your thing. But Echo Beds is playing a live set bridging the gap between the older Denver Goth scene and the current wave of industrial/darkwave/post-punk coming out of Denver and elsewhere that has no real connection to the older Goth world. Echo Beds is arguably the most prominent industrial band in Denver at the moment but think more like Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department more so than some 90s EBM garbage and future pop.

Who: Product Lust, Entry and faim
When: Sunday, 8.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: If you didn’t feel like going to Colorado Springs on Friday (see above) you can catch Product Lust in Denver at Mutiny.

9. Who: Barbarian w/Peucharist, Nekrofilth and Morgue Whore
When: Monday, 8.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake Lounge
Why: Metal can get a bit tedious when bands stick to a narrow formula and traditions of style. But that’s true for all kinds of music. Fortunately, bands like Italy’s Barbarian didn’t get the memo to just do thrash or death or black metal. Same for Vermont’s Peucharist. And in Denver and Colorado generally people tend to grow in their own directions musically so you get a bands like death/black metal ragers Nekrofilth and Morgue Whore. The latter also apparently realized that writing solid hooks and well-crafted songs needn’t mean you’re settling for being yet another classic rock wannabe. Its 2016 self-titled debut was striking as not just a metal album but as a great set of rock and roll songs.

Who: Melvins with Spotlights
When: Tuesday, 8.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Thank goodness weirdoes like the guys in Melvins have kept at putting out heavy music that refuses to stay in a boring pigeonhole. Its recently released A Walk With Love and Death is its first double record that paired the kind of psychedelic noise rock you might expect from the band with an soundtrack to a forthcoming short film the band is making with Jesse Nieminen. Don’t go expecting the latter, go expecting to see a band you’ve either never seen but heard about or have seen several times and not being surprised by how Melvins manage to keep their show exciting and fresh.