Best Shows in Denver 11/14/19 – 11/20/19

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No Swoon performs at Rhinoceropolis on Novembe 16

Thursday | November 14

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Church Fire, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Church Fire
When: Thursday, 11.14, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ross-Broadway Library
Why: Denver-based synth-noise-pop doom darlings Church Fire are playing this event sponsored by Titwrench as part of its Surfacing series highlighting female and LGBTQ underground and experimental artists. It’s after hours at the library in the Baker District and free.

What: Roller Disco 3
When: Thursday, 11.14, 9 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Where: Roller City

What: JP Harris w/Bison Bone, White Rose Motor Oil
When: Thursday, 11.14, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Friday | November 15

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Whipporwill, photo by Glenn Ross

What: Whipporwill w/Courtney Hartman
When: Friday, 11.15, 6 p.m.
Where: Washington’s (Fort Collins)
Why: Fort Collins based alternative folk band Whippoorwill distilled its past few years of experiencing the turmoil of the land and the culture into its new album The Nature of Storms. On its 2017 tour the band experienced tornadoes, floods, forest fires, blizzards and the destructive nature of the Trump presidency itself and the polarized social and political climate surrounding it. With the personal lives of its members in disarray as well the trio pulled together and crafted one of the most affecting releases of the year that exceeds expectations for terms like “alternative folk” as the band seems to be channeling the pain and agony of the times into songs that if not exactly exorcising those emotions, brings a compassionate energy to the proceedings. This show celebrates the release of that record and hopefully soon the band will play regional shows in support followed by a tour soon enough.

What: Entrancer LP release Downgrade, Lone Dancer, Techno Allah, Felix Fast4ward, DJ ilind
When: Friday, 11.15, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: It’s been a couple of years or since Denver-based analog synth/techno composer Entrancer has released an album but his latest release on Multidim Records, Downgrade, shows where deep house could go if it followed a more conceptual pathway with a spirit of playfulness.

What: Noise Vs. Doom IV
When: Friday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is the fourth edition of the Noise Vs. Doom event featuring bands that fall loosely into either category. Tonight’s lineup includes Denver noise legends Page 27, doom collective Ice Troll and avant-garde composer Victoria Lundy. Schedule below.

Clark Nova 6-615
Ice Troll 6:30 -6:50
minus X 7:00 – 7:20
Prayer Hands 7:30 -7:50
Haunted Sound Lab 8pm -8:20
Distance Research 8:30-9:00pm
9:15-9:45 Victoria Lundy
10-10:20 Page 27
10:30-11pm Deer Creek

DJ sets PterrorFranklin Soundsystem
(Frank Bell / James Jewkes )

What: Specific Ocean, Panther Martin, Amazing Adventures
When: Friday, 11.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: The Kinky Fingers, Serpentfoot, TOOMUCHBLOND and Funk Hunk
When: Friday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

What: Kiltro w/Spirettes and Turvy Organ
When: Friday, 11.15, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy

What: Pink Fuzz EP release w/21 Taras and Star Garbage
When: Friday, 11.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Silo Sound Recording Studio

Saturday | November 16

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Action Friend circa August 2006, photo by Tom Murphy

What: No Swoon, Kissing Party and Voight
When: Saturday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: No Swoon’s recently released self-titled full length is an example of how 2010s darkwave as evolved beyond the obvious classic reference points into the realm of sophisticated pop songcraft. Its vibrant tones and sense of sonic space is reminiscent of Chromatics but not tapping into feelings of nostalgia as much as a reflective yearning and introspection. Kissing Party is an indie pop band from Denver that has reliably been releasing quality material since the mid-2000s seeming to perpetually be able to draw on a sense of youthful romance and ideal love. Voight has been performing its brand of industrial post-punk noise-gaze since 2015 and is in the process of completing its new album due out in 2020.

What: GYES: Lady Gang, Preparation and Gothsta
When: Saturday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The final Get Your Ears Swoll at the People’s Building in Aurora featuring experimental loop and psychedelic folk artist/one-woman band Lady Gang and Gothsta who plays truly unusual covers in a playful style that lives up to the name. The latter is organizer Claudia Woodman who will rename the event for the same location on a different day of the month in 2020.

What: Hi-Dive 16th (and 7th) anniversary w/Wobbles, Rattlesnake Milk, Zebroids, George Cessna, Permanent Boner and DJ Marika
When: Saturday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Hard to believe the H-Dive has been around for sixteen years at this point but it remains a place to see some of Denver’s best underground bands and up and coming artists from around the world. This show brings together stalwarts of the club including Zebroids who are more an obnoxious collective of yobs than strictly a ridiculous but oddly good punk band and George Cessna whose sonically inventive songwriting blows expectations of the son of Slim Cessna in a great way.

What: Noise vs. Doom IV
When: Saturday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Second night of Noise Vs. Doom with performances from vinyl-collage sound processor Atari, ambient noise sculptor Blank Human and experimental noise rock prog punk band Action Friend from Los Angeles, formerly from Denver. This evening’s schedule below.

6pm-6:20 Jochanaan
6:30 -6:50 Mismo
7-7:30 Mautam
7:45 -8:05 Atari
8:15- 8:35 Flood Ov Blood
8:45 -8:55 – DJ Yeldarb Franklin
9-9:20 Clutch Plague
9:30-9:50 Voideater
10-10:20 Blank Human
10:30 -10:50 Cosmic Abyss
11pm Action Friend (Los Angeles CA)
DJ sets Mudwulf + Dj Zombie

What: DBUK
When: Saturday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Tuft Theater at Swallow Hill

Sunday | November 17

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Vetiver, photo by Alissa Anderson

What: Vetiver w/Joe Sampson
When: Saturday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Before it became very much a part of the current stream of “indie” music, Andy Cabic was crafting exquisite psych folk songs that incorporated electronic elements in a fully integrated way. His 2019 album Up On High is a fairly stripped down affair but the delicately intricate rhythms and textures with Cabic’s expressive vocals are still there creating an unconventionally atmospheric quality akin to something one might have heard on a Byrds or early Dead record. Maybe something Mitch Easter would have produced in the 80s. But the sensibility is very modern and its emotional immediacy is immediately compelling. Opening the show is Joe Sampson, one of Denver’s most gifted songwriters who some may remember from his days in A Dog Paloma but in the last decade plus he’s been woodshedding his own material while also having played in Bad Weather California.

What: An Evening With Bruce Cockburn
When: Saturday, 11.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Gort Vs. Goom, Toxi Wife, Trip Lip and Blacker Face (Chicago)
When: Saturday, 11.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair

Monday | November 18

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A$AP Ferg circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

What: A$AP Ferg and Ski Mask the Slump God w/Murda Beatz, MadeinTYO, Pouya, Danny Towers, DJ Scheme
When: Monday, 11.18, 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: A$AP Ferg is one of the most influential and creative artists in the world of trap and Ski Mask the Slump God is one of the great innovators in that genre but one who incorporates even more elements of punk and metal into his animated material and performances. Sometimes live rap shows are disappointing but this should very much be an exception.

Tuesday | November 19

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Nots circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Nots, Slugger and Dearborn
When: Tuesday, 11.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Nots is the noise punk band from Memphis, Tennessee that is currently touring in support of its new album 3 out on Goner Records. Guitarist and singer Natalie Hoffman was once the bass player of Ex-Cult where she stood out as a charismatic performer with wiry energy in a band not short on those qualities.

What: Wilco w/Tuomo and Markus
When: Tuesday, 11.19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom

Wednesday | November 20

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Helmet, photo by Jacob Blickenstaff, copyright earMUSIC

What: An Evening With Helmet
When: Wednesday, 11.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Helmet is the legendary noise rock/posthardcore band from New York whose 1992 album Meantime yielded a hit single “Unsung” during that period when anything a little different stood a chance of making it to the radio. The group’s blunt and angular riffs and aggressive groove has proven influential on a certain segment of heavy music since.

What: Slayer w/Ministry and Phil Anselmo and the Illegals
When: Wednesday, 11.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Broadmoor World Arena

Best Shows in Denver 9/19/19 – 9/25/19

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Jay Som performs at Larimer Lounge on September 24, 2019

Thursday | September 19

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Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, photo by Josh Ludlow

What: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets w/Meatbodies and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: The unlikely named Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Australia at least picked an apt moniker because it captures what you’re in for. Oh, sure, stoner rocked psychedelia thrown together with prog and fuzzy melodies and tripped out choruses. Its new album And Now For the Whatchamacallit has surreal song titles like “My Friend’s a Liquid,” “Digital Hunger,” “Hymn For A Droid” and “Keen For Kick Ons.” If Lewis Carroll had been born in the 90s and grew up at a time when the older kids in Tame Impala and Pond were kicking around in the local scene he might have ended up in a band like this.

What: Why? w/Barrie
When: Thursday, 09.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

What: Swim (Baltimore), Horse Girl, Eamonn Wilcox and Cop Circles
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

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Cuco, photo courtesy the artist

What: Cuco w/Ambar Lucid and KAINA
When: Thursday, 09.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: At twenty-one Omar Banos aka Cuco is a bonafide pop star who came up on Chicano rap stars like Baby Bash and MC Magic. Like the latter he also sings and raps in English and Spanish. Banos has also folded into his soundscapes a laid back kind of psychedelic pop sound. While his songwriting and the production thereon is strong and evocative, his music videos and storytelling shows a side of life that is honest, surprisingly candid and often uncomfortable but real and therein lies the power of the presentation of his music. “Bossa No Sé” from his debut album Para Mi (2019) navigates the troubled waters of a breakup with sensitivity, complexity and comfort with uncertainty and confusion. Cuco’s balance of the romantic and the realistic has been fascinating so far.

What: GEL SET (L.A.), Natural Violence, DJ Noah Anthony, DJ Rewd and guest
When: Thursday, 09.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar

Friday | September 20

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Melvins, photo by Chris Mortenson

What: The Melvins w/Redd Kross and Toshi Kasai
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Melvins have done pretty much whatever they’ve wanted to that was fun for them music-wise since beginning in 1983. Before grunge was a thing, Melvins had already perfected that sound and aesthetic as well as a certain strain of doom. Most left field heavy music today can probably trace a bit of influence to the band originally from Montesano, Washington. The group’s prolific catalog covers a good deal of sonic territory and the band has collaborated with the likes of industrial music pioneer Lustmord, Jello Biafra and, recently, with Swedish noise-punk stars Shitkid (who are performing select dates on the current tour) on the Bangers EP. The group has experimented with the format of its lineup such as when the members of Big Business joined for two drummers and a bassist. And now with two bassists and a single drummer. Or as Melvins Lite with Mr. Bungle (among other projects) member Trevor Dunn on bass. Melvins might also be the only American band to have played all fifty states in fifty days. You never quite know what you’re in store for with a Melvins show except that it’ll be worth your time unless heavy, imaginative music and powerful performances thereof aren’t your thing. Melvins bassist Steven McDonald is doing double duty this tour with his original band, the influential punk/power pop group Redd Kross.

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Boris, photo courtesy the artists

What: Boris w/Uniform
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Japanese heavy, experimental psych and drone extravaganza, Boris, is currently touring in support of its 2019 album LφVE & EvφL due out October 4. If you’re going expecting their mind-altering psychedelic freakouts, rumor has it you may be let down. But if you are into the slow roiling drone the band has engaged in in the past but updated and more like a psych SunnO))) this would be the tour to catch. Opening the show is industrial noise band Uniform which is comprised of former members of The Men and Drunkdriver.

What: Brian Wilson (Al Jardine & Blondie Chaplin featuring selections from Friends, Surf’s Up and the hits) w/The Zombies
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre

What: Eventually It Will Kill You showcase 2nd anniversary: TWINS (ATL), Golden Donna (PDX), Lone Dancer Peer Review b2b E.I.W.K.Y., you already know
When: Friday, 09.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: The anniversary party for Denver electronic music and darkwave imprint Eventually It Will Kill You.

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Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

What: 30 Years of Work: VAHCO 1989-2019 Physical release w/Dead Characters, Chromadrift, nIGHTtIMEsCHOOLbUS, Bowshock and Demoncassettecult
When: Friday, 09.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Vahco Before Horses aka Vahco Strickland has spent the last thirty years involved in producing, promoting and writing music in various formats and styles. This show celebrates his career retrospective and the release of the flash drive containing one hundred of his songs. The performances will include collaborations with various members of bands affiliated with his Glasss Records imprint as well as a showcase for his more electronic pop songs and his industrial ambient collage songwriting as Demoncassettecult.

Saturday | September 21

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Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Zealot album release w/Simulators and The Vanilla Milkshakes
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Zealot is releasing its debut album The Book of Ramifications. But what this debut album doesn’t make obvious are the musical roots of the group in Denver underground rock. Does that matter? It does if you know who The Don’ts and Be Carefuls, Supply Boy, Façade and Ideal Fathers were. Or The Outfit, The Pseudo Dates, Violent Summer or Fingers of the Sun were. Much less Catatonic Lydia or Le Divorce. All of that goes into informing the upbeat, well-crafted pop songs that comprise the band’s new album and the sizzling, wiry energy of its performances. There is a tick toward the positive running through the record. Rather than a “city of the dead” there’s “City of the Living.” Instead of irrevocable mistakes there’s “Fix it in Post.” Rather than a dark horse there’s a “Show Pony.” Instead of a broken heart there’s “Overloud Heart.” You get “Somnambulist” instead of insomnia. “Black Paint” rather than institutional yellow. A “Snake Goddess” rather than the insecure dictator Yaweh. “Casio Argento” in place of Dario or Asia. And more. It’s an upbeat record with some tight melodies and a charming economy of songwriting. The Simulators will bring the angular menace of its music and Vanilla Milkshakes will deliver earnest, blustery pop punk as companion to Zealot’s fastidious songcraft. Oh yes, there’s also a companion covers album called Revised Edition featuring renditions of all the songs on the new record as done by the band’s local scene peers as well as a solo cover done by the band’s bassist Suzi Allegra. All of which is a gesture not many bands would bother to attempt to release concurrent with a new album.

What: Das Ich w/Velvet Acid Christ, Oberer Todpunkt, DJ Katastrophy
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway

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Anna Morsett of The Still Tide, photo by Anthony Isaac

What: Charlie Cunningham w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Still Tide’s Anna Morsett has played in Colorado musical projects as varied as Ark Life, Porlolo and These United States as well as with Natalie Tate and Brent Cowles. But perhaps where she shines brightest is in her own band The Still Tide. Her guitar work is both ethereal and fiery, her ear for dynamics and tone keen and imaginative. Morsett’s songwriting is both intimate yet expansive, introspective and yearning, reconciling contrasts with a broad emotional palette. And she’s opening for noteworthy UK singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham whose 2017 album lines included the deeply evocative single “Minimum” and its entrancing atmospheres.

What: Wovenhand w/Jaye Jayle
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Evan Patterson is rightfully known for his heavier music with Young Widows and Breather Resist. But his Jaye Jayle project is taking him in a different direction with a pastoral songwriting style that serves well the contemplative storytelling of the music he initially wrote as a solo project rather than something that needed to fit into the format of a full, loud band. These days he has partners in realizing the musical vision and the results is a kind of haunted Americana. Which makes it an ideal pairing with Americana infused post-punk/noise rock band Wovenhand from Denver. Wovenhand started out as very much in the post-Sixteen Horsepower vein continuing what singer and main songwriter David Eugene Edwards had been developing since the late 80s. But in the past decade the music has become more sonically intense (it was always emotionally so) and incorporating a broader range of dynamics and sounds so that early fans may even find it, except for Edwards’ undeniable spiritual presence, unrecognizable.

What: Bison Bone, Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Greg Laswell w/Sarah Slaton
When: Saturday, 09.21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Greg’s warmth and humanity expressed in clever and insightful turns of phrase has made him a national treasure of a songwriter.

What: Future Days: Can Tribute
When: Saturday, 09.21, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café

What: Mdou Moctar w/Pale Sun
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Mdou Moctar might be the most internationally renowned guitarist and songwriter out of Niger in the modern era and his electric adaptations of Tuareg guitar music has made him a favorite among discerning music fans who are open to such fusions of musical ideas, rhythms and sounds. To the uninitiated he may sound like an exotic prog artist but his music is deep and sophisticated. He is again touring in support of his 2019 album Ilana (The Creator).

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 1: 1476, Only Echos, Postnihilist, Causer, Kid Mask, Videodrome, GACK, DOX, Didaktikos, Tuck Knee and secret guests 
When: Saturday, 09.21, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Rarely do anniversaries happen on a numerically specific date related to a venue or an endeavor of any kind of this all day all evening marathon of music across two dates celebrates the continued success of Denver’s DIY venue Seventh Circle Music Collective.

What: Speedealer w/Barstool Messiah and Valiomierda
When: Saturday, 09.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets Denver

Sunday | September 22

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Surf Curse, photo by Julien Sage

What: Surf Curse w/Dirt Buyer
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Surf Curse is a duo from Los Angeles whose name may convey the impression it’s one of those surf rock/garage psych bands that have plagued the musical landscape for around a decade. And to some extent that’s exactly what these guys are. Except there’s something raw about their songwriting and performances and their music videos, whoever is directly involved in their scripting and design, speak to an uncommon creative imagination and as though the people in the band had in mind films that their songs might suit. Pick any of the videos and you’ll find something that’s a cut above most videos most bands are making these days. The band’s new album, Heaven Surrounds You, was released on September 13 on Danger Collective. For a duo Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck manage to have a full sound yet spare songwriting so they’re doing something right.

What: Seventh Circle 7 year anniversary night 2,: JSR (Alex from this band named Seventh Circle), Sliver, Arctobog, Curtis T and the Duffel Bag Boys, Caustic Soda, The Slacks, Unit-Y, Pinetree Janitorial Service, American Psychonaut, Astral Planes, Hellspoon and Activate Boner and secret guest
When: Sunday, 09.22, 12:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Second day of Seventh Circle Music Collective’s seven year anniversary going from early afternoon until midnight.

What: Pop Will Eat Itself w/Chemlab and Scifidelic w/DJ Dave Vendetta
When: Sunday, 09.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Pop Will Eat Itself is a genre bending band that dispensed with the usual stylistic boundaries between grebo, sleaze rock and industrial dance music akin to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Chemlab was one of the bands that helped define the sound and aesthetic of industrial rock in the 90s fusing old school industrial with hard rock.

Monday | September 23

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Acid King, photo courtesy the artists

What: Acid King w/Wizard Rifle and Warish
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: MarquisTheater
Why: Acid King is on tour in support of the twentieth anniversary of its classic psych doom album Busse Woods. The group began in the early 90s when its sound was very much not in vogue but two decades later its heavy, experimental psych metal, not fully duplicated by other artists, has made it a cult band among connoisseurs of that realm of music.

What: God is an Astronaut w/Spiral Cell and Brother Saturn
When: Monday, 09.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater

Tuesday | September 24

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Boy Scouts, photo by Ulysses Ortega

What: Jay Som w/Boy Scouts and Affectionately
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jay Som’s hazy pop songs have a personal emotional insight and sophistication of songcraft that can be easy to miss when you’re lost in the moment with her. Her new album Anak Ko blurs the lines between noisy shoegaze, indie pop and the 70s Laurel Canyon sound. Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts has written one of the most affecting, vivid and cathartic set of songs about loss and healing from sorrow and setbacks of the past few years for the new Boy Scouts album Free Company. Her unconventional melodies and song dynamics give her compositions a depth and complexity that reward repeatedly exploring her catalog.

What: Like A Villain, Harms, Earth Control Pill and Debaser
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Like A Villain is sort of an industrial ambient act whose dark and heavily textured atmospheres explore the personal and collective psyche in operatic vocals and processed loops. The new album What Makes Vulnerability Good, released on September 20, 2019, makes exquisite use of space in tone and rhythm that it engulfs you gently before you realize it.

Wednesday | September 25

Photo: Dara Munnis. @daramunnis
Tash Sultana, photo by Dara Munnis (@daramunnis)

What: Tash Sultana w/The Tesky Brothers
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Tash Sultana is a guitar prodigy whose psychedelic rock, blues and folk songs created with her expert ability to play multiple part at once and along with loops is impressive on its own but the energy and enthusiasm with which she plays is infectious. As a multi-instrumentalist, Sultana crafts her songs real time in an almost orchestral manner as an orchestra of one. Difficult to pigeonhole a genre for Sultana as her songwriting style is unique but might be compared to an artist like Tune Yards.

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Russian Circles, photo courtesy the artists

What: Russian Circles w/Facs
When: Tuesday, 09.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Russian Circles is an instrumental metal band from Chicago but it’s songs are more akin to post-rock in their use of mood and nuanced dynamic builds from spare tonal echoes to roilingly triumphant riffs that burst and rain down like ash following a volcanic eruption or like a dam bursting releasing a torrent of sonic water and debris. Its 2019 album Blood Year finds the band evoking ancient civilizations (“Kohokia”) and primal mythological imagery (“Hunter Moon” and “Ghost on High”). Opening the show is Chicago’s Facs. The latter is making the kind of post-rock that is more like some of the most experimental post-punk going now. Guitarist and vocalist Brian Case was once a member of weirdo math rock band 90 Day Men and experimental rock band Disappears. With Facs he and the rest of the band are pushing the creative envelope with song structure, texture and dynamics. That group’s 2019 EP Lifelike has a secure place on our year end best list for its chilling, cinematic soundscapes and gritty, stark, moody songwriting.

Best Shows in Denver 7/11/19 – 7/17/19

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Laraaji, performs at Rhinoceropolis on July 12. Photo by Greg C Photography (www.gregcphotography.com)

Thursday | July 11

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Deerhunter circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Deerhunter w/Moon Diagrams
When: Thursday, 07.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Deerhunter’s main contribution to modern rock music is fusing a garage punk energy and sensibility with a knack for otherworldly melodies and a gift for soundscaping straight from the realm of dreams. Oh, and a genuinely emotional intensity that comes from a deep place of alienation and, paradoxically, yearning for connection. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is the group’s 2019 album and a commentary on the seemingly broken world (politically, economically, socially, culturally) we find ourselves in at the moment.

Friday | July 12

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Versing, photo by Gordon De Los Santos

What: Froth w/Versing and Shark Dreams
When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Versing’s 2019 record on Sub Pop 10000 is a pointed take on an unwillingness to commit to being on the right side of history at a time when the twin forces of oligarchy and fascism are on the rise and infiltrating and coming to political ascendancy worldwide. Its angular dynamics surge forth with great momentum while remaining tunefully melodic. Froth is a fuzzy psychedelic band whose vocals seem more soulful than bratty and that makes all the difference.

What: The Blasters, Supersuckers and Wayne The Train Hancock and MC Clownvis Presley
When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: The Blasters are legends of southern California rock whose mix of Americana, rockabilly, R&B and blues effected with impressive musical chops and raw passion made the group respected in circles much wider than the image of a blues rock band might now. Supersuckers moved from from Tucson, Arizona to Seattle in 1989, a year after forming, and became immersed in the then burgeoning alternative rock world but like other significant bands of the era like Love Battery and Gas Huffer never really got big but put on lively performances and produced good records. Not really grunge so much as garage rock and in the past couple of decades they’ve been known to do some more country-oriented shows. Seeing as they’re sharing the bill with The Blasters that is a distinct possibility.

What: Hi-Dive Hug Down: Panther Martin, Super Bummer, Jobless, Night Champ
When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Group Hug is putting out albums by some of Denver’s best lo-fi indie rock bands and this is a showcase for some of the best of the lot. None of them are much alike and all experimented with a more popular style earlier in their lives as bands but are now making truly interesting music.

What: Patriarchy in Retrograde at Mercury Café: R A R E B Y R D $, Lady of Sorrows, Bonnie Weimer
When: Friday, 07.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Celebrating the inevitable end of the patriarchy you can catch some of Denver’s most innovative female musicians including transcendental hip-hop group R A R E B Y R D $, operatic, beat-driven darkwave ambient artist Lady of Sorrows and the avant-folk of Bonnie Weimer.

Saturday | July 13

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FELIX FAST4WARD, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Laraaji performs “Vision Songs” w/Free Music, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Goo Age and Fragrant Blossom
When: Saturday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Multi-instrumentalist ambient and drone legend, and Eno collaborator, Laraaji makes a rare Denver appearance to perform from his vocal material “Vision Songs.” Laraaji fuses performance, composition and spiritual practice and does workshops on “Laughter Meditation” throughout the world. Read our interview with Laraaji here.

What: Esmé Patterson w/FELIX FAST4WARD
When: Saturday, 07.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: Esmé Patterson may have made her name as a songwriter in the more Americana vein with her old band Paper Bird. But as a solo artist she has pushed herself in increasingly interesting directions both sonically and creatively. And as a performer, for that matter, all while making poignant social and personal commentary. She is headlining but also on the bill is FELIX FAST4WARD who is one of Denver’s most gifted and imaginative electronic music composers and producers in various realms including dance, hip-hop and ambient.

What: Extra Gold, Bison Bone, Claire Heywood
When: Saturday, 07.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A legitimate country show with a few of the Mile High City’s finest including the folksy/Merle Haggard-esque Extra Gold, Bison Bone and its eclectic yet singular blend of psych, country and pop and Claire Heywood’s smoky, grittily soulful country torch songs.

Sunday | July 14

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Don Felder, photo by Michael Helms

What: Don Felder
When: Sunday, 07.14, 5:30 p.m. gates, 7:30 p.m. show
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Don Felder is perhaps best known as the iconic guitarist for the Eagles during one of the most interesting, musically speaking, points in the band’s career. Sure, you may have heard “Hotel California,” the title track of the group’s 1976 album, who can say how many times but those distinctive lead guitar parts were written by Felder and his guitar interplay with Joe Walsh and Glenn Frey helped to define a certain sound of the 70s in southern California. While still in the band he wrote some songs that appeared on the soundtrack to Heavy Metal including “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)” and “All Of You” lending the soundtrack some brooding darkness and beautifully decadent guitar work. Felder’s guitar style fit in with the country rock thing with the Eagles but what made it stand out was his knack for interesting dynamics and atmosphere even when he writes something more straight ahead rock and roll. His 2019 album American Rock ‘n’ Roll is a tribute to the music that is the title.

Monday | July 15

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Michael Mcdonald, photo by Timothy White

What: Have a Nice Life w/Consumer, Street Sects and Midwife
When: Monday, 07.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Industrial drone, post-punk ambient or whatever one calls Have a Nice Life’s starkly brooding body of work, its dark compositions have proven influential on a generation of bands that have come along since its inception. Also on the bill is confrontational industrial/darkwave band Street Sects and ambient folk soundscaper extraordinaire Midwife.

What: An Evening With Michael McDonald
When: Monday, 07.15, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Chautauqua Auditorium
Why: Michael McDonald’s smooth and soulful vocals have been a part of American rock and pop music for over four decades now. Whether as a singer in Steely Dan (both live and in studio), The Doobie Brothers, as a solo artist and in his numerous collaborations including with the likes of modern hip-hop/jazz genius Thundercat, McDonald brings a deep musicality and keen ear for melody that transcends genre. He will be performing a series of shows in Colorado that we will include on our Best Shows list up to and including his show at the Denver Botanic Gardens on Thursday, July 20.

What: Headboggle, Malocculsion, Page 27, Blank Human
When: Monday, 07.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Noise shows are a rarity in Denver these days when once you could find them on the regular when it was more possible for artists to have a warehouse to make this kind of thing or where impromptu venues were more open to hosting this stuff forbidding to more mundane sonic sensibilities. This show includes ambient/noise scaper Blank Human and the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27 in its first show since the departure of long time member Michael Nowak.

Tuesday | July 16

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Author & Punisher, photo courtesy Relapse Records

What: Treasure Mammal (AZ), EVP, Chromadrift, Techno Allah
When: Tuesday, 07.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: An ambient and industrial pop kind of show.

What: Imperial Teen
When: Tuesday, 07.16, 6 p.m.
Where: Twist & Shout
Why: Imperial Teen includes current and former members of Faith No More, Sister Double Happiness and The Wrecks. Their left field pop got a boost when “Yoo Hoo” appeared in the 1999 film Jawbreaker. Though the band’s excellent 1996 album, produced by Steve McDonald of Red Kross, garnered no small amount of critical acclaim it was oft found in bargain bins at music stores. The group’s playful songs and interesting and illuminatingly personal takes on controversial themes has set the foursome apart from many of its late era alternative rock/pop peers. In 2019 the group released its latest album Now We Are Timeless. Since Jone Stebbins lives in Denver now, Imperial Teen is in some ways a local band.

What: 3TEETH w/Author and Punisher and GosT
When: Tuesday, 07.16, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: 3TEETH is one of the better newer industrial rock bands. But the reason to go to this show is to witness Author and Punisher who creates his own instruments and whose cybernetic appearance is no mere affectation as it incorporates controllers of various types that can be executed by a single person. The project’s music is industrial but more raw and experimental than most music calling itself that these days.

Wednesday | July 17

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The Beths, photo by Mason Fairey

What: The Beths and Girl Friday
When: Wednesday, 07.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Beths from Auckland, New Zealand started in 2015 and absorbed some of that worldwide retro-90s fuzz rock vibe of the time. But since the trio is from New Zealand it always manifests differently and its melodies go down unconventional paths and the progressions resolve in fascinatingly unpredictable ways. Plus Elizabeth Stokes’ vocals are bright and strong and not couched in manifesting angst so obviously. The group did title its 2018 album Future Me Hates Me tells you that you’re in for something more interesting than “summer time good time music” and yet the group’s music is upbeat and hopeful.

What: Michael McDonald
When: Wednesday, 07.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
Why: See above for 7/15 for Michael McDonald.

What: Dinner Time (GA), Sliver, Gila Teen and Moving Still
When: Wednesday, 07.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: Atlanta’s Dinner Time is a low-fi indie pop band with some raw and ragged edges to its songwriting so that it can sound a little bratty and snotty like a punk band you’d actually want to listen to. Also on the bill are ex-nü metal wavers Sliver whose covers of 90s Bush songs, at least in essence, are almost as good as the real thing. Somehow Moving Still invited Sliver’s singer to perform with them because they’re good people and taking Chris Mercer under their wing and cultivate the guy’s tastes until he realizes that Nirvana was not influenced by Gavin Rossdale. It’s an uphill battle. Gila Teen is a post-punk/pop death rock band from Denver and one of the Mile High City’s greatest duos whose emotionally vibrant sad songs chase the blues away.

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Hippo Campus, photo by Pooneh Ghana

What: The Head and the Heart w/Hippo Campus
When: Wednesday and Thursday, 07.17 and 07.18, 8 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Hippo Campus from St. Paul, MN are technically an indie rock band but its beat-making and pop songcraft is more akin to R&B and hip-hop with a focus on mood and atmosphere. Its diverse and imaginative songwriting manifested brilliantly on its 2018 album Bambi and in 2019 the group released a cadre of songs in two volumes called Demos I and Demos II. The song experiments on both show how the band got from the promising songwriting of the 2017 album Landmark to the sophistication of craft heard on Bambi. At the top of the bill for this show is indie folk band The Head and the Heart. Maybe “indie folk” doesn’t apply so much anymore as the band has expanded its sounds and songwriting style in all directions. Its 2019 album Living Mirage finds the band truly utilizing space in its songwriting in a way that allows for the expansive feelings inherent to its specific musical style to stretch out and resolve organically. Which is interesting to see in the music of a band that has reached its level of relative commercial success when there can be pressure for efficiency in delivering satisfying musical hooks. This line-up plays both Wednesday July 17 and Thursday July 18 at Red Rocks.

Best Shows in Denver 2/21/19

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Serengeti performs at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on February 26

Thursday | February 21, 2019

Who: Tokyo Rodeo w/The Born Readies, The Vashon Seed and Landgrabbers
When: Thursday, 02.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: There’s a not insignificant segment of Denver underground music consisting of bands that play all the dive bars and small clubs, garnering an audience but playing music that isn’t being championed much by the local press. But solid bands with good energy and presence and songwriting chops. Some of it straight ahead, bluesy, or southern fried, rock, some of it with a leg in other styles of music but always respectable. In recent years some of these bands included Cutthroat Drifters, The Patient Zeroes and, of course, Tokyo Rodeo. Meaningful storytelling, unexpectedly interesting moods mixed in with layered dynamics and nuanced rhythms that a straight-ahead rock band eschews in favor of run-of-the-mill rocking. There’s more depth to Tokyo Rodeo than all of that and while probably not for everyone that might read this site for the weird music, absolutely worthwhile.

Who: The Gones, Calamity Champs and Sunrise Drive
When: Thursday, 02.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Matt Sumner and Kelly Prestridge are the rhythm section of weirdo art pop band The Inactivists. Sure, plenty of humor there, but also a lot of respectable musical talent. The Gones are their power pop band. Because of who they are along with songwriter and guitarist Jef Krauth there is a sense of humor informing the music but really just a great pop band with some punk energy driving it.

Friday | February 22, 2019

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Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Bison Bone album release w/The River Arkansas and Jess Parsons
When: Friday, 02.22, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bison Bone is releasing Take Up The Trouble tonight. The Denver-based Americana band has always written sonically diverse story songs with a literary flair. The new set of recordings seems less dusky than previous offerings but ineffably more direct and confident. Live, like a great honky tonk band that hasn’t devolved into self-parody.

What: Lifeforce 35mm
When: Friday, 02.22, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Sie Film Center
Why: This concludes The Scream Screen series celebrating the films of Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Lifeforce is his 1985 homage to Hammer horror films in the science fiction disaster fame with the antagonists in the form of three naked vampires from space. Which sounds more lurid and corny than this dark and unusual movie happens to be.

Who: The Bellrays w/The Atom Age and Hot Apostles
When: Friday, 02.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The BellRays are what a lot of bluesy garage rock bands want to be. From Riverside, California, sounding like they hung out with the MC5 in the late 60s. Fronted by the charismatic Lisa Kekaula since the early 90s, The Bellrays are one of the greatest American rock and roll bands right now.

Who: How to Think, Full Bleed, I’m a Boy
When: Friday, 02.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The People’s Building
Why: The latest in the Get Your Ears Swoll series at The People’s Building in Aurora. I’m A Boy is one of the most underappreciated, yet best, most dynamic live rock bands out of Denver. Part glam, part power pop, the group includes former and current members of 40th Day and Gata Negra. How to Think claims to be an experimental rock band and it is but its soundsculpting on various songs is like if a funk band abstracted that a whole lot and made use of loops and a sampling aesthetic. Other times How to Think is an unadulterated yet unusual, noisy rock band the likes we saw more of in the heyday of alternative rock before that whole thing got reduced to a limited genre.

Saturday | February 23, 2019

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It’s Just Bugs, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Plastic Daggers EP release w/Its Just Bugs, FATHERS
When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Kind of a Sailor Records showcase but this time in celebration of the release of Plastic Daggers’ latest EP Stitches. Somewhere between punk and bluesy garage rock, Plastic Daggers are appropriately named with their fuzzy riffs honed to a fine edge propelled by a nearly mechanistic drive. Its Just Bugs blends hip-hop, metal, punk and noise for a sound and presentation that seems coherent and of a while despite its eclectic sonic palette. FATHERS is a post-hardcore band for fans of the likes of Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan.

Who: American Standards, Kenaima, Tuck Knee, Didaktikos
When: Saturday, 02.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: This is a hardcore show featuring some of Denver’s best younger bands in that vein of music. Catch them early on in their development before they have it figured out.

Who: Rat Bites (last show), Grave Moss (last show), Moon Pussy and Dead Characters
When: Saturday, 02.23, 9 p.m.
Where: Carioca Café
Why: Noise rock band Grave Moss has the vibe of an early death rock band but the exorcistic quality of some 80s and/or early 90s performance art like something Diamanda Galas or Karen Finley might have done. Unfortunately, the band is calling it quits after this show. And so is Rat Bites, a group that might have fit in best during the heyday of 31G Records where its unconventional punk wouldn’t have seemed as out of step with where punk went boring. Moon Pussy is similarly-minded and its use of truly inventive guitar treatments built from the onboard electronics out alongside cathartic vocals and rhythms that operate at odd angles against rock orthodoxy makes it one of the most interesting bands in Denver or anywhere now. For fans of Daughters and Parts & Labor.

Sunday | February 24, 2019

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Bryce Vine, photo by Frank Maddocks

Who: Bryce Vine w/Travis Thompson and 7715
When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Bryce Vine is not yet widely known but that’s likely to change with the spring 2019 release of his debut full-length Carnival on Warner Brothers. His deftly executed raps combine aspirational fantasizing (while making it seem attainable if not already inevitable) and introspective speculation. His coolly confident vocals seem to transfer that quality to the listener. With beats that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-crated, electronic indie pop song, Bryce’s music has a cross-genre appeal with undeniable swagger and elegance.

Monday | February 25, 2019

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Talos, photo by Niall O’Brien

Who: Talos with Aurora
When: Sunday, 02.24, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Talos, aka Eoin French, recently released his second album Far Out Dust on February 8, 2019. It’s emotionally soaring, richly melodic synth pop. French is skilled at putting together tiny details in a song like he’s live composing an impressionistic film that evolves into something with greater density of detail and color as it progresses on its timeline. His vocal range lends his songs an unconventional range of sonic texture with interesting upper register intonation. Fans of Perfume Genius will find much to like with Talos and his articulation of yearning without desperation.

Who: Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus
When: Monday, 02.25, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Peter Murphy and David J were two of the four founders of influential art rock/post-punk band Bauhaus. For this tour the two musicians will perform selections from the band’s iconic albums in celebration of the forty years of the group’s founding. Though inspired by glam rock, punk and dub, Bauhaus was also steeped in the avant-garde in film, music, literature and theater. It gave their performances a ritualistic quality that its members took to their projects after Bauhaus initially split up in 1983 (with reunions in 1998 and a brief return from 2005 through 2008). With Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins having toured in 2017 playing Tones On Tail songs as Poptones, maybe we’ll get to see a Love and Rockets tour for Hot Trip To Heaven (as the band never toured for that record, one of its best) or even a full-fledged Bauhaus reunion. Until that now remote possibility this is as close as you’re going to get to seeing these songs get their proper delivery.

Tuesday | February 26, 2019

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Frankie And The Witch Hands, photo by David Evanko

Who: Serengeti w/French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: David Cohn aka Serengeti is a prolific musical and artistic chameleon. He often adopts a persona that shapes the aesthetic of a musical project so that when he performs those songs you’ll get a truly idiosyncratic show. Whether that’s as Kenny Dennis or his numerous collaborations with other notable underground/alternative hip-hop artists like Why?, Jel & Odd Nosdam, Sufjan Stevens Sicker Man, Cohn’s imagination and creative vision brings a focus to the project that would be difficult to duplicate or imitate. Opening the show is synth pop/performance art superstar French Kettle Station and R A R E B Y R D $, Denver’s premiere ambient gangsta rap/abstract dub mystic trio. Maybe the only one but an act not to miss on any bill.

Who: Peter Murphy with David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: See above for 2.25 entry on Peter Murphy and David J: 40 Years of Bauhaus.

Who: Bob Mould Band w/The Trujillo Company
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: For those not in the know, Bob Mould was the pioneering guitarist for Hüsker Dü, a band that operated between the late 70s through the late 80s and one that often played and toured in the punk underground of its hometown of Minneapolis and far beyond. But it never fully fit in with the hardcore scene because its sonics were too weird and its knack for beautiful melodies amidst sometimes abrasive music too much like pop. Hüsker Dü was making a music for the future and exerted a massive influence on all guitar music of the alternative rock era by the early 90s. Mould would start a new band called Sugar as well as launch a solo career immediately after the 1987 dissolution of Hüsker Dü and has navigated a respectable musical career since. Mould still plays with the drive and passion that informed any of his previous projects and his 2019 album on Merge, Sunshine Rock, could be a safely personal record, and it’s not short on that, but Mould injects some of the sharp social and political critique that made Hüsker so interesting but poetically taking on modern concerns with an ear for nuance.

Who: Frankie and the Witch Fingers w/Lot Lizard and Eye and the Arrow
When: Tuesday, 02.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Frankie and the Witch Fingers sound like they absorbed a ton of early garage and surf rock and the Nuggets compilation then realized they couldn’t simply regurgitate and mime it in the 2000s after so many other bands had done that so well since the 60s. Their music isn’t that fast, silly riffing and then primal scream formula that “worked” for too many bands in the 2010s. Rather, as evidenced on the group’s excellent full-length ZAM, Frankie and the Witch Fingers brought the elegant and intricate leads and the imagination to its songs. They have songs called “Dracula Drug,” “Dark Sorcerer” and “Head Collector” so clearly an offbeat sense of humor and appreciation for kitsch is part of the group’s musical DNA. Yet, the band never comes off as gimmicky or silly. Direct support is post-punk band Lot Lizard from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (read our interview with bassist Patrick Nelson here) whose own ghostly garage psych underpinnings fit in well with this bill.

Wednesday | February 27, 2019

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Thumpasaurus, photo by Cody Choice

Who: Thumpasaurus w/Boogie Mammoth and Denver Jamtronica
When: Wednesday, 02.26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Sure, Thumpasaurus drummer/producer is Henry Was, son of Don Was. But pedigree is not necessarily and indication of one’s artistic talent. But Thumpasaurus, on the surface a wildly eclectic, weirdo funk band and one informed by a bizarre creative vision that incorporates meme culture (see their video for “You Are So Pretty”), outfits that look like someone borrowed liberally from designers who were told to make clothes for an adult contemporary punk band inspired by a peak EDM light show and the strangeness of Frank Zappa telling listeners to talk to any vegetable. Whatever the constellation of influences, Thumpasaurus have made it their own and now the group is touring in support of its 2018 album The Book of Thump.

Short Takes #3: February 2019

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Earth Control Pill, Leaves On Leaves

earth control pill – leaves on leaves – self-released 

Lead track “drippy tree” is an interesting and comforting collage of retro synth sampling and minimalist beats that pulse and bounce softly like one of those balloons with a grip shaped like an animal head that many people rode around on as kids. And that sort of melancholic, textured atmosphere with some white noise melded with abstract melodies layered with flowing tones and blurred beats that is suggested in “drippy trees” manifests in a variety of ways across the album without ever really replicating the feel of each song. In that way it’s reminiscent of early Aphex Twin but after the advent of modern experimental electronic dance music, tropical pop and deep house. Earth Control Pill pulls ideas together for this album as the title suggests as an organic process of layering wherein the elements complement each other seemingly naturally in the context of clearly technologically produced sounds. Altogether the songs, as sequenced, feel like a slow processing of sorrow by soothing the pains of loss while knowing they’ll never fully go away and the feeling of resignation of that reality. “Fog” strikes a somewhat jaunty note and, in fact, sounds the least like fog of all the songs though may highlight a time of fond memories connected to fog and how magical it can seem on an otherwise sunny morning. Whatever the inspiration or impetus behind this collection of music, it might be described as an ambient version of indie pop with the assembled use of discarded and currently unfashionable sounds to make something beautiful and tranquil with no obvious touchstones in contemporary commercially popular music.

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Abjects, Never Give Up

Abjects – Never Give Up – Yippee Ki Yay Records

This debut LP from London’s Abjects strikes one as something akin to a frantic, grunge-y power pop record. But in the interest of not getting lazy and being quick to pigeonhole a band, the members of Abjects come from different corners of the world and met up in the UK bringing with them a vastly different set of cultural backgrounds that does give these songs an ineffably different flavor than 90s retro bands that all grew up in countries where the predominant language is English. The rhythms have an urgency yet fluidity that makes it easier to change directions and character rapidly with guitar work and vocals that seem adept at working counter point giving the songwriting an unusual and fascinating dynamism like something one might have heard in early Blonde Redhead songs or out of Velocity Girl.

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Bison Bone, Take Up Trouble

Bison Bone – Take Up Trouble – self-released

One thing Bison Bone has always done exceedingly well is not limit its songwriting and creativity to the expectations of a subgenre of music. Yes, it’s coming from the world of country but also psychedelic rock but for the latter not in any obvious way. Its instincts seem inspired more by the hybrid country, punk and psych of the likes of The Flesheaters, Green On Red and Uncle Tupelo than much of the Americana that has come along since where it has not been too predictably been bathing in the musical DNA of early 1970s Laurel Canyon. Bison Bone’s music sounds like there is some real grit and real life experience behind it and paying of dues and not trying to mimic a beloved and trendy style of music. Take Up Trouble is urban honky tonk with the relatable storytelling intact but with a flair for wordplay and thoughtful commentary. What really makes these songs is the little details that bring the song together like the minimal guitar solo in the middle of “Hey Bartender” and the drone at the beginning of “Late December” to suggest memories of coming out of the haze of a memorable dream or of the heatwaves on the late afternoon road following a long day of driving and having a moment of reflection on what it’s all been about.

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Bruce Lamont, Broken Limbs Excite No Pity

Bruce Lamont – Broken Limbs Excite No Pity – My Proud Mountain

Like an industrial ambient rendition of a culturally hybridized folk music from a hundred years hence, this latest solo record from Bruce Lamont of Yakuza is akin to an Ian McDonald novel. The latter has written several works of science fiction and fantasy that seem aimed at subverting tropes set in places that aren’t the usual locales for fantastic fiction. The influence of anthropology and straight out cultural concepts outside the developed world is so pervasive his work has a tonality and range that is refreshingly unpredictable. Lamont’s interest in non-Western musical ideas too informs these songs of immersive textures and compound rhythms. With “Goodbye Electric Sunday” the science fiction parallels are obvious but throughout Lamont weaves a series of narratives that are reminiscent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in sounding ineffably futuristic but as a commentary on the civilization on the verge of collapse of now.

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Confluence, Closure, Start Over

Confluence – Closure, Start Over – self-released

Denver’s Confluence represented a musical rebirth for songwriter Ian Gassman whose work in other bands including his 2000s indie rock band Night Owl. The latter was more in a power pop meets Elvis Costello vein. Confluence was much more math rock in the late 90s and early 2000s sense that one heard touches of in the likes of Modest Mouse and Deathcab For Cutie. Confluence made no bones about nor held up its nose at complex arrangements and guitar solos but all in service to the song. Like it was using its technical skills to have fun and not just to show off. This record came out four years after the band was a functioning outfit and serves as a swan song and a reminder of how Confluence managed to fully integrate indie rock with musical chops and emotionally resonant vocals with a refreshingly unironic earnestness. Fans of LVL UP and Palm should definitely give this record a listen.

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Eerie Wanda, Pet Town

Eerie Wanda – Pet Town – Joyful Noise Recordings

Obvious touchstones for the 2016 Eerie Wanda album Hum would be 60s pop stars like Margo Guryan and Françoise Hardy. All of that atmospheric soulfulness and orchestrated sonic details was present in Marina Tadic’s songwriting and recording for that record. For Pet Town, Tadic stripped back some of the seeming orchestration and opted for the use of space and non-tonal atmosphere as well as raw guitar recording, fretting sounds included. The result is a more up close focus in sound rather than the nearly panoramic folk pop of Hum. Same introspective, melancholic lyrics but this time reminding one of the vibe of the Beach House’s 2008 album Devotion conveying a sense of warmth, isolation and reflection on times that haunt you with a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

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Lightning Cult, EP1: Burner

Lightning Cult – EP 1: Burner – self-released

A welcome return to the songwriting of Mike Marchant who in the 2000s and early 2010s brought an uplifting moodiness and energy to his indie rock bands Widowers and as a contributing songwriter to Houses as well as Mike Marchant’s Outer Space Party Unit. This isn’t as overtly as experimental as Widowers and the Outer Space Party Unit, nor as psychedelic as the latter. Rather it shines on Marchant’s gift for subtle dynamics and vocalizing with strong yet nuanced emotion. Throughout the EP it’s a mixture of texture and bright tones with driven and shaped by the aforementioned qualities. Marchant has struggled with serious health issues for several years at this point and one is tempted to look for that in this set of songs and if it’s there it’s more in the focus of the songwriting to put something together that feels good and honest to perform and worthy of attention beyond one’s consideration shaded by knowledge of his challenges as a human, at least not anymore than everyone faces. As such, Marchant demonstrates here why he garnered such wide attention during his time in Denver because none of this feels rote or desperate to recapture past glory. There is a timeless quality to Marchant’s music because he’s never really tried to fit in with trends while not spending much time mining the past. This EP is a great example of that. It’s not his masterpiece but if this is a comeback it’s better than many we’ve seen.

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Lying On Ice, The Dream

Lying On Ice – The Dream – Asylum Moon

Pulling apart this record to its components and influences is easy enough because there’s plenty of post-rock informing the guitar ideas, 80s and 90s darkwave and downtempo. But what it really sounds like is if someone got the essence of 80s moody Goth/post-punk but didn’t get trapped there with same production ideas and mood. There’s as much modern electronic pop aesthetic throughout the album like everyone involved is well aware of the likes of Purity Ring, Robyn, CHVRCHES and Phantogram. Composer Jesse Maddox is known more for his work in the world of taiko in Colorado including manufacturing the drums but has had a lifelong interest in dark, industrial music so working with talented dream pop vocalist Angela Cross from Los Angeles with the finished songs mixed and produced by Dave “Rave” Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame the project could have been fairly predictable. But it is instead of a deeply atmospheric, sonically rich set of songs including a cover of “Smothered Hope” that shares with the original and deep melancholy and being engulfed with urgent emotions but is more in a psychedelic vein, more Tear Garden than Skinny Puppy. Speaking of the former, Edward Ka-Spel does guest vocals on the stark yet lush and cold “Surrender,” and brings to the song his signature vocals lending a sense of being at the end of one’s struggle with all the things your ego screams to cling to before acceptance of your own mortality sets in.

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Shadows Tranquil, Wander

Shadows Tranquil – Wander – self-released

Doran Robischon was once a guitarist in Gauntlet Hair and since that time there have been hints of a new musical project. Then Shadows Tranquil played shows in the past couple of years. But if you missed them there was no way to hear that music until the fall of 2018. Wander may remind anyone in the know of another Denver band, A Shoreline Dream. But only in that there are the aesthetics of electronic music underlying the songwriting. But there is more noise rock and psych punk behind the drifty push of the songs on Wander. In that way at times one is reminded of Nowhere-period Ride especially when the songs shift dynamics and add expansive layers of atmosphere and percussion only to pull the sounds back and redirect their momentum as the stream of sound progresses. The recording might be a little lo-fi for some tastes but that adds something of a tiny bit of mystique to music that sounds like the musicians skipped the late 90s and 2000s entirely and landed back in 2018 a late entry into the Holy Mountain Records (USA) catalog.

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T-Rextasy, Prehysteria

T-Rextasy – Prehysteria – Boogie Agency Records

Balancing the humorous with the meaningful and melancholy is a difficult balancing act in music, but T-Rextasy have long since mastered that art and this record simply reveals an evolution in the band’s sophistication of songwriting. “Coffee” has plenty of profane and playful double entendre while articulating a relatable frustration. The songs aren’t merely irreverent surf-ska punk songs, they’re like musical theater pieces for a play about young urban Bohemia but brimming with sharp observations as social commentary and character sketches that explore what it means to navigate the fraught political, economic and cultural environment in America today. Identity, sexuality, class and examination of one’s yearnings are discussed in story form with an undeniable affection and compassion for all the soft and hurt spots in everyone. Fans of the the melodramatic tones employed by Julie Brown in “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” and the teen tragedy songs of the 60s that inspired it will find much to love with Prehysteria.

Best Shows in Denver 11/02/17 – 11/08/17

A$APMOB
A$APMOB performs at 1stBank Center on Friday, November 3. Photo by Alexander Bortz

 

Thursday: November 2, 2017

Bison Bone
Bison Bone, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Surfacing: Seal Eggs, Bluebook and Pearls and Perils
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Europa Coffeehouse
Why: This is the latest edition of Surfacing, the music showcase put on by the Titwrench Collective which, of course, throws the Titwrench Festival in late summer in Denver. The festival focuses on women and LGBTQIA makers of music, generally in an experimental vein. This night is certainly well within that realm with Seal Eggs from Colorado Springs who performs a kind of ambient/experimental electronic music with operatic vocals. Bluebook is Julie Davis and her commanding use of cello, loops and her powerful voice. Pearls and Perils is sort of an experimental hip-hop/downtempo project from Olivia Perez whose dark, cool vibe is a departure from her old band Gloam, which was more in the vein of an noisy alterna-prog band. Perez has been a member of Key Lady & The Frontstrangers, which mostly evolved into RAREBYRD$ and some of that mysterious production quality is present in the soundscapes of Pearls and Perils.

Who: Bison Bone w/The Reals and Larry Nix
When: Thursday, 11.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Bison Bone masterfully blends alt-country with experimental guitar rock with thoughtful, evocative storytelling. One is struck by how Courtney Whitehead and the rest of the band make their take on country and rock very much their own thing. You hear nods to Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and others who connected the rootsy warmth of country with an otherworldly energy except that Bison Bone is connected to another realm of the cosmos and the songs transform intense, potentially soul crushing pain into inspiration and catharsis.

Who: Ultra Metal Pre-Show
When: Thursday, 11.02, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Johnathan Cash aka Breakdancing Ronald Reagan moved to Denver in 2017 after having performed at Denver noise events and Denver Noise Fest several times over the years. Now he has put together the sort of event he used to put on while living in Austin with Ultra Metal. It’ll include legendary noise/industrial acts like The Haters, Page 27 and Anime Love Hotel as well as noteworthy local staples of the noise world like Morlox, Solypsis, Blarney Mumble and Acidbat. Tonight’s opening ceremonies of the festival also includes Scammers from Kansas City. Phil Diamond of Scammers usually performs solo with his signature crooning voice sounding like he could have been a studio singer for Motown. But he also generally aims for whatever creative music strikes him and has toured on a Harry Potter-inspired electro pop album. Best believe that said album is as interesting and sonically adventurous as anything else Diamond has done. 2017’s Love is a Rough Cut Stone is Diamond’s take on modern R&B-inflected synth pop. Think in the vein of Purity Ring if they collaborated with Drake. Anyone interested in attending any of the three nights of Ultra Metal, or has other questions about the events, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Friday: November 3, 2017

Cocordion
Cocordion, photo by Cocordion

 

Who: A$AP Mob w/Key! and Cozy Boys
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: 1stBank Center
Why: A$AP Mob is the New York City-based hip-hop collective that, along with Odd Future from Los Angeles, have taken a more commercial hip-hop sound and aesthetic and injected it with innovative musical ideas, adopting sounds and styles of music that were before only really embraced by “alternative” hip-hop groups. The result has been, whether among individual artists like A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy, or as a collective, a more sonically interesting listening to go along with the usual, clever wordplay commenting on the vagaries of various kinds of relationships, life in urban America and popular culture and where all of those intersect and inform one another. The collective’s latest release, 2017’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, is not as strong as albums released by individual members of A$AP (including Twelvy’s debut solo effort, 12) and it’s still steeped in trap production but still worth a listen and certainly the live show will be visually dynamic and include material from across the collective’s career.

 

Who: Cocordion album release w/Copyleft and Ancient Elk 
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Expectations is the first full-length album from Cocordion, a self-proclaimed lo-fi indie rock band based in Colorado Springs. Though the second release from the band, it is the product of a great deal of creative exploration and honing and refining musical instincts and chops playing in other bands—most notably, perhaps, is Mitchell Macura’s playing keyboards in Eros and the Eschaton. Expectations is an fitting title for an album whose themes include the various demands, welcome and very much otherwise, placed on us by society, the people in our lives and by our own psyches. It also references the concept of creative collaboration and what everyone brings to a project and expects of each other and themselves in that potentially precarious relationship and how such experiments can yield something greater than can an individual effort that depends on the dreams, energy and drive of an individual.

According to a recent interview we conducted with Mitchell (his brother Mason is also in the band) he believes that great creative work can come out of an individual vision that is strong and guides the work. Certainly the history of music bears this out and as a musician he has certainly contributed to realizing someone else’s creative vision. But for this new album, Macura decided to further push the project out of being a solo project, where it started, and allow the music to cohere between the three musicians (the Macura brothers and Thom Spano). For a lo-fi band the record is beautifully detailed with tones, flowing/intersecting atmospheres and textural percussion. Also on the bill is folk-inflected, experimental psychedelic rock band Ancient Elk.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 1
When: Friday, 11.03, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: This is the official first night of Ultra Metal, the noise festival being thrown by Johnathan Cash of Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. Cash recently relocated to Denver from Austin but he’s no stranger to Denver or the Mile High City’s noise scene as he’s performed locally regularly for years including sets at various editions of Denver Noise Fest. Tonight you can see the infamous noise project The Haters who have roots in Denver but affiliation with noiseniks and performance art legends Survival Research Laboratories. Also, Breakdancing Ronald Reagan will do a collaboration set with Chicago’s The Rita, hip-hop beatmaker/breakbeat phenom Morlox will play in the late hours and ambient maestro Solypsis will perform earlier in the evening. Plus much more. Those interested in attending or anyone with any questions of the festival should contact the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: The Hollow “Sleep Talkin” video release w/Silver & Gold and Post Paradise
When: Friday, 11.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: The Hollow is a rarity in Denver. The group is almost as straightforward rock as you can get without being boring. They’e absorbed what works for a lot of modern rock bands that aren’t tapping into a classic rock vibe. Its hard-edged yet melodic songs are atmospheric enough to escape being mundane and they don’t run from writing hooks. The group is celebrating the release of its video for “Sleep Talkin’”. The band’s music isn’t for everyone and its message of positive mental attitude may strike some as odd but at least it’s not phony and neither are the sentiments in its songwriting.

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain w/Cold Cave
When: Friday, 11.03, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Jesus and Mary Chain is basically the foundational band for the shoegaze genre. Okay, JAMC, Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3. But JAMC is the band that pushed the use of fuzz in a popular music context to newer extremes than before but wedding those massive sounds to classic pop songwriting. When the JAMC were coming together, they rejected the musical tropes of the day, choosing instead to embrace 60s pop music as produced by Wall of Noise pioneer Phil Spector, much as did the Ramones. But JAMC needed to do something that would be purely easily absorbed and co-opted by music even from the underground. Because of that, the band’s music has aged well and doesn’t sound dated. By carving out their own classic sound, steeped in an older classic sound, the Mary Chain has retained its mystique and its cool well past what might be predicted to be its sell-by date. Opening is Cold Cave, the project of Wesley Eisold who has explored a variety of musical ideas in his career including his former musical life playing in hardcore bands. Cold Cave is more in the darkwave vein of synth-driven post-punk reminiscent of pre-Technique New Order but with a modern flavor revealing Eisold’s deep familiarity with 21st century electronic music production.

Saturday: November 4, 2017

Novasak
Novasak circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rowboat, The Raritans and Jukebox Spiders
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Denver’s Rowboat doesn’t play many shows these days. Its primary songwriter, Sam McNitt, played in space rock/indie rock band Blue Million Miles for several years in the late 2000s through the early 2010s. Rowboat was initially McNitt’s outlet for continuing to write his more directly folk-influenced music. Not the usual folk sort of thing because McNitt’s highly emotional, introspective songs have a haunted intensity that gives his music a force a lot of folk simply doesn’t have.

Who: The Corner Girls, Surf Mom, Gamma Death Wave and Phallic Meditation 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Tooey’s Off Colfax
Why: The Corner Girls play a social critically informed surf rock with punk attitude. And, unlike way too many bands in the last two decades, it’s not a “clever” name as it’s an all female band. Maybe it’s been done before but one noteworthy thing about The Corner Girls is that the band isn’t trying to come off tough and aggo but doesn’t mince words either. It’s like a reinvention of punk for many of us that get bored with the hypermasculine model of a style of music that had in its heart in the beginning the detournement of outmoded social conventions. Plus the songs are good, catchy, well-crafted pop music that doesn’t bother with dumbing down. Similar things could be said about Surf Mom except Surf Mom sounds nothing like The Corner Girls. Molly McGrath’s guitar work is more abrasive at times and her expressions of anger have a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to them without blunting the sometimes pointed rhetoric.

Who: Ultra Metal Night 2
When: Saturday, 11.04, 6 p.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Second and final night of noise festival Ultra Metal. Tonight you can catch 8-bit grindcore band Rainbowdragoneyes, the mighty Novasak and what one might hope is his amp setup aimed at realigning the molecules of your body back to the proper place through sheer low end sculpting, Sheet Metal Skingraft’s industrialized, ambient harsh noise and an early set from the godfathers of Denver noise, Page 27. For more information on and questions about the event, please email the organizers at UltraMetal2017@gmail.com.

Who: Brother Sister Hex (EP release), Jane Doe and Granny Tweed 
When: Saturday, 11.04, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Brother Sister Hex is releasing its third, and latest, EP End Times tonight at Lion’s Lair. The band combines elements of bluesy sludge rock with a touch of moody, perhaps brooding, atmospheres. Difficult to compare the band with anyone else without getting a little clumsy like Dead Weather, PJ Harvey and Queens of the Stone Age. Heavy but without sounding beholden to the classic rock era like a lot of modern rock and roll bands seem to be. Also on the bill is Jane Doe, the noisy, experimental rock band fronted by Becca Mhalek who has played saxophone with avant-jazz dub noiseniks Nightshark, a bit with Nels Cline and in Denver’s free jazz weirdo combo Aenka. In Jane Doe she doesn’t play any instruments, instead demonstrating singing and poetry chops as a cathartic frontwoman.

Sunday: November 5, 2017

Vic Mensa
Vic Mensa, photo by Frank Ockenfels III

Who: Jay Z and Vic Mensa
When: Sunday, 11.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Why: Before becoming one of the most commercially successful hip-hop artists in the history of the artform, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter paid a lot of dues playing support to Big Daddy Kane, working with DMX and Ja Rule in their respective careers and before that getting by however he could growing up in a single parent household in pre-gentrification in Brooklyn. But out of all of that came his 1996 debut full-length album Reasonable Doubt, which included contributions from Biggie, Mary J. Blige, DJ Premier and other hip-hop luminaries. Since that time Carter has worked with most of the big names in the world of hip-hop and has had plenty of beef with various artists, but up to and including his 2017 album 4:44, Jay Z, like most great songwriters, uses the medium of music to use autobiography as a vehicle for commenting on culture and social issues from a deeply personal perspective. In his case, despite his wealth, it is a perspective that distills common experiences from a broad spectrum of the urban American experience into something in the grand tradition of creative social commentators like Mark Twain.

Vic Mensa dropped his debut full-length album The Autobiography this past summer. The title could be seen as a bit premature for an artist who turned 24 in June. But Mensa has been on a steep and ambitious trajectory in his career. Which would mean nothing if his energy and talent weren’t there as well as taste and imagination. All of that is evident on The Autobiography. Mensa’s songs combine beats seamlessly with what sound like either instrumental sections or samples that don’t try to transform the source material into having a different sonic quality. In that way there is an organic, human quality to the record that plays to the opposite instincts of the boastful end of hip-hop. The album has a large sound and Mensa’s confidence contagious but it sounds like you’re hearing the stories of people you know with all the grounding details that renders the mundane mythical.

 

Tuesday: November 7, 2017

Beach Slang
Beach Slang, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Beach Slang – Drunk of Lust tour w/Dave Hause and The Mermaid and Hannah Racecar 
When: Tuesday, 11.07, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis
Why: James Alex sure doesn’t play the shows in Beach Slang like he’s two going on three decades in music. As a member of post-hardcore band Weston from 1990 to 2011, Alex had to sustain a level of enthusiasm that would burn out most people two or three years in. But he seems to have brought that energy into Beach Slang when that band got going in 2013. Alex’s schtick probably strikes some as forced or phony but the thoughtful and emotionally stirring words whether in lyrics or its various shared words seem poignantly sincere. Part lo-fi indie rock, part unabashed power pop-flavored punk, Beach Slang has always had a vibe like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Clash without sounding like either. The group’s latest release is the Here I Made This For You: Volume 2 EP.

Wednesday: November 8, 2017

Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Night Shapes, Body Meat and Natural Violence 
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Night Shapes is a gritty post-punk band from Oakland. Its latest cassette, Wake Up, is being released on Denver’s Heavy Dose Records imprint. It’s sound is more like the noisy, warped, serpentine rhythm type that you hear in bands like Pop. 1280 and Protomartyr rather than the bands that are clearly tapping into Joy Division and the Cocteau Twins (not that there’s anything wrong with that). That the band is sharing the bill with the math-rock-esque Body Meat and the dark synthwave Natural Violence from Denver is only fitting, especially considering Heavy Dose also released the latter’s excellent 2017 release, Synthetic Peace.

Who: Tyler the Creator w/Taco
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: As one of the co-founders of the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has been involved in making some of the most innovative hip-hop of the past decade. His wordplay is genuinely clever if perhaps the language isn’t for everyone (throwing f-bombs and not as in “fuck” and the n-bombs are understandably tricky to defend). But the beats and his willingness to draw on some truly unexpected corners of music and sampling from musicians other hip-hop artists generally don’t are what make Tyler’s albums so consistently interesting. For example, 2017’s deeply and colorfully atmospheric, jazz-inflected Flower Boy includes elements of “Spoon” by psychedelic prog band Can.

Who: Shigeto w/Ela Minus and Lemon Future
When: Wednesday, 11.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Zachary Shigeto Saginaw writes the beat-driven, melodic kind of abstract hip-hop that synthesizes the aesthetics of that form of music, techno, house, jazz and ambient. More so on the house end with his most recent record, 2017’s The New Monday. But Shigeto uses live percussion to craft samples in the live setting and on recordings that give his beats an organic feel that would be difficult to fully execute with pure electronics. Thus his music is more suited for an intimate, small venue environment rather than stadium EDM like some artists who are mining similar, if not as fascinating, sonic landscapes.