Colorado Bands at Treefort Music Fest 2018

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Rubedo, photo by Tom Murphy

 

Ever since the founding of Treefort Music Fest, Colorado bands have been a staple of the event as Treefort was inspired by The UMS in Denver. This year is, Colorado based bands are on the bill virtually every night of the Fest and what follows is a rundown of those bands and the time and place where you can catch them. Esmé Patterson is being included because, well, she became a significant artist before she moved from Denver. The organizers of Treefort Music Fest have done a great job of providing links and photos so click on the links for each band to find out more information and in most cases give the artists a listen.

Thursday | March 22, 2018

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Bad Licks, photo by Tom Murphy

Dear Rabbit – 6 p.m. – Boise All-ages Movement Project
Kyle Emerson – 10 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Eldren – 10:40 p.m. – The Reef
Bad Licks – 11 p.m. – Ha’Penny

Friday | March 23, 2018

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Kitty Crimes, photo by Lindsey Webb

Tyto Alba – 8:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
The Still Tide – 10:10 p.m. – The Olympic
Esmé Patterson – 11 p.m. – The District
Edison – 11:15 p.m. – Tom Grainey’s
The Kinky Fingers – 11:20 p.m. – Ha’Penny
ill-esha – 11:30 p.m. – Fatty’s
Kitty Crimes – 11:30 p;m. – Grainey’s Basement
déCollage – 12:40 a.m. – Grainey’s Basement

 

Saturday | March 24, 2018

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Midwife, photo by Tom Murphy

The Raven and The Writing Desk – 4:30 p.m. – El Korah Shrine
Ancient Elk – 8 p.m. – Ha’Penny
Midwife – 9 p.m. – Boise Contemporary Theater
Serpentfoot – 9:30 p.m. – The Olympic

Sunday | March 25, 2018

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Porlolo, photo by Tom Murphy

Porlolo – 4:50 p.m. – Linen Building
Rubedo – 7:30 p.m. – Neurolux

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Treefort Music Fest: 25 Great Independent Bands to See

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Mint Field performs Saturday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Boise All-ages Movement. Photo by Maria Fernanda Molins

Treefort Music Fest kicks off tonight in Boise, Idaho. As usual, the festival offers a broad spectrum of indie music with a well-curated selection of headlining acts. Here are some highlights on each night, although you can’t really go wrong with where you end up for the night. Hopefully this listing can serve as a guide to what are some of the most interesting acts each night that maybe not everyone has heard of without bombarding you with too many options. Hopefully you’ll want to explore those other options as you check out various performances. We will also include a guide to the reunion shows and other must-see/legendary stuff you’ll want to catch should you be so inclined as well as a rundown of all the Colorado acts performing throughout the weekend.

Wednesday | March 21, 2018

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Dick Stusso, photo by Cara Robbins

Preakedness – 7:30 p.m. – Linen Building
Bullets Are The Cure – 8:30 p.m. Grainey’s Basement 
Dick Stusso – 10:15 p.m. – The Olympic
Crosss – 11:30 p.m. – Linen Building
Big White – 12:30 – The Olympic

Thursday | March 22, 2018

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Skating Polly, photo by Angel Ceballos

Sun Blood Stories – 8 p.m. – Neurolux
Alien Boy – 8:15 p.m. – Linen Building
Love-Lace – 9 p.m. – Linen Building
Skating Polly – 10 p.m. – Boise All-Ages Movement Project
Kelly Lee Owens – 12:30 a.m. – Neurolux

Friday | March 23, 2018

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Groggy Bikini, photo by Jason Sievers

208 Ensemble – 4:30 p.m. – Boise Contemporary Theater
Twin Peaks – 5:50 p.m. – Main Stage
Groggy Bikini – 6:30 p.m. – The Shredder
Frigs – 9 p.m. – Linen Building
U.S. Girls – 11 p.m. – Linen Building

Saturday | March 24, 2018

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C.J. Boyd circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Prism Bitch – 5 p.m. – Linen Building
Mint Field – 6:30 p.m. – Boise All Ages Movement Project
Moaning – 7:30 p.m. – Boise All-ages Movement Project
C.J. Boyd – 9:40 p.m. – Boise Contemporary Theater
Thunderpussy – 11:30 p.m. – Hannah’s

Sunday | March 25, 2018

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Clarke and the Himselfs, photo by Ellen Rumel

Yardsss – 4:30 p.m. – Neurolux
Spiritual Warfare and the Greasy Shadows – 5:50 p.m. – Linen Building
Clarke and the Himselfs – 7 p.m. – El Korah Shrine
Aan – 9:30 p.m. – Neurolux
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – 10:4 p.m. – Neurolux

Best Shows in Denver 3/15/18 – 3/21/18

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Mint Field performs at Lost Lake on March 21. Photo by Maria Fernanda Molins

 

Who: Protomartyr w/Ned Garthe Explosion
When: Thursday, 03.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Protomartyr apparently didn’t get the memo on what post-punk bands in the current era are supposed to sound like. The vocal delivery hits at weird angles to the fluid rhythms and jagged yet expressive and atmospheric guitar work like Nick Cave singing for a hybrid of The Fall and Sleaford Mods. Its latest record is 2017’s Relatives in Descent. It’s a bit moodier than the group’s earlier albums yet has a headlong quality as though the band is embracing the chaos and disorientation of the world now to see where the broken machine ultimately lands. Ned Garthe Explosion is more of a psychedelic rock band but one of the most gloriously ragged around the edges and one for which you never quite know where the show will go in a way we need to see more often.

Who: Alonerly, R A R E B Y R D $, Claudzilla
When: Thursday, 03.15, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Alonerly is the solo project of Antonia Montoya from Albuquerque. Using upright bass, soulful vocals and beats, Montoya creates the kind of spacious yet intimate music that probably gets lumped, and not unjustifiably so, with jazz and hip-hop but is in the end its own thing, a rarity in a time when many musical artists are trying to tap a little too much into an established musical genre. She won’t be alone in bringing something not quite like anything else with keytar weirdo Claudzilla and hypnotic and highly evocative hip-hop/noise crew R A R E B Y R D $.

Friday | March 16, 2018

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Bad Licks, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bad Licks 7 inch release w/Vic ‘n’ the Narwhals, The Corner Girls and Soulfax DJs
When: Friday, 03.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bad Licks includes former members of The Blue Rider so there’s plenty of the subtle weirdness to the undertones of its psychedelic garage rock. The group is celebrating the release of its latest seven inch of its excellent Lies EP. Because people in the band are very much into genuinely experimental music, the record is worth listening to beyond obvious genre trappings. Joined this night by pastel/surf punks The Corner Girls and surf/blues punk band Vic ‘n’ the Narwhals. All around a post-garage rock genre-bending extravaganza because all of these bands put on an energetic performance.

Who: Clan of Xymox w/Voicecoil and Radio Scarlet w/DJ Svipal
When: Friday, 03.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Clan of Xymox formed in Amsterdam near the height of the first wave of post-punk in 1981. The band’s sound including more extensive use of synths was more in line with groups like Comsat Angels, The Sound, Killing Joke and The Chameleons. Clan of Xymox’s first three albums are considered foundational for what has come to be known as “darkwave” – the blending of early synth pop aesthetics with post-punk. Xymox and contemporaries like Anne Clark, Fad Gadget and Depeche Mode made what might have been considered weird and avant-garde accessible to a broad audience. By the early 90s, however, the band splintered and Ronnie Moorings continued in a direction inspired by the acid house music popular in dance clubs in the late 80s and early 90s. But apparently the project’s fanbase wasn’t into that sound and it didn’t translate well to the rave crowd. And yet Xymox hadn’t completely lost its darkwave cachet and throughout the 90s Moorings experimented with a return to that sort of sound while absorbing the industrial music of bands he had in part influenced. Over the past decade darkwave, industrial and gothic rock has been enjoying the most extensive genuine revival since the first time around and Xymox has enjoyed a little of its own renaissance being invited to festivals catering to the aforementioned genres and with its last eight albums, including 2017’s Days of Black, released or re-issued on Metropolis. Why did the music matter? As someone once said about Joy Division, despite and because of its sometimes gloomy, brooding, emotionally urgent and intense sounds, Xymox and its contemporaries had to come along to articulate complex and sometimes conflicting emotions with a clarity, power and poignancy that wasn’t happening with a lot of rock and roll.

Monday | March 19, 2018

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Yardsss, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Screwtape, Wander, Young Lovers, Ridgeway, Yardsss, Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 03.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: One of the great things about shows at Seventh Circle is that even if it’s all supposed to be all one thing it never really is. Tonight proves that as local hardcore heroes Screwtape are performing alongside mostly post-rock/shoegaze bands. Brother Saturn’s collage of guitar sounds tracing the outsides of daydreams made up of soothingly hypnotic layers of atmosphere is a good fit with California based post-rock bands Wander, Young Lovers and Ridgeway to send them back home from SXSW in a welcoming show halfway through that journey. Yardsss from Portland, Oregon has a diverse sonic palette but broadly speaking, the band’s core sounds are rooted in droning atmospheres, noise and improvisational electronic composition. Fans of more experimental industrial music will find much to like in Yardsss’ darkly evocative aesthetic.

Who: Mimicking Birds, The Raven and the Writing Desk and Haley Heynderickx
When: Monday, 03.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Indie rock band Mimicking Birds are making a stop in Denver on their way to Treefort Music Fest (we’ll be featuring some advance coverage in the next few days as well as post-fest coverage in the following weeks). The group recently released its new album, the gorgeously lush and pastoral Layers of Us. If you’re not making it out to Treefort for the 7:40 p.m. set at El Korah Shrine, catch the Portland, Oregon-based band tonight with the like-minded The Raven and the Writing Desk. The latter is one of Denver’s best kept secrets in music as a band that has really pushed itself to explore new vistas in its own sound and breaking with its own musical past in order to make something interesting and fresh. A rarity.

Tuesday | March 20, 2018

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GGOOLLDD, photo by Kelly Bolter

Who: OMD w/GGOOLLDD
When: Tuesday, 03.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, often referred to as OMD, were, like fellow UK artists Gary Numan and Human League as well as Berlin in the USA, instrumental in establishing what became synth pop. After seeing an mid-70s Kraftwerk concert, bassist and vocalist Andy McCluskey started OMD with some friends and from early on the band separated itself from many other bands of the era in having no guitars and but a visceral live show. OMD enjoyed its share of commercial popularity in the UK and the US at various points in its career but artistically it’s arguably greatest achievement was the 1983 album Dazzle Ships. But the mainstream audience didn’t seem to be much into the truly boundary pushing pop compositions. Today the album is considered by many fans to be its best alongside its 1981 predecessor, Architecture & Morality. Now recognized as innovators as well talented masters of pop songcraft, OMD will be headlining a show at The Ogden Theatre with the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based GGOOLLDD. The latter, fronted by the dynamic and talented Margaret Butler, recently released the TEETH EP in December 2017. Part synth pop, part theatrical glam band, GGOOLLDD has always put on a large theater show in small, even intimate venues, so catch a great, newer band opening for a group in a similar lineage of imaginative yet sincere music.

What: Faster Than Light Fest: Obtuse (1st), Blue Lane Frontier, Old Sport, Granddad (AK/MN), Closer is a Band (Brooklyn), Alien Boy (Portland), Runaway Brother (Cleveland)
When: Tuesday, 03.20, 5 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is a festival put together for bands on their way from SXSW or going through and happening to converge in Denver for one date. It’s also a good cross section of the modern punk/emo/math rock underground in America and naturally it’s at Seventh Circle where a lot of touring if that stripe often plays in Denver these days. Locals Obtuse, Old Sport and Blue Lane Frontier represent a rebirth for the kind of punk that both embraces pop punk, screamo, indie rock and math rock but also advances where that music could have gone had it converged and evolved. Portland’s Alien Boy gets points for naming itself after a Wipers song but also for embodying the kind of moody punk with thoughtful, sometimes wryly humorous, lyrics and the kind of darkness and intensity, not to say anger, that a lot of punk frankly lacks.

Wednesday | March 21, 2018

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Kelly Lee Owens, photo by Kim Hiorthøy

Who: Kelly Lee Owens
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: With her 2017 self-titled full-length, Kelly Lee Owens displayed a keen ear for electronic composition and a knack for translating that into accessible dance tracks. Her mastery of mixing hypnotic and deep low end with melodic drones interweaving with her ethereal vocals across the record was stunning. Fans of IDM, dub techno and deep house, do yourself a favor and at a minimum pick up the album. Also, fans of dream pop/shoegaze acts unafraid of jumping straight into abstract atmospheres such as Slowdive, Seefeel and Sound of Ceres will find much to like with Owens’ output as well. Owens performs tonight at Bar Standard before setting off for Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho where she performs Thursday night 3.22 at 12:30 a.m. at Neurolux

Who: Mint Field w/Neighbor Lady and American Grandma
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mint Field’s 2018 debut album Pasar De Las Luces is being touted as a great modern shoegaze album. And it is, but it is one that isn’t particularly beholden to an older sound. The minimalist aesthetic of the music bears a stronger resemblance to ambient and downtempo dance music than to rock. At its most “rock” the band comes off as more post-punk and Krautrock like Neu! or Faust than worshippers of Lush or My Bloody Valentine. Although the band is from Tijuana its gauzy layers and swirling melodies are a far cry from that city’s reputation as one of the party capitals of the world. Mint Field also performs at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho on Saturday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Boise All Ages Movement.

Who: U.S. Girls w/Rubedo and Michael Rault
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Meghan Remy’s U.S. Girls has thankfully been pretty much impossible to chalk up to a single genre of music since the project’s inception. It’s always pop songs whether those have a leg in noise, punk, garage rock or whatever. Her latest album, 2018’s In a Poem Unlimited, sounds, interestingly enough, like a reinvention of 90s hip-hop as a funk and soul record. It has that lush production with grit and a melancholic undertone. “Pearly Gates” in particular is reminiscent of Warren G’s 1994 hit “Regulate.” Which, considering the themes of the album, is an interesting allusion. But whatever ideas and sounds informed the record, it is a literate and insightful exploration the various manifestations of toxic masculinity, its effects throughout culture and society and what life might be like without it’s wearying, destructive influence.

Who: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Naked Giants and Hairclub
When: Wednesday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you listened to Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s albums and other recorded releases prior to 2018 and didn’t see live, the appeal can be a bit of a head scratcher. A floor tom, scream-ish vocals and bass? Live it all made sense and the records relatable. But the band put out its most accessible album to date with Riddles. Having worked with Dan Deacon didn’t hurt and as the band’s producer, Deacon helped to shape a sound that took the duo’s avant-garde urban tribal contradictions and into the level of recorded coherence the project has always warranted. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat also performs at Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho at 10:30 p.m. at Boise All-ages Movement Project.

Best Shows in Denver 03/08/18 03/14/18

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Kikagaku Moyo, performs at the Hi-Dive on Saturday, March 10, 2018. Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski.

Thursday | March 8, 2018

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Universal Devils, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Jim Davies (GA), Universal Devils and Enji 
When: Thursday, 03.08, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This half of March’s programme for Musical Mayhem at the Skylark includes Georgia-based weirdo songwriter Jim Davies, solo videogram soundtrack-esque multi-instrumental looper Enji and Universal Devils. The latter is Tricky Dick Wicket, the drummer for Little Fyodor & Babushka band for over a decade. Universal Devils is his solo project in which he plays guitar, drums and other instruments in a kind of truly unique mix of metal and country and blues. Calling it “avant-garde” doesn’t quite do it justice because it’s accessible with pretty conventional songwriting even if the sounds used in the way they’re used are far from mundane.

Who: Elettrodomestico (Jane Wiedlin and Pietro Straccia)
When: Thursday, 03.08, 8:30 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Jane Wiedlin is doing a Q&A before this performance for the screening of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Afterward, her band Elettrodomestico will perform in BarFly, the bar/venue attached to Alamo Drafthouse on West Colfax. The band formed in December 2016 following The Go-Go’s’ “Farewell Tour” (the great new wave band will perform again in 2018) when Wiedlin and Italian musician Pietro Straccia bonded over their mutual love the then recently passed David Bowie. The band the duo started is pretty different from The Go-Go’s and Bowie except for a knack for writing energetic pop songs with a little grit and thoughtfulness and mood to give the music some depth thematically and musically. To the credit of both artists Elettrodomestico is in no way riding anyone’s legacy or coattails. Rather, like Cindy Wilson formerly of the B-52s, it’s a reinvention and one worth listening to separate from any past associations.

Friday | March 9, 2018

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Gort Vs. Goom, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Terminals, Gort Vs. Goom, New Standards Men, Pygmy Grizzly, Frank Bell
When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: This appears to be a bill of instrumental-focused, experimental music rooted in rock sounds and aesthetics bands. Terminals is sort of an improv post-rock/post-industrial band with guitars, synths, drums, bass. No set is ever the same but the group is more than capable of generating deep atmospheric magic. Gort Vs. Goom is a drums and electric bass duo who make the kind of music that could be described as what might happen if the Melvins set out to make a surf band dedicated to Minutemen. Sure the guys in GVG have vocals but it’s almost like surreal slam poetry. New Standards Men are probably a post-punk band but their sound sounds like it drew heavy influence from some of the more experimental bands on the Thrill Jockey imprint. Like Tortoise or A Minor Forest but with some expansive noise tones in the mix.

Who: Larians (Noah Simons solo), Houseplants, Jumanjihad
When: Friday, 03.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Noah Simons is perhaps best known for being the charismatic singer of post-punk band Male Blonding. But his musical interests range pretty far and his solo project Larians, which hasn’t performed live since maybe an RTD (Ready To Dance) event at Rhinoceropolis in 2014, is more in an experimental electronic music and dubtechno vein. Think something like Plaid’s tranquil melodics and use of synth strings alongside Burial-esque bass sculpting and persistent yet dissolving and reconfiguring atmospheres as an element of the beat. How will this all sound at Denver Bicycle Café rather than the main room at The Black Box? You’ll have to show up to find out. But for a taste of what Larians is about, Simons released the excellent “Dwell Led” single in February 2018.

Saturday | March 10, 2018

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King Eddie, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Kikagaku Moyo w/Tjutjuna and DJ Rett Rogers
When: Saturday, 03.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kikagaku Moyo is a Tokyo-based psychedelic rock/avant-garde band. With its roots in a project between Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada busking the streets of Japan’s most populous metropolis, Kikagaku Moyo has, to some extent, gone against the grain of Japanese culture in the way Ghost did when it started up in the 80s similarly playing music on the streets, subways and ruins of ancient temples in and around Tokyo. Kikagaku Moyo got its proper start as a band when Go’s brother Ryu returned from learning sitar from one of the world’s masters, Manilal Nag in India. Incorporating elements of noise and ambient music, Kikagaku Moyo’s songs express a broad range of sonic experimentation from extended psych freakout jams to tranquil yet haunted folk songs. Unlike many bands that have dipped into the realm of psychedelia and prog, this Japanese quintet doesn’t get stuck in a single or predictable mode. Sharing the stage this night is Denver-based experimental psych band Tjutjuna. Also with musical inspirations traceable to the more out 70s prog and Japanese psych/noise bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Tjutjuna’s hypnotic oeuvre set itself apart from the trendy psych stuff that seemed to hover at the edges of all popular rock music from 2008 onward.

Who: Daikaiju w/TripLip, Dr. Zilog and Smellephant
When: Saturday, 03.10, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Daikaij is to surf rock what Crash Worship was to noise and post-punk—as experienced, as much an exuberant collective cult ritual as music. Catch the band tonight at 7th Circle or Sunday at the Triple Nickel in Colorado Springs.

Who: King Eddie (video release) w/déCollage
When: Saturday, 03.10, 10 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Tonight King Eddie releases the video for “Enter the Man” from its 2017 boundary pushing psychedelic rock album Holographic Universe. Both that band and the playfully surrealistic psychedelic pop band déCollage will perform before a screening of Renée Laloux’s 1973 animated science fiction classic Fantastic Planet. King Eddie sounds like maybe the music had its origins in writing what had become a trendy psych rock but Jay Mars and his bandmates injected heaps of imagination into the songwriting and arrangements to produce a body of work that synthesizes pop, psych and the avant-garde with the aesthetics of the virtual reality visuals that have become a bit of a specialty for Mars.

Wednesday | March 14, 2018

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Uppermost, photo courtesy Girl Action Media, Marketing & Management

Who: Uppermost w/Snubluck and Zurc
When: Wednesday, 03.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Behdad Nejatbakhshe, aka Uppermost, left his life trajectory into a career as a lawyer to pursue making music. Eight albums in, with the forthcoming Perseverance due out March 23, Uppermost has created a body of work that is a synthesis of pure electronic production and more analog musical elements. For instance on his 2017 album, the loosely space-themed Origins, the producer incorporated live guitar and orchestral arrangements in the recording process. The songs tend to have a bright, upbeat quality with a quality that suggests peaceful spring days and gentle breezes. That Uppermost is inspired by the likes of Burial, Flume and Bonobo should come as no surprise since his own compositions have a soothing yet energetic quality as well. With Perseverance, Uppermost has crafted a body of songs that have an expansive spaciousness with a daydream-y quality that first came back into vogue with the so-called chillwave artists—bright tones, hypnotic yet uplifting atmospheric swells and smooth but irresistible low end. The record feels built for summer nights at casual hangouts with friends and is arriving just in time.

Who: Cars & Trains and Curta album release w/Utajahs and Nighttimeschoolbus visuals by Skyrider
When: Wednesday, 03.10, 8 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Curta’s new record, End of Future Park, sounds like the natural progression from its dystopian predecessor, 2015’s Replica. Curta’s music has always seemed to sit somewhere between the no-rules-use-of-sounds beatmaking of turn of the century alternative hip-hop, industrial, noise and collage sound composition. End of Future Park is no different but with that album, rapper Jake Danna captures the time between 2016 and 2017 (and, let’s be real, 2018 so far) when underground culture seemed to be under attack and the erosion of all civil institutions and of civility itself and the postmodern nihilism as expressed in a completely understandable cynicism that has blighted the public and personal discourse seemingly everywhere you go. Across the whole record, Danna confronts his own cynicism and there’s a bit of a different feel to this record than a lot of music coming out of late in a way more people probably need to hear—a tone of wanting to find and create a self and a society where that deep rooted cynicism isn’t entirely justified. The record comes out on March 19, 2018 but you can probably pick up a copy at this show where also on the bill is Nighttimeschoolbus, the duo that answers the question of what happens when an idiosyncratic indie pop artist teams up with a masterful alternative hip-hop producer.

Best Shows in Denver 03/01/18 – 03/07/18

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Melkbelly performs with Bully on Monday, March 5, 2018. ,Photo by Lenny Gilmore

Thursday | March 1, 2018

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Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Who: EyeHateGod w/Oryx, Tricoma and Blighter
When: Thursday, 03.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Oryx was a nearly ubiquitous name you’d see on the heaviest bills around Denver for a while. But the band seems to have hunkered down to write, refine and record its new album, 2018’s Stolen Absolution. Maybe “refine” is the wrong word as the record is a raw blast of rage and disgust with the bleak state of the world from the impending collapse of the natural environment as we used to know it and the utter shabbiness in the ways too many of us humans treat one another. It doesn’t sound despairing, it sounds more like a cry for humanity to get its collective shit together before we make one mistake too many. The crust/grind/black metal duo is releasing the album at this show in which its sharing the bill with like-minded, New Orleans sludge legends EyeHateGod, Denver purveyors of death doom Tricoma and Blighter, Colorado Springs’ titans of bridging the gap between crust punk and the heaviest of metal.

Friday | March 2, 2018

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Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

Who: Briffaut album release w/Down Time and In/Planes
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Briffaut’s new album, Helsinki, has a hazy lushness and freeform yet structured songwriting style that suggests jazz underpinnings. But mostly its soft tones and beats, its Mellotron-tinged and drifty atmospheres and idiosyncratic storytelling evoke imagery both surreal and all-too-real in the offhand everyday detail style employed by director Mike Mills. Musically it’s reminiscent of early The Helio Sequence and Animal Collective or even mid-2000s of Montreal—gorgeous melodies intertwined with noise and sound experiments to create a kind of pop music that pushes boundaries and has more long term durability as something you can listen to twenty or more years from now and still get something out of it that isn’t tied purely to nostalgia for one’s youth. In/Planes is apparently rooted in classic American pop meaning the duo has researched songwriters and music that has long fallen out of style but which never lost a certain emotional resonance and sophistication of craft that transcends time. The band’s refreshingly uncluttered songs are warm and soulful while not seeming to have done more than borrowed touches of doo wop and Brill Building-era pop. All of this can be heard on the band’s excellent 2017 EP Everything. Down Time reinvented indie pop in its brilliantly idiosyncratic style as heard on its debut 2017 full-length Good Luck!. Live the group has a striking freshness and inventive soundscaping that’s undeniably compelling.

Who: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 03.023, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: As we mentioned last week this is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production concludes this weekend with shows on Friday evening March 2 ( and will include a performance from Ersatz Robots), Saturday evening March 3 with a surprise musical guest, and Sunday for a matinee performance at 2 p.m.

Catch this one before it ends because as far as adaptations of classic novels go it’s irreverence and faithfulness to the spirit of the book is rivaled by, if not in budget, sheer spectacle huge cast and production values, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films and Game of Thrones. But none of the sword and sorcery though with plenty of high drama and the supernatural. The live soundtracking and Merkl as the sound of troubled and tortured spirits helps to enhance the brilliant three cast-member presentation.

Who: Velvet Acid Christ at Purgatory 3-2 w/Offerings to Odin, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Bloodline, DJ Julian Black
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Although in recent years Velvet Acid Christ has more than doubled the number of shows that he played in Denver in the first twenty years of the band’s existence, it’s not like he plays every week, every few months or even really every year. VAC began in the early 90s and became an influential and popular EBM act in its own right with a knack for surrealistic imagery and darkly humorous storytelling. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any original releases from VAC so maybe in 2018 perhaps Bryan Erickson, the band’s sole full-time member, will put deliver a new set of dystopian future dance songs.

Who: R A R E B Y R D $, EVP, Bianca Mikahn, Giraft
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: This is a Glasss Presents show three of the imprint’s best acts are on the bill. R A R E B Y R D $ is making the kind of hip-hop that is beyond conscious, beyond merely experimental but always human and thoughtful in its exploration of the impact of society and our own minds in how we navigate life. EVP is difficult to describe in simple genre terms. Part punk, part industrial, part pop, part noise. Bianca Mikahn…does she make hip-hop or super experimental, poetry driven R&B? Whatever it is, Mikahn’s insightful words weaves together her personal vision of a more loving and inclusive future. Giraft is Julianna Beckert and Chris White who make a kind of post-IDM downtempo. White some may remember for his masterful bass work in Alan Alda and Voices Underwater.

Who: Modern Leisure (album preview party) w/Kissing Party and Bark Wilson
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure is previewing its forthcoming debut full-length album (set for a summer release). Good thing the band is joined by another that brings some dignity to the term pop when applied to a modern indie rock band. That being Bark Wilson. Layered atmospheres and rhythms that you don’t often hear in a pop band are Bark Wilson’s noteworthy hallmark. Kissing Party has a whole catalog of heartbreaking/heartwarming songs about love and disappointment. Don’t let the band’s sometimes irreverent and sardonic stage persona fool you, they mean those songs and that’s what saves them from being quaintly romantic because despite any flaws, the group performs the songs with a sincerity to match the sentiments.

Who: Adult Swim Presents: Mr. Pickles’ Trash-tacular featuring Exodus, Municipal Waste and Call of the Void
When: Friday, 03.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The nerd and metalhead world has a lot of overlap. Did Mr. Pickles exert his demonic powers to influence the choice of line-up? If so, he certainly has good taste. Exodus is the influential Bay Area thrash band that helped to establish the genre. After all, Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica so the thrash pedigree is undeniable. But it’s Gary Holt’s crunchy and driving, expressive, guitar style and his tasteful solo as lead is oft imitated by rarely equaled. Virginia’s Municipal Waste, though coming along in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, has exerted influence of its own inspired by 80s crossover groups. Its guitars sound like the perfect blend of thrash and late-era first wave hardcore. But its rhythm, particularly the drums, sound borderline grindcore. But Municipal Waste is perhaps best known for its irreverent sense of humor. A band that calls one of its videos “Thrashin’s My Business…and Business is Good has to get some points for iconoclasm. Call of the Void you wouldn’t call a crossover band even though its grind and hardcore amalgam might give that impression. Its sound is more savage than the typical crossover band but its articulation of pushing the sound of despair and desperation to the extreme as a form of catharsis is often just what you need.

Saturday | March 3, 2018

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Centered Vol. 2: {arsonist}, C. Reider, Paperbark, Luxury Hearse
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Ubisububi Room
Why: This is going to be a kind of ambient/modular synth show in the basement of The Thin Man. With Paperbark, John Mulville uses his modular synth to make abstract sounds that capture textures and the feeling of being in the natural world even as it is completely unnatural, as it were, in generating his soundscapes. C. Reider’s vast catalog of fascinating sound experiments and compositions can be found most readily on his Bandcamp page. With releases going back to the late 80s, Reider is something like Colorado’s Aphex Twin except less on the glitch end and more on the avant-garde and ambient end of electronic music. Pittsburgh’s {arsonist} employs layered atmospheres, textures and strings to create otherworldly compositions reminiscent of The Future Sound of London side project Amorphous Androgynous. Luxury Hearse has a pretty diverse set of sounds but some of its best work sounds like a super chill, secret dance club for minimal synth heads.

Who: KGNU and Lion’s Lair Quarterly Showcase: Simulators, Mirror Fears, Joseph Lamar, Rich Jones and CRL CRRLL (DJ set after Rich Jones)
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: KGNU is one of the few legit radio stations taking real chances with its programming these days (having a community sponsored format probably helps). So every quarter the station has been working with Lion’s Lair to book a showcase of some of the more forward thinking and experimental music in various spectrums of the local music world. This particular event is also a Fasor Records mini-showcase. The label started by CRL CRRLL will probably include like-minded artists who push the boundaries of where electronic dance music and hip-hop production intersect. As indicated above, CRRLL will do a DJ set. Also on hand for this show are raw and spare post-punk duo Simulators, maximalist, deeply emotional and socially critical electronic artist Mirror Fears and Joseph Lamar who has found a sweet spot with his solid songwriting based in indie rock, jazz, experimental electronic music and a theatrical performance style.

 

Who: Pretty Mouth, The Patient Zeros and Kitty Crimes
When: Saturday, 03.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: This is going to be a different kind of show. Pretty Mouth is Marie Litton’s more Americana side of her songwriting. That said, there is a spiritual quality to Litton’s songs and performance even though she seems to be writing from a life that hasn’t been short on struggle, heartache and a deep love for people and of living like you mean it. The Patient Zeros are in a similar realm of songcraft but more in a rock and roll vein. Too many bands have tried to be “rock and roll” but The Patient Zeros’ songs don’t sound like they learned about Jack White a few years ago but have none of the poetry or genuine swagger. The Patient Zeros never come off like the second-rate Kings of Leon. Kitty Crimes…Maria Kohler has always been up to some noteworthy music including Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes has been sort of a dirty rap project but in Kohler’s hands there’s an elegance and transformative quality that renders that sort of thing into something fun and worth your time above and beyond the appeal of anything transgressive but not inherently harmful.

Monday | March 5, 2018

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Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Who: Bully w/Melkbelly
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Bully’s first album, 2015’s Feels Like, polarized critics. Oh, sure, the band sounds like it was beyond influenced by early 90s alternative rock. When you grow up with some kind of music it’s bound to creep in there sometime. But the founder of the band, Alicia Bognanno got a degree in recording and did an internship at Electrical Audio—Steve Albini’s Chicago-based studios—before going on to working as a recording and live sound engineer and then establishing her own studio to record her own music. That’s a lot more dedication to craft than many musicians bother with learning or enduring. It doesn’t necessarily make for better music but deserves better consideration than outright dismissal. The follow-up record, 2017’s Losing, refines the jagged, angst-driven melodies that made the debut album worthwhile. In the past decade or so there has been a lot of safely celebratory music or the kind of music that hides raw feelings and outrage in palatable constructions. Any darkness and frustration you hear in Bognanno’s songs doesn’t feel manufactured or couched in some identity stereotype. Even if you feel like her music is a retread of 90s rock you have to give her credit for sincerity.

On the bill tonight as well is Chicago’s Melkbelly is roughly an exact contemporary of Bully and based in Chicago, where Bully recorded both of its full-length albums. Melkbelly’s music has often been referred to as noise rock, which fits well enough. But Miranda Winders’ voice is a consistently melodic focus amid the urgency of the beat and the pulsing, splintered sounds and sense that the song could fragment into burning chaos. Melkbelly has the spirit and energy of a punk band but its sounds are more experimental and more wide-ranging. More Live Skull and Melt Banana than Shellac or Daughters. The group’s 2017 album Nothing Valley is an auspicious debut full-length that signals throughout that Melkbelly isn’t going for just one or two sounds and dynamics. Also, a band that calls a song “Twin Lookin’ Motherfucker” has to be a bunch of glorious weirdos and cherished in a time when the music industry too often rewards easy marketability over outright quality and uniqueness.

Who: Alex Cameron and Molly Burch
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2017 album Forced Witness sounds like it could have come out in the mid-80s and hit big alongside the likes of post-Squeeze Paul Carrack or Paul Young—new wave-y, well-crafted pop songs mixed with blue eyed soul. When a lot of other artists now are still tapping the classic rock sound or Laurel Canyon pop, Alex Cameron’s update on Icehouse sounds pretty fresh.

Molly Burch may be an artist whose sonic antecedents rest in Brill Building pop and soul singers but her smoky, hushed yet warm and resonant vocals and vulnerability have a mysterious quality that draw you in like Julee Cruise or Angel Olsen. Burch’s music has a familiar quality that waxes timeless rather than derivative. Her 2017 debut full length Please Be Mine sounds, track for track, like Godard’s 1960s films look—vivid yet dreamlike, emotionally tumultuous yet refined, a lyrical economy of style that uses space and silence to convey much more and much more effectively than clumsily spelling it all out.

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Brother Saturn, Hello Darkness and Full Bleed
When: Wednesday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: The current edition of Weird Wednesday features a pretty broad mix of sounds. Hello Darkness is sort of a folk punk band without the de riguer labor struggle era folk covers. Rather, its use of various acoustic instruments in the mix makes Hello Darkness the folk pop equivalent of a chamber pop band. Except with more political content than most bands that can be described as “chamber” anything. Considering two thirds of the band used to be in Reality Show it should come as no surprise there’s some lively emotionalism on stage. Brother Saturn’s melodic soundscapes are reminiscent of the 90s period of guitar and beat driven instrumental ambient/abstract rock acts like Bowery Electric, Seefeel, Magnog and Stars of the Lid. Maybe even Flying Saucer Attack. There is an innocence and elegance to the composition that suggests Drew Miller has carved out a space in his heart and imagination for a pure and universal expression of the kind of transcendently tranquil energy he articulates in his music in general. Brother Saturn is just the more shoegaze-ish end of that.

Who: James Blood Ulmer
When: Wednesday, 03.07 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3229/id0/james-blood-ulmer) and Thursday, 3.08 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3230/id0/james-blood-ulmer), 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: James Blood Ulmer was one of the guitarists who was steeped in jazz but also helped to define fusion with his imaginative, textured guitar work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as the first electric guitarist to record and perform live with free jazz genius Ornette Coleman and his long time collaborations with Pharoah Sanders. Ulmer’s solo material tends to be a blend of styles with a rich mix of jazz, blues and brooding funk. Whatever Umer’s specific music alchemy of the moment, he brings more than dazzling technique and soul, he brings something otherworldly and riveting. The guitarist performs two shows in Denver. As indicated above, the evenings of March 7 and 8 at Dazzle.

Best Shows in Denver 2/23/18 – 02/28/18

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The Kinky Fingers release Garbage Plate on Friday, 2/23/18 at Tooey’s on Colfax, photo by Alexandra Brexa Hooson

Friday | February 23, 2018

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Image from Jane Eyre, photo courtesy Grapefruit Lab

What: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: This is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production spans six performances starting Friday and Saturday evening of February 23 and 24 with a 2 p.m. matinee show on Sundays. On February 23, the opening band is Denver’s dream pop duo Plume Varia. February 24 has indie pop group The Green Typewriters on board. March 2 will include a performance from Ersatz Robots and the final evening show will have a surprise guest on March 3.

Who: The Kinky Fingers album release w/Don Chicharron and Godchild
When: Friday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Kinky Fingers have always been a band that made a virtue of simple, clean melodies. At a time when it seemed there was entire too much surf rock and neo-psychedelic rock, The Kinky Fingers shined with the strength of its songwriting. With its new album, Garbage Plate, the band has expanded its sound and boosted its emotional range. The album has been a long time coming. Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Rochester, New York, Garbage Plate is a surprisingly thoughtful set of songs that sound like party anthems. Regarding the meaning of the album title, the band says “[a] Garbage Plate is a plate of fried potatoes, baked beans, hot dogs, onions, mustard, and a chili-like meat sauce. Intense. As the name suggests, the music rings through so many genres, textures and tastes it feels a perfect fit for the deteriorating American dream, which once tasted so sweet and now feels more like a bellyache.” Expect the usual sharply observant songs about the vicissitudes of life with some poignant, and creatively rendered, social commentary mixed in. The Kinky Fingers will also play at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho on Friday, March 23 at Ha Penny at 11:20 p.m.

Who: Slow Caves 7” release w/Gleemer and Panther Martin
When: Friday, 02.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: On its new 7”, Fort Collins’ Slow Caves seems to have evolved well beyond the more languid pace and sound of its earlier pop songs. “Poser” has some of the structure and dynamics of the band’s surf rock leanings but there is more grit and drive to its winningly polished melodies. Joining Slow Caves for the occasion of releasing its new record are noisy math rockers Gleemer and Panther Martin, a band that may have started out in the realm of garage and psych rock but its intricate yet uncluttered musicianship reveals a knack for writing songs of often surprising emotional complexity.

Who: Ben UFO w/Gerd Janson, Mozhgan
When: Friday, 02.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Club Vinyl
Why: Ben Thomson (Ben UFO), made a name for himself purely as a DJ rather than as a producer and his mixes of some of the most cutting edge, modern electronic dance music have made him an in-demand curator of that music. The discography of Hessle Audio, the imprint he co-owns with David Kennedy of Pearson Sound and Pangaea’s Kevin McAuley would be a solid introduction to some of the best underground electronic music going today.

Saturday | February 24, 2018

 

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Necropanther, photo by David Novin

Who: Necropanther CD release w/The Munsens, and Abrams
When: Saturday, 02.24, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver death thrashers Necropanther are releasing a new album tonight with Eyes Of Blue Light. Imagine what it would sound like if a melodic death metal band Gothenburg style wrote a Dune-themed record inspired in part by Municipal Waste and Thrash Zone-period D.R.I.. Well, Necropanther recorded the album in Denver but got it mastered in Gothenburg, Sweden with Fredrik Nordström who has put his sonic fingerprints on the broad spectrum of that city’s melodic death metal scene. Also on stage this night are sludgy doom-sters The Munsens and the equally menacing Abrams whose own version of sludge/doom is energetically dynamic and otherworldly in the vein of bands like Neurosis and Isis.

Who: Jane Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Saturday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: See above for February 23. A brilliant adaptation.

Sunday | February 25, 2018

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Teacup Gorilla and Dameon Merkl (on left) on opening night of JANE/EYRE, matinee show tonight, February 25, at 2 p.m. at The Bakery

Who: Jane Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Sunday, 02.24, 2 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: Also, see above for February 23. This is the matinee showing of the first week.

What: Textures featuring Cpt. Howdy, Brother Saturn, MYTHirst
When: Sunday, 02.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This is the latest edition of the Textures ambient showcase. This time the return of heavy synth duo (trio), Cpt. Howdy, the super chill, abstract ambient of Drew Miller (of Chromadrift) as Brother Saturn (he calls it a shoegaze band and yeah, if you’re thinking more like Seefeel rather than the more rock-oriented stuff) and MYTHist’s electro-acoustic take on IDM.

Monday | February 26, 2018

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Myrkur, photo by Daria Endresen

What: Decibel Magazine Tour: Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and Khemmis
When: Monday, 02.26, 6 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Decibel Magazine, one of the major magazines that focuses on metal and heavy music in general, has been on this tour for several years now and this time out the even is headlined by Norway’s Enslaved. The band has always had melodic elements to its brutally majestic sound. But with it’s 2017 album E, the group seems to have written the music with a cinematic presentation in mind like they were composing a soundtrack for the next Thor movie. In a similar vein of invoking indigenous spirits and associated imagery in the music are the opening bands on this leg of the tour. Denver’s Khemmis is often described as a doom band but its songs far more melodic than such designations suggest. The hanging chords and sludgy flourishes are there but so is an apparent dedication to fairly traditional songcraft giving the band an appeal beyond what one might assume to be its audience. Myrkur, from Denmark, is the black metal project of Amalie Bruun. Her expansive, lush songs bring together the gritty and the sublime and transcendent matched by her seemingly effortless transition between. Mareidt, the project’s 2017 release, included a guest vocal from the like-minded Chelsea Wolfe on the track “Funeral.” Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington all but retired from any active touring several years back so this is a rare chance to catch the band’s Cascadian black metal in Denver. The group performed in Colorado Springs in October 2017 in the wake of the release of its most recent album, 2017’s Thrice Woven. A WITTR show is fairly tribal in presentation with visuals invoking meeting at a communal fire to share stories and to participate in a collective ritual and the music is a manifestation of that spirit.

Who: Palm w/Spirit of the Beehive and Plague Survivor
When: Monday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Palm was originally from Philadelphia but calls New York City it’s home base these days. It’s flavor of neo-math rock is less focused on actual technique and more on what you can do with technique and dynamics if you inject some imagination into the playing and writing. If you’re a fan of groups like US Weekly, Laddio Bolocko, Don Caballero and A Minor Forest you’ll probably appreciate what Palm is doing. Its new album, 2018’s Rock Island, expands on the band’s previous, beautifully claustrophobic structures without losing its masterful ability to create tension and release at the perfect moments.

Who: Haunted Summer w/Tyto Alba, Ghostpulse and Magic Cyclops
When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Haunted Summer could be broadbrushed as a post-chillwave dream pop project reminiscent of Devotion-period Beach House because its entrancing melodies are possessed of a similarly gorgeous emotional afterglow. But its Robin-Guthrie-circa-Mysterious-Skin-soundtrack guitar textures and drifty dynamics akin to those of Former Selves or Candy Claws. Whatever went into inspiring the band’s sound, it’s excellent 2017 album, Spirit Guides has a warmth and intimacy that propels the songs into having an immediacy that isn’t always the purvey of bands attempting a similar style of music. Tyto Alba, like Haunted Summer, is a band that is great at working in the realm of the edges of your memory to invoke something that isn’t nostalgia but has an emotional resonance that stimulates the feelings that normally coalesce into comforting reverie.

Who: Eraserhead Fuckers, Juniordeer, Ultraviolet, Morlox and Brkn Jwbne Tape Manipulator
When: Monday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Just reading the list of band names should give you some idea of the strangeness you’re in for if you make it to this show. Morlox should be a well-known artist in Denver because his influence on the local industrial and noise scene is undeniable but he has also had an impact on experimental pop band Church Fire and their facility in weaving together industrial music and hip-hop production ideas into their own songwriting. He rarely performs live so if that’s your thing, be there. Also, Eraserhead Fuckers is technically hip-hop but so confrontational, abrasive and surreal that most hip-hop fans aren’t going to be into it unless maybe they didn’t have a difficult time getting into something like Death Grips, .clipping, Earl Sweatshirt or Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

Tuesday | February 27, 2018

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Talib Kweli ciurca 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Talib Kweli w/Niko Is, DJ Spintelect and Time
When: Tuesday, 02.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Talib Kweli Greene would have secured his place in hip-hop history with Black Star, his collaborative project with Mos Def. But Kweli’s talent, intellect and curiosity has brought him to various efforts as a rapper, producer and activist. Rather than make more than a brief list of the people he’s worked with like Dave Chappelle, Kanye West and Dead Prez, it would be more worthwhile to note how Kweli’s albums have long been filled with thoughtful and creative social critiques alongside solid beats and music so that his albums never come off feeling didactic or preachy even as he minces no words—because his stories and words are also not short on humanity. Kweli can be pointed but he clearly takes in the bigger picture beyond any topical content. Along on the tour is Niko Is, a likeminded artist whose own imaginative wordplay sketches vivid images of aspirational daydreams and everyday life rendered into poetry. Opening the show is Denver’s Time, a rapper whose literary lyrics display a gift for surreal stories and political analysis grounded in his own experiences growing up in “the nutty.” Meaning North Denver, of course. Sometime in 2018 it’s anticipated that we’ll see a new album from Calm., Time’s hip-hop duo with longtime collaborator, the producer Awareness.

Wednesday | February 28, 2018

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Why? photo by Josiah Wolf

Who: Why? w/The Florist
When: Wednesday, 02.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yoni Wolf aka Why? was once in influential, experimental hip hop group Clouddead but when that outfit split in 2004 he formed an indie rock band called Why? with his brother Josiah and friends. And yet calling Why? indie rock is a bit imprecise because the band is far more experimental with its use of sound, the poetry of its lyrics and the the visual presentation of the music as well. At times Why? can be a multimedia experience with interaction between performers and video as well as making a theater sized show seem like something more suited to a stadium. Whatever the experience of the show might be it’s something the group has evolved for years and rooted in a music that is pushing and challenging the kind of complacency of being so in love with one’s established sound by making music that can never rest easy in a staid formula. The latest Why? record, 2017’s Moh Lhean, is typically impossible to adequately characterize and yet has all the unique wordplay and imagery that has made Why? a consistently interesting project from the beginning.

Who: Rachael Yamagata w/Hemming 
When: Tuesday, 02.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Rachael Yamagata has been at her solo career since 2001. Likely often broadbrushed as a singer-songwriter, Yamagata’s music transcends stereotypes that have crept up about singer-songwriter artists even though, obviously, artists like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and plenty of others are good examples of singer-writers. Like Ray LaMontagne (with whom Yamagata has worked) and Greg Laswell, Yamagata writes songs about life that provides a unique insight and illumination into subjects well-worn by artists since time immemorial. Yamagata’s voice is calming yet not short on evoking peak emotional moments with a gift for articulating complexity of feeling. Her music, richly detailed and textured, provide the perfect backdrop to her honest storytelling. Her 2016 album Tightrope Walker in particular minced few words about life challenges but did so in a lushly poetic fashion.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 02/15/18 – 02/21/18

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Church Fire performs Friday 2/16/18 at BarFly. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Thursday | February 15, 2018

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Night Beats circa 2011 at Rhinoceropolis. Photo by Tom Murphy.

Who: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club w/Night Beats
When: Thursday, 02.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: B.R.M.C. has tried out different sounds and ideas across its career. From its 2001 post-punk/shoegaze debut album, to the bluesy 2005 record Howl and now the refined, gritty depth of sound field of 2018’s Wrong Creatures. What is most noteworthy with the album is that the band has managed to make a rock and roll record without obviously ripping off some worn out classic rock tropes. The trio also incorporated industrial soundscaping and noise without ever sounding like one of those forgettable 90s industrial rock bands. An achievement in itself. Opening is Seattle’s mutant psychedelic rock quartet Night Beats. On its latest album, 2016’s Who Sold My Generation, it sounded like the band had shed the garage rock elements of its earlier sound in favor of noisier, stranger music like guys had gone on a spiritual journey into the wilds of the Cascades accompanied by the music of Chrome, Spacemen 3 and Silver Apples and come back into the welcoming arms of 13th Floor Elevators before writing their new material. When a lot of modern rock bands are playing it safe at least it seems as though B.R.M.C. And Night Beats don’t want to bore themselves or us.

Who: Eventually It Will Kill You Vol. III: Many Blessings cassette release w/Natural Violence, Prison Glue and Law of the Night
When: Thursday, 02.15, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: If you’re just dropping into the Meadowlark after your rigorous parkour and yoga workout tonight, just go elsewhere. This is a noise show and a celebration of the release of the latest Many Blessings tape, Ripe Earth. The album, released on Brian Castillo’s new Kill You Club imprint, is nearly seventy minutes of deep cavern soundscapes that sometimes come off like the decayed transmissions of a broken broadcasting A.I. of the future that generates otherworldly true crime style fiction, the likes of which regular humans would never come up with on our own. Prison Glue is Kevin Wesley, formerly of local noise rock legends Hot White, and every set is different but always some interesting noise experiment and never quite in the same format. Also on the bill is Natural Violence, a project of Homebody’s Michael Stein. Not really noise per se and more like a synth-driven soundtrack to a crime drama written by Paul Reubens. The 2017 EP Synthetic Peace was one of the more interesting releases of last year.

Who: Voight, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, Anime Love Hotel and Dream Hike
When: Thursday, 02.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: A different kind of noise show tonight at Syntax. Voight isn’t a noise band though both Nick Salmon and Adam Rojo both more than merely dabble in their solo npose projects, Stye and Diffuser respectively. Its own noisy post-punk songs are somehow both moody and confrontational, haunting yet visceral. Breakdancing Ronald Reagan put out the Harsh Noise cassette on Self Sabotage Records at the end of January, a collection of pieces that live up to the name of the album but also proof that even harsh noise can have nuance, composition and musicality even if it’s put together to push buttons, assault the ears and otherwise transform expectations of experience for something coming out of a P.A. anywhere. Dream, Hike is more in the world of experimental, electronic dance music but Dean Inman is no stranger to his chosen format of expression with sound to challenge what purpose the music serves as something to experience by making beats that aren’t purely for people to chill out and passively dance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that Dream Hike is more than the times when he makes music designed for that sort of thing as well.

Friday | February 16, 2018

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Atomga, photo by Atomga

Who: Atomga Aga EP release w/The Dendrites and Jericho Son of None
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Atomga is one of a few Afrobeat artists in Denver with the sprawling lineup to manifest the mixture of jazz, funk, Ghanaian highlight the polyrhythmic music of West Africa that was pioneered by composer/musician and political figure Fela Kuti in the 60s and 70s. The band’s new EP Aga is four songs and it sounds like the band has delved into more Middle Eastern musical ideas. In the live setting, Atomga has a forceful and celebratory presence. Also on the bill, one of the few great Denver ska bands, The Dendrites. Great because they don’t sound third wave or overly two-tone revival or trying to be some other band. There’s a lot of imitation in ska but The Dendrites are originals.

Who: Hands of Midnight, Roger Green and Church Fire
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: BarFly
Why: Hands of Midnight is an electronic project that seems to be operating at the intersection of dub, psychedelia and deep house. Half of the group is Bill Murphy, former guitarist with the late, great Denver post-punk band The Swayback. Roger Green has been all over the place musically having perhaps first come to prominence in Denver with space rock/pop band Idle Mind. Though likely more well-known for having been a member of dream pop band The Czars, Roger Green’s avant-garde and experimental music like his typewriter orchestra is some of the most interesting sonic art the guy has been up to. He has also written some fine singer-songwriter music and a long-time lecturer on the psychedelic experience and the associated music. For this bill, who knows? Maybe Green has a secret electronic dance music set up his sleeve. Whatever it is, it’ll be worth witnessing. To call Church Fire an intense electronic dance/dream pop band would be like saying Alejandro Jodorowsky made the original midnight movie.

Who: Murs w/Stay Tuned, ItsEvi and ROOKE5
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side
Why: Murs more or less got his big break, if such can be said without overstating the point, as a member of influential underground hip-hop collective Living Legends. But since then he has more than made a name for himself as a solo artist for his literate, perceptive and vibrantly emotional lyrics. These days, as back in his early days, Murs’ voice is refreshingly out of step with hip-hop trends. He raps and speaks his words while rendering his vocals musical without singing. It’s a bit of an older approach but one that Murs has successfully creatively evolved across his long career. His new album, A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable on March 16, 2018. One of the opening acts for this bill is Stay Tuned which includes one of Denver’s best producers, DJ Awhat, and two of its most charismatic MCs, Ichiban and Mane Rok. Their shows are an audio-visual experience that puts a clever and incisive spin on personal experiences as well as some of the most on point social commentary out of Denver.

Who: Zavala, Mux Mool, Big J. Beats
When: Friday, 02.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: Zavala is a Chicago-based artist whose beats and modular synths puts him in league with the better IDM and dub techno artists. His latest album is Fantasmas. Mux Mool is originally from Minneapolis but he’s been working with Michael Menert of Pretty Lights on Club Scout and has relocated to Denver. His brand of IDM is a kind of brighter and more playful hip-hop beat making. Big J. Beats may be known locally as a hip-hop artist but his beats are in the realm of 90s and 2000s alternative hip-hop with his creative use of noise, sounds and atmosphere, like he’s crafting soundtracks to chill, fantastical realms you’d really want to visit.

Who: Judge w/faim, Screwtape and Fortune’s Fool
When: Friday, 02.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Judge formed in 1987 as hardcore was well on its way to splintering as a subculture. But in presenting a more militant than ever straight edge image and adopting a harder sound, Judge had the kind of desperation, immediacy and pointedly political messaging of the newly grindcore Napalm Death whose own 1987 album created a blueprint for a different style of extreme music. So it only seems fitting that local heavy hitters in the hardcore realm, faim and Screwtape, are two of the opening bands because both bands are pushing hardcore into interesting directions at a time when that music could really use some innovation that doesn’t water down its essential appeal.

Saturday | February 17, 2008

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The Hits’ cover for the new album, Breakthrough. Image courtesy The Hits.

Who: The Hits album release show w/Love Stallion, Hot Apostles, Sharone & The Wind
When: Saturday, 02.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Denver’s The Hits is releasing its second full-length album BreakThrough tonight. The album is fourteen tracks of gritty, melodic rock songs that balance energetic drive with an unpretentious poetic sensibility. Yes, the songs are about love, life’s frustrations and conflicted emotions. But the latter is what gives the band’s songs a subtle complexity that far too many rock bands either try to avoid or are incapable of in the first place. Hot Apostles is a like-minded band but with more of a bluesy, hard rock flavor. And, again, Hot Apostles bring to the songwriting not just the passion but a mature person’s perspective on relationships and life in general. Likely opening the show is Sharone & The Wind. Since the band’s inception in the Spring and Summer of 2016 it has quickly evolved from a piano-centered hard rock band to a darker, more metallic without being metal, project with a surprising level of emotional intensity coursing through the music. The band has gone through a significant lineup change since the release of 2017’s excellent Storm and apparently we’ll see another record from the band this year.

Who: Murs w/Tristan Moore and Stay Tuned, Redcoat Kid, Kanon Lebron
When: Saturday, 02.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre
Why: For Murs and Stay Tuned see entry for the Murs show on Friday, February 16.

Sunday | February 18, 2018

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Real Estate, photo by Shawn Brackbill

Who: Real Estate w/Bedouine
When: Sunday, 02.18, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The first three Real Estate albums garnered a sizeable fan base and critical acclaim for its tasty jangle rock riffs and spare but evocative lyrics. But something about it felt a bit one dimensional and, well, tame yet promising. Seven years after forming, in 2016, long time friend of the band Julian Lynch steps in to replace Matthew Mondanile. Rather than merely stepping in as a lead guitarist to play like Mondanile, Lynch was encouraged to bring his innovative, much more experimental, guitar style to the next record, 2017’s In Mind. The well composed songwriting is still in place but there’s an added dimension to the songs that give space for experiments in atmosphere and texture. It’s rarely overt and obvious, which makes it all the more interesting an intentional choice than if the band had scrapped it’s older sound completely. At times the songs are reminiscent of Paracosm-period Washed Out or The War on Drugs, but the intersection of gently rippling rhythm and Courtney’s sparkly, melodic guitar and Lynch’s expansive sensibilities instantly made Real Estate an interesting band rather than one merely noteworthy because it touched many people’s nostalgia centers.

Monday | February 19, 2018

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The Weather Station (Tamara Lindeman), photo by Perry Shimon

Who: Bahamas and The Weather Station
When: Monday, 02.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Afie Jurvanen is the main force behind Toronto’s Bahamas. Though designated as folk, if you listen to Jurvanen’s records his compositions may have that kind of simple, immediately accessible structure and his presentation of the music has the feel of being included in an intimate performance, but his layering of sounds combines a full sound like a chamber pop band with a stripped down quality. It’s not for everyone but it does set him apart from many other indie folksters. The Weather Station got started around the same time as Bahamas, also in and around Toronto, with similar roots in folk music. But Tamara Lindeman’s vibrant voice is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. A similar cadence and tonality. Lindeman’s guitar style is composed almost as sketches of the scenes and experiences she describes in her vivid lyrics. The nuanced thinking and penetrating observational quality of Lindeman’s words matched with her moody and warm compositions, smoothly yet evocatively dynamic, make for some compelling listening. The latest release from The Weather Station is the band’s self-titled 2017 album.

Tuesday | February 20, 2018

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Company of Thieves, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Walk the Moon w/Company of Thieves
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you look at Company of Thieves’ discography it’s not sprawling with artifacts of their development as a band. If you got to see the band come up in its hometown of Chicago maybe you got a hold of some tracks, homemade CDs and cassettes. As many bands have done since Company of Thieves got going in 2007. With, according to singer Genevieve Schatz, eight line-up changes (all including band co-founder Marc Walloch) that one might expect in a band that has been around that long without breakthrough commercial success. And Company of Thieves itself went on hiatus for a for a few years during which Schatz released a solo EP and Walloch played bass in AWOLNATION. But in 2017 the band announced it was back together with a short batch of songs ready to release in the new year with lead single, “Treasure.” Though obviously a pop band, with “Treasure,” COT includes political samples as one might expect to hear in an industrial or hip-hop song and uses the sample as a jumping off point to say something when it would be easier to just have written an incredibly catchy song.

Who: Mac Sabbath w/Galactic Empire
When: Tuesday, 02.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Yes, it is indeed that terrifying, McDonald’s-themed heavy metal band. The show is surreal and yet disturbing as only truly committed performance artists can be while putting on a show that can still be appropriate for an all-ages audience.

Wednesday | February 21, 2018

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Snarky Puppy, photo by Christian Thomas

Who: Snarky Puppy w/Sirintip
When: Wednesday, 02.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Snarky Puppy managed to bring together jazz fusion, funk, jam band free flowing, spontaneous songwriting and non-Western music without it coming off like they’re trying too hard. There is a clarity to its maximalist compositions and Bernie Worrell-esque keyboard work that suggest more than one person in the band studied pop music without being chained to its sometimes limiting conventions. Jazz may be the root but Snarky Puppy has thankfully abandoned the ossified instincts of much modern jazz as well. The band is sprawling in membership, totally coincidentally perhaps with it being from Denton from which hail The Polyphonic Spree, but the music has a coherence and focus that you’d expect from a chamber orchestra. The project’s latest record is 2016’s Grammy winning Culcha Vulcha but it looks like there’s a new record in the works with a tentative 2018 release.