Best Shows in Denver March 2022

Nation of Language, photo by Robin Laananen
Monolord, photo by Josefine Larsson

Wednesday | 03.09
What: Monolord w/Firebreather and The Munsens
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Monolord formed in 2013 at a time when the whole wave of stoner rock was pretty much over and before doom metal hits its ascendency later in that decade. Its members had been part of a more boogie rock oriented band Marulk but at rehearsal had riffed in more drawn out dynamics and sustained atmospherics while incorporating those impulses into coherent songwriting. So its current sound while rooted in what is now called doom metal contains melodic elements lend its crushing rhythmic leads an accessibility that sounds more like an updated version of power metal. The group’s 2021 album Your Time to Shine is arguably its most streamlined manifestation of an aesthetic that draws on the psychedelic heaviness of Sleep and Kylesa and infuses it with its own impulse to impart a mood of catharsis and triumph to its listeners.

Owosso, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 03.11
What: Owosso, Moon Pussy, Church Van and Gestapo Pussy Ranch
When: 9 p.m. doors, 9:30 p.m. show
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Moon Pussy’s scorched earth noise rock and underpinnings in musical experimentation can be disorienting in the best way. Like Big Black with creatively expressive human drums instead of a drum machine. This will be Owosso’s first show. The group is comprised of veterans of the local punk/post-hardcore and indie rock scenes including people from Modern Goon. The group was been described as “post indie wook rock” but it’s hopefully safe to assume it’s not some ironic jam band with punk roots. Though if it is it’ll probably be alright anyway considering the band’s lineage.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mitski w/Michelle
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Mitski released her latest album Laurel Hell in 2022 and it is arguably her most vulnerable and raw album while also her most poignantly melancholic. Few other artists have articulated the disillusionment of the current era and the perils of an over mediated culture with as much precision and resonance as Mitski over the course of her two most recent records. As a live performer Mitski always has something different in her repertoire like on her most recent tour in 2019 when she had stage sets and a costume that looked like somewhere between a workout suit and a martial arts dancer uniform.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Jen Korte & The Loss, Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds and Heated Bones
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Jen Korte & The Loss this time out is basically her excellent experimental singer-songwriter project Lady Gang but with a full band instead of pulling off the full range of sounds herself. But it’ll still be Korte deep diving into emotionally rich explorations of hurt, resilience and the complex nuances of human experiences and relationships. Korte’s imaginative musicianship and songwriting elevates her work beyond the usual expectations one might have when one thinks of singer-songwriter. Her body of work is eclectic and runs a range of Americana, indie rock, folk and what might be described as experimental pop with loops and electronics. Many artists reach a point where they rest on their laurels and Korte hasn’t done so.

Saturday | 03.12
What: Mayhem w/Watain and Midnight
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Mayhem is indeed the legendary black metal band from Norway whose lore and history is worth looking into for the lurid details alone. It makes for a fascinating origin story. But the music and its harrowing and heavy sweeps of epic storytelling speaks for itself as does the unforgettable stage presence of frontman Attila Csihar who always brings a deep sense of theater and performance art to every one of his performances whether with Mayhem or SunnO))). The show will be worth it to see what he does alone and that chilling, sepulchral, operatic voice.

Sunday | 03.13
What: Drug Church, One Step Closer, Soul Blind and Lurk
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Drug Church is a band that has managed to bridge the sonic worlds of pop punk, hardcore and noise rock with super catchy hooks and made powerful and meaningful music in the process. Currently touring in support of its forthcoming album Hygiene out March 11, 2022.

SUMAC, photo by Reid Haithcock

Sunday | 03.13
What: Sumac w/Blood Spore and Patrick Shiroishi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: SUMAC formed in 2014 when Kurt Ballou of Converge connected guitarist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer, House of Low Culture) who had written the initial elements of songs with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn to help realize Turner’s vision of crafting the heaviest music of his career then thus far. Brian Cook of Russian Circles and formerly of These Arms Are Snakes and Botch rounded out the classic and current line-up in time for the group’s debut album. The resulting four albums since (The Deal from 2015, What One Becomes in 2016, Love in Shadow out 2018 and May You Be Held released in 2020) are indeed some of the heaviest records of recent years. But as with Turner’s other projects it’s never just heavy for the sake of that quality, it’s intricate and imaginative, emotionally charged soundscapes in which the contributions of all the players seems to be highlighted. Certainly with the most recent album it’s not relentlessly crushing dynamics but a flood of textures seemingly elevated in a suspended and sustained whirlpool of sound that rushes through you and then out like experiencing a state of being. Calling it post-metal or sludge metal is one way of giving people an idea of what they’re in for but the music itself has more in common with artists like Neurosis and SunnO))) than with some other bands lumped under those genre designations. Perhaps it is conceived of as a mind-altering experience to perform and thus witness when you’re in the room with it live. The fact that SUMAC has collaborative albums with noise legend Keiji Haino who is highly selective with whom he does work speaks much to how SUMAC isn’t merely a metal or heavy band.

Turner has long been a champion of forward thinking underground music since the 90s with his label Hydra Head Records which issued releases from the likes of Boris, Big Business, Cave In, Daughters, Dälek, Jesu, Kayo Dot, Oxbow, Khanate, Harvey Milk, Xasthur and The VSS. Its roster is a kind of who’s who of heavier experimental music of its heyday. Through the label and touring Turner has had a vehicle for exploring his creative interests in music and visual art which brings an added dimension to SUMAC’s releases as well and the ethos with which the band operates. On its current tour the group will be joined by purveyors of death doom Blood Spore and Los Angeles-based avant-garde saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. Listen to our interview with Aaron Turner on Bandcamp.

Lala Lala, photo by Miwah Lee

Monday | 03.14
What: Lala Lala w/Elton Aura
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Lillie West was already stretching the boundaries of music that might loosely grouped under the vague term “indie rock” earlier in her career with imaginative pop songwriting. But with her 2021 album I Want The Door To Open with Yoni Wolf as co-producer she finely tunes her soundscapes as perfect complements to her expressively ethereal vocals andan exploration of themes of where an artist fits in with a world in which they often need to make their own lives the fodder for some of their most meaningful work and how that can affect your sense of self. It’s a bit like synth pop for fans of Holly Herndon or Virginia Wing.

Monday | 03.14
What: Portrayal of Guilt w/End, Yashira and Wake
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Portrayal of Guilt might be described as a post-hardcore, grindcore adjacent noise rock band with the visceral live quality all that implies. But there is a bit of the irreverent trickster to their presentation and their 2021 album Christfucker was sent out in a jacket that displayed the letters “ST” like “Self-Titled” so that maybe the record could be stealth sold at record stores in more conservative areas of the country and as a signal to fans of the ridiculousness of actual censorship and not the myth of it perpetrated by bad faith actors. Wake from Calgary, Alberta is of like mind and its 202 album Devouring Ruin is like a psychedelic flavor of later era Napalm Death.

Choir Boy, photo by Jordan Utley

Tuesday | 03.15
What: Choir Boy w/Riki
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Choir Boy is a post-punk band from Salt Lake City that has garnered a bit of a cult following in recent years for its tender, synth-pop ballads about loss and desire recalling the likes of the more melancholic end of Thompson Twins and Felt. Riki sounds like she came from an alternate dimension where she had a career making sensual pop songs for David Lynch movies with her soulfully expressive voice. Elements like cool jazz saxophone and chimes that might sound cheesy and dates in the music of other people just sounds perfect for the mood Riki has evoked of late night adventures in secret Bohemian dives across two albums: her 2020 self-titled and Gold from 2021. Not many artists have a maintained a mystique to them but Niff Nawor aka Riki certain has.

Wayfarer, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.17
What: Wayfarer w/Midwife and Snakes
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Denver’s Wayfarer is finally getting to celebrate the release of its 2020 album A Romance With Violence and bringing its flavor of dark Americana, at turns spaghetti western and doomy black metal, to stage bigger stages. This night the band’s guests are Midwife and her intensely evocative and poignant ambient folk and art country/dark pop supergroup Snakes.

Thursday | 03.17
What: Ellen Allien w/Mr. Frick and Mort.Domed
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Ellen Allien aka Ellen Fraatz makes a rare appearance in Denver and brings her experimental style of techno that is somewhere between minimal, IDM and acid house with an imaginative flair that can seem subtle until you listen to her work alongside other artists in similar realms of music.

Squirrel Flower, photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | 03.17
What: Squirrel Flower w/Tenci
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower recently released Planet EP, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2021 sophomore album Planet (i). Her gritty yet introspective songs like “Hurt A Fly” are so honest and real about her mistakes and shortcomings you feel that deeply in your own heart. Williams really has a gift for creating strong imagery and emotional impressions and matching it with songwriting that is simultaneously forceful and vulnerable like she respects your time with the music and wants it to be a fortifying experience to give it a listen.

NightWraith, photo by Holden Kudla

Friday | 03.18
What: NightWraith album release w/Space in Time, Ghosts of Glaciers and Ashes For the Mute
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Calling any band a “supergroup” is a bit of a misnomer but Denver’s NightWraith has a major pedigree of Denver metal and art rock luminaries including the following with their past and current bands in parentheses as applicable: Benjamin Pitts (To Be Eaten, The New Rome, False Cathedrals, Vimana, Black Sleep of Kali, In The Company of Serpents, Giant Eyeball and others), Igor Panasewicz (Valiomierda, Vimana, Necrosophik Abyss, Abhoria), Isidro “Spy” Soto (Ashes For The Mute, Primitive Man), Caleb Tardio (I Sank Molly Brown) and Jerry Hilger (who is just the affable guy you run into in the scene regularly and wonder when he was going to be in a band). In 2019 NightWraith put out its excellent self-titled debut but on this night the outfit celebrates the unleashing of its new record Offering (available digitally, on CD and limited edition vinyl starting March 25). The early singles highlight the way this quintet brings together melodic riffs with epic sensibilities and black metal grit for an orchestral display of a particularly glorious brand of heavy metal. There is a playfulness to the songs that also doesn’t detract from the heaviness of the riffs and the elegantly precise dynamics. Also on the bill is the psychedelic hard rock and metal of Space In Time whose own hybrid influences from the likes of Hawkwind, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep has resulted in an always surprisingly powerful performance. You also get to see the instrumental post-metal band Ghosts of Glaciers and cosmic black metal outfit Ashes For The Mute in which “Spy” will be doing double duty for the night. Clearly the best metal show of the week.

Lost Walks, photo courtesy the band

Friday | 03.18
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and f-ether
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LFX Filmworks
Why: Lost Walks released its weighty and harrowing new album Blood Lantern in December 2021. The theatrical, dark Americana of Wolf, Woman, Man, its 2017 debut album, is still at the root of this new batch of music but the band which collaborates with a regular dance troupe for its performances shed some of the folk and blues aspects of its prior musical incarnation in any obvious ways and sounds now more like Neurosis except that Dameon Merkl still sounds like the mysterious and charismatic figure you want to narrate a future documentary about H.P. Lovecraft. Also for this show you get to see members of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club bring their own imaginative and compelling style of gritty old time music and theater while f-ether performs his own highly refined and stylized techno and house-informed electronic soundscapes. Considering the venue expect more than a touch of theater to the show.

Friday | 03.18
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and De Gringos y Gremmies
When: 8 p.m.
Where: The Squire Lounge
Why: Daikaiju is a surf rock revival band originally based out of Huntsville, Alabama but now out of Houston. But that doesn’t quite do justice to the legend of this band that you hear from anyone that has seen them from not just the kaiju (giant monsters in Japanese popular culture i.e. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others not so well known) aesthetic and themes but also the kabuki masks, the use of fire when they can and energetic/borderline unhinged live performances that are part of the lore of the group as well. But make no mistake, yeah, a surf rock revival band but one with chops and imagination and not the rote surf rock that has plagued the indie underground for way too long. Think more like Man Or Astro-man or The Mermen. As for TripLip, some journalist wrote this about them in 2013 and they are a much neglected local institution: “A drum and bass instrumental duo (not in the EDM sense, of course), TripLip can’t be said to fit into any particular musical subgenre. Reminiscent only of a a band these two guys have probably never heard of — Denver’s The Hellmen, because of its perfect fusion of jazz, punk, noise rock and surf with flourishes of improvisational funk — it can safely be said that TripLip isn’t following any trends, local or otherwise, because there’s nothing trendy about what the act is doing. The outfit’s solid musicianship and sonic creativity is refreshingly out of time and place, and it’s always interesting. – Tom Murphy, Westword. 11/24/2013”

Saturday | 03.19
What: Lost Walks w/Friends of Slim Cessna and Florea
When: 7 p.m.
Where: LF Filmworks
Why: See above on 3.19 but for this show the introspective and dusky folk of Florea will open the proceedings.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 03.19
What: Circle Jerks w/Negative Approach and 7 Seconds
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Circle Jerks were one of the earliest and one of the most enduringly influential hardcore bands out of Southern California in the late 70s with former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris. Morris’ surreal and absurdly wry sense of humor and self-deprecating social commentary informed much of the band’s material which can be lost in flood of energy of the live show and Morris’ exuberant energy as a vocalist. This tour is technically the 40 year reunion tour that was supposed to happen in 2020 but everyone knows what happens there so here’s your chance to see the Jerks in high form with Morris, guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and Joey Castillo formerly of Queens of the Stone Age joining on drums. But wait, there’s more. Negative Approach is also one of the pioneering bands of hardcore having formed in Detroit and fronted by one of the most elemental vocalists of our time in John Brannon. Brutal, nihilistic and desperate in lyrics and crushing and devastating in sound. And then of course 7 Seconds from Reno, Nevada also helped to lay the foundations of hardcore beginning in 1980 with the fast and hard dynamics with a core of catchy melodicism that helped shape a body of work that in itself has inspired generations of punk bands since.

Saturday | 03.19
What: Daikiju, TripLip and friends
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: The Matchbox
Why: See above on 3.18 for this show in case you had to miss that performance.

Monday | 03.21
What: Daikaiju w/TripLip and Ego Death
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Final chance to catch Daikaiju with TripLip before the touring band hits the road for places out west.

Monday | March 21
What: W.I.T.C.H. w/Night Beats and Mauskovic Dance Band
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Incredibly W.I.T.C.H. is the Zamrock band formed in the 1970s meaning of course that they’re pioneers of the unique flavor of psychedelic rock that happened in Zambia during that decade before multiple forces led to the demise of the movement by the mid-1980s. Articles have written about the movement and vinyl reissues of classics by Witch and of course Ngozi Family lead to a resurgence in interest in that era of music and the reunion of Witch in 2012. Not often you get to catch legends like this in the flesh. But also on the bill is the great psychedelic garage rock band Night Beats from Seattle who were always weirder and more interesting than most of the recent wave of American psychedelia. Also opening is Mauskovic Dance Band whose blend of cumbia, Afro-Cuban rhythms and Krautrock sensibilities will fit right in with the headliners.

Jawbox, photo by Pete Duvall

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Jawbox w/despAIR Jordan
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Jawbox emerged from the vibrant late 80s and early 90s post-punk/post-hardcore DC punk scene to go on to become one of the most influential guitar bands of the 90s and beyond. Its 1991 debut album Grippe is like the missing link between Dinosaur Jr and midwest post-punk and hardcore like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun. But the beautifully atonal and angular “Savory” from the 1994 album For Your Own Special Sweetheart, the band’s major label debut, was a surprise hit during that era before the alternative rock being championed by major labels was a watered down version of the music seemingly flooding forth in the early part of the decade. Jawbox split in 1997 and didn’t reunite except briefly in 2009 until 2019 though in 2021 founding member Bill Barbot left the group replaced by War on Women guitarist and singer Brooks Harlan. Opening the show is Denver’s despAIR Jordan whose own post-punk flavor is as informed by melodic hardcore as it is the atmospheric, melancholic variety.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Yves Tumor
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Yves Tumor is like the Prince of experimental electronic music whose exuberant stage presence is as colorful as Bowie at peak weirdness but whose sensibilities and aesthetic are very much of the present. That their music has been coming out on Warp Records is saying something about the forward thinking quality of the songcraft and for someone who many might consider a weird hip-hop artist, Tumor has cited Throbbing Gristle as a major influence.

Tuesday | 03.22
What: New Candys and Mint Field w/Wave Decay
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze. Mexico City’s Mint Field brings its own ambient/shoegaze soundscapes to the show with touches of psych folk and cinematic aesthetics making what can often be abstract music that transports you to other spaces into something that feels deeply personal. Wave Decay’s soothing dream pop sound combines motorik beats with gossamer melodies.

Indigo De Souza, photo by Charlie Boss

Tuesday | 03.22
What: Indigo De Souza w/Field Medic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: North Carolina-based singer and songwriter Indigo De Souza recently released her latest album Any Shape You Take on Saddle Creek in August 2021. Though its neo-soul and pop sound is somewhat stylistically different from her fantastic 2018 debut album I Love My Mom with its introspective, guitar pop songs it goes further into an approach of radical vulnerability in plumbing the depths of emotional trauma, self-doubt and the use of creativity as a path out of the darkest places of the mind. The gentle touch of the songs have an unconventional power through honoring wounded feelings with a compassionate honesty that informs the songwriting in general.

Wombo, photo by Fallon

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat w/Wombo, Apollo Shortwave and H-Lite
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat has been a fixture of underground American art punk. Somewhere between angular post-punk, funk and jazz, the duo’s releases have been varied and always interesting with viscerally impactful and fun live shows. Its forthcoming album Nightclub Daydreaming has all the hallmarks of a great Ed Schrader offering with intricate rhythmic minimalism but decidedly moodier and more atmospheric than we’ve come to expect from the project’s rich sonic palette. Wombo’s psychedelic alternative rock with the dispassionate vocals have been one of the more consistently interesting left field bands out of the indie milieu of recent years that fans of Dry Cleaning and Ganser might appreciate. H-Lite’s electronic experiments unites minimal techno with a more playful and expansive type of glitchcore.

Lightning Bolt, photo by Nick Sayers

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Lightning Bolt w/Problems
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Saying that Lightning Bolt is a noise rock duo is a little like saying a hurricane is a storm. Doesn’t quite cover it. Though only a duo, Lightning Bolt seems to produce more sound than one might expect from just two people and its aggressive rhythms and explosive live performances are like small scale riot of their own. Which one might expect from a group from Providence, Rhode Island where some of the wildest and noisiest bands of the modern era (Mind Flayer, Arab on Radar, Six Finger Satellite and The Body to name a few) have come from over the past 30 years. Sonic Citadel, the band’s 2019 and latest album, is a masterclass of constant motion and barely controlled chaos and inspired weirdness. In place are also the usual rambunctious soundscape of intense yet modulated drums, processed vocals, distorted bass played both for rhythm and as accents in a call and response dynamic with lyrics sung with a nearly unhinged style. If you’ve never seen Lightning Bolt be prepared for pretty much anything to happen except that it’ll be more fun than you can usually have in a small rock club. Problems is the strange yet also fascinating techno house music project of Darren Keen based out of Lincoln, Nebraska whose 2020 album Ought Not Be Overthought is worth a listen for anyone interested in electronic music that doesn’t have obvious connections to what anyone else is doing yet remains accessible to most people.

Wednesday | 03.23
What: Dance With The Dead & Magic Sword w/Das Mortal
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Dance With The Dead is a synthwave band currently touring on the festival circuit and in support of its new album Driven To Madness. But a major reason to go to this show is to see Boise’s Magic Sword whose own mix of fantasy and science fiction imagery and hard rock synthwave is on another level than most like-minded artists as the band members perform as space knights and other than differently colored costume lights largely anonymously. With a handful of albums out and their own comic, Magic Sword is consistently entertaining and its music though technically born out of a gimmick has an appeal far beyond that like the kind of retro science fiction action movie soundtrack for a film that has yet to be made.

Yob, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.24
What: Yob w/True Widow and Glacial Tomb
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Yob guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt founded Yob in 1996 after spending some years in hardcore bands in Eugene, Oregon. The mid-90s weren’t exactly the height of the popularity for metal of any kind but in embracing the kind of heavy music that was being called “stoner rock” in the 90s but today the sludgy, sometimes psychedelic, metal might be called doom or post-metal depending on where on the stylistic spectrum the music falls. But whatever genre tags one might put on what Yob has done at this point its newer music as having emerged on both Clearing the Path to Ascend and Our Raw Heart has more than a little in common with experimental heavy artists like Neurosis and Isis (the former having been released on Neurot Recordings). Despite the sometimes cosmic bent of the lyrics and themes of mortality and struggle there is a real joy to the band’s live performances that draws you in for a shared catharsis. Denver death doom band Glacial Tomb opens the show and in the middle is True Widow from Dallas whose blend of doom and shoegaze is entrancingly melodic and moody.

Friday | 03.25
What: Gary Numan w/I Speak Machine
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Gary Numan is a pioneer of synth pop whose work with his old band Tubeway Army along with the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Fad Gadget and Human League brought a sophistication of creative vision, nuanced social commentary and inventive incorporation of synthesizers into well-crafted pop songs proved influential on a generations of other artists. Numan forged a solo career for himself with 1979’s The Pleasure Principle and the hit single “Cars.” Since that time Numan has reliably experimented with technology and his own songwriting approach in ways that proved to be an influence on many of the more popular industrial bands of the 80s and 90s including Nine Inch Nails. Pick up anywhere in Numan’s recent catalog and there is worthwhile material including his 2021 album Intruder with its thoughtful commentary on climate change and its impact on the world and not just one human civilization. I Speak Machine is an electronic artist of recent years whose own synthscapes recall the era of music Numan helped to establish with horror cinema aesthetics and a live show to match. Definitely for fans of ADULT. and Xeno and Oaklander.

Saturday | 03.26
What: Quits w/Endless Nameless, Sell Farm and Pythian Whispers
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Quits is like the Hasil Adkins of post-hardcore noise rock. Endless Nameless are like the Iceburn collective of post-Canadian instrumental art shoegaze. Sell Farm is the Townes Van Zandt of doom industrial twee. Pythian Whispers is the Hüsker Dü of elevated Krautrock. These absurd characterizations are true in spirit so come on down and see for yourself. Full disclosure, the author of this bit is in Pythian Whispers.

Dust City Opera, photo by Gracie Meier

Saturday | 03.26
What: Dust City Opera w/Split Lips
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera recently released its new album Alien Summer with its colorful story arc of science fiction, horror and the drama of the human experience. The sound mixes a bit of the group’s dark Americana with fuzzy rock grit to lend all of the songs more of an edge than one might assume given the band’s theatrical presentation. The new album sounds like something that could have come out of the later era indiepop bands steeped in the 90s version of that music like Beulah or Red Pony Clock but with a bit more refinement of sound.

Sunday | 03.27
What: Kat Von D w/Prayers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Kat Von D is perhaps best known as a tattoo artist who has been in a couple of reality shows related to the profession. But in 2021 she released her debut album Love Made Me Do It and its mix of darkwave and synthpop is surprisingly accomplished. Her set alone with be worth seeing but opening is her husband Rafael Reyes’ band Prayers who garnered a good deal of attention as a “Cholo Goth” band when really Prayers is just one of the best modern electronic post-punk bands with a bit more actual edge to go along with the moody soundscapes and intense and dramatic lyrics.

The Spirit of the Beehive, photo courtesy the artists

Monday | 03.28
What: The Spirit of the Beehive w/Deeper
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Spirit of the Beehive probably seemed like a slightly weird indie rock/pop band early in its career but anyone that has been paying attention across the arc of its albums it’s like the Philadelphia-based group has been pulling back the veils of normalcy and convention with every album. Pleasure Suck and its hazy atmospherics and melodic left turns was reminiscent of something Black Moth Super Rainbow or Stargazer Lilies might do. This shifting to more experimental songwriting continued on 2018’s Hypnic Jerks with an approach to songwriting and structure reminiscent of cinema rather than simply music. With Entertainment, Death (2021), The Spirit of the Beehive is further opening its Pandora’s Box of unexpected tonal experiments, textures and raw sound composition to craft pop songs unlike much of anything anyone is making, even genius weirdos like Deerhoof. Often the songs sound like you’re stepping into a room in a horror movie funhouse and not sure where to find the exit and find you like it there. Deeper is one of Chicago’s bright post-punk stars and their album Auto Pain is something akin to music The Cure might have done if they had gone the route of angular art rock and emerged in the 2010s having been impacted by The Rapture and Women.

Monday | 03.28
What: Blunt Bangs (Athens, GA), Supreme Joy, Moodlighting and Public Opinion
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Blunt Bangs from Athens, GA includes Reggie Youngblood formerly of buzz indie band Black Kids. But this project is like power pop with a touch of soul. The Big Star influence is obvious but the self-aware lyrics are very much in tune with the social environment of today and the cultural touchstones and lingo of the moment and a poignant portrait of the struggles young people have navigating relationships and a world that seems to make most aspects of life challenging for everyone. Blunt Bangs also includes Eli Saragoussi formerly of psychedelic garage rock phenoms Hair Cult. Also on the bill are Ryan Wong’s lo-fi post-punk band Supreme Joy and twee dream pop outfit Moodlighting who are set to release their new album Boy Wonder with a show at the Hi-Dive on May 5, 2022.

Glove, photo by Ivana Cajin

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Nation of Language w/Glove and Ducks Ltd.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Nation of Language released its debut album Introduction, Presence in 2020 at a time when no one could or did tour but its bass-driven, moody synth pop songs were reminiscent of early OMD in a way worthy of that obvious influence. The group’s 2021 album A Way Forward was aptly named because the synthesizers came more to the front for a starker yet richer sound overall. It initially recalled Magnetic Fields’ 1995 album Get Lost and its rhythms and pacing seemed to draw on Krautrock influences like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia and Ashra. And an exploration of OMD’s 1983 artpop masterpiece Dazzle Ships. But whatever the influences or inspirations, Nation of Language has fused the avant-garde with pop in a way with modern methods that draw you in and induce a mood of looking toward a future of possibilities. Glove is a post-punk/darkwave band from Tampa, Florida, a city rightfully more well known for its influential death metal milieu. But Glove’s knack for composing songs that wed energetic rhythms with pulsing low end to melancholic mood may do something toward changing that impression. Its new album Boom Nights breaks free from the cookie cutter darkwave sound that has emerged with more lo-fi recordings. Glove’s album has not slick production so much as strong. Reminiscent of The Prids and Modern English circa Mesh & Lace. Ducks Ltd. from Toronto, Ontario released Modern Fiction on Carpark in 2021 and its ebullient jangle pop sounded like a mix of New Order, all that great 80s Kiwi rock and groups out of the C86 movement of that era. But the content of the songs were inspired by an examination of modern human civilization in decay and its impacts on our lives on a very personal level. The songwriters also took some cues from the fiction of Graham Greene whose life in MI6 and fiction were likely the model of spy fiction to follow.

Greet Death, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Dummy, Greet Death, Infant Island, American Culture, Dirt Sucker, Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: [Greet Death and Infant Island show moved to this event due to issues with Meadowlark Bar] Dummy from Los Angeles released its latest album Mandatory Enjoyment in 2021 and immediately established itself as a band to watch with its consistently fascinating soundscapes somewhere betwixt post-punk, Krautrock, indie pop and whatever avant-garde mix of all that you’d call Stereolab. Greet Death is the kind of modern shoegaze band that sounds like its members came up through post-hardcore or some kind of punk or metal as its guitar work has some nice sharp edges even as its soundscapes sound like the shattered glass of disappointed emotions. Its 2019 album New Hell is overflowing with a sublime catharsis that genre bends in ways that one doesn’t hear much in this realm of music. Unless you’re listening to Drowse or another band with seemingly similar roots and an ear for vulnerable emotional expressions put very much forward. American Culture from Denver is no stranger to these hybrid musical impulses and singer Chris Adolf has been someone who never limits himself to a narrow genre though an innovator in indiepop going back to the 90s with bands like Love Letter Band, Bad Weather California, V-Tech Orchid and the various musical incarnations of American Culture with its Cure-esque guitar soundscapes and raw yet tenderly executed vocals. Candy Apple from Denver might be considered hardcore but only if you include the influence of early Christian Death and maybe Jesus and Mary Chain.

Video Vision, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 03.29
What: Video Vision w/DJ Julian Black and DJ Niq V
When: 9 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Video Vision is a post-punk/deathrock band from Athens, Georgia whose 2021 album Inked in Red feels both melodramatic and intimately rendered. Sounds like something plucked from the early 80s except for the synth treatments which feel very modern. The male and female vocals recall the dynamics you’d hear in a 45 Grave song but with more ethereal music, just that grit and confidence seems very much in place.

Wilderado, photo by Grant Spanier

Wednesday and Thursday | 03.30 and 03.31
What: Wilderado w/flipturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Aggie Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Though Wilderado released its self-titled debut album in October 2021, the band originally based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, now out of Los Angeles, has put in its time over the last seven years honing its songcraft and performances through regular touring. Its sounds sound like they were written with acoustic guitar in a living room contemplating a feeling or a thought that strikes you so strongly you end up writing it down or committing it to memory as best you can. But those skeletons of songs get the full-fledged manifestation across an album of lively pop songs that are stronger for having been worked out before any adornments and embellishments are added.

Wednesday | 03.30
What: Black Ends (Seattle), Sell Farm, Joseph Lamar and Fainting Dreams (members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Black Ends and its “gunk pop” sounds like something you’d get if you took an experimental punk band and found a way to deconstruct the traditional sounds and structures into this melted mutant version. Meaning it’s more original than most things you’ll see actually on tour and would have found a home on Siltbreeze in the 2000s alongside Pink Reason, Eat Skull and the like. Sell Farm is a dub-industrial-indie pop band whose own sound experiments in real time pretty much place it outside all trendy styles happening right now which is always a reason to go see a band. Joseph Lamar is a glam R&B space alien whose soulful vocals can’t be constrained by convention either and his songwriting while hyper tuneful also colors outside the lines of expectation. If Fainting Dreams includes members of Endless Nameless, Direct Threat and Asbestos and still playing this show they’re probably using their considerable musical talents and chops to make something unusual and interesting as well.

Thursday | 03.31
What: Prism Bitch w/Horse Girl and Bud Bronson & The Good Timers
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Prism Bitch from Albuquerque, New Mexico fuses synth pop with garage rock in unpredictable ways while not compromising solid pop songwriting yet coming off very unfiltered and punk. Horse Girl is part inspired performance art and art pop with a show that always breaks that barrier between the spectator and performer in creative ways. Brilliant weirdos, always. Bud Bronson & The Good Timers is the best power pop band out of Denver. Full stop.

Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 03.31
What: Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Oftentimes when actors get into making music it’s either quaint, ill-considered our insufferable. But Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum which includes Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) alongside Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie) is shockingly good. Like a synth pop glam rock band. Its debut album THANKS FOR COMING comes off more like an art rock concept record the likes of which you’d expect more from the 1970s with strong ideas and commentary on life and society and ambitious songwriting. But with modern sensibilities like the musicians are well aware that Radiohead and Arcade Fire already happened. Its tonal exercises are poignant and evocative and the songs cinematic.

Best Shows in Denver December 2021

Napalm Death, photo courtesy the artists
Spyderland at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.03
What: Spyderland, Princess Dewclaw and Connie
When: 10 p.m.
Where: Broadway Roxy
Why: Spyderland is the more soulful synth pop side of the songwriting of Marie Litton (Lil’ Thunder, Ghost Buffalo) and Drew McClellan. The duo’s 2021 album There’s Monsters Outside is an evocation of the challenging social and political landscape of America during a time of impending crises with no real leadership to face them with honesty and conviction leaving us to scramble as best we can while not surrendering to despair. Princess Dewclaw is like if a punk band with strident yet righteous political convictions freely associated musical ideas and didn’t bother to think electronic music can’t be part of a punk aesthetic.

Midwife at Hi-Dive September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.03
What: Old Sport w/Midwife and Seer Believer
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Old Sport emerges from its long hiatus to bring its emo flavored punk to local stages again this time sharing that space with Midwife and that project’s deeply emotional, hazy art folk darkwave-esque dream pop.

Friday | 12.03
What: Lose Your Head: Vitrina (EBM), Hex Cassette (synth goth for Satan), Horse Girl, Ray Diess (synth pop), John Baldwin (pop)
When: 6:30/7 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Place (1527 Champa)
Why: A showcase of some of the newer darkwave/synth pop bands out of Denver at a new venue in the cultural wasteland of downtown.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, photo by Krystal Morris

Saturday | 12.04
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/Death Valley Girls
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. Opening the show is the psychedelic post-punk band Death Valley Girls whose own unpredictable and imaginative live shows and music is a fascinating pairing with the veteran band.

Monday | 12.06
What: She Past Away w/Radio Scarlett
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: She Past Away isn’t just a great post-punk band from Istanbul but one of the best bands out of that realm of music operating today. Its energetic and bright yet darkly moody music reconciles the brooding of Sisters of Mercy at their most melancholy with early Cure guitar work. Connoisseurs of post-punk may hear hints of the influence of Russian post-punk legends Kino in the music as well. Radio Scarlett is Denver’s premier death rock band.

Eyehategod at Bluebird Theater January 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 12.07
What: GWAR w/Napalm Death and Eyehategod
When: 6/7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Yeah, it’s that GWAR with the absurd costumes as intergalactic scumdogs playing bombastic thrash punk and still giving the middle finger to uptight, conservative American culture and sensibilities in their inimitable and outrageous manner. One might think the highly political Napalm Death is without humor but oh no, the band that is known to play their less than 2 second song “You Suffer” multiple times in a row in case anyone missed it and otherwise have fun eviscerating and sending up the horrific realities of life under late capitalism. Eyehategod will bring a similarly informed and compassionate perspective on human suffering and survival with its own darkly psychedelic sludgy heavy music.

Tuesday | 12.07
What: Thundercat w/Channel Tres at Mission Ballroom
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Thundercat is the brilliant trickster bassist of renown whose skills have helped make many other musicians sound better including Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. But his solo albums are mind-altering musical journeys in their own right and as a band leader, Thundercat ably conjures jazz-funk alchemy with deep creativity.

Moon Pussy at Hi-Dive October 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.09
What: New Standards Men, Moon Pussy, SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is the dual album release from art rock weirdos New Standards Men and Alien Neighborhood. The former never got to celebrate the release of its epic psychedelic jazz prog 2020 masterpiece I Was A Starship in 2020 for obvious reasons but the timing of the release of its companion album Spain’s First Astronaut in 2021 as well as the reissue of the earlier record on Snappy Little Numbers worked out for 2021. For the bill the group is joined by label mates and pop-punk band SPELLS and Alien Neighborhood as well as noise rock legends in the making Moon Pussy. Fans of bands on the Amphetamine Reptile imprint, Big Black/Shellac and outfits on the late GSL label or 31G will definitely have a heavy appreciation for Moon Pussy.

Friday | 12.10
What: N3PTUNE w/Rusty Steve and Hex Kitten
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: N3PTUNE has already made great waves beyond Denver with a brash and sophisticated body of work that transcends easy categorization with roots seemingly in funk, R&B, soul and rock. It is perhaps facile to compare him to Prince and maybe Yves Tumor but it’s also not far off the mark. This night celebrates the release of his EP The Black and White Ball on which N3PTUNE goes deep singing about intense subject matter with a hearty honesty.

Screwtape at Gothic Theatre November 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.10
What: Joy’s Kitchen Benefit Show: Screwtape, Ukko’s Hammer, Destiny Bond, Broken Record
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This will be a different kind of hardcore show benefiting Joy’s Kitchen. It also signals the return of the great local hardcore group Screwtape to live performance.

Saturday | 12.11
What: Volk w/White Rose Motor Oil
When: 9:30/10 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Volk is a cowpunk duo from Nashville, Tennessee. Its 2021 album Cashville is refreshingly raw and catches your attention immediately with an attitude that’s reminiscent of Big Boys when that band went off the standard punk rock rails it never traversed in the first place. Also on the bill are local country rock greats White Rose Motor Oil whose 2020 album You Can’t Kill Ghosts was both a stripped down affair but one that really emphasized the essentials of the group’s songwriting with no filler. It’s more recent releases feature spirited and creative interpretations of the duo’s influences.

Friday | 12.17
What: Flaming Tongues Above, Divingbell and Discontinued Flavors
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Formerly known as 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Flaming Tongues Above is the solo, experimental folk and musique concrète project of Amos Helvey of Old Sport. Divingbell is the solo project of Angus Smith whose own take on what might be considered a kind of folk-flavored post-rock is reminiscent of what might have happened if Jeff Buckley had joined early Low.

Riddy Arman, photo by Mike Vanata

Friday | 12.17
What: Riddy Arman w/The Local Honeys
When: 8/9 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Riddy Arman’s 2021 self-titled debut album on La Honda Records puts the emphasis on the Montana-based songwriter’s vivid storytelling through her powerful vocals. But her expressive and creative guitar work backed by finely accented percussion and a touch of pedal steel frame the stories with a beautifully reflective quality. One of modern country’s rising stars who you can see in small venue early in her career.

Lindsey Buckingham, photo by Lauren Dukoff

Monday | December 20
What: Lindsey Buckingham w/Sammy Brue
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Lindsey Buckingham is perhaps best known for his contributions to the best era of rock and pop band Fleetwood Mac. But Buckingham’s work and songwriting outside of the Mac has been noteworthy as well (see his recent performance on SNL with Halsey). Currently the songwriter is touring in support of his 2021 self-titled album, a record that displays Buckingham in fine form as a crafter of pop songs not short on sophistication, economy and emotionally resonant lyrics.

Church Fire at Larimer Lounge September 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 12.23
What: Church Fire, Hex Cassette, Horse Girl and Verhoffst
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire has long been one of the most powerful, dark synth pop bands in Denver and anywhere with songs that don’t shy away from commenting on political and social issues with poetry and emotional force. But also on the bill are other artists in the realm of local darkwave with Hex Cassette’s brooding synthesis of synth pop and EBM and Horse Girl’s transcendent dream pop.

FEAR at Marquis Theater in June 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 12.31
What: Fear w/Potato Pirates, Direct Threat and Cease Fire
When: 7/8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: FEAR is the legendary Los Angeles punk band that helped define an entire lineage of that style of music. The group took great pleasure in taunting self-righteous punks and conservative American culture equally with its irreverently humorous, sometimes nihilistic, lyrics and outrageous performances with lead singer Lee Ving commanding the stage like an insult comedian. The band was featured in Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization as well as the infamous 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live arranged by show writer Michael O’Donoghue and former SNL star and then cinema luminary John Belushi. On the show the band performed and the audience included members of Minor Threat, Cro-mags, The Meatmen and Negative Approach and mayhem ensued including profanity broadcast before the live feed was cut. So plenty of anticipation was in place when The Record came out on Slash in 1982 and it delivered some of the most caustic and boisterous punk in an era not short on such offerings. Since that time FEAR has released a handful of records, the final being 2000’s American Beer, and occasionally toured and still worth showing up to see. But with Ving turning 72 next year this may be one of your last chances, if not your last chance, to catch these heroes of punk before Ving calls it a day.

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

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

Thursday | December 13, 2018

MuscleBeach_Oct4_2018_TomMurphy
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

Just Slide 2_Credit Brooke Ashley Barone
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

Khruangbin_byMaryKang1
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

EmmaRuthRundle1
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

CasiotoneForThePainfullyAlone_Sep11_2010_TomMurphy
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

 

PearlsAndPerils_Jun22_2018_TomMurphy
Pearls and Perils performs 7/5/18 at Mutiny Information Café. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | July 5, 2018

SurrenderSignal_Jan12_2018_TomMurphy
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

 

SlimCessnasAutoClub_Dec29_2017_TomMurphy
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

Brother-Dege-2---photo-Adrien-Berthet
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

CowboyJunkies_LatentRecordings
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

CarryIllinois_KatrinaBarber
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

Glassjaw_2_Julian-Gilbert
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.