While Denver didn’t get hit with any of the hurricanes and storms that have devastated large swaths of America, the Caribbean, India and beyond, an unusual collection of wild fire smoke descended on the city making it look like leftovers of the final scene in Apocalypse Now, wrecking the days of any allergy sufferers. But now that the aftereffects are slowly clearing up you can take time off from sneezing and coughing and go see a worthwhile show this next week. Here are several worthwhile events for your consideration.
Who: Too Many Zooz w/Jayce
When: Friday, 9.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Too Many Zooz had already garnered a bit of a cult following with their “brass house” style refined playing in the subways of New York before being tapped to perform on Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade. The self-described genre of the group stems from its combination of acoustic instruments (including trumpet, bari sax and drums) and an electronic compositional sensibility, the sort that underlies most modern hip-hop beatmaking and that of underground and beat-driven experimental electronic music. According to Too Many Zooz trumpet-player, Matt Doe, there are already people recording cover versions of the band’s songs, a testament to not just the songwriting but the music’s appeal to other musicians. See our interview with Matt Doe coming soon.
Who: Never Kenezzard w/Ora EP release and Ice Troll
When: Friday, 9.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: If a more experimental metal scene can be said to exist in Denver, this show is certainly proof. Ice Troll is like a heavy music orchestra lead by Don White who has been involved in some of the more interesting weirdo bands of recent years like Boy Howdy and The Kappa Cell. Never Kenezzard in another time might be considered stoner rock or doom but it’s really coming from a place of solid songwriting so while heavy it is so in the same sense one might say of Boris or, more recently, Power Trip. Ora includes former Skivies guitarist Zahari Tsigularov who was basically the Helios Creed in a band that channeled their inner Butthole Surfers and Mr. Bungle. Truly one of Denver’s greats and Ora, his new band, is releasing its debut EP at this show.
Who: Altas, Rowboat and Emerald Siam
When: Friday, 9.8, 8:30 p.m.
Why: One of those all Denver band line-ups that should happen more often. Altas is an instrumental hard rock band whose songs suggest visuals without providing them—instead you are engulfed in the group’s songs. Rowboat came out of Sam McNitt’s experiments with folk music but became more akin to a dark, haunted Wilco or Nick Drake in terms of subject matter and depth of McNitt’s personal insight. Emerald Siam is fronted by one of Denver’s true rock legends, Kurt Ottaway, who was once a member of Twice Wilted, Tarmints and The Overcasters. With Emerald Siam, Ottaway has brought together a group of musicians that has him channeling the dark muse that informed TW and Tarmints. A gifted storyteller, Ottaway’s songwriting has a literary quality similar to that of Steve Kilbey of The Church.
Who: RUMTUM album release w/Dirty Art Club, DJ Babyshoe and Nasty Nachos
When: Friday, 9.8, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: John Hastings has been developing his electro-acoustic band RUMTUM for several years now but with the new record he has seemed to have really blended the elements together in ways that fully draw from the merits of organic and purely electronic sounds equally.
Who: Silver Face, Mount Orchid and Anna Smith
When: Friday, 9.8, 9 p.m.
Where: The Curtis Club
Why: It was probably inevitable that live music would be coming back more visibly to The Curtis Club. And this night, psychedelic prog band Silver Face will perform and prove that you can be both of those genres of music without being pretentions or jamming endlessly to the entertainment only of the people on stage. Also on the bill is Anna Smith of Ancient Elk fame. Her solo acoustic music is tender and gentle yet intense and riveting. Is it psych folk? Avant-bluegrass, if such a designation doesn’t stretch the boundaries of good sense to name? Yes, both and more.
Who: Kid Astronaut
When: Saturday, 9.9, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Denver Public Library – Cherry Creek Branch
Why: Jon Shockness was once in the great hip-hop group Air Dubai. His multifaceted talent, though, always meant he would want to different kinds of music and he is able to with his Kid Astronaut project. Naturally Shockness’ vocal talent is on display but also his imagination and his ability to take on mindsets and ideas to embody an experience with each song. See him in the morning at the Cherry Creek Branch of Denver Public Library for free! Bring the family because kids should get to see good music instead of the stuff pumped into them from TV and elsewhere.
Who: Cocordion w/EVP, Hair Club and Coo Coo Bad Brains
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Cocordion from Colorado Springs is supposedly lo-fi bedroom recording stuff. If it is, it has more in common with the likes of Vetiver and Microphones. EVP somehow combines death rock sensibilities, industrial electroclash sounds and the airing of social ills and personal demons through Amanda Baker’s vocals seem both celebratory and darkly cathartic. In another era Coo Coo Bad Brains (now possibly called simply Cuckoo) would have fit right in on either the K or Siltbreeze imprints. Its lo-fi soundscaping and gentle melodies really embody the kind of modern era malaise brought on diminished expectations for the future and the need to ease the pain with something creative. And other music journalist projections on the intentions of musicians.
Who: Life’s Torment, Doperunner (release of P.C. Bonfire), Chemically Crippled and Berated
When: Saturday, 9.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: There aren’t that many grind shows in Denver these days. It is, though, sort of a niche music. And for this show one of the stars of local grind, and international grindcore for that matter, Doperunner is releasing its cheekily titled new album P.C. Bonfire. You don’t get many chances to see the band these days and you have to appreciate the fact that a self-conscious album title acknowledging the phenomenon of how people who pretty much agree with each other politically can still find ways to police each other over relative trifles. And if you don’t like the messaging, at least the tape is probably twenty minutes long of inspired fury tops.
Who: eHpH, Pieces, Jxnny Teknikvi
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Saying this is an industrial show might be misleading because eHpH, while coming out of that sort of realm of music and EBM, really is a band that has songs and not just production experiments and an excuse to rock out like a glam metal band on guitar over electronic beats. eHpH’s soundscaping is darkly soothing even when the band brings in the gritty elements. Pieces is reminiscent of the sample heavy compositions of pre-Too Dark Park Skinny Puppy but more lo-fi, at least on the recordings.
Who: X and Skating Polly
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: X is too famous to have to recommend but rarely have the worlds of poetry and punk rock come together so fruitfully. Formed in the late 70s in Los Angeles, the title of their debut album, X became one of the most popular punk bands of the era because it had the passion and personal darkness one would want from punk but also an accessible tunefulness that transcended genre. Skating Polly as the opening band seems perfect because that band is punk by virtue of really inventing their own musical style based on their idiosyncratic method of learning to play together growing up in Oklahoma. Easy comparisons might be made with Babes in Toyland’s feral punk rock but Skating Polly doesn’t bear facile comparison to other bands.
Who: Exodus w/Axeslasher and Legion of Death
When: Saturday, 9.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Exodus was one of the pioneering bands of Bay Area thrash in the early 80s. Its landmark 1985 album Bonded By Blood is a classic of metal in general but also essentially a blueprint for a lot of heavy music that has come along since.
Who: Territorio Liberado: A Benefit for Denver Metro Sanctuary Coalition featuring: Roka Hueka, Los Mocochetes, Altas, Cheap Perfume, Wild Lives, Roots Rice and Beans, Church Fire, Mirror Fears
When: Sunday, 9.10, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is a benefit show for Denver Metro refugees. Until the world can get to some Star Trek-esque realm of rich multiculturalism and bring about the end of poverty and war and all the things that make life needlessly difficult, this will continue to be an issue that governments and non-governmental groups will have to keep addressing. On the bill are some of the best Denver bands from across a wide spectrum of genres.
Who: Jay Som w/Stef Chura,Soccer Mommy and American Grandma
When: Sunday, 9.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Melina Duterte’s band Jay Som seems to sit somewhere between dream pop and a lounge-y C86-era indie pop. Her songs have a twinge of soft jazz and surf rock but that dynamic gives the weight of her lyrics a way to hit without crushing. Like she’s made space for herself and her potential listeners to take in the emotions and thoughts that Duterte has somehow found a way to articulate so vividly. It’s beyond relationship issues and personal demons illustrated by unfortunate experiences, Duterte’s nuanced treatment of subjects elevates what could just be nice, well-crafted pop songs. But don’t worry, it’s not all downtempo, the self-effacing humor with which Duterte and the band present themselves is endearing in a way that is reminiscent of the best of the 90s indie pop bands whose similarly sincere songs about life’s complicated moments seem incredibly poignant and serious. Currently touring in support of the 2017 album Everybody Works.
Who: Screwtape, Stay Wild, Upstanding Citizen and guests
When: Tuesday, 9.12, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: On a very short list of the best punk bands from Denver or anywhere right now must include Screwtape. It’s tempting to lump them in with some subgenre of punk like hardcore but the band doesn’t limit itself that way. When Screwtape opened for Choking Victim in November 2016, for some people, the Denver band stole the show with its raw energy and ability to inject its songs with non-didactic political content.