Best Shows in Denver November 2021

Julien Baker performs at Gothic Theatre on Nov 13, photo by Alyssa Gafkjen
Brandy Clark, photo by Chris Phelps

Wednesday | 11.03
What: Brandy Clark w/Kelsey Waldon
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: If famous country music stars performing songs you’ve written is a sign of your significance as an artist, Brandy Clark has had a resoundingly successful career. Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker have all performed songs penned by Clark. Her critically acclaimed 2020 album Your Life Is a Record garnered her accolades for her own work even from more critical reviewers because her arrangements and thoughtful lyrics were undeniably well crafted and affecting even if you’re not a fan of country music or acoustic pop. Producer Jay Joyce encouraged Clark to expand her musical range with sounds and ideas that brought a quality to the songs that pushed beyond the boundaries of Clark’s previous work for arguably the best record of her career thus far. The 2020 pandemic put plenty of plans for touring and promoting records on hold so this is a chance to see the award winning singer and songwriter at an intimate venue.

Wolf Alice, photo by Jordan Hemmingway

Wednesday and Thursday | 11.03 and 11.04
What:
Wolf Alice w/The Blossom
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Wolf Alice is hitting its stride with its new album Blue Weekend. Earlier records like 2017’s Visions of a Life and 2015’s My Love is Cool showcased the music of a band learning its powers and creative instincts in often thrilling ways during some years when too many rock bands were trying to cop some of that classic rock or psychedelic garage cachet. Wolf Alice walked a finer line of hard rock and atmospherics fortified by singer Ellie Rowsell’s sometimes gritty vocals yet always emotionally vibrant and nuanced vocals. The new album reveals a band that has not become stuck in what one might expect from previous efforts. Swells in a song don’t inevitably lead to a glorious blowout, rather Wolf Alice takes left field turns in its arrangements perhaps a challenge to foster their growth as a band with consistently compelling results.

Black Dice, photo by Black Dice

Thursday | 11.04
What: Black Dice w/cindygod and H Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.

In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment. Listen to the interview on the Queen City Sounds Podcast.

Thursday | 11.04
What: The Black Angels w/L.A. Witch
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: The Black Angels came together and established its individual style of psychedelic rock before that became too trendy in the 2010s and has been able to develop, refine and then evolve its aesthetic across multiple records. Obvious influences drawn from early psychedelic rock, shoegaze, Middle Eastern drones and compound time signatures out of that music and perhaps a touch of African influence along with industrial and the avant-garde has merely made for a musical career that is much more creatively varied than seems obvious with a live show that is consistently entrancing. Opening is the like-minded L.A. Witch and their engaging take on blending 60s psychedelic pop with noir vibes.

Soccer Mommy, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 11.04
What: Soccer Mommy w/Alexalone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Probably virtually every musician touring in 2021 has the same story of an album released early in 2020 or slated or release that year only to have all forward momentum in getting the music out there slowed down or stopped due to the pandemic. When Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory was released at the end of February 2020 it garnered some critical acclaim for its winsome, melancholic pop songs in which the songwriter’s arrangements expanded to give her short lyrical lines expansive and often shimmering background textures paired with ethereal string arrangements. There is a pensive and yearning quality to singer/songwriter Sophie Allison’s words and vocal performance that elevates the music beyond much of the sometimes interchangeable indie music offerings you might hear on a playlist in a public space. Allison is not stranger to luminous and introspective songwriting, but right now she is taking her craft into deeper emotional territory than her admittedly excellent 2018 debut album Clean.

Band of Horses, photo by Stevie and Sarah Gee

Thursday | 11.04
What: Band of Horses w/Miya Folick
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Band of Horses is a band that has managed to make uplifting yet incredibly heartbreaking music with undeniable earworm melodies without losing the emotional impact for the last 17 years. The group formed after the respected indie pop band Carissa’s Wierd split in 2004 and quickly established itself as purveyors of thoughtful songs imbued with an upbeat energy and great forward momentum while never dipping into the realm of the hokey or obnoxious positivity. Probably because the lyrics have consistently hit as grounded and insightful even when written in good fun. Expect the new Band of Horses album Things Are Great to drop in January 2022 but for now you can maybe catch a good deal of that new material live until then.

Friday | 11.05
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary Pre-Show: Wisteria w/Candy Apple, Deadluv and Vitrina
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Brian Castillo has been involved in DJ nights over the years and releasing a few records here and there. But he may have found his niche when he launched Eventually It Will Kill You four years ago releasing mostly experimental music and darkwave like the 2018 reissue of the 1983 death rock classic by Denver band Your Funeral and their single “I Want To Be You” b/w “April Fool’s Day” and releases from Many Blessings, the noise side project of Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy, chicago darkwave band Funeral Door and dark minimal synth group Child of Night from Columbus, OH. For the occasion of the anniversary “El Brian” put together two shows including this Pre-Show which includes performances by Pittsburgh based post-punk band Wisteria and jagged, jangly Denver post-punkers by way of hardcore Candy Apple.

Plack Blague in October 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.06
What: Eventually It Will Kill You 4 Year Anniversary: Kontravoid, Plack Blague, Many Blessings and Closed Tear
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: For the second night of the 4 year anniversary of Eventually It Will Kill You you can catch some of the stars of underground darkwave and noise with EBM techno artist Kontravoid, industrial disco legend Plack Blague (listen to our new interview with Raws Scheslinger of Plack Blague from our podcast on Bandcamp), the ambient noise stylings of Many Blessings and the gloomy, post-punky dream pop of Closed Tear.

Saturday | 11.06
What: Dan Deacon w/Alex Silva and Patrick McMinn
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Dan Deacon’s 2020 album Mystic Familiar was praised as a solid synth pop album but it sounds more like Deacon has really honed his songwriting after a career of pushing musical ideas ever forward. The instrumental performances have a nuance and energy with a granular level of musical detail that can be enjoyed for simply the sheer joy and dynamic expressiveness Deacon seems to bring to his music. But one has to marvel at the way Deacon orchestrates complex passages and textures to into majestic pop songs that uplift the spirit and living up to the name of the album. His live shows are often a collaborative affair and even with his music surely Deacon will encourage those that show up to become involved in spontaneous and creative ways that don’t happen at other shows.

Gus Dapperton, photo by Jess Farran

Saturday | 11.06
What: Gus Dapperton w/spill tab at The Gothic
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Forget the hair style, the jewelry, the eyeliner and Gus Dapperton’s stylish sartorial proclivities, the songwriter’s 2020 album Orca is brimming with touching and delicate songs with real insight into the vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts that come to you in your lowest moments. His spare musical arrangements give the vocalization of the lyrics space to issue forth and sit in the air like lingering melodies. It’s an unexpectedly interesting effect from a songwriter who can come across to anyone that hasn’t sat down with the music as saccharine pop but the guy’s music is anything but that.

Uniform, photo by Ebru Yildiz

Monday | 11.08
What: Uniform, Portrayal of Guilt and Body Void
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Uniform is an industrial hardcore band from New York that came out of the city’s punk and extreme music scene. Its fiery and abrasive electronic onslaught articulates issues of existential confusion and frustration with the destructive forces of society and within our own minds and clawing a path to catharsis. The group’s 2020 album Shame (Sacred Bones Records) is perhaps its most accessible but also its most deeply personal and raw. Also, listen to our podcast episode with an interview with vocalist Michael Berdan on Bandcamp. Opening the show is the great experimental hardcore group Portrayal of Guilt. With music sitting somewhere betwixt black metal, grindcore, hardcore and noise, Portrayal of Guilt consistently delivers scorching songs of poetic yet abrasive beauty. Its new album Christfucker is due out November 5, 2021 on Run For Cover Records. Body Void’s scathing, outraged doom just seems like the perfect complement to the whole show and its 2021 album Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth out on Prosthetic Records is not short on tortured crushers.

Mamalarky, photo by Sara Cath

Tuesday | 11.09
What: Slow Pulp w/Mamalarky
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When many bands in the 2010s were evoking a bit of 1990s fuzz rock and grunge, Slow Pulp took a hint of that but went in more a direction of atmospheric pop and experimental soundscapes as a structure for its more hushed and introspective songs. Tourmates Mamalarky from Atlanta is on a similar wavelength with songs of unconventional structure, rhythmic strategy and tonal palette. Like maybe its members came up listening to early Liz Phair demos, Broadcast, Virginia Wing, Deerhoof and Electrelane. The group’s outstanding 2020 self-titled album never gives you a chance to get too settled into a sound but draws you along for a ride into a colorfully dreamlike realm of lush pop adventures.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Nothing w/Frankie Rose and Enumclaw
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Nothing has been on a great trajectory of developing into and beyond punk-influenced shoegaze reaching a high state of creativity on its 2020 album The Great Dismal. Whorling sheets of guitar drone bursting up and receding like waves punctuated by electronic crackles and an aesthetic as much informed by electronic music as by rock at this point. Frankie Rose has spent time in such bands as Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly but her solo albums is where she has perhaps been most free to utilize her imaginative guitar work, production and songwriting. Though these days she’s also in a band with Matthew Hord of Pop. 1280 called Fine Place which is more in the realm of dub-influenced darkwave pop. So it may be awhile before you get a chance to see a solo Frankie Rose performance for a bit. Enumclaw is one of the few modern bands that sounds like it was heavily influenced by Dinosaur Jr without ripping the band off and injecting a good deal of fuzzy dream pop like they listened to The Smiths but found a way to mix Morrissey out of the proceedings.

Wednesday | 11.10
What: Armand Hammer w/Trayce Chapman and Time (from Calm.)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The psychedelic sounds in the beats to Haram, the 2021 album by Armand Hammer with The Alchemist, is reminiscent of the ways cLOUDDEAD tapped into subconscious spaces to evoke a mood that complements the surreal vibe of the lyrics. Fans of Gonjasufi and early Sole records will appreciate the way this pairing of artists collage tone and texture to create great depth of sound and expression. Plus opening is Time whose existential and deeply philosophical and playful lyrics are an antidote to the programmed ignorance of the American education system and the current state of the culture.

Silverstein, photo by Juan Angel

Thursday and Friday | 11.11 and 11.12
What: Silverstein w/The Plot In You and Can’t Swim
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theatre
Why: Silverstein is one of the few bands that walked the line between pop punk and screamo without sounding a parody of itself and where the distorted, screaming vocals really did sound like a primal expression of an intense peak of feeling in the context of the songs. What has kept the band worth a listen is the songwriting and how, as is the case with the better pop punk, the most critical examination in the lyrics is aimed at one’s own shortcomings and finding a way to get through those moments of feelings of failure and intense self-judgment rather than lash out at someone else like a challenge to oneself to truly feel these things you don’t want to in an attempt to be a better person even if you fall short because life and self-betterment is often a process of reworking habits and not some perfect formula to follow.

Friday | 11.12
What: Glacial Tomb, Noctambulist, Necrosophik Abyss — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Glacial Tomb and Noctambulist are two of the best and most brutal and imaginative technical death metal bands out of Denver at the moment and if that’s your thing they’re both on the same bill.

Phony Ppl, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 11.12
What: Phony Ppl w/Kent Washington
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Brooklyn’s Phony Ppl have done some music with Megan Thee Stallion but their own music is a richly expressive sort of art soul music and jazz-inflected hip-hop without making boundaries between any of those styles. There is a gentleness to the music that makes it instantly accessible even though the specific content is very musically sophisticated and challenging. These five guys take heady musical elements and ideas and bring to it a loose and playful spirit that sounds like it should be music for the kind of arty dramas that have yet to be made about the poignant periods in the lives of regular people.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Saturday | 11.13
What: Julien Baker w/Dehd
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Little Oblivions is not the album a lot of people were expecting from Julien Baker. Her first two records of hushed and introspective folk rock had an undeniable emotional power in part because of Baker’s own stirringly emotional vocals. For this record Baker expanded the palette of sounds including more electronic elements and more expansive, brash soundscapes that seem perfectly suited to what really feels like a burst of expressing emotions kept under wraps for too long yearning to be let out. There is an intensity to the record that almost makes Baker’s previous albums seem safe by comparison if they too weren’t informed by a strong emotional honesty themselves. Easily one of the top albums of the year in the realm of rock. Opening is psychedelic surf pop band Dehd from Chicago. Don’t let that short descriptor throw you off because Dehd performs with an often unsettling intensity as well for a band whose moody music is not short on nervy energy too.

Saturday | 11.13
What: Nitzer Ebb w/DJ Eli
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: EBM/industrial legends Nitzer Ebb don’t tour much these days and no matter which of their music you’ve heard the live band is more scrappy, more visceral and more powerful than you could really expect. Their 1987 album That Total Age remains a stone classic of 1980s electronic industrial music.

Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

Saturday | 11.13
What: Big Dopes album release w/Bellhoss
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Roxy on Broadway
Why: Big Dopes is one of the best Denver bands not enough people know about yet. Its new EP Destination Wedding picks up where its outstanding 2019 album Crimes Against Gratitude left off with affecting lyrics and exquisitely crafted melodies. Fans of C86 era pop, Magnetic Fields and Carissa’s Wierd will likely appreciate the band’s attention to sonic detail and knack for a poetic and thoughtful turn of phrase. Also on the bill is the utterly idiosyncratic pop group Bellhoss. Although many have compared Bellhoss and singer Becky Hostetler, at least according to the project’s website, to artists like Waxahatchee and Soccer Mommy, Bellhoss is weirder and more interesting than those comparisons would suggest (though both artists are obviously notable in their own right) and often comes off like some kind of weirdo indie pop thing with intricate and eccentrically shoegaze-y guitar. Really a show with two of the most compelling bands in the Denver scene post-2017 when the music scene in the Mile High City started to severely fragment even as it expanded.

Monday | 11/15
What: Surfbort — CANCELED
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Coast (Fort Collins)
Why: Surfbort is a weirdo punk band that’s probably a little too rough around the edges and real for a lot of people who call themselves fans of punk but it’s also one of the most interesting and powerful bands in the world of punk today. They don’t have a lot of releases but its new single “FML” has a strange music video that includes Fred Armisen of Portlandia fame whose own background in punk and his own unusual sense of humor vibed with that of this New York band.

Monday | 11.15
What: Exhumed w/Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Victim ov Fire
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Indeed, it’s influential deathgrind band Exhumed from San Jose, California. Though the music can be brutal and forbidding in a way that might be reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse it nevertheless performs the music with great energy informed by a sense of irony and humor with lyrics often aimed at the corrupt American political and economic system that has metastasized into an oligarchy with a wide gulf between the ultra rich and the poorest members of society.

Paul Jacobs, photo courtesy the artist

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Tonstartssbandht, Paul Jacobs and Wally
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Between its gentle lo-fi psychedelia and almost found sound collage aesthetic, Tonstartssbandht from Orlando, Florida is a different animal in the realm of modern psychedelic pop. Andy and Edwin White draw on a broad spectrum of influences from more traditional music to classical music, classic rock and they have a High Rise tribute band called High Rise II. So even though their relatively pastoral 2021 album Petunia can come off just shy of too weird and gritty for yacht rock there are plenty of bizarro nuggets in the mix to keep it interesting. Paul Jacobs’ 2021 album Pink Dogs on the Green Grass gave us a solid batch of wefting and warping psych pop that somehow both hits the ears reminiscent of both Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Clarke and the Himselfs and Odessey & Oracle period The Zombies. The textural quality of his guitar sound keeps us grounded as vocals and wind sounds and even the percussion carries us away into ethereal realms of daydream wonder. In the case of both artists it seems odd to consider how they might pull this stuff off live and yet they do.

Black Marble in May 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Black Marble w/Voight
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Black Marble has spent some years perfecting a sonic equivalent of Polaroid photos cast in the colors of lo-fi, New Wave-y post-punk. The 2021 album Fast Idol finds Black Marble less in the realm of entrancing gloom pop and more in some upbeat mood with a sound that makes one think about what forbidden music might have sounded like if it was the USA rather than the USSR that cracked down on the immoral popular music of a decadent other empire. Live the music hits with full fidelity resulting in two different experiences of the music. Denver’s Voight really wants to be a dark techno band playing in dark rooms in the neo-urban decay but is still stuck in industrial shoegaze mode. And yet remains one of the best bands in the Mile High City because the music isn’t rote, predictable, safe pabulum and ferocious live.

Tuesday | 11.16
What: Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue w/Los Straightjackets
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Nick Lowe is one of the pioneers of power pop. He would have sealed that reputation had he remained in Rockpile with one of the other greats of that form of music Dave Edmunds. But Lowe’s solo career speaks for itself with soulful pop rock classics like “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” This run of music is a nod to the sounds that influenced Lowe from rockabilly to soul and beyond.

Wednesday | 11.17
What: Caribou w/Jessy Lanza
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Dan Snaith has written some of the most inventive yet accessible electronic music for nearly 20 years as Caribou. Employing traditionally acoustic instrumentation alongside synths/electronic instruments and programming, Snaith taps into some of the same emotional pools of yearning, introspective pondering and nostalgia as the later chillwave and bedroom pop composers he influenced directly or indirectly. His most recent album Suddenly (2020) seemed more somber than other releases but still flowing with hazy yet bright melodies. Even in the most down moments, Snaith incorporates a playful creativity in the mix to convey the nuances and complexity of existence and how we experience life.

Kraak & Smaak, photo by Michael Mees

Wednesday | 11/24
What: Kraak & Smaak w/Capyac
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dutch musical production trio Kraak & Smaak are masters of blending a tropical beat with layers of synth melody modified in real time to give a sense of fluid movement giving the music the aural equivalent of 3D visuals. The effect being an enveloping music with a cinematic sensibility like a somehow benevolent spy movie funk without any violence or skullduggery involved, just adventure and relaxing moods. It’s most recent EP, Scirocco, is like an unlikely but satisfying blend of Ennio Morricone, Boards of Canada and Simple Minds. If the band’s recent live streams are any indication, this current tour will be like seeing some long lost electro funk great of the past playing music that seems familiar yet fresh.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 11.26
What: The Velveteers w/Dreadnought and Dry Ice
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: The Velveteers were a promising band from early on in their career in Denver and Boulder playing house shows, small clubs and DIY spaces. While many bands were trying for that classic rock sound, The Velveteers were rapidly outgrowing those early influences into their own sound with fuzzed out riffs and surging song dynamics that made the band sound like it was taking off in multiple directions lending its performances a fiery energy. Through developing the group, creating their own music videos and a little bit of touring, The Velveteers came to the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who offered to produce the trio’s new album Nightmare Daydream. Sure it has expert production and clearly the band got some polish in Auerbach’s studio but this set of songs also sound so focused yet as thrillingly effusive as it ever has.

Friday | 11.26
What: Baroness
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Primitive Man in April 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 11.27
What: Primitive Man w/Spectral Voice and Oryx
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver is fortunate to have an exceptional extreme metal scene with many bands worth a deep listen. This show, though, showcases three of the best. Spectral Voice and the angular brutality of its dark death metal has evolved from an earlier sort of a blackened deathgrind sound into more refined sonic brutality without losing its raw edge. Oryx has never been short on an inventive evocation of musical heaviness and commentary on the hubris of human civilization. It’s 2021 album Lamenting a Dead World perhaps says it all with the title but the vocals sound especially feral and the parallel rhythms and guitar leads flow with a primordial energy that embodies an inevitable path to doom for the planet if things don’t take a different turn amongst us humans. And of course Primitive Man brings the most crushing and emotionally harrowing death grind you’re likely to experience anywhere. The Denver trio did not tour or play much if anything in the way of live shows in 2020 or much of 2021 so its caustic 2020 album Immersion and its nightmare vision of what seem like end times didn’t get to unleash what is hopefully a catharsis of the eschatological mood that has cloaked the planet since the onset of the pandemic until recently. That these great works of music from Oryx and Primitive Man are still so relevant does speak to the excellence of their conception and execution but also to how far we have to go as a species to prove ourselves worthy of continued existence.

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

JapaneseBreakfast2018_JoyceJude
Japanese Breakfast performs Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at The Ogden Theater with Belle and Sebastian. Photo by Joyce Jude

Thursday | June 14, 2018

ReubenAndTheDark_KaelenOhm
Reuben And The Dark, photo by Kaelen Ohm

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

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

Saturday | June 16, 2018

BaconBrothers-5237AJFasano
Bacon Brothers, photo by AJ Fasano

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

SpeedyOrtiz_ShervinLainez1
Speedy Ortiz, photo by Shervin Lainez

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

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

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

Sunday | June 17, 2018

ICEAGE2_SteveGullick
Iceage, photo by Steve Gullick

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

Monday | June 18, 2018

2_Chrch_111_HannahStone_1_
CHRCH, photo by Hannah Stone

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

QuietSlang_CharlieLowe
Quiet Slang, photo by Charlie Lowe

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

Tuesday | June 19, 2018

JapaneseBreakfast_Sep26_2016_TomMurphy
Japanese Breakfast circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Wednesday | June 20, 2018

RottenReputation_SpencerLovell2
Rotten Reputation, photo by Spencer Lovell

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

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

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

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