With live music coming back, we’ll see how robustly with the delta and other variants of the pandemic, we’re picking back up with listing some events that might be of interest to readers. Rather than a weekly show listing, this will be a monthly thing with highlights. If things pick up more in 2022 and 2023 maybe more events will be included once the pandemic ends but for now keeping things minimal.
Monday | August 2, 2021 What: King Crimson w/The California Guitar Trio When: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. doors) Where: Fiddler’s Green Why: Since the its 1968 inception, King Crimson has been an innovative rock band whose imaginative blend of avant-garde jazz, classical music, folk and emergent musical ideas and styles across decades has garnered more than a mere cult following. Its 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King has remained a highly influential work on progressive/art rock to this day. Certainly King Crimson’s music has the feel of composed for an orchestra but there is also a spontaneous spark to the music that has kept its songs fresh well after the first wave of progressive rock ended in the early 80s. The dramatic arrangements, intense yet fluid dynamics and fine emotional nuance of the songwriting demonstrates the inner workings of a band that is not, as is presumed with any band associated with the concept of progressive rock, on technique for its own sake so much as on the impact of the music which superior technique can lend a broad musical palette. Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp is the group’s sole original member and in addition to King Crimson, Fripp has performed on albums by, among many others, David Bowie and Brian Eno. Also on this tour the line up with include bassist/Chapman Stick player Tony Levin. Since the early 80s, Levin has regularly brought his own brand of musical imagination to King Crimson having been introduced to Fripp through working with Peter Gabriel and who has also been a prolific studio and live musician whose work can be heard in work by Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson as well as David Bowie. With the recent renewed interest in progressive rock seeing one of the pioneers in this incarnation with Fripp, Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, Jakko Jakszyk and Jeremy Stacey is a fine chance to witness one of the movements great live bands. In the coming days we will publish our interview with Levin and link that here when it’s live.
Friday | August 6, 2021 What:NNAMDÏ w/Fresh Fruit! When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors) Where: Globe Hall Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist whose broadly eclectic songwriting and performance style has meant he is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole. One dub it the clumsily broad term indie rock but the execution is is often so unconventional and strange that it might be considered psychedelic and an amalgam of all of that with jazz and non-Western musical styles. But he manages to make it coherent and a product of his rich imagination that weaves together daydreams, surreal fantasies, social commentary and contemplation of the nature of human existence and his own place in it without really trying to impose answers to the questions he poses. Start anywhere with his catalog, it’s all wonderfully strange and accessible. Live, he performs with a paradoxical theatrical authenticity that can be off-putting for someone expecting their musicians to be not nearly as physically expressive. The band called NNAMDÏ is also opening for Sleater-Kinney and Wilco at Red Rocks the following Tuesday, August 10.
Saturday | August 7, 2021 What:Big Dopes w/Amazing Adventures and Luna Nunez When: 9 p.m. (8 p.m. doors) Where: Lost Lake Why: Big Dopes’ 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude was simply one of the most meaningful records out of the realm of indie rock and power pop that year. With tastefully fuzzy melodies the band’s poignant and touchingly poetic lyrics stripped bare the pretense that coats too much modern popular music. This is the band’s first live show since the beginning of the pandemic.
Tuesday | August 10, 2021 What:Small Black and Korine When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Marquis Theater Why: As the modern roots of chillwave were congealing into a cohesive musical aesthetic, Small Black was there playing DIY spaces and small clubs in the late 2000s. Its visceral performances paired with transportingly gorgeous, freeflowing song dynamics gave the band an appeal that transcended any trend from early on. Its latest album Cheap Dreams finds the band using its fine tuned crafting of electronic pop songs to suss out, identify, feel fully and process feelings most of us have felt this past decade of needing to settle for a cheapened sense of our own life’s horizons as if those are the only options open to us. It can be a crushing realization and there is a bit of that in these songs too but also a sense of hope and resistance to this death before death if we can be bold enough to cast aside conventional wisdom and cultivate a deep sense of affection for ourselves and others as a bulwark to the narratives that get us to erode our own power. Korine is a great partner for this bill because its own flavor of dream pop evokes a similar sensibility but in a way that might appeal to fans of recent darkwave artists like Choir Boy and Lebanon Hanover. Its 2020 album The Night We Rise sounds beautifully like a musical postcard from 1985 synth pop via Russian post-punk and 2000s electronic artists like Robyn.
Tuesday | August 10 What:Sleater-Kinney and Wilco w/NNAMDÏ When: (6 p.m. doors) Where: Red Rocks Why: Sleater-Kinney and Wilco are two of the most influential and most interesting bands that came out of the mid-90s, both having formed in 1994. S-K came up in the musical milieu of the Pacific Northwest in the context of K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Mr. Lady Records, Chainsaw Records, Riot Grrrl, the International Pop Underground festival, around artists like Unwound, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Wipers, Mecca Normal and all of that great ferment of ideas and music of that time. Its early albums dared to imagine a present and a future in which feminist ideas their critique of culture and society was the norm and not something to resist and grounded in lived experience expressed straight from the heart. Though the band has experimented and refined and expanded its sound the base line of compassion and honesty has kept the band from waxing into a more watered down version of itself. Its 2021 album Path of Wellness expands on the electronic textures and soundscapes that made The Center Won’t Hold (2019) so evocative. Wilco emerged out of Chicago, Illinois when alternative country band Uncle Tupelo split and Jeff Tweedy continued in a similar musical vein that he and the rest of the band have evolved in fascinating ways every since to the point that it would make as much sense to refer to Wilco as alternative county as it would to call Beck indie folk. Wilco’s big breakthrough creatively and commercially came with the release of its 2001 opus Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wherein its embrace of production and processed sounds as part of its core of songwriting resulted in a classic of modern pop music that rewards repeated listens some twenty years onward. Both Sleater-Kinney and Wilco have also managed to remain powerful live acts as well and getting to see modern experimental pop weirdo NNAMDÏ is just a bonus.
What:Voight w/Oko Tygra and Chuch Fire Where: HQ Why: If you were to try to put together a bill of the three of the best, most representative bands of Denver’s darkwave/post-punk/dream pop scene, such as it is, you couldn’t do better than this. Voight’s intense, noisy, industrial-tinged shoegaze is always surprisingly gritty and moving. Oko Tygra’s refined emotional colorings and R&B inflected dream pop never fails to captivate. Church Fire somehow makes pointedly poetic socio-political commentary deeply emotional, personal and swirling with dreamy production and powerful dance rhythms.
Thursday | August 12, 2021 What:Radkey When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Marquis Theater Why: Radke is a garage rock trio of four brothers Isaiah, Solomon and Dee Radke from St. Joseph, Missouri. Slapping a genre tag on the band, though, doesn’t do it justice and these guys have been called proto-punk and psychedelic rock as well. But its hard hitting rock and roll the brothers Radke play with an undeniable conviction and flair that is undeniably effective.
Thursday | August 19, 2021 What:Steven Lee Lawson with The Dark Wolf Rises Band album release w/Doo Crowder and Disinherited When: 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Steven Lee Lawson recently released his 2021 self-titled album on Snappy Little Numbers. Lawson played music for years in Denver and elsewhere and his thoughtful lyrics and poetic commentary on human existence with a particular knack for giving form to frustrations, despair, joy, affection and excitement have always made his work noteworthy. But Lawson took seemingly several years off playing music because it can be an unrewarding grind in so many ways with not nearly enough rewards for innovators and those with something unique and interesting to say. Whether in art rock band Zubabi, Americana groups Oblio Duo and Los Dos and the New American Ramblers or even Ross Etherton and the Chariots of Judah, Lawson really brought some passion and creativity to his bands. The self-titled album is an extension and evolution of the songwriter’s prior work and one in which he seems to illuminate and clarify aspects of American culture the past several years that have seemed confusing or tangled. If you go to this show you also get to see Doo Crowder who is like a modern day Harry Nilsson.
Tuesday | August 24, 2021 — CANCELLED What:The Residents When: 8 p.m. (7 p.m. doors) Where: Bluebird Theater Why: The Residents are a legendary multimedia and avant-garde band whose membership is largely unknown since they started recording and performing under that name in the early 70s. The group’s music and history is storied and fairly well documented for those curious but lest the designation of avant-garde tuns anyone off, The Residents’ music has almost ways been pretty accessible and an experiment with the format of popular music and the experiments coming in with specific sounds used and the content of the music—the lyrics, the visual style, the presentation, the experience of what’s been created. The band has been on the forefront of multimedia performances, set and costume design, video releases, what one might even deem early alternate reality games involving a concept that informed an album and even blurring the line between it all. The Residents’ cover songs by artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Elvis Presley and numerous others as well as unusual takes on traditional folk songs are something that simply must be heard to fully appreciate how strangely brilliant the interpretations. In recent years the band has been touring more widely and it appears that this tour is in support of the 2020 album Metal, Meat & Bone – The Songs of Dyin’ Dog.
Saturday and Sunday | August 28 and 29 What:Glasss Records Stage at the UMS When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: The Underground Music Showcase is a sprawling affair and returns in 2021. There may be many fine performances to catch but the best bet to find acts that aren’t playing a bunch of clubs because they are just that underground and likely not to see at many DIY spaces since there aren’t many of those anymore is to spend some time at Mutiny Information Café throughout the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 20 for the Glasss Records Stage. Not all of the artists are on the local independent imprint but all fit in with the label’s cultivation of various sides of the local experimental music scene. So you can catch the heartfelt post-punk emo of Gila Teen, Princess Dewclaw’s gritty industrial, feminist punk, Blackcell’s maximalist minimal industrial synth noise, R A R E B Y R D $’s soul wrenching/soothing ambient hip-hop, the colorful and imaginative glitchore of Morlox and Kid Mask, the noisy, psychedelic hip-hop of Joohs Up, Shocker Mom’s tender and daydreamy soundscapes, Gort Vs. Goom’s weirdo prog-punk-art rock and numerous other artists. Can’t go wrong no matter when you check in. Pluse it’s at Mutiny so you can get something to drink that isn’t alcoholic and pick up a book you’re not expecting to find, a fine selection of comics, find a record not everyone has on their shelves and maybe even play pinball. The choice pick of the entire festival. Tentative (because day of show things always seem to change) schedule included below.
What:The Alarm, Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel When: Friday, 08.09, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: In the 1980s all three of these bands embodied the kind of highly melodic post-punk that articulated both the bleakness of an era and the hope that they and the rest of humanity would endure writing songs celebrating life and love and honoring the uncertainty, tentativeness and sometimes, yes, even gloominess that cast a pall over society with the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. Over thirty years hence we’re all in another period of doom hanging over the planet from, once again, the threat of nuclear war but also the collapse of our ecosystem and the rise of another wave of aggressive fascism throughout the world. Since these three bands have reconvened each has also been writing some of the best music of their careers and commenting on the times with songs that aren’t trying to capture past glory so much as writing music worthy of their legacy of not getting stuck in a rut. Modern English’s 2016 album Take Me to the Trees, Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel’s 2017 record Dance Underwater and The Alarm’s 2019 offering Sigma reflect not just the strength of the respective band’s original creative vision but also their growth as artists valid in the modern era.
What:Martin Atkins DJ sets and spoken word When: Friday, 08.09, 9 p.m. Where: Tracks Why: Martin Atkins who has been a major figure in post-punk and industrial music going back four decades (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Ministry, Public Image Limited) will do a DJ set tonight and perform some spoken word, possibly reading from his own body of work.
Saturday | August 10
What:This Will Destroy You w/Brin When: Saturday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: This Will Destroy You is one of the better ambient post-rock bands. Mainly because its dynamics aren’t limited to the predictable builds and then inevitable catharsis like Sigur Ros without all the alien light and energy that imbues that band’s music. This Will Destroy You’s 2018 albums New Others Part One and Part Two finds the band further developing its textural elements giving its new set of soundscapes a depth of low end it didn’t lack but one that highlights the more ethereal melodies with a a evocative contrast in tone.
What:Rolling Stones: 2019 No Filter Tour When: Friday, 08.10, 6:30 p.m. Where: Mile High Stadium Why: Anyone not know who the Rolling Stones are? Use your search engine and learn about the iconic rock and roll band that fused a gritty, heavily blues influenced rock music and evolved it in various and fascinating ways for years with lyrics that often indulged in unusual, offbeat subjects and really a broad spectrum of human experience making their songs long term engaging and influential. Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is one of a handful of essential books written by a musician.
What:GYES: Arc Sol, Mainland Break, Slugger When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m. Where: The People’s Building Why: This edition of Get Your Ears Swoll brings to Northwest Aurora, Colorado experimental rock bands with a psychedelic loose edges.
What:Glasss Fest Day 1 When: Friday, 08.10, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This two day event spanning roughly twelve hours each day brings together some of the most interesting of underground bands that often do not get much play at the clubs or more commercial venues. Which makes it an event worth attending to catch a slice of what you’re missing out on if you only go to venues that don’t book experimental music. Most of this stuff isn’t particularly challenging unless your idea of genius is mainstream pop music that is bland but has the veneer of quality or if you’re mainly only into one genre of music not represented. It’s an eclectic booking in a way that needs to happen in Denver and elsewhere more often. Schedule below. All times p.m. as if you needed to be told.
12:30 – DJ Zombie
3 – Grrrl
3:30 Kah Li
4 – Nothing is Everything
4:30 – MYTHirst
5 – Adam Selene
5:30 – Bios+a+ic
6 – Elle Green
6:30 – Sliver
7 – Bianca Mikahn
7:30 – Denizens of the Deep
8 – House N Complex
8:30 – Pearls & Perils
9 – Princess Dewclaw
9:30 – Abeasity Jones
10 – R A R E B Y R D $
10:30 – Catdog
11 – Techno Allah
11:30 – Savage Bass Goat
Sunday | August 11
What:Glasss Fest Day 2 When: Sunday, 08.11, 12 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: See above for Glasss Fest.
1 – Sobremarcha/Hepster Pat DJ Sets
3 – Umbras Animus
4 – Galleries
5 – Disposal Notice
5:30 – Sumguy
6 – Bowshock
6:30 John Gross
7 – Venus305 / DCC
7:30 – Lady of Sorrows
8 – Pythian Whispers
8:30 – Dead Characters
9 – Soulless Maneater
10 – Joohsup
10:30 – $addy
11 – Hepster Pat DJ set
Tuesday | August 13
What:Quits, Multicult (MD), Sliver and Equine When: Tuesday, 08.13, 12 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Basically a noise rock show except for Equine who is probably doing a noisy guitarscaping sort of set. And Sliver who are basically a grunge color-by-numbers act. At least when it comes to their Layne Staley wannabe singer/guitarist. But they’re pretty alright in spite of all of that. Multicult is a Baltimore-based noise rock band in the vein of Shellac and The Unsane. Quits is a Denver band with a similar aesthetic and one that doesn’t skimp on the raw emotional outbursts.
What:Pure Bathing Culture w/Plume Varia When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Pure Bathing Culture started with Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman who are also members of experimental folk band Vetiver. PBC is more in the realm of dream pop but with a more organic base with vibrant and sparkling guitar work amid lush synths as well as Versprille’s warm vocals. The group’s 2019 album Night Pass is its first since being dropped from Partisan Records. And rather than a darker than usual album to reflect the process of the experience, Night Pass sounds like a band that kept going its previous creative trajectory of introspective, upbeat yet downtempo pop songs. Opening the show is Plume Varia who share a similar sensibility but whose sound palette is a little more dusky and with singer Cheri Cobbs’ vocals soulful and deeply evocative.
What:Matt Weston (Albany), Ryan Mcryhew and Ryan Seward When: Tuesday, 08.13, 7:30 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: This will be something of an experimental improvisational show including locals Ryan Mcryhew better known for his work as modular synth and beats composer Entrance and avant-garde percussionist Ryan Seward. Both will join Matt Weston whose own left field percussion and electronics has brought him into collaborative spheres with the likes of Roger Miller (of Mission of Burma), Jim O’Rourke, drone legend Kevin Drumm, free jazz saxophone player Charles Gayle and Jack Wright, another master sax improviser.
Wednesday | August 14
What:Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington When: Wednesday, 08.14, 7:30 p.m. Where: Mission Ballroom Why: Herbie Hancock probably needs no introduction as one of the most important artists in modern jazz as a composer, pianist and band leader. He played in Miles Davis Quarter, he was a pioneer of jazz fusion and funk, he has composed soundtracks, he had a 1983 pop hit with “Rockit” which fused jazz and hip-hop. His accomplishments are, frankly, to massive to list. Also on this bill is Kamasi Washington whose own role as a master saxophonist (he’s played on records by Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, St. Vincent and others, no big deal), composer, band leader and producer parallels Hancock’s own. As a live performer Washington orchestrates the show with a subtle mastery that feels relaxed and informal due to the songwriting and the years of work already put in but which feels like watching a grandmaster at work. So go early to catch Washington and stay for one of the few living legends of jazz demonstrate his own musical magic.
What:Glasss Presents the Final Speakeasy Series Season 3: Adam Selene, Abeasity Jones and MYTHirst When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This is the final edition of the Speak Easy Series not just Season 3 but overall. Each date has been a well-curated showcase of Denver’s underground experimental music underground with a reach covering a lot of that territory in a way few if any other events have in recent years. Tonight’s show includes some of the local scene’s hip-hop and production stars as named above.
What:SCAC with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds When: Thursday, 06.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is the long-running, legendary Americana post-punk band with a theatrical flair and costumes to enhance a strong visual presence on stage. Joining them tonight is Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Also favoring matching outfits in the vein of influential Chicano rock bands like Thee Midnighters, the group is fronted and lead by one of rock’s great songwriters and guitarists. Kid Congo Powers brought great finesse, inventiveness and a keen ear for melody and dynamics to groups like Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
What:Mystery Lights w/Future Punx and Slynger When: Thursday, 06.20, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Mystery Lights is an odd and fascinating mix of retro synth bands and proto-punk. Give its new record Too Much Tension! a listen. Like early Zen Guerilla but weirder. Future Punx is also on tour from Brooklyn with its synth funk punk akin to Les Savy Fav and The Epoxies but with more synth than the former and less pop punk than the latter. Its own 2019 album The World Is A Mess (which includes an almost brooding cover of “The World’s A Mess (It’s In My Kiss)” by X) sure does sound like some people from the future looking back on the Twentieth Century New Wave and punk era the way some indie rockers have looked back on Laurel Canyon, classic rock and 80s glam rock for inspiration and cherry picked sounds to assemble in idiosyncratic fashion.
What:Bloxx, Hembree and Warbly Jets When: Thursday, 06.20, 6:30 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: Bloxx is a four piece from London whose sound makes one think its members evolved out of the music that defined its early youth and rediscovered 90s alternative rock and mulched it all in favor of a charmingly melodic, fuzzy emo-esque songwriting style reminiscent of newer bands like Culture Abuse. Kansas City’s Hembree rides that line between post-punk and synth pop well and its 2019 album House On Fire is filled with darkly luminous yet urgent dance songs.
Friday | June 21
What:Gasoline Lollipops., Dust Heart and Grayson County Burn Ban When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: Andy Thomas has been a fixture of Denver music for close to two decades as a member of bands like Ghost Buffalo, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer, Only Thunder and, more recently, Lost Walks. Around a decade ago he started releasing music under his own name and as Andy Thomas Dust Heart and exploring different facets of his own songwriting. He is now releasing music as simply Dust Heart and tonight he releases his single “Plastic Walls” and “The Last Gap.” Thomas’ command of the musical vocabulary of Americana and punk has long been established. With the new material the songwriter delves further into something more akin to gritty power pop with charged guitar riffs and his always emotionally resonant vocal delivery. He’ll be performing the Punk Is Dad benefit tonight at the Oriental Theater with other like-minded local acts. Look for our interview with Thomas coming soon.
What:Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker w/Beacon When: Friday, 06.21, 7 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: Nick Murphy announced in 2016 that he would drop his long-running stage name of Chet Faker with the release of his next album, that being 2019’s Run Fast Sleep Naked. The Australian singer and songwriter’s mixture of R&B and downtempo electronic pop struck a chord in the first half decade of his career so far and his new album is the result of some wanderlust and making the music and putting together ideas as he went along. The album is a mixed bag but sometimes such material translates better live than as a loose concept album and you can see for yourself tonight as Murphy transforms the Ogden into a more intimate environment in which his songs can shine in the interpretation of the recorded music.
Saturday | June 22
What:Yeasayer w/Oh, Rose When: Saturday, 06.22, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Oh, Rose from Olympia, Washington has been making C86-esque pop songs for around half a decade and garnering some buzz for its emotionally warm and ebullient yet introspective songwriting. Fans of Shop Assistants and perhaps Black Tambourine will find much to like about Oh, Rose in general but especially it’s forthcoming album While My Father Sleeps due out on August 23, 2019 on Park The Van Records. The group is opening for Yeasayer whose genre bending sound makes psychedelic rock, non-Western rhythms and prog work well together by not bothering to recognize a boundary between all of that. The result is what might be considered “indie funk” but with a more imaginative live presentation of the music than those terms together might suggest.
What:TRVE DadFest When: Saturday, 06.22, 1 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café Why: TRVE Brewing and Dad Fest combined forces for this event to bring a day and night of stars of extreme, doom and experimental (and combinations thereof) metal from Denver and beyond. But as per usual for DadFest, there will music well outside that like ethereal soundscaper Midwife, Denver noise legends Page 27 and beat-driven noise auteur Data Rainbow. Our pick for the later heavy stuff if one must choose? BIG|BRAVE’s 2019 album A Gaze Among Them is a towering locomotive of driving beats that transcends narrow concepts of doom, noise and industrial. But, really, everything on the bill is worth your time—not something one can say about every festival, tastes differing. The event happens at two venues, schedule listed below.
Hi-Dive Schedule (upstairs and downstairs as indicated)
Up: Dreadnought 7:50-8:10
Down: Noctambulist 8:15-8:35
Up: In the Company of Serpents 8:40-9:00
Down: Vale 9:05-9:25
Up: Midwife 9:30-9:50
Down: Of Feather and Bone 9:55-10:15
Up: BIG|BRAVE 10:20-10:50
Up: Wake 11:05-11:25
Up: Vanum 11:40 – finis
Lost Relics 2:00-2:20
New Standards Men 2:35-2:55
Chair of Torture 3:10-3:30
A Light Among Many 3:45-4:05
Flesh Buzzard 5:55-6:05
Heathen Burial 6:20-6:40
Data Rainbow 6:55-7:05
Page 27 7:20-7:40
Sunday | June 23
What:A Vulture Wake w/Joy Subtraction and State Drugs When: Sunday, 06.23, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: A Vulture Wake is a sort of melodic punk super group including Chad Price of ALL and Drag the River) and members of Lagwagon and Real McKenzies. But you won’t be getting some odd pop punk or melodic hardcore redo, it’s songwriting goes a bit beyond all of that with technical proficiency used with imaginative and evocative guitar riffs. Joy Subtraction doesn’t play much these days but its punk is borderline post-punk and its sharp take on social and political issues lacks is way more clever and insightful than that of at least two or three other bands. But not just any two or three other bands.
What:Howard Jones w/Men Without Hats and All Hail the Silence When: Sunday, 06.23, 5:30 p.m. Where: Hudson Gardens Why: Howard Jones is a pioneer of synth pop and one who learned to use difficult and temperamental equipment to compose some of the biggest hits of the 1980s like “Things Can Only Get Better,” “No One Is To Blame,” “What Is Love” and “Like to Get to Know You Well.” While for some these may be light pop songs Jones’ voice expressive and highly emotional deliver stood out even back then in the heyday of that music. As a live performer now Jones is surprisingly forceful and charismatic with an expertly crafted light show whose music seems prescient considering the direction synthwave and chillwave has developed.
Monday | June 24
What:Ginger Root w/Oko Tygra and Hi-Fi Gentry When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m. Where: Hudson Gardens Why: As Ginger Root, Cameron Lew has been making lush downtempo synth pop that sets itself very much apart with an attention to the low end. It gives his songs a sonic depth and flow that credibly gives a nod to 70s dance music and soul. Frankly, some filmmakers who are trying to nail that 70s and 80s vibe should hit up Lew to score and/or music supervise their projects because more than most people making music now who probably wasn’t alive at that time, he gets it and it’s not just having access to the vintage gear. But listen for yourself to his new singles “Weather” and “Slump” here.
What:Stevie Wonder When: Monday, 06.24, 7 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Stevie Wonder needs no introduction as a legend of soul, funk, R&B and jazz. He’s performing at this Red Rocks show as a fundraiser for SeriesFest.
Tuesday | June 25
What:Death Cab for Cutie w/Mitski When: Tuesday, 06.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Mitski Miyawaki recently announced that after her fall live bookings she was taking a hiatus from the grinding, album-release-cycle-and-touring of the music industry that allows little time for cultivating one’s life and creativity separate from its considering for delivering up to an audience in a form they are expecting. Miyawaki has had a respectable career and body of work up to now including her 2018 album Be the Cowboy. The latter pushed her songwriting to new heights of creativity in telling stories, self-examination and soundscaping. And a deep level of emotional honesty. With an album as great Be the Cowboy where does a songwriter go without repeating oneself while under the gun to produce something more quickly than one’s brain is prepared to deliver? With any luck she’ll find the time away from the cultural realm that Hunter S. Thompson famously critiqued before it got as bad as it is now by writing: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good [people] die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Wherever Miyawaki lands we wish her good fortune and happiness while hoping she comes back with a new set of music that continues her legacy of great songs.
Death Cab for Cutie is a band that helped to define and shape what “indie rock” has meant, sounded like and looked like since at least the late 90s. Now that the group has been fairly commercially successful for several years at this point its songwriting may lack some of the urgency and poignancy of its earlier output at least the band has a few decent songs with every album since the turn of the decade.
Wednesday | June 26
What:Harry Tuft When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6 p.m. Where: Four Mile Historic Park – Shady Grove Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of bluegrass and folk in Denver having run the Denver Folklore Center in the 60s through the 70s and as a founder of Swallow Hill. He seldomly performs but when he does his interpretations of other people’s songs and standards is always interesting and his originals worthy as well. As a champion of music for decades, Tuft ironically didn’t have many chances to play his own music until his 80s and he does so with emotional power and grace.
What:Die ANGEL, Xambuca, Equine, Ian Douglas Moore and J. Hamilton Isaacs When: Wednesday, 06.26, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Die ANGEL is Ilpo Väisänen of noise/drone legends Pan Sonic and Dirk Dresselhaus of avant-guitar group Schneider TM. With Die ANGELthe duo explore the kind of noise, ambient, sound environment composition that is an experience in itself in flowing sounds, tones and rumbling low end. It is a physical as well as a psychological experience that will engulf the room at Thought//Forms. Xambuca is a San Francisco-based modular synth and production artist who will bring his own depth of sonic field to the proceedings. Denver’s Equine is Kevin Richards whose avant-garde guitar work has been part of the Mile High City’s underground for nearly two decades as a member of weirdo, jazz/noise post-hardcore band Motheater and blackened noise duo Epileptinomicon. J. Hamilton Isaacs is one of the local music world’s champions of modular synth music as well as a noteworthy artist in his own right producing entrancing (no pun intended for those in the know) synth/dance music that blurs the line between ambient and more academic synth experiments.
What:No Vacation w/Okey Dokey and Hello, Mountain When: Wednesday, 06.26, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: No Vacation’s take on surf rock-inflected dream pop is truly elegant and transporting like they’re able to relax and let whatever is in them speak through their collective efforts. Of course a lot of practice and playing together was involved but the band makes it look effortless and easy.
Who:Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Venus Cruz & What Young Men Do, Abeasity Jones When: Thursday, 05.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Abeasity Jones’ songs sound like maybe he spends part of his day working in some high rise office in downtown Denver and/or in some media tech office nearby where maybe things are comfortable but there’s an element of compromise and alienation. And while working and tending to the demands of his personal and family life he allows his imagination an escape into chill spaces where he can explore and write stories about his struggles, concerns and daydream life. The beats are downtempo and ethereal and the subject matter often delivered with a sense of acceptance like depleted melancholy. Yet, Jones’ sense of humor and thoughtfulness lifts up the music and his live performance has a positive energy giving the songs a dimensionality that some hip-hop seemingly recorded at home lacks.
Also playing this show is one of Denver jazz and hip-hop’s true luminaries: Venus Cruz. But this time out with the band What Young Men Do. Cruz’s versatile talent has found a place singing, producing and performing music in a wide variety of contexts. Her long-running stint with the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO on Wednesday nights is an outlet for fans of jazz and the sensibility of jazz outside the classic format. What Young Men Do is more of a funk, soul and jazz-inflected hip-hop project so it’ll be something pretty different for the Speakeasy Series and Hooked On Colfax both.
Who:Musical Mayhem: Bonnie Weimer and The Pollution When: Thursday, 05.10, 9 p.m. Where: Skylark Lounge Why: Bonnie Weimer released her first single in probably several years, maybe even her first released music since her time in folk-punk-Americana group Potato Farmers, in April 2018 with “Pajama Top Man,” a winsome, humorous, self-effacing story song about an awkward would-be romantic encounter set to a spare, banjo melody. Fans of outsider music will find a lot to like about the song even though that designation doesn’t necessarily fit Weimer’s entire musical output. In an interesting pairing, not unusual for Claudia Woodman’s Musical Mayhem night at the Skylark, is The Pollution. Jay Fox was in one of the early DC punk bands, United Mutation, but the latter was never part of the Dischord scene and didn’t play out often even if its blend of psychedelic rock and punk was becoming a thing as bands like Butthole Surfers and Alice Donut were making waves in the underground. Decades hence, Fox, now living in Denver for several years, has set about trying to make bands for whom the intensity, energy, anti-authoritarian spirit and creative fire of punk and psychedelic seemed completely compatible qualities that needn’t be separated by stylistic sectarianism.
Who:Gold Trash, Violent Vickie, R A R E B Y R D $, Pearls and Perils and EVP When: Thursday, 05.10, 8 p.m. Where: Independent Records Why: Glasss is bringing some of its artists to Colorado Springs tonight. Gold Trash is sort of a samples/live electronics take on the kind of collage, trash sound/culture guitar rock barrage that was Royal Trux. Pearls and Perils is lush downtempo beats and the sultry vocals of Olivia Perez who most won’t remember from her old, experimental rock band Gloam. But with Pearls and Perils she gets to put more of herself into the music undiluted by anyone else’s vision and the result is an emotionally cleansing body of work. Like most Glasss artists, EVP is impossible to tag with one genre designation. Part industrial, part pop, part punk, EVP sounds like the kind of music made by people living in a dystopian near future where kids have overtaken the crumbling, cheap housing units made during Denver’s current fake economic boom (real economic booms benefit everyone pretty equally) but then abandoned—scrappy, often angry and melancholy stuff. R A R E B Y R D $ is probably the Denver band now that will attain the underground mythical status of acts like Fissure Mystic and Hot White by the sheer excellence of its material and live shows except it’s an experimental hip-hop group. Its enveloping, rich beats stir the heart and the imagination and the emotional resonance of its lyrics and KoKo La’s and Key Lady’s singing and rapping has the irresistible power of a Kimya Dawson.
Who:Esmé Patterson, Emily Ritz and Eleanor Perry When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m. Where: Leon Gallery Why: Most of the time to see Esmé Patterson’s evocative storyteller pop you’d have to go to some kind of bigger bar venue or small theater. But this performance will happen at the much more intimate Leon Gallery. Patterson spent many years honing her craft as a member of the baroque pop group Paper Bird, but since she’s broke out on hr own for the last several years her imaginative songwriting has developed into a vehicle for writing with a warmth and wisdom on uncomfortable subjects.
Who:Charly Bliss w/Skating Polly When: Friday, 05.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Charly Bliss’s 2017 album Guppy sounds like the band wood shedded its material in a cabin in a remote location far from its Brooklyn homebase with only 90s fuzzy alternative rock/power pop on hand for its listening diet. Obvious touchstones like Liz Phair, Velocity Girl, The Breeders and Veruca Salt. Even the music video for “Ruby” reinforces that impression looking like something that might have been produced for a segment of The Ben Stiller Show. But there’s no mistaking Charly Bliss’s exuberant energy for a pure nostalgia trip. The songs may rock but like many of the bands that likely influenced Charly Bliss, the lyrics have a raw vulnerability that gives it more depth than might otherwise be obvious. The same could be said for Oklahoma City band Skating Polly whose style of music is probably punk by default but so individual it would be problematic to say the trio consciously tried to be punk as a genre. The latter recently released its latest album, The Make It All Show. Skating Polly shows look like they might blow apart from the sheer, wiry energy of the performance and, of course, that’s what makes for great, scrappy punk rock.
Who:Girls Rock Denver: Showcase Series: Gold Trash, RAREBYRD$, EVP and Nighttimeschoolbus When: Friday, 05.11, 7 – 11 p.m. Where: Spectra Art Space Why:Girls Rock Denver will happen in the summer but these events are a showcase to perhaps make being a musician beyond the camp and beyond those likely temporary bands an attainable goal. Which is crucial because a world where most music and art is still being made mostly by males seems bizarre and past its due date at this point in history. This night features some of the best artists in Denver in the realm of electronic, hip-hop, experimental and industrial music. Most of the artists on the bill were written up earlier in this column but all are worth your time.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Echo Beds and Weathered Statues When: Friday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, one of Denver’s longest running bands and one of its most lively and entertaining, is doing a mini-residence at the Hi-Dive this weekend. Although the Auto Club is a kind of punk Americana with literary lyrics and a joyful, emotionally charged, theatrical live show, it’s been booking opening bands well outside the expected circles of Gothic Americana. This night, organo-industrial darkwave band Echo Beds will bring the punishing beats and cathartic drones and Weathered Statues will deliver its brand of moody but urgent post-punk.
Saturday | May 12, 2018
What:Fem Fest When: Saturday, 05.12, 8 p.m. Where: MCA Denver Why: Fem Fest is an all-ages, all-genders welcome event that includes various workshops, a bazaar, tarot and astrology readings and more but also musical performances in the evening and night. Fem Fest because representation matters in a truly healthy and just society. There are plenty of, in essence, Men Fests because of booking and conception most of the rest of the year so don’t get caught up on the name and miss out on some of Denver’s best bands and the headliner, Red Aunts. Music kicks off at 5 p.m. with a Girls Rock Denver showcase followed by space angel/earth mother energy hip hop group R A R E B Y R D $ at 6. Princess Dewclaw, Denver’s own electro fuzz punks at 7 with “pastel punk” surf rock trio The Corner Girls at 8. The evening tops off at 9 with Red Aunts.
Who:Dirty Junk, Great American House Fire, Married a Dead Man When: Saturday, 05.11, 9 p.m. Where: The Curtis Club Why: Dirty Junk is a duo from Minneapolis on its 2017 album Snot is the kind of messy, noisy, collage-esque punk-inspired music that we haven’t heard much of since Get Hustle was active. Or like a weirder and noiser version of that raw punk Sleater-Kinney was doing on its first two records. Interesting putting the band together with Great American House Fire, a group that combines a melancholic Americana with moody posthardcore and soulful singing. Married a Dead Man is a post-punk band unabashedly influenced by music out of the Goth world.
Who:Sorted #8: Pangaea, Ganesa & Squane, Newnumbertwo When: Saturday, 05.12, 10 p.m. Where: TBA Why: Kevin McAuley calls London home but tonight he’s performing at the eight edition of sorted, the underground electronic music event that Veronica Lamaak and company put together periodically to showcase some of the most interesting house, techno and more experimental dance music in general happening now. Also on the bill are Jelly Bean Farm artists Ganesa & Squane. Ganesa is the label head of Jelly Bean Farm and her DJ sets tend to be eclectic and futuristic-sounding. Squane’s sound tends to be more low end heavy with thick, dubby bass beats but he and Ganesa share a seeming love of bright, mid-to-upper register melodically ethereal melodies. Newnumbertwo is a resident artist with Sorted whose deep house/dubstep sound mixes in elements of a gentle kind of breakcore.
Who:Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Palehorse/Palerider When: Saturday, 05.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The second night of the Auto Club residency at the Hi-Dive this weekend but this time with Palehorse/Palerider, a band who are superficially an alchemical mixture of doom/drone and shoegaze but with an industrial/tribal element they bring in for a song or two in the set. Which doesn’t mean much when your sets have three or four songs but nevertheless gives a set of otherwise densely beautiful and crushing songs an expansive sensibility.
Sunday | May 13, 2018
Who:Modest Mouse w/Mimicking Birds When: Sunday, 05.13, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For a band that is one of the definitive incarnations of the too-broad-too-vague-yet-fittingly-umbrella quasi-genre of indie rock, Modest Mouse sure put in a lot of time developing its sound and songwriting style before becoming one of the style’s most iconic groups. Modest Mouse began when its founders were still in high school, it released its first seven inch on K Records, its first two full-lengths on Seattle indie imprint Up Records including its 1997 “breakthrough” album Lonesome Crowded West and every album since through major label Epic Records. Quite an arc for a band whose work remained fairly idiosyncratic, emotionally raw and imaginative even up to its most recent album, 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves. In its first decade or so of its existence, Modest Mouse was a notoriously inconsistent live band. But since then the act has seemingly harnessed the chaos and unpredictability of its youth when maybe there seemed to be less and stake and less to lose if it did all fall apart and channeled that spirit into music more coherent and accessible to a wider audience without having to sacrifice its uniqueness.
Monday | May 14, 2018
Who:Petrification w/Rotstrotter, Alone and Noctambulist When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Petrification is a death metal/grind band from Portland, Oregon on its way to Maryland Death Fest and making a stop in Denver to play with some of the local heavy hitters in that realm of music. The band called its 2017 cassetteSummon Horrendous Destructionwith a rotting zombie face rendered in black and white as the cover. At times the guitar riffs wander into the realm of The New Order-esque period Testament. But that is no bad thing. Rotstrotter have been one the longest-running, and frankly best, D-Beat bands in Denver. Sounding somewhere between SSD and early Discharge, Rotstrotter looks and sounds like they live it and that it’s not a simply a shallow lifestyle choice.
Who:Farrell Lowe Group, Latex Cupcake, Seward / Sexton, Gil Selinger When: Monday, 05.14, 8 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This is a rare opportunity to see some of Colorado’s avant-garde improvisation legends at a DIY space. Farrell Lowe Group includes, of course, Farrell Lowe, Mark Raynes, Dave Willey and Mark Harris. The latter two are members of internationally renowned avant-prog band Thinking Plague. Latex Cupcake is Jennifer Bobola, John T. Nething, Bret Kuyper and Mark Emmons, all of whom have been around Denver playing in various capacities but this is the project’s first show and its, one might say, mutant version of experimental jazz/modern classical will be a great fit on this lineup including a solo cello performance with Gil Selinger and Seward / Sexton, which will be accessible and in the vein of lounge jazz but inspired more by Captain Beefheart and The Fugs than a standard jazz group.
Tuesday | May 15, 2018
Who:Cullen Omori w/The Gloomies and Rowboat When: Tuesday, 05.15, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Cullen Omori’s 2016 album New Misery at least lets you know what you’re in for. As in imagine you were in one of the most buzzed about indie rock bands of the first half of the 2010s and then your band breaks up and you didn’t regroup with any of the other members. You’re left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out a way to keep doing the only thing that gave your life any real resonance. Perhaps a bit of a stretch but one can only imagine it’s something like the scene in Apocalypse Now where Willard discusses why he stayed in Vietnam and how it beat working in a factory in Ohio. To go from Smith Westerns and, in Denver anyway, playing the Ogden to playing small clubs. Willard dealt with it through self-harm and self-medication. Maybe Omori did some of that too, who’s to say? But what we do know is that despite its flaws and shortcomings, New Misery is the product of Omori’s tangling with the fallout, personal and creative, of going from being in a band on the verge of mainstream success to having to find a place for oneself doing the thing you love but which is also the source of some of your pain. That quality gives the record a bit of an uneven and at times cringeworthily honest quality but you don’t often get to hear that on what is essentially a pop record. For this show, you can see some of that music live but also, with any luck, a good deal of what Omori has been cooking up since then.
Who:Film On the Rocks: The Last Jedi feat. Church Fire When: Tuesday, 05.15, 6 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Church Fire’s music sounds like it’s from some future, way-past-post-apocalypse-to-civilizational-rebirth dance club scene. Like synth pop delivered with a fiery intensity and noisy abandon. Sure, a lot of people are going to see a movie during the rainy season for some reason at a place where the wind will doppler the sound and the storms will make watching a movie borderline miserable. Or not. It is Colorado after all. But seeing Church Fire in that environment will make sense as the sun is setting and the diminishing rainclouds provide the perfect backdrop.
Wednesday | May 16, 2018
Who:TV Girl w/Wished Bone and Hairclub When: Wednesday, 05.16, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: The enigmatic pop band TV Girl makes a stop at the Hi-Dive this night. Its sound is like a hyper/surreal, tropicalia-inflected lounge pop. Like a Los Angeles sister band to Sweden’s Death And Vanilla. If someone could make music for a TV show about an America where the 80s never ended and we somehow had Ike back as the president. If Mad Men was a cyberpunk show but took place at a resort with none of the usual dystopian trappings, just life with everyday dramas set in a dreamlike place, an almost too clean place as exists in 60s 70s British science fiction shows. The band’s new album, Death of a Party Girl (read the statement on why the vinyl isn’t yet out because it’s dead on and witty) is an indie pop album that sounds like something that could only really come out of Southern California – hazy atmospheres, downtempo, wistful and soothing – but without any of the creeping insipidity that happens when too much industry input leeches music of any of its inherent character.
Who:Hot Trash, Creature Keeper, Princess Dewclaw at Lost Lake When: Thursday, 01.04, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Hot Trash from Sewell, NJ is a punk band that seems like its members grew up on a lot of 90s pop punk and emo but then discovered the roots of that music and absorbed a great deal of Rites of Spring and Fugazi. Its clipped, angular guitar riffs reveal the latter but its bratty yet melodic vocals are right out of 90s post-hardcore and pop punk. Denver’s Princess Dewclaw have some of that brattiness in their vocals but it comes off more like righteous outrage at being the “beneficiaries” of misogyny American style. With keyboards and guitar work that goes beyond any kind of standard punk, think more Milemarker than AFI.
Saturday | January 6, 2018
Who:iZCALLi (album release) w/Rubedo (album release), Wes Watkins and El Cro When: Saturday, 01.06, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Maybe the next iZCALLi album will be called Casas Del Santo. But seriously, the veteran rock and roll band based out of Denver is calling its new record iZCALLi IV. It is the group’s first bilingual record, it’s previous efforts with songs in Spanish, and with any luck will bring the band, which has been putting on highly energetic shows since its 2005 inception, and playing in various scenes and subscenes in Denver. Many bands garner attention from press and garner a following quickly but iZCALLi has had to grind and play Mexican restaurants and other restaurants that happened to have a P.A. for karaoke night or some other kind of music. But iZCALLi’s power as a live band was undeniable and before ever really releasing an English language song on an album, the group attracted fans for its strong songwriting and charismatic stage show.
Joining iZCALLi in releasing an album is Rubedo whose Vaca is its first album since 2014’s Ikey Owens produced Love is the Answer. Though not benefiting directly from Ikey’s magic, Vaca reflects his legacy of excellence and truth with eleven songs that to some extent documents the mourning process of a mentor and friend. But across the record the songs are a celebration of Ikey’s life and his influence on the people around him and how people can inspire each other to achieve their dreams with integrity. The previous Rubedo albums are worthwhile on their own, representing the era in which they were made, but Vaca may be the most emotionally nuanced and deep record the band has released to date. The exuberant bursts of emotion and wiry energy of Rubedo’s core sound is there but the gentler atmospheres and the evidence of a band pushed further into craft if individual members pushed further than they’d been before makes for rewarding repeated listening.
Who:Tennis w/Brent Cowles When: Saturday, 01.06, 8 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why:Yours Conditionally, released on Tennis’ own label Mutually Detrimental, came out in 2017 and seems to have pushed the band’s cachet higher among a wider audience since it’s playing The Ogden this time around. The record isn’t envelope-pushing enough to garner a lot of kudos from music critics. It’s still the sort of Laurel Canyon circa 1973 pop sound with 2000s production updates on the mixing and mastering end. It was also written during a four-month sailing trip along the West coast of the US and Mexico. That might justifiably make one think the band is trying to recapture some past glory of its first album. But the songwriting is better and Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have clearly developed their craft to a fine degree. Beyond that, Tennis is never really given the credit it deserves for articulating many of the internal conflicts, aspirations, insecurities, anxieties and uncertainty in America without hitting you over the head with it and without having to dumb it down.
Brent Cowles long ago established himself as a songwriter of note separate from his old band You, Me and Apollo. His 2017 Cold Times EP puts him in good company with Tennis invoking another era of music. Except there’s somehow this sense that Cowles listened to or otherwise absorbed a lot of mid-90s Pulp while writing those songs. That is to say that there’s a decadent yet romantic undertone to the idealistic overtones of his songs. That mixed quality will probably give Cowles’ songwriting some durability that many of his peers may lack.
Who:SPELLS 7” release w/Hooper and Lawsuit Models When: Saturday, 01.06, 8:30 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: SPELLS shows are a punk rock party for people who are wise enough to remember that 80% is good enough. But their version of 80% is a bit higher than many punk bands who don’t look like they’re having fun even if they’re bashing out the tunes. The band will release one of its collectible 7”s this night and on the bill are other excellent bands that are technically punk but open up the format quite a bit in Hooper and Lawsuit Models.
Sunday | January 7, 2018
Who:R A R E B Y R D $ w/Bianca Mikahn, Abeasity Jones, A’Dula and MC Big House When: Sunday, 01.07, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: This Glasss Records showcase highlights its excellent hip-hop roster. Bianca Mikahn has spent several years honing her poetry and production skills all while being heavily involved in Denver’s performing arts community and youth outreach. Her own work is passionately honest and while informed by hip-hop, incorporates elements of ambient and noise to create a mood and a texture, something tangible, in her beats. Abeasity Jones brings a playfulness and wit to his raps that are almost a detournement of the bravado that underlies entirely too much hip-hop. R A R E B Y R D $ is sometimes a duo, sometimes a group. But whatever the configuration, the project will draw you into their vision of a better, more nurturing, more loving world that also doesn’t pretend that the struggles and pains we’ve all experienced never happened. Even if you’re not wanting that, its beats are a transporting and intimate flow of sounds and rhythms that one might compare to more dreamy IDM acts and alternative/underground hip-hop legends cLOUDDEAD or imaginative modern artists like Kari Faux and Jonwayne.
Monday | January 8, 2018
Who:Stoic/Euth tour kickoff w/Echo Beds, Old Sport and faim When: Monday, 01.08, 7 p.m. Where: 7th Circle Music Collective Why: Stoic and Euth are both hardcore bands from Laramie, Wyoming and both are kicking off their winter tour in Denver at Seventh Circle Music Collective. Helping to celebrate the occasion are three of Denver’s best bands with a connection to hardcore. Old Sport is a kind of a math rock/emo band in the vein of early 764-Hero or lo-fi Jawbreaker. Faim has such a feral, aggressive sound it’s difficult to know what to compare it to except for maybe the relentless pace of Converge minus the math-y instincts but with all the splintery dynamics and thrillingly abrasive melodies and punchier low end. Echo Beds is brings together the confrontational, organic catharsis of hardcore with classic industrial music in the vein of Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept. and Einstürzende Neubauten.
Wednesday | January 10, 2018
Who:Cowgirl Clue w/Surf Mom, Sweater Belly and Meeting House When: Wednesday, 01.10, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Ashley Clue appears to have tapped into a personal creative mythology akin to the otherworldly, surreal, bright and glittery world that is that of Akiko Higashimura’s manga series Princess Jellyfish, a place where the characters live in an apartment building in Tokyo populated by otaku women and where men are forbidden to enter. Her colorfully upbeat pop songs are strange but playful and accessible. Apparently, according to Jocelyn Rockhold of Medium, Clue has mainly been DJing queer dance parties around the world and performing select shows in larger cities so this is your opportunity to catch her live act in a place like Denver. Opening are Meeting House, Sweater Belly and Surf Mom. The latter with its gritty surf garage sound may be a bit out of step for some electronic pop stuff but both Cowgirl Clue and Surf Mom off an alternative to the patriarchal vision of art and music channeled to you daily. Gold Trash is a more obvious fit being an experimental electronic project that expands on the possibilities and palette of dance music while challenging societal norms and stereotypes in its lyrics.
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: 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.
Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).
P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton
Who:Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m. Where: Tennyson’s Tap Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.
Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.
Who:Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.
Who:Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Lounge Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.
Who:Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.
Who:Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.
Who:Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: The Marquis Theater Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.
Who:Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.
Who:TOPS w/She-Devils When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.
Who:Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.
Who:Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.
Who:GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.
Who:Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.
Who:Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.