Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/17/19 – 10/23/19

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Guerilla Toss performs at Hi-Dive on October 19, 2019, photo by Vanessa Castro

Thursday | October 17

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Sun Blood Stories

What: Sun Blood Stories, Space Jail, The Teeth of the Hydra and Prayer Hands
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Glitter City Studio
Why: Sun Blood Stories from Boise, Idaho, has been creating its experimental psychedelic music since 2011. Though the band emerged around the time when the most recent wave of psychedelic rock was headed toward its peak, Sun Blood Stories seemed to come from a different place. Its shows feel a bit like you’re seeing what a traveling, shamanistic musical ceremony might be like. Its songs, some rock, some weirdo folk, all informed by an attempt to create a mood and an experience as much as, or more so, than melody. The group is now touring in support of its 2019 album Haunt Yourself.

What: 303 Synth City: Patternshift, Malibu Nights, Niq V, Bob Sync
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Walnut Room

What: Brent Penny, Cuckoo, Shanea
When: Thursday, 10.17, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: False Report (EP release) w/In My Room, Pacific Nerve, Cagemates
When: Thursday, 10.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Friday | October 18

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Temples, photo by Laura Allard Fleischl

What: Temples w/Honey Harper
When: Friday, 10.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Temples from Kettering, England made big waves with its debut album Sun Structures at the apex of the neo-psychedelic era. But one thing that has set Temples apart from its peers is its mastery of layered dynamics like an orchestration of oil projections. The Krautrock-like rhythms, the sheets of luminous ethereal sounds, the haunted and the soaring vocals, guitars carrying both melody and texture shimmering throughout, Temples didn’t get stuck playing in an indie folk band that discovered weird pedals one day and jammed out to “Anemone” by the Brian Jonestown Massacre endlessly. Temples perfectly weds pop songcraft with mind-altering sound experiments. Its 2019 album, Hot Motion, finds the band exploring new vistas of evocative soundscaping mixing a palette of classic psychedelic era rock sounds and strong songwriting with modern sensibilities.

What: Riceboy Sleeps (Jónsi & Alex Somers) w/Wordless Orchestra
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Most people probably know Jónsi as a member of Sigur Rós and thus no stranger to transcendent, orchestral music. With his partner Alex Somers he makes experimental ambient music and their latest album, their first with this project in a decade, is 2019’s Lost & Found. The show will be an evocative production with Wordless Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames with orchestra arrangements by David Handler. A mixture of classical, ambient and the avant-garde, the footage from this tour so far has shown a moving performance of uncommon grace and hushed intensity.

What: Hilary Leftwich book release of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock
When: Friday, 10.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Book Bar

What: Deep Club presents: Galcher Lustwerk w/WNGDU and Ponyrok
When: Friday, 10.18, 11 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Colfax Speed Queen album release of Dirty Mirror w/The Kinky Fingers, Savage Blush and Ladies Night
When: Friday, 10.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Saturday | October 19

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Aldous Harding circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Aldous Harding w/Hand Habits (solo)
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Aldous Harding’s weirdo folk songs and compellingly eccentric performances is definitely for fans of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Her 2019 album Designer is a showcase for her storytelling genius.

What: Guerilla Toss w/cindygod and Corner Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A brilliant collision of dub, post-punk and psych-synth imbued disco, Guerilla Toss brings an upbeat yet surreal sensibility to its shows. It’s new record, What Would The Odd Do? released October 18 and this is more or less the band’s tour kickoff show.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll 11: The Vagrant Sea, Landgrabbers
When: Saturday, 10.19, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The Vagrant Sea is a punk-inflected noise rock band or a noisy punk band. Either way its members are veterans of Denver’s underground rock scene including former members of The Symptoms, Dirty Lookers, Tarmints and many others. Landgrabbers is a honky tonk punk band with emphasis on the latter. At a time when most punks are aiming for a niche subgenre, Landgrabbers refreshingly focus on writing solid songs and leave the fashion show, sonically and otherwise, to those more inclined.

What: The Distillers w/Death Valley Girls
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Distillers’ brash punk rock burned bright and flamed out between starting in 1998 and breaking up in 2006 leaving behind a few records of songs about raging against feeling like being kicked to the bottom rung but making that kind of scrappy underdog status seem glorious. Singer Brody Dalle cut a commanding figure and after the band split she spent some time writing music in Spinnerette and under her own name. But as of 2018, The Distillers are back together at a time when maybe its ferocious performances with snotty yet tuneful songs will find a wider audience hungry for something that vital. Also on the bill is Death Valley Girls whose inspirationally bizarre blend of surf rock, post-punk and psychedelia is truly born of an individual collective imagination channeled into spirited performances.

What: Clay Rendering, Weathered Statues, French Kettle Station, Prison Glue
When: Saturday, 10.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Clay Rendering is often called a mix of dream pop and black metal and that’s fair enough but it might also be considered a rebirth of synth infused death rock. Its 2019 album California Black Vows sounds like what Iceage might have sounded like if it went more darkwave and less in the direction of The Bad Seeds.

What: Jonathan Richman w/Tommy Larkins
When: Saturday, 10.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill
Why: Because Jonathan Richman is the godfather of twee pop and radical sincerity in vulnerability in rock music. And he hasn’t exactly toned down that approach as a performer in nearly fifty years. He’s a national treasure.

Sunday | October 21

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters, Weaken, Voight and Fatal Fantasy (DJ)
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: The Zodiac (Colorado Springs)
Why: All Your Sisters from Los Angeles and Denver’s Echo Beds (playing the Monday show in Denver at Rhinoceropolis) are headed out on a tour to the East Coast. The former released the album Trust Ruins in April 2019 and re-established itself as practitioners of harrowing, industrial death disco. Voight are a jagged machine of sound and sometimes convulsive, sometimes broodily intense sounds that erupt with a barrage of cathartic energy to purge the dulling effects of late capitalism.

What: The Japanese House w/Overcoats
When: Sunday, 10.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

What: Haunter, Noctambulist, Casket Huffer, Zygrot
When: Sunday, 10.20, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Municipal Waste, Napalm Death, Sick Of It All and Take Offense
When: Sunday, 10.20, 6 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and Backseat Vinyl
When: Sunday, 10.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Monday | October 21

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All Your Sisters circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

What: All Your Sisters w/Echo Beds, Midwife and B|_ank
When: Monday, 10.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: For All Your Sisters see above on October 20. Echo Beds is an alchemical combination of stark hardcore aesthetics and organic industrial post-punk.

What: Whitney w/Lala Lala
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Whitney’s debut album Light Upon the Lake (2016) benefited from both hitting a trend early of the sort of Laurel Canyon, countrified psychedelic pop embraced in the American underground and from its exquisite arrangements and ear for dynamics in a way that has been missing from far too much modern pop music. The follow-up album, 2019’s Forever Turned Around is a tender and sensitive meditation on the fear and confusion hanging in the collective psyche of late complicated by issues of addictions of various kinds, a heavier than expected set of subjects from music that sounds so spacious and heavenly.

What: J.S. Ondara w/Elise Davis
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Black Lips w/Blue Rose Rounders and The Corner Girls
When: Monday, 10.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

Tuesday | October 22

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Chelsea Wolfe, photo by Ben Chisholm

What: Chelsea Wolfe w/Ioanna Gika
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Stanley Hotel
Why: What could be more perfect than the haunting intensity of Chelsea Wolfe’s songs, performed acoustically as is the style of at least one of her albums, at the haunted Stanley Hotel in advance of Halloween? Wolfe recently released her new album Birth of Violence which features some of her more acoustic songwriting than the heavy drones and atmospheric black metal of her last few offerings. It showcases a more intimate side of Wolfe’s deeply personal storytelling rather than the nightmarish visions with which you might be more familiar with the artist and a testament to her enduring talent.

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The KVB, photo by George Katsanakis

What: The KVB w/Numb.er and Eventually It Will Kill You
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The KVB’s synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of Fad Gadget’s dark avant-pop with its distorted, urgent soundscapes and brooding, introspective vocals. Currently touring in support of its 2019 album Submersion.

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John Paul White, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

What: Shovels & Rope w/John Paul White (of The Civil Wars)
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: John Paul White one half of bluesy Americana duo The Civil Wars with Joy Williams. In 2019 he released his third solo album The Hurting Kind. Its flavor is a little more introspective than some of his previous work with The Civil Wars. But the level of detail and warmth of tone is there. Apparently he was inspired by the almost orchestral production and songwriting of early 60s Nashville acts and he brings that sensibility to this new batch of songs by taking his gift for turning simple and spare elements into a lush sound that touches on fine emotional notes. Exquisitely crafted songs by one of America’s premier songwriters. Shovels & Rope is the alternative country band from Charleston, South Carolina comprised of Cary Ann Hearst and former Denverite, and former Tinker’s Punishment frontman, Michael Trent.

What: Mating Ritual, Hembree, Compass & Cavern
When: Tuesday, 10.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Wednesday | October 23

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mxmtoon, photo by Nicole Busch

What: mxmtoon w/Alexander 23
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: mxmtoon went from bedroom pop musician to international renown from 2017 to 2019 initially releasing more humorous songs and moving on to more sincere expressions of feeling. Her 2018 debut EP plum blossom garnered her critical acclaim for her finely composed pop songs that feel spontaneous and insouciant. Through social media and other internet outlets like TikTok, Vine, Snapchat, Soundcloud, mxmtoon, or Maia, has made comedic videos and shared her work connecting with hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2019 she released her debut full-length, self-released, the masquerade. There’s something lighthearted but genuine about her songs and her intuitive knack for an earworm melody and wordplay is consistently impressive.

What: Free Music, Koto Robo, Cop Circles album release, French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Cop Circles is the weirdo afrobeat/avant-garde jazz influenced project of one Luke Leavitt. He is releasing his latest album Penultimate Conclusions at this show. Also on the bill is eccentrically brilliant experimental pop project Free Music from Minneapolis, the relentless and inspired adult contemporary/glitch/synth pop hybrid of French Kettle Station, J. Hamilton Isaacs’ transporting modular synth compositions and Koto Robo’s synthesis of 80s video game sounds (though not 8-bit) and synth pop.

What: Agnostic Front w/The New Narrative, Clusterfux and Out For Blood
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater

What: Girlpool, American Grandma and Bellhoss
When: Wednesday, 10.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

Soft Kill’s Post-Punk Roots Remain in the Underground

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Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

Portland, Oregon-based post-punk band Soft Kill is currently on tour with Chameleons Vox. For the Denver date at The Bluebird Theater on Wednesday September 13 the bill include Denver’s own industrial punk band Echo Beds and beat-driven, post-punk shoegazers Voight. It is, frankly, a show that represents a respectable spectrum of a wave of bands that have come along over roughly the past decade that comprise what could loosely be considered a new incarnation of the kind of music that came in the wake of punk when many creative types realized they didn’t need to adhere to an established mode of musical expression. Industrial developed alongside punk with the advent of Throbbing Gristle, but both musical impulses were anti-establishment and made a lifestyle alternative to mainstream mundanity viable.

By the 1980s industrial, post-punk, death rock, dark synth music, noise and even punk were still relatively underground phenomena even as bands like U2 and Echo & The Bunnymen took post-punk into the mainstream, Fad Gadget influenced Depeche Mode who took avant-garde synth music and gave it pop accessibility and both Skinny Puppy and Ministry proved that challenging music could find more than a simply niche audience. When the alternative music explosion of the early 90s changed the face of popular music some of the aforementioned bands benefited while much of the rest became sequestered to the “Goth scene” or largely forgotten.

The so-called post-punk revival, including “dance punk,” of the mid-90s to the early 2000s brought atmospheric, moody music into the mainstream but began in scattered underground scenes around the country. Groups like !!! (Chk Chk Chk) in Sacramento, The Faint in Omaha and The Prids (initially in Missouri, then Nebraska and for around two decades now, Portland, Oregon) created some of the most compelling post-punk in the history of that music. As did New York-based bands such as Interpol, The Rapture, The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them. All of those bands knew their musical roots in 70s and 80s post-punk, no wave, early darkwave and Krautrock but at that time many of their fans eschewed the term Goth and those so self-identified seemed to dismiss the post-punk revival bands as simply indie rock. The connection between post-punk, Goth, industrial, minimal synth and related music seemed lost.

That is until a generation of musicians, mostly born during the heyday of post-punk and industrial, rediscovered that music and embraced it as something vital that stirred the imagination. That there was an overlap with the noise scene that survived in the depths of the underground didn’t hurt. It was from there that Tobias Sinclair, one of the guitarists and singer in Soft Kill, emerged as a fledgling musician in the larger DIY music scene in New England. He had attended shows at the influential DIY space Fort Thunder in Providence, Rhode Island where, according to Sinclair, “Every other warehouse seemed to have someone with a P.A.” as well as places like Munch House and Dirt Palace.

Going to these unconventional spaces to experience music left an indelible mark on Sinclair.

“It was really inspirational without a doubt that people could just hold their own shows without all the bullshit of a bar,” says Sinclair.

At a memorable show that included now Denver based artist Mat Brinkman, Sinclair experienced the kind of creative expression that one rarely experiences anywhere else.

“With Forcefield he and seven other guys would knit these seven foot tall outfits and play oscillators,” recalls Sinclair. “That completely blew my mind compared to all the other conventional trappings. All that stuff is more important to me probably more than obvious influences on Soft Kill. hat was really inspirational for me because somebody that didn’t ever have lessons or what I perceived at that time as an inherent talent, I loved the lack of those limitations and I could kind of go nuts with it and teach myself to play an instrument based off of what felt and sounded cool rather than what was in a book.”

Around that time, Sinclair and his friends saw the 2001 Friends Forever documentary which shared some of the experiences of the Denver-based noise/performance art band that toured, or even played locally, in a van that often served as both transportation and impromptu stage. After catching Friends Forever at a venue in Western Massachusetts, Sinclair became friends with Friends Forever’s Josh Taylor. It was then that Sinclair and his band Night Wounds relocated to California and played numerous times at long-running DIY space The Smell in Los Angeles. By a strange quirk of fate, Taylor, who was involved in running Monkey Mania, a beloved DIY venue in Denver, moved to Los Angeles to help run The Smell and work at Amoeba Records at the same time Sinclair, who had worked at Amoeba, moved to Denver into Monkey Mania in 2006.

At that time Night Wounds was still an active band that toured the DIY music circuit that had been, and remains, so inspirational to Sinclair and it connected with like-minded noise rock bands like Chicago’s Coughs, Montreal’s AIDS Wolf and Vancouver, British Columbia’s Mutators. All of which were big names in the small realm of DIY noise rock. Also during that time, Sinclair was deep into a thirteen year struggle with drug abuse that ended in 2016. Although his experience with hard drugs took its toll on Sinclair in various ways, access to substances is what anchored him to cities like Denver and his now home of Portland, Oregon. “I wasn’t aspiring to go to a place to go be fucked but I definitely stayed longer because of that, if that makes sense.”

Sinclair admits that the drugs are part of the reason Soft Kill has taken a lot longer to blossom into the band it has striven to be, it also coincidentally pushed his timeline as a musician into developing the ideas and sounds for which Soft Kill is now known. But before Soft Kill, Sinclair had, alongside Night Wounds, been part of a Goth-y punk band called Blessure Graves.

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Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

“When I started Blessure Graves the big thing was the lo-fi garage rock revival,” says Sinclair. “And there was this very small niche out of that which was Goth music made with a similar fidelity. It felt like a quick, flash in the pan. What happened with us was when I started Soft Kill in 2010 we did one album and then my demons got the best of me and I started getting locked up and having to take a long time to stray away from music. When I got out, I started seeing that a bunch of people saw An Open Door as one of the top two or three records that had come out in recent years out of that type of music. That influenced me and people in the band now to put more energy into it in 2012. But by the time we really got momentum was 2014. By that point we realized that our first record had been celebrated as one of the integral releases in post-punk records of the past ten years—they said it was top tier. We thought whoa, that’s crazy, it must be because there aren’t other bands doing that.”

“We started going out and touring and we were blown away by how many bands there were. And from there onward, for the first time in forever I felt there was a large, legitimate scene with dots connected much more than they’d been in the past 15-20 years. There’s a lot of labels that cater to it. Some of the bands have become popular and it’s not been limited to just one style. Not all these bands sound like Joy Division.”

The larger scene that Sinclair had discovered included a constellation of bands and labels across the country and around the world. Imprints like The Flenser, Dais, Sacred Bones, Dark Entries and Beläten are just a few of the labels releasing the music. Bands such as Curse, Beastial Mouths, Troller, Some Ember, All Your Sisters, Burning, Youth Code, Pop. 1280, Echo Beds, Voight, Church Fire and numerous others have been touring and finding an audience eager for sounds and a culture that maintains a connection to its underground roots and experimental music that has yet to be completely co-opted and tamed by mainstream commercial interests.

2016 represented a landmark year for Soft Kill. Its arguably best album to date, Choke, was released on Profound Lore. Best, because it most fully realizes the band’s love of hypnotic beats, driving bass and rich, expressive, evocative tones. Sinclair had booked a Chameleons Vox tour in 2015, through simply contacting vocalist/bassist Mark Burgess. In 2016 Sinclair went on to book two other of the most influential bands for Soft Kill in Sad Lovers and Giants and Modern English, the latter performing its classic 1981 album Mesh & Lace in its entirety for the first time as the group had not toured on the record the first time around. He also booked Clan of Xymox for the third edition of the Out of the Shadows festival alongside Denver-based darkwave band Tollund Men, who released his favorite tape of recent years—Autoerotik.

“When we played Denver the first time at Leisure Gallery they played and we were like, ‘No way, this can’t be happening!’ I think they were really taken aback by how into their band we were. We showed up superfans. They played with us the next time we played there and I think they disintegrated after that.”

“I really like repetitious stuff in general but there’s this slow burn to that whole tape. It’s got hooks and it’s dirty as hell but I can put that on and crank it up and it’s the perfect background music for me. I dug the tones that he gets out of distorting everything to the maximum degree. It was a band I always loved but that particular tape I’m really glad they did that last and went out on that note. He showed he wasn’t beating a dead horse, that he had mastered the vision that he had so it makes sense that he moved on from there. I respect that because I know he could have taken many an opportunity that he didn’t. I love when people don’t give into that bullshit.”

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Soft Kill at Leisure Gallery, June 16, 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Sinclair’s soft spot for Denver, born of his experience living in the Mile High City and experiencing Friends Forever in New England, extends to the underground metal and hardcore scene in Denver and he expresses an appreciation for acts like Blood Incantation and Civilized. In the near-ish future Soft Kill will also put out a split with Denver death grind heroes Primitive Man, whose Ethan McCarthy shares the history with Sinclair of having lived in and operated Monkey Mania, though not at the same time. But, as is the way with the informal, DIY there is no pressure to put out the split release to fit some record label release schedule. Sinclair met McCarthy and so many other musicians who have impacted him through the underground music route.

“Ultimately, this is how I met all these people and this is the world that we want to exist within and regardless that we sound nothing like Echo Beds, that’s a band we would go on tour with before whatever people think makes sense,” says Sinclair.