Best Shows in Denver 11/29/19-12/4/19

Cheap Perfume performs on November 30 at Hi-Dive, photo circa 2016 by Tom Murphy

Friday | November 29

Black Mountain circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Black Mountain w/Ryley Walker
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Black Mountain is one of a handful of bands that was associated with 2000s “stoner rock” that evolved past and beyond the tropes of that genre. Probably because from the beginning the psychedelic end of its sound was more developed than some other bands that were essentially making a form of what’s now called “drone metal.” But even at the beginning, with its 2005 self-titled debut, the band wrote heavy songs with an ethereal tonal architecture like “Heart of Snow.” The group’s 2019 album Destroyer is its first with former Sleepy Sun guitarist/vocalist Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem of Soft Kill. It sounds like it has more extensive use of synthesizer than previous albums and thus having more in common with obvious influences like Hawkwind and Can. Live the new direction for the band has been more immersive and hypnotic without sacrificing its rock and roll punch, a testament to its integration of its musical instincts and incorporation of even more of Jeremy Schmidt’s transporting synth work which he used to great effect on the soundtrack to dark science fiction film Beyond the Black Rainbow under his moniker Sinoia Caves.

What: High On Fire w/Power Trip, Devil Master and Creeping Death
When: Friday, 11.29, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental, Theater

What: Automatic w/Sweetness Itself and Chrome Wave
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Babah Fly, Ill Se7en, Zanib
When: Friday, 11.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy

What: Catching Flies w/Chitchat, Sifts and Chromadrift
When: Friday, 11.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Saturday | November 30

Plasma Canvas, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Cheap Perfume Burn It Down album release, SPELLS, Plasma Canvas and Wild Lives
When: Saturday, 11.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Cheap Perfume is the Colorado Springs-based punk band who make no bones about their feminist political orientation but that really should be part of anyone’s agenda in the modern world and a centerpiece of any human who claims to have morality, ethics, basic human decency and concern for human rights as part of their perspective on the world. But Cheap Perfume makes it fun with pointed songs that while sometimes snarky are heartfelt and clever but with no fence sitting. Its new album, Burn It Down, is being released this night with some of the Mile High City’s best punk acts sharing the stage for the occasion.

Tuesday | December 3

The Allah-Las circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Allah-Las w/Mapache & Tim Hill
When: Tuesday, 12.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: In the rush to cop the 60s and early 70s southern California sound in the past half decade and more so many bands seem to have mimicked those Laurel Canyon artists outright. Allah-Las dipped into a similar pool of references but didn’t forget to write great songs or to inject that with modern sensibilities. Its soundscapes are paired well with entrancing melodies and not merely indie rock with some reverb and chorus and a laid back vibe. Its 2019 album LAHS is typically introspective and expansive with more than a dash of playfulness.

Wednesday | December 4

Men I Trust, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Sporehive, Fables of the Fall, Babushka’s Naughty XXXmas Carols, DJ Andy Z
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl and Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday this month will include experimental drone collective Sporehive, chamber folk quartet Fables of the Fall, Babushka of Little Fyodor & Babushka fame doing her Naughty XXXmas Carols and DJ Andy Z spinning tunes.

What: Turnover & Men I Trust w/Renata Zeiguer
When: Wednesday, 12.4, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Men I Trust has been described any number of ways but the live band evokes the mood of dusky nightclub R&B and soft lighting. But without evoking the early 70s Laurel Canyon pop sound so much in vogue lately. The band’s videos look like some kind of cinematic rendering of 1980s home movies and in a way reminds one of fan videos various people have made for Boards of Canada. It’s not often a band can maintain some sense of mystique these days but Men I Trust definitely has some. Currently touring in support of its lushly downtempo 2019 album Oncle Jazz.

Queen City Sounds’ Picks for UMS 2019

Tessa Violet performs at the UMS on Sunday, July 28, 5:45 p.m.

The UMS is back for its 2019 edition running from July 26 through July 28 in the Baker Neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. The festival is unarguably the easiest way to take in the largest representative slice of the local underground music scene with the emphasis on indie rock and some choice representation from the city’s worlds of metal, hip-hop, electronic music and punk. Some years you might even run across more than a couple of the city’s rich experimental/avant-garde, darkwave and noise scenes but not so much this year aside from the Glasss Records showcase Sunday afternoon from 12-5 p.m. which is a well-curated sampling of Denver music’s weird side.

What follows is a guide to my picks for ten of the most interesting acts not from Denver performing at the festival. There will be no local band guide because I already write up enough about local bands throughout most of the year and you can see many of them the rest of the year and I encourage you to visit the UMS website and sample any and all of the bands that look interesting and see them because there are hundred. If you’re from out of town and coming to the UMS, refer back to any of the Best Shows lists I’ve done up to now. Other sites have provided their guides so you can consult those if you’re looking for specific recommendations. For tickets please visit the UMS website and thanks for reading.

Who: Black Mountain
When: Friday, July 26, 8:30-10 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: This Canadian, heavy psychedelic rock band combines 70s psychedelic prog, stoner rock and all the excess and transporting soundscaping that implies. The group released its new album Destroyer in 2019, the first with ex-Sleepy Sun member Rachel Fannan and Adam Bulgasem from Soft Kill. Synth player Jeremy Schmidt has a side project called Sinoia Caves which did the darkly beautiful and unsettling soundtrack to the experimental science fiction horror film Beyond the Black Rainbow.

Chicano Batman_Josue Rivas_2017
Chicano Batman circa 2017, photo by Josue Rivas

Who: Chicano Batman
When: Saturday, July 27, 5-6 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: Chicano Batman embodies a true synthesis of 60s Chicano rock, Tropicália and psychedelia. Like those 60s bands, this Los Angeles-based quartet performs in matching outfits to provide that level of rock theater and it’s songs a fantastic blend of rock and roll and melancholic atmospheres.

Who: Drama
When: Saturday, July 27, 6:20-7 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: A blend of R&B and synthwave, Drama’s songs and videos reflect the multicultural side of American culture and breaking stereotypes of what people look like that make lush, melodic electronic pop music and how that’s presented to the world.

Who: Empress Of
When: Sunday. July 28, 7-7:45 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: Lorely Rodriguez took this project name from a tarot card reading and her synth pop/experimental R&B is bilingual with vocals that traverse registers with finesse. Imagine something like a combination of Cocteau Twins (who Rodriguez cites as an influence) and Toni Braxton and you’re in the right territory.

Gardens & Villa circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Gardens & Villa
When: Friday, July 26, 5:20-6 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: This band from Santa Barbara, California is probably lumped in with the whole synth pop thing but it’s a way stranger and more experimental band in the vocals and in its songwriting having more in common with Big Black Delta, Fad Gadget and TR/ST than the chillwave that was in vogue when the band started in 2008. Its songs tend to be darker and more willing to indulge sharper edged dynamics than groups going for maximum soft tunefulness.

Who: Leikeli47
When: Friday, July 26, 8:30-10 p.m.
Where: Odyssey Stage
Why: Leikeli47 performs with some kind of head covering and otherwise conceals her true identity like a hip-hop super hero. Her unusual style of music is heavy on swagger and accented beats. At times her songs sound like she listened to a lot of Suicide, Death Grips, M.I.A. as well as dub. But it also means she doesn’t really sound much like anyone else and capable of surprising you.

Who: Tessa Violet
When: Sunday, July 28, 5:45-6:30 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: Tessa Violet’s breezy, sonically rich synth pop is so accessible it’s almost easy to forget what a sharp wit is behind the songwriting. After all she has a song called “I Like (the idea of) You.” But it’s not all reverence and her songwriting style itself is fairly broad and endearingly frank in the realm of pop music and her videos colorful and imaginative.

Tuxedo, photo by Andi Elloway

Who: Tuxedo
When: Sunday, July 28, 8:15-9:45 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: Mayer Hawthorne made a respectable career for himself in the 2000s for his retro soul style and big stage persona. Teaming up with Jake One he’s part of Tuxedo, a funk and electro R&B band that was ahead of the current trend of all of that, which Hawthorne was already presaging when a lot of people dismissed him as something of an eccentric despite his undeniable cool.

Who: Y La Bamba – photo on website
When: Sunday, July 28, 6:20-7 p.m.
Where: Knockout Stage
Why: Luz Elena Mendoza found a unique place as a songwriter in Portland, Oregon who is making a kind of folk-rooted pop. Her music and outlook comes out of the Mexican folk tradition inspired in part from a young age by mariachis. Her songs use her heritage to explore personal as well as collective struggles with an elegance and creativity that reconciles the dark side of life with hope and joy informed by grace and patience for the process.

Who: Yves Tumor
When: Saturday, July 27, 7:20-8 p.m.
Where: Showcase Stage
Why: Yves Tumor cites Throbbing Gristle as an influence for its hypnotic qualities. And Yves Tumor’s music is not short on ambient noise, confrontational sounds and political consciousness within the context of fairly accessible electronic pop music. For my ears and tastes, the most interesting and boundaries pushing act not from Denver playing the festival and a must see if you’re there on Saturday.