Best Shows in Denver and Beyond June 2022

Failure performs at the Bluebird Theater on Wednesday June 8, 2022
Quits at Hi-Dive, March 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06.03
What: Scream Screen: Sisters w/Quits
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Theresa Mercado is hosting her latest Scream Screen series this month with various bands opening the proceedings. Tonight it’s Brian De Palma’s 1972 psychological horror film Sisters starring future Lois Lane from the 1978 Superman movie. Opening are local noise rock legends Quits and their eruptive, cathartic and always riveting live show. Will be strange to see this in the front of the theater at Sie Film Center so that would be worth going to see alone.

Saturday | 06.04
What: Five Points Jazz Festival
When: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Where: Various Venues
Why: It’s free and you can catch a bevy of local and some non-local modern jazz greats like Buckner Funken Jazz, Denver Jazz Trio, Five Points Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Annie Booth Sextet, Ron Ivory and Suite ti and Las Luces featuring educator and local avant-garde jazz legend Joshua Trinidad.

Fear in 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 06.04
What: Fear w/The Potato Pirates and Cease Fire https://www.gothictheatre.com/events/detail/417884
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Rescheduled from NYE 2021. FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving having turned 72 in 2022 this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.

Tomberlin, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Sunday | 06.05
What: Tomberlin w/Jana Horn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tomberlin’s new record, her second, i don’t know who needs to hear this… (2022) is like an atmospheric jazz pop record with her vocals at the center and a truly imaginative soundscape ghosting into the background to haunt the spare beat and minimal instrumentation. If the songwriter’s sound and style can be lumped into the broadly clumsy umbrella of folk it’s more in the vein of artists who made liberal use of field recordings but in this case it’s more like taking an interest in a sound and a sample like one might if one were a hip-hop or electronic music artist looking to give a beat some character and unconventional emotional resonance. Tomberlin’s vocals are of course the usual strong but gentle flavor one would hope for but she always seems to find a way to use it guide he mood while syncing with the rhythm in ways that keep the vibe fresh and evocative.

Blackwater Holylight, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 06.07
What: Blackwater Holylight w/Spirit Mother and Keefduster
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Much in a similar way that SubRosa brought a tribal, deeply atmospheric, psychedelic sensibility to heavy music, Blackwater Holylight takes some of the grit and heft of doom but lightens in with broad atmospheric and moody vistas of sound. Its 2021 album Silence/Motion includes a nice element of the electronic so that it sounds like it could and should be a soundtrack to the next Panos Cosmatos film. But there’s nothing kitsch about Blackwater Holylight. Denver’s Keef Duster will bring its own flavor of psychedelic doom/space rock to open the show with former Dirty Few singer Kim Phat bringing some entrancing melodies into the mix.

Failure, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 06.08
What: Failure w/sneak peek at Failure documentary
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Failure got started in the early era of what came to be called alternative rock having founded in 1990 in Los Angeles right before the glam metal that seemed ubiquitously popular tanked in the next two years once early alternative rock bands like Jane’s Addiction helped to popularize music that had been in the underground with its successful Lollapalooza tour subverted the record industry. Failure enjoyed some of the fallout of that time but its own music didn’t exactly fit in with trendy styles and sounds. It had a hard rock edge, an art rock ambition in the songwriting and atmospheric sensibilities that some might have associated with shoegaze or space rock but very much its own flavor. Its mid-90s albums Magnified (1994) and Fantastic Planet (1996) showed how you could meld heavy, monolithic, deeply dynamic sounds with blissful melodies in a way that had a cinematic quality that the band members would bring to the more sound design approach to composition it would perfect when it reunited in 2013 after a six year hiatus. Since that reconvening it might be argued that Failure has been releasing the best music of its career with its sublimely dark dissonance and nuanced emotional palette including its 2021 album Wild Type Droid. For this show you will get a preview of the forthcoming documentary about the band due out in 2023 featuring interviews with the broad array of artists (not all musical) who have been impacted by Failure’s particular brand of sonic magic.

French Kettle Station circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 06.09
What: Insane Angel, Grunkster, Sell Farm, French Kettle Station
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Insane Angel is an unusual amalgam of jazz, indie pop and folk and includes members of Horn Horse and Palberta. Grunkster is kind of like a lo-fi IDM/glitch pop project. Sell Farm is hard to quantify easily but has been part indiepop, part dub, part cavernous industrial in the Godflesh vein minus the metallic aspects. French Kettle Station is an eclectic artist whose output runs a broad range of ideas and aesthetics though one might hear in his work aspects of New Age pop, glitchcore, ambient, post-rock and croony classic pop and always an energetic, commanding performance.

The Black Angels, photo by Alexandra Valenti

Thursday | 06.09
What: Black Angels w/Dion Lunadon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Before being thoroughly associated with modern psychedelic rock and even long after, The Black Angels from Austin, TX were early adopters of blurring all lines between early psychedelic rock, Krautrock, shoegaze, freak folk and noise rock. And to this day its body of work endures because they have always been one of the best practitioners of modern psych including advocating for other artists with its formerly annual (currently on hiatus) Austin Psych Fest, one of the most astutely curated festivals of the modern era. Dion Lunadon spent a decade playing in and writing songs with A Place to Bury Strangers but is releasing his first solo album since leaving APTBS in 2020 with Beyond Everything due out June 10, 2022 on In the Red Records. Early singles promise a driving, noisy psychedelic rock album with the dynamic flourishes that Lunadon brought so masterfully to APTBS and The D4.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive, December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06.10
What: Hex Casette album release, Church Fire, eHpH and Pink Lady Monster
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: For a handful of years Hex Cassette has been crafting and refining his style of confrontational industrial dance pop music and in the past year or two he started to become known in the underground for highly energetic performances informed by a darkly playful sense of humor. For this show he’s releasing his new album Pomegranate Death, a collection of songs that fans of M83 and TR/ST will appreciate for the immersive melodies and underlying hopeful mood even as many of the songs are about death and overcoming personal challenges to embrace a vital life. And sure Hex Cassette is one of the most exciting of the newer projects in the Denver underground but for this album release/tour kick off show, Hex Cassette has invited spirited and political industrial dance, synth pop heroes Church Fire whose own shows are cathartic and deeply emotional without skimping on the enthusiasm and energy to balance out the sense of despair and melancholic mood that is part of some of its material honoring loss and recognizing elements of our culture hostile to the the very existence and dignity of people that don’t fit into a very conservative view of mainstream society. There is also eHpH, the EBM/industrial band whose own music takes aim at fascism and authoritarian impulses in American culture and whose evocative soundscapes and irresistible rhythms have made it a staple in local darkwave circles for several years. Former Corda Vera front person Simone Fohrman has been at her solo project Pink Lady Monster since 2020 with its blend of dream pop and indie rock with an experimental flourish in the production and signal processing.

Ambar Lucid, photo by Keith Bennett

Friday | 06.10
What: Ambar Lucid w/Miki Ratsula
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ambar Lucid taught herself to play piano, guitar and ukulele and took in YouTube videos to work on her vocal technique. And her output of music since 2019 reflects that generation of pop artists that isn’t defined by narrow conventions of the art form. In her sound and production you hear the R&B influence, her Latin music roots, the influence of hyper pop and perhaps forward thinking artists like Charli XCX. It’s a pure fusion of styles and aesthetics she has made her own as evidenced by her 2020 album Garden of Lucid and her new single “girl ur so pretty.” Lucid’s own life sounds like something from a movie as her father was deported to Mexico when she was 8 years old and she didn’t see him or her sister until ten years later. Which speaks to issues of immigration and how the laws surrounding that have a direct impact on people and their families and the intimate knowledge of which is part of why the songwriter has been such an active advocate for immigrants’ rights. Sharing the bill with Lucid is non-binary pop songwriter Miki Ratsula whose R&B infused songs with colorful and evocative music videos are in themselves an act of resistance to prejudice in being so appealing and imaginative in making everyday life for a non-binary person seem like what it is—normal and not short on joy and fulfillment in ways that are accessible to anyone. Miki’s March 2022 debut album i owe it to myself is filled with ample examples of the aforementioned.

Friday | 06.10
What: Scream Screen: Madhouse w/Weathered Statues
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This edition of Scream Screen will give you a chance to see in a theater Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 slasher Madhouse in which one sister is stalked by her psychotic twin. The film was included on the “video nasty” list in its day and banned in the 1980s in the UK. Opening will be local post-punk/Xmal Deutschland-esque band Weathered Statues.

Sunflower Bean, photo by Driely S

Saturday | 06/11
What: Sunflower Bean w/Liily
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: When Sunflower Bean started garnering a national audience after the release of its debut album Human Ceremony in 2016 it seemed as though the band’s fusion of post-punk and shoegaze aimed it in a particular musical direction but since then up to and including its 2022 album Headful of Sugar the trio has embraced its knack for pop songcraft and hooks. The new record showcases a band able to write coolly sultry R&B-inflected songs that fit in with its own history of lushly atmospheric songs that can be not just melancholically evocative but subtly cathartic. If one were into overblown comparisons for the song “Who Put You Up To This?” it’s like hearing Cocteau Twins after they sequestered themselves in a studio and only listened to Delfonics and Marvin Gaye for a few months before writing their next record.

Saturday | 06.11
What: Big Head Todd and the Monsters w/Violent Femmes
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Todd Park Mohr is bar none the most prominent Colorado musician of Asian ancestry and his band Big Head Todd and The Monsters have been crafting a respectable body of work that blends rock, folk, alternative rock and jazz with an ear for improvisational flourishes. Starting in Boulder in 1984 the group really pulled together a solid set of songs for its 1990 second album Midnight Radio. Reworking its best song “Bittersweet” for its 1993 release Sister Sweetly the group hit upon a formula that took it from prominent local band to platinum selling act whose music was prominent on radio for the rest of the decade. And since the 90s Big Head Todd has been releasing worthwhile albums if you’re into blues rock bordering on jam band folk rock. Opening the show is long time college rock cult band Violent Femmes whose music became a staple of alternative radio since the early 80s with its 1983 self-titled debut with every track more or less a classic of a world of music upon which alternative rock in the 1990s was built. Beyond the eccentric and brilliant songwriting part punk, part folk and part outsider music Violent Femmes have long been one of the great live bands of, yes, American music and would be worth going to see for this show alone but you get to see two greats of the alternative era.

Saturday | 06.11
What: Still Corners w/Foxes in Fiction
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: UK dream pop band Still Corners create warmly contemplative songs with a dusky soulfulness that has translated well from its early very ethereal, shoegaze-y material to its more countrified 2021 album The Last Exit and its imagery of open vistas in the American west. Not quite in the realm of Chromatics in its evocation of Lynchian noir but like something inspired by a romantic version of a Jonathan Demme slice of working class Americana.

Purity Ring, photo courtesy the artists

Saturday and Sunday | 06.11 and 06.12
What: Purity Ring w/EKKSTACY
When: 8 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom and Boulder Theater
Why: Purity Ring’s production style established firmly on its 2012 debut album Shrines has proven incredibly influential on modern electronic pop and hip-hop. Its own amalgamation of dream pop, hip-hop and witch house is otherworldly and transporting and in its music you can hear the future of forms of electronic music like hyper pop and glitchcore because Purity Ring has already been there and moved on to other realms of soundscaping and the crafting of emotionally resonant sounds, textures and dynamics. Having worked with Danny Brown and Katy Perry, the duo’s stylistic flexibility has resulted in albums brimming concepts and sound design elements rendered as coherent songs that are sure to be tapped for years to come. Its live show is more theatrical and unusual that one might expect as the group uses devices to control sound and lighting that it had to make itself so the presentation is always compellingly unconventional.

Everclear, photo by Ashley Osborn

Sunday | 06.12
What: Everclear w/Fastball and The Nixons
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Before singles from the 1995 Everclear album Sparkle and Fade made the band stars of later era alterative rock singer and primary songwriter Art Alexakis had already been through the ups and downs of being a musician, drug addiction and parenthood and was in his mid-30s to late 30s when his band took off, breaking many stereotypes of musical success. Songs like “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine” and “Everything to Everyone” were all but ubiquitous on Top 40 radio and stations with alternative rock heavy playlists. But inside all of those songs were nuggets of wisdom and a raw honesty that was suffused in the band’s live performances. By the turn of the century Everclear didn’t enjoy the commercial popularity it once had and key members of the band had departed by 2003 but Alexakis has continued on doing what he does best: write meaningful songs that shed light on the human condition with wit, humor and compassion. One record that has gone by the wayside was the group’s fantastic 1993 debut album World of Noise which is being reissued in 2022 and for the first time on vinyl in the fall. People who only know the band from its hits may be surprised with how raw and vital it is like something you might expect from an early grunge or punk band of that time but also with Alexakis’ gift for an ear worm hook. Celebrating the re-issue of the record Everclear is touring with other late alternative rock bands Fastball and The Nixons for a billing of bands who experienced their greatest success in the 90s but who remain potent live acts.

Cau5er at Hi-Dive, May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 06.12
What: Dragon Drop, Cau5er, sororityboy, Juniordeer and sintax
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: If you were to pick one show to go see some of the best and most imaginative underground electronic artists from Denver in the vein of hyper pop, industrial noise and glitch pop this would be the show to go see.

Tuesday | 06.14
What: Compactor, Sleeping With The Earth, No More Cheering, Cremedelacrvp, Tolerant
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Okay, this would be the other show to go see some electronic acts that take soundscaping to another level except this bill includes New York industrial noise legends Compactor, Portland, Oregon-based ambient noisenik Sleeping With The Earth and harsh noise/power electronics artist Cremedelacrvp.

© 2022 These Arms Are Snakes Photo by: Shayla Martin

Wednesday | 06.15
What: These Arms Are Snakes w/Git Some
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: These Arms Are Snakes is a post-hardcore band that gets lumped in with the genres of metalcore and mathcore and there is some validity to that. But a lot of its music is closer to noise rock and the new compilation of its early demos and non-album tracks and other odds and ends Duct Tape & Shivering Crows (which came out on April 15, 2022 on Suicide Squeeze Records) bears out how this band could elude easy categorization. It includes former members of 90s metalcore pioneers Botch and experimental rock band Kill Sadie. The band’s wiry, sonic savagery had a kind of brutal fluidity to it that seemed to have come out of that era of post-hardcore that included synthesizers to give its music more than the bare bones rock band level of impact with atmospherics that felt as dreamlike as it did visceral. Opening the show are like-minded Denver noise rock legends Git Some who never broke up but rarely play live and itself includes former members of Planes Mistaken For Stars and Luke Fairchild from Quits. So this show will definitely get a little off the hook with the energy and intensity.

Bummer, photo by Skylar Cowdrey

Wednesday | 06.15
What: Whores w/Bummer and Capra
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Atlanta’s Whores sound like a glorious, mutant hybrid of Unsane and Big Black. But if you’re into KARP or Helmet’s more free moments you’ll appreciate the band’s spirited onslaught. Bummer from Kansas City released its latest album Dead Horse (as in beating a—clear proof of the group’s dark sense of humor including about itself because someone probably told them they sound like they’re doing that after all these years making music like this) in 2021. It shares obvious influences from the likes of KARP and the Amphetamine Reptile roster of bands like Cherubs and The Jesus Lizard. But its sound is very different from the style of Whores with more spiraling guitar riffs and open harmonic flourishes. They have a song on Dead Horse called “I Want to Punch Bruce Springsteen in the Dick” and even if you’re a fan of the Boss the song title is irreverently puerile for a song that’s a psychedelic noise scorcher with undeniable appeal. Capra from Lafayette, LA fills out this line-up with its own pointed and noisy metalcore with incredible momentum and a brutal grace.

Hovvdy, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Wednesday | 06.15
What: Hovvdy w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Austin-based band Hovvdy released its most recent album True Love in 2021 and like many other artists are finally able to take that music on the road. The hushed vocal harmonies paired with lush and richly layered instrumental arrangements are part of the duo’s core sound but this time around the tender and intimate sound hits with a little more of the gentle warmth that characterized its earlier work and its songs of heartbreak and hope seem imbued with a spirit of thoughtful introspection that offers a perspective beyond hokey pronouncements that everything is going to be okay. Rather, the hard times and misfortune that seems to have visited the entire world and rushed into everyone’s lives require a much more nuanced take and response on even the minutiae of life and Hovvdy brings the type of nurturing energy to this batch of songs that would benefit many people to hear.

Bestial Mouths at Hi-Dive May 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 06.16
What: Bestial Mouths w/Lowfaith and Turismo Blu
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Fritzy’s
Why: It’s difficult to limit Bestial Mouths to a narrow genre of music as vocalist/producer Lynette Cerezo has been experimenting with what the project is and how it should sound since its inception in 2009. While one hears across that span of time and multiple releases a foot in industrial, post-punk, noise, transcendental metal and other presumed influences like Diamanda Galas whose own music is a pure fusion of noise, No Wave, classical and blues there is an element of performance art as a vehicle for expressing concepts and ideas that unifies what Bestial Mouths has been about. At this point Bestial Mouths is a solo project of Cerezo’s and the albums INSHROUDSS and RESURRECTEDINBLACK might be considered a kind of darkwave dance music with an aspect of ritual drone. Cerezo is a prolific collaborator who has worked with the likes of Boy Harsher, Zola Jesus, Mick Harvey and Mater Suspiria Vision and out of that her impact on modern, underground music in the realm of post-punk is indisputable. Seems as though Bestial Mouths hasn’t played in Denver since a performance at now long defunct DIY space Mouth House in 2013 so this is a rare chance to see the now Berlin-based artist up close and personal along with Denver-based post-punk band Lowfaith and acid house artist Turismo Blu.

Thursday | 06.16
What: Bob Log III w/Bolonium and Legs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bob Log III was once a member of mutant blues rock duo Doo Rag and was doing that sort of Mississippi Delta blues mixed with punk thing before a lot of people got around to that by the mid-to-late 90s. By the end of the 90s Bob had gone on his own with his current moniker as a solo act with his The Road Warrior meets Troma sartorial aesthetic and somehow makes his music seem futuristic even as it embraces old time blues with no irony. Bolonium is a Denver band whose own stylistic link to Troma should seem obvious as its antics have included a live game show during its set but its music is somewhere betwixt an even more cartoon-y Devo and They Might Be Giants and with all the kitsch of a very self-aware but never giving up the joke Adult Swim show skit as band.

Shocker Mom, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 06/17
What: Scream Screen: The Mafu Cage w/Shocker Mom
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This edition of Scream Screen features Karen Arthur’s 1978 psychodrama The Mafu Cage. The titular creatures, the “mafus,” are the pet monkeys one of the mentally unbalanced Cissy played by Carol Kane whose sister Ellen (Lee Grant) is an astronomer. There is some demented dynamic between the two sisters who share a mansion in Los Angeles but for the exact plot it’s perhaps best viewed rather than read about in summary. The musical guest is Shocker Mom whose brilliant blend of soulful R&B, ambient music and IDM isn’t something you get to see often enough. Robin Walker aka Shocker Mom is also one half of experimental hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus.

Saturday | 06.18
What: Jerry Paper w/Bobby Amulet and Sell Farm
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Jerry Paper is one of the more imaginative hip-hop producers/artists to have emerged out of the 2000s. Their records, especially those for respected and forward thinking label Stones Throw, always seem to have some unusual and creative approach to songwriting and sound sculpting so that even when their beats wax into cosmic yacht rock territory they don’t skimp on the forays into weird realms of sound. Their latest record is the psychedelic and chill Free Time. Bobby Amulet from Denver is the musical moniker of Connor Spell whose own affection for lush, adult-contemporary-esque disco sounds are a good fit on a bill with Jerry Paper. Sell Farm? You don’t really know what you’re going to get except that it’ll be interesting whether it’s the more dub flavoring in the indiepop realm or epic soundscapes or whatever it is the group will be up to this time around.

Laney Jones, photo by Libby Danforth

Sunday | 06.19
What: Blitzen Trapper w/Laney Jones
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Levitt Pavillion
Why: Blitzen Trapper is one of the bands that really introduced the easy listening 70s adult contemporary vibe back into indie folk in a big way. But they’ve managed to evolve a great deal as a band and refine their sound from early alt-country roots into a finely honed blend of 70s laid back rock, folk and jazz. Opening Laney Jones’ new album Stories Up High has more personal psychological insight than many things you’ll hear this year. Her voice is warm, strong and vulnerable with her signature, subtle vibrato. And that coupled with orchestral musical arrangements and expansive and deeply textured guitar work makes every track linger in your heart with a rich emotional resonance.

New Standards Men at Hi-Dive December 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 06.19
What: ABANDONS, New Standards Men and Shauna Corinne Murray
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: ABANDONS from Denver might be described as post-metal or post-rock but its creative ambitions are wider than that. They mix samples and vocals in with their linger and slow burning atmospherics particularly on “Coffee Highway.” But songs like “Ghost Ranch” and “Cotopaxi” the spiraling riffs and feedback sculpting wax unconventionally psychedelic. In that way they are regularly a good fit on a bill with New Standards Men whose own hybrid of psychedelia, noise rock and Krautrock through a classic art rock lens is never fully predictable in a way that is consistently refreshing. Shauna Corinne Murray used to be based in Portland, Oregon but now hails from Albuquerque but her singer-songwriter compositions on piano are informed by a touch of the avant-garde.

Monday | 06.20
What: Lo Moon w/Social Animals
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Lo Moon emerged with a public presence in 2016 it seemed to have its aesthetic, sound, production and media engagement strategy fully formed while maintaining a bit of mystique about its origins. Like it had been around for years writing that music and resisting the normal urge to put it out into the world in an era when it would have been easy to do so. That approach apparently worked for the Los Angeles quarter because its 2018 self-titled album came out on major label Columbia. Its blend of dream pop and rock shaped by an ear for production and the role of a strong live mix in creating powerfully evocative moods garnered the band an opening slot for the 2017 leg of Ride’s reunion tour before having an album out. In 2022 the group finally released its sophomore album A Modern Life even after Columbia dropped the band during the latter part of its recording process. The album builds on the virtues of its earlier material while taking a different direction in the songwriting emphasizing more the lush R&B side of its sonic palette and more akin to contemporaries like Private World and seeming stylistic nods to Tears For Fears.

Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

What: Empath w/Supreme Joy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Empath has evolved various sounds during the course of its existence and its 2022 album Visitor is its most experimental offering yet. If the band can still be called punk based on impressions of its earlier albums at this point Empath has embraced a synth-infused dream pop approach that fans of early Japanese Breakfast might appreciate. But songs like “Born 100 Times” has more than a bit of the energetic, noisy weirdness that points most directly to its more punk origins. But really this band’s music has always resisted easy categorization after the manner of many bands from Philadelphia where no matter the genre tag might be placed on its sound it doesn’t quite fit and in the case of Empath the world of music is just that much more interesting.

Tuesday | 06.21
What: Weval
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Meow Wolf
Why: Dutch production duo Weval has been assembling some of the most imaginative electronic dance music around since 2013. Its use of vibrant analog synth tones in its tracks and meditative yet irresistible rhythms builds with layers of colorful melodies that hit with a soothing physicality. Its 2021 EP Changed for the Better and 2022 four-song release Time Goes reveal Weval’s ability to go beyond its early production style into something that evokes a sense of exploration and wonder with songs that have a fresh quality in where Weval tie texture to atmosphere in a dynamic flow that engrossingly dreamlike.

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Modern English
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Modern English is obviously most known for its 1982 hit single “I Melt With You.” Likely lumped in with the “New Wave” of the time the undeniably catchy yet meaningful song with its cool vocal dynamics was really only a sample of where the group came from. Based out of Colchester in the east of the UK Modern English came up at a time when its early, brooding, post-punk songs fit right in with the likes of contemporaries like Magazine, Joy Division and The Sound. Its 1981 debut album Mesh & Lace is much darker and more experimental than 1982’s After the Snow but both albums represent Modern English’s ability to navigate a variety of moods without being stuck in a particular mode of expression so that it could embrace when the mind waxes to melancholia as well as times of joyful celebration of connection. After some mishaps the rest of the 80s with record labels and not quite being able to match the commercial success of its most famous single the band split by 1991. Upon convening in the mid-90s Modern English didn’t seem too prolific in the releasing of songs or albums its 2016 comeback record Take Me to the Trees bridges the breadth of its songwriting styles and flavors well with songs worthy of its first two records and as a live band the quintet still brings that passion and emotional nuance to its performances that struck a chord with audiences early on its career.

Lesser Care at Hi-Dive April 2022, photo by Tom Murphy

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Lesser Care w/don’t get lemon, Natural Violence
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lesser Care from El Paso, Texas is one of the closest bands we’ll see to a pure shoegaze and post-punk hybrid in the vein of The Chameleons and Kitchens of Distinction. Though its exquisitely ethereal melodies are the stuff of daydream bliss the trio performs with an energetic intensity one might more expect from a group that came out of punk. Its 2022 album Underneath, Beside Me gets released on vinyl in July. don’t get lemon from Austin comes from a similar sonic perspective but more electronic in its establishing of mood with a production style that is right out of lo-fi darkwave but with uplifting vocals that sit in the urgent dynamic of its flow of sounds not unlike a more dream pop early Depeche Mode. Natural Violence might be more techno-infused post-punk noise with a strong performance art element or maybe former School Knights and current American Culture guitarist Michael Stein will be exploring a new vista of sound for his imaginative songwriting.

Windhand, photo from Bandcamp

Wednesday | 06.22
What: Windhand w/Un https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/426122
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand has been crafting cosmic, psychedelic doom since its 2008 inception. Its most recent album Eternal Return (2018) is a fuzz-laden journey into mythological constructs of emotional and psychological spaces. Its hypnotic rhythms and Dorthia Cottrell’s powerful and sultry vocals are reminiscent of some of Kylesa’s more meditative yet moments. Seattle’s Un is more in the realm of heavy, contemplative post-rock with an knack for evoking the otherworldly with a processional elegance paired with a feral sensibility once the songs take flight.

Pale Waves, photo by Katia Temkin

Wednesday | 06.22
What: 5 Seconds of Summer w/Pale Waves
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: 5 Seconds of Summer is a pretty standard mainstream pop act and one of the biggest people who normally read previews for this site may not know about. But it’s songwriting is strong enough and its musicianship accomplished enough there’s no need to be embarrassed by being into its pop hooks. Sure they got their start as YouTube stars and got a bump up into an international audience touring with One Direction but also managed to parlay these breaks into a large international fandom on the merits of its own creative work. But a major reason to go to this show as well is opening act Pale Waves. Underneath the effervescent energy and infectious melodies are lyrics that directly and sensitively deal with issues of anxiety, depression and class. Its 2018 debut EP All the Things I Never Said delivered on the promise of early singles like “Television Romance” and “There’s a Honey.” Employing a palette of wonderfully melodramatic pop punk and straight ahead pop, Pale Waves delivers music that is immediately and thrillingly accessible for anyone not looking to be alienated by catchy music but with deftly crafted, meaningful content. Its forthcoming album Unwanted releases on August 12, 2022.

Dead Boyfriend, photo from Bandcamp

Friday | 06.24
What: Scream Screen: Ginger Snaps w/Dead Boyfriend
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This iteration of June’s Scream Screen will be a showing of Ginger Snaps (2000) directed by John Fawcett. It’s about a pair of sisters one of whom, the titular Ginger, becomes a werewolf and goes on a bit of a killing rampage that comes to a head by the end of the film. No spoilers. The musical act opening the proceedings is Dead Boyfriend whose recorded output suggests a lo-fi indie/bedroom pop aesthetic with delicately raw emotional sensibilities that fans of early Joanna Newsom or Dear Nora might appreciate.

HULDER, photo by Liana Rakijian

Saturday | 06.25
What: True Brewing Bacchanal: Khemmis, Panopticon, Hulder, Vastum and Dreadnought
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: True Brewing is the metal themed brewery on Broadway in Denver and this mini-festival features some of the better local and not so local metal bands running. Khemmis’ psychedelic doom has struck a chord with audiences far beyond Denver with its intricate melodies and songwriting chops. Dreadnought puts a different flavor into the mix of doom with keyboards adding a layer of dynamic atmosphere and a touch of classical sensibility. Hulder is a Belgian/American solo black metal project based out of Portland. Her latest album offers her signature flood of crushing riffs and Cascadian atmospherics but also a touch of the more ambient side of the songwriting. The hovering riffs over propulsive drumming from its new album The Eternal Fanfare is something we have come to expect from a solo black metal act but the songwriter sounds like a being from myth declaring tales of a perilous future but not one without its share of glory and adventure.

Saturday | 06.25
What: Goo Age, Hippies Wearing Muzzles, Sleepdial and Lowern
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Glob
Why: Goo Age is Garrett Williamson and Adrian Wright who craft New Age music seemingly with analog synths and sequencers for a sound like an 80s video game about going on vacation and having playful adventures in a mostly benevolent landscape. It’s like Art of Noise or Anne Dudley solo but scoring the aforementioned video game that doesn’t involve killing other creatures or exploiting the environment but, rather, creative achievements and those more down to earth and not dire. Hippies Wearing Muzzles is the analog synth project of Lee Evans, bassist of slop pop band Kissing Party. Sleepdial is one of the projects of Luke Thinnes aka French Kettle Station but in the past Sleepdial has been his guitar driven ambient music though these days who can say exactly what you’ll see.

Kamasi Washington, photo by Russell Hamilton

Saturday | 06.25
What: Kamasi Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Kamasi Washington is the rare modern jazz leader whose work as a saxophonist in conjunction with other artists and collaborators and his work as a sideman is so powerfully expressive he can uplift and break your heart without having to utter a word, such is the mastery of his musicianship as guided by a superior creative imagination with his craft. He hasn’t put out an album since the epochal Heaven and Earth in 2018 though he has done music with Dinner Party which features other jazz greats Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and 9th Wonder. In the live setting where he can improv and push his compositions beyond their usual bounds is where Washington shins brightest.

Fleet Foxes, photo by Emily Johnston

Tuesday and Wednesday | 06.28 and 06.29
What: Fleet Foxes w/Tim Bernardes
When: 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom and Vilar Performing Arts Center (Beaver Creek)
Why: Fleet Foxes are one of the best and most creative bands out of the indie folk milieu of the 2000s. Before going on hiatus in 2013 after the departure of longtime member Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes were something of an indie rock supergroup with more than one gifted songwriter in the band. But since reconvening in 2016 the band has pushed its sound in interesting directions and perhaps most distinctively with its 2020 album Shore and its evocatively delicate and sensitive compositions informed by a taking stock of life and sussing out what feels like needs to be said and despite orchestral soundscapes has a refreshing simplicity.

Kraftwerk, photo by Reema Shah of Out of the Dark Photography

Thursday | 06.30
What: Kraftwerk 3-D
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Kraftwerk has to be considered among the most influential bands of the past five decades and more as pioneers of putting synthesizers into music equal parts visionary pop, art rock and the avant-garde. Every synth pop band or derivations thereof are all descended from Kraftwerk’s unique and idiosyncratic songwriting and soundcraft. Every techno artist and DJ culture practitioner owes a great deal to Kraftwerk’s experiments in sound. Its early recordings included more than a few not purely electronic instruments but as the band evolved through the 70s and the 80s it ditched even acoustic percussion in favor of the electronic equivalent even if it didn’t dispense with the physicality of its sound both futuristic and minimal and immediately accessible even its stranger moments. For this tour you will get to see its 3-D presentation at Red Rocks with 3-D projections that anyone who has seen these shows can tell you add an experiential dimension to the music that listening to it at home can’t fully replicate with Kraftwerk itself delivering a powerful performance even without “rocking out” as its members finely control its orchestrated flow of deeply evocative sounds. The 2020 tour had to be canceled because of the early stage of the pandemic and this revamping of the presentation from previous 3-D tours from Kraftwerk will prove that the band doesn’t really rest on false laurels.

Best Shows in Denver February 2022

Dinosaur Jr, photo by Cara Totman

Tuesday | 02.08
What: Everything is Terrible KIDZ KLUB Tour
When: 7 and 10 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: Los Angeles-based video collage and and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! Brings its latest live show and presentation of some of the best of the worst video clips found at thrift stores, garage sales, odd ends of video websites and the like to Sie Film Center. This tour is called KIDZ KLUB so surely some of the most demented yet often earnest bits of trash Americana will make its way into the show perhaps themed after some of the surreal and you want to think are manufactured parody but aren’t passages of video made for children and for educational purposes. But who can say and with the costumes and other outright strangeness that comes with an EIT live show it’ll all be maximum weird in a time when normie culture insipidity is the norm and we need stuff this eccentric and inspired as a reminder that accidental creativity can be fun when recontextualized and presented with a spirit of fun and an odd sense of humor and irony.

Wednesday | 02.09
What: Action Bronson & Earl Sweatshirt w/The Alchemist and Boldy James
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt has been one of the most innovative hip-hop artists of recent years mixing a more traditional hip-hop beat making approach with utilizing ideas and sounds well outside the usual spectrum of that style of music making. Some of his albums at times sound more like a noise record than anything you hear much outside the most experimental of underground hip-hop projects. The Alchemist is also one of the cutting edge beat makers of today and his 2021 album with Armand Hammer pushed the art form to new vistas of soundscaping to bolster that duo’s own masterfully creative rapping and production. Action Bronson may not quite be in that league as an innovator but his forcefulness as a rapper and performer is unquestionable.

Spyderland at Down in Denver Fest September 2021

Friday | 02.11
What: Church Fire, Spyderland, Glass Human and Partyteeth
When: 9 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Church Fire has spent the better part of the past decade honing its vital fusion of darkwave, political punk and electronic dance music and today remains a forceful live act that should probably be known outside of Denver but for now you can still catch them at small stages mostly in and around Denver and the eastern slope of Colorado. Spyderland brings some songwriting heft to its eclectic and inventive pop songs combining Marie Litton’s experience in bands like Clever Elsie, Ghost Buffalo and Lil’ Thunder with Drew McClellan’s knack for hybridizing genres and production methods to make for music that has tactile presence while inviting its listeners to dream beyond one’s immediate limitations.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Down In Denver Fest Presents: Emerald Siam w/Zealot and Gila Teen
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: This is a fundraising event for the 2022 edition of Down In Denver Fest. Last year some local underground music luminaries put together a festival pretty much last minute with a focus on local artists in a way other festivals were not. It featured all the bands playing this event as well as groups from a broad spectrum of time having put into the local scene and genres. At a time when local culture is neglected and otherwise treated as fodder for digital marketing platforms rather than cultivated and curated in a manner outside that technocratic way of thinking an event like Down In Denver Fest is necessary. So for this night you get the brooding and triumphant psychedelia of Emerald Siam, Zealot’s playfully thought-provoking pop and Gila Teen’s emo-enriched post-punk noise rock.

Friday | 02.11
What: Satellite Pilot, King Ropes, Flora de la Luna
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bozeman, Montana’s King Ropes are a bit like the Dead Milkmen of lo-fi psych Americana whose 2021 album Way Out West straddles the line between the early, on-the-verge-of-collapsing charm of early Mercury Rev and the irreverent humor and oddly respectable musical chops of Dead Milkmen.

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Backseat Lovers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Backseat Lovers from Provo, Utah strike that delicate balance between folk pop, hazy, late afternoon psychedelic rock and Americana. It’s a blend that might not work or sound like too much music in the larger indie world. But there’s enough grit in the band’s music and an earnestness in its performances to set it apart from other bands in a similar spectrum of style. Its dynamics and balance of force and delicacy allows its songs to go from hushed, contemplative moods to heightened emotional flares of intensity with a rare grace. The band is set to go back into the studio to record its next album so this would be a good time to catch it in high form performing its earlier music and maybe catch some of the new material before these guys put it through the studio process.

Saturday | 02.12
What: Bluebook, American Culture and Alison Lorenzen
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bluebook has had an interesting arc of musical evolution since its inception in the 2000s and lately its experimental, baroque pop has emerged as theatrical and dramatic with Julie Davis striking a commanding and focused figure with a band that creates a mysterious atmosphere. So with punk-infused indie pop band American Culture on the bill seems like an odd pairing but one fitting since American Culture frontman Chris Adolf is a bit of a musical rebel whose own vision places a premium on authenticity and not fitting in with expectation. Its 2021 album For My Animals on the respected Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records imprint is possibly Adolf’s most fully realized album to date with expert players to help manifest meaningful and powerful pop music in an era of entirely too much blandness.

The Siren Project in April 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 02.12
What: The Siren Project w/The Midnight Marionettes and Katastrophy
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Siren Project is one of the longest running bands in the Denver post-punk and Gothic-industrial underground with roots in the 90s, influenced by both alternative rock, European folk music and downtempo electronic music. Charismatic frontwoman Malgorzata Wacht and longtime keyboard player Alex Seminara weave a beguiling and unique style of thrillingly dramatic and lush dark pop with a strong strain of romanticism and self-affirmation.

The Wombats, photo by Tom Oxley

Monday | 02.14
What: The Wombats w/Clubhouse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: UK indie band The Wombats like many bands began work on their new album in 2019 and had to piece together the songwriting and recording as best they could from 2020 through 2021 due to the ongoing global pandemic. But Fix Yourself, Not the World was finally released in January 2022 and it’s the sort of cinematic pop with a literary flair we’ve come to expect from the band. The lead single “Method to The Madness” builds into a glorious torrent of sound like a manifestation of our collective frustrations unleashed. And the album appears to be a struggling against and an acceptance of the things we can’t change but learn to work around or take into account in our attempts to move forward through life.

Wednesday | 02.16
What: Public Opinion, Destiny Bond, No Roses and The Clue
When: 7 p.m., $10
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: Local hardcore show. Destiny Bond has a bit of D-beat flavor.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Abandons, New Standards Men and Hoverfly
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: If heavy instrumental music is something you’re into Abandons has been making some of the more dynamic and moody variety thereof for a few years or so. More post-rock than doom and extreme metal but there’s a plenty of that in the mix too. Fortunately for this show you also get to see those instrumental heavy music experimental tricksters New Standards Men whose twin albums I Was a Spaceship and Spain’s First Astronaut answer the question not enough people were asking in wondering where art rock bands into Zappa, Isis, Amphetamine Reptile noise rock, post-hardcore, John Zorn and ambient music were hiding.

Thursday | 02.17
What: Screwtape, MSPAINT, Cyst and CFX Project
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: MSPAINT from Hattiesberg, MS sound for all the world like a noisy post-punk band that came out of a brilliant blend of hardcore, Protomartyr-esque art punk and Sleaford Mods attitude. One wonders also if they were into mclusky or Future of the Left at some point in their creative trajectory. You also get to see one of Denver’s top five punk bands in Screwtape who always put on a ferociously energetic show.

Cautious Clay, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday – Saturday | 02.17 – 02.19
What: Cautious Clay w/Ivy Sole and Julius Rodriguez
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Belly-Up (02.17) and Bluebird Theater (02.1802.19)
Why: Cautious Clay’s wide emotional range as a vocalist and his introspectively and poignantly observed lyrics coupled with the eclectic beats and instrumentation of his songs is instantly captivating. Through a series of EPs over the past few years as well as his 2021 album Deadpan Love, Clay has revealed himself to be one of the most creatively vibrant artists in recent years whose music spans beyond R&B and hip-hop as the jazz influences in his music synergize well with ambient and psychedelic pop undertones. Catch Clay during his run through Colorado at the Belly-Up in Aspen and The Bluebird Theater in Denver (dates and links above).

Saturday | 02.19
What: Machine Girl w/Evic Shen and Polly Urethane
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Machine Girl is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole with any simple genre designation. Fans of digital hardcore, breakcore/glitchcore, industrial in the more modern mode will definitely find something to like about its surreal and colorful production and refreshingly coherent songwriting for a world of music that makes a virtue of the musical equivalent of radical jump cuts in tempo and tenor. People into Ho99o9, Atari Teenage Riot, Ghösh, 100 gecs and their ilk should at least give this band a listen. It’s like the next generation or two out from whatever it was HEALTH did in the 2000s and witch house from the same era. Yet it has some stylistic resonances with all of that. Rumor has it that at a Machine Girl show at a DIY venue people danced so hard part of the floor caved in so Machine Girl goes hard. If a legit horror movie could be made up of memes and rapid cycling anime footage it would sound like the duo’s 2020 album U-Void Synthesizer. Denver’s own dream pop/industrial project Polly Urethane is clearly a good fit for the bill.

Enumclaw, photo courtesy the artists

Sunday | 02.20
What: Naked Giants w/Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Naked Giants are a lively and playful rock band whose roots in grunge and psychedelic rock are obvious without preventing the trio to lay out some nice surprises where they go way beyond expectations they set for themselves at the show. Enumclaw shares a similar irreverent spirit and effusive punk energy but their guitar work has more in common with The Smiths and The Cure than Nirvana or Mudhoney or even Jay Reatard. Their combination of authenticity and eccentricity as a live band is proving to be uncommonly compelling.

The Weather Station, photo by Jeff Bierk

Monday | 02.21
What: The Weather Station w/Helena Deland https://globehall.com/event/the-weather-station-helena-deland-presented-by-kgnu
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Tamara Lindeman of The Weather Station has the rare gift of being able to project an ethereal thoughtfulness and fragile elegance and emotional strength at once. The group’s 2021 album Ignorance brings forth a full range of sounds and orchestrated emotions for one of the most satisfying listens of any album that we at Queen City Sounds basically slept on last year. Catch The Weather Station ahead of the March 4 release of its new album How Is It That I Should Look at the Stars.

Wallice, photo by Jerry Maestas

Thursday | 02.24
What: Still Woozy w/Wallice https://www.missionballroom.com/event/405967-mission-ballroom-denver-tickets
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Still Woozy is part of a big wave of bedroom pop of the past decade but like the better artists out of that world he has some musical chops with a background in classical guitar and formal educaton in electronic music that aren’t so obvious and fortunately get focused in songwriting. After spending a few years in the math rock band Feed Me Jack, Sven Gamsky departed in 2016 to start making music under the moniker Still Woozy. Making a virtue of what might be seen as a limited format, the music out of Still Woozy has a simple charm informed by a subtle sophistication in the songwriting. In 2021 he released his debut album If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is. Opening the show is Wallice whose own roots in jazz training have been channeled into finely crafted and poignant pop songs. Her single “Punching Bag” garnered her early attention as a poetically succinct summation of a friendship gone awry and how our digital footprints can complicate life when we’d really rather just part ways with someone. The track appeared on her 2021 EP Off the Rails which included songs that showcased Wallice’s growth as a songwriter beyond the style of contemporary indie pop. “Michael” really nails how all the tired narratives a young woman or really anyone else has had to suffer from a certain kind of male is just unwelcome. Some things never change but thanks to Wallice all the same for articulating this so well and Philip Stilwell for giving the song visual form.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ogden Theatre in 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday and Saturday | 02.25 and 02.26
What: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
When: 8 p.m. (02.25) and 7:30 p.m. (02.26)
Where: Gothic Theatre (02.25) and Boulder Theater (02.26)
Why: Godspeed You! Black Emperor are pioneers of post-rock but also a band whose left anarchist politics are part of its operating as a group and its music therefore is orchestrated and organic while sounding as planned as a classical piece of music. But the group does not skimp on evoking feelings and pairs the emotional content of its songs with the visual representation thereof often as projections on the stage as a stirring visual component. Godspeed’s 2021 album G_d’s Pee at State’s End! reintroduced a strong component of musique concrète to help ground and reinforce its more than usual tumultuous, brash and direct compositions.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Blood Incantation
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Experimental death metal band Blood Incantation will perform its 2022 ambient album Timewave Zero in its entirety and then engage in some improv for this show. Will there be any of the death metal its more conventionally-minded fans might crave? Who can say but the guys in the band are into enough unusual and experimental music that likely the ambient album will be worth a listen. Heck, if Wolves in the Throne Room could put out Celestite at the peak of their popularity, Blood Incantation can drop something like Timewave Zero at one of the peaks of its own renown.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Dinosaur Jr w/Pink Mountaintops
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Dinosaur Jr influenced more music than is generally taken into account and clearly an inspiration to the entire shoegaze movement of the 90s, all of alternative rock and even current psychedelic guitar bands from the more indie variety to those heavier. J. Mascis honed in on the tender feelings and angst people often shuffle aside trying to get through life and gave voice and dignity to feelings that many people would otherwise find shameful. Along the way Dinosaur Jr also managed to never release an album that wasn’t always surprisingly well crafted with imaginative guitar rock in a seemingly endless knack for reinventing the language of the instrument in the context of tasty hooks and evocative storytelling. And as a live band always intense yet seeming to tap into a daydreamy quality.

Saturday | 02.26
What: Denial Of Life w/Implied Risk, Moral Law and Ukko’s Hammer
When: 10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Tacoma, Washington’s Denial of Life brings its thrash punk stylings to HQ for a late night set with local hardcore bands of similar spirit including the D-beat super group Ukko’s Hammer.

Best Shows in Denver 12/13/19 – 12/17/19

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Angel Olsen performs at Gothic Theatre December 14 and 15, photo by Cameron McCool

Friday | December 13

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Tourist, photo by David Ellis

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: Princess Dewclaw w/Demoncassettecult, Savage Bass Goat, Techno Allah and $addy
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

What: Nova Fest 7: Fathers, Sorry No Sympathy, The Burial Plot, Cheap Perfume and Saving Verona 
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Landgrabbers, Octopus Tree, The Pollution and Electric Condor
When: Friday, 12.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap

What: Moral Law, Disposal Notice, Thieves Guild, Pontius Pilate
When: Friday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Black Dots, Surrender Signal, No Comma, Good Family
When: Friday, 12.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

What: Deep Club Presents: Ash Lauryn
When: Friday, 12.13, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

Saturday | December 14

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Lot Lizard, photo by James Dean

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: Khemmis w/Wayfarer and UN
When: Saturday, 12.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: King Cardinal w/Corsicana and Bellhoss
When: Saturday, 12.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Sunday | December 15

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Plaid circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Angel Olsen w/Vagabon
When: Sunday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Tuesday | December 17

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Empath, photo by Daniel Topete

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.

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

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

Thursday | October 24

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Penelope Isles, photo by Abbey Raymonde

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

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

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

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

Friday | October 25

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Maribou State, photo by Sam Neil

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

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

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

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

Saturday | October 26

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Solypsis circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Sunday | October 27

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

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

Tuesday | October 29

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Samvega circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Wednesday | October 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Shows in Denver 9/5/19 – 9/11/19

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Kristin Hersh band performs Tuesday, September 10 at the Hi-Dive, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | September 5

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Hot Snakes circa 2018 at the Oriental Theater, photo by Tom Murphy

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 5.6.7.8s w/The Ghoulies and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Thursday, 09.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver
Why: The 5.6.7.8s 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

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Mannequin Pussy, photo courtesy Epitaph

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

 

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Old Sport circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Voight, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Silence in the Snow circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Best Shows in Denver 04/18/19 – 04/24/19

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Oko Tygra releases Assistoma at the Hi-Dive on April 19. Photo by James Holden Cromwell.

Thursday | April 18

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Lady of Sorrows, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Voight, performs Monday, January 14, at DATELINE gallery. Photo by Tom Murphy

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: Shadows Tranquil, Feigning,The Machine That Stole My Family, Kid Mask, A23P
When: Friday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: On one hand, dark shoegaze and experimental guitar music with Shadows Tranquil and Feigning and out there weirdo electronic music with Kid Mask and A23P.

What: Detroit In Effect (M.A.P./Clone), Flora FM (Kalahari Oyster Cult/Vanity Press), French Kettle Station, Wild Dungeon World, Occidental, James Tao, b3b, Mr. Lin
When: Friday, 04.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Experimental dance/noise/IDM night at Rhinoceropolis.

Saturday | April 20

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In The Valley Below, photo by Jaimie Skriba

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.

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Ages and Ages, photo by Joe Bowden

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.

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Steel Pulse, photo by Patrick Niddrie

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

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Eels, photo courtesy Gus Black

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

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Com Truise at The Bluebird Theater circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Big Business, photo courtesy the artist

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.

Best Shows in Denver 3/28/19 – 4/3/19

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Dilly Dally performs Friday 3/29 at Larimer Lounge. Photo by Michelle Homonylo

Thursday | March 28

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artistEugene Chadbourne

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

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American Culture, photo by Tom Murphy

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: Furbie Cakes, Space Monkey Mafia (MN), MTHirst, Fancy Pantz, Shocker Mom, Luxury Hearse and Wooflet
When: Friday, 03.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Your Mom’s House
Why: A show chock full of weirdo electronic bands, ambient and noise. And then Shocker Mom who is making the most heartwarming and healing sad beats currently being made.

Saturday | March 30

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Hand Habits, photo by Jacob Boll

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.

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Robyn Hitchcock, photo courtesy the artist

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

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Olivia O’Brien, photo courtesy the artist

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

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Ten Fé, photo by Eleanor Hardwick

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.

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Hop Along, photo by Matt Allen, OctFest

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

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Gort Vs. Goom circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

Best Shows in Denver 9/20/18 – 9/26/18

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Frigs perform 9/25/18 with Natural Violence, American Culture and Law of the Night at Hi-Dive

Thursday | September 20, 2018

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The Voidz, photo courtesy the artist

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.

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Murder By Death, photo by Tall James Photography

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

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Meat Beat Manifesto, photo courtesy the artist

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.

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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

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Kat Ellinger circa 2005 in Sleepers, photo by Tom Murphy

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.

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Stonefield, photo courtesy the artist

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.

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Iron and Wine, photo by Kim Black

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.

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DeVotchKa, photo by Jen Rosenstein

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

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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

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Jenny Lewis, photo from Jenny Lewis Tumblr

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

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Ms. Lauryn Hill, photo from Ms. Lauryn Hill Facebook

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.

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 8/30/18 – 9/5/18

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CJ Boyd performs at various venues in Colorado this weekend. Photo circa 2008 by Tom Murphy

Thursday | August 30, 2018

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.

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Smokescreens, photo by Gina Clyne

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.

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The Magpie Salute, photo by David McLister

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

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Brotherhood of Machines, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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The Speedholes circa 2001, photo by Rebecca Bauer

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

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Mondo Obscura, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, photo by Warwick Baker

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.

Best Shows in Denver 8/2/18 – 8/8/18

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CHVRCHES performs at The Ogden Theatre on August 6 and 7 with Pale Waves. Photo by Danny Clinch.

Thursday | August 2, 2018

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American Aquarium, photo by Cal Quinn

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

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Down Time, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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MOURN, photo by Noemí-Elías

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

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Pale Waves, photo by Brian Griffin

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

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Dentist, photo courtesy Dentist

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.

Who: T-Rextasy w/Blacker Face
When: Tuesday, 08.7, 8 p.m.
Where: Surfside 7
Why: See 8.6 entry above for T-Rextasy.