Who:Wild Lives w/Cheap Perfume, Bad Year and An Antiquated Bluff When: Thursday, 12.20, 7 p.m Where: Lost Lake Why: It’s all rock bands of one stripe or another but at least it’s not all the same kind of rock band. Wild Lives is more of a straight-ahead rockist punk band and one that doesn’t mince words about where its political sentiments lie. It’s charming single “Fuck Sheriff Joe Arpaio” is up there with “Westboro Baptist Church” by I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House and that’s no faint praise. Cheap Perfume is also deft at such articulation of modern, principled, but not uselessly polite, outrage. For example “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis)” in the wake of, well, the “Greatest Generation’s” sacrifices be damned, the re-rise of fascist types in the USA and elsewhere. Bad Year is the local equivalent of a pop punk supergroup including former Pin Downs guitarist and Denver scene veteran extraordinaire Sara Fischer and Chuck Coffey of SPELLS guitarist/former member of Mail Order Children, Call Sign Cobra and more bands than most other people might join. And An Antiquated Bluff, the solo project of Josie Cool who has also spent time in multiple noteworthy punk and post-hardcore bands as well as a stint in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Is Josie is doing the songwriting it’s always worth your time.
Who:Television Generation, Mr. Atomic, The Rainbow Treatment When: Monday, 12.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Oh sure 90s has reincarnated in the 2010s in various places but that seems less strange than the recent embrace of 60s and 70s music. At any rate, in Denver two of the best are Television Generation and Mr. Atomic. Both fuzzy, both tapping into grunge but in the case of TG, it’s in the context of well-crafted pop songs melded with a genuinely thorny angst and expunging of generational despair. Which we’ve not had enough of in such bracing doses in recent years. Mr. Atomic is able to summon similarly emotionally rich realms of sound but it’s songwriting bears signs of being influenced by the likes of Weezer and 90s pop punk before it departed nearly forever into wackdom by the turn of the century.
Friday | December 21, 2018
Who:Equine, Evil Ear (IL), Death in Space, Felony Charge When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Gallery Why: This a show that’s mostly ambient and avant-garde guitar drones. Equine is former Motheater and Epileptinomicon guitarist Kevin Richards’ solo guitar and electronics project wherein he explores various aspects of soundscaping and composition. Evil Ear is chill electronic soundscapes and sonic textures in the context of what sounds like loop manipulation. Death in Space is…supposedly quite different from the rest of her musical career in which Aleeya Wilson uses guitar and loops to make an abstract kind of punk and experimental guitar rock and noise. If her all synth project Spargob is any analog it’ll be interesting either way. Felony Charge sounds like a weirder kind of deathgrind band.
Who:Sliver w/Stereoshifter, AFD (Amazing Flying Dumbasses), Swamp Rats and Bert Olsen When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m. Where: Marquis Theater Why: This is a donation based show to benefit Sox Place and Urban Peak, two non-profits that aid homeless youth. For the bill, Chris Mercer of punk/grunge-esque band Sliver brought together other artists who feel as strongly as he does about homelessness in our community. Mercer himself spent some time homeless and has a direct experience of what might actually help homeless young people and the homeless in general not just out of that experience but also in getting out of homelessness with humanity compassion and understanding. Fortunately, the bill is a great cross-section of the better punk and rock acts in Denver out of the underground playing a more commercial venue with a robust sound system so yes, a benefit show, but one that one would want to go to in order to experience some of the best bands Denver has to offer.
Who:Jade Cicada and Detox Unit w/Craftal, Schmoop, visuals from Steven Haman and B1n4ry When: Friday, 12.21, 8 p.m. Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Why: Jade Cicada aka Skyler Golden is performing this event alongside Detox Unit. Both artists are very much of the moment in terms of more experimental electronic dance music with some of the affectations one might expect from someone who had eclectic tastes and musical instincts developing out of that scene in the 2000 and 2010s. But one also hears elements of UK garage and the sample-based composition of underground hip-hop artists and the like from the late 90s and early 2000s. As with the latter, the free association use of bits of music to create new emotional resonances in the recontexualization of the familiar alongside original content.
Saturday | December 22, 2018
Who:Telefon Tel Aviv w/GILA and Stratusphere When: Saturday, 12.22, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: Joshua Eustis probably plays to much larger audiences as a contributor to the live versions of Puscifer and Nine Inch Nails. But with Telefon Tel Aviv, which he formed in 1999 with the late Charles Cooper, Eustis has been making some of the more fascinatingly detailed and textured IDM of the past twenty years. Eustis hasn’t released a full album since 2009’s Immolate Yourself, which predated Cooper’s untimely death that January, but his multiple collaborations and remixes since that time are noteworthy as they are sparse including wortk with Lusine, Vatican Shadow, SONOIO and These Hidden Hands. As Eustis, he’s had a role in the 2013 Nine Inch Nails album Hesitation Marks and The Black Queen’s 2016 album Fever Daydream. But for this show you’ll get to see the brilliant kind of minimalist techno/IDM that helped establish him as an artist of note.
Who:Barf Fest III: RL Cole & The Hell You Say, Fast Eddy, Love Gang, Colfax Speed Queen, Palo Santo, Mike Rose & The Early Mornings When: Saturday, 12.22, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Barf magazine is an irregularly released publication that showcases what some might see as low culture aesthetics in Denver but done with such humor, care and consideration for the underground music and art scene in Denver that it could never be dismissed. This third festival showcasing the kinds of bands from the realms of local psychedelic garage rock and blues is easily one of the best slices of that side of the Denver scene that has happened all year.
Sunday | December 23, 2018
Who:Faceman’s Parade of Lights feat. Tivoli Club Brass Band and Sirens of the North When: Sunday, 12.23, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Steve “Faceman” can be relied upon to come up with a ridiculous yet beautiful concept for a show on the regular. Someone should catalog all the creative ideas, sculptures and sets, and the unlikely legit execution of his ideas someday in a book. Like the 100 Year Storm show of 2016 in which he brought in some 100 bands to play the Oriental Theater in early November of that year. Difficult to say exactly what will make up his own version of The Parade of Lights so best to see for yourself. Whatever the exact concept it will be entertaining.
Who:Sliver, afd, Tuck Knee, Sick World, Wheels When: Thursday, 11.29, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: In the early days, Sliver always wanted to be a Limp Bizkit cover band but singer/guitarist Chris Mercer kept being told he looked like Kurt Cobain on April 6, 1994 and he looked into Nirvana’s music and its roots and got inspired to make a sort of rock music with the raw and somewhat unpredictable quality of punk and the tuneful sensibility of Cobain’s own accessible yet often startlingly honest songwriting. In spite of Mercer’s early influences, Sliver has evolved into one of the better bands out of Denver and sharing the room tonight with like-minded artists operating outside of the trad punk straight jacket.
Who:Gamelan Tunas Mekar When: Thursday, 11.29, 7 p.m. Where: Dazzle Why: Denver-based Gamelan Tunas Mekar is an orchestra of practitioners of the percussive/tonal instrument the gamelan. Lead by Balinese composer and Artist-in-Residence Made Lasmawan, this is probably the most legit performance of traditional Balinese music you’re likely to get to see anytime soon.
Friday | November 30, 2018
Who:Thou, Lingua Ignota, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation When: Friday, 11.30, 8 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Thou has built a body of work over the course of the past decade and more that transcends a convenient genre designation for the uninitiated like doom, sludge crust and experimental black metal. Its music fits all of those and more but mostly it’s just a sonically accurate embodiment of human struggle and our collective agony at having to bear the crushing weight of societies and cultures that aren’t geared toward cultivating and nurturing us. But not that abstract. Thou’s music feels deeply personal and coming from a place in the heart that has all but given up hope. Thou is also one of the most prolific bands in heavy music with five releases in 2018 alone. In August the group released Magus on Sacred Bones Records, a typically somber yet colossal collection of anthems suggesting a spiritual purge and awakening a sense of mission in surrendering to an intuition guided by forces larger than the self. Hey, one song is called “Transcending Dualities” and another “The Kingdom of Meaning.”
Lingua Ignota is the name for the language that the twelfth century Christian mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen used in her mystical practice. It was a secret language in which Bingen may have expressed her experiences outside that of typical mortal ken. That association certainly fits the music of Kristin Hayter for the project of the same name. Seemingly tapping into the nightmares of the collective unconscious for her compositions and recordings, Hayter inevitably gets compared to the similarly elemental Diamanda Galas who also employs piano to great dramatic effect alongside disorienting, noisy drones. Fans of Pharmakon and Jarboe will also find a great deal to love in Hayter’s oevre. 2018’s All Bitches Die evokes a kind of modern day experience of the mythological and mystical with both claustrophobic intensity and sublimely spacious compositions that at times are reminiscent of the more transcendent passages of Patti Smith’s misunderstood, experimental 1976 record Radio Ethiopia. All comparison’s aside, Hayter’s music pulls you along and challenges you, it is both uncompromising yet accessible.
MJ Guider is Melissa Guion of New Orleans and her composed environment music is enveloping and otherworldly Her 2016 album Precious Systems is like a visionary post-Snow Crash science fiction album written in music.
Blood Incantation doesn’t do many Colorado shows as the weirdo death metal band has been touring internationally for a few years at this point and can preserve some of its mystique locally.
Who:Glasss Presents: Princess Dewclaw, Rat Bites, Bert Olsen When: Friday, 11.30, 9 p.m. Where: Lion’s Lair Why: Princess Dewclaw somehow sounds like a great, angsty southern California deathrock band from the early 80s with New Wave-y synthesizers mixed with the electrifyingly raw quality of early Babes in Toyland. All without sounded beholden to any of that. Rat Bites is a four-piece punk band that seems to have come out of 90s era garage punk—a little rough around the edges but with an unerring songwriting sense. Like The Dead Boys or Murder City Devils. Bert Olsen is to garage rock what post-punk was, for the most part, to punk: Moodier, sadder, artier and, well, more sensitive and nuanced.
Who:Slapshot w/Line Brawl and Cadaver Dog When: Friday, 11.30, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Slapshot is the legendary Boston hardcore band. Good thing the group didn’t get the memo that hardcore was pretty much over by the time it released its ferocious 1986 album Back On The Map. Across its lifespan the group included members of other classic hardcore groups including people from Negative FX, DYS and SS Decontrol. It’s sound had already absorbed a bit of that crossover sound by the time it was releasing recordings but Slapshot’s songwriting remained tight and vicious even up to and including its 2018 album Make America Hate Again. Joining the veteran band on this bill are two of Denver’s best bands, hardcore or otherwise, with Line Brawl and Cadaver Dogs, both of whom are clearly from that Boston lineage of loud, sharp, stark punk.
Saturday | December 1, 2018
Who:Nova Fest 6: Fathers, The Burial Plot, Under Auburn Skies, It’s Just Bugs and Saving Verona When: Saturday, 12.1, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: This festival basically showcases some of the harder-edged bands that some might call metal or hardcore or post-hardcore but none of which truly fit into a single heavy music genre slot. Especially It’s Just Bugs, which is a confrontational hip-hop group that utilizes industrial beats and noise in evoking the challenges of the modern urban experience and the tension of trying to eke out an existence in a time when the economic and political climate makes it so being working class is harder than it’s been since the Great Depression. Fathers is the post-hardcore super group includes, among others, former members of Lords of Fuzz and Cult of the Lost Cause. Years ago The Burial Plot was a heavy band that was breaking to the national scene when it split but it’s now back and actively performing around the Denver area.
Who:Boys Noize w/Sergio Santana and T-Rx When: Saturday, 12.1, 9 p.m. Where: Beta Nightclub Why: Alexander Ridha has been DJing as Boys Noize for nearly a decade and a half at this point. His upbeat remixes of a broad range of artists from Snoop Dog to Depeche Mode and David Lynch are noteworthy for the same reason his DJ sets are worth a listen or, in the case tonight with Beta and its Funktion-One—Ridha’s ability to weave together multiple genres in a set that sound like genres of their own. And it’s not just the tired EDM clichés that started killing off that world of music. He’s not afraid to bring in some menacing and distorted sounds and beats that one might more rightfully hear in a darkwave band or party bangers that aren’t eyeroll-worthy. Ridha is a versatile artist who seems to seek to expand his own musical vocabulary and methods regularly and it has resulted in a freshness to his sets and his recorded output.
Sunday | December 2, 2018
Who:Rotten Reputation w/Viqueen, Claudzilla and Rat Bites When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: San Francisco’s Viqueen (pronounced like Viking but not “king”) makes a stop in Denver with its metallic punk reminiscent of L7, Tribe 8 and maybe a less chaotic Blatz. Also on the bill is the political expressed as the personal (and vice versa) poppy punk quartet Rotten Reputation. With its sarcasm and sharp humor game strong, Rotten Reputation has treated us to two full-length albums’ worth of creative vitriol with its 2017 album Nancy and 2018’s Castration Station. Claudzilla may not be punk in the traditional sense of the sound but in spirit, anyone that irreverent and, not to put too fine a point on it, weird is in the realm of punk and her keytar rock/pop songs will probably alienate the right people but the rest of us can revel in its strangeness. Rat Bites, as mentioned earlier in this column, is a noisy punk band that fans of Murder City Devils, New Bomb Turks and Jawbreaker might enjoy.
Who:Black Marlin w/Hail Satan, Dead Characters and Totochtin When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Black Marlin is a Denver band with a proclivity for blending the technical musical sensibility of prog and math rock with thrash. Hail Satan is an out and out, no bones about it thrash band but one that could only come out of a certain degree of self-awareness but without any irony in its love for the music. Totochtin is a sludgy but not doomy noisy metal band. It might be a safe bet the guys in the group listened to a few Unsane, Yob and Thou records but you never know. With names like Little Foot, Grease Trap and Big Trash, instrumental metal band Dead Characters bridge the gap between surf rock and sludge metal.
Tuesday | December 4, 2018
Who:VNV Nation w/Holygram and The Rain Within When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: VNV Nation is a group that has been a bit polarizing in the community of industrial music fans. Its particular EBM aesthetic has certainly influenced the sound and style of the futurepop and EBM music of the late 90s and 2000s—that samey, fake dark and intense post-industrial music with emo-esque vocals and fairly uninspired production. Nevertheless, VNV Nation’s records have had a creative cohesive vision that can be found in the music of its mid-era EBM peers like Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk and Aseemblage 23 and not so much in many of the bands they all inspired. The project has been driven by Ronan Harris’ songwriting and composition since the beginning and his fusion of synth pop with the hard-edged beats of German industrial acts is is not for everyone. But, especially with the 2018 album Noire, Harris demonstrates his command of the underpinnings of the music that influenced him and informs his own work where an instinct for connecting classical music structure, classic pop songcraft and experiments in electronic sounds can yield interesting results.
Cologne, Germany’s Holygram masterful matching of post-punk moodiness and driving bass lines with industrial beats and synth work has been compared to The Cure from the arc of albums from Seventeen Seconds to Pornography. Brooding but bright and urgent. The outfit’s 2018 album Modern Cults has that hazy headlong quality coupled with haunted vocals and a taut emotional flavor that is part of what makes The Soft Moon so appealing as well.
Who:Minus the Bear farewell tour w/Tera Melos When: Tuesday, 12.4, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Minus the Bear is calling it quits after seventeen years and several records. Formed in Seattle in 2001 the group’s membership has included then current and former members of prominent post-hardcore bands in America including Botch, Kill Sadie, Circa Survive and These Arms Are Snakes. Minus the Bear’s music required a different kind of technical precision with its idiosyncratic take on math rock – sparkling melodies, intricate guitar work employed with a sort of minimalist approach. That Tera Melos is on the tour is only fitting as that group’s own imaginative math rock is also more focused on songwriting than pure technique.
Who:Childish Gambino w/Vince Staples When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6:30 p.m. Where: Pepsi Center Why: Childish Gambino caused quite a stir with the spring 2018 release of the video for the song “This Is America.” Often poorly, sometimes cringe-worthily so, imitated by several people, the song and video is a brilliant commentary on racism in America today. Donald Glover’s accomplishments as a comedian are better written about elsewhere but his musical output has been equally as interesting and respectable. His 2016 album Awaken, My Love! is one of the better psychedelic soul and funk albums of the past few years. But his promotion of the album with the app that took uses to space with a view back to earth before crash landing in Joshua Tree followed by a list of tour dates and links to get tickets was, to put it mildly, unconventional. But it’s just Glover keeping with his usual attempts to keep things fresh and interesting for him and anyone who wants to be along for the ride. Also on this bill is Vince Staples whose own music may be hip-hop but his musical interests are far broader and you can hear it in his extensive use of synths, samples, production and vocal delivery. Staples’ incisive and evocative words bring attention to a neglected America that isn’t much talked about by politicians and their lapdogs trying to put a good face on the fake economic boom that is really only benefiting the upper one percent before it crashes hard in the next decade. At least that’s what his 2018 opus FM! seems to discuss among other issues.
Wednesday | December 5, 2018
Who:Chief White Lightning w/The Corner Girls and …And The Black Feathers When: Wednesday, 12.5, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Even though that wave of bands trying to mine classic rock glory and songwriting has crashed and dissolved (whether they know it or not) as has the umpteenth psychedelic rock revival, some artists will survive the trend on strong songwriting and having something else to offer than a nostalgia trip appeal. One of those is Josh Logan who is Chief White Lightning. Yeah, boogie rock, blues rock, honky tonk and pop. But Logan brings a great deal of personality to his performances and songwriting and that makes all the difference. …And the Black Feathers from Denver are coming from a similar place but its own songs have an expansive quality that gives its songwriting a broad emotional range even when the songs seem to draw on familiar rock and roll themes. It would be weird if The Corner Girls went more in a blues punk direction or whatever after honing its whole “pastel punk” and surf rock thing but you’ll have to go to see.