What:Tourist w/Matthew Dear and Swim Mountain When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: English electronic musician Tourist aka William Phillips is currently touring in support of his 2019 album Wild. Though known for his production and remixing work for higher profile pop artists, his own music is becoming known for his spacious and emotionally luminous compositions. His mastery of sculpting the sound in the mix and crafting vivid soundscapes that take you out of mundane life into a realm of bright colors and tranquil, uplifting moods is impressive. Also on the bill is aesthetically like-minded musician and producer like Matthew Dear whose 2018 album Bunny is imbued with its own head-space-shifting energy.
What:Lot Lizard w/No Gossip in Braille, Old Soul Dies Young and more When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Lot Lizard is a post-punk band from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whose debut full-length released on December 6, 2019 and made it as a late entry into our Year End Best List (to be published over six weeks soon). Rather than take cues from the current darkwave movement, Lot Lizard’s noisy, moody songs have more in common with the likes of Iceage, Pere Ubu and bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint than the usual suspects. Yet its songs are accessibly melodic and rooted in songwriting rather than bludgeoning volume while also indulging in plenty of noisescaping when the moment strikes right. Denver-based post-punk band No Gossip In Braille recently released its own album in 2019 called Bend Toward Perfect Light, capturing the overpowering despair and sorrow of the past few years in the American psyche, especially in the realm of underground music and art and among those not favored by a system seeming to only boost the interests of the economic elite. Rather than wallow in despair No Gossip in Braille channeled those feelings into a hopeful energy that honors the hurt.
What:Angel Olsen w/Vagabon When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Angel Olsen has consistently written fascinating music that pushes her own frontiers as an artist and as a vehicle to challenge cultural norms. Her 2019 album All Mirrors is a “[poignantly] dreamlike examination of identity in an age of universal scrutiny” (from our year end best albums coverage). It is a lush sound environment in which to get lost and rediscover yourself.
What:Harry Tuft w/Rich Moore, Glenn Taylor, Bill Rich, Ed Contreras, John Magnie When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill Daniels Hall Why: Harry Tuft is the godfather of all folk from Denver and the Front Range since the early 60s and founding the Denver Folklore Center as well as Swallow Hill Music in the 70s. He’s been performing his own music in the last few years and proving he’s a gifted artist as well as interpreter of the work of others.
What:Plaid w/Nasty Nachos and Xoxford When: Sunday, 12.15, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Plaid is one of the foundational projects of IDM and modern experimental electronic music. Since 1991 the group has helped to redefine and evolve beat-driven synthesizer music while mixing in live instruments and samples. Its 2019 album Polymer which has as its subject the examination of the nature of technology and our use of resources and the myriad ways in which they benefit and potentially harm us.
What:Empath w/American Culture and Reposer When: Tuesday, 12.17, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Psychedelic noise punk band Empath put out its debut full length in 2019—Active Listening: Night on Earth. But the Philadelphia-based group has been making waves in the underground for the past few years for its creative take on punk as not just as a sound but as an attitude and ethos. And yet its spirited performances are pure punk—a catharsis of emotion and inspiration.
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: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: 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
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: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:Hot Snakes w/SPELLS When: Thursday, 09.05, 7:30 p.m. Where: Oriental Theater Why: It would be too facile to cite biographical information about Hot Snakes at this point. Influential noise rock band from San Diego comprised of former/current members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, Pitchfork and Obits. Its shows are incendiary, its songs imbued with a dark yet dry sense of humor and its angular guitar rock also not short on dynamic grooves that seem too confrontational to work as unconventional dance music but don’t tell that to John Reis. The group is currently re-touring in support of its monumental 2018 album Jericho Sirens. If you go early to catch SPELLS, just think of them as an 80% version of Hot Snakes because that’s good enough. And other inside jokes that don’t work on the internet.
What:The 18.104.22.168s w/The Ghoulies and The Vanilla Milkshakes When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m. Where: Streets Denver Why: The 22.214.171.124s are a lively surf rock and rockabilly band from Japan who came to a larger public consciousness in the West after appearing in Kill Bill Vol. 1. The Ghoulies are a similarly-minded sorta rockabilly garage punk band and The Vanilla Milkshakes will make all the awkward jokes that desperately need to be made and break up the evening some with its well-crafted, outsider pop punk.
What:The Funs, Sweetness Itself, American Culture, Natural Violence When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: The Funs is a band from Illinois that combines a twee indie pop sensibility with a dream pop sound palette. Think Black Tambourine post-shoegaze. American Culture took the Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets thing and put it through an indie pop lens and listened to a bunch of Cure records and came up with something different but bearing the fingerprints of all of that in its sound and ethos. Natural Violence is Michael Stein’s (Homebody, School Knights) latest project. A kind of spindly, super refined post-punk pop band.
What:Mystic Wool, Arc Sol and Total Trash When: Thursday, 09.05, 9:30 p.m. Where: Mercury Café Why: Arc Sol is former Silverface guitarist Michael Thompsons’s new band that somehow welds Neil Young-esque rock wih psychedelia without really sounding like he’s trying to be in the same lineage as any of that in the past decade and that’s impressive on its own. Total Trash is a Denver indie rock supergroup including former and current members of Fingers of the Sun, Fissure Mystic, Lil’ Slugger, Quantum Creep and Eyebeams. Mystic Wool’s synth compositions sound as though someone had to go on some prolonged retreat with no access to the internet and just a music player that had the Deerhunter discography, early Air albums, Candy Claws and Harmonia albums.
Saturday | September 7
What:TEARS to LI6HT, Hate Minor and Claudzilla When: Saturday, 09.07, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This show is a fundraiser for ProgressNow Colorado’s Keep Abortion Safe initiative and it will include sets from experimental electronic artist TEARS to LI6HT, experimental noise rock duo Hate Minor and Claudzilla’s melodica Goth strangeness.
What:Mannequin Pussy w/Destroy Boys and Ellis When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Mannequin Pussy’s melodic punk is anthemic, emotionally raw and affecting. Like some sort of power pop band from the 80s with the expansive songwriting style and inventive dynamics but whose lyrics are soul searching and pointed but never cruel. The group’s 2016 album Romantic was full of joyful chaos exorcising trauma and sadness with bursts of sound and energy. The new record, 2019’s Patience, is more introspective but no less imbued with the radical vulnerability and personal insight that has made its music worth a deep listen from the beginning.
What:Audio Dream Sister, Whiskey Orphans, Austin Sterling When: Saturday, 09.07, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Audio Dream Sister hasn’t played in a million years. Meaning maybe in half a decade or more or so it seams. The sludge rock band from Denver was a staple of the heavy rock and punk scene for years and its adept songwriting and psychedelic sensibilities set it apart from the “stoner rock” set of the day.
What:De La Soul w/DJ Mick When: Saturday, 09.07, 8 p.m. Where: Ogden Theatre Why: De La Soul brought something a little strange to hip-hop when it came onto the scene in the 80s blending psychedelic rock aesthetics with weirdo funk and rap. It also used that perspective to examine social issues from a different angle and in its own way had as incisive a social critique as contemporaries like Public Enemy and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Sunday | September 8
What:King Crimson When: Sunday, 09.08, 6:30 p.m. Where: Paramount Theatre Why: King Crimson was one of the earliest of the progressive/art rock bands to have emerged in the late 60s, incorporating classical music concepts and a sense of dramatic orchestration into ambitous rock songs. Its 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King set a creative high water mark for the progressive rock genre with imaginative lyrics and songwriting that employed musical chops with real creativity to write emotionally arresting songs like the title track and “21st Century Schizoid Man.” While guitarist Robert Fripp is the sole remaining original member he has been the musician in the band that has steered the ship consistently from the beginning through its various phases from the early sort of amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, classical and psychedelia through the experimental hard rock phase of the 2000s through to today.
What:King of Heck (NV), Endless, Nameless, Old Sport and Zephyr When: Sunday, 09.08, 8 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: King of Heck from Nevada is a “desert rock” band that sounds like it came up on a lot of Gravity Records bands, Fugazi, melodic post-hardcore and modern underground emo. Old Sport from Denver is a great blending of post-hardcore and noisy proto-alternative rock like Dinosaur Jr.
Monday | September 10
What:Voight, Dancing Plague (OR), French Kettle Station and Luxury Hearse When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A darkwave show at Seventh Circle with Denver’s shoegaze/post-punk/industrial synthesists Voight, EBM/dance Goth group Dancing Plague from Oregon, French Kettle Station and his animated 80s adult contemporary/avant-garde/New Wave music and Luxury Hearse’s beat driven ambient pop.
What:Hazel English w/Modern Leisure When: Monday, 09.09, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Hazel English is oft compared to another Oakland, California artist Day Wave. But one might just as well compare her hazy, bright dream pop to the work of Alvvays because it has a similarly wistful and expansive quality that gives one a sense of introspective yearning. Joining her on the bill is Denver indie pop group Modern Leisure. Singer Casey Banker has been crafting some of the more thoughtful and impassioned pop songs out of Denver for more than a decade and Modern Leisure is the continuation of his legacy.
Tuesday | September 10
What:Kristin Hersh (electric trio) w/Fred Abong When: Tuesday, 09.10, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kristin Hersh formed post-punk band Throwing Muses with Tanya Donelly in 1981 when both were fourteen years old. But that band went on to be one of the early alternative rock bands that helped to define the aesthetic of the UK record label 4AD with its emotionally powerful music and inventive songwriting. In that band and as a solo artist Hersh has used mythology and culture and her own struggles with mental illness to produce a body of work that is both startlingly intimate and imaginatively far reaching in scope. Her latest record, 2018’s Possible Dust Clouds draws on specific mythologies and personal history to deliver a set of songs that strikes deep emotional chords expressed with Hersh’s signature, textural voice and warmth as well as unconventional rhythms and guitar voicing. Somehow Hersh’s songs seem like manifestations of archetype and the forces of nature cooperating to speak eternal yet personal truth through her.
What:Silence in the Snow, Echo Beds, Blood Loss and Causer When: Tuesday, 09.10, 8:30 p.m. Where: Rhinoceropolis Why: Oakland’s Silence in the Snow sometimes comes off like a neo-darkwave band because it is but its root is an urgent post-punk akin to the likes of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and Xmal Deutschland. Its new record Levitation Chamber finds the band mixing ethereal guitar with high emotive vocals and deep, irresistible rhythms.
What:Lady of Sorrows and Dead Orchids When: Thursday, 04.18, 6:30 p.m. Where: Hooked On Colfax Why: This week’s Speakeasy Series features Lady of Sorrows which is a combination of luminous, synth-driven post-punk and spiritual operatic vocals. It would be a misstep to compare it to Dead Can Dance or Enya or something like that but fans of either might find Lady of Sorrows interesting. Dead Orchids is on the darker end of post-punk but bluesy and gritty.
Friday | April 19
What:OKO TYGRA Album release w/Voight and DJ Noah (of Flaural) When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: OKO TYGRA has been through a few permutations as singer/guitarist Joshua Novak and his bandmates have explored various paths to creating a lush, expansive sound that reflected but was not limited to the sort of dream pop and post-punk that is the group’s foundational influence. With Assistoma the quartet created a fluidly dynamic set of songs that use subtle textures and drifting hazes of melody like Novak is floating in clouds of emotion and memories moving forward and commenting in typically thoughtful fashion on how so much of modern life is conditional on the seemingly tentative nature of relationships (personal, professional, social) while we yearn for something more solid with genuine connection. Although there is an ethereal quality, Novak sings with a warmth that casts his music in a different mode than a lot of the music that influenced him. Grounded in the rhythm and low end, Assistoma’s tracks seem to dance throughout the record with grace and nuance without getting bogged down in any kind of stylistic repetition while maintaining a coherent sonic aesthetic. Also on the bill is industrial post-punk duo Voight who keep threatening to do an all production set but is still always worth seeing for the sheer colossus of wiry energy and sonic intensity of its performances.
What:In The Valley Below presents: The Pink Chateau When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake Why: In The Valley Below is doing a different kind of tour this time around with a sonically immersive live performance and the screening of its film The Pink Chateau. The latter is a sort of silent movie with musical accompaniment in which a series of vignettes involving a young woman follows a stranger into the countryside into dreamlike vignettes exploring the protagonists deep desires and the nature thereof. All inspired by, according to the promotional video on YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=G6H-qvyf72U) “vintage French erotica and the faded colors of 1970s films.” Maybe a bit engimatic like Picnic at Hanging Rock or like a more introspective, non-vulgar Going Places. Whatever the tone or influences, the music of The Pink Chateau is, like much of the band’s music, gorgeously saturated and enveloping giving the experience the aforementioned immersive quality as the soundtrack won’t be provided by a prerecorded track but by a live band.
What:Lost Network, Never Kenezzard, Blinddryve, Wiretrap, DJ Cozmos Mudwulf, visuals Opia When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: With Lost Network and Wiretrap this will be kind of a hybrid of industrial rock and EBM show but not the sort that is steeped in the future pop version of that. Lost Network is a bit like where Ministry should have gone after Filth Pig. Never Kenezzard is an experimental kind of sludge metal band but one more like Unsane if the people in the band were more into Frank Zappa and John Zorn.
What:Shelley Hirsch When: Saturday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Muse Why: Shelley Hirsch is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose range and diversity doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre. She has worked with John Zorn, Ikue Mori, David Weinstein and Anthony Coleman. Her forceful and imaginative vocal exercises can be both exhilarating and forbidding, eccentric and otherworldly.
What:Space in Time, Halahierba and Keef Duster When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: It’s 4.20 so hey, a show with legitimately worthwhile stoner rock/sludge metal bands should happen somewhere and tonight it’s at the Hi-Dive.
What:Ages and Ages w/The Harmaleighs and Mondegreen When: Saturday, 04.20, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Ages and Ages has been developing its particularly engaging style of pop music since 2009. Utilizing unconventional percussion alongside a drum set and expertly orchestrated vocals and instrumentation, Ages and Ages sounds like it could have come out of the tail end of the first wave of indie pop with a sound that seems to embrace the infectious melodies of ABBA and the meticulous song craft of Harry Nilsson as well as the experimental flourishes of the Beatles. Of course the influence of The Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control are in the mix. Its 2019 album Me You They We is a beautiful blend of introspective exploration of inner space and the nature of yearning.
What:Half Hearts, Porlolo and Tammy Shine When: Saturday, 04.20, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: It’s the debut of Jason Heller’s and Karen Walton’s new power pop band. Heller is a renowned science fiction author, editor and music writer but he’s also been a member of some of the greatest bands from Denver including Crestfallen, Red Cloud West and The Blue Ontario. Walton has been the drummer for beloved local punk acts like Turbo Knife Fight, Rabid Ragdolls and Naako Deesko. But her musical interests have always been far ranging and her sensibilities with those of Heller seem like a good match. You also get to see Porlolo’s witty, irreverent folk pop and Tammy Shine, the charismatic singer of Dressy Bessy, doing her more or less solo thing.
What:Stick Figure w/Steel Pulse, Pepper, The Movement, Iya Terra, hosted by Nick Swardson When: Saturday, 04.20, 5:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For better or worse, depending on your outlook on these things, there’s a reggae concert at Red Rocks on 4/20. But this one includes Steel Pulse. When the band started in 1975 in Birmingham, England, the home of other working class bands like Black Sabbath and Napalm Death, it helped to shape what reggae would sound like for decades. Its particular sound is more traditional but in a way that has evolved and embrace technology and production. Its latest album, and first in over a decade, is 2018’s Mass Manipulation.
Sunday | April 21
What:Eels w/Inspector Cluzo When: Sunday, 04.20, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Even a seemingly endless prolific and inventive songwriter like Mark Everett hits the wall. And that’s what Everett did following the touring cycle of 2014’s The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. Absolute burnout pushed the songwriter into taking a break from music after nearly thirty years of exploring a variety of emotional spaces through his songwriting. Having lost his father when he was 19, his sister to suicide in the mid-90s and his mother to lung cancer in the late 90s and a cousin in the 9/11 attacks, Everett has had more than his fair share of personal tragedy. In some ways re-living and processing that in your music gives it a depth and heaviness and an attended ambition to do justice to the subjects that isn’t always there in pop music. But carrying that weight also takes its toll on your psyche and then your life.
With 2018’s The Deconstruction, Everett takes the time to unravel the angst and burnout lays bare the need for patience and gentleness to self needed to recover when your core has fractured in the wake of the momentum of your life when that machine isn’t entirely working anymore in a way that suits real life. All the bravado, insisted enthusiasms and the pressure to be on and up all the time even as an artist who writes melancholic music will not get you over that kind of ditch in the road. It’s obvious The Deconstruction wasn’t meant to be a coherent album as in most of the rest of Everett’s career. One does not rediscover joy and reconnect to one’s creativity in a linear fashion, rather in honoring one’s frailties and soothing the endless series of existential crises that wrack the mind once you’ve bottomed out at level that didn’t seem possible when you’re a teenager or in your twenties. Or even in your thirties. What Everett is doing now is not just writing music with a sense of compassion and kindness at their root but showing how you can express at length, even with mixed results (unless you’re completely delusional life is a lot of mixed results that many overly ego driven people choose to edit out of their telling of it), that coming out of a low period can’t be accomplished through hard work alone, perhaps not at all, but in nurturing and discovering new or neglected ways of being you and creating therefrom.
What:Chris Cohen w/Jobless and American Culture When: Sunday, 04.21, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Former member of Deerhoof Chris Cohen has a gift for writing songs that have a hazy, easily digestible quality that perfectly capture quiet moments in everyday life with a poetic economy and emotional sensitivity. His 2019 self-titled album sounds like it could have come from an alternative reality version of Southern California in the 1970s. Like music that would suit the later-era Philip K. Dick novels or the works of Jim Thompson. That said, the new record is like a kinder, gentler Imperial Bedroom.
Tuesday | April 23
What:Com Truise w/Jack Grace and ginla When: Tuesday, 04.23, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Touring ahead of the May 17 release of his new album Persuasion System, Seth Haley’s Com Truise is making a stop in Denver and chances are you’ll get to experience that new music live before legally getting a hold of the new record. Seems as though Haley has further refined his sound with a greater degree of the separation of sound in the layers of tone and texture. Like futuristic “library music” mixed with downtempo but brightly melodious IDM, the new Com Truise stuff is musical science fiction capturing a likely future post-climate-change-crisis and post-oligarchic domination.
Wednesday | April 24
What:Big Business w/The Lycan When: Wednesday, 04.24, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why:The Beast You Are could simply be described as psychedelic sludge. But that has never really encompassed what Big Business is about. The duo came out of the 90s punk and underground rock scene in the Pacific Northwest. Jared Warren from Karp and Coady Willis from Murder City Devils—both bands that would be difficult to pigeonhole on their own. Both musicians also played as part of Melvins for nearly a decade, yet another band whose musical legacy and sound is so much more than “sludge rock” or whatever one might call a band that was a direct influence on grunge. The Beast You Are, though, is a collection of dynamic, triumphant songs with unconventional melodies and an elevated updraft of tone. Big Business has always been, if nothing else, heavy but buoyant. On The Beast You Are, Big Business experiments further in the songwriting with its use of space and pacing. There’s still the headlong rush you’d expect from the band but also an imaginative application of its palette of sound that has kept the band from being predictable, an uncommon quality in heavy music. For Big Business it is not enough to pummel with its colossal sound but to have emotional and thoughtful intentionality behind it.
Who:Creative Music Works Fundraiser: Special guest Eugene Chadbourne When: Thursday, 03.28, 7-9 p.m. Where: Mighty Fine Productions Why: Creative Music Works is, according to the event page, a “nonprofit organizartion providing educational and performance opportunities for musical innovators.” Meaning the organization furthers the endeavors of artists whose work often falls outside the traditional commercial and popular music environment—the people pushing the boundaries with form, method and conceptualization. CMW members Janet Feder, Mark Harris, Scott Kinnamon, Elena Carmerin Young and Isaac Linder will contribute to a performance as well as avant-garde music legend Eugene Chadbourne.
Who:Starjammer w/Bianca Mikahn When: Thursday, 03.28, 4-7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Starjammer’s “avant-garde dub reggae”/performance art/home made instrument rig glory is paired tonight with one of Denver’s poetry greats and forward thinking hip-hop experimentalists, Bianca Mikahn.
Who:Rob Sonic w/The Maybe So’s, Brett Gretzky and Hakeem Furious When: Thursday, 03.28, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Rob Sonic has had a fairly distinguished career for his innovative hip-hop projects Sonic Sum and Hail Mary Mallon (which included Aesop Rock and DJ Big Wiz). What has made his various efforts interesting is his use of a fairly different palette of sounds from many of his peers. His 2018 album Defriender lays out moods and textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-punk or deep house track or an industrial noise song. Denver’s The Maybe So’s is a duo that also weaves in unconventional electronic music and samples of organic percussion into its flow of beats and poetry.
Friday | March 29
Who:Dilly Dally w/Chastity and American Culture When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: On Dilly Dally’s 2015 album Sore the group sounded like a bit like a weird mixture of Bully and Courtney Barnett. But to be fair, it was probably something in the universe/confluence of influences across a broad swath of the collective musical consciousness. But with the 2018 album Heaven, Dilly Dally has expanded its range as a band and there is more brooding, atmospheric darkness flowing through its fuzz-laden riffs. It’s song “Doom” is more doom in tone and emotional resonance than a lot of what passes for such in the doom genre. But its inherently introspective yet expansive melodies keep the music from wallowing in stagnation. Along for this date is fellow Canadian band Chastity who are definitely more well within the realm of doomy noise rock. American Culture lately has straddled the line between indie pop, post-punk and psych country jam rock minus the wacktitude.
Who:Hand Habits w/Tomberlin and Porlolo When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Meg Duffy may be more well-known for being a touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. But with the release of her album placeholder under the moniker Hand Habits should garner her plenty of attention for her own creative efforts. Superficially its mid-tempo moody indie folk but her words go deep into thoughts and feelings we don’t want to entertain but must face honestly. Not necessarily obvious and brutal trauma but the subtler pains that can deeply haunt you every day and from which are more elusive in evading. Disappointment in self, reflecting on one’s suddenly seemingly damning mistakes and the cognitive dissonance of the complexity of conflicting feelings about people, situations, existential ponderings and life in general that are all valid. Her tonal choices are all interesting and the perfect companion to explicating and maybe untangling and processing the aforementioned.
Who:Robyn Hitchcock When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m. Where: Swallow Hill – Daniels Hall Why: One thing that isn’t so obvious about seeing Robyn Hitchcock playing solo or with collaborators is how his simple but richly detailed guitar work is creatively varied and incorporates percussive elements with an expressive delicacy that focuses the emotional impact of his songwriting. He seems to be an endless well of interesting and poetic stories that make even what some may consider his lesser records worth a listen. Pick a point in Hitchcock’s career and you’ll find some of the best songwriting of that period whether while he was a member of The Soft Boys, his work with The Egyptians or The Venus 3. Like a magical-realist (emphasis on realist) novelist, Hitchcock’s songs offer observational insight into the human psyche through an intensely personal window.
Who:Jeff Carey, Sigtrygur Sigmarsson, Diffuser, Flesh Buzzard, Joshua Westerman. Sunk Cost and Page 27 When: Saturday, 03.30, 8 p.m. Where: Thought//Forms Why: Noise shows are pretty infrequent in Denver these days but this one is a showcase for some of the best noise acts going and not in the vein of the cliché harsh noise/shakebox feedback sculpting mode. Much more craft, imagination and originality here with Denver noise legends Page 27, former Austin-based noise prankster Sunk Cost, Adam Rojo of Voight’s Diffuser noise-scaping pieces and raw noise punk Flesh Buzzard. Among others.
Who:Black Dots, SPELLS, Lawsuit Models, Girl Scout Heroine and Good Family When: Saturday, 03.30, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: A fairly traditional punk show with less of the fashion victim thing than usual. SPELLS wears costumes and get a solid B for the music but hey, that’s better than you get a lot of the time. Girl Scout Heroine includes former members of The Geds and The Blast-Off Heads.
Who:King Buffalo w/Pale Sun and The Lycan When: Saturday, 03.30, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: What King Buffalo is doing, to some extent, we’ve seen a lot of over the past decade—drone-y, blues-y, doom-y psychedelia. But to give the band its due, if 2018’s Longing To Be The Mountain is any indication, it didn’t just adopt some motorik beats, it takes that sonic vehicle to places of heightened emotional impact beyond just hypnotic drive with occasional flourishes. Also it’s songwriting is much more creative and not grinding away at the same vibe and pace for an entire record. King Buffalo often reaches moments of true sonic sublimity in a way that transcends any genre associations. Pale Sun will bring a different kind of atmospheric heavy as the trio’s finely honed space rock has similar roots as King Buffalo but whose music touches subconscious places in the mind with both tone, rhythm and emotional vibrancy. Vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers channels the visceral quality of the music well with his singing but he’s also tapping into something in the collective consciousness in the performance as well.
Monday | April 1
Who:Olivia O’Brien w/Kevin George When: Monday, 04.01, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Olivia O’Brien was about fifteen years old when she got a boost up as a singer and songwriter after garnering the attention of Australian pop artist gnash who discovered her through her posting of a cover of one of his songs on Soundcloud. Over the past four years, O’Brien has recorded with gnash and released a string of singles. “Trust Issues” from 2016 revealed a thoughtful sensibility and self-awareness that can be uncommon in general but definitely in a teenager. O’Brien’s R&B and soul inflected pop and commanding, emotionally nuanced, stage presence will probably find a wider audience after this current tour and the April 26 release of her debut full-length Was It Even Real? For now, you can see her at a small club like Larimer Lounge.
Tuesday | April 2
Who:Ten Fé w/Ten Miles South and Paul Kimbiris & The Dark Side of Pearl When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Been Moorhouse and Leo Duncan got their start busking in London before recording their 2017 debut album Hit the Light. Before taking the music on the road, the duo brought on board a band to fill out the sonic details. The group’s 2019 album Future Perfect, Present Tense sounds remarkably sophisticated for a relatively new band. Its particular incorporation of synth into songwriting might remind some listeners of The Call or later-era The Sound, but without the punk edge. That’s no knock on the music because its softness doesn’t quite wax into the 70s Laurel Canyon worship that’s been en vogue of late. Rather its the sound of a band exploring and refining where it will go next while perfecting an exquisitely lush minimalism without sacrificing the textural details that have made its songwriting noteworthy up to now.
Who:Vanilla Milkshakes digital album release show When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Its been four years since Vanilla Milkshakes released Tall People Have No Feelings. Line up changes and a release of a cover of “Breed” by Nirvana in 2018 later, the grunge-y pop-punk band (singer/guitarist David McGhee makes no bones about being influenced by The Offspring) has released its best record with Punching Cows. Recorded with Jack Endino and guitars tracked through one of Kurt Cobain’s old amps, on the record McGhee’s vocals are clearer and stronger, the songwriting more focused. But the idiosyncratic quality of the lyrics and McGhee’s vocals, which is one reason none of this comes off like a band that would be playing that final Warped Tour. The sense of melody and tight rhythms give even the most melancholy of the songs (“Mommy Said to Get a Job” and “Green And Sober” for instance) a buoyant quality that doesn’t seem to downplay the real feelings and experiences that likely inspired the song. There are enough rough edges to keep the record interesting throughout. The band performs infrequently these days so this is a good opportunity to see the Vanilla Milkshakes in a small venue with the jokes from stage inserted between songs. Besides, drummer Frank Registrato is a wizard at helping keep things on track with no heavy hand and the sheer finesse and power of his playing.
Who:Hop Along w/Summer Cannibals When: Tuesday, 04.02, 7 p.m. Where: Bluebird Theater Why: Frances Quinlan performed in early versions of Hop Along as a solo acoustic act for the first four or five years until putting together a fledgling band around 2009. Even before signing to Saddle Creek Records in 2014, Quinlan’s songwriting was not short on imaginative storytelling like she was imagining the lives and situations she encountered in either her everyday life in Philadelphia or on the road and extrapolating it into colorful imagery and a keen sensitivity and insight into the subjects of her songs even when the inspiration is drawn directly from her own life. Any band that names its album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018) has a healthy sense of humor and the absurd without drifting into self-parody.
Wednesday | April 3
Who:Weird Wednesday: Gort Vs. Goom, The Far Stairs, The Pollution When: Wednesday, 04.03, 7 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: None more weird for Weird Wednesday. Gort Vs. Goom are like the post-Devo, prog punk version of The Fugs. The Far Stairs is a deconstructionist pop project that sounds like more well-crafted pop than most bands trying to fool us into thinking they’re not utter frauds. Plus sometimes there’s a Robyn Hitchcock cover involved which bespeaks of an unspoken artistic ambition far beyond the usual. The Pollution got back to punk through burning through on hardcore, psychedelic rock, krautrock and Kiwi rock and taking bits and pieces of each to put together a Frankenstein’s Monster of music where you can’t find the sutures.
Who:Propagandhi w/Iron Chic and Cheap Perfume
When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Propagandhi made leftist politics and veganism into some great pop punk songs even as its sound evolved in heavier directions later in its career. From 1993’s humorous yet pointedly political How To Clean Everything to 2001’s opus of politically pointed yet irreverent and fun Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, Propagandhi were one of the few relatively high profile modern punk bands that didn’t get stuck in pure entertainment and only songs about heartache and everyday life mode. Thankfully the band still hasn’t cynically cashed in with essentially content-free records. Long Island’s Iron Chic seems cut from a similar cloth writing genuinely clever songs pairing meaningful and insightful lyrics with infectiously catchy melodic punk. Colorado Springs’ own Cheap Perfume opens the show with plenty of searing social commentary for an entire evening of music packed into its set.
Who:The Voidz w/Promiseland and The Velveteers When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Gothic Theatre Why: The Voidz released its sophomore record Virtue in March and for those uninitiated its video for “QYURRYUS” suggested some sort of futuristic weirdo psychedelic band but one that took older trash technology and made something new and interesting with it. That Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas was involved in that song and video, a seeming mutant send-up of 80s VHS mashup and modern post-punk and trap, shouldn’t have come as a surprise and yet it did. The rest of the album isn’t all quite as engagingly strange but nevertheless a sprawl of concentrated musical imagination, welcome in a time when such things aren’t in as abundant as one would hope. The previous album, 2014’s Tyranny, had some promising moments but Virtue is where Casablancas and company really want to be in creating music not just a departure from other projects but in making something that is of the moment even when it mines the past for compositional elements recontextualized.
Who:Murder By Death and William Elliott Whitmore When: Thursday, 09.20, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Murder By Death’s latest album The Other Shore sounds like a band that has taken a decisive step to musically reinventing itself while preserving the core of what has made it one of the most interesting bands of the past two decades. Before chamber pop and indie Americana was really much of a thing, Murder By Death had been making that music with a high level of artistry with lyrics that skirted a fine line between the conceptual, the personal, narrative elements and the poetic without coming off as pretentious. The Other Shore, as the album title suggests, showcases a band that has been on a journey since it’s inception to explore its musical interests as an Americana band in a place and a time when post-hardcore and emo was the prevailing form of music around them, and one that wrote music about an imaginary American West with a greater accuracy and resonance than many bands actually from that part of the country. For this tour Murder By Death is joined by its friend and early compatriot in making music out of step with then trends in music. His warm, textured songwriting and singing has the ability to draw you in with the clarity and vivid imagery of his own storytelling. His new record Kilonova on Bloodshot Records is a collection of songs that truly find the great stories in everyday life better than almost anything out this year as yet.
Friday | September 21, 2018
Who:Meat Beat Manifesto w/C-Tec, Mondo Obscura and DJ Dave Vendetta When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Nine Inch Nails and huge swath of 90s and 2000s electronic music acts cite Meat Beat Manifesto as a primary influence. Jack Dangers’ production fingerprints have been all over the musical landscape from the 90s onward. Part of the reason for this is Dangers’ wide-ranging curiosity about various musical styles and technology and techniques involved in making those sounds. He didn’t just dabble in all sorts of techno, EDM, IDM, dub and more, he produced innovative work in all of those sonic realms. MBM’s 1990 album 99% was a landmark in electronic music production and composition perhaps only surpassed immediately afterward by 1992’s Satyricon. But in recent years MBM has released some of its most interesting music to date including the two 2018 albums in an especially fruitfully prolific era of the project with Impossible Star out this past January and a new full-length due out in November. Both records reveal a band that has consistently moved into new realms of sound while maintaining its unique voice in music.
Also on the bill is C-Tec, a dark EBM-esque project of some of that music scene’s luminaries including Jean-Luc DeMeyer of Front 242, Marc Heal of Cubanate, Ged Dention of Crisis NTI and Julian Beeston of Nitzer Ebb. Denver ambient/industrial duo Mondo Obscura opens the show with probably a harder edged of their more hypnotic chill out vibe. If their 2018 album Focus On Black is any indication that shouldn’t be a problem.
Who:Tribulation and Pallbearer When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Arvika, Sweden’s Tribulation probably could have become stuck mining the melodic/Gothenburg death metal territory or hybriding that with neo-thrash or Goth-ed out black metal. But its sound is much more interesting and not trying to be all things to all fans of heavy music. Rather, it’s eclectic sound is one that has roots but uses those sonic elements to write layered music with imaginative dynamics that allow for writing songs about occult themes in 2018 without seeming corny. The group’s 2018 album Down Below is sort of to death metal what T.S.O.L.’s 1982 to album Beneath the Shadows was to hardcore.
Who:7C 6-Year Night #1: Only Echos (album release), Only Souls Die Young and more When: Friday, 09.21, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: This Denver DIY space is one of the few places you can go and see something new and good you’ve never heard of on a bill of very different other music every single time. It’s also the main place where younger musicians are going to play for their peers as they develop as artists. What that means is that you can see bands grow from the ground up, which is the most exciting time to see them. Congratulations no Seventh Circle Music Collective in keeping things going for 6 years thus far.
Who:El Ten Eleven w/Tennis System and Picture the Waves When: Friday, 09.21, 8 p.m. Where: Summit Music Hall Why: El Ten Eleven is the Los Angeles based post-rock band whose music you’ve heard in television and film. Its texture and rhythm driven compositions give El Ten Eleven a bit more presence than some of its peers in the realm of instrumental rock. Also on the bill this night is another L.A.-based ethereal rock project with Tennis System. That trio takes the kind of bright, breezy melodies that Depreciation Guild had discovered in melding pure 8-bit electronic composition with dream pop. Tennis System, though, weds the sound with a sort of melancholic, disillusioned yet hopeful tone suggestive of being in a place where all aspirations can supposedly be met but the reality is much less glamorous.
Saturday | September 22, 2018
Who:Kat Ellinger tribute/benefit featuring: I’m A Boy, Toddy Walters, The Red Tack, Stereoshifter, New Ben Franklins, Doug and Liz from Sympathy F and Shindei Shashin When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Kat Ellinger was a respected songwriter and singer/musician in Denver from the early 90s until her untimely passing in June 2018. Her bands Worm Trouble and Sleepers should have propelled her into at least the tier of touring bands that plays mid-sized clubs as her knack for writing meaningful, well-crafted rock and pop songs with a strong individual vision was on par with anyone anyone could name from that same time period. Her songs were eclectic, emotionally powerful, honest and accessible. Ellinger herself was an engaging and strong live performer and this show, a benefit for her family, features Denver underground luminaries such as Ted Thacker formerly of Baldo Rex (a band often cited by DeVotchKa as an influence) as The Red Tack, New Ben Franklins playing a rock rather than country set and Doug Seaman and Liz Rose of Sympathy F performing a stripped down set.
Who:Frankie And the Witch Fingers w/Stonefield, King Eddie and DJ Ross Taylor When: Saturday, 09.22, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Kind of a psychedelic party rock show with Frankie And the Witch Fingers from Los Angeles and their Colorado kin with King Eddie. Stonefield, though, is an all female heavy psych band from Australia. The group released its most recent full length Far From Earth in 2018 with a sound somewhere betwixt early solo Dio and Acid Witch and 70s hard rock bands like Uriah Heep.
Who:7 C 6-Year Night #2: David Liebe Hart, Chip the Black Boy, Whatever Your Heart Desires, Unit-Y, Shwarma, Actobog and more When: Saturday, 09.22, 4 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Night two of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s 6-year anniversary show with an appearance by eccentric outsider pop artist David Liebe Hart who is responsible for some of the most surreal segments of the already quite strange Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Some have speculated that it’s all an act but what you see is what you get and there is an unmistakable appeal to Hart’s utter sincerity and conviction and faith in his music and art to reach people.
Who:Iron & Wine w/Erin Rae When: Saturday, 09.22, 7 p.m. Where: The Paramount Theatre Why: Sam Beam’s songs, no matter the format and line-up performing them, always come off like campfire sessions in which everyone shares stories and ideas and autobiographical musings that taking into flights of personal philosophy. That warmth and intimacy sets Bream’s work apart from many of his peers and there is a timelessness to his music akin to that of Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin. His new offering, 2018’s Weed Garden EP, follows on the heels of 2017’s Beast Epic and what many consider to be a return to the stripped down, simple style that made 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days a classic.
What:On Tap With KBCO featuring DeVotchKa, Cake and Calexico When: Saturday, 09.22, 12:30 Where: Breckenridge Brewery Why: This is a show benefitting Take Note Colorado, an organization dedicated to getting musical instruments and lessons to Colorado students K-12. Cake is the alternative rock band that had wry 90s hits like “The Distance” and “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” Calexico is the excellent Americana/dream pop band with a bit of Southwest flavor. DeVotchKa, the hometown heroes, released its latest album This Night Falls Forever in August. That it’s the group’s first release of an entire album of new material since 2011’s 100 Lovers suggests a period of deep self-doubt, assessing oneself as an artist and as a person and a reinvention without discarding everything. The new record has all the hallmarks of DeVotchKa’s best material—depth of sound space, intricate sonic details that never seem cluttered and excessive and a haunted quality that hints at accepting one’s regrets if not gladly, of loss and calm and grace in the face of an uncertain future. Frankly, it’s music for the current era and comfort in a time of trouble and chaos as DeVotchKa has a gift for tapping into one’s sense of nostalgia and triggering a gentle catharsis.
Monday | September 24, 2018
Who:The Charlatans UK w/Reyna When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: The Charlatans UK were one of the bands whose mix of soul, acid house and psychedelic rock was early associated with the Madchester aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s. And, thus, what became known as Britpop. The Charlatans were a step removed from Madchester coming from the relatively nearby Western Midlands but were clearly musically kindred spirits. The group’s 1990 debut full-length Some Friendly was recorded when the band had been together for around a year and can be a bit uneven but it yielded an iconic hit with “The Only One I Know.” Throughout the 90s The Charlatans evolved in interesting ways as its members stayed engaged with new sounds and ideas and in growing as artists themselves rather than rest on past laurels. The result has been a string of albums with a familiar element to the songwriting because of Tim Burgess’ strong yet emotionally chameleonic voice, Martin Blunt’s subtle yet fluid bass style perfectly accenting the song dynamics, the late Rob Collins’ (and now Tony Rogers’) ebullient but tasteful keyboard work and Mark Collins’ gift for playing to the song and taking on a broad variety of roles as a guitarist—lead, rhythm, texture, accents.
The Charlatans released a 2017 album called Different Days which is both a reminder that maybe the more recent world of rock and pop has caught up to what The Charlatans have done all along quite well in threading psychedelic rock, classic songwriting about perennial themes and listening to the new music for ideas to not get stuck in one’s own rut and inspiration for the future. In 2018 the Totally Eclipsing EP, comprised of material recorded during the time of Different Days, was released on limited edition 12” green vinyl as well as for download and as a second CD with a deluxe edition of the full-length.
Who:Dr. Montgomery Maxwell, Joohs Uhp, $addy and Shamwow When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: A good slice of some of Denver’s weirdo/experimental/industrial hip-hop. Dr. Montgomery Maxwell is more on the industrial side of that spectrum though maybe for this show he might not break as much stuff on stage as usual. But you never know. Joohs Uhp sounds like a guy who is way into nü metal and hip-hop and unabashedly all about what some might think is the trashier more ephemeral end of that but has found a way to turn that affection for other people’s supposed trash and turned it into something interesting. Shamwow sounds like, for lack of a better term “slacker trap.” Meaning, to some, it’ll sound like lazily made weird, lo-fit who-knows-what but really it’s well produced, intentional stuff that some fans of “real” hip-hop won’t recognize its quality. But, supposedly, Trev Rich is a fan so there’s that. $addy’s sound is as the name suggest—sort of a melancholic vibe but using beats that sound like they’re right out of a surreal game about being a gamer hacker destroying the horrific international economic system and unlocking achievements by dropping sick 8-bit beats rife with noise and undoubted sonic reference samples from realms of the gaming world most of us have never heard about. Or something like that.
Who:Beck w/Jenny Lewis When: Monday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: Beck made being an utterly eccentric songwriter a commercially viable thing in the 1990s. Maybe he was tapping into the zeitgeist in a way that the alternative rock explosion of the early 90s made possible by speaking to the inner weirdo of a broad audience. There is no reason a song like “Loser,” “Where It’s At,” “Devil’s Haircut” and “The New Pollution” should have been hits to anyone but hipster oddballs except that Beck also employed elements of soul, hip-hop, R&B and interesting but odd cultural references that was a far cooler predecessor to the awkward comedy kick that got more popular in the 2000s. But Beck evolved and his genre splicing became more refined and fascinating with every album from Midnight Vultures onward reflecting perhaps a particularly focused set of ideas and sounds. Beck simply wouldn’t allow himself to be limited by the expectations of others and trusted his imagination and instincts to be his guide.
Jenny Lewis was an actress in various television shows and films before people knew of her as an actress. But her band with Blake Sennett, another child actor, Rilo Kiley introduced the world to one of the most genuinely clever, incisive and insightful commenters on personal psychology and American culture in Lewis as a lyricist. It didn’t hurt that her emotionally rich and powerful voice put conviction behind those words. Whether in Rilo Kiley, her solo albums, Jenny & Johnny or her recent work in Nice As Fuck, Lewis has consistently been an artist with something to say, singing with a poignant honesty but one informed by a sense reality and kindness.
Who:Boulder Guitar Society: Janet Feder When: Monday, 09.24, 7 p.m. Where: First United Methodist Church of Boulder Why: Janet Feder is an educator and master guitarist whose experimental compositions both extend the range and possibilities of the instrument but whose songs have an accessibility and emotional resonance that one doesn’t often associate with a musician that is both an academic and long-standing figure in the musical avant-garde. But just like the human that is Janet Feder, the music is immediately engaging and inviting into an unpretentious creativity that anyone can access.
Tuesday | September 25, 2018
Who:Beck w/Jenny Lewis When: Tuesday, 09.25, 6:30 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: For Beck and Jenny Lewis see above for Monday, 09.24.
Who:FRIGS w/Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night When: Tuesday, 09.25, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: FRIGS at first listen might remind you of 90s angular post-punk bands like Fugazi, 2000s’ Canadian art guitar groups like Women or the English, experimental rock band Electrelane. That use of layered simple yet intricate and entrancing guitar and rhythm. All intertwined with Bria Salmena’s soulful and expressive vocals. The band’s 2018 debut full-length Basic Behavior is a raw, menacing, atmospheric wail of wiry energy unleashing and transforming the angst and anxiety of this era. The band’s live shows bring some mystery and emotionally-charged physicality to the stage in a way not many bands these days do.
Who:Gringo Star w/Turvy Organ and Shuttles When: Tuesday, 09.25, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Before it became too fashionable, Atlanta’s Gringo Star was perfecting its signature psych/soul garage rock sound. What seems lost in some of the assessments of the band, that is hinted at through its numerous music videos, is how the group’s music tells stories from the perspective of urban, Southern youth and its use of musical forms from other parts of the country (surf rock, California psych, Memphis soul/garage rock etc.) as the palette of its imaginative expression. The band’s 2018 album Back to the City finds it in a more wistful mood with a sense of nostalgia that is far more interesting, genuine, personal and poignant than has often been the case in a lot of music of late.
Wednesday | September 26, 2018
Who: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th anniversary w/Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces When: Wednesday, 09.26, 5:55 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Why: In 1998 Lauryn Hill announced herself as a solo artist of note with the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill after having parted ways with her former band, the popular and influential R&B hip-hop group The Fugees. On the strength of promotional singles and name recognition alone, the record was probably destined to top the Billboard charts. But the record struck a chord with a strong yet nuanced evocation of the experience of women’s experiences as well as Hill’s sheer stylistic range. And Hill didn’t write the album with the commercial audience in mind. Yes, it’s well-produced and written, of course, but it’s also a raw and honest record that is accessible to a broad audience because of those qualities. The record has rightfully come to be seen as a classic of neo soul but it’s also one of the greatest albums of the 90s for the vitality of its creative vision. As a bonus you get to see Talib Kweli and Shabazz Palaces. Kweli is one of America’s most important social critics and one of its greatest hip-hop artists. Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces could have merely been a legendary of alternative hip-hop as a member of Digable Planets. But in Shabazz Palaces with Tendai Maraire he is exploring experimental realms of sound, noise and rhythm that is pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop can sound like, look like and be.
Who:A.M. Pleasure Assassins and CJ Boyd When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m. Where: Downtown Artery, Fort Collins Why: Fort Collins’ great lo-fi post-punkers A.M. Pleasure Assassins share the stage with internationally renowned avant-garde punk/folk/ambient/one-man pastoral classical artist C.J. Boyd. The latter is one of the few artists in general that has played in all fifty of the United States. For a decade, Boyd has traversed the country and collaborated with artists from every state and written some of the most accessible and evocative experimental music that defies any absolute categorization. Pick up at any point in his extensive catalog and you’re in for something interesting that will stretch your musical horizons in some fashion. Boyd is playing other shows in Colorado on this leg of his tour and if you’re not able to make this Fort Collins gig it would be worth seeking out where those other shows are happening whether in a house or a DIY space in Colorado Springs like the new Flux Capacitor.
Who:Smokescreens, The Molochs and American Culture When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Chris Rosi and Corey Cunningham were once members of Plateaus and Terry Malts having toured together during the ascent of the garage/psych revival. But by mid-decade both moved to Los Angeles where they formed Smokescreens out of a mutual love for the off-standard melodic strategy of American pop and more in the vein of New Zealand weirdo, jangle-y punk bands of the 80s on the Flying Nun imprint as well as noisier American music like The Velvet Underground and The Aislers Set. One might make a good case for some influence of The Feelies and a touch of Jay Reatard and No Age in there. All of those influences would mean nothing if the songwriters weren’t capable of doing anything interesting or original out of their own skill set. The band’s 2018 album Used to Yesterday is proof that Smokescreens is making some of the more sonically interesting, guitar-driven pop music today. Combining a tenderness and delicacy of tone and texture with great momentum and energy, Smokescreens is a band that is as idiosyncratic as its influences, which is no mean feat given Flying Nun’s catalog of unique greatness alone.
Who:The Magpie Salute w/Brent Cowles When: Thursday, 08.30, 7 p.m. Where: Boulder Theater Why: Formed in 2016 by former members of Black Crowes including Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, The Magpie Salute is perhaps less beholden to the blues rock that was the bedrock of Black Crowes. At least if the band’s new album, 2018’s High Water 1 is any indication. Sure, some of the structure and tones are there but the sonic palette is broader with the band at this point. The title track suggests psych Americana but the album refreshingly doesn’t get stuck in a single mode, mood or dynamic. There’s a 70s feel to the record but one that gives you a greater appreciation for the details that make that songwriting style compelling even today even if you’re heard enough of that sort of thing. Robinson and his bandmates grew up with and within those musical traditions and with this band they’re giving those influences a renewed vitality that is oft-imitated and rarely manifested with this degree of credibility because it doesn’t feel forced and the highly developed songcraft born out of years playing in other bands speaks for itself.
Who:Equine, Tunica Externa, biostatic When: Thursday, 08.30, 8 p.m. Where: Mutiny Information Café Why: Depth of sound field throughout this show with the guitar drones and tone sculpting of Equine, Tunica Externa’s super minimal soundscapes with guitar and loops and biostatic’s synth, live sampled trumpet and processed sounds. None of the artists is much alike, uses very different methods of making their sounds but all have grounded in a way of making music that isn’t rooted in any particular, pre-established style, which should be recommendation enough for going to this show if you’re looking for something well outside the mainstream.
Friday | August 31, 2018
Who:Under the Floorboards Celebration: Midwife, Bigawatt, Brotherhood of Machines, Curta and Multicast When: Friday, 08.31, 8:30 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: KGNU’s Under the Floorboards program showcases music that is decidedly left field. So this show will include the minimalist, ambient folk/lo fi production of Midwife, Bigawatt’s operatic avant-post-punk paired with experimental drummer Death Pose, Brotherhood of Machines’ Popol Vuh/dub techno-esque ambient in collaboration with Jake Danna of hip-hop duo Curta. And Multicast, which has been doing ambient music in Colorado for longer than most of the people in Colorado’s quite large ambient scene. With biostatic hosting and serving as a DJ for the night.
Who:Sympathy F When: Friday, 08.31, 8 p.m. Where: Goosetown Tavern Why: Sympathy F came on to Denver stages during the early days of the alternative rock era. Early members of the band included current guitarists Doug Seaman and Tony Morales (who has also been a vocalist in the band from the beginning) and both lived in a building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called The Blenheim, notable for its gateway looking like something from a medieval urban house, where they lived across the hall from future and current vocalist Elizabeth Rose who became fast friends with the two musicians who one day heard her singing along to the music they were writing. The band became a bit of a fixture in the local scene throughout the 90s, releasing one, self-titled album and a handful of cassette and compilation releases before the focus of the musicians went to other projects even though Sympathy F never disbanded. Over the past decade or so, the group has been more active and in 2016 releases its first album in over twenty years with its second self-titled album. It was a compilation of new and older recordings and demos that the members of the band rendered for a more modern release augmented by overdubs and a proper mixing and mastering treatment. At that time the band had intended to release a double album to get its backlog of material out into the world but that didn’t make sense and now the group is releasing what would have been the second half of the double album with a couple of new tracks that reflect new musical ideas that hint at where the group may go in the future with electronics a part of its lushly atmospheric, moody hard rock.The new album, available tonight, is The Blenheim, a nod to the band’s roots and the creative frisson that launched its fruitful and prolific, if not widely available on a recording until recently, career. See our upcoming interview with Seaman on the history of the band and its recent painstaking recording of at least one of its new songs.
Who:EVP w/Pearls and Perils and Gold Trash When: Friday, 08.31, 9 p.m. Where: BarFly Why: Glasss Records occupies BarFly for the night. EVP’s pointed personal/political commentary informing its impassioned industrial noise pop will bring some edge to the laid back environs. Gold Trash’s noise-scape-y, beats collage electroclash will demonstrate how you can keep it weird and confrontational yet fun. Pearls and Perils makes downtempo R&B with a rich emotional quality and theatrical stage presence that is impossible to ignore.
Saturday | September 1, 2018
What:Temple Tantrum Day 1 When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m. Where: The Temple Studios Why: Temple Tantrium is a two day festival that encourages attendees to arrive in costume and join in the festivities with twenty musical acts, fourteen art installations, comedy and performance art. For list of artists featured see below.
Music: Council of Word, Porcelain, F-ether, Halo Halo, Ginger Perry, JL Kane, R A R E B Y R D $, Princess Dewclaw, Church Fire, Plantrae
Visual/installation Artists: Ancient.Future, Charles Russel, Alex Anderson, Kat Nechleba, Kristina Rolander, Ryan Wurst, Izzy Jarvis, Regan Rosberg, Queen City Harlequinade, Kelly ShortNQueer, Tara Worley, Suchitra Mattai, Katine Lowe, Marsha Mack, Sandra Fettingus, Naomi Scheck, Joanne Shminke, Lori Owicz, Brendan Macleod.
Performance art and comedy: No Gods No Masters, Punketry, Gallagher Fest, Jessica L’Whor, Jaguar Morning Show
Who:Big Business w/Simulators and Quits When: Saturday, 09.1, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Big Business is the sludge metal/noise rock band from Seattle comprised of former KARP and Murder City Devils members Jared Warren and Coady Willis. The duo spent a handful of years playing in Melvins where its bombastic, playful and joyous sound fit in with Melvins’ sense of the absurd. For this show the duo will be joined by sharp-edged post-punk band Simulators and eruptive noise rock supergroup Quits which includes former members of Denver-based noise rock outfits Sparkles and Hot White.
Who:Pink Fuzz LP release w/Love Gang and Boot Gun When: Saturday, 09.1, 8 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: BANDITS from Boulder honed its hard blues rock sound for a few years under that name before adopting its new moniker, Pink Fuzz. The group releases what may be it’s first full-length record tonight. Though not a stoner rock band, fans of bands like Fu Manchu and Nebula will probably find a lot to like here.
Sunday | September 2, 2018
What:Temple Tantrum Day 2 When: Saturday, 09.1, 12 p.m., music starts 1 p.m. runs to 10 p.m. Where: The Temple Studios Why: See the entry for this event above on September 1, 2018. The list of visual/installation artists and performance art and comedy is the same. But musical guests for this day include: Machu Linea, MEEK, Entrancer, ETERNAL, Baby Tony & The Teenies, L.A. Zwicky, Oxeye Daisy, Vic N’ The Narwhals, NEEFF, Nasty Nachos and Pictureplane.
Who:Merrick 25th Anniversary Party with debut of Rocket Dust, Vashion Seeds and Sam & Catherine from AKA Belle When: Sunday, 09.2, 5 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Kelly and Dan Merrick were members of noisy garage punk band The Speedholes in the 90s and early 2000s and were active participants in the vibrant Denver punk scene of that time. Both had roots in the Seattle underground scene of the 80s and 90s and were impacted by Denver musicians who made it to the Pacific Northwest regularly or even made it a home like maybe The Derelicts but certainly The Fluid and Spell. They’re celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the debut of their new band Rocket Dust with this show at Globe Hall.
Tuesday | September 5, 2018
Who:Mondo Obscura and The Counselor (DJ set) When: Tuesday, 09.5, 7 p.m. Where: Chiba Bar | Colorado Springs Why: Denver futuristic new age/ambient band Mondo Obscura lands in Colorado Springs for a two hour live set followed by DJ set from local weirdo The Counselor at a Japanese themed bar. Fortunately it won’t be the “Chiba City Blues” but if some guy named Case shows up looking like he might be hyped on stims and babbles something about Molly Millions and the Panther Moderns just be glad for the distraction and ask him how Acacia Park is treating him.
Wednesday | September 5, 2018
Who:Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever w/Jo Passed When: Wednesday, 09.5, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: On the strength of the material on its first two EPs, 2016’s Talk Tight and 2017’s The French Press, Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coast Fever drew favorable comparison by critics like Robert Christgau and Stephen Deusner to influential Australian jangle pop band The Go-Betweens. With the sparkling guitar tone and effluvient, often urgent, dynamics the comparison seems apt. But the band never really sounds like a throwback and especially not so on its 2018 full length Hope Downs wherein the guitar play weaves hanging chords into its bright melodies to convey more fully melancholic undertones and introspective moods. Like American indie rock band LVL UP, RBCF has a real knack for writing songs with a depth of composition using dissonance, textural rhythms and percussive melodies alongside more straightforward guitar work. Live the group performs with a nervy energy that gives what might otherwise be simply solid pop songs a palpable intensity.
Who:Weird Wednesday: KRBS (from Ludlow), Bonnie Weimer, Whimsically Macabre Music When: Wednesday, 09.5, 9 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This latest edition of Weird Wednesday features artists whose music doesn’t necessarily scream out “weird” but in the larger musical sense really is. Bonnie Weimer whose spare, banjo songs are reminiscent of Maureen Tucker solo or on her rare and excellent vocal performances in The Velvet Underground (particularly “After Hours”). Meaning it’s intimate, powerful and a bit mysterious. Presumably KRBS is Josh Kirby from the great Colorado folk/punk band Ludlow doing a solo performance. Kirby has an offbeat, often surreal sense of humor so that’s bound to be part of the set too. Whimsically Macabre Music is a solo piano project of Stacy Fahrion. The music doesn’t hit you over the head with its strangeness. In that sense it has more in common with how many Erik Satie pieces are haunting or various Shirley Jackson novels have an atmosphere just off enough to get under your skin without having to resort to cheap thrills.
Who:Glasss Presents: Freak//When//Scene and Lost Dog Ensemble When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Freak//When Scene is not a band so much as a collection of musicians given a theme or a concept and, collectively, they interpret it how they will and, in the spirit of, say, Miles Davis in giving loose guidance to the members of his band to synergize and let their talents and instincts and ability to flow with one another to produce something they could never accomplish individually. Sometimes this works out beautifully, sometimes it’s just interesting to witness. For this debut of the project there will be about fifteen musicians participating including local jazz and hip-hop legend Venus Cruz, Drew Miller (of Brother Saturn), Wesley Davis (bios+a+ic), Michael Blomquist, KoKoLa and Khey-Lady (all three of experimental hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $), Kevin Richards (Equine), Robin Walker (Shocker Mom), Liv Perils (Pearls & Perils), Vahco Before Horses (Gold Trash), Daniel Farrand, Doron Rediscovering, David Clay Bridges, Machete Mouth and David Dinsmore (Judge Roughneck, The Horns of Dilemma). Dinsmore will also perform with opening act, Lost Dog Ensemble, Denver’s premiere Tom Waits cover band.
Who:The Psychedelic Furs w/X When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Two of the great bands of the 80s on one bill representing different countries and moods. The Psychedelic Furs hit the mainstream early on with its moody yet melodic post-punk with its second album, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk. Something about the way The Psychedelic Furs mythologized the zeitgeist of the era of the first generation of musicians inspired/creatively liberated by punk and taking in diverse influences and interests to make sophisticated and literate yet accessible guitar cemented it as one of the most popular acts of the era. Its song “Pretty In Pink” was adopted as the title of John Hughes’ 1986 movie about authenticity, class struggles, the vagaries of romance and friendship—all of which can be heard in the Furs’ song. But also to not let your dreams be limited by what you’re told is the horizon of expectation.
X began simply enough when John Doe and Exene Cervenka met in poetry circles and brought that sensibility to a punk rock band with roots in country and the blues. X may not have been as commercially as successful as The Psychedelic Furs but its impact on popular music since is undeniable as its imagery was striking and both Doe’s and Cervenka’s lyrics captured a Southern California, and an America, in crisis for its very soul in the 80s in the face of creeping fascism during the Reagan administration which sought to subvert official channels in funding the Contras and, as has been suggested during those investigations, manipulating the American electoral system. All while rank materialism and greed became very much a feature of the culture. X’s music, like that of the Furs, represented a romantic rejection of those questionable values, embracing instead a humanism and freedom of the human spirit that could never really manifest as wealth for the sake of wealth at the expense of the unfortunate.
What:Stomping Ground Thursdays: Deadline, Visc, Pragmatist, Ilind and Retina When: Thursday, 08.2, 9 p.m. Where: The Black Box Why: This Stomping Ground Thursdays includes sets from 8-bit composer, one might say progressive dubstep producer Deadline, Pragmatist’s broken beat techno, Retina’s propulsive and textured, dark bass music and Ilind’s avant-garde/abstract electronic dance beats.
Who:American Aquarium w/Jaime Wyatt When: Thursday, 08.2, 7 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Named after that line in Wilco’s “I’m Trying To Break Your Heart,” American Aquarium from Raleigh, North Carolina is definitely worth more than a cursory listen. Like Wilco, it’s not just a band writing music with roots in various musical traditions. American Aquarium, sure writes songs about the travails of everyday life and being a working band. But it’s 2012 album Burn.Flicker.Die may be one of the most poignant and insightful depictions of trying to be a working artist in a culture that generally treats creativity like a disposable commodity as well as the people involved in those industries. The group’s latest record, Things Change, is a uncommonly focused confrontation of personal challenges and doubts as well as providing one of the most direct criticisms of Trump’s America in the song called “The World Is On Fire.” No platitudes, no didactic utterances, just down to earth observations about what the future under the Drumpf might hold for us all.
Friday | August 3, 2018
Who:Susto w/Whitacre and Down Time When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Named after a folk illness in which one’s soul is separated from one’s body through emotional trauma, Susto is an Americana band from Charleston, South Carolina. Songwriter Justin Osborne had spent the years between 15 and 26 being in bands and releasing albums when he decided to quit music for a while and moved to Cuba with the intention of creating a new life for himself. But like many people who run off from their lives abruptly, Osborne found himself hanging around with musicians in Cuba and seeing live music there. He’d already started conceiving of songs when his Cuban friends encouraged him to go home and make a go at being a musician. A full band line-up and two albums later and Susto has garnered a bit of underground following for its sparkling, introspective alt-country songs. Also on this bill is Denver based American act Whitacre and indie pop group Down Time. The latter is a bit more experimental than many of its peers with a combination of delicate, finely textured songs and rich atmospheres. Will David Weaver play both drums and bass for this show? You’ll have to show up to find out.
Who:Dick Dale w/Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene When: Friday, 08.3, 8 p.m. Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox Why: Dick Dale is the godfather or surf rock. He influenced The Beach Boys. He influenced Jimi Hendrix. Modern guitar amplification is now a thing thanks to his unique relationship with amp makers before the modern rock era by blowing the amps with his guitar until an amp could be built that was suitable for delivering electrified rock and roll. He lives on a plot of land in the desert with his own runway reachable by plane. These things are all probably true. What is true is that Dick Dale is a a true pioneer of rock and roll and one of the few living legends from that early era that you can still see play live.
Saturday | August 4, 2018
Who:Chastity w/MOURN and American Culture When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Chastity is a post-punk band from Whitby, Ontario and its recently released album Death Lust distills the isolation, fatalism, desperation and hope for connection that comes from being a creative and imaginative person in a small city. Its incandescent, fuzzy tones recall the mood, tenor and urgency of the likes of Quicksand and Swervedriver. Its catharsis of modern anomy feels as though it is coming from deep within. On this same tour is Barcelona-based post-punk/noise rock band MOURN. Its own new record Sopresa Familia is brimming with a bright energy modulated by angular rhythms. Its unconventional dynamics might be compared to that of Portland, Oregon’s Lithics in how it drives the momentum of the music and gives it an irresistible drive. American Culture from Denver has been through a variety of changes since its inception. Drawing upon the ethos of punk and 90s indie pop, American Culture’s songs are about and are an apt soundtrack to disaffected working class youth navigating a rapidly changing culture and economic landscape and the struggles endured and the joys to be savored in the face of an uncertain future.
Who:Dylan Carlson w/Mary Lattimore When: Saturday, 08.4, 8:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dylan Carlson is the guitarist for doom pioneers Earth. He is currently touring in support of his 2018 solo album Conquistador. In typical fashion, it is a masterful evocation of a time and frame of mind. Considering the titles of songs, Carlson seems to invoke a time when the whole dream of wealth for the average Spanish conquistador was over on the fringes of New Spain, only the reality of the reaping of the backlash of the hubris of conquest and overextension. Much more Aguirre the Wrath of God than Apocalypto. Opening for this show is harpist Mary Lattimore whose own elegant yet deeply evocative melodies and loops, captured on her own 2018 album Hundreds of Days, suggest a mythical narrative of their own.
Who:The Giraffes with Throttlebomb When: Saturday, 08.4, 9 p.m. Where: Bull & Bush Brewery Why: Brooklyn’s The Giraffes occupy an unusual place in hard rock and post-punk. Like Unsane, its blunt, dark storytelling is akin to something out of an Abel Ferrara movie—sludgy, borderline nihilistic yet it sticks with you for a while afterward. Denver sludge metal band Throttlebomb opens. Not many shows in Cherry Creek and that this one is happening there is definitely out of the ordinary.
Who:The Union w/eHpH and Faces Under the Mirror When: Saturday, 08.4, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: This electro-industrial show includes metallic industrial duo The UnioN, EBM/experimental electronic project eHpH and darkwave/industrial two-piece Faces Under the Mirror.
Sunday | August 5, 2018
Who:Deafheaven w/Drab Majesty and Uniform When: Sunday, 08.5, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Deafheaven’s 2013 album Sunbather seemed to be indie rock fans’ gateway to transcendental black metal if they weren’t already on to that introduction through Wolves in the Throne Room. Absurd and inaccurate comparisons to My Bloody Valentine were made. And sure, MBV may have been A influence of Deafheaven but guitarwise one might even look more to the aforementioned WITTR or Krallice. But at the heart of the band’s songwriting is a kind of pop sensibility making what could be forbidding music accessible. Its latest album, 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love has even more flourishes of combining even power pop structures and melodies with the more thorny sonics of black metal and the animalistic vocals. On this tour is darkwave alien stars Drab Majesty. Deb Demure used to tour solo early on but these days tours with Mona D on keyboards and backing vocals. The project’s 2015 Careless was an entrancing trip to a futuristic world perhaps best exemplified in the writings of Thomas R. Disch, J.G. Ballard and Pat Cadigan—not fully dystopian, not utopian, just imperfect with its own challenges imagined by some of science fiction’s most accomplished world builders. Musically think a dreamy shoegaze band and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry got together and you’re in Drab Majesty’s wheelhouse.
Monday | August 6, 2018
Who: CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/353496 When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: For its third album Love Is Dead, Glasgow, Scotland’s CHVRCHES worked with outside producers for the first time. And although working with David Stewart of Eurythmics, Matt Berninger of The National and album producer Greg Kurstin (who also produced music with Adele, Pink and Lily Allen), the new albums sounds oddly less produced than even the band’s first two records. This works to its benefit because the band has already proven it can put on the gloss and high production on its own and Love Is Dead sounds more textured, more organic and though high energy, upbeat pop, more intimate without sacrificing the bright and and larger-than-life sound of its earlier work. CHVRCHES, like any great pop band, takes subject matter relatable to just about anyone and makes it mythical with words that give it the poetry and the music that sets the emotional tenor that lift the drab everyday into the realm of imagination and transcendence thereby.
Along for this tour is up-and-coming synth pop band Pale Waves from Manchester, UK. The quartet garnered a bit of buzz in 2017 for its singles “There’s a Honey” and “Television Romance.” Looking like a post-punk band from the 80s but with exuberant pop songs, Pale Waves cast an interesting contrast of image and content that suggested to fans that one needn’t let preconceived expectations determine what you can do with your art and your life. 2018 has been an active year for the band with the February release of its All the Things I Never Said EP and the forthcoming full-length My Mind Makes Noises due in mid-September. Anyone that saw the band playing small clubs in the USA in spring 2018 got to see a group with no small amount of chemistry and confidence.
Who:Geoff Tate’s 30th Anniversary of Operation Mindcrime When: Monday, 08.6, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Queensryche’s 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime was a poignant and, so it seems, semi-prophetic tale of a man disillusioned and disgusted with the economy, political corruption and hypocrisy in the world who gets recruited into becoming a political operative and assassin for a secretive organization supposedly dedicated to overthrowing the system by the demagogic Dr. X. In a complex and dark story, that man, Nikki, is introduced to a former prostitute turned nun Sister Mary by one of Dr. X’s associates and his relationship with and affection for Mary brings him to question the nature of the organization and his own identity. Things end tragically in one of the most fascinating rock operas of all time. Very classic Frank Miller-esque. Geoff Tate, the band’s former lead singer, will perform the album in its entirety for its 30 year anniversary.
Who: T-Rextasy w/Blacker Face When: Monday, 08.6, 9 p.m. Where: Was at Your Mom’s House now at TBA (ask a punk) Why: T-Rextasy is referred to as pop-punk often enough but don’t go in expecting the usual three chords and interchangeable songs about teenage heartbreak. Of course most pop-punk is about more than that as well, but T-Rextasy’s songs use the format of catchy songs, fun and humor to make poignant commentary on identity, sexism and all the things that plague the psyche no matter who you are. Its 2016 album Jurassic Punk is a collection of great pop songs informed by a radical political perspective. Soon the New York band will release its new album but you can catch that stuff live before it’s officially released in full on its current tour.
Tuesday | August 7, 2018
Who:Dentist w/Pout House and Hairclub When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Dentist’s 2018 album Night Swimming is refreshing proof that a band can grow beyond the music trends that shaped its earlier creative development. It’s still fuzzy surf punk at its root but the riffs and experiments with atmosphere and dynamics signal a major step forward for Asbury Park trio.
Who:CHVRCHES w/Pale Waves When: Tuesday, 08.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: See 8.6 entry above for CHVRCHES and Pale Waves.
October has long traditionally been the busiest month for shows coming to Denver and keeping up with them much less catching everything you’d like to witness is challenging even if money and time aren’t big considerations. Here are not even close to all the cool concerts in the Mile High City and the surrounding area through October 11, 2017.
Who:Tennyson w/Photay When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Tennyson is a duo from Canada that seems to have found a way to fully synthesize jazz, IDM, pop and dub techno into lush pop songs that get under your skin and into your psyche. Difficult to compare them to anyone other than maybe artists on the Ghostly International imprint because so many of them are breaking conventions in general as well. If Lusine, Thundercat and Boards of Canada collaborated on a pop album it might sound like Tennyson but Tennyson’s beautiful, finely crafted compositions don’t feel like a real nod to anyone else, a true rarity in modern music. Its new EP, Uh Oh!, is a perfect introduction to what this brother and sister project has to offer.
Who:1865668232 (Ithaca), Distance Research, Sunk Cost, Matt Struck, Hypnotic Turtle simulcast When: Thursday, 10.05, 9 p.m. Where: The Skylark Why: Musical Mayhem is a bi-weekly event at The Skylark Lounge hosted by Claudia Woodman who also does Weird Wednesdays at 3 Kings Tavern.This week it’s noise and ambient night with harsh noise sculptor extraordinaire, Jonathan Cash, performing as Sunk Cost. Distance Research is the analog/modular synth project of sound and visual artist Sean Faling. The guy has more synths at his place than anyone but maybe Gabriel Temeyosa of Kuxaan-Sum and he crafts his sets around various arrangements of gear meaning every show is a little different but always excellent. 1865668232 is based out of Ithaca, New York and traveling with a show in Denver of sound collage atmospheres.
Who:Glacial Tomb, Nightwraith, Space in Time, Urn When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Sort of a doom and stoner rock/psychedelic metal night at the Hi-Dive with Glacial Tomb which includes members of Khemmis and Cult of the Lost Cause. Urn is basically a new version of the great Denver sludge psych band Skully Mammoth. Nightwraith is a melodic doom band whose recent self-titled EP is ripe with crunchy riffing and post-hardcore-esque black metal vocals. Space in Time is what happens when talented musicians from punk, country and pop bands update trippy heavy rock from the 70s like Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep.
Who:Palehound w/Down Time and Mr. Atomic When: Thursday, 10.05, 7 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Ellen Kempner somehow takes the kind of folk-inflected, confessional indie rock song and injects it with new life through a compelling and moving vulnerability and poetic honesty. In some ways her music is reminiscent of a modern day Melanie—well crafted yet raw songwriting. The 2017 album, A Place I’ll Always Go, has more of a full band sound and filled out with more electronic soundscapes but without losing any of the sense Kempner’s revealing her deepest loves, fears and wishes.
Who:Ghost Tapes album release of Mad Props w/Fed Rez, Sur Ellz and DJ Soulrane When: Friday, 10.06, 7 p.m. Where: Syntax Physic Opera Why: Ghost Tapes if finally releasing its debut album, Mad Props. The quintet’s sound is somewhere between soul and smooth jazz minus any cheese factor. Rather, its music is the sort of thing you might expect to hear if you stopped in to some hip coffee shop off the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the house band doing its music and poetry residency outside its usual gig of touring the country in a successful indie rock band. Perhaps that’s a tortured metaphor but there is something intimate and beautiful about a Ghost Tapes performance that will fit in well with Syntax Physic Opera. Also on the bill are two of Denver’s best experimental hip-hop projects: the more jazz-inflected Fed Rez and the lushly loop/beat driven Sur Ellz.
Who:Sympathy F and JL Universe When: Friday, 10.06, 8 p.m. Where: The Walnut Room Why: Sympathy F is one of the longest running bands in Denver. It would be too facile to say the band is merely dream pop because it incorporates singer Elizabeth Rose’s jazz chops honed in her solo side project and the other players make rock music with the fluid dynamics of a improv jazz band with a dreamlike quality that draws you into the group’s storytelling. Really, Sympathy F’s music recreates the feel of Denver pre-LoDo when there was a shadowy, gritty and haunting yet comfortable vibe to a place where while there was potential danger around every corner there was also a sense of wide openness and untapped possibility. The band’s next album, its third in 26 years, is due out later this year.
Who:Sheer Mag w/Tenement and American Culture When: Saturday, 10.07, 8 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: One of the most anticipated punk tours of recent years not being undertaken by an established name includes two of the genre’s most acclaimed acts, Sheer Mag and Tenement. Sheer Mag might be compared to the Minutemen for current punk not because the bands sound anything alike. But because both had/have musicians with chops who aren’t afraid to let that show in the songwriting out of some misguided adherence to standard punk aesthetics. Both also were unabashed admirers of older music many of their peers think/thought wack. Vocalist Tina Halladay sounds like Janis Joplin fronting a garage rpunk band that listened to a lot of James Gang and The Allman Brothers. Should be completely dumb but it really works and the live band is a force to be reckoned with. Tenement sounds like a snotty power pop band with a raw melodic sense reminiscent of maybe Teenage Fanclub or pre-1983 The Replacements. Local openers American Culture should be as known as the other bands on the bill on a national scale but its own rawly melodic and glittery take on punk might be too big a leap for some to accept in the same realm of music. But its own impassioned performances speak otherwise and the lyrics about being an eternal outsider in a world of fake sophistication and a yearning for authentic choices for living a life worth living are clearly the stuff of which great punk songs are made.
Who:Ought w/US Weekly and Male Blonding When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: Larimer Lounge Why: Ought’s noisy, Fall-esque, whorling melodies reminiscent of Television driven by steady, hypnotic rhythms set it apart from a lot of other post-punk bands of the current decade. Was it aware that Protomartyr had got off the ground in Detroit three years before its own formation? That Women had developed its Wire-esque, spiky yet deeply atmospheric aesthetic before that? Hardly matters as Ought sounds like neither band but there is a strong resonance between the music of all those bands. With Ought there is also a sense of urgency to its music and an ability to draw you into its gritty, dreamlike compositions before you know you’re under their spell. Austin-based no-wave/post-hardcore/noise rock band US Weekly may be difficult to track down using conventional search engine methods but it’ll be worth it. Because these guys are a bit like Flipper on fast mode. Denver’s Male Blonding garnered some influence from Canadian post-punk of the 2000s but its rhythm section takes the music into a different realm of sound. Coupled with the group’s imaginative dual guitar work and Noah Simons’ commanding vocals, Male Blonding is simply carving its own path and not easily planted in the realms of post-punk or indie rock.
Who:Big Thief w/Little Wings and Mega Bog When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: Globe Hall Why: Big Thief’s new record, Capacity, is a pleasant and thoughtful enough listen. But Adrianne Lenker’s tender vocal delivery is what makes the songs because even if she’s conventionally melodic she brings a sense of melancholic yearning that’s pretty compelling. Definitely for fans of Jenny Lewis solo or during her tenure with Rilo Kiley. Mega Bog has been one of America’s best kept musical secrets for too long. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mega Bog now resides in New York City where it now doubt rubbed shoulders with Big Thief. Singer/songwriter Erin Birgy and her bandmates aren’t really working in a genre unless you count “good drum.” Its latest record, Happy Together, is an eclectic affair that will remind some people of Laurie Anderson (especially “London” to Anderson’s “Blue Lagoon”). It’s part jazz and part seemingly lifting otherworldly atmospherics from Birgy’s dreams.
Who:Worriers, Thin Lips, Cheap Perfume, Lawsuit Models When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: The Moon Room Why: Worriers are the bouncy, melodic punk band of former The Measure (SA) guitarist and singer Lauren Denitzio. The band’s 2015 album, Imaginary Life, produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, is a charming mixture of irreverent self-examination cataloging life’s downbeats, playfully pointed social commentary and genuinely clever wordplay. Cheap Perfume shares Denitzio’s sense of humor, politics and energy and earlier this year the band debuted the video for a song called “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis).” And given Richard Spencer’s recent turn with a ten minute or so protest revisiting Charlottesville it’s difficult for any normal person to disagree with the sentiment even if you’re not inclined to act on the song literally.
Who:Touché Amoré w/Single Mothers, Gouge Away, Muscle Beach When: Tuesday, 10.10, 7 p.m. Where: The Moon Room Why: Touché Amoré may have kind of a silly name but its melodic post-hardcore while still heavy hitting has a kind of uplifting quality at times that has more in common with late 90s emo. But it’s all part of the same punk world so of course several bands have overlapping musical interests, Touché Amoré just integrated it all as well as expansive, shimmering atmospheric passages that sound like post-rock angels hovering at the edges of its core songs. And it’s kind of a big deal for 2000s post-hardcore fans that London, Ontario post-hardcore legends Single Mothers are playing in Denver. No downside on the bill including Denver’s own Muscle Beach who have found a truly sweet spot between metallic post-hardcore and fluid noise rock.
Who:Haujobb w/Blackcell and DJ Niq V When: Tuesday, 10.10, 8 p.m. Where: 3 Kings Tavern Why: Haujobb came about at time when there was a great deal of overlap between underground electronic music genres with Meat Beat Manifesto synthesizing EBM, techno and early drum and bass, The Orb creating dance music too weird for most dance clubs, Rabbit in the Moon embodying trance and house and indulging creative breakbeats. Haujobb’s own music was more grounded in EBM and industrial and darker than most of the music that would provide the soundtracks to raves and night-long parties in Ibiza even though its methods of creation wasn’t so far apart from the “electronic” acts who were its peers. Blackcell is one of Denver’s longest running bands in general and certainly out of the electronic and industrial music world going back to its origins in the early 90s when the project was more in the vein of noise with tape collages and samples alongside its synthesizer experiments. These days the duo uses mostly hardware synths, sequencers, drum machines and samplers to craft its richly layered, entrancing soundscapes.
Who:The Church w/The Heliosequence When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m. Where: Gothic Theatre Why: Many rock bands get stuck in a perpetual revisiting of teenage themes, hedonism and concerns bespeaking of a state of stunted personal development. The Church has never really been that band. Before becoming famous in the U.S. in the wake of the release of its 1988 album Starfish and hit single “Under the Milky Way,” The Church had been crafting albums of exquisite beauty that took the pop and rock song format in interesting directions both sonically and thematically. There was a literary quality to the band’s lyrics that more than hinted at thoughtfulness in the songwriting that aimed at a poetic understanding of life and human interactions beyond the rote clichés of art aiming at little more than entertainment. And with The Church it wasn’t purely intellectual or of the head and its powerful live shows became and remain a powerful shared experience of artist and audience alike. In 2014, The Church released arguably its best record to date with Further/Deeper. The title was a pitch perfect summary of an album in which the band was finding itself having to reinvent itself after the departure of founding guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper but also to continue making relevant music that wasn’t a retread of past glory—something, surprisingly, The Church has never really done, each album being a worthwhile listen. Futher/Deeper was also one of the few rock records written by musicians from an adult perspective without sounding jaded or safe. In 2017 The Church released its latest album Man Woman Life Death Infinity. The Helio Sequence probably gets lumped in with modern shoegaze and dream pop but the band was doing fascinating experiments with electronic music and an expanded sense of psychedelic music early in its career. These days the band is perfecting affecting soundscapes and lyrics that reach well beyond the realm of the mundane. A perfect pairing of bands in a year when that’s not been such a rarity.
Who:The Mercury Tree, Hamster Theatre and Neil Haverstick When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m. Where: The Walnut Room Why: Portland, Oregon’s The Mercury Tree is proof that progressive rock need not be over intellectualized as its layered atmospheres and rhythms, intricate in composition, are a heady and expansive listening experience. And that band would be worthy enough of attending the show but also a rare Denver appearance by Denver avant-garde rock/jazz legends Hamster Theatre and microtonal guitar wizard Neil Haverstick.
Who:GZA w/Low Hanging Fruit When: Wednesday, 10.11, 7 p.m. Where: Fox Theatre Why: The GZA at The Fox? Sure enough. As a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, GZA has exerted a broad influence on much of the hip-hop to have come along since. But GZA’s lyrical brilliance paired with RZA’s production has impacted some of the most interesting electronic music made since the release of his landmark 1995 album Liquid Swords. That album transcended genre and its echoes can be heard in much of alternative and underground hip-hop today.