Best Shows in the Denver Area 3/21/19 – 3/27/19

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R A R E B Y R D $ performs at Mercury Café on March 23. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | March 21

What: Throwing Thimgs, Bert Olsen (tour kickoff), Sad Dance Party and Zealot
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Bert Olsen is taking its post-punk/death rock pop songs beyond Denver for a tour and kicking it off with this show alongside other musical misfits like Zealot, a pop band that is deep under the influence of The Mountain Goats—texture rich melodies, irrepressibly upbeat and crackling with wiry energy.

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Rubblebucket, photo by Rob Abelow

What: Rubblebucket w/Twain and Toth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Rubblebucket reached deep into its members hearts in search of the material for Sun Machine, which discusses the struggles of life, death, heartbreak, despair, a yearning for rebirth into a next, better chapter of life while sitting in the depths of one’s psyche. The live presentation of this material, alongside the group’s fine earlier work, is done with an exuberant sense of theater.

What: Equine Tour Kickoff w/Death In Space, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Radiant Filth
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Equine will be taking his abstract guitar compositions on the road for a series of shows out to the east coast. Calling it ambient or “prepared guitar” isn’t quite accurate as Kevin Richards brings to bear a technical knowledge of tone and chord structure applied to his imaginative ear for an interesting and compelling arrangement. To launch him on his way are local peers in the like-minded Death In Space whose own guitar and loop experiments will be on full display as well as J. Hamilton Isaacs and his way of making analog synths make playful and bright dance beats and melodies.

What: Bright Light Social Hour w/Rubedo and Other Worlds
When: Thursday, 03.21, 8 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Austin’s Bright Light Social Hour will treat you to an uplifting blend of ethereal tones and motorik beats. If psychedelic rock went a little bit synth pop and the emphasis was on soothing vibes rather than simply pursuing wild sonic gyrations, it might sound like what Bright Light Social Hour has perfected. Denver’s Rubedo is one of the opening acts. The trio has evolved its sound, aesthetic and conceptual thrust over the years. But lately it’s been a nice balance of heartfelt, soulful vocals and blues-inflected art work with intricate yet intuitive changes throughout its songs. It’s a band whose themes are essentially uplifting and on accentuating the positive but never with a heavy-handed and corny take.

Friday | March 22

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Marchfourth, photo by Andrew Wyatt

What: MarchFourth w/Southern Avenue
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: MarchFourth predates by several years but is otherwise spiritual kin to Denver’s Itchy-O. Both used to have “Marching Band” as part of their name due to the robust horn and percussion sections of both bands. But wheres Itchy-O embodies a more experimental, darker, post-apocalyptic ritualistic side of the music, MarchFourth plays an eclectic kind of instrumental funk. Both are an eye-catching spectacle the likes of which you’re not likely to quite see with a more conventional band format. At a MarchFourth show you’ll also see acrobats, dancers and stiltwalkers with members dressed in a dazzling array of color and personalized detail.

What: Rubie Gold, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS and Talk Perfect
When: Friday, 03.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: nIGHtIMEsCHOOLbUS is the downtempo hip-hop collaboration between Otem Rellik’s Toby Hendricks and Robin Walker of Shocker Mom. Emotionally tender, borderline ambient beats and warm vibes.

Saturday | March 23

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Rachael Pollard, Bonnie Weimer on left, Johnny Sherry behind. Photo by Tom Murphy, May 2008

What: Spine, Raw Breed, Cadaver Dog, Videodrome and Mob
When: Saturday, 03.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Aggressive hardcore night at 7C with some of Denver’s best as well as Spine from Kansas City/Chicago. If those guys drive to practice that truly is hardcore.

What: R A R E B Y R D $ tape release w/Bulldozer Boy
When: Saturday, 03.23, 9:30 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café
Why: R A R E B Y R D $ is releasing its debut tape MIXTO$ at this show as well as other merch. The album was released digitally in 2018 under a slightly different name on Glasss Records but underwent a remixing via Tyler Breuer whose work as a musician and producer in various bands in Denver brought a different sensibility and ear to the proceedings. The experimental hip-hop trio will celebrate the occasion with a show including downtempo-jazz beatmaker Bulldozer Boy.

What: Get Your Ears Swoll: Night 4: Sweetness Itself, Rachael Pollard and Death In Space
When: Saturday, 03.23, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: Get Your Ears Swoll is a monthly music event at The People’s Building in Aurora. Rachael Pollard has been playing her fragile, playful, thoughtful, introspective songs in and around Denver for twenty years or more. The music feels like you’re getting glimpses into a private universe of talking animals, rainbow bridges to other dimensions and some of the most confessional poems written by anyone. Her shows invite you to connect with the better part of your own psyche. Death In Space could be anything at this point since Aleeya Wilson has integrated synths and guitar with loops. Only expect something interesting and sonically spare but not simplistic.

Sunday | March 24

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Liz Phair, photo courtesy the artist

What: Liz Phair w/Califone
When: Sunday, 03.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Had Liz Phair only released her 1993 album Exile in Guyville, her place in music history would have been set. The album was a deep, sophisticated, at times profane, feminist exploration of the dynamic in far too many music and creative scenes then and now in which men dominate and sideline women (or anyone that can be sidelined for reasons of identity) in subtle and not subtle ways. Her stories are so vivid and capture a truth so poignant they sound personal but they were not, Phair was just particular adroit in her portraits verbally and emotionally. Since then Phair has written straight ahead pop songs, fuzzy alternative rock, soundtracks and done sound design work so that her more recent albums seem like experiments integrating her career as a musician. Live she’s not the type to refuse to play her classic, beloved material and her sense of humor and sensitivity makes for a captivating time.

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Sunday, 03.24, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Carla Bley was a major figure in 60s free jazz and her 1971 album with Paul Haines (father of Emily Haines of Metric), Escalator Over The Hill. Called a “jazz opera,” Escalator combined avant-garde jazz and folk and one has to assume it exerted influence on the spontaneous compositions of French prog band Magma. While Bley has played in various configurations large and small this Denver show, her first in around thirty years, will be a trio performance with Andy Sheppard on saxophone and Steve Swallow on bass.

Monday | March 25

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Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow
When: Monday, 03.25, 5:30 and 8 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: For Carla Bley see above.

What: Centered Volume 5: Paperbark, Entrancer, Street Soul Nekyia and Pameshen
When: Monday, 03.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jacob Isaacs has been putting together some of the greatest, underground showcases for artists of synthesizer music in the Denver area with his Centered series. This edition includes modular synth artist Paperbark. John Mulville lived in Denver for a handful of years where he became entrenched in the avant-garde and ambient scene with his atmospheric work that projected a tactile sensibility like sculpture done with sound. Entrancer’s own modular synth work has absorbed the influences of old school avant-garde electronic music as well as techno. Both Paperbark and Entrancer also draw inspiration from the production side of hip-hop and while it may not be so obvious in their work with more adventurous hip-hop artists embracing noise and experimental music of late the connection seems obvious especially when the waves of this music hits you in the live setting where its visceral impact is undeniable.

Wednesday | March 27

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Jerry Paper, photo by Monika Mogi

What: Jerry Paper w/Ava Luna and Ashley Koett
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lucas Nathan was involved in making noise and psychedelic music before he finally decided to start making electronic music to disabuse himself of his prejudices against it. Because of that his music has a truly unusual and original take on what is essentially sample-based composition and retro-futurist weirdo hip-hop.

What: Palehorse/Palerider, Nox Novacula, No Gossip In Braille, Voight
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Post-metal, post-deathrock, post-punk, post-shoegaze. The kind of bill that should happen all the time but rarely does when artists so unlike each other (beyond all being some kind of rock) have sounds that compliment each other well.

What: Deafheaven, Baroness and Zeal & Ardor
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Baroness is on the verge of releasing its latest double album Gold & Grey. The band that has distinguished itself in the realm of sludge metal with intricate and imaginative guitar work and solid vocal harmonies has said that the new record will be the last in its series of color-themed titles. Seeing as guitarist and singer John Baizley is one of the most distinguished and sought-after visual artists in metal and music generally, it’ll be interesting to see what themes emerge from here. Until then you will likely be able to hear a good deal of the new material on this tour with blackened shoegaze band Deafheaven and experimental black metal outfit Zeal & Ardor.

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Eugene Chadbourne, photo courtesy the artist

What: Eugene Chadbourne / Ryan Seward, Bret Sexton / Farrell Lowe
When: Wednesday, 03.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Eugene Chadborne has been one of the important figures of avant-garde/free jazz for over four decades. Born in Mount Vernon, New York (just north of NYC), Chadbourne grew up in Boulder, Colorado before leaving for Canada to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War. Can hardly blame him. When he came back to America, he moved to NYC where he worked with Henry Kaiser and John Zorn and was encouraged by Anthony Braxton to keep with playing music rather than enter into a career as a journalist. Chadbourne’s prolific output, not fully documented on his Wikipedia page of course, has encompassed a broad range of musical styles and ideas. He has collaborated with Fred Frith, Sun City Girls, Camper Van Beethoven and Charles Tyler (who worked with Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman). For this performance, Chadbourne will perform with Colorado based improvisational/spontaneous composition artist Ryan Seward with a performance from other Denver area heavy hitters in the local avant-garde scene, who frequently perform with Seward, Bret Sexton and Farrell Lowe. Chadborne will also play a fundraiser for the nonprofit Creative Music Works on Thursday and we’ll provide the information on that event in our next show listing.

Best Shows in Denver 1/31/19 – 2/6/19

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Bert Olsen performs at 3 Kings Tavern on February 1. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 31, 2019

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Stereoshifter, Denver Meatpacking Company and I’m a Boy
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Alternative blues rock, second wave grunge and flamboyant, emotionally charged rock and roll with an ear for classic glam and the future.

Who: Starjammer – Empire of the Mantis
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden brings his visionary multi-media, multi-instrumental one-man band to 3 Kings to demonstrate that “Avant Garde/Dub-Reggae” is not some kooky gimmick but an evolving futuristic music that is truly a synthesis of deeply experimental improvisational music and the production style that enhances a broad spectrum of sonic frequency, textures and rhythm.

Who: Endless, Nameless, Honey and Salt, Obtuse, Admiral and more
When: Thursday, 01.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Kind of a math rock show with Obtuse who certainly draw on 90s and 2000s math rock for some of the inspiration but is thankfully more focused on the emotional possibilities when you don’t get tripped up on the time signatures and precision but use those as needed to express the raw nerves of a generation that late capitalism is trying to toss in the dumpster but not without some very articulate resistance.

Friday | February 1, 2019

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Broncho, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Maemyth, Galleries, Bert Olsen and matherial
When: Friday, 02.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: All the other bands on the bill are worth your time. But Bert Olsen, not named after anyone in the band, makes the kind of punk that is atmospheric, probably inspired in part by The Cure and early Christian Death, noisy and vividly emotional and not trapped by the need to sound like another era of punk. Bert Olsen is charting its own path and Hunter Wood’s vocals are both melodic and demonstrating a willingness to crack and distort to fit the mood of the moment. More rock music in general would benefit from such instincts but a lot of it is self-tamed and conditioned, traditionalist stuff.

Who: Broncho w/Pinky Pinky
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Too many artists and “comedians” have ruined irony for probably another generation by abusing its possibilities and basically by not being ironic, just wannabe surrealistic and too much of a broken person’s public diary presented as entertainment. Broncho didn’t fail in its employment of irony by making sardonic yet sincere commentary on American culture and life. When singer/guitarist Ryan Lindsey was in The Starlight Mints he injected some color into the tail end of the wave of indiepop that emerged in the early 90s. With Broncho it’s more rock but out of step with the tendency of a lot of modern rock music to be trapped entirely too much in past decades. The band’s latest record is 2018’s Bad Behavior.

Who: King Eddie, Briffaut and BabyBaby
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: King Eddie began as something of a fairly predictable psychedelic rock band but by that time and the release of its 2017 album it completely refined and reinvented itself into one of the most interesting and creative bands in that realm of music. Briffaut is sort of freak folk, psychedelic indie rock but sounds like it was made by people who cut themselves off from outside influences for half a decade or more. Because of that, it’s music is always interesting and left-field.

Who: Dry Ice, Slugger, Satellite Pilot, Rose Variety and Ludoesmusic
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Apparently Dry Ice is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. If it’s album 2018 Technicolor Yawning is any indication it sounds like the product of suburban boredom and thus this far into the band’s career means it’s sort of all over the place style-wise but that also means its not locked into being a particular genre and its eclectic quality yields some interesting material that might not have been possible had its members been channeled into a particular local scene. Slugger makes a case for garage and psychedelic rock inspired by classic rock not being totally played out.

Who: Boldtype, The Gamits, Reno Divorce and No Bueno
When: Friday, 02.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Manuel Lopez was the passionate and affable drummer of Boldtype who recently passed away. This is a benefit show for his daughters and will include performances by his band as well as some of the best local punk rock bands that came up at the same time his group was coming into its own.

Saturday | February 2, 2019

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Mozes and the Firstborn, photo by Nick Helderman

Who: The Parrots + Mozes and The Firstborn, Billy Changer, Super Bummer
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Mozes and The Firstborn from Eindhoven, The Netherlands came up during the peak of the 2010’s garage rock revival and toured internationally relatively early on its career. The band was always a little different from the other garage rock bands of that period because its sound was closer to power pop and its musicianship and songwriting had some uncommon refinement. In 2019 the group released its latest record Dadcore. To be fair, the band doesn’t sound like dadcore so much as its the typically Dutch dry, self-effacing and layered commentary on the cultural phenomenon and its own hearkening back to classic songwriting and what some may see as the quaint notion of guitar rock in the twenty-first century.

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Sunk Cost, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: GNO, Calambre, Sunk Cost, Kid Mask, Flesh Buzzard, Corgi Commander
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: A kind of harsh noise and harsh sounds show with some of most interesting artists operating in that mode in Colorado right now.

Who: The Pamlico Sound, Queens of the Galaxy and The Jessicas
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Pamlico Sound is a funk band lead by Will Baumgartner who went to Woodstock as a kid and who has been involved in the 80s No Wave movement as well as some of the more unexpectedly inventive and imaginative jam and funk bands from Colorado over the past two decades. It’s a spectacle and highly entertaining as Baumgartner is an engaging and unconventionally charismatic performer.

Monday | February 4, 2019

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Ron Gallo, photo by Chiara Danzieri

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Monday, 02.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ron Gallo is from Philadelphia but his solo work sounds like he spent some time in 1970s New York in the early punk scene with a wiry energy. Of course if psychedelic garage rock hadn’t happened his 2018 record Stardust Birthday Party wouldn’t have sounded like a bit like a manic Sparks. Whatever the touchstones might be, Gallo is one of the most dynamic rock musicians of the current era. Perhaps co-headlining is the psychedelic prog band Post Animal whose own spirited performances transcend any specific genre of music.

Tuesday | February 5, 2019

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Post Animal, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: See above on 02.04 for Ron Gallo and Post Animal.

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Yoke Lore, photo by Wes and Alex

Who: Yoke Lore w/LP
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Adrian Galvin was once a member of synth-heavy indie pop band Walk the Moon before going solo a few years back. His work under the name Yoke Lore is decidedly different from Walk the Moon in having softer edges while showcasing Galvin’s inventive use of layered sound in his songwriting with bright synths accenting his vocals with an evocative flair. He is currently touring in the wake of the release of his 2018 EP Goodpain as an opener for R&B-inflected indie pop songwriter LP.

Wednesday | February 6, 2019

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The Drood circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: The Diablo Montalban Experience, The Drood and Claudzilla
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 9 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Weird Wednesday is as suggested by the name quite a bit this time around with keytar rock sorceress Claudzilla, experimental pop/psych band The Diablo Montalban Experience and The Drood. The latter often performs in costumes that look like a cross between anti-hero crusaders for cosmic justice and occult ritualists with music that fans of Legendary Pink Dots may find very much to their liking.

Who: P.O.S. w/Calm. and DJ Fundo
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: P.O.S. is the Minneapolis-based rapper whose talents and range as an artist go far beyond including his masterful production on his own work as well as his musicianship in other bands including Gayngs, Marijuana Deathsquads and many others. He’s in good company with his sonically adventurous beats paired with Denver’s Calm., a duo comprised of Time and Awareness whose literate and incisive raps and deeply atmospheric production is always surprisingly impactful. Their latest release, 2018’s Things I Learned While Dying in Denver is one of the most sharply critical yet hopefully albums of the past few years.

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 11/29/18 – 12/5/18

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Lingua Ignota performs with Thou, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation at Syntax Physic Opera on Friday, November 30, 2018. Photo by Teddie Taylor.

Thursday | November 29, 2018

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Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Sliver, afd, Tuck Knee, Sick World, Wheels
When: Thursday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: In the early days, Sliver always wanted to be a Limp Bizkit cover band but singer/guitarist Chris Mercer kept being told he looked like Kurt Cobain on April 6, 1994 and he looked into Nirvana’s music and its roots and got inspired to make a sort of rock music with the raw and somewhat unpredictable quality of punk and the tuneful sensibility of Cobain’s own accessible yet often startlingly honest songwriting. In spite of Mercer’s early influences, Sliver has evolved into one of the better bands out of Denver and sharing the room tonight with like-minded artists operating outside of the trad punk straight jacket.

Who: Gamelan Tunas Mekar
When: Thursday, 11.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Denver-based Gamelan Tunas Mekar is an orchestra of practitioners of the percussive/tonal instrument the gamelan. Lead by Balinese composer and Artist-in-Residence Made Lasmawan, this is probably the most legit performance of traditional Balinese music you’re likely to get to see anytime soon.

Friday | November 30, 2018

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Line Brawl, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thou, Lingua Ignota, MJ Guider and Blood Incantation
When: Friday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Thou has built a body of work over the course of the past decade and more that transcends a convenient genre designation for the uninitiated like doom, sludge crust and experimental black metal. Its music fits all of those and more but mostly it’s just a sonically accurate embodiment of human struggle and our collective agony at having to bear the crushing weight of societies and cultures that aren’t geared toward cultivating and nurturing us. But not that abstract. Thou’s music feels deeply personal and coming from a place in the heart that has all but given up hope. Thou is also one of the most prolific bands in heavy music with five releases in 2018 alone. In August the group released Magus on Sacred Bones Records, a typically somber yet colossal collection of anthems suggesting a spiritual purge and awakening a sense of mission in surrendering to an intuition guided by forces larger than the self. Hey, one song is called “Transcending Dualities” and another “The Kingdom of Meaning.”

Lingua Ignota is the name for the language that the twelfth century Christian mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen used in her mystical practice. It was a secret language in which Bingen may have expressed her experiences outside that of typical mortal ken. That association certainly fits the music of Kristin Hayter for the project of the same name. Seemingly tapping into the nightmares of the collective unconscious for her compositions and recordings, Hayter inevitably gets compared to the similarly elemental Diamanda Galas who also employs piano to great dramatic effect alongside disorienting, noisy drones. Fans of Pharmakon and Jarboe will also find a great deal to love in Hayter’s oevre. 2018’s All Bitches Die evokes a kind of modern day experience of the mythological and mystical with both claustrophobic intensity and sublimely spacious compositions that at times are reminiscent of the more transcendent passages of Patti Smith’s misunderstood, experimental 1976 record Radio Ethiopia. All comparison’s aside, Hayter’s music pulls you along and challenges you, it is both uncompromising yet accessible.

MJ Guider is Melissa Guion of New Orleans and her composed environment music is enveloping and otherworldly Her 2016 album Precious Systems is like a visionary post-Snow Crash science fiction album written in music.

Blood Incantation doesn’t do many Colorado shows as the weirdo death metal band has been touring internationally for a few years at this point and can preserve some of its mystique locally.

Who: Glasss Presents: Princess Dewclaw, Rat Bites, Bert Olsen
When: Friday, 11.30, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Princess Dewclaw somehow sounds like a great, angsty southern California deathrock band from the early 80s with New Wave-y synthesizers mixed with the electrifyingly raw quality of early Babes in Toyland. All without sounded beholden to any of that. Rat Bites is a four-piece punk band that seems to have come out of 90s era garage punk—a little rough around the edges but with an unerring songwriting sense. Like The Dead Boys or Murder City Devils. Bert Olsen is to garage rock what post-punk was, for the most part, to punk: Moodier, sadder, artier and, well, more sensitive and nuanced.

Who: Slapshot w/Line Brawl and Cadaver Dog
When: Friday, 11.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Slapshot is the legendary Boston hardcore band. Good thing the group didn’t get the memo that hardcore was pretty much over by the time it released its ferocious 1986 album Back On The Map. Across its lifespan the group included members of other classic hardcore groups including people from Negative FX, DYS and SS Decontrol. It’s sound had already absorbed a bit of that crossover sound by the time it was releasing recordings but Slapshot’s songwriting remained tight and vicious even up to and including its 2018 album Make America Hate Again. Joining the veteran band on this bill are two of Denver’s best bands, hardcore or otherwise, with Line Brawl and Cadaver Dogs, both of whom are clearly from that Boston lineage of loud, sharp, stark punk.

Saturday | December 1, 2018

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Boys Noize, photo by Glen Han

Who: Nova Fest 6: Fathers, The Burial Plot, Under Auburn Skies, It’s Just Bugs and Saving Verona
When: Saturday, 12.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This festival basically showcases some of the harder-edged bands that some might call metal or hardcore or post-hardcore but none of which truly fit into a single heavy music genre slot. Especially It’s Just Bugs, which is a confrontational hip-hop group that utilizes industrial beats and noise in evoking the challenges of the modern urban experience and the tension of trying to eke out an existence in a time when the economic and political climate makes it so being working class is harder than it’s been since the Great Depression. Fathers is the post-hardcore super group includes, among others, former members of Lords of Fuzz and Cult of the Lost Cause. Years ago The Burial Plot was a heavy band that was breaking to the national scene when it split but it’s now back and actively performing around the Denver area.

Who: Boys Noize w/Sergio Santana and T-Rx
When: Saturday, 12.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Beta Nightclub
Why: Alexander Ridha has been DJing as Boys Noize for nearly a decade and a half at this point. His upbeat remixes of a broad range of artists from Snoop Dog to Depeche Mode and David Lynch are noteworthy for the same reason his DJ sets are worth a listen or, in the case tonight with Beta and its Funktion-One—Ridha’s ability to weave together multiple genres in a set that sound like genres of their own. And it’s not just the tired EDM clichés that started killing off that world of music. He’s not afraid to bring in some menacing and distorted sounds and beats that one might more rightfully hear in a darkwave band or party bangers that aren’t eyeroll-worthy. Ridha is a versatile artist who seems to seek to expand his own musical vocabulary and methods regularly and it has resulted in a freshness to his sets and his recorded output.

Sunday | December 2, 2018

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Rotten Reputation circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rotten Reputation w/Viqueen, Claudzilla and Rat Bites
When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: San Francisco’s Viqueen (pronounced like Viking but not “king”) makes a stop in Denver with its metallic punk reminiscent of L7, Tribe 8 and maybe a less chaotic Blatz. Also on the bill is the political expressed as the personal (and vice versa) poppy punk quartet Rotten Reputation. With its sarcasm and sharp humor game strong, Rotten Reputation has treated us to two full-length albums’ worth of creative vitriol with its 2017 album Nancy and 2018’s Castration Station. Claudzilla may not be punk in the traditional sense of the sound but in spirit, anyone that irreverent and, not to put too fine a point on it, weird is in the realm of punk and her keytar rock/pop songs will probably alienate the right people but the rest of us can revel in its strangeness. Rat Bites, as mentioned earlier in this column, is a noisy punk band that fans of Murder City Devils, New Bomb Turks and Jawbreaker might enjoy.

Who: Black Marlin w/Hail Satan, Dead Characters and Totochtin
When: Sunday, 12.2, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Black Marlin is a Denver band with a proclivity for blending the technical musical sensibility of prog and math rock with thrash. Hail Satan is an out and out, no bones about it thrash band but one that could only come out of a certain degree of self-awareness but without any irony in its love for the music. Totochtin is a sludgy but not doomy noisy metal band. It might be a safe bet the guys in the group listened to a few Unsane, Yob and Thou records but you never know. With names like Little Foot, Grease Trap and Big Trash, instrumental metal band Dead Characters bridge the gap between surf rock and sludge metal.

Tuesday | December 4, 2018

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VNV Nation, photo courtesy the artist

Who: VNV Nation w/Holygram and The Rain Within
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: VNV Nation is a group that has been a bit polarizing in the community of industrial music fans. Its particular EBM aesthetic has certainly influenced the sound and style of the futurepop and EBM music of the late 90s and 2000s—that samey, fake dark and intense post-industrial music with emo-esque vocals and fairly uninspired production. Nevertheless, VNV Nation’s records have had a creative cohesive vision that can be found in the music of its mid-era EBM peers like Covenant, Apoptygma Berzerk and Aseemblage 23 and not so much in many of the bands they all inspired. The project has been driven by Ronan Harris’ songwriting and composition since the beginning and his fusion of synth pop with the hard-edged beats of German industrial acts is is not for everyone. But, especially with the 2018 album Noire, Harris demonstrates his command of the underpinnings of the music that influenced him and informs his own work where an instinct for connecting classical music structure, classic pop songcraft and experiments in electronic sounds can yield interesting results.

HOLYGRAM 2 - photo by Yves Christelsohn
Holygram, photo by Yves Christelsohn

Cologne, Germany’s Holygram masterful matching of post-punk moodiness and driving bass lines with industrial beats and synth work has been compared to The Cure from the arc of albums from Seventeen Seconds to Pornography. Brooding but bright and urgent. The outfit’s 2018 album Modern Cults has that hazy headlong quality coupled with haunted vocals and a taut emotional flavor that is part of what makes The Soft Moon so appealing as well.

Who: Minus the Bear farewell tour w/Tera Melos
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Minus the Bear is calling it quits after seventeen years and several records. Formed in Seattle in 2001 the group’s membership has included then current and former members of prominent post-hardcore bands in America including Botch, Kill Sadie, Circa Survive and These Arms Are Snakes. Minus the Bear’s music required a different kind of technical precision with its idiosyncratic take on math rock – sparkling melodies, intricate guitar work employed with a sort of minimalist approach. That Tera Melos is on the tour is only fitting as that group’s own imaginative math rock is also more focused on songwriting than pure technique.

Who: Childish Gambino w/Vince Staples
When: Tuesday, 12.4, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Childish Gambino caused quite a stir with the spring 2018 release of the video for the song “This Is America.” Often poorly, sometimes cringe-worthily so, imitated by several people, the song and video is a brilliant commentary on racism in America today. Donald Glover’s accomplishments as a comedian are better written about elsewhere but his musical output has been equally as interesting and respectable. His 2016 album Awaken, My Love! is one of the better psychedelic soul and funk albums of the past few years. But his promotion of the album with the app that took uses to space with a view back to earth before crash landing in Joshua Tree followed by a list of tour dates and links to get tickets was, to put it mildly, unconventional. But it’s just Glover keeping with his usual attempts to keep things fresh and interesting for him and anyone who wants to be along for the ride. Also on this bill is Vince Staples whose own music may be hip-hop but his musical interests are far broader and you can hear it in his extensive use of synths, samples, production and vocal delivery. Staples’ incisive and evocative words bring attention to a neglected America that isn’t much talked about by politicians and their lapdogs trying to put a good face on the fake economic boom that is really only benefiting the upper one percent before it crashes hard in the next decade. At least that’s what his 2018 opus FM! seems to discuss among other issues.

Wednesday | December 5, 2018

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Chief White Lightning, photo by Jack Grisham

Who: Chief White Lightning w/The Corner Girls and …And The Black Feathers
When: Wednesday, 12.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Even though that wave of bands trying to mine classic rock glory and songwriting has crashed and dissolved (whether they know it or not) as has the umpteenth psychedelic rock revival, some artists will survive the trend on strong songwriting and having something else to offer than a nostalgia trip appeal. One of those is Josh Logan who is Chief White Lightning. Yeah, boogie rock, blues rock, honky tonk and pop. But Logan brings a great deal of personality to his performances and songwriting and that makes all the difference. …And the Black Feathers from Denver are coming from a similar place but its own songs have an expansive quality that gives its songwriting a broad emotional range even when the songs seem to draw on familiar rock and roll themes. It would be weird if The Corner Girls went more in a blues punk direction or whatever after honing its whole “pastel punk” and surf rock thing but you’ll have to go to see.

Best Shows in Denver 11/1/18 – 11/7/18

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Tank and the Bangas will perform at The Ogden Theatre on Friday, November 2, 2018 with Big Freedia and Naughty Professor, photo by Gus Bennett Jr.

Thursday | November 1, 2018

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The Goon Sax, photo by Ryan Topaz

Who: Holy Wave w/Pale Sun
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Holy Wave is a band from Austin, Texas that weaves together a kind of motorik beat driven, Krautrock wall of sound mixed with the sort of folk and rock and roll that produced the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. So sort of garage psych but more imaginative and with more nuanced, layered songwriting. With the band’s most recent album Adult Fear, it’s drifted in a more 60s futurist pop direction akin to Pink Floyd gone French pop akin to a psych garage version of Stereolab. Pale Sun’s dense washes of mind-bending tones and hypnotic rhythms will be a good match as its own atmospheric rock has some resonance with weirdo electronic music.

Who: Dia De Muertos Celebration with Altas, Plume Varia, Vic N’ The Narwhals and Church Fire
When: Thursday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Four of Denver’s best bands on one bill for this celebration of Dia De Muertos. Altas’s instrumental rock music conjures the visual element for you in your mind with its dynamic compositions and keen sense of texture and rhythm. Plume Varia’s downtempo dream pop is not something you get to see much live these days—an effective and evocative blend of R&B, synthpop and darkwave. Vic N’ The Narwhals found a way to keep surf rock vital and not another victim of genre oversaturation. Church Fire has long been the band to embody an instinct for great pop hooks, emotionally electrifying and confrontational performances, raw chaos and noise and making elements that aren’t often in one place work in a way that’s accessible and powerful. Church Fire will release an album at the end of the year and change up its direction so you may see hints of that in its upcoming live shows.

Who: The Goon Sax w/Teeth of the Hydra and Chromadrift
When: Thursday, 11.1, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Brisbane, Australia’s The Goon Sax harnessed the strong melodic lines and harmonic jangle one heard in C86-era pop bands and those on the Sarah Records imprint, or as heard by bands clearly influenced by that sound, into some surprisingly thoughtful and incisive songs for a trio of teenagers. The group’s 2016 album Up to Anything may sound like a new indie rock album on the surface but there’s something more durable about the compositions like The Birthday Present with less fuzzy edges. With the group’s 2018 album We’re Not Talking finds the band making exceptionally realized use of space and textural elements that give the emotional quality a surprising vividness while enhancing the impact of the introspective lyrics. Opening the show are two experimental bands from Denver, both more on the ambient end of the spectrum, including Chromadrift whose soft, post-rock-esque compositions capture the feeling of fall and winter with an uncanny accuracy. Teeth of the Hydra’s moody, organic drones feel like music for a Bela Tarr movie.

Friday | November 2, 2018

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Surfbort, photo by Renee Parkhurst

Who: Black Lips w/Surfbort and Dirty Few
When: Friday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Lips are still that notorious garage punk band from Atlanta from whom you’re never 100% sure what you’ll get but the show will be energetic and border on the chaotic. Which suits the energy and aesthetic of Denver’s Dirty Few. But like Black Lips, the band has a gift for solid pop songwriting and Kim Phat’s vocals give otherwise fairly gritty songs an interesting combination of lightness and intensity. Surfbort from Brooklyn breaks modern punk convention in a variety of ways. Not with the music so much as it sounds a bit like 80s and early 90s punk as if the band cutting its teeth learning to play along to The Damned, Crass, Black Flag and Tribe 8. But Dani Miller looks like a real punk who has seen some rough days but is now channeling that into powerful vocals not unlike an American Eve Libertine thirty years hence. The band’s debut full length Friendship Music is everything punk should be—loud, sometimes obnoxious, irreverent and willing to experiment with sound as a complete and utter middle finger to convention and expectations. Miller is in her mid-20s and her bandmates in their 40s and 50s so there is a sensibility and dynamic that makes this band always a little different and for the better.
Who: Tank and The Bangas and Big Freedia w/Naughty Professor
When: Friday, 11.2, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Some of New Orleans’ finest will grace the Ogden stage tonight. Tank and The Bangas’ flavor of that hip-hop, jazz and R&B hybrid is deeply eclectic, gently lively, layered and uplifting in a way that feels sincere and wholesome without being hokey or self-righteous. It’s the musical equivalent of a nutritious meal with a perfect blend of delicious flavors that mutually enhance and satisfy all palates. Big Freedia is a pioneer of sissy-bounce but at this point really pushes hip-hop in interesting directions with his larger-than-life live show and refusal to be contained by an aesthetic that might contain the prodigious energy of his musical instincts. Live, Freedia’s songs can go off the rails in surreal and heady directions because of that more open-ended songwriting style and performance. Maybe now Freedia has honed the act and songwriting to be more precise in its effectiveness but one of Freedia’s main appeals is a nearly overwhelming sense of liberation from convention. Naughty Professor is a six-piece, improvisational jazz-funk band on the more experimental end of that sort of music—an example of when a real jam band can make some magic on stage rather than self-indulgently wank.

Who: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/Sen Morimoto and Triplip
When: Friday, 11.2, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is an artist everyone that think they’ve seen everything should check out because he is like a recombinant DNA mad scientist of musical genres. Punk spirit, sometimes sound, always that energy fused with hip-hop, avant-garde improv, weirdo funk, indie jazz and whatever else goes in to give life to his unusual song ideas and surreal-yet-meaningful-and-insightful-playful lyrics. Maybe he’s too weird to go to some bigger level of touring but don’t count on it and see him when he’s still playing these smaller rooms.

Saturday | November 3, 2018

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Drahla, photo by Bianca Wallis

Who: Quits w/Americas (Chicago), Reptoid (Oakland) and Arctobog and Bert Olsen
When: Saturday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Denver based noise rock band Quits shares the Seventh Circle stage with math rock/neo-emo band Americas from Chicago, Oakland’s menacing, industrial-esque, noise rockers Reptoid, poetry/avant-garde punk lo-fi act Arctobog from Denver and Folk Implosion-esque lo-fi rock project Bert Olsen.

Who: Hot Apostles, The Patient Zeros, Dead Pay Rent and Crimson Days (Robin Heitman, Nathan King, Garrett McGaugh and Nicolas Kjolhede)
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Nicolas Kjolhede recently moved back to Michigan after around a decade in Denver where he performed in the rock band Cutthroat Drifters. His signature moves, his clear passion for the music and his affable nature made him a true fixture in Denver’s underground music scene. Tonight he’ll perform with one of his new bands, Crimson Days, at the Squire Lounge with other noteworthy rock bands whose own musical vision isn’t limited to simple subgenre convention and who managed to be straight ahead rock bands with personality and not miming past classic rock glory as has been the temptation, unresisted, among too many bands today.

Who: Tera Melos w/Rumble Young Man Rumble and Dandu
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Tera Melos definitely puts the weird in math rock with technically challenging song structures and dynamics. Radical shifts in direction like a post-hardcore Don Caballero gives Tera Melos’ songs a wiry momentum that one might expect an early band on the 31G imprint or out of late 90s DIY scene Providence, Rhode Island. Dandu from Denver can vibe with the math rock and angular jazz flow but its own music is also brimming with atmosphere.

Who: CT-X (Captured Tracks 10 Anniversary Tour) w/Drahla, Lina Tullgren, Wax Chattels
When: Saturday, 11.3, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Indie record label Captured Tracks is celebrating its first decade with tour featuring a fairly representative slice of it roster. Wax Chattels is what might have been called a dance punk band fifteen years ago but it’s far noisier and keys rather than guitar and reminiscent of 90s post-hardcore, synth heavy bands like The VSS and Milemarker. Lina Tullgren’s songs would fall within the realm of dream pop if they weren’t imbued with an urgency and sense of melancholy. Drahla from Leeds, UK is a post-punk outfit that has adopted a bit of the unpredictable guitar melodies one would have heard in Sonic Youth from the 80s or from northeast Canada’s noisier guitar bands like FRIGS or Preoccupations.

Sunday | November 4, 2018

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Wild Nothing, photo by Cara Robbins

Who: Love Hope Strength benefit w/The Alarm
When: Sunday, 11.4, 3:30 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: The Alarm may not have been as famous as U2 (in fact The Alarm toured as support for U2 on the 1983 War tour), The Call or The The but its music was within that wheelhouse of uplifting, melodic, thoughtful rock with songwriting that tapped into the brighter places in your imagination. Its 1987 hit “Rain in the Summertime” remained a staple of college radio and modern rock format radio stations for years. In 2005 singer and main songwriter Mike Peters discovered he was suffering from a form of leukemia which inspired him to start a foundation called Love Hope Strength which benefits those suffering from cancer and raises awareness of the issues those stricken with the malady face. It’s an afternoon show so you can catch the band and help out a good cause and, you know, have plenty of time for everything else on a Sunday that you might get up to.

Who: Wild Nothing w/Men I Trust
When: Sunday, 11.4, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: When Wild Nothing first emerged to a national audience, albeit on the more underground circuit, the group’s C86-inspired jangle rock seemed to incorporate post-punk moodiness and rhythms struck a sweet spot for a lot of people who maybe though the whole “chamber pop” thing and the wave of bands imitating 60s and 70s rock was wearing thin. That singer/guitarist Jack Tatum could convincingly evoke The Smiths without completely ripping off the Mancunians certainly had an appeal when the music industry seemed inundated with artists aiming for the mundanely rustic. The band’s 2018 album Indigo is a natural progression from its earlier records but its breezy melodies and synth washes are reminiscent of Kitchens of Distinction, The Teardrop Explodes, The Church and maybe even Soft Boys. And yet, Wild Nothing has added to the post-punk cannon by not at all sounding like a clone of any of its influences through finding consistently inventive ways of melding the aesthetics of electronic music, rock and pop.

Men I Trust from Montreal is a decidedly independent band whose DIY ethos one doesn’t often associate with a group making lush, jazzy, R&B-inflected dream pop. Fans of Toro Y Moi and Purity Ring will find a good deal to like about this trio.

Monday | November 5, 2018

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Molly Burch, photo by Dailey Toliver

Who: Molly Burch w/Jesse Woods and Pure Weed
When: Monday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Molly Burch’s 2017 debut album Please Be Mine was remarkable not just for Burch’s delicately powerful voice and uncommonly superbly voiced instrumentals, but for how Burch can not only write from a place of hurt but doing so with an awareness of the humanity of those who hurt her and who she undoubtedly hurt in return. Her use of words honors the complexity of life and relationships with an immediacy and accessibility that usually comes a few albums in. Her sophomore effort, 2018’s First Flower finds Burch focusing more on exploring fraught moments of relationships outside the realm of the romantic as well as her issues with anxiety with the same insight and warmth that characterized her previous work.

Tuesday | November 6, 2018

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Acid Dad, photo by Devon Bristol Shaw

Who: Acid Dad, Serpentfoot and Emerald Siam
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Acid Dad is one band that answered the question about whether a band could come out of the rock milieu/era when psychedelic garage rock and surf was the prevailing trend and still have something interesting to say using similar musical language. The answer is, of course, yes, and the band’s self-titled LP may be a nod to stuff like Wooden Shijps, Ty Segall and early psych classics but its subject matter is a refreshingly different take on social issues and personal travails. At times you’ll hear echoes of Madchester and Spacemen 3 as in the song “Marine” and early tracks like “Brain Body.” But even in their more languid moments there’s an energy to Acid Dad’s performances that makes them more than a cut above of the bands that sound like they listened to “Anemone” by Brian Jonestown Massacre too many times and made it their template except when they want to fuzz up some lazy surf rock licks. The local support for this show includes Fort Collins’ Serpentfoot who do that surf and psych thing better than most because there’s more than a little bite to its lively songs. Denver’s Emerald Siam draws on some of the same influences as Acid Dad but comes from a place of deep knowledge of garage rock, psychedelia and post-punk out of which it has woven a bright, sometimes brooding yet expansive, and uplifting yet gritty futuristic rock and roll.

Who: Jim James w/Alynda Segarra from Hurray For the Riff Raff and Andrea Gibson
When: Tuesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Paramount Theatre
Why: Jim James is of course known for his iconic work in My Morning Jacket. But his solo albums are always worth checking out and his 2018 album Uniform Distortion was, according to an April 2018 interview with NPR, inspired by his “fascination with The Last Whole Earth Catalog.” Whole Earth Catalog being the visionary publication that took emerging awareness of ecology, sustainability, DIY/self-sufficient culture and shared uncommon knowledge with anyone open to a counter cultural perspective grounded in fairly pragmatic information. The album itself sounds like James spent some time hanging out with 70s hippies who turned their idealism into informal institutions that still exist to this day. All the while absorbing musical ideas and translating them for the current era. It’s a fascinating aesthetic of retro-futurism that takes the concept of holism seriously and applies it to the music and how it’s presented.

Wednesday | November 7, 2018

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Death Valley Girls, photo by Michael Haight

Who: Death Valley Girls w/Gymshorts and Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 11.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: One of the Los Angeles band’s t-shirts proclaims that “Satan Worships Death Valley Girls.” And, really, wouldn’t love a group of lively hellions that so gloriously hurls together glam, punk, garage, psychedelia and shoegaze like a high camp Stooges. Iggy even appeared in the video for “Disaster (Is What We’re After),” a single from the 2018 album Darkness Rains, which is all the endorsement you need.

Best Shows in Denver 08/9/18 – 08/15/18

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Echo Beds album release Sunday, August 12, 2018 at Mutiny Information Café

Thursday | August 9, 2018

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Lady Gang, photo courtesy Jen Korte

Who: Lady Gang EP release w/Venus Cruz & Ginger Perry and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Thursday, 08.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Jen Korte has long been known as a respected and talented songwriter in Denver with her inventive songwriting and vivid lyrics. Known mostly for her Americana solo output and her brilliant collaborations with other artists including stints in Gin Doctors and as a guitarist in experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla. Lady Gang is Korte branching out as a songwriter and, this time around, as a producer. It’s a solo project in which Korte uses “a beat machine, a loop pedal, bass guitar, electric guitar and her signature voice.” That voice has some grit, character and confidence. The project’s new EP, released tonight, is Simple Truths, is truth in advertising with Korte finding direct ways of discussing the world in its incredible disarray. The songs resist simple classification. “How Do You Sound” has elements of bluesy psychedelia and hip-hop as interpreted through someone like MC 900 Foot Jesus. “Preface This” like a long lost Helium track with its electro-lounge and mysterious melodic strains. Sharing the stage for the occasion of this release is a collaborative set with two of Denver’s most noteworthy musical figures in jazz/soul/hip-hop phenom Venus Cruz, host of the Jazz Odyssey program on KUVO (one of the most forward thinking radio programs in Denver) and Ginger Perry, one of the Mile High City’s great DJs and not just the kind that shows up with a simple playlist. Oh, and R A R E B Y R D $, one of the most interesting hip-hop crews going that’s injecting a rich spectrum of quality imagination and emotional content into the genre.

Who: Lupe Fiasco w/Mickey Factz, Bill Blue, Dylan Montayne, Connor Ray
When: Thursday, 08.9, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It’s for the best that Lupe Fiasco didn’t actually quit music as he had intended in 2016 after the controversy over “N.E.R.D.” and the infamously supposed anti-Semitic line. In a time when white supremacy has made a curious rise in American political life, it’s essential to have voices who are articulate and unabashed critics of such nonsense not to mention Fiasco’s sharp critique of the down side of America’s actions on the international stage. Initially shelved, 2017’s Drogas Light was described as a prequel to the 2011 album Lasers. Perhaps for this tour Lupe Fiasco will unveil a bit of his new direction as creatively moving forward certainly suits him.

Who: Angélique Kidjo’s Remain In Light and Femi Kuti & Positive Force
When: Thursday, 08.9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Botanic Gardens (York Street)
Why: Two giants of world music on one bill in a beautiful setting? Both Kidjo and Kuti have deep roots in the development of world music in general but Afrobeat in particular. Obviously Femi Kuti’s father Fela was the founder of Afrobeat and Femi played in Fela’s band starting in his teen years. Kidjo was “discovered” as a jazz musician in Paris but quickly made a name for herself internationally for her powerful voice and inimitable personal style. A rare opportunity in Denver.

Friday | August 10, 2018

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Meet The Giant, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Meet the Giant vinyl release w/Church Fire and The Patient Zeros
When: Friday, 08.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver-based rock band Meet the Giant releases the vinyl edition of its self-titled debut album tonight with a show at Syntax. The record is a synthesis of moody, deeply atmospheric dream pop, downtempo and fuzzy hard rock. Live the band’s songs have a mysterious yet emotionally vibrant quality accented by a broad dynamic range between the trio’s players. For the occasion Meet the Giant is joined by two of Denver’s best bands. The Patient Zeros emerged from the glut of neo-classic rock, throwback 60s psych-nostalgia and garage rock that seemed to dominate the past several years with its own musical identity and more bluesy like Cream and not a cut-rate Brian Jonestown Massacre. Church Fire is the rare band that bridges electronic dance music, noise, industrial and synth pop and infuses it with a passionate intensity and shamanic stage presence.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Friday, 08.10, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have managed to spend its 35 years as a band not just developing its signature sludgy, heavy rock and influencing generations of musicians, it has taken the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in various realms of music. Whether that’s with experimental electronic artist Lustmord or Jello Biafra, Melvins seem to have long realized that you have to keep doing stuff you find interesting and following your curiosity and trying different things along the way. 2017’s A Walk With Love and Death was a double album with half of it being a noisy soundtrack to a forthcoming film in which the band is involved. Now, Melvins are touring its latest record, 2018’s Pinkus Abortion Technician. Reliably great live, do yourself a favor and see Melvins this weekend or if not this weekend sometime if you’ve not before.

Who: Witch Mountain w/False Cathedrals and Wild Call
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Witch Mountain is a doom band from Portland, Oregon currently touring in support of its recently-released self-titled album. The quartet has technically been around since the late 90s but with an early 2000s hiatus giving band members some time to pursue other projects, the group reconvened this past decade with female lead singers who really help coalesce the drifty heavy riffs into mythical anthems. Also on board for the show is Denver doom band False Cathedrals and Wild Call who, while not doom, more psych or shoegaze, have an edge and heaviness to its atmospheric rock that will fit right in.

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Parker Millsap, photo by James Coreas

Who: Parker Millsap w/Plain Faraday
When: Friday, 08.10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Parker Millsap is definitely operating with a tradition of music that includes blues rock artists of his youth like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were doing their level best to tap into the original blues artists of the American South and Midwest. But instead of getting stuck there, it’s obvious Millsap took some time to explore traditional folk and country and more modern practitioners of that art who brought their own ghosts and haunted quality and soul to their own music. Like Townes Van Zandt and Jeff Buckley. Millsap’s own voice and playing has a an impressive subtlety and spectrum of detail, texture and emotional colorings and has established himself as a real talent in his realm of music. In May 2018 he released his latest record Other Arrangements.

Saturday | August 10, 2018

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Itchy-O, photo by Christopher Cleary

Who: Itchy-O Record Release w/Codename: Carter
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Itchy-O’s new full-length Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo, like any recorded work, could never fully capture the exuberant mayhem and visceral impact of a thirty plus member band in elaborate costumes generating an orchestra of rhythms and tones designed to disorient and inspire. Nevertheless, the new album offers listeners a foray into deep sound design that conveys the sheer detail and atmospheric experience of the band in a different context. It’s the band’s most forward thinking set of songs to date and rendered in a way that is as easy to get lost in on its own terms as the band is live. Each of the band’s albums have been impressive works in their own right in terms of recording and execution as a separate experience from the live show but Mystic Spy | Psykho Dojo is much more than an addendum to an Itchy-O concert, it is the realization of the concept of an esoteric spy film soundtrack and sonic training rhythms for tribal psychics to manifest a more vital future. Joining Itchy-O for this occasion is spy rock/surf band extraordinaire Codename: Carter.

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Princess Dewclaw, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Washout Fest at Globe Hall: Muscle Beach, Rotten Reputation, Sliver, Moon Pussy, Princess Dewclaw, Sonic Vomit, Morlox, Ultraviolet, Eraserhead Fuckers, Bert Olsen, Juice Up, Lepidoptera, Fever Dreams, Saddy, Freak//When//Scene, Monty O’Blivio, Clutch Plague, Television Generation, King Slug and Wayward Sun
When: Saturday, 08.11, 12 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Hands down the most eclectic music festival to happen in Denver in 2018. While many try to encapsulate too many genres with not enough interesting artists, others focus on indie rock and NPR-friendly pop, yet others an uninspired and obvious selection of popular artists and token local artists who aren’t going to ruffle any feathers, the organizers of Washout Fest have dug a little deeper. But more than that, not just artists on the Glasss imprint. It includes notable local noise artist Morlox, ambient project Lepidoptera, noisy psych punk group Princess Dewclaw, the industrial noise rock of Moon Pussy, dream psych pop group Fever Dreams, experimental metal band Sonic Vomit, unconventional punk bands Rotten Reputation and Muscle Beach, fuzz rock bands Sliver and Television Generation, noise hip-hop weirdo Eraserhead Fuckers and much more. The more conventionally-minded festivals have their place, especially when they have a local focus like The UMS and Westword Music Showcase, but this is one where radio-friendly wasn’t the consideration, just quality and putting one’s reputation on the line for declaring the bands as such.

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Valley Queen, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Valley Queen w/Tyto Alba
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Valley Queen has been honing its live show and songwriting for four years with numerous national tours under its belt to road test its music. Its gift for reinventing a type of rock music that isn’t part of a subgenre and isn’t necessarily trying to remanifest some older style of music is impressive. The band may have borrowed some from its retro peers and 2000s indie rock but with the release of its debut album, Supergiant (2018), the Los-Angeles based band demonstrated it’s perfectly capable of establishing a signature sound of layered melodies and Natalie Carol’s commanding vocals. Valley Queen is no stranger to Denver having made the Mile High City a regular stop on its tours and tonight the group will share the stage with one of America’s most promising rock bands, the warmly moody and emotionally stirring Tyto Alba from Denver.

Who: Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom split release
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Great American House Fire and Sophisticated Boom Boom are punk but its roots lie in a similar Denver punk and emo scene of the past two decades. GAHF has a bit more soul and Americana in its sound while SBB is more in the vein of power pop. Both celebrate the release of their split seven inch tonight at Bowman’s.

Who: GhostPulse (single premiere) w/Plume Varia and Ramakhandra
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: GhostPulse is premiering its new single “Dreaming In Hypersleep” tonight. The song is a leap forward for a band that was evolving out of its roots in excellent post-rock/instrumental rock band Lucida Tela. The more electronic, soundscape-y sound of its newer material is very welcome in a city where music rooted in mundane reality currently dominates. Plume Varia will compliment the evening well with its own downtempo dream pop and space jazz/Flying Lotus/Gil Scott-Heron-esque band Ramakhandra will keep things in the outer realms of the imagination as well.

Who: Melvins w/WE Are The Asteroid
When: Saturday, 08.11, 8 p.m.
Where: The Aggie Theatre
Why: See above for 8.10 on Melvins.

Sunday | August 12, 2018

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Cannons circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Goon, faim, Soul Vice
When: Sunday, 08.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This benefit for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition features some of the more interesting local hardcore acts including Goom and Faim from Denver and Soul Vice from Colorado Springs. Yes, the bands are doing a benefit for a political organization but their own songwriting is non-didactic and address social and interpersonal issues in a poignant and powerful way. For instance, faim’s great song “All Talk” takes to task the people in its own world and scene who talk a big game and make a major display of what they want people to think they’re about without doing anything concrete in the real world and in their own lives to address those issues in meaningful way.

Who: Cannons w/Echo Beds (album release), Limbwrecker, In The Company of Serpents
When: Sunday, 08.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Over two years after the release of its debut full-length New Icons of a Vile Faith, Denver’s Echo Beds finds its starkly menacing clamor evolving in new directions with its 2018 album Buried Language (officially out on 8.17 through The Flenser). Still in place is the physicality of the music and its inventive and visceral use of percussion and rhythmic sound but added to the mix is a greater sense of the use of production in executing that aesthetic in a way that is an even more full spectrum stimulation of the senses. This show is a bit of a record release and tour kickoff for the band but also a chance to share the stage with like-minded acts. Cannons was an excellent noise rock/post-hardcore act that was most active nearly a decade ago in Denver. In the Company of Serpents is a doom band but its wall of sound is so colossal and caustic it’s almost more like death metal or grindcore slowed down to the pace of magma. Limbwrecker could be said to be a powerviolence band with a sense of humor.

Tuesday | August 14, 2018

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The Chamanas, photo by Brett Muñoz

Who: The Chamanas w/Picture the Waves, Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Chamanas is an indie pop band if indie pop were born out of being influenced by not just the type of music that formed the DNA of C86 and American indie pop bands of the 90s (garage rock, psychedelia, folk, noise etc.) but if the folk underpinnings of that music included traditional Mexican music, the various pop traditions of Latin America and Cuban dance music. It’s that mixture that gives the band’s music not only a uniquely eclectic flavor but one that has an immediate connection for fans of earlier and more modern indie pop. Manuel Calderon and Hector Carreon met as sound engineers at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas and after working on projects by other artists the two finally issued their own album as The Chamanas in 2015, Once Once. In 2017 the band released its second album, NEA, titled after the nickname of Carreon’s brother who had recently passed with songs that reflected that loss. With 2018’s NEA II, The Chamanas re-rendered several of NEA‘s songs with five new tracks. Also on this bill are some of the best bands in the Denver music scene whose own music is a brilliant synthesis of musical traditions in Vic N’ The Narwhals, Los Mocochetes and Ghost Tapes.

Who: Wino, Xasthur and Phallic Meditation
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Robert “Wino” Weinrich will perform some of his starkly evocative solo material at this show. Better known, perhaps, for his tenure in doom legends Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, his solo acoustic material showcases his raw gift for songwriting. Xasthur’s spare black metal with acoustic instrumentation came to Denver in 2017 with a haunting performance capable of deep musical darkness without the usual instrumentation and sound one associates with a similar aesthetic. Denver’s Phallic Meditation is more a doomy psychedelic band but with some experimental noisiness that sets it apart from similarly-minded groups.

Who: Lil Ugly Mane, Kahlil Cezanne, Curta, Cadaver Dog, Many Blessings, Videodrome
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: When Travis Miller released his debut album as Lil Ugly Mane, 2012’s Mista Thug Isolation, he had already garnered some praise from members of the Odd Future collective for his absurdist imagery and inventive production that really didn’t obey then mainstream hip-hop conventions with his use of noise and black metal soundscapes/samples in some of the beats. So it’s fitting that on this bill are experimental/noise hip-hop artist Curta, hardcore bands Cadaver Dog and Videodrome and noise soundscaper Many Blessings. If there’s a show demonstrating how all those worlds and their various aesthetics aren’t so far apart this whole year so far, this is it.

Wednesday | August 8, 2018

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Aseethe, photo by Karlee Barr

Who: Yakuza, Aseethe, Oryx, Terminator 2
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Aseethe’s 2017 album Hopes of Failure is a great example of how one can create an immersive experience with heavy music if you’re willing to go beyond how that music has often been conceived in an earlier era. Not just doom or a subgenre of that subgenre, Aseethe’s music is now more like sound design in the form of songs to render an experience through sound and, live, through the visceral dynamics of how that sound is executed. It would be imprecise and wannabe inclusive to call it ambient. It’s not that. It’s not music that can be easily shuffled off into the background if you wish. Aseethe is in good company for this show with Chicago’s Yakuza, a band that has long been pushing the boundaries of heavy music and Denver’s Oryx and Terminator 2 who both don’t just make experimental metal but whose own songs expand what heavy music can be and the forms it can take when the dynamics aren’t essentially the same trying to fit into what doom or grind are “supposed” to sound like.

Who: Beach House w/Sound of Ceres
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: It could be argued that Beach House has been in something of a creative rut since 2012’s Bloom, or, less charitably, sine 2008’s Devotion. While it’s albums have been enjoyable and yielding worthwhile songs, and the live shows have been reliably moving, the songwriting was starting to get a little stale. With 2018’s 7, it’s like the band reinvented itself. Maybe with the help of producer Sonic Boom, former member of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, but this set of songs sounds like Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally recognized a need to break their own boundaries as the songs are far more experimental and adventurous than the duo has ever been. The band’s previous two albums were nice but Beach House is better than merely nice and has now proven it. Sound of Ceres is now based out of New York but the band is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado and its own dreamlike pop music shares the quality of intimate sound and mood and personal mythology that has made Beach House’s music so resonant for anyone with a rich inner life and imagination.

Who: Father John Misty with TV On the Radio
When: Tuesday, 08.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Love him, hate him or find him mundane, at least Father John Misty has some self-awareness of his own creative output. Joshua Tillman, Misty, recently released his new album God’s Favorite Customer and ditched the unifying concept approach to writing the album, which Tillman told Consequence of Sound in April 2018 was “pretentious.” You have to honor that level of frankness and honesty in an artist. Whatever intentionality went into God’s Favorite Customer, the record is a sonically and emotionally rich listen with collaborations with the likes of Haxan Cloak and Weyes Blood. That visionary art rock/downtempo/experimental R&B band TV On the Radio is on the bill too is more than just a bonus.

Best Shows in Denver 07/12/18 – 07/18/18

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Neurosis performs at The Ogden Theatre on Wednesday, July 18 with Converge and Birds in Row Photo by Scott Evans.

Thursday | July 12, 2018

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Bell Witch, photo by David Choe

Who: Yob, Bell Witch and Primitive Man
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Yob’s sludgy doom has always been accompanied with a healthy sense of play. Yes, the crushing heaviness of the band’s music is undeniable but so is the group’s obvious self-awareness. It’s latest record, 2018’s Our Raw Heart subverts doom conventions with almost buoyant melodies and dynamics and a layering of conventionally pretty sounds and gritty, deeply textured atmospherics. It’s only fitting that the trio is touring with fellow Pacific Northwesterners in the duo Bell Witch from Seattle. The latter has crafted majestic and minimalist soundscapes since its 2010 founding. With the tragic death of former drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra in 2016, bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond recruited Jesse Shreibman to continue with the project. The first album with Desmond and Shreibman, 2017’s Mirror Reaper, is both a continuation of the colossal sonics of the band’s first two albums but also a step further into a powerful and moving expression of grief and despair as well as an evocation of cosmic time and our place in it. Conceived of as a single track at over eighty minutes, Mirror Reaper may move slowly and employ repetitive dynamics but it never seems to overstay its welcome. Opening the show is Denver’s own juggernaut of death metal and doom, Primitive Man.

What: Musical Mayhem: Spyderland, Enji and Snaggletoothe
When: Thursday, 07.12, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Musical Mayhem had a home for quite some time at The Skylark Lounge. But now the night curated by Claudia Woodman is happening at Lion’s Lair. Spyderland is a weirdo music duo including Marie Litton of Pretty Mouth and Drew McClellan of Archipelaghost. Enji is TripLip bassist Kevin Schultz doing solo material that sounds like Hella doing music for an 8-bit video game. Snaggletoothe is a noisy, improvisational rock guitar and drum duo.

What: Glasss Presents The Speakeasy Series Season 2: Fringe Class and Dorian
When: Thursday, 07.12, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: How Portland, Oregon’s synth pop dance band Fringe Class is going to play at Hooked On Colfax is anyone’s guess. But paired with the more ambient Denver project Dorian maybe the group will do a more stripped down set than it will do in other rooms during its trip through Denver.

What: Lou Barlow
When: Thursday, 07.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Bruz Beers
Why: Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing a solo set at Bruz Beers? Given Barlow’s love of brilliantly unusual guitar styles like those of Joni Mitchell, it could be a chance to see something unlike anything you’ll see from Barlow in Denver again.

What: The Dandy Warhols w/Uni
When: Thursday, 07.12 and Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Dandy Warhols are still kicking along and remain one of the great live bands that came out of the alternative rock milieu that’s still around and not milking some nostalgia circuit. Normally the band plays much larger venues making this string of shows at Ophelia’s a rare chance to catch the band in an intimate environment.

Friday | July 13, 2018

 

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A$AP Ferg, photo by Jason Goodrich

What: A$AP Ferg w/IDK and Buddy
When: Friday, 07.13, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: For a guy that did visual art and fashion before doing music, realms in which he excelled, A$AP Ferg has done well for himself. While not a pioneer of trap, which had its roots in music that came out before he was born, Ferg nevertheless became one of the genre’s most skilled practitioners in the 2010s. Having the nerve to name his 2013 album Trap Lord, Ferg could at least back-up the bravado and embody the claim. What has kept the rapper interesting is the fact that there’s an unmistakable unusual quality to his beats and wordplay. Perhaps grittier than the work of his A$AP Mob cohort A$AP Rocky, Ferg nevertheless shares a sensibility that aims beyond genre and beyond hip-hop. Even when he engages in lyrics rife with hip-hop tropes, Ferg uses them as elements rendering them meta and more like musical elements than anything to be taken at face value. 2017’s Still Striving showcases the artist’s ever-evolving incorporation of musical elements that give his songs a layered dimensionality.

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Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, photo by John Gessner

What: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers w/Timmy The Teeth
When: Friday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook’s country songs of survival and struggle reflect her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian family that made the town elders in the movie Footloose seem open-minded by comparison. The video for “New Ways to Fail” (doesn’t the title tell a lot already) shows some everyday urban rebels skateboarding as Shook lays out immediately relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. But every song on the band’s 2018 album Years is, as Henry Rollins once said of early Black Flag records, a direct line to what the fuck it’s all about in America for anyone that can’t expect much out of a society and a culture built on getting us to neglect ourselves and each other on a rat race to nowhere. But there’s an inherent hope in Shook’s music because she’s out there touring and expressing so eloquently and understanding of the everyday lives of anyone that might come to catch one of the band’s shows.

What: Compost Heap Day 1
When: Friday, 07.13, 4 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: The first day of a festival that is to some extent a celebration of the more folk end of punk and bands within that general realm of music. Schedule for today: Real Lyin’ Rohr 4, Just Hanging Out (TX) 4:40, Violet Valentine 5:20, Fire Ant Season (TX) 6, Marissa 6:35, Paul Ski & The James Joyce Letters 7:15, Bird Teeth (WA) 7:55, Long Sought Rest (WA) 8:35, JSR 9:15, Whistlepig (AZ), Crow Cavalier 10:35

What: Quintron & Miss Pussycat w/Phallic Meditation
When: Friday, 07.13, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Quintron & Miss Pussycat from New Orleans somehow combine a high energy weirdo cabaret/psychedelic rockabilly show with a mind-altering puppet theater performance. Always entertaining and it will transport you outside your everyday life if you let it.

Saturday | July 14, 2018

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Rowboat circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Great American House Fire
When: Saturday, 07.14, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Ross Cherry Creek Library
Why: Someday more bands will figure out that the emotional rawness of emo, the diverse songwriting methodology of 2000s indie rock bands, Americana’s textures and warmth and soulful vocals are completely complementary elements for a band. But for now you can catch a group that excelled at that going back to the days of Denver’s Spokeshaver, from which Great American House Fire draws some of its membership. Now presented on a Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek branch of Denver Public Library,

Who: Rowboat, Wild Call and Grass
When: Saturday, 07.14, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Sam McNitt’s roots in folk music and literature probably account for some of the sophistication and poetic sensibility to his music. When he was writing music with his old space rock band Blue Million Miles he met the challenge of amplifying his expressive and emotionally taut vocals. Rowboat is more an expression of McNitt’s more sonically gentle work but the emotional colorings are still vibrant and complex. Wild Call is one of Denver’s best psychedelic rock bands because it’s gone beyond the whole psychedelic bandwagon of the past decade with grittier sounds and lyrics that tap into psychological spaces that can’t be reduced to a celebration of mind altering chemicals and partying. Grass is a noisy shoegaze band from Boulder whose 2016 album Dragwire is pleasantly reminiscent of Night Beats and the more dirty dream pop acts on the Siltbreeze label.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 2
When: Saturday, 07.14, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Schedule for day 2 of Compost Heap 3, a kind of folk punk festival (Sliver isn’t folk punk unless someone wishing they were Bad Brains is folk punk–the argument could be made) featuring artists from Colorado and far beyond: open mic 3, Murder Person For Hire (IL) 4, Sliver 4:40, Old Fox Road (IL) 5:20, Rascal Mikes (OR) 6, Chatterbox and the Latter Day Satanists 6:35, Hello Darkness 7:55, Human Behavior 8:35, Shooting Tsars (TX) 9:15, Fun Abuse (CA) 9:55, Suspicious Activity 10:35.

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Modern Leisure, photo courtesy Modern Leisure

Who: Modern Leisure album release w/Down Time and shark dreams 
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Indie pop band Modern Leisure is celebrating the release of its new album, Super Sad Rom-Com. As usual, Casey Banker’s songs are well crafted pop gems with lyrics that are self-deprecating but never maudlin. This time around Banker seems to have a chuckle at the excesses and absurdities of life in America now and navigating interpersonal hurdles while finding it all a bit wearisome. Banker’s employment of melancholic tones has always been good but with Super Sad Rom-Com he’s taken it to places he hasn’t before with his keen ear for emotional and tonal nuance. Also on the bill is Down Time who have quietly been one of the most interesting pop bands out of Denver since its inception two or three years ago combining the intimacy of folk, rock and an experimental streak born of needing to do things in your own way with available equipment and personnel like a drummer/bassist at one point. Not unlike a Young Marble Giants but one that could only have happened in the Twenty-First century.

Who: SPELLS (album release) w/Cheap Perfume, Future Perfect, People Corrupting People
When: Saturday, 07.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: SPELLS is putting out its odds and sods album Loose Change, Vol. 1 at this show. The band’s joke, and song, is “80% is Good Enough” and isn’t it really? Forget that oh so American overpromising, boastful nonsense that seems to be an angstrom of our president’s ego and narcissism. Trying too hard without adequate compensation makes chumps of everyone. At any rate, the Denver-based punk band is releasing the compilation through guitarist Chuck Coffey’s scrappy little label Snappy Little Numbers as well as Chicago imprint Anxious and Angry. On red vinyl. So get them while you can. The other bands on the bill are pretty alright too including Colorado Springs’ unabashedly fun feminist punk band Cheap Perfume. At this point having to say a band is feminist seems redundant and regressive because it’s a perspective that should be the part of the thinking and ethos of anyone in America in this century and if not, do some catching up. Maybe start slow and check out some bell hooks, Betty Friedan, Adrienne Rich, Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Inga Muscio. It could happen.

Sunday | July 15, 2018

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Jackie Cohen, photo by Anise Lew

Who: Jackie Cohen w/Jobless and Hillary Susz
When: Sunday, 07.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Jackie Cohen just put out her first proper music EP, 2018’s Tacoma Night Terror Part 1. If you’ve spent any time in Tacoma this might be a truthfully humorous exaggeration of a memory from time spent there. For a Colorado specific reference, big stretches of Tacoma are a lot like Commerce City and Thornton but even more worn out with blocks of dubious legitimacy. Cohen’s songs may have some connection to that vibe on some level. The recordings sound older like finding a well-listened to pop cassette from the 70s including the hiss. But none of these songs could really have come out back then. It’s the post-jaded self-discovery vibe that Cohen nails that makes the best Fleetwood Mac songs worth listening to after enduring repeated broadcast of those songs on the radio or friends who never had to experience that music the first time getting obsessed with entire too much music that came out of artists who were entirely too familiar with cocaine and quaaludes. Cohen’s performance isn’t jaded and that’s what makes the difference. She sounds like she’s been through it, man, but finds that dulled emotions don’t work for her and that life must go on even if you’re not over the pain of a bad experience in relationships and other disappointments in life. That you get to see Denver’s great folky, experimental indie rock trio Jobless is more than a bonus, it would be reason enough to go.

What: Compost Heap 3 Day 3
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 3 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the third and final day of Compost Heap. Less on the folk punk side this day with the likes of hip-hop artist Adam Selene, noise punks Plasma Canvas and hard rock band The Velveteers but the ethos is one shared between the artists. Today’s schedule (all times being p.m.): open mic 3, Patrick the Pirate 4, Adam Selene 4:40, Queen Ren Faire Dance Party (TX) 5:20, Davey Dynamite (IL) 6, Bert Olsen 7:15, Wayfairy 7:55, Ludlow 8:35, Dandelion Massacre (CA) 9:15, Plasma Canvas 9:55, The Velveteers 10:35

What: Final Show at The Climax Lounge
When: Sunrday, 07.15, 4 p.m.
Where: The Climax Lounge
Why: A Taste of Denver to most 80s punks, The Raven to punks in the 90s and in the 2000s mostly The Climax Lounge (its original name), this building at 2217 Welton Street was one of the most important venues for a real underground music world in Denver. It will be knocked down to build yet another shitty, cheaply built condo that downtown doesn’t need or maybe yet another brewery or some other Nü Denver crap that has become the inevitable for all the cool, historic buildings that made Denver a worthwhile and interesting place to live and make art and music for decades. It’s not the nail in the coffin by any means and it hasn’t been a terrible active music venue in years but for many it’s like seeing your favorite high school hangout get the axe. The bands playing on such short notice include the following: Sputnik Slovenia, Scooter James, The Narrow Down, Bourbon Brawlers, Dangerous Friends and National Blues Arsenal.

Monday | July 16, 2018

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Marisa Anderson, photo by Jason Quigley

Who: Marisa Anderson w/Howling Hex and Cuckoo
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Marisa Anderson’s masterful, expressive, guitarwork, on mostly instrumental songs, evokes moods, landscapes and memories in a way more vivid and emotionally immediate than many artists. One might consider her music in the realm of folk but in the more experimental vein of a John Fahey or Michael Hurley. Her 2018 album Cloud Corner finds Anderson sketching in different ways with her guitar, more impressionistic than solid, if intricate, lines. She shares the bill with Colorado-based Howling Hex whose music is a hypnotic, for lack of a better word, avant-garde Mariachi/norteño band led by Neil Michael Hagerty whose legacy of experimental guitar music includes his stints with influential bands like Pussy Galore and Royal Trux as well as noise super group Dan’l Boone. Cuckoo pretty much blurs the line between noise rock, punk and mathy-folk.

Who: Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/Shamir
When: Monday, 07.16, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Ruban Nielson probably could have enjoyed a respectable career in music in his home country playing in his Flying Nun-signed band The Mint Chicks. But New Zealand is a small place and Nielson relocated to Portland, Oregon as he and his brother Kody have dual citizenship with their mom having been a hula dancer from Hawaii. Their new band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, formed in 2010, had that quality of just off of standard guitar rock that seems to be the hallmark of all New Zealand Bands but it also introduced a kind of psychedelic flavor that wasn’t basically following what would become a popular musical trend in America and elsewhere. UMO had crafted its own flavor of transporting music that suggested a parallel dimension where pop music could reconcile atonality, unusual shifts in rhythm the likes of which one might expect out of one of the weirder prog bands like Can or Faust. UMO has done well enough and produced a solid body of work up to and including the 2018 album Sex & Food. Lead single “Hunnybee” with its yacht rock leanings probably confused some fans because it sounds a bit like an old Foxygen track but the whole album has plenty of UMO’s wonderful weirdness.

Wednesday | July 18, 2018

ChiefWhiteLightning_Jack-Grisham1
Chief White Lightning, photo by Jack Grisham

Who: Neurosis w/Converge and Birds in Row
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Neurosis evolved out of the San Francisco Bay area’s post-punk/hardcore scene and its earliest albums have more in common with the likes of English anarcho punk bands like Amebix and Crass than perhaps some of their hometown’s well-known punk luminaries. Yet by 1992 the group had garnered the interest of former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra who mixed that year’s Neurosis record, the decidedly more metal Souls at Zero. Neurosis has since then established itself firmly as a powerful live act whose records have pushed the boundaries of metal, hardcore and psychedelic music more than almost another other single band. Most of the truly interesting and innovative modern extreme metal bands can trace a strand of influence to Neurosis. Tourmates Converge were pioneering their own form of metal and hardcore crossover in Salem, Massachusetts. By 2001, the group had developed a particularly savage and precise form of posthardcore whose sound and aesthetic permeates a good deal of the extreme metal of today as well as any hardcore band that wants to taken seriously. Its live shows are legendarily intense and be prepared for the cascade of would-be stage divers and crowd surfers.

Who: Greg Hill presents the Zebra Skin Shirt release
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 7 p.m.
Where: Tattered Cover – Colfax location
Why: Former Six Months to Live and current Manotaur frontman Greg Hill will present the release of his latest novel, Zebra Skin Shirt, the third and final installment in the Stratford County trilogy all set in Colorado (including 2012’s East of Denver and 2015’s The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles). Hill’s gift for incorporating the supernatural and even science fiction concepts into deeply personal novels about people struggling with their personal shortcomings in life and in their relationships or attempts thereof are always incredibly engaging and entertaining brimming with Hill’s vivid descriptions, sense of humor and attention to detail whether that’s in recreating past Denver and Joes, Colorado locations or intricacies of plot. Zebra Skin Shirt may be Hill’s most unusual novel to date and his best. If you have to miss the release it’s easy to find the book online including at Amazon.

Who: Chief White Lightning w/Keef Duster
When: Wednesday, 07.18, 9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Josh Logan may be cultivating that look somewhere between Elvis, Zach Galifianakis and Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here, but seeing as he is a member of Austin stoner rock band Blind Pets, his music pleasantly flies in the face of the expectations one might have just looking at his stage persona. The band’s fuzzy, poppy punk and country mix shouldn’t work and the kitsch should render it difficult to take seriously but the group’s new self-titled album is impossible to dismiss as anything but a great rock and roll album with more diversity of sound and songwriting style than a lot of bands who have delved into modern rock and roll.