Best Shows in Denver 12/20/18 – 12/23/18

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Sliver performs Friday, December 21, at The Marquis Theater

Thursday | December 20, 2018

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Cheap Perfume circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wild Lives w/Cheap Perfume, Bad Year and An Antiquated Bluff
When: Thursday, 12.20, 7 p.m
Where: Lost Lake
Why: It’s all rock bands of one stripe or another but at least it’s not all the same kind of rock band. Wild Lives is more of a straight-ahead rockist punk band and one that doesn’t mince words about where its political sentiments lie. It’s charming single “Fuck Sheriff Joe Arpaio” is up there with “Westboro Baptist Church” by I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House and that’s no faint praise. Cheap Perfume is also deft at such articulation of modern, principled, but not uselessly polite, outrage. For example “It’s Okay (To Punch Nazis)” in the wake of, well, the “Greatest Generation’s” sacrifices be damned, the re-rise of fascist types in the USA and elsewhere. Bad Year is the local equivalent of a pop punk supergroup including former Pin Downs guitarist and Denver scene veteran extraordinaire Sara Fischer and Chuck Coffey of SPELLS guitarist/former member of Mail Order Children, Call Sign Cobra and more bands than most other people might join. And An Antiquated Bluff, the solo project of Josie Cool who has also spent time in multiple noteworthy punk and post-hardcore bands as well as a stint in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Is Josie is doing the songwriting it’s always worth your time.

Who: Television Generation, Mr. Atomic, The Rainbow Treatment
When: Monday, 12.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Oh sure 90s has reincarnated in the 2010s in various places but that seems less strange than the recent embrace of 60s and 70s music. At any rate, in Denver two of the best are Television Generation and Mr. Atomic. Both fuzzy, both tapping into grunge but in the case of TG, it’s in the context of well-crafted pop songs melded with a genuinely thorny angst and expunging of generational despair. Which we’ve not had enough of in such bracing doses in recent years. Mr. Atomic is able to summon similarly emotionally rich realms of sound but it’s songwriting bears signs of being influenced by the likes of Weezer and 90s pop punk before it departed nearly forever into wackdom by the turn of the century.

Friday | December 21, 2018

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Death in Space, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Equine, Evil Ear (IL), Death in Space, Felony Charge
When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms Gallery
Why: This a show that’s mostly ambient and avant-garde guitar drones. Equine is former Motheater and Epileptinomicon guitarist Kevin Richards’ solo guitar and electronics project wherein he explores various aspects of soundscaping and composition. Evil Ear is chill electronic soundscapes and sonic textures in the context of what sounds like loop manipulation. Death in Space is…supposedly quite different from the rest of her musical career in which Aleeya Wilson uses guitar and loops to make an abstract kind of punk and experimental guitar rock and noise. If her all synth project Spargob is any analog it’ll be interesting either way. Felony Charge sounds like a weirder kind of deathgrind band.

Who: Sliver w/Stereoshifter, AFD (Amazing Flying Dumbasses), Swamp Rats and Bert Olsen
When: Friday, 12.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: This is a donation based show to benefit Sox Place and Urban Peak, two non-profits that aid homeless youth. For the bill, Chris Mercer of punk/grunge-esque band Sliver brought together other artists who feel as strongly as he does about homelessness in our community. Mercer himself spent some time homeless and has a direct experience of what might actually help homeless young people and the homeless in general not just out of that experience but also in getting out of homelessness with humanity compassion and understanding. Fortunately, the bill is a great cross-section of the better punk and rock acts in Denver out of the underground playing a more commercial venue with a robust sound system so yes, a benefit show, but one that one would want to go to in order to experience some of the best bands Denver has to offer.

Who: Jade Cicada and Detox Unit w/Craftal, Schmoop, visuals from Steven Haman and B1n4ry
When: Friday, 12.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Jade Cicada aka Skyler Golden is performing this event alongside Detox Unit. Both artists are very much of the moment in terms of more experimental electronic dance music with some of the affectations one might expect from someone who had eclectic tastes and musical instincts developing out of that scene in the 2000 and 2010s. But one also hears elements of UK garage and the sample-based composition of underground hip-hop artists and the like from the late 90s and early 2000s. As with the latter, the free association use of bits of music to create new emotional resonances in the recontexualization of the familiar alongside original content.

Saturday | December 22, 2018

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Telefon Tel Aviv, photo courtesy artist’s management

Who: Telefon Tel Aviv w/GILA and Stratusphere
When: Saturday, 12.22, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box
Why: Joshua Eustis probably plays to much larger audiences as a contributor to the live versions of Puscifer and Nine Inch Nails. But with Telefon Tel Aviv, which he formed in 1999 with the late Charles Cooper, Eustis has been making some of the more fascinatingly detailed and textured IDM of the past twenty years. Eustis hasn’t released a full album since 2009’s Immolate Yourself, which predated Cooper’s untimely death that January, but his multiple collaborations and remixes since that time are noteworthy as they are sparse including wortk with Lusine, Vatican Shadow, SONOIO and These Hidden Hands. As Eustis, he’s had a role in the 2013 Nine Inch Nails album Hesitation Marks and The Black Queen’s 2016 album Fever Daydream. But for this show you’ll get to see the brilliant kind of minimalist techno/IDM that helped establish him as an artist of note.

Who: Barf Fest III: RL Cole & The Hell You Say, Fast Eddy, Love Gang, Colfax Speed Queen, Palo Santo, Mike Rose & The Early Mornings
When: Saturday, 12.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Barf magazine is an irregularly released publication that showcases what some might see as low culture aesthetics in Denver but done with such humor, care and consideration for the underground music and art scene in Denver that it could never be dismissed. This third festival showcasing the kinds of bands from the realms of local psychedelic garage rock and blues is easily one of the best slices of that side of the Denver scene that has happened all year.

Sunday | December 23, 2018

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Faceman circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Faceman’s Parade of Lights feat. Tivoli Club Brass Band and Sirens of the North
When: Sunday, 12.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Steve “Faceman” can be relied upon to come up with a ridiculous yet beautiful concept for a show on the regular. Someone should catalog all the creative ideas, sculptures and sets, and the unlikely legit execution of his ideas someday in a book. Like the 100 Year Storm show of 2016 in which he brought in some 100 bands to play the Oriental Theater in early November of that year. Difficult to say exactly what will make up his own version of The Parade of Lights so best to see for yourself. Whatever the exact concept it will be entertaining.

Best Shows in Denver 06/14/18 – 06/20/18

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Japanese Breakfast performs Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at The Ogden Theater with Belle and Sebastian. Photo by Joyce Jude

Thursday | June 14, 2018

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Reuben And The Dark, photo by Kaelen Ohm

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Equine, Death In Space, Shawn Mlekush and JAMF
When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This edition of the series focused on more experimental artists mostly from the Denver area includes Equine, the guitar and sometimes beats and other refinements project of former Epileptinomicon and Moth Eater musician Kevin Richards. Death In Space is Aleeya Wilson’s guitar and electronics project. Her December 2017 release Demo EP2 basically combined lo-fi slowcore with minimal synth techno but you never really know exactly what you’re in for at one of Wilson’s shows, which is no knock. Shawn Mlekush is one of the minds behind experimental synth band Jackson Induced Mutant Laboratory and his solo work has a similar quality of meditative, melancholy ambient guitar, synth and loops like you’re getting a peek into someone’s solitary but restful vacation in the subtropics in early Spring when pretty much no one takes time off to get away. It gives the music a quality that is truly out of step with the hurried pace of modern life in post-industrial America.

Who: Reuben and the Dark w/Florea and Bright Silence (solo)
When: Thursday, 06.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Reuben and the Dark is certainly operating in the realm of indie folk with its soaring melodies and uplifting song dynamics. But the Canadian band’s lyrics are brimming with a sweeping emotionalism that work in perfect sync with an inventive and fluid rhythm scheme working underneath the foreground of frontman Reuben Bullock’s expressive vocal delivery. The band’s 2018 album Arms of a Dream has a refreshing array of songwriting styles and its music video and lyrics for “All Or Nothing” challenges culturally entrenched ideas of gender roles and how we relate to one another.

Saturday | June 16, 2018

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Bacon Brothers, photo by AJ Fasano

Who: Bacon Brothers
When: Saturday, 6.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Stanley Hotel
Why: Michael and Kevin Bacon are rightfully better known for their work in cinema and television. Michael, the older brother, for his scoring countless TV and movie soundtracks and Kevin as an iconic actor whose distinguished career spans the past four decades beginning with his role as Chip Diller in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The brothers have played music together from a young age but their band didn’t take on a formal existence until 1995. The band’s country rock and folk songs has more than its fair share of soul in part due to Kevin’s resonant voice which has just enough grit to give it some character. Of course live there will be plenty of banter and humor and an ease of connection between the Bacon Brothers so that the band never comes across as some vanity act in the way we’ve seen with some other people from the acting world who try their hands at music.

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Speedy Ortiz, photo by Shervin Lainez

Who: Speedy Ortiz w/Anna Burch and Xetas
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Since starting Speedy Ortiz as a solo project in 2011, Sadie Dupuis has established herself as one of modern indie rock’s most interesting voices. She was drawing upon the fuzz pop sound of the 90s late alternative rock era before it became a feature of a not small stripe of underground American rock in recent years before it was even remotely trendy. But Dupuis is a multidimensional artist whose work reflects various creative interests that influenced her art including comic, collage and tarot art and their associated signifiers/symbolism. Speedy Ortiz was on the edge of releasing its new album in 2016 or early 2017, a collection of songs about the usual, everyday concerns given poetic and creative life through the lens of Dupuis’ imagination. But the results of the election gave the band pause because, according to a February 2018 interview with Dupuis with Consequence of Sound, the more personal aspect of the songs seemed to lose meaning given the seriousness of the moment. So the group scrapped the album. 2018’s Twerp Verse is a fairly different record from all previous Speedy Ortiz releases in tone and overall subject matter. The songwriting chops and keen ear for evocative melodies are there but the lyrics are so vividly incisive it makes you appreciate even more how articulate Dupuis has been all along in her music career. Read the words to any song from the album and you have to be in awe at Dupuis’ ability to write fairly pointed words that tell it like it is without reeling back in an attempt to let certain people feel okay with their abuse and creepiness—all of course written into well-crafted pop songs. Bravo.

Who: Mike Huckaby (Detroit), Mark Hosler, Normal Ones and Sassmouth
When: Saturday, 06.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Mike Huckaby is one of the great modern practioners of techno and seeing one of his sets along would make this show worthy of attendance especially at the Mercury which has a great sound system but doesn’t host as many live music shows as it once did. But also on this bill is Mark Hosler of Negativland who will bring something unique and unusual to perform.

Who: Scrunchies (MN), Surf Mom, Rat Bites, Bad Year
When: Saturday, 06.16, 6-10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Bar & Bites
Why: Scrunchies are an all female punk band from Minneapolis that just released its new album Stunner. Fans of Seven Year Bitch, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and early Sleater-Kinney would do well to check this band out. But if you show up you’ll also get to see Surf Mom, arguably Denver’s best fuzz rock/punk duo as well as Rat Bites, the latest project to include former Rainbow Sugar, Sin Desires Marie and Old Time Relijun drummer Germaine Baca.

Sunday | June 17, 2018

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Iceage, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Iceage w/Mary Lattimore
When: Sunday, 06.17, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird
Why: Iceage has never fit fully into any specific musical subgenre despite the best attempts to do so. New Brigade had too much atmosphere to be a hardcore record but enough edge and intensity to appeal to fans of hardcore. You’re Nothing was refreshingly like a melodic, raging noise rock album. With Plowing Into the Field of Love, though, began a change toward expanded musicality and songs that recalled the ragged punk and decadence sound of Crime and the City Solution and Nick Cave. Beyondless, Iceage’s 2018 album, finds the band pushing more into that realm and the expressive range of the music has been enhanced with expansive, drifty dynamics that might draw comparisons with psychedelic rock bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre except that the BJM is likely not an influence. Rather an attempt to express and navigate contorted and conflicting emotions and sense of being at ease with uncertainty even as it floods and crashes into your world.

Monday | June 18, 2018

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CHRCH, photo by Hannah Stone

Who: CHRCH w/Body Void, Boar Worship, Terminus and Matriarch
When: Monday, 06.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: CHRCH’s cavernous soundscapes are reminiscent of those of SunnO))) but it has a more organic, feral quality to its sonic palette. Eva’s vocals pierce the lingering, pummeling flood of cthonic drone of the band as though carving an incantation on rapidly cooling lava with sheer power of her words. Meaning there’s something magical, dark and powerful about the band’s music and its new album Light Will Consume Us All captures that as well as it can outside of the live setting. Fortunately, you’ll have a chance to see CHRCH for yourself tonight at the Hi-Dive with some of extreme music’s heaviest.

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Quiet Slang, photo by Charlie Lowe

Who: Quiet Slang w/Abi Reimold
When: Monday, 06.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: James Alex is best known in recent years as the exuberant frontman of punk/pop band Beach Slang. Although a punk veteran going back to 1990 with his old band Weston, Alex struck a chord with the utter sincerity and emotional glow of Beach Slang. Probably some people thought it was overcompensating positivity but the band’s songs deal with the deep heartbreak and disappointment and other struggles of life, it’s just that the presentation is that of an amplified enthusiasm. With Quiet Slang, Alex tries on a more subdued presentation and it might be said it’s sort of an acoustic take on Beach Slang with the usual thoughtful lyrics and heartfelt delivery. Alex’s music is clearly one meant to reach out for connection to other people who want something real in a cynical world where we’re encouraged to hide genuine feelings in order to avoid hurt. Alex encourages himself and others to risk that hurt because the alternative is a soul dead world where everyone plays it safe and never really gets to experience a vibrantly full life.

Tuesday | June 19, 2018

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Japanese Breakfast circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Belle & Sebastian w/Japanese Breakfast
When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Belle and Sebastian is practically the template for bedroom pop if written by especially imaginative and thoughtful people. Belle and Sebastian’s body of work sometimes sounds like Stuart Murdoch spent a lot of time creating the back stories of the people he encountered in the street or at the grocery store during his seven years recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prior to starting the band. But the level of detail and psychological insight is what has long made the band’s music relevant past any connection to any trend. Early in 2018 the group released its latest set of songs on three EPs called How to Solve Our Human Problems Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Sharing the bill with Belle and Sebastian is Japanese Breakfast. The band based out of Eugene, Oregon is a bit different from singer/guitarist Michelle Zauner’s previous rock band Little Big League. With Japanese Breakfast Zauner used pop songcraft to address issues of exoticism, sexism and talking about heavy life issues with a refreshing honesty and poignancy. The group’s second album, 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet shed any creative artifice further while also bringing to the songwriting a focus and musical inventiveness that made it one of the most interesting guitar pop records of recent years. Zauner and company take the musical ideas further than you would expect, giving its music a timeless quality that many of its trendier peers won’t enjoy. But all informed by Zauner’s native compassion and wry, but never distancing, sense of humor.

Who: JJUUJJUU w/déCollage and King Eddie
When: Tuesday, 06.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Phil Pirrone of JJUUJJUU is the mastermind behind the psychedelic music festival Desert Daze and its wandering offshoot Desert Daze Caravan. His band, rather than a prime example of the tamed, watered down “psych rock” of recent trendiness, is more experimental and more genuinely aimed at taking the listener on a mind-altering journey through the use of drones, raw noise, evolving melodies and hypnotic rhythms. It’s still rock but refreshingly weird and fans of New Fumes’ and Black Angels’ gift for pushing their own envelope by going outside conventional uses of sound will find much to appreciate here. Local support from local psych music visionaries should set the stage perfectly with experimental pop band déCollage and its freeflowing, freeassociating visuals and sound and King Eddie’s cosmic rock excursions.

Wednesday | June 20, 2018

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Rotten Reputation, photo by Spencer Lovell

Who: Rotten Reputation w/Mr. Atomic, Television Generation and The Couch Bombs
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle
Why: Rotten Reputation drops its new EP, Castration Station, tonight in advance of its upcoming tour. The Denver-based punk band is one of the few that is creating its own mythology and symbols, including its mascot Nancy (a mannequin torso), while making powerful songs commenting in no uncertain terms on sexism, gender identity, abuse and authoritarian government seem fun. Rotten Reputation will be in good company with neo-alternative/noise pop bands Mr. Atomic (listen to it’s excellent new single “Mr. Sadie” here) and Television Generation (which also released a new single “Stay” here) as well as pop punk band The Couch Bombs.

Who: Snail Mail w/Bonny Doon and Down Time
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lindsey Jordan has made quite a name for herself at age 19 for crafting winsome, noisy pop songs of uncommon emotional complexity. Her debut full-length Lush came out in early June 2018 to great critical acclaim. Many of Jordan’s songs have a simply melody throughout but she’s capable of expanding the sonic range on a dime with her guitar work as can be heard clearly in her single “Heat Wave.” Drawing obvious comparisons to Liz Phair and other talented 90s songwriters that got their start in the 90s articulating inner space so vividly, Jordan’s project Snail Mail has plenty of room to build on an already strong creative foundation.

Who: Gomez w/Eldren
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gomez hit it big with its 1997 debut album Bring It On. At a time when it might have been easy to try to ride the late Britpop wave, Gomez sounded more like a twangy American alternative rock band. But with more creativity than many of its States-side contemporaries. While the band’s sound has evolved over the years, gaining an almost orchestral quality as of its latest album, 2011’s Whatever’s On Your Mind, its core gift for making music that has a distinctly Americana flavor but made by guys from England has remained. For this tour the band will perform Bring It On in its entirety as well as choice cuts from across its long career.

Who: Karl Blau w/Patrick Dethlefs and Evan Holm
When: Wednesday, 06.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Karl Blau’s contribution to American pop music probably won’t be fully appreciated any time soon as the prolific artist always seems to be on to a new experiment in songwriting and soundscaping. Pick up any record across his career and you’ll find something worthwhile and inventive even if it’s well within the realm of accessible pop music. His Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society series was a brilliant example of artist-driven releases as a subscription service to Blau’s diverse musical imagination. A master of the loop pedal and rhythm generally, Karl Blau’s songwriting knows few bounds and his performances always containing something ahead of the curve. A frequent collaborator with Phil Elverum (The Microphones and Mount Eerie) and Laura Veirs, Blau pushes pop music in interesting directions whether the rest of the pop music world has yet to catch on.