Best Shows in Denver 12/13/18 – 12/17/18

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Advance Base performs Monday, December 17, at Hi-Dive. Photo by Jeff Marini

Thursday | December 13, 2018

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Muscle Beach, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Musical Mayhem: Jimi Davies (GA), TripLip and e-Scapes
When: Thursday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This month’s edition of Musical Mayhem features performances from Denver-based math thrash jazz group TripLip, Valdosta, Georgia-based psych folk artist Jimi Davies and e-Scapes. If you find out what that project is about, let us know.

Who: Muscle Beach w/Giardia, Vexing and Matriarch
When: Thursday, 12.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Muscle Beach comes out of hardcore and metalcore and noise rock with all the raging energy and inhuman vocals that go along with all of that music. But there’s an exuberance to its delivery that transcends the desperation and anger that tends to fuel those musical proclivities. Giardia is also impossible to pigeonhole as a psychedelic rock band with metallic sounds and prog as its palette for tones, atmospheres and textures.

Friday | December 14, 2018

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Harry Hudson, photo by Brooke Ashley Barone

Who: Harry Hudson w/JP Saxe
When: Friday, 12.14, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Harry Hudson got dealt a bad card in life when he found out he had stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 20. But his experience with chemo and the isolation and facing an uncertain future and the subsequent bouts of depression deepened the content of what might have been merely well-written pop songs. His 2018 full-length album Yesterday’s Tomorrow Night further documents that journey and personal development with an expansive spareness and intimacy. Chances are after this tour of small clubs Hudson will find a much larger audience. It’s not pop music that’s pushing musical boundaries but it’s also genuinely meaningful and coming from a place of a deep appreciation for life and its challenges—which you don’t hear much of in enough pop music.

Who: We Are Not a Glum Lot, Safekeeper, Turvy Organ and Broken Record
When: Friday, 12.14, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: We Are Not a Glum Lot started out as an early adopter of the return of math-y emo in its more spare and meditative form with elegant and introspective, sparkly guitar side by side with a quiet loud dynamic with the ethereal songwriting unfolding into a flood of emotions and sonic intensity. Not necessarily the band you might expect out of Colorado Springs except that the city has produced some of the most emotionally vibrant and musically inventive bands out of the Centennial State like Against Tomorrow’s Sky, Eyes Caught Fire, Cocordion, Be Thou My Vision, Spirettes, El Toro De La Muerte and Abracastabya. A lot of names but the Springs scene never did get a lot of attention outside of town despite the quality of artists coming out of there. Rumor has it WANAG has an album in the works for release with a different sound than what it executed so well in the past and if you go to this show you may get to hear some of that in person.

Saturday | December 15, 2018

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Khruangbin, photo by Mary Kang

Who: Khruangbin w/The Marias
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Khruangbin’s eclectic sound has been described in terms of whatever the listener might home in on like surf rock, psychedelia or electronic pop. Overtly the instrumentation embodies all of that with drummer DJ Johnson throwing acoustic break-beats into the mix. The band presents itself as almost a band out of a Moebius comic book taking place in the near future. Perhaps out of his collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Incal. All of which speaks to how the band’s music has a richly multi-cultural aesthetic while not diluting a cohesive artistic vision by trying to be all things to as many people as possible. Its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo has found its way into several year-end-best lists and it’s easy to see why because even when it draws on familiar sounds it takes the synthesis of influences in interesting directions.

Who: Magic Sword w/Crystal Ghost
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Magic Sword performs bombastic 80s B science fiction movie soundtrack-esque synth rock with all the absurd drama one would expect. And in space knight style costumes with cloaks and glowing since stripe eyes on their helmets with the climax of the set coming with one or more members lighting up glowing swords (thus the name of the band) to commemorate the dramatic high point of the song. Glowing swords that are sold at the merch table. It could all just be one big gimmick but the music itself is enjoyable in spite of and because of the absurdity of it all with the songs enjoyable without a sense of irony.

Who: KGNU Quarterly Showcase: Tiq Tok, The Sea Grapes, Bryon Parker, Housekeys, DJ Cal Huss
When: Saturday, 12.15, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: This edition of the community radio station KGNU’s quarterly showcase includes some noteworthy solo artists from Denver’s underground music scene. Bryon Parker recently releases a split record with foundational indie pop artist Jad Fair who was a member of Half Japanese, co-wrote an album with Daniel Johnston and now has an acclaimed solo career. But Parker has also been in some of the more interesting indie rock and post-punk bands in Denver including his other band Simulators. His solo effort is more in the weirdo indie pop vein and worthy of your attention precisely for that reason. Housekeys is a soundscapey, ambient, shoegaze solo act comprised of Tiffiny Costello. Definitely for fans of artists like Grouper and Juliana Barwick.

Sunday | December 16, 2018

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Emma Ruth Rundle, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Emma Ruth Rundle w/Jaye Jayle and Abrams
When: Sunday, 12.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Emma Ruth Rundle’s music is a warmly hazy and emotionally nuanced sweep of commentary and observations buoyed along by guitar work that ranges from the spare and folky to fiery rumbles that perfectly compliment vocals that seem to call out into the universe for succor and knowledge. Her 2018 album On Dark Horses may be the best shoegaze record of the year without even aiming for that sound. She’s currently touring with friend and collaborator Evan Patterson and his band Jaye Jayle. Patterson was and is in heavy, post-hardcore bands like Breather Resist and Young Widows but Jaye Jayle is a more playful, even whimsical at times, side of his songwriting. His vocals for this project seem roughened and weighed down by a world weariness but that matches the dark, pastoral minimalism of the instrumentation reminiscent of the introspective, haunted parts of Sixteen Horsepower’s 2002 album Folklore. Since both artists contribute to each other’s records you may get to see some of that at this show. Currently Jaye Jayle is touring in support of his 2018 album No Trail And Other Unholy Paths.

Monday | December 17, 2018

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Casiotone For the Painfully Alone circa 2010, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Advance Base (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) w/Lisa/Liza and Karima Walker
When: Monday, 12.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Owen Ashworth was one of the stars of the early bedroom producer and indie pop/rock crossover with his band Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Who can say why that music isn’t more acclaimed outside a sizable cult following because Ashworth’s songs were insightful and honest without trying to sugarcoat his enthusiasm, his love and his struggles. Even if you didn’t share Ashworth’s obsessions and outlook on life, his storytelling and compositions and utter uniqueness made his work compelling because it was easy to take on its own terms rather than inspiring comparisons to other artists. In 2010 Ashworth retired CFTPA not really intending to play music again for a long while if not indefinitely. But when you have a talent it won’t let you go as readily as one might wish and Ashworth returned a couple of years later with Advance Base. The songwriting is vintage Ashworth but given that he’s had a studio in which to work on music he’s more able to sculpt the songs to sound the way he’s imagined it. But don’t worry, the songs on the new album Animal Companionship are still as wisely melancholy and, at times, as appealingly uncomfortable as ever.

Best Shows in Denver 7/5/18 – 07/11/18

 

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Pearls and Perils performs 7/5/18 at Mutiny Information Café. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | July 5, 2018

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Surrender Signal, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Empath, Shiii Whaaa and Surrender Signal
When: Thursday, 07.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Empath’s 2018 EP Liberating Guilt and Fear (on Philadelphia-based queer DIY label Get Better Records) is a good reminder that not every younger band disappeared into any kind of boring and creatively stultifying/ossifying morass of subgenre aspirational adherence. Some of its closest sonic cousins of a decade ago might be No Age and Ponytail for the sheer enthusiasm and willingness to embrace raw noise as part of its songwriting. Don’t expect the band’s songs to fit comfortably within the box of noise rock either. Empath doesn’t worry over boundaries like that and you can bet part of its show will be a float into organic sounds, ambient aesthetics and an environmental approach to composition well outside rock-ist and pop-ist aesthetics. Angular noise rock outfit Surrender Signal from Denver is on the bill as well as post-Reatards/noise surf weirdos Shiii Whaaa from Colorado Springs.

Who: Jeremy Enigk w/Chris Staples
When: Thursday, 07.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jeremy Enigk is the singer/guitarist for Sunny Day Real Estate, the Seattle band that in the early 90s helped to establish the aesthetic and sensibilities of emo before it morphed into the version most people came to know in the early 2000s. When Sunny Day broke up in 1995, Enigk embarked upon a distinguished solo career beginning with his 1996 album Return of the Frog Queen. Its sound, while a logical next step from SDRE, was even more meditative and introspective. Sonically it had more in common with the pop-songcraft and sound experimentation heard in artists affiliated with the Elephant 6 collective than anything else going on around that time. Not psychedelic so much as emotionally tender and not hiding behind loud sounds to mask genuine feelings, rather, an embrace of them. For this tour Enigk is celebrating the twenty-second anniversary of that debut solo record so expect to hear all or most of it at this show.

Who: The Rememberables, Blacksage, Pearls & Perils, Zealot and Broken Record
When: Thursday, 07.05, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Baltimore’s Blacksage paired the singing chops of folk vocalist Josephine Olivia with the electronic music compositional and technical prowess of producer Drew Scott to make the kind of minimal synth dance pop that should be dominant in mainstream music since Lorde, Grimes and Purity Ring have already made inroads that way. But for now, the band bridges the shortening chasm between modern darkwave and indie pop. Currently the duo is on tour with Washington D.C.’s The Rememberables. Sure, the guys look like they are in some kind of hip motorcycle gang that maybe listen to Catherine Wheel and Smashing Pumpkins instead of only Skynyrd and the Nuge. And its huge, fuzzy riffs bear that out a bit as evidenced by its self-titled 2017 album rememberables.bandcamp.com. However, the vibe is more self-aware and melancholic in a way that makes one wonder how members of noteworthy DC hardcore band Coke Bust went from that blistering, noisy discharge of anger and outrage to this more nuanced music and yet liking the change all the same. Also on the bill is Denver rock band Zealot which deserves a longer mention as it includes former members of The Don’ts And Be Carefuls and Ideal Fathers. And Pearls & Perils is the best solo soul/downtempo project in Denver with the mighty Olivia Perez who used to front the experimental prog/hard rock band Gloam a decade ago. Her music is as soothing as it is hypnotic and riveting.

Friday | July 6, 2018

 

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Strange Americans
When: Friday, 07.06, 6 p.m.
Where: Levitt Pavilion
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will bring its curiously bright and lively yet haunted cowboy punk/Gothic Americana glam show to the outdoor theater Levitt Pavillion tonight. In an Auto Club show you will experience the broad spectrum of the human emotional drama with a triumphant energy born of knowing life’s low points. Without the hokey-ness, SCAC’s musical output is an acceptance and embrace of life as it is.

Who: Roka Hueka w/Los Mocochetes and Blue Kings
When: Friday, 07.06, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Fortunately the Afrobeat and Latin funk bands in Denver tend to be pretty legit. Granted, Roka Hueka is a ska band it’s style is more in line with the world of jazz and Los Mocochetes may be a funk band but it isn’t just about the party and a good time, though that is certainly part of its appeal, its songs integrate so many styles of art and music into presenting vibrant ideas that challenge the dominant paradigm.

Saturday | July 7, 2018

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Brother Dege, photo by Adrien Berthet

Who: Brother Dege
When: Saturday, 07.07, 6 p.m.
Where: Broken Shovels Farm
Why: At first blush Brother Dege can seem like any other modern blues artist but give the guy’s songs a chance to work and ride with him a little and you’ll discover he’s someone that actually takes the form and the sounds of blues and does something affecting and magical with them. This could be that he’s from rural Louisiana and went through his own real life travails long before, you know, writing “Too Old To Die Young” for his 2010 album Folksongs of the American Longhair, which was included on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film Django Unchained. But Brother Dege’s tonal shifts and song dynamics elevate his music to the mythical level at which the most interesting blues artists have always operated. Brother Dege is now touring in support of his thought-provoking 2018 album Farmer’s Almanac. This show is at Broken Shovels Farm on the edge of Denver metro yet still in city limits but it’s going to feel like you’re seeing this music in the rural west and given the weather in Denver of late, with a lightning backdrop.

Who: Sailor Records 7 Year Anniversary
When: Saturday, 07.07, 2 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Heavy music imprint Sailor Records is celebrating its seventh year with a showcase of many of its artists at this event. On tap for the occasion will be Native Daughters, Dreadnought, Muscle Beach, Greenbeard, Fathers, Joy Subtraction, Abrams, Plastic Daggers, Sugar Skulls and Marigolds, Low Gravity, Unicorn Pussy, It’s Just Bugs and Oscar Ross

Sunday | July 8, 2018

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Cowboy Junkies, photo courtesy Latent Recordings

Who: Cowboy Junkies 
When: Saturday, 07.08, 1 p.m.
Where: Twist & Shout
Why: Cowboy Junkies formed in 1986 in Toronto, Canada and quickly recorded its first album, a collection of mostly covers, called Whites Off Earth Now!! In the era, the band struck a chord on the college rock circuit where it remained a staple of college radio for over a decade. For the 1988 album The Trinity Session the group recorded, as with its first record, live with a stereo mic to a 2 t-track RDAT as a reaction against the humanity seemingly having been produced out of then commercial music. And that’s been the band’s consistent appeal—moody, sometimes brooding music, a mixture of blues, country and folk but rendered into a form and style that didn’t sound like it was adhering too much to the past. In that way, what Cowboy Junkies and like-minded bands of the era were doing is not unlike what many modern avant-bluegrass and mutant Americana bands have been doing for the past two decades and putting the human element to the forefront as a means of immediate connection. This show at Twist & Shout can be attended in its full glory can be attended with a wristband you can get with a pre-purchase new album at the store. The band will perform its full set with full sonic definition this night in Boulder.

Who: An Evening With Cowboy Junkies
When: Sunday, 07.08, 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: See above for why this show might be of interest to you. Also, Boulder Theater, a beautiful room with solid acoustics and the full set from this noteworthy band.

Who: Carry Illinois w/Brianna Straut
When: Sunday, 07.08, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: See our interview with Lizzy Lehman here. But otherwise, Carry Illinois is an Austin-based pop band whose emotionally stirring, sometimes harrow, always healing songs tap into Lehman’s specific struggles with mental health issues and loss but whose expression renders those struggles into a vivid sonic experience that anyone with any sense of self-awareness will find relatable and illuminating.

Tuesday | July 10, 2018

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Carry Illinois, photo by Katrina Barber

Who: Carry Illinois
When: Tuesday, 07.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Magic Rat
Why: See above for Carry Illinois and our interview with singer Lizzy Lehman here. This is the band’s only other show in Colorado.

Who: Invertebrate, Grimy and Berated
When: Tuesday, 07.10, 6 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: It’s not so common to find a grindcore show in Denver these days outside of Mutiny Information Café and Seventh Circle Music Collective. This one will include Oakland’s grind-powerviolence trio Invertebrate, Denver’s Grimy (which includes former members of Doperunner) and Denver-based power violence act Berated.

Who: Das Ich w/The Midnight Marionettes, DJ Katastrophy
When: Tuesday, 07.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Germany’s Das Ich brings together the aesthetics of electro-industrial dance music, cabaret theater and an occult horror movie down to the demonic stage personae of Bruno Kramm and Stefan Ackermann. It’s the kind of music and show you’ll either love for the camp or find silly. But Kramm has been an active participant in humanist leftist politics in Germany and Das Ich’s music often reflects this perspective with 2002 album Anti’christ a pointed critique of world politics of the time.

Wednesday | July 11, 2018

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Glassjaw, photo by Julian Gilbert

Who: Quicksand w/Glassjaw and Spotlights
When: Wednesday, 07.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Quicksand and Glassjaw are two of the giants of 90s New York post-hardcore. Both established a hard-edged, emotionally harrowing sound delivered with an expert use of a song dynamic that utilized a hovering/hanging delay of the most crushing and driving aspects of the songs. Quicksand, which formed earlier in 1990, have an elastic groove in its specific style, a sinewy rhythm the likes of which some later nü metal bands used with often less interesting results. That because with Quicksand while the lyrics are a discharge of anger and anxiety it’s about a place in life and not a celebration of that anger aimed squarely at someone the singer believes wronged him. After splitting in the 90s, Quicksand returned in 2012 seemingly better than ever with a new album, Interiors, released in 2017.

Glassjaw’s sound by comparison wasn’t a groove so much as a steady, relentless burn with a pause for breath between layers of blistering guitars, echoing yet urgent vocals balanced by drums providing a relatively fluid and nuanced flow of percussion intertwined with fast and dub-like bass lines. Often enough the guitars are used in a way that sound more like musical sound effects giving the band a broad range of sounds and moods for a group playing heavier music. Glassjaw, too, released a 2017 album, Material Control, its first in fifteen years.

Who: Neko Case w/The Space Lady
When: Wednesday, 07.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Neko Case has lead quite a storied life as a musician and hopefully a book is coming out someday. Most people rightfully know her as a writer of poetic, emotionally nuanced and powerful pop songs the likes of which can be sampled well on her new album, 2018’s Hell-On. But early in her life in music, Case was a drummer for several punk bands as an art student in Vancouver, British Columbia. She also played in various other projects and perhaps most notably with indie rock band The New Pornographers (with whom Case still occasionally records). As a solo artist, Case has shown an uncommon arc of personal growth and artistic development across her whole career as someone who seems to want to explore beyond previous parameters. While it would be inaccurate to say her body of work is avant-garde it is illuminating and inventive. On this date of the tour Colorado-based outsider musician The Space Lady is opening with her otherworldly synthesizer pop including her unique group of covers of classic songs.