Best Shows in Denver 12/05/19 – 12/09/19

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She Past Away performs at Marquis Theater on December 6, photo by Jonas Fransson

Thursday | December 5

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The Ocean Blue, photo courtesy Darin Back

What: The Ocean Blue
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Dream pop band and precursors of modern indie pop, The Ocean Blue, makes a stop in Denver in support of its new album Kings and Queens / Knaves and Thieves. Read our interview with singer/guitarist David Schelzel here.

What: Dog Basketball and Dry Ice album release
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Old Main Chapel CU 1600 Pleasant St. Boulder 80302
Why: Dual album release show from experimental pop band Dog Basketball and “psychedelic dream punk” band Dry Ice from Denver. A rarity to see any show at Old Main much less something this underground and experimental.

What: Morbid Angel w/Watain and Incantation
When: Thursday, 12.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Friday | December 6

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Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlet and WitchHands
When: Friday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: She Past Away is the Turkish post-punk band from Bursa that began in 2006 and making them early adopters of the current darkwave movement. Its synth and bass-driven songs have a different quality than its Western European and American counterparts while sharing that dark, introspective quality that is clearly descended from the likes of D.A.F., Depeche Mode and Clan of Xymox with an aesthetic that isn’t so far removed from its punk roots. The group’s third and latest album 2019 Disko Anksiyete saw a dual release on Fabrika Records and Metropolis Record and with a US tour currently under way it’s proof that its music transcends barriers of language.

What: Altas with Tiffany Christopher
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Open Media
Why: Instrumental rock band Altas performs at Denver Open Media for a free show with Tiffany Christopher. Altas released the powerfully cinematic All I Ever Wanted Was in June 2019.

What: Josh Miller (MI), New Standards Men, Dean Berlinerblau and 50 Miles of Elbow Room
When: Friday, 12.6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Elektric Animals w/The Hollow, Star Garbage, False Report
When: Friday, 12.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Saturday | December 7

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May Erlewine, photo by Michael Poehlman

What: May Erlewine w/Dango Rose
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Tuft Theatre (Swallow Hill)
Why: May Erlewine is a prolific blues folk artist from Big Rapids, Michigan with fifteen albums under her belt since 2003 including 2019’s In the Night. Erlewine cut her teeth as a live performer, according to a piece on MTV.com, while hitch hiking across North America and performing on the streets. For In the Night Erlewine picked herself up from the state of despair that hit many people in the wake of the Trump presidency and use her music as way to address 45’s ignorant and hateful and destructive remarks and behaviors with thoughtful commentary and observations on life and the American culture she and many of us know to be much more authentic than the spewage from a pampered, narcissistic child of privilege. But expect that music to be delivered with Erlewine’s usual warmth, nuance and strength with her dynamic and elegant voice.

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Lettuce, photo Courtesy Casey Flanigan

What: Lettuce w/Antibalas and Chris Karns
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Lettuce is an experimental funk band that has crossed over into the realm of jam bands and EDM even though its music has ranged far afield of that for years including its 2019 album Elevate. The group freely borrows from styles and sounds to craft its signature synthesis of funk, Afrobeat, jazz and electronic pop.

What: Vio-Lence, Havok and Axeslasher
When: Saturday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: American Grandma presents SUPERDOG w/Midwife and Entrancer
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Saturnalia: Church Fire, Chess at Breakfast, Punk Rock Burlesque, Katalysk, Plasma Canvas
When: Saturday, 12.7, 6 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

What: Don Chicharron, Wolf van Elfmand, Dylan Earl, Tiger Saw and DJ Wax Dattie
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Cattle Decapitation w/Atheist, Primitive Man and Vitriol
When: Saturday, 12.7, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: M I N O R w/Quiet Warlock and Phil Beard
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Sharone album release w/Something For Tomorrow, Asylum 9 and 21 Taras
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: The Slacks, The Crooked Rugs and Sliver
When: Saturday, 12.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

Sunday | December 8

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Anamanaguchi, photo by Leia Jospe

What: Anamanaguchi w/Default Genders and Nullsleep
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Mix an anthemic J-pop band with an 8-bit glitchcore project and a progressive rock/jazz fusion band and task it to make dynamic and engrossing video game music with an uncommon sense of space, composition and emotional impact and you have Anamanaguchi. Particularly on its 2019 album [USA]. Seems gimmicky at first but the New York-based band doesn’t get stuck in the hyperactive songwriting that plagues a lot of “Nintendocore” acts or the dull focus on displays of technical prowess and knowledge of theory that is behind a lot of prog. Just well crafted, expansive pop songs that feel like endless possibilities and the positive ghosts of childhood reverie manifested in sound.

What: Surrender Signal, No Comma, Downward Sun and We Are Not a Glum Lot
When: Sunday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Monday | December 9

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Alex Cameron, photo by Chris Rhodes

What: Alex Cameron w/Jackladder and Emily Panic
When: Monday, 12.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2019 album Miami Memory is like a set of vignettes about people in crisis. But the take is one of compassion and understanding without trying to underplay or make light of the struggles. At a time when a lot of synth pop is generic, Cameron’s eccentric and psychologically insightful take on songwriting is strikingly different with a knack for changing up the vibe, texture and tone of his songs throughout an album. Just watch the video for “Far From Born Again” for a bit about Cameron’s keen understanding of the human condition.

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

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

Thursday | March 1, 2018

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Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

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

Friday | March 2, 2018

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Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday | March 3, 2018

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

 

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

Monday | March 5, 2018

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Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

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

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

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

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

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

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Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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