Best Shows in Denver 10/26/17 – 11/01/17

Slowdive
Slowdive, performs at the Ogden Theater on Wednesday, November 1. Photo by Ingrid Pop

 

Thursday: October 26, 2017

The Black Angels
The Black Angels, photo by Alexandra Valenti

Who: The Black Angels w/Ron Gallo
When: Thursday, 10.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: The cover of The Black Angels’ new record, Death Song, itself is a commentary on what’s going on in American culture now and its ripple effect beyond the nation’s borders. Red, white and blue in repeating, circles within larger circles, hypnotic and disorienting, an image suggesting chaos but one that also hints at the possibility of a return to some semblance of coherence and peace. The image, designed by guitarist Christian Bland, is part graphic design style and part minimalist art, much like his work on previous Black Angels albums, but one that suggests movement and confused stasis.

The album’s music bears out those qualities with some of the group’s heaviest and most politically pointed, but never preachy, material to date. The Black Angels were one of the bands that pre-dated the relatively recent wave of psychedelic rock having begun life in 2004 and its own career helped to influence and shape the sound of modern psych with its own music and direct advocacy through Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and The Reverberation Appreciaion Society. While one of the bigger acts out of psychedelic rock today, The Black Angels and other psych acts make the kind of music that resists full commercial co-optation.

As a live act The Black Angels has always been one that integrates the visual presentation of the music with the sounds so that the experience of the show is one that reflects the experience intended with the creation of the music. This time out the urgency, the heaviness, the fear, anxiety and the catharsis that we all hope comes about on the other end of the current national and international nightmare unfolding as we speak.

Who: Me Me Monster, Gort Vs. Goom and Television Generation
When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums duo who perform a kind of eccentric punk and jazz hybrid that may remind some listeners of Primus but it’s weirdness has as much to do with one of that band’s influences, The Residents, as with any post-Mr. Bungle art rock band. GvG (for MMO nerds even if not fully intentional on the part of the band) also often perform in costume or some sort of get-up. And Me Me Monster and its commitment to theater and spectacle is a good fit but its own warped hard rock sounds like what might happen if Neil Young got into making psychedelic prog but went through a weirdo jazz phase teaming up with Robin Trower. Television Generation isn’t overtly weird. It’s brand of fuzzy punk, psychedelic garage rock and pop bears some comparison to Love Battery but there is even more of a sardonic sense of humor informing its songwriting and presentation.

Who: Perry Weissman 3, Roger Green and Andy Monley
When: Thursday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Perry Weissman 3 is a long-running avant-garde jazz and rock band that was perhaps most active in the 90s and earl 2000s. Roger Green is the genius guitarist and avant-garde composer who may be best known for his stint in local slowcore band The Czars, which included experimental pop songwriter John Grant. And hey, while we’re talking about former members of The Czars, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, Andy Monley, is on this bill as well. Monley, however, has plenty of respectable music outside The Czars including his still going tenure with alternative rock band/country punk weirdos, Jux County and his exquisitely written and thoughtful solo material.

Who: Jerkagram, The Uglys, Chromadrift, Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh
When: Thursday, 10.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar (Carioca Café)
Why: Jerkagram from Los Angeles is one of those bands that didn’t really fit in a single genre of music so its styles can be all over the place and all at once. But loosely more on the heavier and math-y end of things. In some ways the band is reminiscent of former Denver art rock weirdoes Action Friend who now live and play in L.A.. The Uglys get dubbed this and that and probably haven’t fully decided what they are themselves. How a band can remind you of both Mudhoney, At the Drive-In and Fu Manchu all at once I don’t know but that’s The Uglys for you. Some screamy stoner rock, if you will. Chromadrift? As in Drew Miller? The IDM/ambient artist whose music is so ethereally beautiful it immediately transports you to a better place? Indeed. Filling out the bill are Sleeping Bears and December Eleventh, progressive metal bands from Georgia.

Friday: October 27, 2017

Brotherhood Of Machines
Brotherhood Of Machines, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Brujeria w/Powerflo and Piñata Protest
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Brujeria is almost pure schtick as a North Mexico drug cartel/national liberation group/band. Death metal, grindcore, unabashed takedowns of questionable politicians like Donald Trump (pre/post-presidency) and lots of cartoonishly dark humor. But the music to some extent transcends the joke because the musicians are members of other well-known heavy acts like Napalm Death, Carcass, Cradle of Filth, Criminal and others. Opening act Piñata Protest is a highly entertaining hybrid of ska punk and Norteño.

Who: Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Chelsea Wolfe has spent her career writing in a variety of musical styles but all of it has been a vehicle for her stark rendering of emotional turmoil and channeling that into challenging yet entrancing works of art. Wolfe’s last few records have brought forth in explicable form the subconscious ghosts that have long haunted the songwriter. Her latest, 2017’s Hiss Spun, is the heaviest set of songs Wolfe has yet released. Heavy but also heady and sonically expansive. If some of Wolfe’s previous records could feel and sound claustrophobic as a reflection of an insular creative vision, Hiss Spun is that vision opened up and shared more fully with anyone who might want to share in that experience as someone well-acquainted with personal demons and/or as someone that appreciates an authentic emotional experience so intensely realized.

Youth Code while a different animal musically, is a great fit for this tour because Sarah Taylor’s own unrelenting emotional intensity on stage is something to witness. The band’s dark, industrial bursts of tones and rhythm have evolved considerably since its earliest recordings and 2016’s Commitment to Complications revealed a band that is more than a thrilling jackhammer of aggressive music. There is a moody underbelly and a catharsis of internalized melancholy alongside the desperation you’d expect.

Who: Church Fire and Motion Trap
When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Black Shirt Brewery
Why: It could be argued that both of the bands on the bill are electronic dance bands of the highest order because they are. Motion Trap, though, is tends toward bright tones and more keyed into the kind of aesthetic for dance clubs because it is very upbeat. But its music is way too steeped in strong pop songwriting to fully fit in that world. One of the few bands it does seem to fit in with is Church Fire whose dark undertones, politically-charged, noisy synth pop is one of the most exciting bands in Denver or anywhere right now. It’s own unabashed embrace of hip-hop beat production and industrial and dance music isn’t necessarily obvious. This will be an outdoor show starting at 8 p.m. so bring warm clothing.

Who: Mux Mool, atruc, RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines 
When: Friday, 10.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Kind of a more leftfield live dance music/hip-hop night with progressive beat maker Mux Mool, alternative hip-hop duo Curta playing as atruc, electro-guitar-based ambient solo act RUMTUM and Brotherhood of Machines. The latter’s combination of ambient, IDM and dubtechno-flavored beats is always very different from many of the acts in whose company he finds himself. The 2016 album III Pillars was a triptych of hypnotic noise and textured atmospheres that established a sense of place. Except that place wasn’t in normal reality.

Who: Rot Congress Night 1: Loanword, Boat Drinks, Jobless, The Far Stairs, Fake Awake
When: Friday, 10.27, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Hot Congress, the long-running indie rock collective, has been hosting this Halloween-themed event for years with some of the best bands out of that corner of the Denver music scene. This first night includes ambient project Loanword is on tap as is lo-fi band Jobless and former Hindershot keyboardist Jesse Livingston’s experimental synth pop band The Far Stairs.

Saturday: October 28, 2017

Cults
Cults, photo by Shawn Brackbill

Who: Cults w/Cullen Omori and Hideout
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Cults made a bit of a splash with its debut EP and “Go Outside” single in 2010. Its evocation of upbeat, breezy 60s pop mixed with a sense of the otherworldly. Like an alternative history science fiction story born out of heartbreak, personal trauma or simply plain wanting to recast a drab and depressing present with something more romantic and meaningful without the cheese factor that often accompanies such impulses and creative work that comes out of them. Cults latest record, 2017’s Offering, finds the band maintaining that Julee Cruise-esque, dreamlike, nostalgic tone but this time with a broader palette of sounds and rhythms. Where some of the earlier music sounded like it was tapping into some of Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studios years’ vibe, Offering sounds more present and immediate. Opener Cullen Omori was once a member of up-and-coming pop/rock band Smith Westerns. When that band split in 2014, Omori continued writing and performing under his own name. The music wasn’t radically different but the tone seemed to shift. Smith Westerns was very rooted in 70s rock. Omori’s solo output is more reminiscent of a modern version of a New Wave band with a gently psychedelic overtone. More synth, more lush sounds overall. His 2016 album, New Misery, sounded like an artist who wasn’t creatively cutting all ties with his old band so much as reinventing it and, um, culling the elements that didn’t work for him the first time around.

Who: TR/ST
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Robert Alfons doesn’t yet have a new record out but TR/ST released a new single, “Bicep,” over the summer. The new track sounds like Alfons is wending more in the direction of EBM than the synth/dance pop of his first two records. TR/ST was one of the few bands that Goth DJs in Denver would play out of the wave of dark electro music that has been very much part of the indie underground since the second half of the 2000s. No, it didn’t sound like Depeche Mode or even Erasure but Alfons’ songs were as dark and moody as anything the former has ever released and as celebratory yet thoughtful as the latter’s best material. When TR/ST recently played Denver it was a well-attended show at The Bluebird so here’s a chance to see the project at a much smaller venue.

Who: Rot Congress Night 2: Kissing Party, Bleak Plaza, Quantum Creep, Voight (as The Cure), Wrinkle (as Guided By Voices), Last of the Easy Riders and Wild Flowers (Fleetwood Mac)
When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: See above re: Hot Congress’ annual Halloween show. Excellent indie pop bands Kissing Party, Bleak Plaza and Quantum Creep will perform. Industrial post-punkers Voight will perform a set of songs by The Cure for the first and last time. Lo-fi emo greats Wrinkle will do a Guided By Voices set.

Who: Mehvana (as Nirvana), Denver Meatpacking Company (as Hüsker Dü) and Lawsuit Models (as Jimmy Eat World)
When: Saturday, 10.28, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Bands performing covers sets for Halloween isn’t the most original thing in the world but all the bands on the bill for this show are at least trying out something different with grunge-esque band Denver Meatpacking Company doing a set of Hüsker Dü songs probably focusing on the middle era. It’s not a huge leap for pop punk band Lawsuit Models to a Jimmy Eat World set but putting yourself in someone else’s creative head space even if you’re influenced by their work takes some effort when you’re not some session musician or someone that generally plays in cover bands.

Who: Sharone & The Wind (“Night of Terror”) w/Black July, 21 Taras and Married a Dead Man
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Why: It’s a Halloween show that Sharone & The Wind is advertizing as their “Night of Terror” so expect some theatrical shenanigans from the Denver hard rock band. In recent months the band has reinvented itself in a direction more like a cross between a proto-death rock band and a blues-inflected emo group. Sounds like it shouldn’t work but it does. Married a Dead Man is a Goth/death rock band that came out of people who played in the punk and hardcore scene beforehand. Sonically, sort of reminiscent of Sunshine Blind but rougher around the edges at the moment—you know, that ethereal synth with some metallic guitar with a female vocalist who sounds like she is no stranger to belting it a little.

Who: Bob Log III w/Colfax Speed Queen
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Bob Log III used to freak people out as the confrontational frontman of Doo Rag. The Crash Worship crowds for whom the duo played probably got it but the Lollapalooza crowd probably wasn’t used to seeing weirdo blues quite that raw and primal. As a solo artist, Bob Log III has only pushed the theatrical side of his act further with strange costumes like a carnie, blues punk Dex Romweber. Denver’s Colfax Speed Queen won’t be quite as stripped down but it’s own psychedelic garage rock is surprisingly forceful and disorienting in its own way.

Who: Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System w/Gracie Bassie, TNERTLE (solo) 
When: Saturday, 10.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the architects of modern music as we know it. As the producer at the now defunct Black Ark in Jamaica, Perry was one of the pioneers of dub, which is a radical remixing and reproduction of existing music and represents one of the earliest forms of electronic music and a creative use of an early version of sampling. Directly or indirectly, as an engineer, producer or musician, Perry shaped the sound of much of reggae music and through that of punk, hip-hop and electronic music from the 70s forward. In recent years, Perry has collaborated with house/experimental electronic band The Orb on original material. His live show is a masterful delivery of his imaginative soundscaping and hypnotic rhythms.

Sunday: October 29, 2017

Curta
Curta, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Ministry w/Death Grips
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Ministry somehow made the crossover from synth pop (With Sympathy) to EBM (Twitch and to some extent The Land of Rape and Honey) to industrial rock (by the time of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Taste) in the course of seven years. It’s a remarkable transformation and at each stage Ministry was one of the very best bands in those respective genres. Since then Ministry’s newer material has been on the heavier end of music though arguably more difficult to neatly classify. The current touring incarnation of Ministry is focusing on material post-1988. If you’ve been switched off for 30 years and are expecting tracks from the EBM era and would be disappointed not to see it live, don’t go. But if you appreciate Al Jourgensen’s mutant heavy music from The Mind forward, it’ll be a worthy selection of material. Death Grips is an industrial hip-hop band with a charismatic frontman in MC Ride and one of modern popular music’s greatest drummers in Zach Hill. Even if you’re not into hip-hop for some reason Death Grips is really more of an experimental band that doesn’t really bother with splitting hairs between the aesthetics of hip-hop, noise, industrial music or whatever its own style might be that comes out of that.

Who: Haunted Sound Laboratory, Unbridled Sonic Anarchy, Chris Sessions, Jonathan Cash
When: Sunday, 10.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Textures is an ambient showcase that happens at Mutiny the final Sunday of every month. This time, host Wesley Davis’ own Unbridled Sonic Anarchy will be performing alongside Jonathan Cash who some may know more for his noise project Break Dancing Ronald Reagan.

Who: Vanilla Milkshakes, Denver Meatpacking Company and Uncle Bad Touch
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This is another Halloween-themed show and apparently grunge/punk band Vanilla Milkshakes will treat those in attendance with its take on The Ramones and DMC will reprise its Hüsker Dü cover set from the night before.

Who: 2Mex, Onry Ozzborn, Early Adopted and Curta
When: Sunday, 10.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: 2Mex may not be a household name but in the alternative hip-hop scene of the 1990s (and now for that matter) he has long been a star. His witty and imaginative wordplay was honed at the open mic nights at Good Life Café in South Central Los Angeles and he has been willing to couch it in beats that reflect popular music of the time. More importantly his raps criticize his own music culture, American culture in general and himself with humorously poetic sensibility. Onry Ozzborn is a respected alternative hip-hop artist in his own right whose music seems to favor darker tones and downtempo beats. As a member of Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine Ozzborn’s gritty stories were reminiscent of Aesop Rock’s literary output, and of course the two rappers have collaborated. Opening act, Denver’s Curta, incorporates a more industrial and psychedelic/experimental electronic flavor into its beats. Apparently this will be the last show with founding keyboardist/guitarist Brent Larsen, aka 4Digit who is moving out of town.

Who: Governor Mortimer Leech (Widow’s Bane) undead and unplugged
When: Sunday, 10.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Widow’s Bane is the undead pirate band from Boulder. They do interviews in character and perform in character. Is it “character”? Anyway, Governor Mortimer Leech will be performing a rare acoustic show early at Ophelia’s and it’s free.

Monday: October 30, 2017

Ghoulfriend
Ghoulfriend, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Cobalt, Worry and Fathers
When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Greeley-based black metal band Cobalt didn’t play much in the first decade or so of its existence and nevertheless garnered a bit of an international following. Founding member Phil McSorley left the project in 2014 but Erik Wunder (who also plays in one of Jarboe’s bands) and Charlie Fell (formerly of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Abigail Williams) have kept the band going and completed its best album to day, 2016’s Slow Forever. The band’s previous records were boundary pushing in what can be an insular musical style and Slow Forever‘s expansive dynamism sacrificing none of the bleakness and brutality was something of a new chapter for the band. Colorado Springs-based deathgrind band Worry and Denver’s heavy band super group (with members of Native Daughters, Cult of the Lost Cause and Lords of Fuzz) round out the bill.

Who: Ghoulfriend, Corner Girls, Page 27, art by Katherine Louise, Jesse Nickell and poetry by Kelsey Carolyn Bowe
When: Monday, 10.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghouloween 2017 will be held in the basement of Syntax for extra spookiness. It’ll be a night of art, music and poetry. Chances are you won’t see the bands on the same bill again any time soon. Ghoulfriend is weirdo guitar project of Trey Tafoya of Ancient Elk and déCollage. Some bands play psychedelic rock, Ghoulfriend takes the concept of using guitar to expand sound palettes to a higher and more original level while still making it accessible. Page 27 is one of Denver’s, and the world’s, longest-running noise bands. Now, P27’s soundscape has included harsh noise and sometimes still does but it’s more like a hypnotic, modulated drone that pulls in sounds that one does not often associate with the genre called drone. Corner Girls is an excellent surf rock/punk band whose lyrics are often enough an irreverent take-down of patriarchal cultural features that should have been weeded out of our collective unconscious decades ago but somehow still linger and affect people’s everyday lives. Addressing it with music is simply a peaceful and creative way to discuss the issues.

Tuesday: October 31, 2017

Alvvays
Alvvays, photo by Ardin Wray

Who: Alvvays w/Jay Som bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/337225
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Alvvays’ self-deprecating pop songs could be glum but Molly Rankin and company seem to realize that wallowing in despair rather than finding the humor in life’s downstrokes is more boring than transforming those moments of intense emotions into something creative. The Toronto band’s promising 2014 debut sounded like a band fully formed and tapping a bit into the pop music that came out of the C86 era in its sophisticated simplicity and unabashed embrace of bright and breezy, catchy melodies. The 2017 album, Antisocialites is highlighted with neon-sounding synths like someone in the band has started listening more closely to Missing Persons including the flourishes of tastefully intricate micro guitar solos. The subtle details make it a consistently rewarding listen. Along for this leg of the Alvvays tour is Jay Som whose lo-fi anthems about identity, self-discovery, self-definition and personal liberation seem very relevant in a time when the boorish, hateful and oppressive side of modern American culture has reared its ugly head in a big way. 2017’s Everybody Works is a bracing antidote to all of that even if it may sound like a gentle indie rock record to many.

Who: Itchy-O w/Altas
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: For the uninitiated, Itchy-O is a roughly 32 member avant-garde music performance troupe that plays its shows entirely in costume like mariachi mystics. The band has a full drum corps and other percussion, a taiko section, bass, guitar, synths, processed vocals and other noises and “dancers” that creep about the crowd during the show. It’s a real spectacle and really unlike other bands in every way. That it can release albums that could be worthy of the live show seems implausible but the band recently released its second full-length album, From the Overflowing, on Alternative Tentacles. The records are no replacement for the experience of the band but fascinating listening nevertheless. Instrumental rock band Altas opens the show with its dynamic, cinematic compositions.

Who: Space In Time, Keef Duster, Colfax Speed Queen and Wild Call
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Space in Time is a hard rock band whose sound harkens to a time when early metal and psychedelic rock were not at all far apart. Obvious touchstones for Space in Time would be Deep Purple, Captain Beyond (which included ex-members of Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly) and Uriah Heep with both bands’ gift for writing melodic heavy rock with a fluidly trippy groove. Keef Duster’s music draws on similar inspirations but wends more toward the doom end of the heavy spectrum. Fronted by Kim Phat, who some may know from garage rock punks Dirty Few, Keef Duster is more than a clever name even though it recently released a song called “Hash Hive.” The latter was mixed and produced by Matt Loui of psychedelic garage rock band Colfax Speed Queen, also on the bill.

Who: Captured! By Robots w/908, Bewitcher and Night of the Living Shred
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Captured! By Robots at this point is a great metal band, bordering on death metal and industrial. Most of the band is comprised of robots constructed by JBOT but a lot of the kitsch factor of the earlier part of the project’s life are gone and the performance is much more focused on doing something that isn’t a complete gimmick. Internationally known deathgrind band 908, from Colorado Springs, shares the bill as does skate thrash band Night of the Living Shred. So basically Bryan Ostrow will be doing throat destroying vocals for two bands this night because he’s the Nivek Ogre of extreme metal.

Who: Bronze, Terminals, Master Ferocious, The Pollution and The Stunning Cuntz
When: Tuesday, 10.31, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Three of the handful of good sludge metal bands from Denver at Mutiny? We’ll have to assume some books will fall off shelves at some point. Bronze is named in reference to Mad Max and its heavy music is more tied to bands from the 70s and early 80s with strong songwriting and good vocals rather than the 90s and 2000s stoner rock bands it may sound like. When there seemed to be way too many stoner rock bands in Denver from roughly 2000-2010, Bronze stood out. Members of Master Ferocious came out of some of the better bands of that era too like The Angry Hand of God. Out of the latter, guitarist Mark Pilloud and bassist Brian Kennedy were involved in the founding of Master Ferocious in 2014 and the newer band still seems to write dystopian songs about the present with guitar work that demonstrates an interesting co-influence from, of course, Black Sabbath and late 70s Judas Priest.

Wednesday: November 1, 2017

Slowdive
Slowdive, photo by Ingrid Pop

Who: Slowdive w/Cherry Glazerr
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Of all the shoegaze bands of the late 80s and early 90s, Slowdive was an early adopter of an ambient and electronic music aesthetic. When the group started as a kind of indie pop band called Pumpkin Fairies, its songwriting, inspired in part by atmospheric post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees (the song of whom the fledgling band borrowed its then new name), The Cure and Cocteau Twins. For the 1991 debut full-length, Just For A Day, the ethereal vocals that one now associates with the shoegaze genre was very much in place and so were the expansive, towering guitar drones that the band had developed on its previous EPs.

By the time of the 1993 follow-up, Souvlaki, Slowdive was working with ambient music godfather Brian Eno and had all but abandoned conventional rhythm structure in favor of more organic rhythms giving songs like “Sing” and “Souvlaki Space Station” a quality that melds the tone and the atmosphere into what might later be described as a beat-driven approach to the songwriting. Those musical instincts reached their peak with Slowdive on what might have been its final, and in some ways most daring and interesting album, 1995’s Pygmalion. The latter came out at a time when the alternative music world had long gone down the rockist path with a set of songs based in what seemed like a sonic recreation of pure emotion cast in minimalist textures. It was like a post-rock album seemingly inspired by and synthesizing IDM, abstract dub and ambient house music. The innovative record lost the band their label contract with Creation records and the members of Slowdive went on to other musical concerns over the years including Mojave 3, Monster Movie and The Sight Below.

Perhaps inevitably, Slowdive reunited in 2014 but under its own terms and with the aim of recreating its heart and imagination-stirring music authentically. And its subsequent tours have borne that goal out. Making no promises until the possibility was a bit of a concrete reality, the band didn’t announce new material until Spring 2016. The forthcoming self-titled album, released in May 2017, was not a rehash of the band’s past. It was not an attempt to outdo the sheer experimentalism of Pygmalion. Rather, it was a strong set of songs worthy of all of its earlier music. The music doesn’t feel like nostalgia, it feels like the band knew it had to do something that wouldn’t reject the past but also not be yoked to expectations of any lack of artistic growth on the part of the musicians over the previous twenty-two years. So if you go to the show, and you should if you’re a fan of highly emotionally stimulating music that is an unexpectedly visceral experience, no need to dread any newer, inferior material because the most recent Slowdive songs are far from subpar.

Who: Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Ice Troll, Dear Rabbit and Open to the Hound
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This might be the deluxe edition of Claudia Woodman’s Weird Wednesday series for the first half of the month. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is “Electronica Glam Rock” that includes contributions from Never Kenezzard’s Ryan Peru. Ice Troll is a sort of doom rock orchestra. Dear Rabbit is lo-fi avant-garde folk. Open to the Hound is what might happen if Lloyd Cole formed a band that took some cues from The The and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. It’s just that weird but grounded in classic songwriting sensibilities.

Who: Chicano Batman w/Khruangbin and The Shacks
When: Wednesday, 11.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: To say Chicano Batman is sort of a psychedelic soul band doesn’t quite do it justice because its music comes out of tropicalia, old timey rock and roll and funk without sounding like it’s trying too hard to please everyone. Live, the group presents a unified visual image with matching outfits as one might expect from 60s and 70s Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters and Sunny & The Sunglows. Early on championed by the late, great, Ikey Owens, Chicano Batman got a leg up reaching a wider audience through a 2015 tour with Jack White, with whom Owens had been playing before his untimely death in October 2014. The group’s 2017 album, Freedom is Free, is a bracing antidote to the climate of chaos, desperation and despair that many people have been experiencing with the Trump administration by offering an alternative vision for a better America and a world.

Houston’s Khruangbin is a Thai surf-funk-soul band so it and Chicano Batman are a perfect compliment to one another as Kruangbin’s music isn’t grounded in the same influences even if the music it’s music is also not inspired by music from just one place and one time. Inspired initially by Thai funk cassettes from the 60s and 70s, Khruangbin has found fuel for its creativity in the music that influenced those bands and the music that resulted from those roots that manifested in various ways. Dub, Afrobeat, reggae and hip-hop, among others.

Best Shows In Denver 10/19/17 – 10/25/17

Bell Witch
Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

 

October continues to be the busiest live music month for Denver but one with few if any festivals, thank goodness. As usual here are several offerings worthy of your attention.

Thursday: October 19, 2017

Who: Din Virulent & MGNLP w/Rasmussen and Juice Up 
When: Thursday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: This is basically a harsh noise show but one thing lost on people that either actively despise it or don’t get it at all is that most noise artists are completely unlike every other noise artist. Juice Up has some disorienting arrangements of samples and sounds that’s something like a completely unconventional rhythm but there is a humorous playfulness there. Rasmussen is John Rasmussen of Denver noise legends Page 27. Rasmussen’s solo output is so diverse in texture and tone that even his “harsh” noise sets tend to have a subtlety and nuance that suggests the serious composition and planning that undergirds sounds that aren’t trying to fit at all into a pop song format. Din Virulent sounds like what happens when you chain a few delay pedals together and have them feed back off each other while manipulating the signal for an effect like watching white noise on TV if that image was sound and occasionally felt like it was aggressively charging out at you.

Friday: October 20, 2017

Who: Tera Melos w/Speedy Ortiz, Holophrase and Meet Me In Montauk
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos might be one of the more misunderstood bands of the last several years because it sounds like its member spent some time playing in one of Trey Spruance’s projects: lots of unusual rhythms and dynamics requiring a precise musicianship while not sounding too in the pocket; heavy guitars, disorienting tones and an alternating driving and and hanging melodies. Its 2017 album, Trash Generator, is like a math rock shoegaze album with a touch of brutal psychedelia. In that way Tera Melos could be said to be a bit of a musical cousin to noise rock phenoms Deerhoof. Speedy Ortiz sounds like it picked up where The Breeders and Throwing Muses left off in the mid-to-late 90s with captivating, fuzzy melodic songs that take a walk out of every day mundane life while commenting on that life with with and sensitivity. Holophrase is a Denver band that has come out of being a guitar-based indie rock band (albeit one that didn’t sound much like anything contemporary and only slightly like Magazine) into being a mostly electronics-based band with deep atmospheres and Malgorzata Stacha’s layered vocal melodies serving as an emotional and sonic locus for the group’s hypnotic, chilly soundscapes.

Who: Thurston Moore w/The Diary of Ic Explura
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: It is indeed Thurston Moore of influential No-Wave-and-punk-inflected rock band Sonic Youth. His new album, Rock and Roll Consciousness, showcases Moore’s gift for writing moody pop songs bolstered by dynamic and complex yet tasteful guitar work. It’s melancholy stuff but much of Moore’s best material is yet he also manages to lend his songwriting a thoughtfulness not mired by despair. He can create a gritty image and imbue it with some future hopefulness not yet obvious in the moment he documents in his words—being in the moment but knowing that you can never fully get stuck there unless you try really hard. The Diary of Ic Explura is Toni Oswald’s ambient, sound collage experiments that she sculpts into coherent songs by adding instrumentation to elements that aren’t necessarily inherently musical. Like musique concrète with a soundtrack. Which is nothing new in the world of avant-garde music but Oswald’s vibrant and transporting music demonstrates well how noise and composition can work together.

Who: The Juan MacLean
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Deep Club 3rd Fridays brings The Juan MacLean to a relatively small venue. John MacLean’s first chapter in influential music came with his tenure as a guitarist for Providence, Rhode Island-based, experimental post-hardcore band Six Finger Satellite. The band was an early practitioner of fusing electronic elements with the usual punk rock instrumentation and operating in the same musical realm as bands like Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer—though predating them all. When SFS split near the turn of the century, MacLean left music for a few years before Six Finger Satellite’s sound engineer, James Murphy (who some may know as starting DFA Records and as a member of LCD Soundsystem) helped convince him to make music again. But instead of doing the noisy punk stuff he’d been doing, MacLean focused instead on forward thinking electronic music and a mutant form of modern disco. And that’s what you can more or less expect at this event.

Who: Don Strasburg, Cuckoo, Ashley Koett
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Cafe
Why: Don Strasburg isn’t just a clever name for a band. The Boulder-based outfit doesn’t bother to trace any lines on the punk rock spectrum but fans of modern, mathy emo will find something to like but so will anyone that is into the most genre-bending, noisy post-hardcore. Cuckoo is lo-fi dream pop that would have fit in well on the Siltbreeze imprint or so it’s 2016 album Mermaid’s Don’t Exist would suggest. For fans of stuff like early Sebadoh, Eat Skull, Times New Viking, No Age and Microphones. — update, Don Strasburg no longer on the bill, now Terremoto.

Who: Allout Helter & Black Dots FEST sendoff w/faim, The Larimers, Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart
When: Friday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The Fest has been happening in Gainesville every year since 2002. It’s a mostly punk festival and this year’s festival includes the likes of Against Me!, Pegboy, Hot Water Music, Beach Slang, City of Caterpillar, Hum, Snapcase, Atom and His Package and Rainer Maria. But it will also feature Denver political punk thrashers Allout Helter and melodic hardcore band Black Dots. Sure, both bands play Denver regularly but here they are on one bill to send them on their way to one of punk’s most prestigious festivals.

Saturday: October 21, 2017

Who: Afghan Whigs w/Har Mar Superstar
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Afghan Whigs both predated and embodied what was great about the alternative rock era. The group started as a kind of garage rock band but infusing that sound with soul and R&B, with lyrics revealing a keen insight into human psychology, yielded some of the best records of the 90s. 1993’s Gentlemen was the band’s major label debut, after an independently released 1988 debut and two fine records for Sub Pop, and the record that was a departure from the fuzzy psychedelia of its earlier efforts. As “alternative rock” was running out of steam by the middle of the decade, Afghan Whigs continued to write and record vital music for 1996’s Black Love and 1998’s 1965 before the band amicably split in 2001. Singer Greg Dulli kept on battling his personal demons in other projects throughout the 2000s but in 2011 Afghan Whigs announced it was reuniting. A lot of bands from the alternative rock world have reunited and most of them have had respectable tours and the Whigs were no different. Dulli was and is an electrifying frontman and the band’s performance startlingly powerful overall. Currently the group is touring in support of its 2017 release In Spades. Har Mar Superstar has stylistically been all over the map from silly hip-hop early in the life of the project (Sean Tillman is also in pop band Sean Na Na) to a more Motown-esque soul and R&B sound while often performing all but nude and making an oddly compelling spectacle of himself. But the music is legit and if it’s tongue in cheek it is in the way that only someone with a deep respect for the musical style could pull off.

Who: Sound of Ceres album release of The Twin, Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms
When: Saturday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: When Ryan and Karen Hover started Sound of Ceres in 2015, setting aside their dreamy indie pop band Candy Claws for the time being, they seemed to be tapping into a daydream realm of freely associating ideas and sounds and something about the purity, honesty and transcendent beauty of the music translated well onto the recording of 2016’s Nostalgia for Infinity. On the 2017 follow-up, The Twin, the band is spending less time drifting through shimmering gossamer and luminous fog. The minimalist songwriting approach this time leaves enough space for greater clarity of tone and distinctness of sounds working in conjunction with each other. It is not a better record but it sounds very focused. Denver dream pop greats Plume Varia and The Milk Blossoms open the show potentially opening a vortex into some realm Lord Dunsany would have written about. At least emotionally speaking. Vampires and werewolves aren’t real either, kids.

Who: Torres w/The Dove & The Wolf 
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Torres is an artist like PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, EMA or John Vanderslice who are difficult to pigeonhole, whose high imaginative and powerful work cannot be reduced to a simple genre. Mackenzie Scott, the person behind Torres, doesn’t limit her songwriting to a single instrument so her sound has a layered cohesion even as it sounds like she’s going off the rails. There is an honesty, power and vulnerability to her music that comes across perhaps most vividly on her new record, Three Futures. Interestingly enough, Mackenzie got Rob Ellis, a longtime collaborator with PJ Harvey, as well as Portishead’s Adrian Utley.

Who: The Rotten Blue Menace reunion show w/Short Bus Rejects, The Beat Seekers, The Beeves and Sentry Dogs
When: Saturday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: The Rotten Blue Menace spent a few years being one of the most entertaining and active ska bands in Denver so it’s only appropriate that it would have its reunion show sharing the stage with a band it likely influenced, Short Bus Rejects, who are playing their final show this night. It won’t all be ska or ska punk because street punkers Sentry Dogs and melodic grunge wonders The Beeves will fill out the bill.

Who: Kitty Crimes (DJ set), Snubluck, DJ Polyphoni and Just, Kevin
When: Saturday, 10.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Kitty Crimes is normally a fast rapper with some explicit content in her lyrics and always pretty entertaining. For the DJ set who knows what might be in the mix because Maria Kohler, aka Kitty Crimes, has fairly diverse taste in music and the rest of the night will be some form of electronic dance music including experimental beatmaker and soundscaper, Snubluck.

Sunday: October 22, 2017

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip, Kenaima and Chaff
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Since 1999, surf rock band Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has been performing shows that are the stuff of legend. Fire, acrobatics, the kind of exuberant energy that’s impossible to not be swept up in at the show. They play in costume so you might think of them being, overall, something like Peelander Z and Crash Worship, lucha libre and kabuki. People often use the word “chaotic” to describe the show and fair enough but more like an explosion of fun. Also playing the show is TripLip, which is comprised of people who used to live at the late, great Five Points Denver DIY venue Mouth House. TripLip is more psych and prog but very much in the same spirit as Daikaiju, a band that somehow hosted Daikaiju’s wild live show more than once in a residential neighborhood.

Who: A Giant Dog w/SPELLS and Class President
When: Sunday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: It’s odd that Austin’s A Giant Dog hasn’t broken to a much larger audience. But for now count yourself lucky you’re getting to see the band in smaller venues in Denver for now. Its rowdy, tuneful mélange of early glam rock, punk and power pop is celebratory without coming off insincere. That’s probably because the songs are about things that anyone that isn’t living a glamorous or pampered life can relate to and delivered with an unlikely combination of vulnerability and conviction. In 2017, A Giant Dog released Toy, its most fully-realized album to date, through Merge Records. Denver’s SPELLS is cut from a similar cloth as a brash, minimalist punk band not short on melody in its own right.

Monday: October 23, 2017

Who: Daikaiju, TripLip and Today’s Paramount
When: Monday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: For Daikaiju and TripLip see above. Today’s Paramount is sort of a psychedelic jazz rock band with touches of carnival music and ska. But it works and Today’s Paramount doesn’t sound much like anything else in Denver except for maybe a band where the chops, songwriting and humor are blended together well and developed to a high degree like The Inactivists.

Who: Shadows Tranquil, Voight, Equine
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Shadows Tranquil is a band including longtime music fan, often threatening to be musician, finally is, Doran Robischon, and this is the band’s EP release show. Knowing Robischon’s taste for noise, witchouse, dark atmospheric music and stuff on the moody spectrum of all of that, his band will probably be interesting. Voight is the post-punk band that has interwoven strong strains of noisy shoegaze and industrial. Equine is the solo project of Kevin Richards and it’s guitar soundscaping stuff that comes off like a sculpted version of ambient and musique concrète.

Who: Hissing w/SUTEKH HEXEN, Of Feather and Bone, Worm Ouroboros, Vermin Womb and Casket Huffer
When: Monday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Hissing and Sutekh Hexen recently released a split record, fitting since both are more on the brooding end of death grind. Disorienting, hypnotic pummeling through sound and rhythm. Minimalistic yet loud and aggressive. Both are in good company with the rest of this bill. Of Feather and Bone is certainly the more in-your-face style of deathgrind that is thankfully too alienating for casual fans of metal. Vermin Womb is similarly-minded but has more hanging dynamics and sounds closer to the roiling chaos bordering on nasty atmospherics in some black metal. Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Casket Huffer has a flavor that still has some connection to thrash, at least in the guitar work. Oakland’s Worm Ouroboros, however, will be a bit of an anomaly with its beautifully expansive, minimalistic and melodic, ethereal metal rooted in themes of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment. If you’re fans of SubRosa, Dreadnought and Wolvserpent you’ll probably find something to like about Worm Ouroboros. Update: Worm Ouroboros no longer on the bill, instead Un, the “Aetherical Doom” band from Seattle. Also, it appears Sutekh Hexen dropped out of the show too.

Tuesday: October 24, 2017

Who: Hans-Joachim Roedelius w/Xambuca and Dream Hike
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 10 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Hans-Joachim Roedelius is one of the true pioneers of krautrock and synthesizer-based music generally. His diverse body of work influenced the development of the aforementioned as well as new age music, psychedelic rock, ambient and electronic music generally. He was one of the co-founders of Zodiak Free Arts Lab in West Berlin in 1968, one of the most important spots for experimental music and the avant-garde of its time. Along with Conrad Schnitzler and Dieter Moebius he formed Kluster (later Cluster after Schnitzler left the group), a band for which any idea seemed a go and its’ mixture of standard rock band instrumentation (albeit used toward unorthodox ends), cello, synths, feedback manipulation and unusual devices to use in music like car batteries and signal generators. Kluster didn’t exactly hit the charts but its legacy of experimentation and recontextualizing sounds continues to this day.

Roedelius has since then been a prolific artist whose projects (solo and otherwise) and collaborations have pushed the boundaries and horizons of experimental music and synthesizers. With Cluster and Harmonia, Roedelius took truly unusual and groundbreaking musical ideas and made them accessible. Cluster collaborated with Brian Eno on 1978’s ambient music classic After the Heat. In the next decade Roedelius’ work helped to refine and further define the aesthetic of techno. But, interestingly enough, Roedelius’ most prolific years came in his mid-sixties around the turn of the century. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of the founders of modern music and especially at a small and intimate venue like The Mercury Café.

Who: Ariel Pink w/Bite Marx
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ariel Pink as much as Animal Collective and Deerhunter can be said to have been responsible for inspiring a whole generation of musicians to use reverb on their vocals and guitars in an attempt to create a dreamlike soundscape that pre-dated the full-on psychedelic rock revival by half a decade. Except that those three acts did that and pushed the aesthetic further than most of the people they influenced. AC released a few of Ariel Pink’s earlier records before he was a touring act or one that played live much at all. To his credit, like Animal Collective and Deerhunter, every one of Ariel Pink’s albums pushes his own envelope and his new record, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, is a fitting homage to the late, great cult songwriter of transporting psych folk.

Who: Dinosaur Jr w/Easy Action
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the clear draw for this show and rightfully so. The band has inspired more great guitar music to have come along since the early 80s out of proportion to their level of fame than most other bands you could name. Certain an influence on shoegaze, noise rock, alternative rock in general and any kind of left field music that dares to use guitar sounds with a nod to classic rock virtuosity and punk rock’s willingness to repurpose and deconstruct rock tropes. But get there early and catch one of the greatest frontmen in the history of rock music in John Brannon of Easy Action. One, the band is like a psychedelic version of Black Flag with that kind of forcefulness and ability to write guitar riffs that also disorient the senses. Brannon first came to the attention of most people in the know with his hardcore band Negative Approach. But in the mid 80s, Brannon formed legendary noise rock band Laughing Hyenas with the late Larissa Stolarchuk, Jim Kimball and Kevin Munro. For a decade the band set a high bar for intense live performances and songs that really articulated the harrowing struggle between desperation, inspiration and dreams of a more meaninful existence. Easy Action formed near the turn of the century and alongside a re-formed version of Negative Approach it has been Brannon’s outlet for his unique vocal style that is as terrifying as it is riveting.

Who: Tei Shi w/Twelve’len
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Valerie Teicher was born in Buenos Aires and spent part of her childhood in Bogotá and Vancouver, BC. So maybe somewhere along the line her knack for gently but vibrantly soulful vocals started to develop. However it happened, her early singles as Tei Shi found an audience among fans in her then adopted home city of New York, where she moved after attending Berklee. After a string of acclaimed EPs, Teicher released her 2017 full-length Crawl Space. It is an expansive gem of a downtempo, R&B-inflected synth pop album named after a place Teicher used to go to confront her fears of darkness. An apt metaphor for the various situations (emotional, social, professional, personal and so forth) Teicher discusses with nuance and insight across the album’s fifteen tracks.

Who: Dayglo Abortions w/Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: With a name like Dayglo Abortions the Canadian punk band was never going to have to worry about being co-opted by mainstream music outlets. During its existence, Dayglo Abortions have been punk, hardcore and crossover but its messaging has been the same—a big middle finger of irreverence for mainstream normalcy. Read the track list to the 1986 classic Feed Us a Fetus and you might even wonder where this band is coming from except for a healthy and vitriolically humorous disdain for right wing politics and racism and other aspects of Western culture that make it a bummer for anyone trying to live an authentic life. This is also the band that named its 1991 album Two Dogs Fucking. That level of surrealistic humor and pointed political statements didn’t exactly end, thank goodness. Opening the show are Denver’s Serial Killer Sunday School, The New Narrative and Self Service, all great punk bands that aren’t just irreverently funny but who have some fairly pointed commentary on the ills of American society.

Who: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult w/Ritual Aesthetic and DJ Ritual
When: Tuesday, 10.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with this tour so they’ll be playing a whole lot of early albums Confessions of a Knife (1990) and I See Good Spirits And I See Bad Spirits (1988) so you’ll get to see some vintage material. The show is the best kind of spectacle and it perfectly blends B-movie horror kitsch, a carnival, trash culture and industrial dance music into an inspired whole. Chances are it will be one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year even if you’re not necessarily into industrial music. DJ Ritual will spin his relatively eclectic set at the show and between bands. Ritual Aesthetic is an industrial rock band from Denver in the vein of stuff like Electric Hellfire Club and Stabbing Westward when that band is more industrial than metal.

Wednesday: October 25, 2017

Who: Arcade Fire w/Bomba Estereo
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Arcade Fire quickly became one of the most popular of early 2000s indie rock bands following the release of its 2004 debut album Funeral. On that tour the band played in Denver at Hi-Dive and Larimer Lounge. By the time Neon Bible came out in 2007, Arcade Fire had become too commercially successful to play small clubs. And that’s where it cold have ended with all the pressures of the music industry guiding the band into tried and true territory. But Arcade Fire actually risked alienating fans with 2013’s Reflektor and its emphasis on the electronic side of the band’s soundscapes. For 2017’s Everything Now, the band recruited Pulp’s Steve Mackey, Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Geoff Barrow of Portishead to come in and do production work and the resulting set of songs is lush and has a warm, sweeping quality that one might expect out of a 70s glam rock record. As such the live show is sure to not skimp on a visual component to aid in the elevated tone of the songwriting. It’s kind of a past time of music critics and older fans to trash Arcade Fire today but it’s arguable the band is writing the most interesting music of its career by being willing to push forward instead of sticking to what some people think is what they do best. Bomba Estéreo is an alternative Cumbia band from Colombia.

Who: KMFDM w/OhGr and DJ Ritual at Summit Music Hall
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Kein Merheit Für Die Mitleid does not in fact mean “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,” per the long-running joke. The industrial band was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1984 and has undergone numerous incarnations and stylistic shifts from its early performance art-oriented shows to its full embrace of bombastic kitsch, sardonic humor and thoughtful social critique. You can probably start anywhere to get an idea of what the band’s music is about but for beginners give 1997’s Symbols a listen. Which is appropriate enough because Ogre from Skinny Puppy will perform his solo material as OhGr as a kind of co-headliner for this show. His set lists have included a good deal of material from Welt and SunnyPsyOp. And it’s Ogre so his set will have plenty of the inspired weirdness that has made him one of industrial music’s most interesting performers and artists. And who knows, maybe he’ll join KMFDM on stage for “Torture” as he did during KMFDM’s tour for that album in the 90s.

Who: Guided by Voices
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Robert Pollard is by now both a godfather of modern lo-fi rock and one of its most accomplished and prolific artists. Had he ended Guided By Voices after 1994’s epochal Bee Thousand he would still be a legend. But 18 albums later, Pollard is still going strong with two 2017 albums: August By Cake (Pollard’s 100th recorded album) and How Do You Spell Heaven. Not every song is a winner but even Bob’s “lesser” material is worth a spin. The live show is an unabashed flood of splintery rock and roll in an era when there’s too much emphasis on being smooth and polished or faking grit. There’s no fake grit with Guided by Voices except maybe as an inside joke with fans and the audience.

Who: Glasss Records presents The Artists of Glasss and Friends: Princess Dewclaw, RAREBYRD$, Bianca Mikahn, Gold Trash, Juniordeer, EVP, Abeasity Jones, Pearls and Perils, Super Macho and Chromadrift as well as Adam Selene and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse – Sloans Lake
Why: This is a big showcase for Denver experimental music imprint Glasss Records and it includes some of the Mile High City’s most interesting bands and guests like alternative hip-hop group Nighttimeschoolbus.This show is a great opportunity to get a taste of a lot of what the artists on the label have to offer as they won’t be playing full sets.

Who: Bell Witch w/Primitive Man, Urn and Oryx
When: Wednesday, 10.25, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Seattle-based doom band Bell Witch released one of the genre’s most haunting and crushing albums of 2017 with Mirror Reaper. The duo manage to conjure spectral horror and primal energies crying out in drawn out triumph with processed bass, drums and vocals. A perfect pairing with tourmates Primitive Man from Denver whose own 2017 album Caustic not only beyond lives up to and embodies the album title, it is an evocation of sustained despair, desperation and frustrated rage transmogrified into colossal and punishing songs that somehow also serve as a catharsis and a channel into an inner peace that are the opposite of the songs themselves. Opener Oryx is a sort of doom grind duo and the other opening act, Urn, injects some psychedelic elements into its own brand of doom. Probably the loudest show of the week outside of that Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action show on October 24 but also easily one of the best lineups of heavy music all month.

Best Shows in Denver 10/12/17 – 10/18/17

Palehorse/Palerider
Palehorse/Palerider, photo by Tom Murphy

With disaster and political malfeasance plagueing the world, not helped by an American president filled with the insufferable hubris to troll not just a dictator with nuclear capabilities and a proven delivery system as well as an American territory hit hard by a hurricane it’s difficult to think how anything less serious matters much. But getting no enjoyment out of life won’t make things better for anyone so what follows are a list of some of the best shows happening in Denver this coming week.

Who: Atriarch, Fotocrime, Echo Beds and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Thursday, 10.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Lounge
Why: Portland’s Atriarch creates the kind of ominous, bluntly forceful yet elegant music that shows you where noise, deathrock and black metal intersect to create the soundtrack to an epic post-apocalyptic horror film soundtrack. It’s new record, Dead As Truth, should appeal to fans of Neurosis, Swans and Wolves in the Throne Room. Fotocrime includes members of Coliseum and Young Widows. Not too surprising considering Coliseum’s latest, and best, material is a reinvention of dark post-punk. Fotocrime is even more in that vein but with the forcefulness of a post-hardcore band. And that would be reason enough for going to this show but you’ll also get to see Denver’s great industrial/noise band Echo Beds and Palehorse/Palerider who are on that post-punk vibe but more in the vein of colossal, atmospheric doom metal. That is if Kevin Shields got into that game. It’s 2017 album, Burial Songs, is a sprawling science fiction and fantasy epic in its own right.

Who: We Should Have Been DJs (WI), Once A Month (WI), Guts and Obtuse 
When: Thursday, 10.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Madison, Wisconsin’s We Should Have Been DJs are that kind of noisy, sloppy and relentless weirdo punk brings their show to Mutiny with fellow Wisconsinites Once a Month, a lo-fi, fuzzy punk trio that is so bratty and irreverent it’s worth listening to for that alone. “Ghosting” and “Boys Oughta” from their new split with We Should Have Been DJs are brilliantly pointed pieces of commentary. Denver emo punks Guts and Obtuse put out two of the best EPs/splits of the year out of that world that has been re-emerging over the past half decade or so. Flavorwise, Guts is more DC-esque emo and Obtuse more midwest/Chicago/Champagne-Urbana style.

Who: Candace w/Eyebeams and Boat Drinks
When: Thursday, 10.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Candace is “country shoegaze”? Maybe the shimmer from certain kinds of country and the solid songwriting. But the Portland band’s music could have come out 26 years ago of at the height of slowcore in the 90s or today with a fresh take on all of that. Opening are Denver dream pop band Eyebeams and Boat Drinks, a band whose melancholic pop songs suggest maybe the songwriters listened to a lot of Chisel (though probably Ted Leo & The Pharmacists) and Wilco but that is no knock on the excellent songwriting.

Who: The Colorado For Puerto Rico & Mexico Benefit Concert at McNichols Building 4-11 p.m.: Barrio E (Puerto Rican Bomba), Colombian dance troupe by Julio A. Martinez Latin Explosive Movement (LEM), Los Hijos de Tuta (Latin Rock), Son Moreno by Juan Moreno (Cuban Son, Cumbias), Roka Hueka (Latin ska), Mono Verdecollective Monoverdecollective (Latin Reggae) and Orquesta La Brava (Salsa) 
When: Thursday, 10.12, 4-11 p.m.
Where: McNichols Building
Why: Since the Trump administration seems to be dropping the ball on aiding Puerto Rico and Mexico at a time of natural disasters devastating a U.S. territory and one of our neighboring countries, it seems as though gestures like this will be necessary to help provide any meaningful relief. By the time this posts the show will have got off the ground but you can probably still catch some of the best Latin artists playing live music in Denver right now and help out with a great cause.

Who: Battalion of Saints, The Nobodys and The Cryptics 
When: Thursday, 10.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Battalion of Saints was part of the first wave of hardcore when it launched in San Diego in 1980. Sure it had the edgy furiousness of other hardcore bands and thus part of the appeal. But Battalion of Saints always had a melodic quality to even its heavier songs that has aged better than some of the music of its contemporaries. Colorado Springs-based melodic hardcore veterans The Nobodys opens the show alongside Dover, New Hampshire’s The Cryptics.

Who: Jonwayne w/Danny Watts and Grigsby
When: Saturday, 10.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jonwayne was one of the youngest performers at Low End Theory when he started performing at the legendary hip-hop showcase in 2010. He started attending the night when he was still a teenager in 2009 and he became friendly with Diaba$e and later Peanut Butter Wolf who has since signed the rapper and beatmaker to his Stones Throw label. Jonwayne garnered early attention for his mixtapes including 2011’s I Don’t Care and Cassette and Cassette 2 from 2012 and 2013 respectively. His lyrical deftness was reminiscent of Aesop Rock but his beatmaking has always been creative in his use of musical samples in synch with unusual field recordings to craft truly unique rhythms. 2017’s Rap Album Two further confirms Jonwayne’s gift for storytelling and imaginative soundscapes. Jonwayne discovered Danny Watts when the latter contacted him through Soundcloud. Watts, originally from Houston, had been working at a Costco optical department with no realistic prospect of taking his music to the professional level but there was a creative connection between the two artists and Jonwayne was very involved in making the music for Danny Watts’ 2017 release Black Boy Meets World, a powerfully vulnerable and honest set of songs that spell out some of the downbeats of modern life with a rare sensitivity.

Who: D.I., Redbush, The Hacks and Amuse
When: Saturday, 10.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: D.I. is indeed the hardcore band that was in Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia. Or at least vocalist Casey Royer is still in the band. The group had a memorable scene in the film where they perform “Richard Hung Himself,” which was originally written when Royer was in The Adolescents. But D.I. Had plenty of other material and its sing-along, poppy punk sure seemed to have an influence a generation or more of punk bands to follow. Denver’s The Hacks are cut from a similar cloth including an irreverently self-deprecating sense of humor as evidenced by the title of its 2017 album: Three Chord Cliché.

Who: Black Out—Solar Powered Show w/Ned Garthe Explosion, The Amphibious Man and Colfax Speed Queen
When: Saturday, 10.14, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: This show is going to be drawing on solar power, presumably stored in the kind of battery that can provide ample power for three rock bands to play at least partial sets. For this show Ned Garthe Explosion and Colfax Speed Queen will demonstrate how bands that in some ways came out of the garage rock and psychedelic resurgence of the past 8 years or so can take the threads of the music that informed a lot of other bands and do something genuinely interesting with it. Ned Garthe and Stuart Confer playing off each other and the crowd provide some hilarious stage banter.

Who: The Bronx w/Plague Vendor and ’68
When: Saturday, 10.14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Bronx is often referred to as hardcore but its sound is like someone found a way to inject Aerosmith by way of L.A. glam metal into a punk band. Somehow it works. But if you’re not at all into Turbonegro or the the glammy end of The Refused, you probably won’t like The Bronx. Plague Vendor is in a similar vein and apparently calls its sound “voodoo punk.” Which is fitting since there seems to be some trippy-ish surf rock in its aesthetic that makes you think these guys listen to a lot of The Cramps and, in its noisier more hectic moments, At The Drive-In.

Who: The Bronx w/Plague Vendor and ’68
When: Sunday, 10.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: See above.

Who: Listener w/Levi the Poet and Comrades
When: Sunday, 10.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: When Listener first started touring through Denver over a decade ago, it was the spoken word/hip-hop project of Dan Smith. His rapping and beats was in a similar vein to that of artists on the Rhymesayers and Anticon labels meaning sharply observed lyrics and a mastery of delivery. These days, Listener hasn’t ditched his poetic sensibilities but the music is provided by a live band whose introspective music has more in common with post-rock and Daniel Lanois than Smith’s organic and electric beatmaking of old and in many ways the better for it. 2017’s Being Empty: Being Filled finds Smith in an especially emotionally vibrant and impassioned mode.

Who: Imelda Marcos (Chicago) w/Body Meat and Club Soda 
When: Sunday, 10.15, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Imelda Marcos is a math rock/avant-garde noise rock band from Chicago whose 2017 album Dalawa might be compared to the likes of This Heat, Laddio Bolocko or Don Caballero. At least in its use of space in the songs and willingness to employ unorthodox rhythms and methods of playing guitar strings. Denver’s Body Meat might be similarly described except there seems to be more of a jazz component to Body Meat otherwise maybe its disorienting and angular flow of rhythms would be difficult to pull off.

Who: Boris w/SubRosa at Endon
When: Tuesday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Boris is the long-running metal/avant-guitar rock band from Japan. Its music helped to define stoner and doom rock for the past 25 years. While influenced heavily by Melvins (the band took its name from a Melvins song), Boris seems to just explore whatever realm of sound and rock and roll suggests itself to the band. Whether it’s broad vistas of sound with 2000’s Flood, crushing fuzz sculpting with 1998’s appropriately titled Amplifier Worship, the heaviest of heavy shoegaze and psychedelia with 2005’s classic album Pink or 2017’s eclectic Dear, Boris always seems to be reaching in different directions for inspiration. Live, Boris will remind you why so many other guitar bands are playing it safe in terms of both the sounds employed and the level of energy put into the show. Opening is SubRosa, the mystical/atmospheric doom band from Salt Lake City. Since its inception, SubRosa’s imagery and music has seemingly drawn upon primal, earth energies to put into its whole aesthetic. 2016’s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is classic SubRosa in its weaving together organic, almost folk elements with epic, heavy, densely atmospheric guitar work and pummeling tribal rhythms that carry your imagination into the mythological realms that are at the heart of the music.

Who: Chromadrift and Victoria Lundy
When: Tuesday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest installment of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records in the basement of Hooked on Colfax features two of Denver’s most accomplished ambient/experimental electronic artists. With Chromadrift, Drew Miller has found a way to tap into the same well of transcendent and transporting sound and rhythm that seems to inform the work of Boards of Canada. Except that Miller’s song titles seem more grounded in immediately relatable themes rather than the suggestive mysteriousness of BOC. And this cozy setting would be the perfect place to experience his music live. Victoria Lundy has been a veteran of various facets of the Denver expermental music scene since at least the 90s. She uses the theramin the way other musicians play their classical instruments and she has in fact adapted classical pieces for her performance. Ultimately, though, Lundy is a nerd and that finds its way into her elegant way of expressing those impulses such as her 2015 electro/ambient album Miss American Vampire. Every Victoria Lundy show is different so expect something well-composed but leaving room for intuition to guide the sound where it may go this evening.

Who: Dälek w/Street Sects, Echo Beds and It’s Just Bugs 
When: Tuesday, 10.17, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: Dälek formed in the late 90s and from the beginning its use of sound and samples was markedly different from most other hip-hop acts. In retrospect the group’s most obvious peers in beatmaking and soundsculpting (i.e. Sole, cLOUDDEAD, Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock, El-P) started getting off the ground to a national audience around the same time. But it was Dälek that seemed to be embraced by more open-minded fans of heavy music who could appreciate what one might call the My Bloody Valentine meets Godflesh sound of the group. In 2011 the project went on hiatus for a few years before reuniting to write and record 2016’s Asphalt for Eden on Profound Lore, a label that generally releases metal in a more experimental vein. In 2017 Dälek released Endangered Philosophies on Ipecac, an imprint also well known for its catalog of arty, innovative heavy music. Austin’s Street Sects is one of the opening acts and its gritty, dark and aggressive industrial punk has garnered it an international audience. The 2016 album End Position blurred all lines between hardcore, industrial and breakcore. 2017’s Rat Jacket takes the band into even darker thematic territory. Apparently hard political and economic times is a good time for music that gives no fucks about peeling back the scab of society’s sins. Speaking of which, two Denver bands are also on the bill. Echo Beds has been developing its own synthesis of punk, industrial and noise since 2010 and these days have honed strong ideas into sharp songs that articulate and embody the desperation of the current era. With its visceral live show, Echo Beds is pretty unforgettable. It’s Just Bugs is an industrial rap band whose forays into noise are a refreshingly developed use of sounds as samples.

Who: Pixies w/Mitski 
When: Wednesday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Pixies probably got its greatest boost into mainstream popularity oddly with the release of the 1999 film Fight Club. Because if you went to see the band during its 2003-2004 reunion tour cycle a lot of the crowd seemed largely lukewarm to and confused by the band’s other classic material but when “Where is My Mind?” came on the crowd went wild. Some of us got to be confused by Pixies during its earlier era when the 1988 album Doolittle was offered in the metal section of tape/CD clubs and when it turned out that it wasn’t metal didn’t know what to think of it. But once everything clicked the genius of the band’s unusual and imaginative lyrics and its willingness to go off the standard time signatures and roll with the moment became something to be cherished rather than dismissed. This version of the band is without founding bassist Kim Deal but Joe Santiago’s truly eccentric and brilliant guitar work will be there along with Black Francis’ alien yet melodious and intense vocals and David Lovering’s expressive and propulsive drumming. Also, if you’re going to get a bass player Paz Lenchantin is no slouch and her talent has elevated other artists like Jarboe, A Perfect Circle, Jenny Lewis, Queens of the Stone Age and Silver Jews. Opening the show is Mitski whose emotionally charged rock songs are cathartically confessional and some of the most strikingly honest music of the past few years.

Who: Girlpool w/Palm and Sweater Belly 
When: Wednesday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Seems like any guitar band that has a tinge of distortion and any whiff of DIY credibility is called “punk” like a sound rather than an attitude. Or, worse, when said music isn’t particularly aggressive and the band is all or mostly women, “pastel punk.” Girlpool probably gets painted in that light often and if the band chooses to embrace that sort of thing, it’s certainly entitled to because who gets to tell a band whether or not it’s really punk. But fans of dream or indie pop will find much to like in Girlpool’s expansive melodies and fluid song dynamics, particularly on its excellent 2017 album Powerplant. Philadelphia’s Palm toured with LVL UP earlier in 2017 and its precise, spidery guitar interplay was reminiscent of a band like Young Marble Giants had the members gone on to be members of 90s math rock bands and then ditched the sound but not the musical skill and ended up like some weirdo neo-No Wave jazz band. Its 2017 album (EP?) Shadow Expert is a nice reminder that a band can be completely weird and completely accessible at the same time.

Clarke & The Himselfs and Brett Netson Bring Old School Weirdo Boise Punk to Denver

Clarke Howell and Brett Netson
Clarke Howell and Brett Netson at Daytrotter, September 10, 2017, photo courtesy Clarke Howell

 

Clarke Howell is one of the most respected songwriters and performers in the American underground. She generally tours as a solo artist but if you see a bill that says Clark & The Himselfs and Friends it’s more a full band lineup. But whatever the configuration, Howell is a magnetic performer whose fuzzy, often ebullient, pop songs capture a defiance and melancholy that seems ideal for the times we’re living in right now. Howell has been writing her music for the project since 2004 and the music is reminiscent of early Flaming Lips and The Reatards. Released in March 2017, In Your Hear You Know She’s Clark and the Himselfs includes contributions from Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch.

Clarke & The Himselfs current tour is a pairing, a showcase if you will, with fellow Scavenger Cult label collaborator Brett Netson. The latter is perhaps best known as a member of Boise, Idaho-based alternative rock band Built to Spill but also for his tenure as a crafter of brilliantly strange guitar sounds for experimental psychedelic band Caustic Resin. Netson will soon release a collaborative album he did with Snakes and like-minded Canadian band Crosss due out on cassette and vinyl on November 8, 2017 on Scavenger Cult.

We caught up with both musicians via email during their current tour. They will be playing tonight, October 6, at Lion’s Lair with the mighty Denver psych-garage band Ned Garthe Explosion and Nelson Crane. The tour will also visit Fort Collins and Boulder respectively over the next couple of days. Ask a punk, or whatever expression people are using now. What follows is a back to back Q&A with both artists beginning with Howell.

Clarke & The Himselfs
Clarke & The Himselfs, March, 16, 2017, photo by Ellen Rumel

Clarke & The Himselfs

Queen City Sounds and Art: You’ve been in a band or bands before Clarke and the Himselfs, what about the more kind of solo format was appealing to you initially? 

Clarke Howell: What’s most appealing is the ability to keep playing music without having the handicap of having to have other people. But it’s still best to play music with others, that’s how I learned how to play in the first place. But there wasn’t really any kind of intention, mostly default.

The project has been around since 2004. What made 2011 the point where there was a re-amalgamation and what prompted that?

When I was 15 I learned how to multi-track record and made the first album that I called Clarke and the Himselfs and made about a dozen albums after that. But I couldn’t play live shows that actually sounded like the recordings. In 2011 I figured out I could play guitar while holding a drum stick in my hand and started playing a set with my friend Demmi on double drums, which was originally going to be a different band, but after I started touring and moved to New Orleans it just kind of ended up turning into a new version of C&TH with a different sound and set-up.

Much of America or the world has no clue that Boise, Idaho has any music much less anything of note like Built to Spill, Caustic Resin and more recently what you’ve done, Finn Riggins, Sun Blood Stories, Wolvserpent, Street Fever and Magic Sword. Or that there’s an actual, viable music scene there. At least now. What kind of music world was there for you when you were starting out playing music, particularly with your current project as I know many cities go through various cycles where a scene is good and thriving and then seemingly dead for a while. What kinds of places did you play early on and what bands do you think impacted you or maybe took you under their wing?

I was born and grew up in Boise during the largest birthing boom in the history of civilization. All these people moved to Boise to raise families. I was lucky because I was surrounded by a large amount of extremely talented and creative peers that were largely disenfranchised in a town where there wasn’t much to do. Around 2008/2009 there was an extremely great house show scene thriving in Boise – that’s the scene I came out of.  There’s a documentary I made about it called Bands of 208. I think it’s your friends that impact you the most of all – you kind of grow as they do and it helps if you’re interested in the same things. In those days, if I could say anyone, it was really getting to know David Strackany, who plays under [the moniker] Paleo.  [He] made me realize, most of all, that it was possible tour by yourself. Beyond that though, his music is so amazing and relevant. David is a true genius and everything he touches continues to blow me away. Also getting to know Rob Morton and The Taxpayers solidified[my] sense of adventure and how much fun and how free it is to travel and play music for people.

In Your Heart You Know She’s And The Himselfs is such an interesting title for an album. What’s the significance of it especially considering the use of two gendered pronouns to refer to a single person?

I came out publicly as transgender in January, I’ve been transitioning and taking hormones since October of last year. I had struggled with gender dysphoria since I was little kid and for the most part basically knew that I was transgender or something [like] that probably since I was 12 or 13. It was something I constantly struggled with that constantly made me depressed and suicidal. I didn’t even realize the full extent of [how constant that state of mind and being was] until recently. I didn’t tell anyone until 2015 [because] I was too afraid to. I didn’t really tell anybody else until last year [when it] kind of came to [a head and] I didn’t have any choice but to deal with it. I had kept it this secret and it was totally fucking me up inside—for years I could kind of manage waves of dysphoria and crippling depression but it was apparent it couldn’t go on any longer.

You can only swim against a current for so long, if you don’t start swimming with it, you’ll drown. So I needed to do this, for the sake of my life, to save myself. I can’t begin to explain the kind of mental anguish you have as a closeted trans person thinking about coming out and transitioning. On top of that, it’s like, fuck, I play in this band called Clarke and the Himselfs and I’m this trans-woman but nobody knows, but they’re gonna fucking know, all these people are gonna have to deal with that [just] as you’re trying to learn how to deal with it yourself, which is really the point. I knew I was trans when I named that first album, it’s in there somehow, it’s in the “s.” But I can’t stop playing music, I don’t really have a choice, [and] I knew there had to be some kind of happy marriage I could [navigate]. That’s the point of the title, there’re some other points, but that’s the main on: it’s a literal title. It surprises me sometimes, or at least for awhile it seemed like people weren’t taking it as real, like I’m some kind of fantasy artist who doesn’t mean what she says. It’s like you have remind everyone that what you are reading right now and listening to and watching on a TV or the internet is a real person in the same world that you live on – this one is a woman that plays in a band called Clarke and the Himselfs.

You have contributions from Doug Martsch on the album. How did you come to know Doug and come to work with him?

Boise is a pretty small place, and Doug was always kind of around. When I was in class at junior high, I would see him play basketball on the courts outside. He was just this dude in town. I grew up with Brett’s kids and I guess I mostly knew of Built to Spill through them. There were a couple years when W.I.B.G. would come play Boise they would ask Doug and I to play guitar with them, I got to know Doug a little more through that, and of course later when I went on tour with Built to Spill.

Snakes
Snakes (Brett Netson on right), photo by Chris Schanz

Brett Netson

Queen City Sounds And Art: You have an upcoming vinyl and cassette release with the Canadian psych/experimental guitar band Crosss. How did that collaboration come about? What about that band did you find interesting enough that the idea of working with them appealed to you?

Brett Netson: Crosss got put on a few shows of a Built to Spill tour a few years ago and they blew me away. We had them do a whole tour later and we stayed in touch.. They were passing through Boise last year and had a few days off so I just asked them to do a session and they said yes. It’s such a great mix of the darker Syd Barrett songs (“Scream Thy Last Scream,” “Lucifer Sam”) and classic heavy riffs. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? Really unique and excellent guitar playing. Heavy, weird. I’m generally a big fan of that.

When was the last time you toured places like you will be with Clarke Howell? What do you miss about it, what do you hope you don’t have to deal with now that maybe happened often when you were touring as many bands do across America playing small clubs, bars and DIY spaces?

The last Caustic Resin tour in 2003. I love the shit ass small venue/hose show touring. It’s hard, but a lot more engaging and rewarding than a larger venue tour. Being deep in the environment that you move through, is infinitely more rewarding in the end. You meet some really priceless solid people on the way. But it truly is an assbeating though.

I happened to make it to Treefort in 2014 but can’t remember if Caustic Resin played or not. Had I known about it I probably would have gone. Have you reunited that project for any shows in recent years?

We did play a couple shows last fall for the release of Medicine is All Gone on vinyl. It was a great wild time for sure.

For this current tour what kind of lineup will you have? Is there a certain pool of your music you’ll draw from for this tour?

Mostly new stuff written with these Taurus bass synth pedals. I’m really into it. Stereo tape delay, electric guitar, vocals and bass synth. Doing a Caustic Resin song here and there. The goal is drug effects [as therapy].

Totally random, but you reference snakes in one of your bands and the music having come from the Snake River Plain. As a kid, by any chance, did you family see Evel Knievel try to jump Snake River Canyon?

Didn’t get to see it in person but I remember it well. Apparently it was a gigantic fiasco around that area. The ramp was there next to the canyon for many years.

You were in a punk band before Caustic Resin. What inspired wanting to make more the kind of music you have since then?

I’ve always been more into arty and hard guitar rock but took the invite into a punk rock band, The Pugs, just cause they asked. It was pretty ridiculous sounding with my rock riffs and echo. It didn’t last very long.

I’m a bit of a fan of various bands from Boise but know only obvious bands and maybe some more modern underground groups. When you were coming up, was there a local music scene that you could be a part of and tap into? What were some local bands you felt impacted you as a young musician if any? What kinds of places did your punk band and the early Caustic Resin play?

What made the biggest impact on me was seeing an “industrial” band. Underground Cinema was the most notable one. Banging on metal and screaming with random synthesizers and tape loops. Subversive politics and transgressive theatrics. I loved it.  But you see, I was also obsessed with playing Stevie Ray Vaughn riffs for hours on end. I was about 16 at that time. Played my first show ever at a place called the Crazy Horse in an offshoot of that band called Nietzsche’s Birthday.

Maybe it’s being near/in the Pacific Northwest but how did you get connected with Mark Lanegan and Dylan Carlson? Mark you toured with over a decade ago, of course, but you recently recorded with Earth. Did they discuss with you what they appreciate what you bring to their music?

There was a somewhat connected network over the years. In this case it was Chris Takino the guy who started UP! records. An incredible person who was a conduit to a lot of people. He had worked at SST and then Sub Pop before starting UP. Those guys didn’t say much about why they asked me to play, just told me to do what I do. It’s pretty cool to have friends like that who write truly great music and are in a position to hire various weirdos to play with them. I am truly grateful for those situations. I am very lucky.

Why did you start Scavenger Cult?

Clarke has also worked to make Scavenger Cult a reality. It could kind of be considered more of a collective than a label. My music has never fit real well in any particular scene or genre. Scavenger Cult is that. A place for orphan type music. Also, I am obsessed with recording on tape machines only. There aren’t many labels that want to get into that kind of hassle. More people than ever can sell a modest amount of vinyl records these days and I’m into that. Otherwise, the internet and digital music is a worse than useless shit show of disposable novelty garbage. Scavenger Cult records will sound good and mean something to you years from now. We’ve made deals with esoteric elements, good, evil and beyond to make sure of that.

What about Clarke and the Himselfs made you want to release something by that project?

Clarke is a hard working and genuine artist. It’s just real deal stuff. Clarke and everyone else from that scene (see “Bands of the 208“) are true and unique people. Incidentally my daughter was part of that scene. I’m proud of them and honored to be able to work with Clarke. It may be kind of a Boise thing but it’s  also obvious that Clarke writes world class songs and is a solid performer. We’ve worked and sacrificed to make, hopefully, timeless records that exist outside of styles and genres. That’s a common goal for a lot of people I know, but I think we’ve done it to some extent. You learn so much every record you do.

 

Best Shows in Denver 10/5/17 – 10/11/17

Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag, photo by Marie Lin

 

October has long traditionally been the busiest month for shows coming to Denver and keeping up with them much less catching everything you’d like to witness is challenging even if money and time aren’t big considerations. Here are not even close to all the cool concerts in the Mile High City and the surrounding area through October 11, 2017.

Who: Tennyson w/Photay
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tennyson is a duo from Canada that seems to have found a way to fully synthesize jazz, IDM, pop and dub techno into lush pop songs that get under your skin and into your psyche. Difficult to compare them to anyone other than maybe artists on the Ghostly International imprint because so many of them are breaking conventions in general as well. If Lusine, Thundercat and Boards of Canada collaborated on a pop album it might sound like Tennyson but Tennyson’s beautiful, finely crafted compositions don’t feel like a real nod to anyone else, a true rarity in modern music. Its new EP, Uh Oh!, is a perfect introduction to what this brother and sister project has to offer.

Who: 1865668232 (Ithaca), Distance Research, Sunk Cost, Matt Struck, Hypnotic Turtle simulcast
When: Thursday, 10.05, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark
Why: Musical Mayhem is a bi-weekly event at The Skylark Lounge hosted by Claudia Woodman who also does Weird Wednesdays at 3 Kings Tavern.This week it’s noise and ambient night with harsh noise sculptor extraordinaire, Jonathan Cash, performing as Sunk Cost. Distance Research is the analog/modular synth project of sound and visual artist Sean Faling. The guy has more synths at his place than anyone but maybe Gabriel Temeyosa of Kuxaan-Sum and he crafts his sets around various arrangements of gear meaning every show is a little different but always excellent. 1865668232 is based out of Ithaca, New York and traveling with a show in Denver of sound collage atmospheres.

Who: Glacial Tomb, Nightwraith, Space in Time, Urn
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sort of a doom and stoner rock/psychedelic metal night at the Hi-Dive with Glacial Tomb which includes members of Khemmis and Cult of the Lost Cause. Urn is basically a new version of the great Denver sludge psych band Skully Mammoth. Nightwraith is a melodic doom band whose recent self-titled EP is ripe with crunchy riffing and post-hardcore-esque black metal vocals. Space in Time is what happens when talented musicians from punk, country and pop bands update trippy heavy rock from the 70s like Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep.

Who: Palehound w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic
When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ellen Kempner somehow takes the kind of folk-inflected, confessional indie rock song and injects it with new life through a compelling and moving vulnerability and poetic honesty. In some ways her music is reminiscent of a modern day Melanie—well crafted yet raw songwriting. The 2017 album, A Place I’ll Always Go, has more of a full band sound and filled out with more electronic soundscapes but without losing any of the sense Kempner’s revealing her deepest loves, fears and wishes.

Who: Ghost Tapes album release of Mad Props w/Fed Rez, Sur Ellz and DJ Soulrane
When: Friday, 10.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Ghost Tapes if finally releasing its debut album, Mad Props. The quintet’s sound is somewhere between soul and smooth jazz minus any cheese factor. Rather, its music is the sort of thing you might expect to hear if you stopped in to some hip coffee shop off the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the house band doing its music and poetry residency outside its usual gig of touring the country in a successful indie rock band. Perhaps that’s a tortured metaphor but there is something intimate and beautiful about a Ghost Tapes performance that will fit in well with Syntax Physic Opera. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s best experimental hip-hop projects: the more jazz-inflected Fed Rez and the lushly loop/beat driven Sur Ellz.

Who: Sympathy F and JL Universe
When: Friday, 10.06, 8 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Sympathy F is one of the longest running bands in Denver. It would be too facile to say the band is merely dream pop because it incorporates singer Elizabeth Rose’s jazz chops honed in her solo side project and the other players make rock music with the fluid dynamics of a improv jazz band with a dreamlike quality that draws you into the group’s storytelling. Really, Sympathy F’s music recreates the feel of Denver pre-LoDo when there was a shadowy, gritty and haunting yet comfortable vibe to a place where while there was potential danger around every corner there was also a sense of wide openness and untapped possibility. The band’s next album, its third in 26 years, is due out later this year.

Who: Sheer Mag w/Tenement and American Culture
When: Saturday, 10.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the most anticipated punk tours of recent years not being undertaken by an established name includes two of the genre’s most acclaimed acts, Sheer Mag and Tenement. Sheer Mag might be compared to the Minutemen for current punk not because the bands sound anything alike. But because both had/have musicians with chops who aren’t afraid to let that show in the songwriting out of some misguided adherence to standard punk aesthetics. Both also were unabashed admirers of older music many of their peers think/thought wack. Vocalist Tina Halladay sounds like Janis Joplin fronting a garage rpunk band that listened to a lot of James Gang and The Allman Brothers. Should be completely dumb but it really works and the live band is a force to be reckoned with. Tenement sounds like a snotty power pop band with a raw melodic sense reminiscent of maybe Teenage Fanclub or pre-1983 The Replacements. Local openers American Culture should be as known as the other bands on the bill on a national scale but its own rawly melodic and glittery take on punk might be too big a leap for some to accept in the same realm of music. But its own impassioned performances speak otherwise and the lyrics about being an eternal outsider in a world of fake sophistication and a yearning for authentic choices for living a life worth living are clearly the stuff of which great punk songs are made.

Who: Ought w/US Weekly and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Ought’s noisy, Fall-esque, whorling melodies reminiscent of Television driven by steady, hypnotic rhythms set it apart from a lot of other post-punk bands of the current decade. Was it aware that Protomartyr had got off the ground in Detroit three years before its own formation? That Women had developed its Wire-esque, spiky yet deeply atmospheric aesthetic before that? Hardly matters as Ought sounds like neither band but there is a strong resonance between the music of all those bands. With Ought there is also a sense of urgency to its music and an ability to draw you into its gritty, dreamlike compositions before you know you’re under their spell. Austin-based no-wave/post-hardcore/noise rock band US Weekly may be difficult to track down using conventional search engine methods but it’ll be worth it. Because these guys are a bit like Flipper on fast mode. Denver’s Male Blonding garnered some influence from Canadian post-punk of the 2000s but its rhythm section takes the music into a different realm of sound. Coupled with the group’s imaginative dual guitar work and Noah Simons’ commanding vocals, Male Blonding is simply carving its own path and not easily planted in the realms of post-punk or indie rock.

Who: Big Thief w/Little Wings and Mega Bog
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Big Thief’s new record, Capacity, is a pleasant and thoughtful enough listen. But Adrianne Lenker’s tender vocal delivery is what makes the songs because even if she’s conventionally melodic she brings a sense of melancholic yearning that’s pretty compelling. Definitely for fans of Jenny Lewis solo or during her tenure with Rilo Kiley. Mega Bog has been one of America’s best kept musical secrets for too long. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mega Bog now resides in New York City where it now doubt rubbed shoulders with Big Thief. Singer/songwriter Erin Birgy and her bandmates aren’t really working in a genre unless you count “good drum.” Its latest record, Happy Together, is an eclectic affair that will remind some people of Laurie Anderson (especially “London” to Anderson’s “Blue Lagoon”). It’s part jazz and part seemingly lifting otherworldly atmospherics from Birgy’s dreams.

Who: Worriers, Thin Lips, Cheap Perfume, Lawsuit Models
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Worriers are the bouncy, melodic punk band of former The Measure (SA) guitarist and singer Lauren Denitzio. The band’s 2015 album, Imaginary Life, produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, is a charming mixture of irreverent self-examination cataloging life’s downbeats, playfully pointed social commentary and genuinely clever wordplay. Cheap Perfume shares Denitzio’s sense of humor, politics and energy and earlier this year the band debuted the video for a song called “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis).” And given Richard Spencer’s recent turn with a ten minute or so protest revisiting Charlottesville it’s difficult for any normal person to disagree with the sentiment even if you’re not inclined to act on the song literally.

Who: Touché Amoré w/Single Mothers, Gouge Away, Muscle Beach
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Moon Room
Why: Touché Amoré may have kind of a silly name but its melodic post-hardcore while still heavy hitting has a kind of uplifting quality at times that has more in common with late 90s emo. But it’s all part of the same punk world so of course several bands have overlapping musical interests, Touché Amoré just integrated it all as well as expansive, shimmering atmospheric passages that sound like post-rock angels hovering at the edges of its core songs. And it’s kind of a big deal for 2000s post-hardcore fans that London, Ontario post-hardcore legends Single Mothers are playing in Denver. No downside on the bill including Denver’s own Muscle Beach who have found a truly sweet spot between metallic post-hardcore and fluid noise rock.

Who: Haujobb w/Blackcell and DJ Niq V
When: Tuesday, 10.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Haujobb came about at time when there was a great deal of overlap between underground electronic music genres with Meat Beat Manifesto synthesizing EBM, techno and early drum and bass, The Orb creating dance music too weird for most dance clubs, Rabbit in the Moon embodying trance and house and indulging creative breakbeats. Haujobb’s own music was more grounded in EBM and industrial and darker than most of the music that would provide the soundtracks to raves and night-long parties in Ibiza even though its methods of creation wasn’t so far apart from the “electronic” acts who were its peers. Blackcell is one of Denver’s longest running bands in general and certainly out of the electronic and industrial music world going back to its origins in the early 90s when the project was more in the vein of noise with tape collages and samples alongside its synthesizer experiments. These days the duo uses mostly hardware synths, sequencers, drum machines and samplers to craft its richly layered, entrancing soundscapes.

 

Who: The Church w/The Heliosequence
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Many rock bands get stuck in a perpetual revisiting of teenage themes, hedonism and concerns bespeaking of a state of stunted personal development. The Church has never really been that band. Before becoming famous in the U.S. in the wake of the release of its 1988 album Starfish and hit single “Under the Milky Way,” The Church had been crafting albums of exquisite beauty that took the pop and rock song format in interesting directions both sonically and thematically. There was a literary quality to the band’s lyrics that more than hinted at thoughtfulness in the songwriting that aimed at a poetic understanding of life and human interactions beyond the rote clichés of art aiming at little more than entertainment. And with The Church it wasn’t purely intellectual or of the head and its powerful live shows became and remain a powerful shared experience of artist and audience alike. In 2014, The Church released arguably its best record to date with Further/Deeper. The title was a pitch perfect summary of an album in which the band was finding itself having to reinvent itself after the departure of founding guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper but also to continue making relevant music that wasn’t a retread of past glory—something, surprisingly, The Church has never really done, each album being a worthwhile listen. Futher/Deeper was also one of the few rock records written by musicians from an adult perspective without sounding jaded or safe. In 2017 The Church released its latest album Man Woman Life Death Infinity. The Helio Sequence probably gets lumped in with modern shoegaze and dream pop but the band was doing fascinating experiments with electronic music and an expanded sense of psychedelic music early in its career. These days the band is perfecting affecting soundscapes and lyrics that reach well beyond the realm of the mundane. A perfect pairing of bands in a year when that’s not been such a rarity.

Who: The Mercury Tree, Hamster Theatre and Neil Haverstick
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Walnut Room
Why: Portland, Oregon’s The Mercury Tree is proof that progressive rock need not be over intellectualized as its layered atmospheres and rhythms, intricate in composition, are a heady and expansive listening experience. And that band would be worthy enough of attending the show but also a rare Denver appearance by Denver avant-garde rock/jazz legends Hamster Theatre and microtonal guitar wizard Neil Haverstick.

Who: GZA w/Low Hanging Fruit
When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The GZA at The Fox? Sure enough. As a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has exerted a broad influence on much of the hip-hop to have come along since. But GZA’s lyrical brilliance paired with RZA’s production has impacted some of the most interesting electronic music made since the release of his landmark 1995 album Liquid Swords. That album transcended genre and its echoes can be heard in much of alternative and underground hip-hop today.

Tears of Silver Brings the Music of Ken Stringfellow, Mercury Rev and Midlake to an Intimate Venue Near You

Tears of Silver
Tears of Silver, photo by Greg Dohler

 

This Sunday, October 1, you have a rare chance to see Tears of Silver, a kind of super group consisting of Ken Stringfellow of The Posies and Big Star, Jonathan Donohue and Grasshopper of Mercury Rev and Jesse Chandler of Midlake. The show will happen at an intimate venue in the Denver metropolitan area announced a day or two before the show to ticket holders and you can buy tickets here. The set will consist of material from across the careers of all the musicians as well as select covers that fit in with the aim of the band to make a special evening of music that transports players and audience into wondrous emotional spaces with the aid of having the music take place in a space outside the usual environments most people are used to. For the full tour schedule please visit the Tears of Silver website. We recently spoke with Stringfellow about the tour and the group’s aims in doing a tour of venues that don’t normally host music and how that, for him, makes for a richer, more satisfying experience for everyone present.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Last year the Posies did a tour of unconventional venues which you’re doing this time too. What made you want to do that?

Ken Stringfellow: There’s quite a few reasons why this kind of tour appeals to me. First and foremost it’s aesthetically pleasing to find unusual places and warm places that don’t have that slightly seedy aspect lurking at every bar to some degree. Of course some people like the raw, underground feel of a bar because it is seedy and that gives it that kind of edge. I’m more into something more beautiful. Also, a bar, their job is to sell alcohol. That’s their business model and that’s their focus and everything that goes with it. Meaning staying open as long as possible to get the most sales in a night. They put music in bars as a loss leader to get people in. I want the focus of the evening to be the music. That’s what these shows have come to be about. It’s not a bar that has bands on now and then. This is something where we’re gathering at a place for a purpose and to share that experience and only that experience of music.

Denver has a long tradition of unconventional places that people play regularly. Did you have those kinds of experiences with live music coming up as a musician in Seattle and elsewhere?

Mostly if it was going to be an unusual [location] it would be a small festival put together for an event like Fourth of July or whatever and those places would be impromptu. But generally no, we would play the same clubs over and over again. The clubs would change names but it would be the same room. The club that’s called El Corazon now where punk bands usually play now used to be called The Off Ramp. It was called Sub Zero at one point but it’s been a few different things over thirty years. There isn’t that much variety and now touring for over thirty years coming back to the same clubs is fine and some of them take care of the bands the best they can. But we’re at cross purposes, generally. They want the shows to go from eight to two in the morning with the headliner on at midnight even if it’s a Tuesday because the longer it stays open the more booze it can sell. My audience and I on a Tuesday would pretty much be over by ten. Which is reasonable because there is no point. The only reason shows happen late is to sell beer. So I elminated that reason. It’s not beneficial for the art or the participants. It’s just beneficial to the beer companies and I don’t really care about their business and they’re doing fine without me. They don’t need my help.

With the Posies you played at churches and other places most rock bands aren’t playing.

Yeah, like empty office spaces, after hours retail, recording studios and some houses. This tour is continuing this them. I have a partner in booking these spaces, Tina Dunn, who has been finding even more spectacular places to play for this tour. There are a couple where I’ve never seen anything like it. On Saturday we played this plant nursery. This guy has a couple of acres in central San Diego, it’s mostly residential and business out there, and he has an oasis with plants and farm animals and he sells everything you need to grow food. Farmer Bill is his name and his family has a house they built in the middle of the nursery. They have a great vibe and have these seed beds in the back boxed in with railroad ties and they’re a foot high. They’re laid out in parallel rows and make natural seats over which they throw burlap sacks. Then you look up fifteen feet above you where there’s a slope, a little hill, with a flat area up there where you can set up. It’s weird because you’re fifteen feet up looking down on people four feet in front of you. It was strange and wonderful. On Monday we played this motorcycle repair place on Treasure Island. It was an old, industrial building built with thick, wooden beams. It was clean but had a gritty vibe. They put two work lights on the floor turned to not blind people sitting in front of us. We were back lit but no standard show lighting and that was really cool.

Do you find playing the environments affect the way you play?

I think it’s fairly consistent the way we play but I think it makes sure the audience knows this is something unique and will only happen once. I think that’s the subtext. I don’t know if we’ll ever play shows again in this configuration. The plan is to play the tour and put out some online tracks. It’s really just about coming and playing this music this time in a unique way, with a unique line up in a unique place.

Why did you want to work with these other guys in the band for a tour like this?

I’ve just been an admirer and I worked on Mercury Rev’s last album, contributing vocals, creating elaborate vocal landscapes, stacks of surreal vocal sounds. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. I really want ot make a distinction, especially with my solo work, that the power pop thing that comes up again and again my solo work is further away from it. It’s more an Americana jazz-o-sphere. I think if you lined up Lyle Lovett, Bill Frisell and some kind of Gershwin influence or something, that’s where I’m at. All my music has a spirituality to it that’s probably the thing that I’m getting at. The power pop genre isn’t particularly spiritual. It’s kind of a feel good kind of thing—light and romantic. Whereas there’s a gravitas to my solo work that I’ve put in there as well as spiritual, philosophical and scientific themes. I want to make sure people know that’s not power pop as I know it. Power pop isn’t a dirty word but it just doesn’t apply. People base their conception of what I do based on, shall we say, The Posies’ first album, which came out when I was a teenager thirty years ago. It would be silly to assume that I would be in the same place now that I was then with all the experiences that I’ve had and all the opportunities to grow. I’ve done my best to capitlize on growth as a person, a thinker and a writer.

I think Mercury Rev has a spiritual depth and has a hymnal aspect to their music that is also not what a [hardcore] power pop fan would choose or want. If I were on tour with Matthew Sweet and Tommy Keane, who are on tour together know, a power pop fan might think that’s the best thing ever. And they might be disappointed when they find that my solo work doesn’t really fit. I’d rather stop that argument in its tracks and say I’m out here in a more ethereal sound [as is the case with this tour]. Whether we play in a church or not, our sound has a cathedral-sized reverb on it at all times. There’s no drums so it’s more hymn-like than it is rock or pop. Three guitars, beautiful piano and four voices sometimes doing four-part harmonies. I said in a recent interview that it’s more like if Crosby, Stills & Nash were a shoegaze band and released albums on 4AD.

I’ve seen Mercury Rev a couple of times, not since December 2008, and it felt like a spiritual experience. It was transcendent and you felt like you were in a different place other than regular, mundane earth for the duration of the show.

Exactly. That’s how I feel about what they do and I think what I do as a solo artist is a little more earthy but the sentiments and the philosophy apply well to this lofty, otherworldly playing so it’s a good mix.

You were a member of one of the ultimate power pop bands with Big Star but there was always something otherworldly about their music, especially Third.

Precisely. And we open with “Nighttime.” It kind of sets the stage because you’ve probably not heard it the way we play it before. We all know it, we all sing on it and fans know Third. I think it really sets the tone for the evening.

Best Shows in Denver 9/28/17 – 10/4/17

Mirror Fears_Jul30_2017_TomMurphy_web
Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Who: Holy Fuck w/Emerald Siam 
When: Thursday, 9.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Toronto’s Holy Fuck uses a combination of conventional and non-musical devices to make music that sounds like a high energy electronic band without using software, loops or samplers. If that’s the band’s aim it’s live show is a ferocious and relentless in its flood of sounds and musical ideas in a very visceral way. In July, the group released a new EP, Bird Brains, recorded live in a studio further establishing the fact that most bands would require a bevy of synths, drum machines and software to achieve similar results. Opening is Denver’s Emerald Siam. Yeah, Denver veterans and legends in the band who made great, atmospheric music in bands like Twice Wilted, The Bedsit Infamy and Light Travels Faster. But Emerald Siam stands on its own and over the past year and a half the group has delved further into dark, moody melodies and creative guitar tone separation that really opens the music in a way many other guitar rock bands seem to ignore these days. The result is a depth of sound that is enveloping and hypnotic like driving on a fog enshrouded road at night.

Who: Kim Boekbinder, Mirror Fears and EVP 
When: Thursday, 9.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Kim Boekbinder is New York by way of Montreal artist/musician whose work challenges preconceived notions in society and of what art can be, should be and what it can impact and who can be involved in its creation. Her 2013 album The Sky is Calling includes a collaboration with astronomer Phil Plait. So you know the live show is going to be far beyond any standard faire. In 2017 she released NOISEWITCH, an album for which every song is said, according to her website, to be “a spell cast on the audience.” Don’t worry, it’s going to be benevolent stuff. Seeing her would be enough to go to this show but if you go you can catch the industrial/punk/Goth stylings of EVP whose songs have incisive and thought-provoking statements on sexism, the nature of human relationships and our inborn ability to derail our own lives. But wait, there’s more: Mirror Fears. Kate Warner started the latter while still performing in an excellent, shoegazey indie rock band called Talk All Night. But as that band started to go inactive and crumble, Warner had more time to devote to her solo project and in time her inventive and riveting beats and fragile yet powerful vocals have come together for a sound that has roots in the underground and alternative rock that was the foundation of Talk All Night as well as the noise, industrial and experimental music world that has embraced Mirror Fears as one of its own. While still relatively unknown in Denver, Mirror Fears has been creating some of the most interesting music coming out of Denver at the moment because Warner has established her own sound that would appeal to fans of industrial music, electronic dance music and noiseniks alike.

Who: Tristen w/Jenny O and In/Planes 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Tristen could be yet another indie singer-songwriter the likes of which we’ve seen come and go for the last decade and a half or so. But there’s an underlying sense of something different in her songwriting. Maybe it’s because she’s someone who had to figure out unconventional ways to record and share her music in the early days of her career. Could be because she’s a keen observer of human behavior and has turned that quality into music making her own life experiences fodder for songwriting as well. Her 2017 album is called Sneaker Waves suggesting Tristen has an offbeat sense of humor as well—never a bad thing. Also on the tour is Jenny O whose background in jazz actually didn’t ruin her creativity. Instead, the chops she learned going that route in college gave her the tools to compose songs with a subtle yet expansive dynamism. Her new album, 2017’s Peace & Information is like a finely textured, downtempo pop record on which Jenny O takes some chances and goes beyond what you might have come to expect from her already respectable back catalog. “Intuition” in particular bears comparison to the likes of Aldous Harding and Kate Bush with its dense yet expansive synth work and wise and insightful words.

Who: Moodie Black, Night of the Living Shred, ROÄC and It’s Just Bugs
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar/Carioca Café
Why: Moodie Black is a Los Angeles-based hip-hop group. If you’ve seen the band there’s plenty of live instrumentation but rather than some outright jazz or R&B direction, Moodie Black is more what might be called an “industrial rap” band. It has the confrontational quality you’d expect out of any kind of punk or gangster rap group but with the noisy soundscaping you might even expect from a like-minded shoegaze or post-punk band like A Place to Bury Strangers or Pop. 1280. It’s Just Bugs is like-minded but with soul-oriented beatmaking more like something you’d expect to hear from an Anticon or Rhymesayers artist. Just mix in some harsh noise in the beats here and there. The rest of the show is metal or grindcore done by people who have a deep appreciation for hip-hop and vice versa.

Who: Junius, Black Mare, Mustard Gas & Roses and Ghosts of Glaciers 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Junius from Boston has been developing its cinematic sound, some might say post-metal, since 2003. Post-metal probably gives the impression the band sounds a bit like Isis, Pelican and Jesu. And it does. But there is more overt melody and conventional song structure in the music of Junius. Is 2017 album Eternal Rituals For The Accretion Of Light sounds both tribal and futuristic, like something that would suit a soundtrack for a sequel to John Christopher’s The Tripods series. Ghosts of Glaciers from Denver is an instrumental post-metal band whose focus on songwriting over soundscaping is a great fit for the bill. While not as active for a few years, the band is back to playing regular shows and showing how you can have epic instrumental metal without being doom. Black Mare is the solo project of Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Math Horseman. On Death Magick Mother, her second record as Black Mare, Timms comments on the misogyny and political turmoil of the current era with a sprawling, majestic, darkly moody guitar work and fluid rhythms that is as brutal as it is entrancing.

Who: Severed Heads, Pankow, Echo Beds and Blackcell
When: Friday, 9.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Severed Heads is an industrial and electronic dance band from Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1979 as Mr. and Mrs. No Smoking Sign by Richard Fielding and Andrew Wright, the project brought on now sole remaining early member of the band Tom Ellard that same year. Initially using tape loops, synths and other sorts of non-standard noisemakers, Severed Heads must have been a bit of a head scratcher for many when it adopted that name before the turn of the decade. However, around the world, Severed Heads was making the kind of experimental, even avant-garde, music that resonated with music that was already being created by the likes of Nurse With Wound, Smegma, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and, soon enough, Einsturzende Neubauten, Coil, Test Dept. and Skinny Puppy. By the mid-1980s, Severed Heads had evolved its sound becoming almost an electronic dance pop band and later enjoyed a bit of commercial success with the 1988 single “The Greater Reward.” But Severed Heads always had its roots in the weird and there was no mistaking the group for a mainstream band even as some of its material garnered that level of popularity. Ellard announced the end of Severed Heads in 2008 but in subsequent years the band toured with Gary Numan and have done one-offs here and there. But in 2016 new material appeared and now is a rare chance to see the legendary band at all much less in an intimate venue.

But wait, there’s more. Pankow is a band that formed in East Germany in 1981 when rock and roll was very much frowned on in the DDR and the communist world generally. Pankow even wrote songs critical of the repressive East German regime and their music wasn’t widely released for years. Their sound might be compared to the likes of industrial/EBM band Nitzer Ebb except more pop though no less energetic and confrontational.

Denver’s Echo Beds and Blackcell are opening the night. Echo Beds has mastered the integration of analog industrial sounds produced by voice, striking an oil drum and guitar/bass and electronic elements in percussion, sampling, synths and sound processing. Depending on the show you catch it could be the more tribal-esque side of the band or the more ambient experiments it has engaged in over the last year and a half. Those unfamiliar should think more along the lines of the aforementioned Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department. Blackcell is one of the longest-running bands in Denver in general having begun in the early 90s. The duo has developed various musica ideas across its entire career but of late its use of synths and circuit bent devices has propelled its music beyond the industrial and more noise-oriented music of its early days. Not sound design so much as a reimagining of what that music can be utilizing new methods and technologies and basically not getting stuck in a stylistic rut that no longer seems relevant. Blackcell remains ahead of the curve.

Who: New Ben Franklins & The Ghost of Joseph Buck 
When: Friday, 9.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: New Ben Franklins are probably considered by many to be a kind of alt-country band and maybe it is. In the way that the Beat Farmers, Green on Red or even Mojave 3 are so. Singer David DeVoe spent some years making dark, atmospheric music as a member of Denver-based post-punk/Goth band Fiction 8. But his musical interests have always been diverse and the appeal of the spare songwriting style of country proved strong. NBF is a kind of synthesis of DeVoe’s interests and could never be limited to merely alt-country or post-punk but, rather, a fascinating blending of it all with DeVoe’s signature songwriting style that is never just one flavor, never just one texture and never boring.

Who: Future Islands w/Jenny Besetzt 
When: Friday, 9.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Future Islands was one of the most high profile bands of the Wham City collective in Baltimore. The trio toured DIY spaces around the country in its early days including Denver’s own Rhinoceropolis where the band played a couple of times before finding increasing popularity for its wonderfully unusual, soulful pop songs. The band got a big break into the mainstream with its appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on March 3, 2014 and singer Sam Herring’s dancing and other stage antics becoming a sensation on the Internet. In 2017 Future Islands released its latest album, The Far Field, on 4AD.

Who: Japanese Breakfast w/Mannequin Pussy and The Spirit of The Beehive
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast has a knack for perceiving small but significant nuances in the dynamics of human relationships and issues of race and gender. Her albums, 2016’s Psychopomp and 2017’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet reflect Zauner’s insights with humor and stark and poetic sincerity. The downtempo pop and hazy atmospherics of a Japanese Breakfast song draw you in and convey the themes of the song directly to the heart and Zauner is a powerfully vulnerable and unpretentious performer. It’s an especially effective blend of style, presentation and honesty. Mannequin Pussy isn’t a contrast so much as a great compliment to Zauner’s music as a punk band that didn’t get hung up on the usual sounds, tools, methods or looks of being punk. Its songs are witty takedowns of sexism, ignorance and harmful and outmoded cultural narratives in general. Sonically, the band is reminiscent of Babes In Toyland’s ferocious intensity, Versus’ experimental guitar pop and more modern punk bands also not straightjacketed by tradition like Tacocat. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was a true statement about American culture at the dawn of Trump’s America.

Who: Diorama of the Cosmos
When: Saturday, 9.30, 7-10 p.m.
Where: Fiske Planetarium (Boulder)
Why: Katy Zimmerman and Genevieve Waller are Denver-based artists that challenge prevailing modes of thinking by experimenting with the forms and conceptions of existing phenomena. This time out, the solar system and space and our way of thinking about how things have to be. The statement from their event page: “Part craft project and part teaching tool, the handmade model of the solar system fashioned out of cardboard, string, and Styrofoam is an iconic children’s activity. In an installation created expressly for the Fiske Planetarium, Katy Zimmerman and Genevieve Waller pay homage to this kid tradition with a speculative representation of the solar system. Assembling together fictional suns, moons, planets, and stars into imaginary patterns and orbits, Waller and Zimmerman present a departure from the faithful diagram. They posit that the place where science and fantasy meet is rich with possibilities and will enable us to envision new worlds, rules, and dimensions of thought.”

Who: One-Eyed Doll w/Doll Skin, Sharone & The Wind and Rotten Reputation
When: Saturday, 9.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: One-Eyed Doll is a Goth punk/metal duo from Austin that has been playing the kind of music that would have been in a Goth version of Jawbreaker. Meaning it almost seems like a self-aware studio project that makes the music to present a concept with strong imagery, like informal branding with an underlying sense of humor. Rotten Reputation is a punk band that on the surface level might seem fairly straightforward but its mascot, Nancy, is a headless, armless, legless mannequin that also serves as kind of a merch booth. And its songs challenge sexism and the almost populist fascism exemplified by the Trump administration. Sharone & The Wind has come a long way from when singer Sharone Borik performed under her own name as a kind of singer-songwriter act. Over the summer of 2016 Borik assembled the first incarnation of the rock band to flesh out her songs and the result was something like a hard rock band but driven by Borik’s piano work and powerful voice. A new line up came together in 2017 that fully frees Borik up to front the band with music that has progressed further in a dark, hard rock direction.

Who: The Black Madonna and Gerd Janson
When: Saturday, 9.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Club Vinyl
Why: The Black Madonna has become one of the premier electronic dance artists in the underground but at this point she’s only underground only in that she’s not yet known to a mainstream audience. Her set at Sonar 2017 was lauded for her signature fluid transitions using a very unconventional playlist and samples. Marea Stamper (aka The Black Madonna) has spent time cultivating her skills and knowledge at all levels of the electronic dance world from promotions, management, running a label to production and more and it lends her actual music an unspoken authenticity and grit.

Who: Goldie w/Fury, Grym and Goreteks
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Goldie got his big break to the world through his graffiti art but in the 90s he became a producer of electronic music and an innovator of jungle and breakbeat. On his debut solo album, 1995’s Timeless, Goldie showed how breakbeat rhythms could easily drive a soulful pop song in “Inner City Life” and give it an experimental edge that popular electronic music generally didn’t have before. Goldie has remained an innovator and an influential music producer. And you may have seen him in The World Is Not Enough and EastEnders if you knew to look for him.

Who: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 w/Atomga
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Seun Kuti is Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti’s youngest son and he is leading one of Fela’s classic bands. Opening is Atomga, one of the most legit, Fela-inspired, Afrobeat bands in Denver. So it’ll be a great night of Afrobeat with legendary musicians and a great local band carrying on that tradition of the blend of funk, jazz and traditional African music that got Fela in trouble with the Nigerian government throughout his career.

Who: Rock For Tolerance – SPLC Benefit w/Surrender Signal, Electric Thinking Machine, Gestapo Pussy
When: Saturday, 9.30, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Gestapo Pussy Ranch is a snotty punk rock band which includes former KTCL and KBPI disc jockey John “Whipping Boy” Wilbur. So it’ll be a lot of irreverent humor (the name should spell that one outh, though) and a lively rock show benefitting Southern Poverty Law Center. The $5 cover goes directly to the SPLC

Who: Dark Descent Records 8th Anniversary show: Spectral Voice (album release) w/Ritual Necromancy, Ascended Dead, Grave Ritual and Blood Incantation
When: Saturday, 9.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive – Sold Out
Why: Death metal/doom band Spectral Voice is releasing its latest album, Eroded Corridors of Unbeing at this show. One of the most brutal yet haunting bands out of that genre today, Spectral Voice has slowly been carving its own legacy of dark, heavy music across the globe for the last few years. Also on the bill is the quasi-legendary, like-minded, band Blood Incantation. It’s not the kind of metal show for everyone but for those that appreciate uncompromising sounds and aesthetics, it’s hard to beat.

Who: The Slants w/Princess Dewclaw and Surf Mom
When: Sunday, 10.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: The Slants is an all-Asian American dance punk band from Portland, Oregon that recently testified before the Supreme Court of the United States on the right to trademark the use of the band name. And won. Their sound is sort of a retro synth pop thing but more rock like The Epoxies. Princess Dewclaw from Denver sounds like a pop punk band that has a riot grrrl sensibility including the subject matter and synths. Its 2017 album Walk of Shame reflects an outsider perspective on the punk and art scene with poetic abstractions of fear, insecurity and rage into creative constructs and pop culture references. But it doesn’t blunt the message because its delivered with such passion. Surf Mom is a duo that is quickly growing beyond the surf part of its name and now has more in common with The Jesus and Mary Chain with its abrasive, face burning, spiky guitar tones than the garage surf stuff of the past decade. That is except that there is no detached emotionalism in Molly McGrath’s vocals—her voice and messaging is direct, pointed and incisive.

Who: Dead Rider w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Quits
When: Sunday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Todd Rittman was once the guitarist in experimental noise rock band U.S. Maple before those weirdos broke up in 2007. Which is the same year the great electronic punk band Sleaford Mods started. Coincidence? Definitely but since 2009 Rittman has been a member of Dead Rider, a band much more electronic than U.S. Maple and sharing some of the same aesthetic and socially critical sensibilities of the aforementioned band from Nottingham, England. That Denver’s own bizarro noise rock Quits, which includes former members of Hot White, CP-208, Witch Doctor and Sparkles, seems only fitting. What is perhaps more unusual is Wheelchair Sports Camp on the bill but beatmaker/vocalist/lyricist supreme Kaelyn Heffernan has always incorporated unusual samples in her hip-hop as well as playing with players capable of taking jazz into previously unknown territory.

 

Who: Ambersmoke, Admiral, Brother Saturn
When: Sunday, 10.01, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Ambersmoke is an L.A. based shoegaze/sound collage band touring in support of its latest album, Lay My Bones Beneath the Valley Oak. Many bands claim My Bloody Valentine as an influence but Ambersmoke actually seems to have taken the hazy, lo-fi soundscaping aspect of MBV seriously and done interesting things with similar methods and sounds with guitar, of course, but also synths and sampled impromptu noisemakers. Denver’s Brother Saturn is more an ambient project but using highly processed guitars and voices. The project’s 2017 album Apollo, Can You Hear Me? Is almost like a post-Tim Hecker, melancholic sequel to Brian Eno’s 1983 album Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. Except that has a quality that suggests the soothing of a pain buried inside the psyche—a slow moving spell of healing.

Who: Wolves in the Throne Room w/Pillorian
When: Monday, 10.02, 7
Where: The Black Sheep
Why: Wolves in the Throne Room may have been dismissed as “hipster metal” by some people as it gained popularity among fans who normally wouldn’t be into metal. WITTR had and has all the classic black metal elements from the feral voices, stark, death metal guitar played with a ferocious intensity. And its whole aim was to express the forces of nature and the ambient energy of the Pacific Northwest. This resulted in music that while definitely black metal, like some of the band’s cousins in Europe and other parts of North America, it had an atmospheric sound that suggested more than a dark spirit reclaimed from conquering cultures. There is no corpse paint on stage or references to Satan in the music of WITTR, as though they took the pagan aspect of its philosophical underpinnings seriously. At the height of its popularity in 2011 the band announced it would be curtailing its touring. But five years later the group was touring in a limited capacity once again. On the 2017 album Thrice Woven, Wolves in the Throne Room returns to playing black metal after 2014’s Celestite, the brilliant, synthesizer companion album to 2011’s Celestial Lineage.

Who: Lords of Acid w/Combichrist, En Esch, Night Club, ITSOKTOCRY and Christian Death
When: Tuesday, 10.03, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Lords of Acid definitely splits the line among industrial music fans. The project has unabashedly embraced industrial music, EBM, club dance music and an outrageously trashy aesthetic or cartoonish sexuality. But no matter what you think of the specific subject matter of the songs the fact is that the live band is a lot of fun. Band leader Praga Khan has been known to push his bandmates off stage into the crowd and then not exempting himself from such playful indignities. Night Club is a darkwave band co-founded by former Warlock Pinchers and Foreskin 500 guitarist, and longtime Metalocalypse collaborator (among other noteworthy film and animation projects), Mark Brooks. Christian Death is obviously the incarnation of the band with Valor Kand on guitar and lest fans of the band forget, Kand was the main guitarist on the band’s great second album, 1984’s Catastrophe Ballet. And live the band performs songs from across its entire career. If you go and don’t expect something impossible and quaintly fanciful like Rozz Williams, who is dead, and Rikk Agnew you might actually enjoy the show.

Who: Drab Majesty w/DJs Boyhollow and Slave 1
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Milk Bar
Why: Drab Majesty’s music is like a fully synthesized combination of David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and super hip science fiction movie soundtrack. Fans of Roxy Music will love this. So will fans of Cocteau Twins and vintage Clan of Xymox. Deb Demure is also a great songwriter whose 2015 album, Careless, was the go-to album for fans of dark post-punk for an entire year. 2017’s The Demonstration helped to expand Drab Majesty’s audience well outside the Goth and post-punk subculture not by compromising Demure’s artistic vision but because it turns out it wasn’t just people identifying as Goths could find something to appreciate about the deep and stirring atmospheres of the music and its futuristic vision.

Who: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Other Worlds
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard sounds like it has to be a stoner rock band. And that’s partially true as the Australian psychedelic rock band doesn’t hold its nose up and creative use of hard rock and metal tropes in crafting its mind altering songs. Known for an exuberant live show, King Gizzard actually seemed to live up to its absurdist, cartoonish name in the best sense. He group is currently touring in support of its 2017 album Sketches of Brunswick East.

Who: Zealot, Teacup Gorilla and The Far Stairs
When: Wednesday, 10.04, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s Weird Wednesday at 3 Kings, which happens the first Wednesday of the month. Booked and hosted by Claudia Woodman, the series showcases some of Denver’s most unusual bands whether or not that is obvious by looking at or listening to the artists in question. Zealot is the latest band from Luke Hunter James-Erickson who is most well known for his pop bands The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and For Keeps. But he’s always had a leg in experimental music and noise with Wind Does and now Zealot. Teacup Gorilla is the kind of band that could only happen when people were never told they shouldn’t do a strange glam rock band and one of Denver’s most original and interesting bands because they’re following no one else’s trend and not aiming to have anyone follow theirs. The Far Stairs is the current band of Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Can’t say I’ve seen the band have it on good authority it’s quite unusual and partly so for how Livingston is able to make something so unusual accessible.