Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/24/19 – 10/30/19

Black Belt Eagle Scout
Black Belt Eagle Scout performs at Boulder Theater on October 30, this photo and thumbnail image by Sarah Cass

Thursday | October 24

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Penelope Isles, photo by Abbey Raymonde

What: Penelope Isles w/Sleepy Animals and Sad Bug
When: Thursday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Penelope Isles from Brighton, UK recently released its debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, through Bella Union. The record is a mix of woozy indie pop and fuzzy guitar rock. Its washy dynamics and use of samples and incidental sounds on the record speaks to an almost sound design approach to the recording to convey a sense of place and an experience beyond some pristine studio product. It’s as though you’re hanging out with the band and going for a walk along that shore and trading stories about life. The band’s use of minor progression transitions is sublime making the record more evocative than might seem obvious on first blush and worth delving into for the sheer array of sounds and emotions running through the ten tracks.

What: Emergency Contact w/Debaser and American Culture
When: Thursday, 10.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Seattle’s Emergency Contact is somewhere betwixt irreverent lo-fi slacker rock and pointed post-punk. Also on the bill is Josh Taylor (former Friends Forever and used to run Monkey Mania) as Debaser playing some strange bass-based songs. Unless it’s something completely different these days which it may be. American Culture is a guitar rock band rooted in indie pop but influenced by the chimy-dreamy-dark post-punk of The Cure. All shredders who care more about songwriting than showing off, which is a rarity.

What: Weathered Statues EP release, Triton FC, Rejekted Kauses
When: Thursday, 10.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Weathered Statues is releasing its latest EP, Desolation. Fans of Xmal Deutschland and The Cure will find something to like about this post-punk band whose fluid rhythms and urgent melodies go for the dark places in the psyche as a path to catharsis and healing.

What: JPEGMAFIA w/Butch Dawson
When: Thursday, 10.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Friday | October 25

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Maribou State, photo by Sam Neil

What: Maribou State w/Sea Moya
When: Friday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: English duo Maribou State are known for their remixes of popular artists as well as musical collaborations with the likes of Khruangbin, Holly Walker and Pedestrian on its 2018 album Kingdoms of Colour. The project’s sound could be described as downtempo steeped in non-Western sounds and rhythms mixed with electronic jazz and soul. Its songs have mood aplenty but also an uplifting quality driven by creative song dynamics. Though often described as an electronic project, Maribou State includes live, acoustic drums, guitar and other instrumentation performed by humans and not just a track of well sculpted electronics. Fans of Prefuse 73 and Blockhead may find much to like with Maribou State.

What: Cat Power w/Zsela
When: Friday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Johnnascus, Techno Allah, Data Rainbow and $addy
When: Friday, 10.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Five Iron Frenzy w/Be Like Max & Scooter James – benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Puerto Rico
When: Friday, 10.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Saturday | October 26

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Solypsis circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Psychedelic Cave Collective Presents: Supreme Halloween Mega Bash 2019: Snowbeasts, Acidbat, Mondo Obscura, Red Side Vs. DJ Wise, Biostatic v. Denizens of the Deep, Psybrid, Solypsis, DJ Spacekeeper, DJ Hepster Pat, Visuals by Cheyenne Grow and Orchidz3ro
When: Saturday, 10.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Thee beat driven ambient, noise and industrial extravaganza of the year in Denver. Acidbat is a hybrid of breakbeat and ambient glitch. Mondo Obscure is ambient bordering on psychedelia and new age mantra music. Biostatic is pure ambient but incorporating processed trumpet with finely sculpted electronic beats. Solypsis is here from Arizona with his own confrontational ambient-industrial mayhem. Visuals done by two of the real talents in Denver who get what goes well with this music.

Sunday | October 27

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The Vanilla Milkshakes with Frank Registrato on drums circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #7: Frank Registrato and Stalebread Scottie
When: Sunday, 10.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Assuming a blizzard doesn’t descend on Denver, the next edition of Shibui Denver hosted by Queen City Sounds and Art scribe Tom Murphy will include Frank Registrato of The Vanilla Milkshakes who will perform vocal and piano songs for perhaps the first time in the Mile High City. He was once involved in the world of music in Orlando and Disney and in the orbit of Lou Pearlman and his pop music empire and brings a lifetime of vast musical experience into his songwriting and performances. Also on the bill from out of town making a special appearance is Stalebread Scottie of The Drunken Catfish Ramblers, blues folk artist from New Orleans, who appeared in the HBO series Treme.

Tuesday | October 29

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Samvega circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Today’s Paramount, Samvega, Emily Shreve and Giardia
When: Tuesday, 10.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Doom/folk/psychedelic band Samvega will perform at this show that features other bands on the spectrum of math rock and experimental like Today’s Paramount and Giardia.

What: Matt and Kim w/SWMRS
When: Tuesday, 10.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

What: Wu-Tang Clan w/Onyx and Dillon Cooper
When: Tuesday, 10.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom

Wednesday | October 30

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Milly, photo courtesy the artist
What: Swervdriver w/Criminal Hygiene and Milly
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Of all the bands lumped in with early 90s shoegaze, Swervedriver, like Catherine Wheel, was one those that rocked a little harder than most and its use of car metaphors seemed to vibe with an American sensibility as well. The band’s 1991 debut album Raise yielded classic blazers like “Son of Mustang Ford” and “Rave Down.” Over the course of the next two decades and more the band evolved and explored new vistas of sound and is now touring for its 2019 album Future Ruins. Opening act Criminal Hygiene from Los Angeles sounds like a mix of slowcore delicacy and fuzzy indie pop. Milly, also based in Los Angeles, started as the home recording project of frontman Brendan Dyer when he was living in Connecticut. But the band has fleshed out a spacious and evocative sound employing entrancing gradients of atmosphere and floating melodies. The group recently released its Our First Four Songs EP showing great promise as modern slowcore soundsculptors with an ear for transporting dynamics.

What: Devendra Banhart w/Black Belt Eagle Scout
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Psychedelic folk genius Devendra Banhart is now touring in support of his latest album Ma. His shows are always a lush presentation of his fascinatingly colorful and left field compositions. But sharing the bill is Black Belt Eagle Scout. Katherine Paul released the album Mother of My Children under that moniker in September 2018 to great acclaim for its vivid and poetic depiction of the experiences of queer Indigenous people in a sensitive and nuanced manner. Her bright, atmospheric folk songs and gently soulful vocals reveal an inner strength that comes across powerfully. She recently released her new record At the Party With My Brown Friends.

What: The Bloody Mary’s and Sympathy F
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ

What: Camilla’s Ball: Scifidelic, The UnioN and Married a Dead Man
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bug Theatre

What: Com Truise w/Altopalo and Beshken
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Ghostmane w/Lil Tracy, Harm’s Way, Horus the Astroneer and ParvO
When: Wednesesday, 10.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre

Best Shows in Denver 09/12/19 – 09/18/19

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Summer Cannibals perform at Lost Lake on September 13, photo by Jason Quigley

Thursday | September 12

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Sheer Mag circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Sheer Mag w/Tweens and The Born Readies
When: Thursday, 09.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Sheer Mag sounds like a band that grew up listening mostly to Thin Lizzy, 70s power pop and AC/DC but invented punk rock without ever having heard it. It’s new record A Distant Call finds the band having refined some of its raw power without blunting it.

Friday | September 13

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Dub Trio, photo by William Felch

What: Soulless Maneater, Sweetness Itself, Sad Bug
When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Sad Bug is sort of a neo-emo pop punk band. Sweetness Itself might come off as a bit of a fuzzy psychedelic band but sometimes Cyrena Rosati’s guitar work verves into bendy waves akin to something you might hear from My Bloody Valentine via No Joy. Which is to say gloriously loud and noisy but also tied to tight songwriting and accessible hooks. Soulless Maneater is what happens when you give doom metal more of an abrasive edge and more pointed and political lyrics aimed at where a critical eye belongs.

What: Summer Cannibals w/Mr. Atomic and Knuckle Pups
When: Friday, 09.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Summer Cannibals have for the past seven years charted a path out of the neo-garage rock that dominated American underground rock for several years. Its own songwriting more fluid and dynamic than just the adolescent release and raw, youthful enthusiasm that was both what was exciting but ultimately limiting and tiresome about the new garage bands. Summer Cannibals didn’t just have a healthy sense of humor but the band also seemed to take seriously its songcraft but without overthinking it. Its new album, 2019’s Can’t Tell Me No is Summer Cannibals in high form with its contrast of melodic vocals, grit, attitude and confessional lyrics.

What: Dub Trio w/Incubus
When: Friday, 09.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: It shouldn’t work and maybe for some it doesn’t, but Brooklyn’s Dub Trio took inspiration from King Tubby and applied the principles of dub to heavier music in terms of shaping sound, production and signal processing. Surface level, the group comes across like an arty doom band and it has served as part of the backing band for Mike Patton on the 2006 Peeping Tom tour and on its new album The Shape of Jazz to Come, it worked with Buzz Osborne of Melvins fame. But the bass is sculpted in a way to sync up with the sampled and manipulated sounds fed back into the mix for a disorienting yet hypnotic effect. Sure, opening for a pretty famous nü metal band but worth going to see for their set alone.

Saturday | September 14

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Strand of Oaks, photo by Alysse Gafkajen

What: Dub Trio w/Incubus
When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: For Dub Trio see above on 9.14.

What: Day of the Green Fish: Emerald Siam, Pale Sun, No Gossip In Braille, Wild Call, Kilonova and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Really a showcase for some of Denver’s greatest practitioners of darkly atmospheric rock from the post-punk, shoegaze, tribal drone and psychedelic underground.

What: Test Dept w/Acidbat, eHpH and DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Saturday, 09.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Antero Hall (formerly Eck’s Saloon)
Why: Test Dept is indeed the legendary early industrial band from London touring through Denver before it performs at the Cold Waves festival in Chicago. Percussion heavy, full, mind-altering assault to the senses in the vein of those early industrial groups of the 80s. Different from but definitely for fans of Einstürzende Neubauten and Crash Worship.

What: Total Trash, Vampire Squids From Hell, Lords of Howling
When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: September’s Get Your Ears Swoll will include “doom surf” band Vampire Squids From Hell, avant-folk Lords of Howling and psychedelic indie rock phenoms Total Trash.

What: Strand of Oaks w/Apex Manor
When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter has had a prolific career writing delicate and thoughtful, introspective, folk-inflected pop songs. One might call it pastoral but by candlelight. There’s an intimacy to Showalter’s songwriting that sets it apart from some other songwriters exploring similar sonic territory. That and Showalter’s attention to the rhythm side of the music so that all parts compliment each other well. His new album, 2019’s Eraserland, was never supposed to happen until some friends convinced him to get back into the studio to write the record and it’s a particularly touching testament to rediscovering the strength to continue on and do what you love even if it feels to you at the time pointless and hopeless. It’s a personal reinvention with music that feels gently reinvigorating as well.

What: KGNU Quarterly Showcase, Smash it Back Edition: Sputnik Slovenia, Little Fyodor & Babushka and The Hinckleys – DJ Andy Z
When: Saturday, 09.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the KGNU Quaterly showcase features Jim Yelnick of hardcore band Pitch Invasion playing his solo material and probably treating you to some unusual humor. And of course the great, avant-garde punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka will be putting in a, these days, rare appearance and demonstrate how punk can push the boundaries of the songwriting and subject matter while writing incredibly catchy music. There is no fashion victim type stuff with Fyodor because he already looks like an accountant who burned down his office and started a cable access show about underground culture and the impending collapse of civilization.

Sunday | September 16

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Altas, photo by Evan Semoìn

What: RETIFest: Los Mocochetes, iZCALLi, Roka Hueka, El Cro, Altas, Sierra Leon, 2MX2, Modulor, Puete Libre
When: Sunday, 09.15, 10 a.m.
Where: Mile High Flea Market
Why: This is sort of an all day festival featuring some of Denver’s best bands whose membership is largely of Latinx extraction from the psychedelic funk band Los Mocochetes, hard rock group iZCALLi, experimental post-rock powerhouse Altas and hip-hop crew 2MX2.

Monday | September 16

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Lower Dens, photo by Torso

What: Of Monsters and Men w/Lower Dens
When: Monday, 09.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men are currently touring in support of its 2019 album Fever Dream and will provide the expansive, emotional, melodic songs made for the larger club setting. Opening the show is experimental dream pop band Lower Dens. The group’s earlier albums were in the realm of dub-inflected post-punk but its newer material, particularly on its new record The Competition, combines its lush melodies with an almost disco flavored adult contemporary sound. Like Jana Hunter and company mined 80s pop music and removed the cheese but kept the solid songwriting and production.

What: Roselit Bone, High Plains Honky and Erika Ryann
When: Monday, 09.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Roselit Bone is like a honky tonk, cow boy high desert Gun Club and visually reminiscent of the same. Intense live performances and riveting storytelling. Its new album Crisis Actor is a storybook of American skullduggery, misdeeds and a celebration of life.

Tuesday | September 17

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GRLwood, photo by Mickie Winters

What: Man Man w/GRLwood
When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: GRLwood from Louisville, Kentucky sound like an emotionally nuanced math-y emo band on its 2018 album Daddy. Though there is a smoldering sensibility to the vocals the band is able to reconcile powerful feelings with actually feeling its hurt and transforming that into a melancholic catharsis that bursts forth in fiery riffs and introspective passages. And it will contrast well with Man Man, the psychedelic art rock band formerly form Philadelphia who made it “indie big” in the 2000s with its ambitious albums and theatrical and bombastic live shows.

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Hatchie, photo by Alex Wall

What: Hatchie w/Orchin and Slow Caves
When: Tuesday, 09.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Hatchie’s 2019 debut full length Keepsake is the rare dream pop offering of late with a keen ear for the low end to give the music some weightiness and drive. Maybe there’s no surprise there since Harriet Pilbeam has played bass and guitar in her musical career up to now and the songwriting on Keepsake reflects an appreciation for a broad spectrum of how the music can stimulate your emotions. It’s breezy in dynamic and Pilbeam’s vocals warmly melodic but the songs always seem to be reaching forward to draw you in.

Wednesday | September 18

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Torche, photo by Dan Almasy

What: Kælan Mikla (Iceland), No Gossip in Braille, French Kettle Station and Shadows Tranquil
When: Wednesday, 09.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Kælan Mikla is an Icelandic post-punk band whose desperate vocals paired with lush, brooding bass and synth tracks are an entrancing contrast. Definitely for fans of Tollund Men.

What: Torche w/Pinkish Black and Green Druid
When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Torche formed in 2004 in Miami and came out of the heavy music underground of the 90s when Steve Brooks and former member Juan Montoya were members of doom/sludge legends Floor. Torche was a different animal and as the band has developed over the years it is difficult to really call it a sludge or doom band, especially with its 2019 album Admission with its sometimes shimmery and gritty melodies, expansive vocal dynamic and sinuous rhythms. The fuzzy drones seem to have more in common with the likes of Swervedriver than what you’re likely to hear on a doom record and yet often enough Torche employs a colossally blunt riff but then sends it spiralling in different trajectories giving the songs a sound like what might happen if a psychedelic metal band left behind its limiting tropes and explored the inherent possibilities of its sound palette.

What: Man Man w/GRLwood
When: Wednesday, 09.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: See above on 9/17 for Man Man and GRLwood.

Best Shows in Denver 8/22/19 – 8/28/19

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Papa M performs at Summit Music Hall on 8/26/19 with Mogwai

Thursday | August 22

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Xeno & Oaklander, photo courtesy the artists

What: Drab Majesty w/Body of Light, Xeno & Oaklander and DJ boyhollow
When: Thursday, 08.22, 7 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: The darkwave show of the summer. Drab Majesty is a transgender, glam, post-punk, space alien duo that has been instrumental in making the new post-punk/Goth wave popular outside the usual circles and within the old school scene. The 2019 album Modern Mirror reveals the group’s for well crafted songs beyond the entrancing, atmospheric mood that could overshadow Deb Demure’s writing in the past. Body of Light has synthesized the minimal synth influences descended from early Depeche Mode and EBM into a dynamic, darkly ambient synth pop. Xeno & Oaklander’s minimal analog synth compositions suggest a foundation in cinema and it’s own 2019 album Hypnos takes the listener on a journey into a journey into a desolate and eerily lonely future where alien archaeologist/anthropologists study what happened to us foolish humans in the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second centuries with an emphasis on the art and music created around the turn of the Twenty-First century.

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The Yawpers, photo by Megan Holmes

What: The Yawpers w/CITRA
When: Thursday, 08.22, 6 p.m.
Where: Leavitt Pavilion
Why: The Yawpers bring their unhinged blues punk to Leavitt Pavilion for a free show. The trio’s most recent album, 2019’s Human Question, really does delve thoughtfully and urgently into what this whole mess of humanity is about and what we can and should be doing in this life individually and collectively given our flaws and deficits of feeling, of cognition, talent and capability. But The Yawpers suggest we can’t just quit as past civilizations faced similarly destructive situations politically, economically, spiritually, environmentally and culturally.

Friday | August 23

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Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

What: Big Dopes album release w/Spirettes and Whiskey Autumn
When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Big Dopes releases its new album Crimes Against Gratitude tonight at the Hi-Dive. The trio’s songs combine a rich, moody low end courtesy Justin Catanzaro’s bass and Eddie Schmid’s rich vocals. Intricate melodies and dynamic rhythms with the band, including drummer Ricky Brewer, giving the songs a rare expressiveness and vibrancy. Schmid’s lyrics seem to come from poignantly observational biographical snapshots. In telling these stories the band tells the story of a generation coming to terms with diminished future possibilities but refusing to give into despair yet finding a way to cope with creativity and empathy rather than callousness. It’s guitar-based indie rock of a sort but one that seems as informed by the emotional resonance of R&B as by left field alternative rock.

What: The Bellweather Syndicate w/The Siren Project, Autumn and Julian Black
When: Friday, 08.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Bellweather Syndicate is William Faith and Sarah Rose. The former was a bassist in later era Christian Death with Rozz Williams as well as a longtime member of Faith & The Muse and playing in Sex Gang Children and The March Violets. The dark post-punk band has a driving low end and a sense of urgency to its ethereal yet gritty melodies. Autumn’s dream pop sounds like someone in the band, or everyone, listened to a whole lot of the Stone Roses, Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction and took that as a launching point in crafting what is its own sound. The Siren Project from Denver is a synthesis of European post-punk sensibilities and emotionally expansive trip-hop.

What: Solypsis, Blackcell, Acidbat and Kid Mask
When: Friday, 08.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: A more experimental take on electronic music, noise and the avant-garde all around at this show including Denver Goth-industrial/noise legends Blackcell, Kid Mask’s disregard for specific style in making his deeply emotional and affecting soundscapes, Acidbat’s glitchcore industrial ambient and Solypsis which is almost as much performance art as ambient industrial.

Saturday | August 24

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Petite Garçon circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: The Pamlico Sound vinyl release w/The Soltones and Cosmic Joe
When: Saturday, 08.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The Pamlico Sound is releasing its new album The Funk is Not For Sale on vinyl for this show. The Boulder-based group is lead by Will Baumgartner who has played in various funk bands in Denver for years but whose roots are in New York where he, as a young kid, went to Woodstock (the original) and who moved about and played in the No Wave scene of late 70s and early 80s NYC. So The Pamlico Sound, which is very much a funk band in the traditional ways has a little different flavor in its exuberance and weirdness. The Soltones also have some funk in its sound but its smooth songwriting is steeped in jazz and R&B and its lushly composed songs have a soothing mood that doesn’t wax into the soporific, just emotionally refined and transporting.

What: Lily & Horn Horse, Banny Grove, French Kettle Station, Petite Garçon and Egg Walk
When: Saturday, 08.24, 9
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Lily & Horn Horse is a New York duo that would be difficult to define except to say that its horn, vocals and beat combination is jazz, dream pop, downtempo hip-hop and avant-garde. Which is just as well given the eclectic sounds on the rest of the bill including French Kettle Stations neo-No Wave, adult-contemporary pop and performance art and Petite Garçon’s own post-garage indie pop. Supposedly the latter has a new album out tonight as well but we can neither confirm or deny so best to bring some money to buy a copy anyway.

What: Oko Tygra w/Bluebook, Hifi Gentry and Cuckoo
When: Saturday, 08.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Oko Tygra is the perfect blend of R&B and dream pop in the grand 4AD label band mold. Bluebook is an interesting hybrid of downtempo, Americana and the avant-garde. Cuckoo is like if a math-y indie band merged with a garage rock band and then forged a musical identity beyond that but rooted in the best aspects of both.

Sunday | August 25

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Total Trash, DJ Couchman on right in sunglasses, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Shibui Denver #5: The Vagrant Sea, Tokyo Rodeo and DJ Couchman
When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This edition of our monthly series at Mutiny features DJ Couchman of the band Total Trash and the DJ night Interesting Times spinning songs before the show and between sets. It will be the debut of The Vagrant Sea which includes former members of Tarmints, The Dirty Lookers and The Symptoms (among others) and rock and roll band Tokyo Rodeo will put in a performance fresh off the road.

What: Bryan Ferry w/Femme Schmidt
When: Sunday, 08.25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Bryan Ferry is the charismatic singer of pioneering glam rock/experimental band Roxy Music. The latter was a huge influence on punk and alternative rock and whose music has managed to remain somewhat timeless as its classic songwriting style and willingness to go off the deep end into adventurous sonic territory has endured as captivating and relevant. Ferry’s solo work has a similarly creatively refined sensibility and flair for thoughtfully poetic lyrics.

What: KRS-One w/Righteous Revolution and illosophy
When: Sunday, 08.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: KRS-One was the thought-provoking MC who was the frontman for influential hip-hop crew Boogie Down Productions. His whole career KRS-One has shined a light on society’s ills with an incisive and creative critique.

Monday | August 26

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Mogwai circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Mogwai w/Papa M
When: Monday, 08.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Scottish instrumental rock band Mogwai play majestic, even epic journeys into rock music’s outer edges informed by a healthy sense irreverent humor. Papa M is the long running experimental guitar and atmospheric moods project of David Pajo. You know, the guy who brought so much imagination and genius guitar work to Slint, Stereolab, Will Oldham, Royal Trux, The For Carnation, Zwan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dead Child and Interpol.

Tuesday | August 27

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The Vibrators, photo by Hannah O’Brien via The Vibrators’ website

What: The Vibrators, Filthy Hearts, Cyclo-Sonic and The Pollution
When: Tuesday, 08.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The Vibrators were an early English punk rock band who managed to stay around and still write worthwhile punk in the classic vein. If Stiff Little Fingers name themselves after one of your songs and go on to be a seminal influence on bands like Green Day your legacy is secure and yet The Vibrators bring a spirited live show that is worthy of that legacy as well. Its debut album Pure Mania should be in the library of any true punk connoisseur.

Wednesday | August 28

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Black Flag, photo courtesy Artists World Wide

What: Black Flag w/The Line Cutters
When: Wednesday, 08.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: It’s not the classic line up of Black Flag but Greg Ginn still rips out that iconic guitar work like he wrote it last week with the unalloyed joy of a young buck. Seeing Ginn lay waste to the room that way alone is worth the price of admission.

Best Shows in Denver 2/28/19 – 3/6/19

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Teenage Fanclub performs at the Bluebird Theater on March 2

Thursday | February 28

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Endless, Nameless tour kickoff w/Soulless Maneater, Lightstory, Giardia and Sliver
When: Thursday, 02.28, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Math rock band Endless, Nameless is headed to SXSW and to launch the group on its way some of its friends and peers are playing this show including gloom and angst festooned post-punk band Soulless Maneater, psych jazz abstract metal trio Giardia as well as post-grunge poseurs Diet Nirvana. But, really, Sliver is a great band inspired by grunge-era bands, Wipers and DC punk.

Who: Starjammer w/Joshua Trinidad
When: Thursday, 02.28, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden has been bringing his gift for improvisation to various funk, rock, jazz and ska bands over the past two decades. But Starjammer is his one man avant-garde dub reggae project in which he pilots an integrated multi-instrumental vehicle. Lately he’s been crafting stories to go along with performances and this is one of a handful of events where he’s trying that out while bringing in some of the greatest players in Denver to round out the bill. Tonight it’s trumpet player extraordinaire Joshua Trinidad who some may know for his masterful turns in Wheelchair Sports Camp and GoStar.

Friday | March 1

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Blood Incantation, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Decibel Tour: Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Necrot and Blood Incantation
When: Friday, 03.01, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Cannibal Corpse is known for having some of the most cartoonishly brutal and horrifying lyrics in metal. But it’s all in fun and if one can’t appreciate the absurd, even in bad taste, maybe you take yourself too seriously. The death metal legends share the stage tonight with one of the pioneers of death metal from, where else, Tampa, Florida (where Cannibal Corpse is now based): Morbid Angel. Opening the night is Blood Incantation, a Colorado band with a cult following in the death metal realm. While clearly self-aware, Blood Incantation is a powerful live act whose songs push the genre in interesting directions rather than get stuck like it’s 1985.

Who: Venus305 physical album release w/Gold Trash, EVP, Düll Haus and Techno Allah
When: Friday, 03.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Molly McGrath is perhaps better known for her rock band Surf Mom. But for Venus305 she’s left behind the guitar and punk-esque vocals for electronic dance tracks and a vocal style more fitting for the type of downtempo and what one might call progressive lounge that is the music of Venus305. Also on the bill for this release show of the project’s physical album is screamy electroclash Gold Trash, industrial punk/dance duo EVP, the glitchcore for the dancefloor sounds of Techno Allah and Düll Haus, a band that seems to navigate the sonic territory traversing minimal synth dance and IDM.

Who: The Scientist w/Dr. Israel and DJ Imeh
When: Friday, 03.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The Scientist learned his craft partly under the tutelage of dub legend King Dubby and went on to contribute greatly to the genre himself—which is reason enough to go if you’re into the roots of sound sculpting production.

Who: eHpH, TetraKroma, Redwing Blackbird
When: Friday, 03.01, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: None more synth on this night. eHpH makes a good case for why EBM and industrial rock isn’t essentially dead these days because the duo brings an emotional resonance to the music that isn’t just trying to be as angsty and nihilistic as possible. TetraKroma, that’s a lot of analog synths for making dark dance music but the depth of sound makes it obvious having the layers in hardware are worth it. Redwing Blackbird mixes samples and low-end heavy tracks to make some gritty EBM like early Front 242 but darker.

Saturday | March 2

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Praga Khan of Lords of Acid, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Teenage Fanclub w/The Love Language
When: Saturday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Teenage Fanclub came out of the fertile musical ground of C86 influenced by the bands that influenced the jangle, twee and garage rock of that era. Its second album, 1991’s The King, came out on Creation Records, the imprint better known for being home to shoegaze giants of that period like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But Creation also nurtured the cooler end of power pop (later Creation signed Oasis but that’s a whole other story). In the USA, Teenage Fanclub hit the college radio charts in a big way with its later 1991 album Bandwagonesque. At the time there was a revival in the interest in power pop pioneers Big Star and its soulful and melancholic catalog—a band that somehow sounded mournful and sad even when it rocked in a celebratory fashion on its songs. Bandwagonesque evoked Big Star powerfully on songs like “What You Do To Me” and “The Concept.” But Teenage Fanclub had its own voice and its sophisticated songwriting evolved over its now long career. 1993’s Thirteen sounded like the band had absorbed a bit too much of grunge or grebo or whatever and yet its delicate psychedelia and emotionally vibrant vocals remained part of the sound. 1995’s Grand Prix dispensed with the grunge affectations going forward. Teenage Fanclub doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being an important band in the development of Britpop but probably because there’s too much rock and roll in its songwriting and not enough of the dance music/Madchester element. It is precisely because of that disconnect with that 90s trend that the group’s music has aged well.

Who: GoStar
When: Saturday, 03.02, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: If a trumpet-guitar-and-percussion-driven jazz fusion band of the early 70s (Bitches Brew period Miles, Mahavishnu Orchestra) adopted mind-altering psychedelic flourishes and then traveled forward in time to hang with Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest in the early 90s before hopping again and landing in the 2010’s, that band would sound like GoStar.

Who: Lords of Acid w/Orgy, Genitorturers and Little Miss Nasty
When: Saturday, 03.02, 6 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: There will be a lot of ridiculous antics and NSFW stuff at this show. Including from headliner Lords of Acid. The band’s songs are all about hedonistic activities and aspirations up to the line of self-parody. Its industrial dance music and live show is also good fun and maybe vocalist and band leader Praga Khan will push someone off stage into the audience for an impromptu and unexpected stage dive. But even if he doesn’t, Khan is a charismatic and entertaining frontman who draws you into the playful chaos of the band’s music.

What: Nightshift
When: Saturday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: The Meadowlark Bar
Why: Nightshift is an all vinyl dance party on first Saturdays curated by Meghan Meehan and Laura Conway, focused on synth pop, disco and new wave.

Who: Duos From The Abyss: Gort Vs. Goom, The Swamp Rats, Triplip, Still Frames
When: Saturday, 03.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: None of these bands are particularly from the abyss unless you’re only into punk that doesn’t color widely outside the musical lines. Gort Vs. Goom is the They Might Be Giants of Blue Oyster Cult tribute bands. Triplip is the Daikaiju of prog. Gort is not a tribute band but that’s the sort of mashup that comes to mind, among other things, seeing one of the duo’s sets.

Monday | March 4

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Hunter Dragon circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Hunter Dragon album release of Universal Basic Income w/Lazarus Horse and Shockermom
When: Monday, 03.04, 8:08 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Hunter Dragon’s catalog is vast and widely varied in his methods and songwriting styles. But it’s unified by an imagination focused on a future that could or should exist now. Whether that’s a desolate post-disaster setting or, as the title of his new album suggests, a future where everyone can use the time they would normally expend on scrambling to survive on whatever suits their natural interests and talents. The new songs have a meditative, spacious folk quality. For the occasion of this release show Hunter has brought on board Lazarus Horse (a band that sounds like it realized that even the cooler weirdo psychedelic rock of the 2000s and 2010s would be and is played out and injected a lot more imagination and unusual rhythmic and tonal ideas into the mix) and Shockermom. The latter has been writing the soundtrack to everyone’s emotional return to peace and tranquility during the collective long dark night of the soul that’s been coursing through the world like a psychic cognate of the collapse of the global ecosystem. Essential listening.

Tuesday | March 5

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In The Valley Below, photo by Jaimie Skriba

Who: Daughters w/Gouge Away and HIDE
When: Tuesday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Daughters are the legendary post-hardcore noise rock band whose mournful and abrasive music sounds like the purging of the world’s anguish. Except Daughters make it darkly beautiful. Gouge Away is a forceful, cathartic hardcore band that isn’t trapped in early 80s SSD worship. HIDE is a performance art-oriented industrial duo from Chicago whose visceral, ritualistic live show will probably confuse punk purists but which will fit right in with everyone on the bill.

Who: Albert Hammond Jr. w/In The Valley Below
When: Tuesday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Albert Hammond Jr. is best known for his membership in The Strokes. But his solo career has yielded better songs than The Strokes have in years. There’s a bright and fresh quality to his upbeat pop songs and his performances that are likeable even when it sometimes sounds like he’s leaning on past creative laurels. Opening the show is synth pop band In the Valley Below from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Its bass and melody-driven songs differentiate it from what one would assume are its peers in bands like CHVRCHES, Phantogram and Poliça while sharing a sense of elevating moods and positive energy.

Wednesday | March 6

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Acidbat circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Acidbat, Satin Spar, Ruehlen/Seward
When: Wednesday, 03.06, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Acidbat doesn’t play many shows in general much less outside of some super underground show. His ambient yet beat driven, glitchy IDM is more imaginative than a lot of music out of that milieu. Also on this night’s Weird Wednesday is avant-garde improvisational/spontaneous composition duo Ruehlen/Seward.

Best Shows in Denver 6/21/18 – 6/27/18

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Lithics perform at Tuesday 6/26/18 at Lost Lake with Super Bummer and Male Blonding. Photo by Christie Maclean.

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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Bios+a+ic circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Bios+a+ic and Acidbat
When: Thursday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: For this edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 you can see Wesley Davis doing a rare performance as Bios+a+ic, his long-running ambient/experimental electronic and acoustic instrument project. Davis curates the Textures Ambient showcase series now hosted the last Sunday of every month (including this Sunday, 6/24) at Mutiny Information Café. This event marks the twenty year anniversary of Davis’ label Symbolic Insight. Also on the bill is Acidbat, Seth Ogden’s noise-techno-downtempo-IDM project. Though not short on the experimental of electronic soundscaping, Acidbat pushes the use of rhythm and beats in interesting directions.

Who: Cindygod w/French Kettle Station and Whoopsi
When: Thursday, 06.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Probably a good reason to go to this show is to see New Wave Dance phenom French Kettle Station and his emotionally charged performance. But the main reason is to see the debut of Andy Rauworth’s and Craig Nice’s new band Cindygod. Rauworth and Nice were the indie rock duo Gauntlet Hair who made waves in the late 2000s/early 2010s with its energetic, noisy, sparkly rock songs. The group signed to Dead Oceans and did a short bit of touring before calling it quits in August 2013. For this band Rauworth is joined by Anton Krueger formerly of Bollywood Life (now H-Lite) and Eamonn Wilcox
who some may remember performing as Running Niwot a few years back.

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Pop Up: Music & Art with Calm., Adolfo Romero and poet Jesus Rodriguez, art by Goat Witch Goods
When: Friday, 06.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The benefits of this show will go to benefit the undocumented community. It will include performances from poets Jesus Rodriguez and Adolfo Romero as well as the great Denver-based hip-hop duo Calm. whose own music reflects growing up poor in Park Hill and North Denver and an organic intellectual tradition. Also, rapper Chris Steele might lay down some of his surreal humor between songs and drop some knowledge outside the context of Calm.’s music.

Who: Pearls & Perils, Vahco and Victoria Lundy
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Soulful downtempo and synths show from Glasss Records artists Pearls & Perils and Vahco. Olivia of Pearls & Perils creates a deep cloudscape of sound with her beats and her sultry voice and Vahco’s experimental R&B and powerfully emotive singing gives his songs a quality that transcends any specific genre of music to which it might be attached. Victoria Lundy is the godmother of experimental electronic music in Denver at this point from her time in Carbon Dioxide Orchestra two decades ago to her Theremin work for avant-pop outfit The Inactivists to the music under her own name that reflects the influence of Twentieth Century classical and avant-garde electronic music as well as her own imaginative use of synth and Theremin.

Who: Pink Hawks w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Polyphoni
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Pink Hawks are one of few legit Afrobeat outfits in Denver led by Yuzo Nieto. The latter helped start the project as more of a free jazz trio but followed his instincts into more out jazz and Latin music to whatever it is one might exactly describe Pink Hawks now. Also on the bill is the great, jazz-inflected Denver hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp whose playful yet deeply meaningful songs bridge the personal and the political with rapper/beatmaker Kaelyn Heffernan’s social activism. WSC doesn’t really sound like anyone else, reflective of its diverse roots.

Who: Sliver, Pout House, Yellnat, Hair Club and Galleries
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s a free show but that is no knock on its quality. Galleries is a heavy psychedelic band from Denver but one where the songwriting comes before simply rocking with a weirdo flourish. Sliver is a punk and grunge band influenced by, of course, Nirvana, but also hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and post-punk/proto-grunge band Wipers from Portland, Oregon. As good as any of those bands? Maybe. But, contrary to the band’s protestations otherwise, Sliver does not in fact suck.

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Trve Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Bacchanal Night 1: Krallice, Wayfarer, Fórn, Many Blessings
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Trve Brewing has been hosting a weekend of great extreme metal for several years now and this first night includes legendary black/technical death metal shredder Mick Barr with his band Krallice as well as Denver doom outfit Wayfarer and Many Blessings, the ambient/instrumental doom/noise project from Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man.

Who: Definitely, Maybe, Thistledown, Ancient Elk and Laura Goldhamer
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Definitely Maybe includes former members of the late, great, math rock band Scatter Gather. Ancient Elk shows us where avant-folk, psychedelia and soul meet. Laura Goldhamer has long been an influential figure in Denver’s later era indie pop and experimental folk world not just for her music but for her steering bookings at the now defunct DIY space Brooks Center Arts as well as her beautifully imaginative filmmaking.

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures 4 year anniversary at Mutiny w/Mingo, Bios+a+ic and The {Nothing} 
When: Sunday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This Textures anniversary show also celebrates 20 years of Wesley Davis’ Symbolic Insight imprint. For the occasion, Davis will perform as Bios+a+ic, his long running ambient project. Additionally, Mingo, whose work has also been featured on Hearts of Space Program, will put in one of his few performances and The {Nothing} is a newer ambient/experimental project that is Travis Sturm who will provide the usual, greatly evocative visuals under his orchidz3ro moniker.

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Horrors w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Even though The Horrors were basically a The Birthday Party tribute band early on, as evidenced by its promising debut album Strange House, it at least was one that seemed halfway credible. As the band evolved, and as the band aged out of their early 20s, The Horrors took on other flavors like late-era Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized with the 2009 Primary Colours album, motorik beats and all. With 2011’s Skying The Horrors made its inspirations in electronic music much more obvious but so well blended with the rock instrumentation that it was practically a new band whose gift for otherworldly and transporting compositions was fully formed. While not sounding the same at all one might say that The Horrors have become the British equivalent of Deerhunter. With 2014’s Luminous The Horrors went further into the realm of the electronic but with 2017’s V, the band has come to engaging in more straightforward pop songcraft while not shedding its experimental instincts and what it has learned during its impressive arc of development as a band. To say nothing of the group’s great visual style and theatrical performances which give the music its proper and impactful context.

Opening the show is Denver-based dream pop band Oko Tygra. Singer/guitarist Joshua Novak has been making emotionally stirring music since his days of performing as a what one might say singer-songwriter. Of course Novak’s songwriting seemed much more sonically ambitious from the beginning and with this band he’s able to create the kind of downtempo, lush music that has been in his imagination waiting for the right way to see expression for years.

Who: Men I Trust w/Pearl Sugar and Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Montreal’s Men I Trust operate independently of labels and PR folk pushing their music to press. And often that means the band is probably punk or some kind of rock. But no, the group’s music is minimalist, downtempo dream pop and its ethos reminiscent of bands that used to play the American DIY circuit in the late 2000s when you could never fully predict what kind of music would come through playing place in Denver like Rhinoceropolis, Mouth House and the like. Men I Trust has more in common with Cocteau Twins and Alvvays than modern synth pop or post-chillwave acts and its production sophisticated for a band existing largely outside the traditional channels of the music industry. But, really, isn’t that how many bands these days are doing it? From learning the skills to produce, mix and master their music and create music videos mainly to have control over one’s output but also because you can learn all those skills and not have to pay someone outside your immediate orbit to do the work. That part doesn’t really make the band unique in this day and age. However, Men I Trust seems like it’s put more than their fair share of time into releasing quality product from inception to setting it off for others to enjoy.

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Projectors w/Still Woozy
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Whatever one thinks of Dirty Projectors you can’t really down a band that seems to explore new territory or at least find different angles on ideas it already developed well on earlier releases. Its forthcoming album Lamp Lit Prose (due out July 13, 2018) finds David Longstreth and company doing as it has done for years in weaving together a wide spectrum of musical traditions and ideas to produce music that many may find quirky but which pushes forward what pop music can be. This time the spidery and labyrinthine guitar work and non-western rhythm schemes inside fairly mathy overall structures is a fascinating wrinkle for a band that has rejected certain comparisons to prog. Because it’s not prog. It is, however, using technical musical ideas as a framework to experiment with unconventional ideas in its own musical legacy.

Who: Lithics w/Super Bummer and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Inevitably Lithics get compared to No Wave early NYC and Bush Tetras. And that sort of wiry, writhing alienation is part of its sonic DNA. But the urgent atonal math rock-esque quality of some of its songs and the junk-jangle riffs remind one a bit of great 90s math rock weirdos like A Minor Forest, Polvo and Autoclave as well as art punk peers like Palm and US Weekly. Nevertheless, Lithics, from Portland, Oregon, has distinguished itself with stark melodies and jagged changes of pace as well as singer Aubrey Hornor’s intense stage presence and piercing gaze that channels perfectly songs brimming with nervous energy distilled into brilliant nuggets of postmodern poetic meditations on the neuroses plaguing anyone paying attention in the world in the past decade. Its new album, Mating Surfaces (out now on Kill Rock Stars), is exactly the kind of harum scarum post-punk disco we need as an salve to challenge and help cope with the conformist shittiness that has taken over our national politics. Bonus: you get to see two of Denver’s greatest post-punk acts with the more psych Super Bummer and Male Blonding’s deeply atmospheric sound grounded by one of the greatest rhythm sections in the Mile High City.

Who: The Sidekicks w/Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Sidekicks, from Cleveland, Ohio, spends most of their excellent 2018 album Happiness Hours proving that you can still be a pop-oriented punk band and not have to perpetually navigate life as an emotionally stunted teenager. It’s not a melancholy album. It’s not cynical. It’s not rife with the voice of someone who feels like they have it all figured out. What the band has figured out, though, is that their version of punk doesn’t have to fit the formula they grew up with in terms of instrumentation or the flavor of the sentiments expressed in the words—that punk, too, can evolve and grow with you if the people making it are willing to reimagine the music they love for a time in life they never really thought about reaching without feeling like they had to put anything fun behind. Denver bands Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive also didn’t get the memo on needing to keep on making punk like you never outgrew shitty street punk and problematic emo.

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thurston Moore
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café
Why: Thurston Moore wasn’t just a charismatic member of one of alternative rock’s most influential and iconic bands. He was an ambassador for the underground in music and art throughout the 80s and through to today. He is also a scholar of the Beat movement and an instructor on that subject at Naropa University. Tonight he will be doing readings from his book Stereo Sanctity – Lyrics & Poems.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Dorian, Chromadrift, Denizens of the Deep
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday will have a focus on some of Denver’s greatest ambient bands. Chromadrift just released his latest album Skyline. It’s organic/electronic/textural beats frame luminous compositions reminiscent of Dntel will be soothing enough to make one forget how busy the Baker District has become of late. Denizens of the Deep’s soundtrack-y ambient music is the aural equivalent of an A.E. Van Vogt story set in some detailed yet completely alien and haunted far future after civilization has fallen for the umpteenth time—haunted, suggestive of decaying urban landscapes and dark yet comforting.

Best Shows in Denver 03/29/18 – 04/04/18

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Colin Ward as Alphabets circa 2010. Raptor Jazz, a celebration of Ward and his legacy at The Black Box on Saturday, March 31. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

Thursday | March 29, 2018

 

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The Milk Blossoms, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Milk Blossoms (album release) w/Joseph Lamar, Princess Dewclaw and Midwife
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Milk Blossoms release Dry Heave the Heavenly this night at Lost Lake. The trio basically found a way to take fairly idiosyncratic musical tastes and skill sets and a blend of natural talents to make imaginative, cathartic pop music that couldn’t really be made by anyone else. The bands songs are accessible yet demanding your taking it on its own terms. Calling the group “experimental pop” doesn’t quite do justice to the power of the live band and its recordings. Two talented singers whose styles are quite different but complementary, soul and hip-hop undertones without the hackneyed quality one often finds in artists that are trying too hard to appeal to too many people. The members of The Milk Blossoms are definitely not trying to appeal to people in that way, but, rather, expressing poignant life moments in an achingly resonant way making their music poetic and heartbreaking yet comforting. Naturally for the occasion of the album release, The Milk Blossoms brought together a few of the best Denver bands to round out the bill. Joseph Lamar isn’t trying to put his music in hip-hop, soul, indie rock, electronic pop boxes but there’s bits of all of that and more in his songwriting. Princess Dewclaw combines synth pop and a seething socially critical punk sensibility that seems elemental in the live setting. With her almost abstract and ethereal vocals and spidery guitar work, Midwife channels the ghost of the soul level pain that lingers in the hearts of most people that have lived life enough to know the regret and melancholy that bring loss into stark focus.

Who: DRUNE, Equine, Tyler Jared Cantrell
When: Thursday, 03.29, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: This is the second edition of Musical Mayhem at The Skylark for March. DRUNE describes itself as “Denver Desert Doom Metal.” Probably means these guys listened to a lot of Kyuss and/or Queens of the Stone Age, maybe Dopesmoker-era Sleep above the rest of that band’s catalog and Ennio Morricone’s movie soundtrack discography. If their practice space recordings are any indication anyway. Equine is the latest project from Kevin Richards who some may know from his time bringing weird jazz chords into the mix with post-hardcore band Motheater and ambient noise project Epileptinomicon or even his own post-rock-esque solo effort Temples (before some okay psych band made the name famous-ish). At any rate, Equine picks up where Temples left off in experimenting with the structure and format of even experimental guitar based music and adding in electronic elements to create a truly hypnotic and immersive soundscape.

Who: Matt and Kim w/CRUISR and Twinkids
When: Thursday, 03.29, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and became a couple who were encouraged to take up music by the guys in Japanther. Neither had any real training but plenty of creativity and, it turns out, a knack for writing hook-laden pop songs that were upbeat and positivistic without seeming hokey. As the duo’s songwriting developed, its audience quickly outpaced the capacity of the DIY spaces it played early in its career. Matt and Kim have played many of the big festivals and had experiences most bands would love to have and yet their presentation of the music never seems jaded—it seems as exuberant as it was a decade ago.2018’s Almost Everyday, written while Schifino was recovering from an injury strikes an unusually melancholy note now and then suggesting an acknowledgement of mortality to go along with the shift from the exuberant punk attitude of earlier releases to a focus on the electronic side of the band’s sound. Honestly, a welcome change of pace but even if you’re not a fan of the band’s newer sound it’s not like they’re going to only play from the new record and you can go expecting the hijinks that have made Matt and Kim shows more fun than those of most other bands.

Friday | March 30, 2018

 

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It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Monocle Band & The Dress Downs
When: Friday, 03.30, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show
Where: Absolute Vinyl, Boulder
Why: Absolute Vinyl ends its more than 9-year run as an institution that offered friendly service, fair prices on vinyl and a place to see a wide variety of live music from the avant-garde improvisational stylings of Animal / object to folk/Americana acts like Monocle Band and The Dress Downs, the two bands that will likely be the last live acts to be hosted by the store. Advocates for the local tape label showcase and other events focused on local culture, Absolute Vinyl was more than just a record store. Absolute Vinyl closes its doors for good tomorrow, Saturday, March 31 so if you’re so inclined pay it one last visit.

Who: Fathers vinyl release w/SPELLS, It’s Just Bugs, Cheap Perfume
When: Friday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: At this show you can pick up the vinyl version of the self-titled Fathers album, which came out digitally in October 2017. The group is a bit of an all-star lineup of local heavy music including Oscar Ross and Ryan DeWitt from Lords of Fuzz, Eddie Maestas from Native Daughters and Mhyk Monroe from Cult of the Lost Cause. Fathers is more akin to metallic post-hardcore acts like Converge, Coalesce and Cave-In (whose singer/bassist Caleb Scofield died in a car accident earlier this week). Including the amplified intensity, the clear influence (directly or otherwise) of grindcore and gritty-screamy vocals. Fortunately the group thought to bring in likeminded but sonically quite different bands to round out the bill. SPELLS’ motto is 80% is good enough. But you can’t really tell anyone’s holding back on the energy and performance in the show. Sorta like pop-punk but more refined yet still simple and straight forward. Maybe frontman Ben Roy will do something transgressive but not abusive at the show and it’ll all be worth that beyond Chuck Coffey’s elegant and thoughtful songwriting disguised as dumb-but-fun punk. It’s Just Bugs is the perfect, even inevitable, blend of noise, electro-industrial music and hip-hop. Cheap Perfume writes catchy, fun songs but doesn’t dumb down or dulls its sharp takedown of patriarchal culture to comfort people who think art and politics should be separate.

Who: Strange Goo – KGNU presents An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm: Mux Mool and RUMTUM collaborative set, Ea$$side Lupita, CURTA and Norty
When: Friday, 03.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene Bar
Why: For fifth Fridays for the rest of the year, KGNU is presenting An Evening of Perplexing Rhythm, seems to be a showcase for forward thinking hip-hop and electronic music. This edition includes: Mux Mool and RUMTUM doing a set together likely combining their gifts for electronic dance music production and RUMTUM’s use of guitar loops and soundscapes – Ea$$side Lupita, the solo project of the incomparable KoKo La of R A R E B Y R D $ fame and if her production and lushly evocative and emotionally articulate vocals in the latter is any indication, this will be worth paying attention to as well – and CURTA, Denver’s premiere noise rap/experimental hip-hop group who recently released the excellent End of Future Park, a unique and almost surreal take on how the current state of late capitalist economic systems and the pervasiveness of technology in culture is impacting our daily lives in ways we tend not to examine closely enough.

Saturday | March 31, 2018

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Chrome circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Chrome w/EchoBeds and Phallic Meditation
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Check out our write-up on Chrome and interview with Helios Creed for some reasons to go to this show.

 

What: Raptor Jazz a Ceremony of Life for Colin Ward/Fundraiser feat. Docile Rottweiler, French Kettle Station, UR Presents Acid Rain (live), Sugarsplat 2.0, Shaman Fight Club, AcidBat, Kid Mask, Toucan, visuals by Orchidz3ro and Jak Turbo
When: Saturday, 03.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Colin Ward left an indelible imprint on Denver’s DIY art and music world during his short life before he died at the end of January 2018. This event is a celebration of his life and influence performed by many of those closest to him and a fundraiser for his memorial fund to preserve his art and music going into the future.

Monday | April 2, 2018

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Herse, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Suppression w/Herse, Berated and Flesh Buzzard
When: Monday, 04.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Suppression are an early noisegrind band from Virginia. When the band began in Roanoke in 1992 it probably seemed pretty extreme and brutal to most people that weren’t already into grindcore. The beyond-screamed vocals, savage sonic gyrations and doomy soundscaping of its 1993, self-titled debut likely didn’t endear itself to purist grind fans either. But 26 years hence and Suppression, now a two-piece, are considered legends of extreme music even though that means they’re probably playing the same kind of underground, DIY and otherwise unglamourous types of venues they did back near the beginning. That said, it would be so odd and not appropriate to witness this music at a theater or even a big club. Fortunately, Mutiny is a perfect place to catch Suppression as well as like-minded locals like the two-piece Herse whose own brand of grind waxes into the realm of experimental music with its own subverting grindcore tropes of song dynamics and tone.

Tuesday | April 3, 2018

PaleWaves_DannyNorth_web
Pale Waves, photo by Danny North

Who: Pale Waves w/Inheaven
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Pale Waves released All The Things I Never Said, its debut EP, in February 2018. While the band began in 2014, it’s obvious from the songwriting that the Manchester, UK-based group took some time incubating as a band before releasing a song much less a small body of work like a four-song EP. The band’s sound and image is an interesting mix of ideas and creative impulses. Overtly the music is modern synth pop but the band looks like they might be giving us a vintage post-punk/Goth sound as lead singer/guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran look like they wouldn’t have been out of place in Siouxsie & The Banshees or Switchblade Symphony. Which makes the contrast interesting because the band sets you up to be surprised and not expect a particular style. Sure, an early single, “There’s Honey,” comes off like late-era Cocteau Twins meets Chvrches but later singles like “Heavenly” mix bright vintage dream pop guitar work with melodic hooks reminiscent of Alvvays. Whatever ingredients went into Pale Waves’ music, what it is now is one of the better pop groups to have come across the Atlantic in a few years.

Who: A Deer A Horse w/Quits and Product Lust
When: Tuesday, 04.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brooklyn’s A Deer A Horse sounds like a cathartic blend of Carla Bozulich circa Evangelista and early Live Skull. That spooky and intense energy of Bozulich and a willingness to let cutting, noisy guitar find its place in jagged rhythms without being limited by them nor vice versa. All while somehow writing accessible songs with hooks. Also on the bill are Product Lust, the post-punk band that blasts through conventional notions of what that has to sound like. There is the spirit of hardcore in the songwriting and presentation partly because Kat Salvaggio is a confrontational frontwoman but the souunds and rhythms sonically color outside hardcore’s tendency for stark contrasts. Quits could loosely be called noise rock because the members of the band have all been in some of the most interesting groups of that ilk for a couple of decades. Doug Mioducki and Luke Fairchild were both in the sometimes shockingly forceful and unhinged noisy post-hardcore band Sparkles. Mioducki went on to play in art-noise-punk-jazz band Witch Doctor and, more recently, CP-208. Fairchild has been in several noteworthy sludgy, noisy punk/metal bands over the years but maybe you’re familiar with Git Some and Kingdom of Magic. Drummer Darren Kulback and bassist Tiana Bernard were also both in CP-208 but before that they were in noise rock trio Hot White who made some waves in the underground before splitting in 2011. And thus Quits brings together a bit of Denver noise rock history in one band. But is it any good? If its 2017 EP is any indication, that’s affirmative, Captain.

Wednesday | April 4, 2018

BoyHarsher_May9_2017_TomMurphy_web
Boy Harsher, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Soft Moon w/Boy Harsher and Voight
When: Wednesday, 04.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When The Soft Moon released its 2010 debut album its harsh yet hypnotic industrial post-punk sound didn’t seem connected to much else going on at the time. Unless you were listening to dark noise rockers like Pop. 1280 and Yoga. As stark and as urgent as Suicide, as bass driven with cutting guitar tone reminiscent of A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon likely also had some roots in Chrome’s blend of mind-altering guitar sound and experiments in electronic soundscaping. On the project’s 2018 record, Criminal, Luis Vasquez has made the dance element stronger while pushing his songwriter in stranger directions and thus escaped a potential trajectory of merely reinventing the sound of his earlier records. Whereas 2012’s Zeros sounded like a transitional record, Criminal sounds like a new chapter in Vasquez’s evolution as an artist. Sharing the bill is Denver’-based industrial post-punk duo Voight who are in the process of transforming their sound in a more electronic direction so you may get to see more than a hint of that for this show. Also, Boy Harsher, originally from Savannah, Georgia, will bring an immersive darkwave dance sound that doesn’t draw easy comparison to much unless you’ve been able to catch New Order or Adult in the last decade. Brilliantly sculpted, driving low end and ghostly vocals that suggest large spaces even when the blanket of fog obscures one’s sense of place at the show. Disorienting yet comforting. Boy Harsher releases Pain II on May 11 but you may be able to pick up a copy at this show.

To Be Continued…

Best Shows in Denver 11/02/17 – 11/08/17

A$APMOB
A$APMOB performs at 1stBank Center on Friday, November 3. Photo by Alexander Bortz

 

Thursday: November 2, 2017

Bison Bone
Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Europa Coffeehouse
Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.

Who: Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix
When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.

Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Friday: November 3, 2017

Cocordion
Cocordion, photo by Cocordion

 

Who: A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.

 

Who: Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk 
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.

According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 1
When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.

Saturday: November 4, 2017

Novasak
Novasak circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.

Who: The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.

Sunday: November 5, 2017

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa, photo by Frank Ockenfels III

Who: Jay Z and Vic Mensa
When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.

Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.

 

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

Beach Slang
Beach Slang, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar 
When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence 
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.

Who: Tyler the Creator w/Taco
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.

Who: Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.