Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 10/31/19 to 11/6/19

BethlehemSteel_JeanetteDMoses_crop
Bethlehem Steel performs 11.1.19 at Lion’s Lair, photo by Jeanette D. Moses

Thursday | October 31

What: The Legendary Pink Dots w/Orbit Service, The Drood, DJ Mudwulf and VJ Dizy Pixl
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: The Legendary Pink Dots and its mystical, spectral, ambient psychedelia will turn 40 next August and is currently undertaking a tour celebrating the landmark date along with its new album, 2019’s Angel in the Detail. The new record contains elements of what has always made LPD great including entrancing atmospheres, singer Edward Ka-Spel’s poetic lyrics that articulate deep truths about the human condition and how it manifests in our lives and civilizations. It also comments on the perilous state of things in the world today and especially in “The Junkyard” and how the elites are trying to finish completing a world system that renders those of us not in that upper one percent of one percent as pieces of junk in world civilization. The surreal and beautifully disturbing music video is well worth a view. Also sharing the bill tonight is the likeminded Denver-based ambient psychedelic rock band Orbit Service which has been gracing local stages and well beyond since the mid-90s. The Drood, also from Denver, is like a dark psychedelic prog band with punk-intensity and a sense of theater and the ability to create exorcistic emotional experiences in song. DJ Mudwulf will set the mood with what is sure to be a great set for the holiday and VJ Dizy Pixl will set the visual mood as per her usual level of excellence.

What: Wu Tang Clan w/Jedi Mind Tricks, Immortal Technique and Dillon Cooper
When: Thursday, 10.31, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks

What: T.S.O.L. w/Noogy and The Pitch Invasion
When: Thursday, 10.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

What: Dragondeer w/Dog City Disco and What Young Men Do
When: Thursday, 10.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Other Side

Friday | November 1

yungbaepinkflamingo-peter dons
Yung Bae, photo by Peter Dons

What: Bethlehem Steel w/Gila Teen and guest
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Bethlehem Steel has been together since 2012 but started garnering national attention for its outstanding performances at the South By Southwest festival in 2016. At that time the group had out a couple of EPs but released its debut full length Party Naked Forever in 2017. Its thrilling collision of fuzzy pop and dynamic atmospheric rock has drawn comparisons to 90s noise pop acts like Weezer and contemporary artists like Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. But often enough the group’s expansive, imaginative songwriting and creative ambition has resulted in some music that pushes boundaries of the loud and quiet format that many bands have adopted of late so that its songs will remind some of the emotionally stirring music of older bands like Failure, Slint and Rainer Maria. It has that kind of fire and caustic sound as well as lyrics that delve deep into the darker regions of the psyche with a defiant spirit lighting the way. In September, Bethlehem Steel released its fantastic self-titled full-length for which it is touring in support. Also on the bill is Gila Teen, the experimental post-punk band that brilliantly mixes moody atmospheres with a splintery pop punk.

What: Yung Bae w/Birocratic and Jaguar Nights
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Dallas Cotton started making music as Yung Bae while living in Portland, Oregon but his production-based future funk started garnering him wider audiences while still a student at Oregon State University. His sound straddles that sort of 70s soul and R&B-inspired sounds and the aesthetic of modern electronic pop music. So while he references classic music it comes off with a more modern sensibility and energy. It hearkens to a previous era and the unsullied excitement of that music but in a way that couldn’t really have been accomplished at the time in terms of how he sculpts sound and edits it together. In 2019 Yung Bae released his fifth album in as many years with Bae 5.

What: Red Wing Black Bird album release w/Plague Garden and Married a Dead Man
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Skylark Lounge
Why: Denver darkwave band Red Wing Black Bird is releasing its latest album produced by DJ Charon of Necromantic/Fenando Altonaga of industrial band eHpH.

What: Future of Bass: smith, Mize, Wriza and Killa Nova
When: Friday, 11.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box

What: Lucy Dacus w/Liza Anne and Sun June
When: Friday, 11.1, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre

Saturday | November 2

Altas_Jun8_2019_TomMurphy
Altas circa 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Dia De Muertos celebration: Altas, Plume Varia and Los Mocochetes
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver instrumental rock band Altas is doing its now annual Dia De Muertos show in which the members will dress in the appropriate regalia for the occasion making the show a true event rather than just another gig. The group’s sweeping, cinematic grandeur and fiery musical pyrotechnics and mastery of mood and atmosphere is worth witnessing alone but also on the bill is psychedelic rock band Los Mocochetes and downtempo dream pop band Plume Varia and its emotionally rich and haunted compositions.

What: The Locust w/Disposal Notice and Its Just Bugs
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The Locust recently reconvened to bring its mutant, death metal inflected, noisy hardcore on a national tour. The group’s surreal imagery and costumes along with its equally bizarre lyrics has made it difficult to lump in with any convenient musical movement. Its Just Bugs (the apostrophe is left off) is an industrial punk hip-hop group from Colorado and just as impossible to pigeonhole.

What: Twin Peaks w/Post Animal and Ohmme
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Twin Peaks from Chicago weathered the mid-2010s blowout of garage rock and neo-psychedelic rock that was making the underground rock scene of a certain stripe become fairly stale and performatively exciting. What helped was that Twin Peaks was writing good songs and hasn’t stayed stuck in the same sound for its entire career thus far. Its 2019 album Lookout Low sounds like an odd and interesting hybrid of power pop and the weirdo punk of The Fall at its most Lou Reed-inspired, mix in some unusual flourishes of 70s rock with nods to Peter Frampton and Thin Lizzy. All while delivering spirited and sometimes gloriously ragged performances which are much needed at a time when a sanitary quality has permeated too much modern music.

What: Fathers, Limbwrecker, The Munsens and Muscle Beach
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake

What: Dendera Bloodbath, Endometrium Cuntplow, Cau5er, Brother Saturn, Church Fire and Equine
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis

What: Rocket Dust, Tokyo Rodeo and The Slack
When: Saturday, 11.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Glitter City

Sunday | November 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Vivian Girls circa 2008, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Vivan Girls w/Down Time, Short Shorts and Backseat Vinyl — CANCELLED
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Vivian Girls caused a stir in the indie underground of the 2000s and 2010s with their lo-fi, noisy pop songs. The group’s ability to mix buoyant dynamics with dark, brooding moods and sounds was a fascinating contrast. The band split in 2014 with members going on to perform in La Sera, The Babies and Upset (all still going concerns). But in summer 2019 the group announced it was reforming with a new record, Memory, on the way and released in September.

SRSQ_Mar19_2019_TomMurphy
SRSQ, photo by Tom Murphy

What: TR/ST w/SRSQ and DJ Slave 1
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: TR/ST came to prominence as the new darkwave movement was coming together with a sound that seemed to come out of the then renewed interest in vintage synths, that cold, bright, moody sound of Goth-y 80s synth pop and its cousin chillwave. But Robert Alfons’ vibrant, soulful voice and imaginative soundsccaping are the key ingredients that elevated this project above many of its contemporaries. In 2019 TR/ST released The Destroyer (Part 1 and 2), a more experimental and ambient, ethereal set of songs than his previous offerings and a clear product of reassessing directions and ideas to produce something different. SRSQ (pronounced Seer Ess Que as in the lettes for the latter two) is Kennedy Ashlyn the charismatic singer formerly of brilliant dream pop band Them Are Us Too. Her 2018 album Unreality is a moody and emotionally harrowing and cathartic downtempo album that seems to have absorbed the darkness and pain of the underground world in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and given it a voice that exorcises some of that energy.

What: Keytar Fest IV: The Jinjas, R A R E B Y R D $ and Claudzilla
When: Sunday, 11.3, 4 p.m.
Where: Glitter City
Why: Just like the title of the event suggests, this is a mini festival featuring all projects that incorporate keytars as an essential part of the songwriting and this includes weirdo synth punk Claudzilla and experimental hip-hop/IDM-inflected trio R A R E B Y R D $.

What: Danny Brown w/Ashnikko and Zeeloperz
When: Sunday, 11.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Ever since the larger world outside of Detroit started cluing into Danny Brown’s genius following the release of 2010’s The Hybrid, the rapper has garnered a large cult following for his eccentric yet sharply cogent and thoughtful yet raw lyrics and production that incorporates a wide range of sounds that one hadn’t often heard in hip-hop outside of the underground and alternative circles of the 90s and early 2000s. Brown picked up where that left off and pushed things further particularly on his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition which borrowed its title from a science fiction novel by J.G. Ballard and whose beats sounded almost like a new hybrid of industrial and rap that reflected the atmospherics as much as the textures and rhythms. With his new album, 2019’s uknowhatimsayin¿ Brown follows a similar sonic path but brings together more organic, almost found sounds with processed layers of atmosphere. Intact is his gift for surreal imagery and wordplay that gets under your skin.

Monday | November 4

GRÜN_WASSER_pressphoto
GRÜN WASSER, photo courtesy the artists

What: GRÜN WASSER w/Natural Violence, French Kettle Station and Night Shift DJs
When: Monday, 11.4, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: GRÜN WASSER is a Chicago-based electro-pop/industrial whose pulsing rhythms and dreamlike moods sound like endless nights wandering a menacing urban landscape and commenting on the culture of the nightlife. That is if the group’s new album Not OK with Things (Holodeck Records) is any indication. There is an almost claustrophobic quality to its densely atmospheric beats contrasted with Keely Dowd’s lightly echoing, ethereal vocals. French Kettle Station has been through more permutations of his sound than many artists bother to explore but of late he’s been developing a sound that’s still rooted slightly in 1980s No Wave disco and modern glitch dance pop but also influenced by 1980s adult contemporary music and its unexpectedly newly influential use and voicing of drums and vintage synths in a way that in any other contexts would be utterly wack but takes on an almost spiritual cast in certain underground electronic artists including that side of what FKS has been up to in the past year or two. His latest album, Over X Millenia takes those ideas and injects them with non-western rhythmic ideas and a New Age music aesthetic for something new yet strangely familiar. Its closest cousin that comes readily to mind is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Tuesday | November 5

HTRK_KateMeakin
HTRK, photo by Kate Meakin

What: HTRK w/Midwife, Echo Beds, Human Tide
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 8 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Since 2003 HTRK, originally from Australia, has been making music inspired by the brooding, otherworldly atmosphere of the films of David Lynch. Though the name of the band is pronounced “Hate Rock” it’s not so much rock except in the experimental sense as much as downtempo and ambient soundscaping. In 2010 founding musician Sean Stewart passed away leaving Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to carry on and as a duo HTRK has released a handful of some of the most fascinating music mixing electric music with an electronic aesthetic being made today. The group’s latest album is Venus in Leo with its exquisitely subtle dynamics and cinematic approach to its composition and sound design with lingering, impressionistic guitar riffs drifting around Standish’s hushed and soulful vocals.

MinamiDeutsch1
Minami Deutsch, photo courtesy the artists

What: Kikagaku Moyo w/Minamu Deutsch
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Kikagaku Moyo from Japan is a true synthesis of 70s Krautrock, classic Japanese psychedelic rock and more traditional Japanese folk. Currently the group is touring with the like-minded Tokyo band Minami Deutsch. The group’s urgent rhythms, mesmerizing drones and hypnotic dynamics sound like what it is to travel through Tokyo and its subtle but odd mixture of old world and high tech metropolis side by side in all of the city’s giant districts. On the group’s new EP, Can’t Get There that dynamic often takes you to a place of anxiety and then release as it draws you into its irresistible groove.

What: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage w/Adam Baumeister
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: A rare chance to see eccentric, genius freak folk and comic artist legend Jeffrey Lewis and his band along with local star of experimental folk and psychedelia, Adam Baumeister, head of Meep Records and former member of Navy Girls and Bad Weather California.

What: Cannibal Corpse w/Thy Art is Murder, Perdition Temple
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater

What: Arc Sol, Slugger and Gothsta
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 9 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café

What: 1349 w/Uada and Cloak
When: Tuesday, 11.5, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater

Wednesday | November 6

DinosaurJr_LeviWalton1
Dinosaur Jr, photo by Levi Walton

What: Negative Approach w/Blood Loss and Tuck Knee
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Negative Approach from Detroit was one of the bands out of that early wave of American hardcore than seemed particularly seething and intense and fronted by John Brannon who went on to noisy psychedelic blues band Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action. Easily one of the greatest frontmen of rock music because he seems to actually be losing his mind swept up in the moment.

What: Weird Wednesday: FangFuck, Zealot and Bolonium
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 9 p.m.
Where: Bowman’s Vinyl & Lounge
Why: Weird Wednesday includes left field indie rock local supergroup Zealot and Bolonium a band inspired by Devo and which comes off like an odd combination of band, cheesy game show and Troma film.

What: Kurt Vile and the Violators w/Dinosaur Jr
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: The Mission Ballroom
Why: Dinosaur Jr is the missing link between gritty classic rock like Neil Young, hardcore and 90s alternative rock and more influential on modern music than is often obvious. The mixture of sheer volume with tunefulness reconciled eras of music in a way that is often taken for granted and which bands like Nirvana and other massively commercial successful bands took to topple the music industry marketing machine and culture. Apparently modern folk/psychedelic artist Kurt Vile has felt this influence and thus has Dinosaur on this tour and for its part, the members of Dinosaur Jr have continued to release music, some of the best of its career in the past decade.

What: (Sandy) Alex G w/Indigo De Souza and Tomberlin
When: Wednesday, 11.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater

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

JaySom_LindseyByrnes
Jay Som performs at Larimer Lounge on September 24, 2019

Thursday | September 19

PsychedelicPornCrumpets_JoshLudlow
Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, photo by Josh Ludlow

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

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

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

Cuco_courtesyArtist
Cuco, photo courtesy the artist

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

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

Friday | September 20

Melvins2019Chris Mortenson2
Melvins, photo by Chris Mortenson

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

Boris1
Boris, photo courtesy the artists

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

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

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

Demoncassettecult_wJuniordeer_Nov8_2018_TomMurphy
Demoncassettecult (Junior Deer on left), photo by Tom Murphy

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

Saturday | September 21

Zealot_Jan12_2019_TomMurphy_sm
Zealot, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Anna_Morsette_AnthonyIsaac
Anna Morsett of The Still Tide, photo by Anthony Isaac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday | September 22

SurfCurse_Julien-Sage
Surf Curse, photo by Julien Sage

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

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

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

Monday | September 23

AcidKing1
Acid King, photo courtesy the artists

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

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

Tuesday | September 24

Boy_Scouts_Ulysses_Ortega
Boy Scouts, photo by Ulysses Ortega

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

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

Wednesday | September 25

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

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

RussianCircles_courtesyArtists
Russian Circles, photo courtesy the artists

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

Best Shows in Denver and Beyond 5/31/19 – 06/5/19

JudasPriest_OliverHalfin
Judas Priest performs at Broadmoor World Arena on June 5

Friday | May 31

BigFreedia_Oct25_2011_TomMurphy
Big Freedia circa 2011, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Hieroglyphics w/Rap Noir, Stoney Hawk, S.A.V.E.1, Mike Wird, LoS, Stonewall BLVD
When: Friday, 05.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Hieroglyphicsfrom Oakland, California and have long been one of the most influential groups in underground hip-hop. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure and the four members of Souls of Mischief (Phesto, A-Plus, Opio nd Tajai), Hieroglyphics operate in a way that’s classic, old school hip-hop, composing using a sort of free form jazz style with sampling and vocals and more experimental production and the feel of a 70s exploitation film but one where maybe the music was made by a Gil Scott-Heron and Lee Scratch Perry collaboration. This show will include all original members so you’ll get to see some of the sharpest and most deft wordplay in the game.

What: Chromeo, Thievery Corporation, Big Freedia, Adeline, Peanut Butter Wolf
When: Friday, 05.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Electro soul stars Chromeo seem to bring their bombastic, weirdo new wave pop to Red Rocks every summer and consistently bring artists that will push their fans’ collective music brains beyond their current bounds. This time basically co-headlining with downtempo dub duo Thievery Corporation. More on the outside of the loose realm of music in which the aforementioned operate are Big Freedia and Peanut Butter Wolf. The former is an icon of New Orleans sissy bounce. Which is a really abstract way of saying that Big Freedia is a charismatic and highly energetic performer whose performances blur the line between sissy bounce, noisy industrial dance and a kind of what might be called punk dub. It’s impossible to ignore and may alienate some people with how strange it is to some sensibilities but also one of the most powerful things you’ll get to see at Red Rocks this summer. Peanut Butter Wolf is the founder of experimental hip-hop/electronic music/post-punk imprint Stones Throw, which has regularly issued some of the most fascinating music of the past 23 years.

Saturday | June 1

Dead_Milkmen_by_Jessica_Kourkounis_2014_1
Dead Milkmen, photo by Jessica Kourkounis, 2014

What: Goth Prom 4 featuring Assemblage 23, DJs Kilgore, Slave1 and Dutch Confetti
When: Saturday, 06.01, 5 p.m.
Where: EXDO Events Center
Why: This year’s edition of Goth Prom will be headlined by EBM/Future Pop legend Assemblage 23. The Seattle-based group has managed to consistently make emotionally honest and compelling music in a realm of industrial dance that is often basically unconscious self-parody that aims to be edgy and dark but misses the mark more often than not. At least Assemblage 23 songs are well-written and seem more aimed to evoke a headspace and mood rather than adherence to tropes.

What: Dead Milkmen w/Granny Tweed
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Dead Milkmen were an irreverent punk band from a time when a lot of punk and hardcore was taking itself entirely too seriously. But Dead Milkmen stretched the boundaries of 80s punk by observing few conventions beyond an iconoclastic spirit.

What: Painting With Statue, Echo Beds, DJ Pop CTRL and Animal / object
When: Saturday, 06.01, 9 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: Painting With Statue is a trio from California that makes noise via what sounds like analog field recording manipulation, sampling and raw low end and white noise. Animal / object is Colorado’s premier avant-garde spontaneous composition band. Who knows what DJ Pop CTRL will be this time other than weirdo folk pop. Echo Beds rarely plays now due to work on its new record so here’s a now rare chance to see the organic-industrial, noisy post-punk legends in the flesh and steel.

What: Places Back Home w/Spirettes, Everignite, Random Temple
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall

What: Peanut Butter Wolf w/DJ A-L
When: Saturday, 06.01, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox

What: Esmé Patterson w/Carsie Blanton
When: Saturday, 06.01, 6 p.m.
Where: Leavitt Pavillion

Sunday | June 2

UniversalDevils_Dec3_2016_TomMurphy_web
Universal Devils, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Summitus Kitharlogus
When: Sunday, 06.02, 6 p.m.
Where: Rhinoceropolis
Why: A left of field guitar mini fest with performances by or featuring: Weasel Tears, Equine, Amos Helvey, Adam Selene, Lepidoptera, Farrrell Lowe, Joe Mills, Sean Patrick Faling-sonic friction guitarworks, Prayer Hands, Death In Space, Saduwu, Brother Saturn, Sean Mlekush, Space Geist, Bradley Franlik Santulli, Broken Guitar Ensemble, BentonamO, bios+a+ic, Night Grinder.

What: Whiskey Orphans, Slow Poisoner and Universal Devils
When: Sunday, 06.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Whiskey Orphans sounds like the name suggests. Fortunately, that means more than hard drinking Americana. There is also a touch of sensitivity and wistfulness underlining the sparse melodies. Universal Devils is Tricky Dick Wickett’s one-man metallic singer songwriter project and more odd and original than those mere words could convey.

Monday | June 3

KEN_mode_BrennaFaris
KEN mode, photo by Brenna Faris

What: KEN mode w/Abrams, BleakHeart and Ten Foot Beast
When: Monday, 06.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: KEN mode is a metallic, noisy, post-hardcore band whose name is a shortened version of “Kill Everyone Now mode” and in terms of blowing up a groove and cutting a riff into relentlessly jagged pieces, the band has done plenty of that in the more absurdly humorous over-the-top abstract sense. It’s latest album Loved from 2018 has song titles that read like chapters in the diary of a nihilistic misanthrope. For example: “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” “The Illusion of Dignity,” “Learning To Be Too Cold” and “Fractures in Adults.” Given the title of the record one has to respect the dark sense of humor informing all of it including the creepy album cover. Fans of Unsane and Jesus Lizard will find much to like here.

Tuesday | June 4

SlimCessnasAutoClub_Dec29_2017_TomMurphy
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds
When: Tuesday, 06.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Ivywild School Gymnasium
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, the long-running alt-country act from Denver, brings its Vaudeville west and vibrantly emotional and lively performance to Colorado Springs along with Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds. Powers was once a member of Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, among others, and with the Pink Monkey Birds he brings a lifetime of stories, insight and masterful songwriting to making his own music with a body of work as worthy as anything else in which he’s been involved.

Wednesday | June 5

SnailsAndOysters_Jul1_2015_TomMurphy
Snails and Oysters circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Weird Wednesday: Gothsta, Snails and Oysters and Little Fyodor solo
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This month’s editon of Weird Wednesday maintains peak weirdness with Gothsta who does odd keytar pop songs. Then again, if keytar is involved it’s going to be strange but that just enhances the bizarro nature of the music anyway. Plus some legit keytar covers of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear from her unless you’ve been listening to The Space Lady and not even then. Snails and Oysters is Joe Mill’s solo avant-garde/ambient guitar project in which his combines textures and moods to weave a unique soundscape. Little Fyodor is kinda King Weirdo in Denver and has been for decades going from tape collage/manipulation project Walls of Genius to Little Fyodor and Babushka Band. When a lot of punk is fairly conformist, Fyodor is decidedly not that with a visual presence and songwriting diversity and acumen that is so punk it should be its own subgenre with a clever name you won’t read here because Fyodor is also fairly difficult to pigeonhole as merely punk.

What: Judas Priest w/Uriah Heep
When: Wednesday, 06.05, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Broadmoor World Arena
Why: Judas Priest started in 1969, a year after Black Sabbath formed. But unlike the latter Priest came into its own shortly before the release of its debut album, 1974’s Rocka Rolla. By then iconic vocalist Rob Halford brought his elemental, wide-ranging singing to the band and guitarist Glenn Tipton joined and with K.K. Downing gave the group its signature two guitar sound that gives its music a dynamism and depth that has been influential on many heavy metal and hard rock bands since. After the debut album, Judas Priest embarked on a series of genre-defining records starting with 1976’s majestic Sad Wings of Destiny. The group weathered the manufactured scandals of the 80s when would-be censors targeted the band, and a broad range of other artists, for the corruption of youth and suicide. Judas Priest’s often remarkably thoughtful and in recent years as heavy metal has become embraced by a more mainstream audience the group’s vivid storytelling and energy is finding an audience with a new generation of fans.

Opening the show is Uriah Heep who are arguably the progenitors of a style of melodic boogie rock and hard psychedelia that has been heavily influential on a younger generation of heavy metal musicians. It, too, started up in 1969 and operated in a similar milieu of music as the aforementioned Sabbath as well as Deep Purple. Like the latter, Uriah Heep had a prominent keyboard presence in its songwriting and no strangers to songs about wizards, the forces of evil and the life of a hard touring band. But more so than some of the other bands mentioned above, Uriah Heep clearly has a foot in English folk rock that informs its song structures and vocalist Bernie Shaw’s evocative cadence. The group hasn’t done any major touring in years so this is a rare chance to see them live.

Best Shows in Denver 4/11/19 – 4/17/19

EarlSweatshirt_Steven Traylor
Earl Sweatshirt at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on April 11, photo by Steven Traylor

Thursday | April 11

BrotherSaturn_Feb25_2018_TomMurphy
Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Earl Sweatshirt & Friends w/Bbymutha and Liv.e
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Earl Sweatshirt released his first mixtape, Kitchen Cutlery, under the name Sly Tendencies in 2008 when he was just fourteen years old. Within a year he was contacted by Tyler, the Creator, who was a fan and changed his performance/musical moniker to what it is now. Born Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, the son of an American law professor and a South African poet and political activist, Sweatshirt has created some of the most sonically inventive and thought-provoking hip-hop of the past decade. He got a bump up early on due to his association and work with Odd Future but his solo albums from 2013’s Doris onward revealed an artist in touch with and non-judgmental toward the deeper regions of his psyche and whose imagination and musical instincts have never been narrowed down to how ideas and sounds fit into established channels of expression. The 2015 album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside lives up to the suggestion of the title and probably won’t be played at many parties. But it’s a record that dives deep with an uncompromising search for something real and something that can cut through the haze of our world overstimulated by blandness broadcasted as exciting. 2018’s Some Rap Songs has brighter atmospheres but the words manage to plumb personal darkness further. The production, though, is reminiscent of Black Moth Super Rainbow in its sampling of sounds and music in a highly refined collage of feelings and imagery that fizz and fade out in perfect orchestration with the complimentary layers of rhythm and poetry.

Who: Life After Earth and Brother Saturn
When: Thursday, 04.11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Guess this edition of the Speakeasy Series hosted by Glasss Records could be called An Evening With Drew Miller. Life After Earth is Miller’s darker electro ambient project while Brother Saturn’s gorgeously gauzy, guitar-driven, ambient post-rock is decidedly brighter and more uplifting.

Who: Slow Magic w/Covex
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre

Who: Dead Characters, Obtuse, Bernie & The Wolf Rita Rita, Fragile Fires
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective

Who: Great Falls w/False Cathedrals, Muscle Beach, Fathers
When: Thursday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive

Who: Blacc Rabbit w/Shark Dreams and Jeff Cormack
When: Thursday, 04.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge

Friday | April 12

lusine_sarah_m_686x320
Lusine, photo by Sarah M

What: Double-Ply Translucent Caterpillar #5
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: The free jazz improv prog fusion all-star extravaganza is back (sans the late, great, Ikey Owens who was a regular back in the day) but rather than at DIY space Unit E, at Ophelia’s. Includes members of Rubedo, Holophrase, déCollage, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kendrick Lamar’s band and The Other Black.

Who: Lusine w/Milky.wav and Snubluck
When: Friday, 04.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jeff McIlwain has produced a consistently interesting, evolving body of work as Lusine for twenty years. Combining samples that contain elements of physical sound (chains, chimes, bells, other objects truck for textural qualities) into his beats and soundscaping, McIlwain’s songs truly transport the listener to a place that is both unknown and yet ineffably tangible.

Who: Memorybell, Sine Mountain, Mosh
When: Friday, 04.12, 9 p.m.
Where: Tandem Bar
Why: With Memorybell, Grant Outerbridge is able to use his mastery of piano beyond his classical training to craft evocative, minimalist compositions that suggest an intimate familiarity with doubt, unease and the overwhelming demands of modern life and how to untangle that with songs that transcend such contexts by subtly coaxing you lateral thinking and feeling.

Saturday | April 13

JaneSiberry-courtesyArtist
Jane Siberry, photo courtesy the artist

Who: DBUK and Norman Westberg w/George Cessna
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Denver Broncos UK is basically the alter ego of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club but one that is moodier, less upbeat and post-punk in the sense as, say, Shriekback, Crime and the City Solution and New Model Army, all of whom incorporated elements of folk, a sense of brooding introspection and a broad array of musical ideas to tell stories that many of their contemporaries weren’t. In 2019 DBUK released Songs Nine Through Sixteen, the follow up to its fantastic 2015 album titled, what else, Songs One Through Eight. For this show the band is joined by Slim’s talented son and experimental singer-songwriter George Cessna as well as Norman Westberg, the legendary SWANS guitarist whose solo output while not sprawling is always worth a listen and where he is able to demonstrate his interest in crafting unique atmospheres with guitar, banjo and drum machine. It might be described as ambient but the kind one might have to compare to the likes of Marisa Anderson or Helen Money.

Who: Get Your Ears Swoll 5: Meet the Giant, Gata Negra, The Jinjas
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: People’s Building
Why: Everyone should get to experience Meet the Giant’s powerfully evocative dream pop. Maybe “pop” isn’t the word for it as its music borders on hard rock but informed by the aesthetics of electronic music and post-punk. And the raw emotional honesty of Mic Naranjo’s vocals transcends genre. Gata Negra is probably an anomaly now in Denver in that its blues-tinged music would have been considered alternative rock in the early 90s because it’s using that musical vocabulary in offbeat ways that allow for nuanced and poetic expressions of inner space.

Who: Jane Siberry w/Antonio Lopez
When: Saturday, 04.13, 7 p.m.
Where: Swallow Hill/Quinlan Cafe
Why: Jane Siberry is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose prolific career should be more well-known in America outside college radio in the 80s and 90s. Her lilting and melodious vocals and use of space and dynamics give her sometimes minimal elements an unconventional versatility and inventiveness. She has worked with Michael Brook, Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Her song “It Can’t Rain All the Time” was featured prominently in the film The Crow and other songs have been part of the soundtracks of the Wim Wenders films Until the End of the World and Faraway, So Close. Though typically conceptual in nature, both musically and in terms of her subject matter, Siberry’s songs are accessible and relatable in a way music that is more obviously experimental isn’t.

Shana Cleveland
Shana Cleveland, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Shana Cleveland (La Luz guitarist/singer) w/Down Time and Ryan Wong
When: Saturday, 04.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Shana Cleveland’s sparkling and lush guitar work in La Luz is one of the reasons that band has never been stuck in some kind of throwback surf guitar thing. That and her introspective vocals that imbue her songs with an enviable mystique in modern music. Her debut solo album, 2019’s Worm Moon, is more ethereal than the music of La Luz but has the same entrancingly dusky quality that band exudes. Worm Moon may be more stripped down than what we’re used to hearing from Cleveland but it feels like we’re hearing her plumbing another layer of emotional depth in an already respectable musical career to date.

Who: Street Tombs (Santa Fe), Zygrot, Blood Loss and Secticide
When: Saturday, 04.13, 6 p.m.
Where: Chain Reaction Records
Why: It’s record store day and Chain Reaction Records, in Lakewood, is worth the trip particularly to get to see some of the best local and regional hardcore bands.

Sunday | April 14

Swervedriver_SteveGullick
Swervedriver, photo by Steve Gullick

Who: Swervedriver and Failure w/No Win
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Oriental Theater
Why: Before the word “alternative” was a clumsily and ubiquitously applied term for a broad swath of music that emerged out into mass public consciousness in the early 90s, a generation of bands inspired in part by underground music were already embodying music that seemed like a paradigm shift into something different from what was then most “commercially viable.” Swervedriver rumbled to life in Oxford, England in 1989 when sole original member and vocalist/guitarist Adam Franklin and some friends laid down the roots of the band based on songs Franklin had written after his former band Shake Appeal (a nod to the influence of the Stooges) disbanded. Perhaps the right place at the right time, the nascent Swervedriver knew Mark Gardner of Ride, also from Oxford, who gave their demo to Creation Records head Alan McGee who signed the group. Creation would become all but synonymous with “shoegaze.”

All the bands on Creation, pretty much, were sonically massive and shared similar influences but unlike brilliant, ethereal soundcapers Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver had more traditionally hard rock underpinning to the songwriting and its sound seemed more gritty and distorted like some of its American counterparts in the USA who were already poised to turn the music industry on its head while cultural commentators and journalists struggled with an overarching term for that phenomenon. Swervedriver didn’t become a household name like Nirvana or Pearl Jam but its records have remained revered and influential. The group split in 1998 but reunited in 2008 and has since released two noteworthy records since in 2015 with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 2019’s Future Ruins. Like former labelmates Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver wasn’t inclined to release a record that wasn’t worthy of its legacy.

Failure_PriscillaCScott
Failure, photo by Priscilla C Scott

In Los Angeles, Failure formed a year after Swervedriver in 1990 at the peak of the popularity of glam metal. Drummer Kellii Scott had grown up a fan of Rush and Iron Maiden and had been an avid live music fan in Los Angeles’ diverse musical world including taking in the sorts of shows at Gazzari’s and The Troubadour as one might have seen in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. But Scott’s eclectic musical tastes meant he was open to whatever seemed interesting or exciting. He was once the drummer of alternative funk band Liquid Jesus whose cover of “Stand” by Sly & The Family Stone appeared on the soundtrack to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and through that band and other projects Scott established himself as a talented drummer in town. He was alerted to auditions for a little known group called Failure which was in the process of recording what would be its 1994 album Magnified. When he heard the demos future bandmates Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards had recorded and was immediately struck by the songwriting and how fresh and different its approach to making the music seemed that he wanted to be part of the band.

Failure’s 1992 debut Comfort as well as early Sunny Day Real Estate songs seem obvious influences on midwest emo and post-hardcore by mixing strong melodies with noisy, urgent songwriting and nuanced emotional colorings in the lyrics and Andrews’ vocal delivery. But Magnified put bass at the center of the the instrumentation allowing for guitar to gyre out out in plasmic bursts as the drums kept the dynamics corralled even as each song threatened to careen off into chaos. The new style gave the music a cinematic quality that the band expanded upon greatly with its 1996 then swan song Fantastic Planet. On the latter, Failure prominently introduced piano and acoustic guitar to give its urgent juggernaut of sound another layer of detail, giving the songs some space, no joke intended for a space rock record, to come down from the emotional heights and extremes present across the thrilling but sometimes harrowing record.

Even with a few critically acclaimed albums under its belt and having played on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Failure split in 1997 citing personal differences. Which is perhaps inevitable given the time, the pressure, knowing that you made some of the cooler records of the era but without that propelling one into the mainstream. After the break-up all the members of the band went on to different projects that helped each develop new musical skills and cultivate creative interests that would go on to help make Failure an even better band when it reunited in 2013. Edwards formed the fantastic, experimental post-punk band Autolux. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (who had joined after Fantastic Planet was in the can) went on to play in A Perfect Circle and now plays in Queens of the Stone Age (and hasn’t returned to Failure). Scott played in various bands including Blinker the Star, Veruca Salt and Enemy but also did studio sessions for Linda Perry including performances on tracks by Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love. He also did work on a recent Dr. Dre album. Andrews has becoming an in-demand producer and engineer whose work can be heard on songs and albums by Paramore, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Chris Cornell.

After announcing a reunion with the classic lineup of Edwards, Andrews and Scott in late 2013, Failure played its first show in nearly 17 years in February 2014. Later that year Failure would tour the US including dates as part of Riot Fest. Fairly early on in that cycle of rehearsals and performances Failure wrote new material and released the Tree of Stars EP in May 2014 which included live tracks and the new song “Come Crashing.” But it wasn’t long before the band was preparing material for a new full-length, 2015’s sprawling The Heart is a Monster. The album demonstrated how far the band members had come individually as well as its chemistry as a collective. Arranged, produced and sequenced in an almost narrative fashion the albums songs work individually but taken as a whole like a collection of musical vignettes. While critical reception of the new Failure album was mixed it was obvious that there was still something there.

2018’s In the Future Your Body Will be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind was conceived and recorded in phases with three EPs released separately throughout that year and the complete album including the fourth EP released in November. Scott feels it’s the group’s best album and in terms of focus, utilizing the group’s complete skill set, sound palette and bringing to bear a mature, creative sensibility it’s hard to disagree unless one is burdened with the misguided, though often justified, conceit that a band does its best work on its first few albums. The new Failure album sounds like a band that has already been through the stage of discovering what it wants to be and rediscovered what it can be.

What: Kalyn4Mayor Battle of the Bands: Pay2Play Politics: Venus Cruz, Felix Ayodele, Church Fire, R A R E B Y R D $, Tammy Shine, Bolonium, Josh Blue, Chris Fonseca and Christine Buchele
When: Sunday, 04.14, 6 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Kalyn Heffernan is running to be mayor of Denver. As a producer and hip-hop MC with her band Wheelchair Sports Camp, Heffernan has demonstrated her imagination, talent and managerial skills. As an advocate for people with disabilities and queer youth, she has shown her ability to both reach out to and critique vested authority in a productive manner while not compromising her righteous mission. As mayor of Denver Heffernan will bring a much needed helping of good sense, pragmatism (you can’t navigate the world when you’re disabled without this quality), compassion, a knack for productive engagement, a knowledge of issues facing not just struggling populations and gentrification but the city as a whole as well as a love of the city and the people that make Denver a world class city. For this event Heffernan has brought together some friends to raise awareness of her candidacy and to raise funds for her campaign. All the bands are some of the most interesting acts in the Mile High City and the comedians among the town’s most talented.

Monday | April 15

exhex_michaellavine3
Ex Hex, photo by Michael Lavine

Who: Ex Hex w/Moaning
When: Monday, 04.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Ex Hex was probably not the kind of band anyone would have expected from Mary Timony. The wiry, noise post-punk of Autoclave, Helium’s evolving experiments in tone and concept, Timony’s widely different albums under her own name exposing different aspects of her talent as a musician and songwriter. Inventively angular, often utilizing lo-fi aesthetics to create a quality of mystery, Timony is one of the most interesting musicians of the past three decades. So with the second Ex Hex album, 2019’s It’s Real, Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris have written songs that sound like they could have come out of a weird nexus of early 80s power pop, garage rock, new wave and hard rock. Huge, brash, riffs. Unabashedly bombastic hooks. Plenty of bands have drawn on that earlier era of rock for inspiration but too often it comes with embracing the regressive topics and sensibilities of that time as well. Not the case here. And none of the cheesy production. Just the unabashed joy but paired with a futuristic vision untethered from old school rock and roll cultural baggage. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based noise rock band Moaning who sound, in the best way, like You’re Living All Over Me period Dinosaur Jr after immersing themselves in the Siltbreeze catalog. Meaning understated, emotionally demolished vocals and urgent, gritty melodies and an energetic live show.

Tuesday | April 16

Buke-and-Gase-self-portrait1
Buke & Gase, self-portrait

Who: Yob w/Amenra and In the Company of Serpents
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Amenra is a Belgian metal band that has in its twenty year history helped to redefine what metal can be and sound like and embody the concept of heavy not just sonically but emotionally. Its blend of doom and ambient post-rock is well suited the dark, majestic outbursts threaded together with ethereal introductions, builds and interludes. Its full-length albums are titled Mass followed by a Roman Numeral indicating its sequence in the band’s catalog but also serves as a nod to chapters in the canonical works of a mystical sect. In The Company of Serpents recently overhauled its sound and while still well within the realm of extreme metal and doom, the songwriting bears some comparisons to artists that tap into a dark, forbidding blues. Like maybe Grant Netzorg listens to a bit of Nick Cave or later era Swans. Yob is the influential psych doom band from Eugene, Oregon. Influenced by, of course, Black Sabbath and imaginative art rock bands like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, Yob’s music is incredibly heavy but there’s a fluidity and playfulness to its songwriting and presentation that ultimately transforms that heaviness into something uplifting, like a purge of the detritus that plagues the mind due to the build-up of the unreasonable demands of everyday life in late capitalism America.

Who: Buke & Gase w/Like A Villain and Holophrase
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Buke & Gase has always pushed boundaries in its exquisite use of unusual rhythms and otherworldly melodies. Its new album Scholars has the band absorbing mainstream and synth pop and transforming it to suit the group’s own sensibilities as only it can. And this whole bill is filled with vocalists who use their powerful voices as instuments in themselves. Holland Andrews of Like a Villain creates sound environments that recall the soundtracks to Michael Powell films or Diamanda Galas and Björk collaborating on music to accompany a Stanislaw Lem adaptation. Holophrase’s Malgorzata Stacha channels moods and modes seemingly directly from the unconscious and makes it work in the context of experimental downtempo music.

Who: Show Me The Body w/Euth, Law of the Night and TARGETS
When: Tuesday, 04.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Show Me the Body from New York is technically a hardcore band but the vocal delivery sounds as much like what you’d expect as something from a weird hip-hop band. Fans of Sleaford Mods and IDLES will probably find a lot to like here though Show Me the Body is a bit darker than the aforementioned. The group recently released its 2019 sophomore album Dog Whistle.

Wednesday | April 17

HEALTH-credit-FaithCrawford-hires
HEALTH, photo by Faith Crawford

What: HEALTH w/Youth Code and French Kettle Station
When: Wednesday, 04.17, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: With the 2019 release of Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear, its first since the departure of guitarist Jupiter Keyes, proves that the remaining trio still absorbs new musical ideas and applies them creatively in its sonic palette while experimenting with its own production and sound processing as it has since its inception. This time the 8-bit crushing, driving-yet-fluid noise rock and ghostly, pitch-shifted/autotuned vocals give the impression of being layers in a dance track. It’s even difficult to tell whether the drums are analog or not and if so processed or submixed to EQ in unconventional ways. Honestly, knowing either way is irrelevant to anyone but purists of any stripe and HEALTH is a band that ditched notions of purity in music as boring and perhaps quaint long ago. The element that separates this new album and its music from 2015’s Death Magic is an element of industrial beat making. Sure the group worked with French industrial synth phenom Perturbator but if that was an influence it’s been wholly absorbed and incorporated.

Considering HEALTH’s new sound it’s only fitting that it’s touring with Youth Code. Both from Los Angeles, Youth Code was one of the major bands that was part of the recent darkwave revival of the past decade. Its confrontational EBM had the sharp edges of a hardcore band but its emotional resonance has been much broader.

Opening the show is Denver’s French Kettle Station. Always an incredibly energetic and dynamic performer, some might think there’s something of an act to it all beyond it being a compelling element to a live show. But Luke Thinnes’ enthusiasm is sincere and his mixture of 80s adult contemporary, Talk Talk and Arthur Russell. Speaking of 80s adult contemporary, FKS has been on a bit of a Phil Collins kick of late and even sometimes covers one of his iconic songs live.

Best Shows in Denver 12/27/18 – 1/2/18

ChurchFire_Nov1_2018_TomMurphy
Church Fire drops Summer Camp Doom Diary @ Hi-Dive this Saturday, 12/29/18.                       Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | December 27, 2018

Sliver_Dec17_2018_TomMurphy
Sliver, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Drink Drank Punk w/Sliver and Denver Meatpacking Company
When: Thursday, 12.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Drink Drank Punk sounds like a party game of some kind but it’s actually a punk band that sounds like some 90s grunge-inspired musicians decided to call themselves punk because that’s where grunge came from anyway. On the band’s “About” section on Facebook words have semi-randomly capitalized letters and other odd bits of bravado. Listing one of your own other projects as an influence on the band you’re in? Really? Hopefully the band is good. Fortunately, the other two bands, clearly own the influence of grunge and 90s alternative rock and make it their own. Sliver’s fury and emotionally raw performances feel like they come from a very real place. Especially with Demry West on drums playing with a joy that balances out Chris Mercer’s churning anomy. Denver Meatpacking Company could have been a solid pop band but there’s something cathartic about playing music with a bit more grit even if you’re old enough to remember when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was toppling the glam metal temples in the early 90s without even trying. That comes across in DMC’s songwriting and shows.

Who: Sleepy Animals EP release, Bluebook, Lowfaith
When: Thursday, 12.27, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sleepy Animals releases its EP Mirrored Polygons today. Its downtempo indie rock is in good company with the avant-garde indie pop of Bluebook and Lowfaith’s gentle and expansively moody post-punk.

Friday | December 28, 2018

 

GreenDruid_Jul21_2018_TomMurphy
Green Druid, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Khemmis w/Dreadnought, Green Druid
When: Friday, 12.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Doom band Khemmis has been making waves well beyond Denver for a few years at this point and this weekend is doing a two night run showcasing some of the best metal local metal bands including tonight with Dreadnought and its majestic, folk-inflected, atmospheric doom and Green Druid’s psychedelic tinged brand of heavy music.

Who: Joseph Lamar, Talking Mirrors, My New Dad
When: Friday, 12.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Joseph Lamar has been a bit of a musical alchemist and chameleon with his songwriting steeped in dream pop and R&B while taking on various roles as a musician in his band an in other projects. His live show is a mixture of the intimate and the mystical.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Denver Broncos UK and Midwife
When: Friday, 12.28, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has, since its beginnings in the early 90s, established itself as one of the definitive bands of the Denver music outside the mainstream. With an international fanbase, SCAC, like many of the Mile High City’s best bands, plays small club shows in its hometown. The group’s lively performances of harrowing yet ultimately life-affirming music is reliably compelling, moving and, though highly theatrical, human. For this three night run (also including 12/29 and NYE) the band is bringing in refreshingly different opening act from the usual “same genre” billing. For this show, sure, dark post-punk Americana side project Denver Broncos UK, well worth seeing, but also the delicate, ethereal outsider folk brilliance of Midwife.

Saturday | December 29, 2018

Mirror Fears_Jul30_2017_TomMurphy_web
Mirror Fears at UMS, July 30, 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Church Fire: Summer Camp Doom Diary release w/The Milk Blossoms, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Mirror Fears
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church Fire’s latest album Summer Camp Doom Diary was many years in the making from shedding the quaint but necessary early compositional ideas and methods represented by the phase in which the duo was calling itself Sewing Buttons on Ice Cream. When the band emerged into the type of group that could make powerful tribal, industrial dance music infused with a sophisticated sociopolitical orientation it really found its core audience among people who don’t see why bangers are irreconcilable with rich and thoughtful content. The new record is the apex of Church Fire’s most recent wave of artistic development which, in many bands, is where its future music will plateau even if it’s worth a listen hereafter. But if you’ve seen Church Fire in the last half year you’ve seen hints of the future direction of the band all of which is more than hinted at across Summer Camp Doom Diary like mini-prophecies, Easter eggs, of self-liberation for both the band and listener alike. For this show Church Fire is joined by other local visionary artists in the more experimental realm who make music that stretches the brain and expands your inner horizons.

Who: Khemmis w/Of Feather and Bone and NightWraith
When: Saturday, 12.29, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Second night of Khemmis’ local showcase with the grindcore-esque Of Feather and Bone and the thrash-core doom of NightWraith.

Who: Pale Sun, Emerald Siam and Wild Call
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: When silly people talk about the “end of guitar rock” they should be so lucky as to catch this line-up with Pale Sun’s hypnotic and moving post-shoegaze ambient rock, Emerald Siam’s left field stretch beyond brooding post-punk by incorporating hooks and emotional depth and Wild Call’s gritty, dreamy, visceral songwriting.

Who: Itchy-O w/PPL MVR
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O is doing a three night run for the new year beginning tonight with costume weirdo metal band PPL MVR. While a lot of its music is some kind of sludgy hard rock the yeti-looking group freely plays with sounds and methods from other styles of music including psychedelia and hip-hop.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Munly & The Lupercalians and Voight
When: Saturday, 12.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: This second night of three of SCAC’s NYE run at Globe Hall includes performances from the spooky, costumed ritual folk band Munly & The Lupercalians and shoegaze/industrial post-punk duo Voight.

Sunday | December 30, 2018

HandyDiner_CloudlessRainAndSheetMetalSkinGraft_Feb25_2017
Cloudless Rain (left) with Sheet Metal Skin Graft (left) circa 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures: Brother Saturn, Cloudless Rain, Gutter Spirits
When: Sunday, 12.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: The final Textures ambient showcase of 2018 with performances from post-rock/loop-shoegaze/electro ambient project Brother Saturn and Cloudless Rain whose own music seems to be one of freefloating, endless horizons as one would expect from a persistent virtual world chillout zone.

Who: Wildermiss w/The Solid Ocean and Panther Martin
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fox Run was a promising band that realized that ambition when some of those guys got together with Emma Cole to form Wildermiss. It’s upbeat, earnest indie rock with interesting tonal flourishes and imaginative song dynamics that separate its musical offerings from the current spate of cookie cutter indiedom. The Red Fox Run guys also bring to the project much of what they learned about promoting themselves beyond just overplaying and oversaturating the local scene in the seemingly aimless manner of many of their peers. This is the first night of a two night run to ring in the new year.

Who: The Beach Boys
When: Sunday, 12.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: It is indeed The Beach Boys probably performing choice cuts from across its career with some surprises thrown in because Brian Wilson isn’t a rote creative talent.

Who: Itchy-O w/Radio Scarlet
When: Sunday, 12.30, 8 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Second night of Itchy-O’s run at The Oriental, this night Denver deathrock band Radio Scarlet will open the show.

Who: cindygod EP release
When: Sunday, 12.30, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Pon Pon
Why: cindygod is the newest band from the former members of noise rock band Gauntlet Hair. When the group emerged in the spring/summer of 2018 it had grown to a four-piece with a new name but with sounds that fans of the old band would find immediately likeable. Live, cindygod has been a reminder of what a great band Gauntlet Hair was but one that has evolved beyond that era of musical development but with the same frantic yet nuanced dynamics and joyous outpouring of sound. The group recently released the digital version of its debut EP with the vinyl available at this event.

Monday | December 31, 2018

Rubedo
Rubedo at We Labs with Ikey Owens (3rd from left), November 15, 2013. Photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Fed Rez, R A R E B Y R D $, DJ Polyphoni
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Rubedo doesn’t play too many Denver shows these days. Its winning, accessible and energetic mixture of funk, noise rock and prog has found an audience beyond Denver. In 2017 Rubedo released Vaca, a sort of farewell album to the trio’s late mentor and musical partner Isaiah “Ikey” Owens. Perhaps this show will include some of the material that will make up its next chapter. For this NYE show you also get to see raucous, insightful and witty hip-hop group Fed Rez and R A R E B Y R D $, another hip-hop group but one whose soulful, even spiritual, sound is rooted in an ability to channel pure emotion in nuanced, gentle yet powerful ways.

Who: Wildermiss w/Retrofette, Coastal Wives, Levi Double U
When: Monday, 12.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: This second night of Wildermiss’ NYE run at Larimer Lounge will include performances from synth pop band Retrofette, indie blues rock band Coastal Wives and hip-hop production-influenced house music artist Levi Double U.

Who: Itchy-O w/Mr. Pacman
When: Monday, 12.31, 9 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Itchy-O concludes its three-night run of shows this NYE with peformance art/synth pop group Mr. Pacman. Traditionally the 3 or 4 members of the latter have performed in costume like something out of an 80s cartoon cosplay demonstration but the confrontational performance will fit in well with what follows with the onslaught of Itchy-O.

Who: Slim Cessna’s Auto Club w/Wayfarer and George Cessna (solo)
When: Monday, 12.31, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The third and final show of SCAC’s NYE residency featuring opening sets from Denver doom band Wayfarer and George Cessna performing a solo set.

Wednesday | January 2, 2019

AdamSelene_SpookieDarlingOfDarlingHouseMedia
Adam Selene, photo by Spookie Darling of Darling House Media

Who: Weird Wednesday: Adam Selene, The Jinjas, Vampire Squids From Hell
When: Wednesday, 01.02, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This is the first Weird Wednesday of 2019. The series, curated by independent, underground promoter Claudia Woodman, aims to highlight the stranger or more eccentric and/or more experimental music happening in Denver or dropping in on tour. For this show it’s poet/hip-hop artist Adam Selene whose beats are definitely not the standard faire and incorporates a broad palette of sounds and instrumentation, being more akin to the likes of Eyedea & Abilities and other hip-hop projects that don’t hesitate to use straight up rock and other noisy samples to give the music some edge. A good pairing with synth rock/pop weirdos The Jinjas. Psych/Americana-twinged surf rock band Vampire Squids From Hell aren’t overtly weird except when you consider that at times the group sounds like a strange hybrid of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a mellower Man Or Astroman?

Best Shows in Denver 7/26/18 – 8/1/18

Tarmints_Aug11_2007_TomMurphy
Tarmints (circa 2007) perform at The UMS on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at The Hi-Dive

Thursday | July 26, 2018

 

MrPacman_Feb17_2007_TomMurphy
Mr. Pacman circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: I Heart Monkey Mania: Mr. Pacman, Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars, Cyclo-Sonic and Moon Pussy, visuals by Chris Bagley 
When: Thursday, 07.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Mr. Pacman is not a band that should be dismissed as mere gimmick. Yes, the band dresses up like characters from a cosplay of some weird, ancient Japanese video game. But it’s live drums, keytar, electronic drums and other instrumentation with, indeed, fairly silly songs but performed with a disorienting intensity and earnestness. At times it’s fun but moderately scary. Which is what any good band should be at least once in a while. Mr. Pacman is that pretty much every time. Robot Peanut Butter & The Shooting Stars is a more out downtempo band and Cyclo-Sonic includes former members of Denver punk legends The Rok Tots, Choosey Mothers and The Frantix. Chris Bagley, one of the filmmakers of the 2008 documentary Wesley Willis’ Joyrides, will provide visuals and make it even more of a trip.

Who: Glasss Presents: The Speakeasy Series Season 2 Finale w/Brother Saturn, Equine, VAHCO, MYTHirst, Bowshock
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This is the final show of the second season of Glasss Records’ The Speakeasy Series. It’ll be more of an ambient show with Brother Saturn’s soothing and abstract guitar and synth collages, Equine’s avant-guitar drone and beats, VAHCO’s beat-driven soul,. MYTHirst’s bright soundscapes and ukulele and whatever it is one might call Bowshock’s mixture of influences from space rock, reggae and improvisational composition.

Who: Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke
When: Thursday, 07.26, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: Har Mar Superstar cleaned up but good for this series of shows in which he dresses up in a suit and tie (which may or may not come off before the set is over in the weather Denver has been experiencing as of late). Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar) and his band will perform several of Sam Cooke’s classic R&B hits and maybe even some deep cuts. Seeing as Har Mar’s usual schtick is singing R&B and soul and making a spectacle of himself but pulling off the singing like he was born to it, this is not a huge leap for the performer. And at this time, the socially conscious end of Cooke’s music seems more relevant than ever.

Friday | July 27, 2018

RedBaraat_MarkJaworski
Red Baraat, photo by Mark Jaworski

Who: Red Baraat
When: Friday, 07.27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Clyfford Still Museum
Why: Red Baraat’s syncretic pop spans South Asian musical styles, Western funk, Afrobeat and Caribbean pop to create something that’s celebratory, immediately accessible and deep. The sprawling band is playing this free concert at Clyfford Still Museum in central Denver in the wake of the release of its latest record, 2018’s Sound The People. With its cultural scope and implicit message of human unity, Red Baraat’s music is an international call of all people to come together to resist the rising wave of aggressive authoritarianism plaguing the world today. Beyond the heady messaging, Red Baraat is a reminder that sprawling, seemingly improvisational compositions needn’t be the pure realm of jam bands and that it is a component of popular musical styles across the world.

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 1: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Friday, 07.27,7 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: This parallel event to the UMS amidst the dense and varied offerings there is out on by the boutique Remixed Gifts and the Denver culture-centered comic ‘zine Hot Sauce the Dog written and drawn by the gifted singer-songwriter Rachael Pollard whose new band DEN |V|OTHER will kick off the event at 7 p.m. followed by Joe Sampson at 8 and R A R E B Y R D $ at 9. Simply some of the best people from Denver you can see at any time. The event runs two days picking up again on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. with Bonnie Weimer.

Who: Larians, Real Gongs, Jumanjuhad
When: Friday, 07.27, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café Beer Hall
Why: Larians is Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons’ IDM/experimental electronic project and Real Gongs is that of Male Blonding guitarist Bryce Navin. If the UMS is too much or not of interest for whatever reason or if you have some time Friday night, highly recommended.
Who: Denver Broncos UK, Echo Beds, Simulators and Shadows Tranquil
When: Friday, 07.27, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Denver Broncos UK is sort of a post-punk side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club so a good fit with math-y post punk duo Simulators (think like Shellac but stripped down to even more of the bare essentials) and Echo Beds whose forthcoming album Buried Language (due out August 18 on The Flenser) pushes their harsh organic-industrial soundscape further than previous boundaries.

Saturday | July 28, 2018

CSH-credit-Mikeal-Beland-4
Car Seat Headrest, photo by Mikael Beland

Who: SUPER PARTY Day 2: Presented by Remixed Gifts and Hot Sauce the Dog
When: Saturday, 07.28, 2 p.m.
Where: Remixed Gifts 70 S. Broadway
Why: Day 2 of SUPER PARTY, a free event amidst the UMS. The following is today’s schedule: 2 – Bonnie Weimer, 3 – Jen Korte, 3:45 Ted Thacker of The Red Tack, 4:30 Andy Thomas solo, 5:30 Kissing Party, 6:30 Teacup Gorilla

Who: Car Seat Headrest w/Naked Giants
When: Saturday, 07.28, 8 p.m.
Where:The Gothic Theatre
Why: Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of his generation. Having put out nine albums independently before signing to Matador in 2015, Toledo clearly didn’t need a label but the distribution and marketing arm of one helped to get his music to a wider audience. The new Car Seat Headrest album, 2018’s Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is brimming with what has made the band impossible to dismiss with lazy genre designations. Vocals that sometimes soar with an upsweep of deeply felt emotion, sometimes speak quietly about the concerns of the moment that flood your mind and won’t let go. Lo-fi guitar composition in the vein of maybe a Pavement or Sebadoh but informed more by underground rock of the 2000s like Jay Reatard’s more sublimely ethereal moments and more modern lo-fi stars like No Age, Times New Viking and artists from the Siltbreeze imprint. Beyond just the sonics, though, the new record is an exploration of the concerns, anxieties and self-image of a young person in an era when destructive, and self-destructive messages, have been repackaged and made to seem like a viable option. Car Seat Headrest’s new album is a compassionte and vibrant rejection of much of that as well as a suggestion of a path of discovery/rediscovery of what’s truly important in one’s life.

Tuesday | July 31, 2018

Weezer-2017_BrendanWalter
Weezer, photo by Brendan Walter

Who: Weezer and the Pixies w/Sleigh Bells
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 5 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Weezer got to be in on the tail end of the legitimate wave of alternative rock in the early 90s. Its 1994 self-titled album, “The Blue Album,” yielded a couple of hits with “Buddy Holly” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The crunchy melodies and quiet-loud dynamics pioneered by groups like Mission of Burma and Pixies, who had then recently split, continued the tradition of nerdy punk rockers making music that took that spirit of punk to different places. Weezer could have been another fuzzy, alternative rock/pop punk band with that kind of sunny Southern California flavor. But Weezer’s songs, even when it’s indulging in some fun-loving goofiness, had at its core an impulse to resist being pigeonholed or musically fitting into a specific trend.

After its first record, singer Rivers Cuomo wanted to change gears dramatically and nearly made a science fiction-themed concept album but what came out instead is what could be argued is the band’s most artistically interesting record to date, 1996’s Pinkerton and its darkly conflicted lyrics. Cuomo has since all but disavowed the album as a reminder of a painful time. And to Weezer’s credit, the group has not spent its time as a band trying to recapture past glory. Its most recent full-length album, 2017’s Pacific Daydream, reflects not only Cuomo’s personal alienation but the anomy of our time when many people feel a disconnect with the lives they might want, however modest the aspiration, and the reality we face with diminished expectations. A melancholy set of songs? Maybe not obviously so but despite the title, a song like “Beach Boys” sounds like something that, psychologically speaking, was written in a vast room lit only by small windows on a cloudy day reminiscing about what once brought one joy. Like a less dire but no less impactful musical version of William Friedkin’s depiction of life in the City of Angels.

That Weezer is co-headlining with Pixies seems fitting. Both bands find themselves perhaps having to reinvent themselves for the current era even as their back catalog speaks for itself. Pixies are obviously the influential alternative rock band from Boston, darlings of college radio in the late 80s and early 90s and breaking up with its legacy intact. The band’s humor, unhinged energy, idiosyncratic songwriting filled with seething emotion, delicacy of feeling, have kept its music fresh decades onward. Like any band worth its salt, Pixies also produced new music post 2003 reunion once its internal dynamics leveled out. The group’s first album with former touring, now permanent, bassist Paz Lenchantin, 2016’s Head Carrier, isn’t generally as immediately cathartic and as vital as the group’s 80s and 90s output, it proved Pixies can still write material worth a listen and highlights the band’s ability to clue in to unusual sounds and rhythm and texture ideas that other established artists often don’t.

Who: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/Soccer Mommy
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Stephen Malkmus is obviously the singer and one of the guitarists in lo-fi slacker psyche legends Pavement. But his songs under his own name and with The Jicks are as worthy as anything he did with Pavement. Free to explore unusual melodies, self-indulge a wide range of guitar styles and fusing noise, jangle rock, improvisational instincts, 70s rock, psychedelia and prog, Stephen Malkmus with the Jicks is capable of coming up with refreshingly unusual songs even if they all have the stamp of eccentricity and imagination that Malkmus has brought to all his projects. The group’s 2018 record Sparkle Hard reflects Malkmus examination of the modern world and his place in it as a white man, and father, in his fifties who is still engaged in doing the thing he’s best at—writing unusual rock music—when the world seems to be falling apart and changing at a rapid pace. In typical fashion, Malkmus has a worthwhile and interesting take on all of it.

Opener for this tour, Soccer Mommy, is an interesting pairing because Sophie Allison’s songs have a layered and emotionally rich, compositional style with a sound collage quality that isn’t at first obvious. Her 2018 debut studio album Clean is a solid 10-song collection of sophisticated pop. Unlike many young songwriters, Allison, now 21, doesn’t sound like she’s tapping into a particular era of the 90s or the 2000s except for maybe Mitski and Japanese Breakfast. But, really, those are exceptionally respectable touchstones. What is also noteworthy is Allison’s range of dynamics, command of what, in a film score, might be called sound design, materfully orchestrating textural and atmospheric elements to augment her storytelling. With a debut so strong, one can only hope we’ve not yet seen Allison at her peak.

Who: ModPods w/R A R E B Y R D $
When: Tuesday, 07.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: ModPods from Los Angeles with its mixture of electronic post-punk and dance music sounds more like some kind of band from Baltimore in the 2000s or the kind of band that would have played The Smell in its heyday with an eclectic spirit not trapped in adherence to a stylistic subgenre. Either way its beat-driven songs have an edge and an 8-bit melodic fringe on its minimal synth melodies. Fronted by Myriad Slits, the trio, including Mindee Jorgensen and Daniel Guzman who switch up instruments regularly so that the musical duties never really become rote, is like an intentionally lo-fi synth pop/dance band.

Also on this bill is R A R E B Y R D $, the hip-hop trio that keeps pushing boundaries, including its own, in terms of beatmaking and Key Lady’s and KoKo La’s alchemical vocal interplay. The way some guitarists create interesting shapes for chords, the members of this group creates interesting synergy of sounds between vocals, beats and Michael Blomquist’s organic percussion. It’s a deeply emotional experience that you share with the band. It’s like alternative hip-hop if made by people who take great joy in seeing exactly what you can do with a synthesizer and a sampler to make something entrancing and meaningful. Hypnagogic post-disco, endorphin releasing, gangsta dub.

Wednesday | August 1, 2018

 

Who: Shocker Mom, Spargob and R A R E B Y R D $
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 8-11 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: It’s a free show and you get to see some of Denver’s best producers of electronic music in the underground. For R A R E B Y R D $, see above. Shocker Mom is Robin Walker who to the big wide world outside of Colorado is not known at all. But for those that have been able to witness her talents as a solo artist, member of lo-fi pop phenoms Cougarpants or one half of the hip-hop duo Nighttimeschoolbus, Walker is a singular talent. As Shocker Mom, Walker taps into her broad musical experience to produce tracks that blur the line between hip-hop, trap, IDM, ambient, dubtechno and indie pop. Aleeya Wilson is perhaps most well-known for her avant-garde guitar/noise project Death In Space. But now the Girls Rock Denver alumn is writing music as Spargob, her production project so expect something refreshingly weird and imaginative.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Universal Devils, Limber Wolf, The Far Stairs facebook.com/events/509245982828786
When: Wednesday, 08.1, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday, Claudia Woodman’s monthly at 3 Kings Tavern, will include Rick Layton’s solo experimental metal project Universal Devils. Layton is a talented multi-instrumentalist who spent several years as the drummer for weirdo punk band Little Fyodor & Babushka Band. The Far Stairs is fronted by former Hindershot keyboard player Jesse Livingston. Imagine a manic New Wave/New Romantics/power pop band influenced by They Might Be Giants. But not just good, but great.

Best Shows in Denver 06/28/18 – 07/04/18

Rubedo_Jan6_2017_TomMurphy
Rubedo will headline its annual summer show at The Bluebird Theater this Saturday, June 30, 2018. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | June 28, 2018

PostAnimal_SXSW_Tim_Nagle
Post Animal, photo by Tim Nagle

Who: Post Animal w/Slow Pulp and Serpentfoot
When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Chicago’s Post Animal sounds like a power pop band that has adopted some sludge rock edginess and a lot of psychedelia to warp those edges into interesting directions. Its new album When I Think Of You In a Castle makes you wonder what would have happened had The Sweet and ELO merged because the exquisitely tuneful melodies rock with an earnestness out of step in this decade where many try and fail miserably at projecting that authenticity much less at sustaining the quality songwriting across an entire record. The changes of pace, dynamics, tone and atmosphere throughout the album also proves the band cares enough about its own art and potential listeners to not brand its career with a same-y aesthetic. Post Animal is a rock band but one that isn’t stuck in rock-ist clichés as its sonics are as transporting as they are riveting.

Who: Pretty Mouth video release w/Archipelaghost and Oxeye Daisy
When: Thursday, 06.28, 8 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
Why: Pretty Mouth is debuting its video for “This Poison Loves You” at this show at Ophelia’s. The Denver-based quartet combines the drawn out pacing and dynamics of alt-country with windswept dream pop, singer Marie Litton seemingly channeling the energy of ancestral spirits to effect a an emotional catharsis throughout the performance. Joining Pretty Mouth for the occasion is avant-garde pop outfit Archipelaghost and like-minded neo-alternative rock band Oxeye Daisy, which recently released an excellent self-titled debut engineered by Male Blonding frontman Noah Simons.

Friday | June 29, 2018

CopCircles_Jan29_2014_TomMurphy
Cop CIrcles circa 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Froth: A Rhinoceropolis fundraiser w/Superstar & Star, Cop Circles, Lux Hearse, J. Hamilton Isaacs, Mirror Fears, Data Rainbow, French Kettle Station
When: Friday, 06.29, 7 p.m.
Where: Redline Gallery
Why: Denver DIY space Rhinoceropolis, which was closed in December 2016 in the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland, California, for supposed fire code violations, has had multiple hurdles to overcome to re-open including paying rent on the building while it couldn’t be utilized and remodeling to bring the space to code. So this event is happening to help move that along to the final phase before the re-open. The usual suspects of former Rhino inhabitants and those who made the space what it was will be performing but the night will include a special appearance from Neville Lawrence who performs as Superstar & Star, who now lives in Omaha, Nebraska and claims to be the “undisputed king of home-disco.” Watch any of his videos and that’s pretty much impossible to dispute as his VCR 80s era home video aesthetic is much more likeable than one might expect in this age when many things are overproduced and essentially unrelatable.

Who: Strange Goo feat: Pheel, Mirror Fears and PterrorFractyl
When: Friday, 06.29, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fort Greene
Why: This is the latest edition of Strange Goo which includes some of the most forward thinking experimental electronic artists in Denver. Tonight’s show includes dream noise/industrial pop artist Mirror Fears and post-dub techno soundsculptor PterrorFractyl.

Who: Sliver w/Parking With Planets, The Swamp Rats, Bailout, Theoretic 
When: Friday, 06.29, 8 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original BBQ
Why: It would be enough to go see sludge/surf punkers The Swamp Rats. But it would also be worth your time to check out grunge punks Sliver. That despite singer Chris Mercer dropping the bomb on his own band and admitting that his own take on his own band’s style of punk: “Post hardcore that came out in the early 00’s and beyond is just the poppy emo shit with a lot of screaming.” We beg to differ and declare Sliver a refreshingly emotionally raw and honest rock band with a leg in both DC hardcore and NW proto-alternative rock. Sure, Mercer doesn’t do a great job of ripping off Bad Brains and Wipers but he tries and that has to count for something.

Who: Electric Funeral Fest III Day 1
When: Friday, 06.29, 3 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: This two day festival showcases some of the underground’s best extreme music bands from Denver and elsewhere including Spirit Adrift, Eagle Twin, R.I.P., Aseethe, Amplified Heat, Forming the Void, Love Gang, Urn., Loom, Necropanther, Smokey Mirror, Twingiant, Echo Beds, Augur, Green Druid, Keef Duster and The Rare Breed. Someone also convinced Denver thrash punks Speedwolf to reunite for tonight’s line up. Kudos.

Saturday | June 30, 2018

RAREBYRDS_May31_2018_TomMurphy
R A R E B Y R D $, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Rubedo w/Holophrase, R A R E B Y R D $, Picture the Waves and Mace Windu
When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: In what has become at least a semi-annual tradition, Rubedo headlines The Bluebird Theater in early summer. The Denver band, parts prog, psychedelic rock, noise rock and avant funk, has been at the forefront of one wing of the local DIY scene for years. For these events Rubedo brings together some of the more interesting bands out of the underground like experimental electro-downtempo band Holophrase and the soulful and lush hip-hop of visionaries of a utopian yet grounded, loving and compassionate future, R A R E B Y R D $.

Who: Electric Funeral Fest III Day 2
When: Saturday, 06.30, 3 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Mutiny Information Café
Why: This second day of heavy and extreme music includes sets from bands across the front range and beyond: Weedeater, Primitive Man, Zeke, Sierra, Duel, Grey Gallows, Cloud Catcher, The Munsens, Communion, Crud, Space in Time, White Dog, Vexing, Pink Fuzz, Wizzerd, Smolder & Burn, Alone and Still Valley

Who: Machinefest w/16Volt, Machinewerx and Society Burning
When: Saturday, 06.30, 6 p.m.
Where: Outdoor location in Wellington, CO
Why: Tempting to call this an event linked to the local Burning Man community and maybe ultimately it is, but in truth it’s an industrial music and sculpture performance event in the middle of nowehere (map on the event page). Coming out for the occasion is infamous/legendary industrial rock band 16 Volt.

Who: Magic Sword w/Church Fire and EVP
When: Saturday, 06.30, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: This show would be worth attending for Denver bands Church Fire and EVP alone because they’re both pushing forward the aesthetics of dance music and electronic pop with energetic and emotionally stirring performances. But Boise, Idaho’s Magic Sword doesn’t make it here nearly enough with their space knight stage personae and one-would-think-wack-but-never-is combination of 80s prog metal guitar and sweeping science fiction movie soundtrack synthscapes. Camp is pretty played out these days but Magic Sword has taken it to another level that makes it endearing like you’re in on the camp so it’s no longer a joke but just fun.

Sunday | July 1, 2018

Immersion-photo-credit_-Toby-Mason
Immersion, photo by Toby Mason

Who: Immersion w/Brother Saturn
When: Sunday, 07.01, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Immersion is the ambient project comprised of Malka Spigel of Israeli/Belgian experimental post-punk band Minimal Compact and her husband Colin Newman who more than a few people may know as being in Wire. In the 80s their respective bands surely rubbed shoulders in the UK and the rest of Europe and in the early 90s when the duo created Immersion as a way to further explore beat-driven, non-rock music it entered a realm of sound and atmosphere that might have been associated with minimalist IDM and ambient/abstract atmospheric artists of the day like Seefeel and Future Sound of London. The group’s recent albums, including 2018’s Sleepless, have shown a willingness for more overt use of guitar to create texture and tone.

Who: Janelle Monáe w/St. Beauty
When: Sunday, 07.01, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Paramount Theatre
Why: Janelle Monáe’s new album Dirty Computer spent a decade percolating and incubating in her rich imagination. Apparently she felt as though she had to present an image safe for public consumption, as it were. The album is even more a concept album than any of her other excellent offerings over the past several years and it tells a story of personal evolution and self-acceptance in the face of a world that tries to define you and impose meaning on you especially if you’re an “entertainer” and black and a woman. The short film Monáe released in the wake of the album gives vivid life to the story with Monáe as an android named Jane 57821 struggling against a dystopian society toward a more open and compassionate future. While her music has always been sonically rich and evocative, with Dirty Computer, Monáe has pushed her art beyond previous boundaries by revisiting some of her perennial themes in creative new ways.

Who: Canyon of the Skull, Giant of the Mountain, Voideater, A Light Among Many
When: Sunday, 07.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: If you made it to Electric Funeral Fest III but just want one more night of the heavy, this show will more than do with deep, atmospheric doom act Canyon of the Skull from Austin alongside the more experimental, ambient metal of A Light Among Many.

Who: Nevayda Gunn (last show), Horns and Spyderland
When: Sunday, 07.01, 5 – 8 p.m.
Where: Goosetown Tavern
Why: When a lot of rock bands were riding the psych bandwagon and making fairly mundane music that was essentially pop or straight ahead rock with some reverb and yelping, Nevayda Gunn were pushing boundaries of what the music could be and left us one great statement of where it was and where it could have gone with its 2016 album Glitchkraft; A Human Experience. Maybe a slightly art-pretentious title but very much worth a listen. This is their last show. Catch members in Archipelaghost.

Monday | July 2, 2018

DirtyFew_June22_2013_TomMurphy
Dirty Few circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Few 7” release w/Wyldlife, The Bad Engrish, The Born Readies, DJ Ross Taylor Murphy
When: Monday, 07.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Dirty Few is releasing its new 7” EP, Volcom Sessions out on Snappy Little Numbers (you can order the 7” here). While the band has a deserved reputation for being a rowdy party band one thing that is often overlooked is the songwriting. Somewhere between power pop and post-Reatards garage punk, Dirty Few’s fuzz pop has never sounded more focused and and tuneful. It sounds like someone in the band has been listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy but that’s no bad thing. The vocal harmonies really make the songs this time around and this new record represents the band at its current peak.

Tuesday | July 3, 2018

PaleSun_Dec29_2018_TomMurphy
Pale Sun, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Michael Rault w/Pale Sun and Bear and the Beasts
When: Tuesday, 07.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Michael Rault, though Canadian, sounds like he spent some time hanging out in Laurel Canyon in the mid-1970s—gently psychedelic pop compositions with a twinge of country rock running through them are the hallmarks of his sound. We’ve heard a lot of that sort of thing in recent years but Rault happens to be better at the songwriting end than most other people mining similar territory. Also on the bill is Denver-based shoegaze band Pale Sun whose cosmic soundscaping has some edge to its hypnotic melodies.

Wednesday | July 4, 2018

FloweringBlade_May13_2017_TomMurphy
Flowering Blade, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Spectral Voice, Superstition, Flowering Blade, Many Blessings
When: Wednesday, 07.04, 8 p.m.
Where: Meadowlark Bar
Why: Spectral Voice is a Denver-based death metal band whose instincts wend toward a more stark sound. And it’s in good company for this show with Many Blessings, the ambient/noise project of Primitive Man vocalist/guitarist Ethan McCarthy, and Aaron Miller of Cadaver Dog doing his solo noise act Flowering Blade. So, musically speaking, all the negative vibes with none of the negative consequences.

Best Shows in Denver 4/19/18 – 4/25/18

Khruangbin_byMaryKang1
Khruangbin performs Monday, April 23, 2018, at The Bluebird Theater , photo by Mary Kang

 

Thursday | April 19, 2018

Atari_Sep6_2017_TomMurphy
Atari, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents Speakeasy Series Season 2: Atari and Pythian Whispers
When: Thursday, 04.19, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This latest edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 will be an early and short show from Denver ambient artists Atari and Pythian Whispers. Being in the latter, no comment. Atari, though, is David Bridges, a DJ who manufactures records to create truly unique beats in an analog format. He uses some electronic components in his beatmaking but its that he has been known to cut records apart and put them together in different arrangements for a show or recording. The result sounds like tape collage, ambient industrial but the craft involved is a step beyond what most musicians making similar music would be willing to undertake.

Who: Glasss Presents: Gold Trash, Church Fire, EVP and Mirror Fears
When: Thursday, 04.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Sort of an all-star experimental electronic pop lineup. Mirror Fears set a high bar for emotional intensity and a complete synthesis of dream pop, industrial and noise with her 2018 album Eaten. Church Fire similarly doesn’t skimp on the emotional singing in its live show and on its albums but its style is more embodied in the band name because Shannon Webber has a fiery performance style that is impossible to ignore. EVP channels a lifetime of anger into its music even though some of it sounds like it could be a companion piece to what Grimes has been up to lately. Gold Trash sounds a bit more raw and chaotic than the other acts on the bill, it’s sound seeming to have been informed by the sonic brutality and, yes, trash culture embrace vibe of both Atari Teenage Riot and Royal Trux.

Friday | April 20, 2018

front_242_photoCourtesyFront242
Front 242, photo courtesy Front 242

Who: Front 242 w/Blackcell, EVP and DJ Slave 1
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Front 242 was the first band from Belgium most people outside of Belgium had ever heard about. Which is interesting because Front 242 remains a bit of a cult band. But the group pioneered the style of electronic industrial music called Electronic Body Music, or EBM. Developing alongside peers like Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, D.A.F. and Front Line Assembly, who were making likeminded music from the early to mid-80s going forward, Front 242 enjoyed a brief period of commercial success by the early 90s. Its single “Rhythm of Time” appeared in the 1992 thriller Single White Female boosting the band’s profile at a time when alternative rock had opened the doors into the mainstream for all sorts of leftfield music that could fit under that umbrella including Front 242.

After 1991’s Tyranny For You, Front 242’s musical style evolved rapidly and dramatically as embodied on a twin 1993 release of both 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09: 12 Off. The big beats that were the driving engine of the band’s earlier music seemed gone but not the robotic, distorted vocals. The tracks seemed less stark and revealed the influence of more sample based composition. Through the rest of the decade and into the 2000s, when Front 242 released music it was obvious the group was learning from the new electronic groups or the era including the IDM, “Big Beat” and house/techno/rave artists that dominated the electronic music world of the 90s and 2000s. Front 242 hasn’t released a new full album worth of material since 2003’s excellent Pulse, its then first album in a decade. But that means that if you’re going to the show you’ll probably get a nice slice of its classic material.

Who: Afroman w/David Frederick, SwizZy B and guests
When: Friday, 04.20, 4:15 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Since April twentieth in Denver is basically a punchline for a fake holiday there are too many events “celebrating” legal recreational cannabis. Afroman, more than many artists of the past two decades, made more of his 2001, what might be considered a novelty, hit “Because I Got High” than anyone had in years. Since then Afroman has been kind of a mascot for legalization of cannabis so even if this show is basically about that it should be entertaining anyway.

Who: Alphabet Soup #32: MYTHirst feat. Nancy A. Finney, Suffers Beats, DaShwoo, R A R E B Y R D S $, Brother Saturn, Babah Fly, Bentstickremedy
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Deer Pile
Why: The Alphabet Soup series has been a sure fire way to see some of the most forward thinking hip-hop / beat driven electronic music makers in Denver. This edition is no different but included are ambient/dream pop artist Brother Saturn. Otherwise any show with R A R E B Y R D S $ and Babah Fly indicate that someone somewhere in putting together the lineup knows Denver underground hip-hop history while being aware of the most interesting new crews operating.

Who: Zigtebra, Gort Vs. Goom and f-ether
When: Friday, 04.20, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Chicago’s Zigtebra has blended the aesthetics of 8-bit video game music composition, EBM and indie pop. It’s the sophisticated lo-fi musical equivalent of inspired collage art. Gort Vs. Goom is a bass and drums prog punk band. Probably sounds counterintuitive but this duo makes it work and comes off more like Minutemen than Primus. F-ether’s musical output is fairly diverse. But one might describe the overarching sound as one of minimal synth environments reminiscent of a less abstract Pole or of early IDM artists. Except there’s more modern glitchcore to some of his denser songs. But all within the realm of modern underground dance music.

Who: Coastlands w/Altas and The Leshen
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Coastlands is a Portland, Oregon-based post-rock band. It’s sound is more melancholy and downtempo than its more rock-oriented kin. More Hammock than Explosions in the Sky. Also playing this show is Denver’s Altas. The instrumental rock band is like its own traveling sonic cinema rooted in guitar and synthesizer music. The group’s 2014 album Epoca De Bestias was full of songs that suggested short, epic science fiction films in miniature themselves. As in not inspired by film but inspiring them. We’ve heard lots of post-metal/heavy post-rock and The Leshen fits under that umbrella fine. But intentionally or otherwise the duo has brought in elements of industrial and sludgy blues rock without compromising an interesting sound.

Who: Cigarettes After Sex
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Despite a completely underwhelming showing opening for Garbage in the summer of 2016 and a fairly sparse eight years of output prior merely hinting at what was ahead, Cigarettes After Sex released a respectable self-titled full-length in 2017. It can sound of a piece and yet the dusky tone and Greg Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals are engaging and interesting enough to warrant repeated listens. Even if the live show hasn’t improved, but chances are it has, being enveloped in the ghostly embrace of this music should reward the effort to show up.

Who: 4/20 Funk Fest: Rowdy Shadehouse w/Log and DJ Lucky Luck
When: Friday, 04.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: At least if you come to this show, overtly state them aside, it’ll be enough of a celebration of the bombastic and absurd to be fun. Jon Thursday’s melodramatic, hypersexualized stage persona may split the crowd but at least it won’t be boring or forgettable. His band Rowdy Shadehouse has been through some lineup changes but Thursday is able to bring together some real talents to execute his version of funk.

Who: Esmé Patterson w/Slow Caves and Silver & Gold
When: Friday, 04.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Artery | Fort Collins
Why: Esmé Patterson will bring her literary and penetratingly insightful pop songs to the Downtown Artery for a show with hometown heroes, the surf-y garage rock band Slow Caves and Greeley’s Silver & Gold, a band that sounds like it worked through its emo, alt-country and neo-classic rock roots to make a the kind of alt/indie rock band with an earnest energy and big hooks.

Saturday | April 21, 2018

MC_Chris_MaraRobinson
MC Chris, photo by Mara Robinson

Who: MC Chris w/Bitforce and An Hobbs
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: MC Chris and his music has been a part of a certain segment of modern American counterculture through his association with Adult Swim through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2011 and The Brak Show. Among other projects. Though MC Chris is with some people synonymous with nerdcore, his music goes beyond nerd culture and the nerdly events at which he has performed. Yes, there are 8-bit sounds all over his music and references to video games and RPGs but his production and songwriting is much broader and sophisticated than a narrow subgenre straightjacket could fully encompass. In that way his songs have more in common with other hip-hop than nerdcore. MC Chris’s music may be steeped in and a product of nerd culture but not limited by it. His most recent album, 2017’s Marshmellow Campground, is an irreverent collection of songs about the perils and challenges of childhood and its rituals and experiences that many of us share.

Who: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release w/Muscle Beach and Cult of the Lost Cause
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is celebrating the release of its new record, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on Sailor Records. The hard rock duo would probably be considered metal by most people that see them but for the past few years, and probably from the beginning, the band has created some songs that transcend limiting genre labels by taking the harder edged sounds into more atmospheric vistas. When Sugar Skulls & Marigolds opened for Xasthur in 2017, it was supposed to be an “acoustic” show but it just sounded like a great shoegaze or dream pop band with more grit than usual and revealed these guys had more to offer than being just a talented extreme metal band. The new record is finds both creative impulses informing each other for one of the most interesting heavy albums of the last few years. Also, two of the best heavier bands in Denver or anywhere share the bill with the more punk oriented Muscle Beach and the more instrumental metal/posthardcore Cult of the Lost Cause.

Who: The Book of Love w/Eloquent and The Siren Project
When: Saturday, 04.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: The Book of Love is a band from the 80s and early 90s synth pop world that like groups from that era like Let’s Active and Game Theory who were maybe big on college radio with flirtations with mainstream success, including two tours with Depeche Mode in the mid-80s, but never quite broke through to the audience one might think would be obvious. It wasn’t for lack of quality material and its music was not even as dark as that of Depeche Mode. So The Book of Love became a bit of a cult band in the Goth world of the 90s even after its initial 1994 breakup. Since 2013, The Book of Love has been touring on the strength of its back catalog. Joining The Book of Love for this show is Denver-based Euro-dream-pop-post-punk band The Siren Project, a band that has also yet to garner the attention it richly deserves for its body of work that conjures imagery of hanging out in a fog-enshrouded café in some romantic city on the Continent contemplating the meaning of life and dreams of the future.

Who: Diners, Dingbat Superminx, Petite Garçon, Wrinkle and The Tickles
When: Saturday, 04.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery
Why: The term indie pop may have lost some of its meaning or significance since the early 2000s when some of the most inspired and idiosyncratic pop music made was coming out in the underground. Well, these bands all embody that spirit of not looking to the mainstream to define what makes pop music and Wrinkle, even though clearly a punk band, is not short on hooks. Denver’s Petite Garçon is mostly difficult to categorize except that its songcraft is a not so self-conscious to be a deconstruction of pop but a use of that structure employing sounds in a way most bands in the classic mold would not. It’s also a chance to see a show at the excellent Dateline Gallery so it is for sure all ages.

Who: Oddfellas, Drink Drank PUNK, Sliver, The Pollution and Church Van
When: Saturday, 04.21, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Is this a punk show? Pretty much except that Sliver draws a great deal from DC posthardcore and late 80s and early 90s grunge and northwest punk in general: Nirvana (from whose song the band got its name, natch), Tad and Wipers. And The Pollution includes DC punk band United Mutation’s bass player Jay Fox and thus an unusual and interesting mix of punk, psych and krautrock.

Sunday | April 22, 2018

Ho99o9_Hadas-Di
Ho99o9, photo by Hadas Di

Who: 3Teeth w/Ho99o9 and Street Sects
When: Sunday, 04.22, 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: 3Teeth wears some of its influences on its sleeve pretty heavily: Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Marilyn Manson. But it lacks the utter camp of Manson and KMFDM. Just abrasive, crunchy industrial rock guitar and a bit of a throwback to the 90s in that regard yet still not really coming off like a band tapping into nostalgia. Street Sects is almost a performance art band in how confrontational it sounds and the nature of its fog-enshrouded live shows. Like a breakcore band with more identifiable and visceral low end. Ho99o9 is what might be called an industrial hip-hop act. Obvious comparisons have likely been made with Death Grips and Dälek, none of the three groups sound at all like each other except in their use of sounds in a hip-hop context most other hip-hop artists wouldn’t use like industrial beats and darker undertones in the synth lines. Maybe Sole, The GZA, Eyedea & Abilities, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, Vince Staples and the like. Wherever Ho99o9 fits in, its menacing and socially critical music has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few years. It’s latest release is 2017’s United States Of Horror, a title that just about sums up the national and international mood of late.

Who: Joe Jack Talcum w/Coolzey, Mister Zach and Daywish
When: Sunday, 04.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Joe Genaro aka Joe Jack Talcum is perhaps most widely known as the guitarist and one of the vocalists in punk rock band Dead Milkmen. But since 1984 he’s written songs and albums and performed live as a solo artist. Not folk, not conventionally singer-songwriter, but more akin to Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg in that he can be political but also write about love and life in a way that goes beyond tropes. And hey, he may do a Dead Milkmen song or two.

Monday | April 23, 2018

Carpenter Brut Roadburn Festival 2017  Andrey Kalinovsky
Carpenter Brut, photo courtesy Carpenter Brut

Who: Carpenter Brut w/Jean Jean
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, is a French synth artist who has been on the forefront of making the kind of music that one might have heard in 80s horror and science fiction movies, and thus perhaps an explanation of part of the project’s name by invoking director John Carpenter whose own synth-based soundtracks for his own films are a clear inspiration to Carpenter Brut and his musical peers in Perturbator, Magic Sword and Kavinsky. On the 2015 release Trilogy, the titles suggestive of horror storylines and the strong, bright compositions nail the combination of camp and compelling songwriting. Hueso has done some soundtrack work but the vast body of his songs are separate from that context and those songs suggest narratives and aesthetic that recent films like Drive, The Guest and others have manifested. 2018’s Leather Teeth pushes the absurdity factor further in terms of subject matter (“Inferno Galore” and “Hairspray Hurricane” being clear indicators) but Hueso’s mastery of the musical form has progressed even further and the live show looks like an immersive experience.

Who: Khruangbin w/The Mattson 2 bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/348081
When: Monday, 04.23, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Khruangbin’s website airkhruang.com offers visitor a playlist for a trip from any place in the world to another which one can also save to Spotify. Asked for various aspects of the trip, the curated selections are uncannily apt. It also more than hints at the band’s cross-cultural appeal. The trio got started when bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Speer were on tour with Yppah in 2010 during that artist’s run with Bonobo and recognized similar musical interests. After recruiting drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson the group started writing its earliest songs and garnered some attention for its early singles. With what looks and sounds to English-speaking eyes and ears as an exotic name the expectation for the project might have been some resurrection of non-Western versions of Western pop. Instead, Khruangbin’s sound is that of downtempo jazz, surf-rock-esque-yet-smooth-and-moody guitar and smoky funk. Currently touring in the wake of the release of its 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin has brought along like minded, San Diego-based duo, Mattson 2, a band comprised of identical twin brothers Jared and Jonathan Mattson. The brothers released a collaborative album with Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi fame in 2017 and in March 2018, an album of covers of Japanese jazz originals called Vaults of Eternity: Japan.

Who: Impiety, Gravehill and Divine Eye
When: Monday, 04.23, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Impiety started in 1990 as a kind of black metal band. But in Singapore being in such a band was probably a dicey proposition and remains so in a country that banned “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963 and the 2001 Janet Jackson album All for You due to its racy album cover and lyrics. Nevertheless, Impiety and other extreme metal bands have operated out of Singapore for years. Since its earliest releases, Impiety has evolved a bit from its early black metal roots to its current deathgrind style. But its musical vision of audio-violence and lyrics that combine an irreverent attitude toward organized religion with cartoonishly occult imagery will ensure Impiety will alienate casual metal fans. Gravehill from Anaheim, California and its 2018 album The Unchaste, The Profane & The Wicked is a bit of a throwback to a time when thrash and death metal weren’t so far apart in sound and the brutal imagery of the lyrics.

Tuesday | April 24, 2018

Das_Mörtal_christinemcavoy-01
Das Mortal, photo by Christine McAvoy

Who: Das Mörtal w/Church Fire
When: Tuesday, 04.24, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Das Mörtal often gets lumped in with the modern synthwave movement and not without reason. His sensibilities as a songwriter are, according to a July 2017 interview with Get Some Magazine, inspired in part by 80s movie soundtracks as well as 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. But this project sounds less like other synthwave stars like Carpenter Brut, Com Truise, Kavinsky and Perturbator and more like a pop-oriented rock band like Cut Copy whose New Order and OMD influences showed pretty strongly on its 2004 album Bright Like Neon Love. And like Cut Copy, Das Mörtal has evolved into his own sound as evidenced by his 2017 album Always Loved. With nods to mid-90s IDM and mid-80s EBM, Always Loved is packed with songs that pick up where nostalgia isn’t enough of an appeal with an updated take on electronic dance music grounded in songwriting rather than merely well-crafted beats.

Wednesday | April 25, 2018

KingKrule18RM_web
King Krule

Who: King Krule w/Standing On the Corner
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: In a time when genre bending and multi-genre artists are becoming more common, King Krule is a standout. Like Deerhunter more than a decade ago, King Krule’s music invites you into a universe of its own as it is not simply rock or a subgenre of electronic pop music or hip-hop. It has elements of all of that and more but is not limited by a need to fit in with something other than Archy Marshall’s expansive imagination. 2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon probably got interpreted as being part of the psych-and-punk-garage revival of the time. But Marshall sounded like he was channeling Old Dirty Bastard singing for a weirdo jazz band making its own version of indie rock. Four years later, The Ooz finds the band weaving in more musical DNA to mutate its sound further. Bossa nova and dub underpin the “Dum Surfer” single and the beatmaking compositional element is stronger across the whole album, giving it a soft and hypnotic quality even in its moments of peak emotional intensity.

 

Who: Whores, Bummer, Bland Canyon
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Whores is a sludgy noise rock trio from Atlanta. Reminiscent of Big Business, KARP (naturally) and a less sonically surreal Jesus Lizard, Whores perform with the edgy energy of a posthardcore band rather than with the quickened tar pace of many bands projecting a similar aesthetic. Not as overtly so, Whores shares KARP’s proclivity for humor and irony. After all, on its latest album, 2016’s Gold. there are song titles like “I See You Are Also Wearing A Black T-Shirt” and “Mental Illness As Mating Ritual.” Bummer is a sludge rock band from Kansas City that sounds like what would have happened had Ministry followed a trajectory suggested by the Filth Pig album. Bland Canyon from Denver comes right out of the local post-hardcore scene with former Mustangs and Madras members Nick Krier and Tom Chagolla as well as Matty Clark from Trees. Danny Aranow from Sugar Skulls & Marigolds and Justin Hackl who has played in several local bands including in Native Daughters with Chagolla. It’ll be heavy but also oddly catchy.

Who: Dreamdecay, Product Lust, Weaken, Old Sport
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: Dreamdecay is a noise post-punk band from Seattle. Its urgent, thorny songs don’t fit in with the hardcore scene one might expect the band to come from though it probably plays a number of those kinds of shows. Its grittily atmospheres and meditation on the quandaries of existence in a pre-apocalyptic society should appeal to fans of Silver Daggers, Live Skull and Arab on Radar. Its 2017 album isn’t all the same tempo, tone or texture throughout making it rewarding repeat listening experience. All the bands on this bill have their roots in punk but did us the favor of exploring sounds, rhythms and styles beyond the outworn fashion of punk circa any “classic” year of the past.

Who: Big K.R.I.T. W/Cyhi the Prynce, Childish Major
When: Wednesday, 04.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Justin Scott a.k.a. Big K.R.I.T. has always used interesting beats to go along with his words and he has aimed at making poignant observations about life that transcend the specific context and situations he references. And he’s mostly made good on that ambition. For his 2017 album, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, Scott delivered twenty songs divided into two sides of the record, the Big K.R.I.T. side and the Justin Scott side, with each embodying a side of Scott’s songwriting identity. The title is a clear nod to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Though that song is a celebratory party song it is also a fascinatingly thoughtful and insightful exploration of what one must do to propel yourself out of life’s lowest moments. It is that spirit that flows through Scott’s record as well with an eclectic array of music to set the mood for both the party and contemplation of the meaning of it all.

Best Shows in Denver 04/05/18 – 04/11/18

KittyCrimes_LindseyWebb_web
Kitty Crimes, photo by Lindsey Webb

Thursday | April 5, 2018

FrankieCosmos_LorotoProductions_web
Frankie Cosmos, photo courtesy Loroto Productions

Who: Frankie Cosmos w/Lomelda and Ashley Koett
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Fox Theatre
Why: Frankie Cosmos released its third album Vessel on March 30, 2018. Like it’s predecessors there’s a tender sensibility to the songwriting that recalls the lo-fi introspection of Exile In Guyville period Liz Phair and the peek-into-a-strikingly-insightful diary quality of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Sure, Kline had famous parents (Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) and was once a member of Porches. But Frankie Cosmos doesn’t sound like it’s resting on any of those laurels. Kline uses everyday details as a vehicle for exploring feelings and thoughts long hidden. The results are a refreshing frankness and intimacy even in the context of a pop song without the overpolishing and overproduction that the musical form often gets.

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series 2: Brother Saturn and Vahco
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: This edition of the new season of the Speakeasy Series (all in the basement of Hooked on Colfax) includes some of the most mind-calming artists of the entire programme. Brother Saturn’s dreamlike soundscapes are an entrancing synthesis of ambient and dream pop. Vahco is the solo project of Vahco Before Horses from Demoncassettecult and Gold Trash. Whereas those other two are more in the realm of noise and experimental electronic music, Vahco is more in the realm of pop music with soulful vocals.

Who: Liza Anne w/Valley Queen and Down Time
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Liza Anne’s 2018 album Fine But Dying may sound upbeat and bright and, well, like a conventionally commercial pop record I some ways. But not at all beneath the surface of the music is the fact that, according to a recent interview with Billboard, Anne just laid out her struggles with “panic disorder and depression,” articulating them in a way that could be relatable to almost anyone and hopefully at least putting to rest some of her own anxiety and shame regarding those issues. In putting the struggle in very specific personal terms without sensationalizing it or making it seem like a special taboo subject, Anne brilliantly makes it all seem like something anyone might experience without judgment. Joining Anne for this tour is Los Angeles’ Valley Queen who take a folk/acoustic music foundation to songwriting and make it warm and energetic. There’s plenty of post-neo-Laurel Canyon stuff around in the world today but Valley Queen frontwoman Natalie Carol doesn’t sound like she’s copping someone else’s vibe. Rather, her voice, sometimes quavering from the well of emotion, provides a compelling narrative and vivid imagery. One might compare her in that regard to Esmé Patterson’s own knack for creative storytelling that aims at bigger issues through the language of personal experience.

Who: Ty Segall w/Dirty Few ogdentheatre.com/events/detail/347251
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Probably anyone that’s been paying attention to modern rock music knows who Ty Segall at this point. If not, pick up pretty much any of his records (they’re all worth listening to) and you’ll get an idea of what music Segall makes but keep in mind that he is clearly a songwriter who wants to explore a wide variety of tones, moods, dynamics and songwriting styles. On his 2018 album, Freedom’s Goblin, Segall explores a more lush songwriting style without waxing into the fake soul and ersatz R&B that is being peddled a little too much of late. Covering Hot Chocolate’s 1978 hit “Every 1’s a Winner” was an interesting choice for the record but it all fits in with an album that sounds like Segall is trying to create for himself an emotionally comfortable space in which to express feelings that are out of step with some of the more hard-edged rock and roll that some may have come to expect from Segall who is too much of a creative chameleon to ever fully embody, all the better for fans of musicians who evolve whether their fans are ready for the changes or not. People have been trying to pigeonhole Denver’s Dirty Few  for any manner of reasons for years as just rock and roll hooligans. And they are that but bottom line, the band actually writes solid, surprisingly thoughtful, songs that fit in the context of a rowdy live show.

Who: Kitty Crimes album release w/GVgrace
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Maria Kohler has been performing as Kitty Crimes for several years now and it seems as though many of her fans never really knew her as a talented musician and singer in various past bands including Houses, Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes sometimes seemed like a goof and a gimmick. The whole white-presenting woman doing “dirty” rap thing. But Kohler isn’t someone easily clowned and she turned an interesting project into something powerful and well-composed beyond the obvious appeal. Her new record, Crimes of the Kitty, Volume 2 has soul, the expected deft wordplay, personal insight and lush production. For fans of K’Valentine and Kari Faux.

Who: Entrancer, Cities of Earth, Staggered Hooks, Glissline
When: Thursday, 04.05, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: This fundraiser for Project Worthmore, an organization dedicated to aiding the refugee community, is also a great chance to catch some of Denver’s most interesting experimental electronic projects. Entrancer’s music is grounded in the production and sensibility of 90s hip-hop and Detroit techno as well as the full breadth and depth of synthesizer music as someone who has more than a passing experience with modular synths. Cities of Earth’s Tangerine Dream-esque IDM sounds like what should be on the soundtrack to a documentary about Warp Records. At least if his 2017 EP Tangra is any indication. Staggered Hooks is probably the latest project from Dean Inman whose up-to-now-most-recent project, Dream Hike, was responsible for some of the most beautifully hypnotic deep house/ambient going. Glissline is the name Tommy Metz (formerly under his given name as well as Iuengliss) is using for his music these days. Metz has a gift for melodies that soothe the mind and his beats seem to employ the interval that releases endorphins. But whatever his music really does, fans of Aphex Twin and Clark should make an effort to see Glissline sometime if not tonight.

Who: Built to Spill w/Rituals of Mine, Black Belt Eagle Scout
When: Thursday, 04.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Coming out of post-punk/post-hardcore band Treepeople, Doug Martsch put together a band that could synthesize his musical interests and a path of sonic curiosity that wouldn’t fully congeal in underground culture in quite the same way until the late 90s/early 2000s. He cited Caustic Resin as an influence and brought that band’s brilliant guitar player into the new band, Built to Spill, on bass as well as Ralf Youtz on drums. The group’s 1993 debut album Ultimate Alternative Wavers was an oblique thumbing of the nose at how their music culture had been co-opted and marketed as product rather than a culture parallel to the mainstream. The music sounded like a blend of Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr (a band clearly influenced by Young) and underground Pacific Northwest rock. But inside all of that, Martsch had found a way to bring in extended guitar jams that were emotionally charged and expressive rather than purely self-indulgent and wanky. The development of that sound and dynamic perhaps reached its apex on Built To Spill’s 1997 masterpiece, Perfect From Now On and the 1999 follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret. Along with the visionary indie pop of the Elephant 6 collective, the bands on Merge Records, K and Kill Rock Stars, and unlikely “alternative rock” star bands post-alternative collapse like Pavement, Built To Spill helped to shape indie rock in the first decade of the 2000s by offering yet another alternative vision to what was being pumped by large commercial outlets for music.

Seeing Built To Spill in 2018 is a bit like a glimpse back to a time when it was more easily possible to have a viable career in music without having to get commercially huge or over compromise or have to fit in with a trendy subgenre of the moment and ride that wave. Sure, BTS has been on Warner Brothers since Perfect From Now On but if they’re being encouraged to get more commercial you sure can’t tell from even its most recent record, 2015’s Untethered Moon. If the group’s showing at Treefort Music Fest 2018 is any indication, the trio is still capable of weaving its gritty, hypnotic magic today. And its sonic DNA is in music of most modern indie rock bands whether those bands know it or not.

Friday | April 6, 2018

Palehorse/Palerider
Palehorse/Palerider, photo by Tom Murphy

What: Immediate Music Festival 
When: Friday, 04.06, 7 p.m.
Where: Metropolitan State University of Denver
Why: The Immediate Music Festival celebrates collaborative improvisation. Throughout the day (for more information click here) there will be workshops on group improvisation, soundpainting, noteworthy avant-garde musician Pauline Oliveros’ presentation Deep Listening. That night, at the King Center, there will be a concert from the avant-garde-improv band Sone which includes some of the local luminaries of that world with Jane Rigler, Janet Feder, Evan Mazunik, Gil Selinger and Mark Harris as well as a performance from Grammy-nominated jazz drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson.

Who: Dead Meadow w/Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show, Grass and Palehorse/Palerider
When: Friday, 04.06, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Dead Meadow is one of the pioneers of the recent psychedelic rock resurgence with its mixture of heavy rock, droning blues, freak folk and densely flowing psychedelia. Read our piece on/interview with Jason Simon of Dead Meadow here. Also on the bill is Palehorse/Palerider, Denver’s own masters of heavy, mind-altering rock that blurs lines between doom, heavy shoegaze and post-rock.

Who: Steve Gordon Art Show
When: Friday, 04.06, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Vertigo Gallery 960 Santa Fe
Why: Master sculptor, painter and drawing artist Steve Gordon is having what may be one of his last art shows into the foreseeable future. Gordon is also a significant artist in Denver’s experimental music world mostly notably with improvisational composition band Animal / object, which often includes Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano.

Who: Doug Spencer: Cave Lovers 
When: Friday, 04.06, 6-11 p.m.
Where: Dateline Gallery 3004 Larimer St.
Why: This is the latest art show from painter Doug Spencer whose creative use of texture and lighting has made his work desired by connoisseurs of the artform wherein Spencer combines 2D design with 3D, sculptural/diorama elements to create truly unique works. Some may know Spencer as the imaginative guitarist in notable Denver and Fort Collins rock bands Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Monofog and Sweet Tooth Meat Tooth.

Who: Nocturnal Presents: Exos w/Talien and Alex Whittier
When: Friday, 04.06, 11 p.m. – 5 a.m.
Where: TBA
Why: Nocturnal is a long-running event that puts together deep house/experimental electronic dance events akin to a classic rave. So there will be long sets with the artists listed above going from late night until the early morning.

Who: Slugger, Henry and the Kissingers, Galleries, Pelvis Presley
When: Friday, 04.06, 9 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Cafe
Why: After too many bands embraced the less interesting aspects of 60s and 70s rock a little too much a group of bands were bound to come along that embraced the more interesting aspects of that music including original songwriting that isn’t so obviously beholden to an earlier band. This is a show that includes a handful of those groups on the local level including Slugger, the band fronted by former Silver Tone songwriter/guitarist Gabriel Albelo.

Saturday | April 7, 2018

CUT-CHEMIST_JosephArmario_Web
Cut Chemist, photo by Joseph Armario

Who: Cut Chemist w/El Dusty and Chris Karns (Pretty Lights Live Band)
When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Cut Chemist is perhaps best known for his long term stint as a DJ/turntablist in Jurassic 5 and his involvement in the early era of Ozomatli. His tasteful breaks and ear for unusual and evocative samples brought a an uncommon elegance and depth to Jurassic 5’s beats. But the call to do something outside the context of the influential hip-hop group drew Cut Chemist to a solo career in 2004. His 2006 debut album under his own name was an eclectic and borderline world music and downtempo record called The Audience’s Listening. Since then the turntablist has served as a producer on numerous records, performed live DJ sets including opening for Shakira on her 2007 tour, collaborated with DJ Shadow and, in 2017, started doing a bi-weekly radio show, A Stable Sound, on dublab / 99.1 FM KZUT. In March 2018, Cut Chemist released his second solo album, Die Cut. The record continues Cut Chemist’s masterful treatment of samples into songs with a Dilla-esque use of motes of white noise in the mix, samples processed to sound like you’re getting intermittent transmissions of old radio programs, vintage television shows and commercials and ambient IDM glitch-hop.

Who: Nina Storey w/Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle
When: Saturday, 04.07, 7 p.m.
Where: Soiled Dove Underground
Why: Nina Storey spent years cultivating her sound, songwriting and live show in Denver before relocating to Los Angeles in the 2000s. If you caught Storey in the 90s you probably got to see a singer whose voice was perfectly suited to the bluesy rock music she was writing then. Also, that her powerful voice seemed unlikely coming from someone with such a relatively small frame. Since then (and likely even at that time), Storey has explored the range of her voice and where it fit in and discovered it was well-suited to jazz and R&B as well. On her most recent full-length album, 2013’s Think Twice, Storey blended all her musical impulses into well-crafted modern pop songs. These days Storey still comes through Denver and on this date she is joined by local luminaries in the Denver blues world, Michael and Sarah Hornbuckle.

Who: Suss Law, Rotstrotter, Sentry Dogs, Berated and Florida Man
When: Saturday, 04.07, 8 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar / Carioca Café
Why: Portland, Oregon’s Suss Law could be where power violence, noise and grindcore meet. Its recently released seven inch is a chaotic and relentless assault on the senses with few concessions to accessibility. If you go to this show you can also catch local grind/hardcore luminaries like Rotstrotter and Sentry Dogs. And given the set times of most of these groups, who don’t waste our time by dragging things out, the show may be over by midnight even with five bands.

Monday | April 9, 2018

AcidMothersTemple_Apr10_2013_TomMurphy_web
Acid Mothers Temple circa 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Acid Mothers Temple w/Yoo Doo Right and Emerald Siam
When: Monday, 04.09, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Acid Mothers Temple in its Melting Paraiso U.F.O. incarnation is now on the Electric Dream Ecstasy Tour. The long-running Japanese psychedelic rock band manages to continuously bring a unique show every tour because its roots can be traced back mainly back to fairly experimental western music whether rock or avant-garde (i.e. Can, Karlheinz Stockhausen and King Crimson) but members of the band past and present have been instrumental, literally and figuratively, in comprising and shaping underground music and noise in Japan. The composition of the band’s songs is influenced more by concept than technique. It is bombastic and wild and simultaneously as gorgeous and as mysterious as an other-dimensional spirit incarnate. A list of the band members and their official role and their real title clues you into the fact that leader Kawabata Makoto has a sense of humor to match his imagination and technical prowess as a musician.

Kawabata Makoto : guitar, voice, synth, voice, speed guru
Higashi Hiroshi : synthesizer, harp, noodle god
Jyonson Tsu : vocal, guitar, bouzouki, electronics, midnight whistler
Satoshima Nani : drums, another dimension
Wolf : bass, space & time

Prepare to be taken to otherworldly emotional spaces during the show if you surrender to the music some. Also on the bill is Denver’s Emerald Siam which has become refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole. Ever since singer/guitarist Kurt Ottaway and the rest of the band has seemingly tapped deeper into a creative muse, the songs have gotten darker yet more open and spacious. Expect a full-length release in 2018.

Who: Primitive Man, Spectral Voice, Prison Glue and Cadaver Dog
When: Monday, 04.09, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Primitive Man is celebrating its return from a long tour with this show at Syntax with like-minded death/doom/grind band Spectra Voice. Joining both bands will be hardcore band Cadaver Dog as well as noise/performance artist Prison Glue.

Tuesday | April 10, 2018

Luna_web
Luna, photo courtesy Grandstand Media

Who: Luna w/Flaural
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Luna split for around ten years after its 2005 tour. The disappointment and despair and reality of the music industry at that time is documented in the 2006 film Tell Me Do You Miss Me. If you got to see Luna on that until now final tour, those feelings radiated from singer/guitarist Dean Wareham’s eyes when he looked out into the crowd. And not just because the late-night-hours lush pop that has been Luna’s hallmark ever since Wareham left influential dream pop band Galaxie 500 (which also never got its due during its time together or much since except by aficionados of deeply evocative, melancholy and ethereal gorgeous guitar rock). Wareham genuinely seemed like he was looking out on the last days of his career with plenty of life left to lead knowing he’d created some great music that would only be appreciated in the past tense. You couldn’t help but feel for him unless you’re one of those people for whom music is merely entertainment made not by humans but by functionaries of some kind of Distraction Industrial Complex.

But Wareham didn’t give up. He wrote music with then bandmate now wife Britta Phillips as well as noteworthy solo albums. He also wrote one of the best and most well-written and thoughtful rock autobiographies of all time with 2008’s Black Postcards. The book reads like all the music Wareham has been a part of making, warm and not detached but able to examine one’s feelings and intimate thoughts and express them in a way that is immediate relatable with a passionate yet gentle spirit even when the music is in moments of high feeling. Luna reconvened in 2015 and in 2017 released an album of interesting and not predictable covers called A Sentimental Education as well as an EP of originals, A Place of Greater Safety. That latter being some of the best music Luna has yet released so this would be a tour on which to catch one of the great rock bands of the last 27 years.

Who: Animal / object live on KGNU Radio Kabaret: Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon, George Figgs and Karen Sheridan
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7-8 p.m.
Where: Streaming on KGNU.org and broadcast on radio
Why: Animal / object is Denver’s premiere avant-garde acoustic instrument band. For the last several years the group around the current core of Kurt Bauer, Steven Gordon has had a prolific and varied recorded output captured with various other noteworthy collaborators including the likes of Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, Gordon Pryor, Paul Mimlitsch and for this show, Karen Sheridan formerly of all-female deathrock band 1980s Denver band Your Funeral, experimental rock band Corpses as Bedmates and R.O.C., a kind of deconstructionist pop band that incorporates elements of electronic industrial music and sampling. Over the weekend Sheridan did vocals for an incantation at Steven Gordon’s art show at Vertigo Gallery. So tune in to KGNU for this special performance from one of Denver’s great experimental bands.

Who: Lo Moon w/Kraus
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Lo Moon spent a great deal of time developing and percolating its sound and then waiting for the right opportunity and format to even let out its September 2016 single “Loveless.” A little under a year and a half later, the full-length self-titled album comes out on on Sony. The single came out at a time when many of the dream pop and neo-shoegaze bands were not drawing on the same inspirations as Lo Moon so it seemed especially sophisticated and sonically and emotionally deep by comparison. The full-length album including “Loveless” doesn’t capitalize on the promise of the single so much as showcase a sound the band had cultivated and perfected in this first stage of its development as a band. The record didn’t exactly blow the minds of critics but it was interesting to see a band not succumb to the pressure of putting out its music as quickly as possible, given the avenues in which to do so, before developing that music to the point it needed to be and without fully submitting to the de-mystifying tendency of the social media game most bands use to garner any excitement for its new material these days. Lo Moon distinguished itself playing larger venues when it toured with Ride in 2017 and getting to see a band with this large a sound on the small stage now would be a great time to see a group that may not be regularly playing such small clubs in the future.

Who: Timber Timbre w/Thor & Friends
When: Tuesday, 04.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Timber Timbre has been described as psychedelic folk. But if that’s the case then its 2017 album, Sincerely, Future Pollution is more brooding and darker than that designation would suggest. More akin to Midlake’s artistically ambitious compositions or those of Six Organs of Admittance than Vetiver and early Animal Collective. Thor & Friends is a band lead by Thor Harris who some may know from his stints in Shearwater, Swans and Bill Callahan. Though largely known for his skills with a broad spectrum of percussion instruments, Harris is a multifaceted artist and multi-instrumentalist and this band displays that especially well with creative use of marimba prominent in the mix of percussion heavy, yet gently beautiful and atmospheric music.

Wednesday | April 11, 2018

EthanMcCarthy_Jun6_2017_TomMurphy_web
Ethan McCarthy of Vermin Womb performing as Many Blessings in 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Wake, Vermin Womb, Call of the Void and Full Bore
When: Wednesday, 04.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Wake is a deathgrind band from Calgary, Canada. Currently on tour in support of its towering, brutal 2018 album Misery Rites, Wake is joined on this Denver date by like-minded locals. Vermin Womb is a band that includes Ethan McCarthy from Primitive Man as well as former Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire drummer J.P. Damron. Call of the Void took the blunt, abrupt, savage dynamic of deathgrind to another level of creative sonic violence.

Best Shows in Denver 03/01/18 – 03/07/18

Melkbelly-2_LennyGimore_web
Melkbelly performs with Bully on Monday, March 5, 2018. ,Photo by Lenny Gilmore

Thursday | March 1, 2018

Oryx_AlvinoSalcedo2_web
Oryx, photo by Alvino Salcedo

Who: EyeHateGod w/Oryx, Tricoma and Blighter
When: Thursday, 03.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Oryx was a nearly ubiquitous name you’d see on the heaviest bills around Denver for a while. But the band seems to have hunkered down to write, refine and record its new album, 2018’s Stolen Absolution. Maybe “refine” is the wrong word as the record is a raw blast of rage and disgust with the bleak state of the world from the impending collapse of the natural environment as we used to know it and the utter shabbiness in the ways too many of us humans treat one another. It doesn’t sound despairing, it sounds more like a cry for humanity to get its collective shit together before we make one mistake too many. The crust/grind/black metal duo is releasing the album at this show in which its sharing the bill with like-minded, New Orleans sludge legends EyeHateGod, Denver purveyors of death doom Tricoma and Blighter, Colorado Springs’ titans of bridging the gap between crust punk and the heaviest of metal.

Friday | March 2, 2018

Briffaut_KittyColvin_web
Briffaut, photo by Kitty Colvin

Who: Briffaut album release w/Down Time and In/Planes
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Briffaut’s new album, Helsinki, has a hazy lushness and freeform yet structured songwriting style that suggests jazz underpinnings. But mostly its soft tones and beats, its Mellotron-tinged and drifty atmospheres and idiosyncratic storytelling evoke imagery both surreal and all-too-real in the offhand everyday detail style employed by director Mike Mills. Musically it’s reminiscent of early The Helio Sequence and Animal Collective or even mid-2000s of Montreal—gorgeous melodies intertwined with noise and sound experiments to create a kind of pop music that pushes boundaries and has more long term durability as something you can listen to twenty or more years from now and still get something out of it that isn’t tied purely to nostalgia for one’s youth. In/Planes is apparently rooted in classic American pop meaning the duo has researched songwriters and music that has long fallen out of style but which never lost a certain emotional resonance and sophistication of craft that transcends time. The band’s refreshingly uncluttered songs are warm and soulful while not seeming to have done more than borrowed touches of doo wop and Brill Building-era pop. All of this can be heard on the band’s excellent 2017 EP Everything. Down Time reinvented indie pop in its brilliantly idiosyncratic style as heard on its debut 2017 full-length Good Luck!. Live the group has a striking freshness and inventive soundscaping that’s undeniably compelling.

Who: Jane/Eyre – Grapefruit Lab and Teacup Gorilla w/Dameon Merkl on vocals
When: Friday, 03.023, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bakery
Why: As we mentioned last week this is a queer adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 coming-of-age novel. So it’ll be storytelling and songs provided by the Grapefruit Lab collective and Teacup Gorilla who are bringing in noted local frontman and raconteur extraordinaire, Dameon Merkl who some may know as one of the vocalists in Lost Walks as well as his turns in 90s punk band Random Victim and noir rock phenoms Bad Luck City. Because it’s Teacup Gorilla, a band that has long developed a relationship with theater and writing experimental rock music that can only loosely be defined as post-punk or glam rock because its imaginative songwriting and musicianship is much broader than a single genre. The run of this production concludes this weekend with shows on Friday evening March 2 ( and will include a performance from Ersatz Robots), Saturday evening March 3 with a surprise musical guest, and Sunday for a matinee performance at 2 p.m.

Catch this one before it ends because as far as adaptations of classic novels go it’s irreverence and faithfulness to the spirit of the book is rivaled by, if not in budget, sheer spectacle huge cast and production values, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films and Game of Thrones. But none of the sword and sorcery though with plenty of high drama and the supernatural. The live soundtracking and Merkl as the sound of troubled and tortured spirits helps to enhance the brilliant three cast-member presentation.

Who: Velvet Acid Christ at Purgatory 3-2 w/Offerings to Odin, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Bloodline, DJ Julian Black
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Standard
Why: Although in recent years Velvet Acid Christ has more than doubled the number of shows that he played in Denver in the first twenty years of the band’s existence, it’s not like he plays every week, every few months or even really every year. VAC began in the early 90s and became an influential and popular EBM act in its own right with a knack for surrealistic imagery and darkly humorous storytelling. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen any original releases from VAC so maybe in 2018 perhaps Bryan Erickson, the band’s sole full-time member, will put deliver a new set of dystopian future dance songs.

Who: R A R E B Y R D $, EVP, Bianca Mikahn, Giraft
When: Friday, 03.02, 9 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: This is a Glasss Presents show three of the imprint’s best acts are on the bill. R A R E B Y R D $ is making the kind of hip-hop that is beyond conscious, beyond merely experimental but always human and thoughtful in its exploration of the impact of society and our own minds in how we navigate life. EVP is difficult to describe in simple genre terms. Part punk, part industrial, part pop, part noise. Bianca Mikahn…does she make hip-hop or super experimental, poetry driven R&B? Whatever it is, Mikahn’s insightful words weaves together her personal vision of a more loving and inclusive future. Giraft is Julianna Beckert and Chris White who make a kind of post-IDM downtempo. White some may remember for his masterful bass work in Alan Alda and Voices Underwater.

Who: Modern Leisure (album preview party) w/Kissing Party and Bark Wilson
When: Friday, 03.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Modern Leisure is previewing its forthcoming debut full-length album (set for a summer release). Good thing the band is joined by another that brings some dignity to the term pop when applied to a modern indie rock band. That being Bark Wilson. Layered atmospheres and rhythms that you don’t often hear in a pop band are Bark Wilson’s noteworthy hallmark. Kissing Party has a whole catalog of heartbreaking/heartwarming songs about love and disappointment. Don’t let the band’s sometimes irreverent and sardonic stage persona fool you, they mean those songs and that’s what saves them from being quaintly romantic because despite any flaws, the group performs the songs with a sincerity to match the sentiments.

Who: Adult Swim Presents: Mr. Pickles’ Trash-tacular featuring Exodus, Municipal Waste and Call of the Void
When: Friday, 03.02, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: The nerd and metalhead world has a lot of overlap. Did Mr. Pickles exert his demonic powers to influence the choice of line-up? If so, he certainly has good taste. Exodus is the influential Bay Area thrash band that helped to establish the genre. After all, Kirk Hammett left Exodus to join Metallica so the thrash pedigree is undeniable. But it’s Gary Holt’s crunchy and driving, expressive, guitar style and his tasteful solo as lead is oft imitated by rarely equaled. Virginia’s Municipal Waste, though coming along in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, has exerted influence of its own inspired by 80s crossover groups. Its guitars sound like the perfect blend of thrash and late-era first wave hardcore. But its rhythm, particularly the drums, sound borderline grindcore. But Municipal Waste is perhaps best known for its irreverent sense of humor. A band that calls one of its videos “Thrashin’s My Business…and Business is Good has to get some points for iconoclasm. Call of the Void you wouldn’t call a crossover band even though its grind and hardcore amalgam might give that impression. Its sound is more savage than the typical crossover band but its articulation of pushing the sound of despair and desperation to the extreme as a form of catharsis is often just what you need.

Saturday | March 3, 2018

Paperbark_Nov22_2017_TomMurphy_web
Paperbark, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Centered Vol. 2: {arsonist}, C. Reider, Paperbark, Luxury Hearse
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Ubisububi Room
Why: This is going to be a kind of ambient/modular synth show in the basement of The Thin Man. With Paperbark, John Mulville uses his modular synth to make abstract sounds that capture textures and the feeling of being in the natural world even as it is completely unnatural, as it were, in generating his soundscapes. C. Reider’s vast catalog of fascinating sound experiments and compositions can be found most readily on his Bandcamp page. With releases going back to the late 80s, Reider is something like Colorado’s Aphex Twin except less on the glitch end and more on the avant-garde and ambient end of electronic music. Pittsburgh’s {arsonist} employs layered atmospheres, textures and strings to create otherworldly compositions reminiscent of The Future Sound of London side project Amorphous Androgynous. Luxury Hearse has a pretty diverse set of sounds but some of its best work sounds like a super chill, secret dance club for minimal synth heads.

Who: KGNU and Lion’s Lair Quarterly Showcase: Simulators, Mirror Fears, Joseph Lamar, Rich Jones and CRL CRRLL (DJ set after Rich Jones)
When: Saturday, 03.03, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: KGNU is one of the few legit radio stations taking real chances with its programming these days (having a community sponsored format probably helps). So every quarter the station has been working with Lion’s Lair to book a showcase of some of the more forward thinking and experimental music in various spectrums of the local music world. This particular event is also a Fasor Records mini-showcase. The label started by CRL CRRLL will probably include like-minded artists who push the boundaries of where electronic dance music and hip-hop production intersect. As indicated above, CRRLL will do a DJ set. Also on hand for this show are raw and spare post-punk duo Simulators, maximalist, deeply emotional and socially critical electronic artist Mirror Fears and Joseph Lamar who has found a sweet spot with his solid songwriting based in indie rock, jazz, experimental electronic music and a theatrical performance style.

 

Who: Pretty Mouth, The Patient Zeros and Kitty Crimes
When: Saturday, 03.03, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: This is going to be a different kind of show. Pretty Mouth is Marie Litton’s more Americana side of her songwriting. That said, there is a spiritual quality to Litton’s songs and performance even though she seems to be writing from a life that hasn’t been short on struggle, heartache and a deep love for people and of living like you mean it. The Patient Zeros are in a similar realm of songcraft but more in a rock and roll vein. Too many bands have tried to be “rock and roll” but The Patient Zeros’ songs don’t sound like they learned about Jack White a few years ago but have none of the poetry or genuine swagger. The Patient Zeros never come off like the second-rate Kings of Leon. Kitty Crimes…Maria Kohler has always been up to some noteworthy music including Science Partner and Mercuria and the Gem Stars. Kitty Crimes has been sort of a dirty rap project but in Kohler’s hands there’s an elegance and transformative quality that renders that sort of thing into something fun and worth your time above and beyond the appeal of anything transgressive but not inherently harmful.

Monday | March 5, 2018

Bully_AlysseGafkjen1_web
Bully, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

Who: Bully w/Melkbelly
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Bully’s first album, 2015’s Feels Like, polarized critics. Oh, sure, the band sounds like it was beyond influenced by early 90s alternative rock. When you grow up with some kind of music it’s bound to creep in there sometime. But the founder of the band, Alicia Bognanno got a degree in recording and did an internship at Electrical Audio—Steve Albini’s Chicago-based studios—before going on to working as a recording and live sound engineer and then establishing her own studio to record her own music. That’s a lot more dedication to craft than many musicians bother with learning or enduring. It doesn’t necessarily make for better music but deserves better consideration than outright dismissal. The follow-up record, 2017’s Losing, refines the jagged, angst-driven melodies that made the debut album worthwhile. In the past decade or so there has been a lot of safely celebratory music or the kind of music that hides raw feelings and outrage in palatable constructions. Any darkness and frustration you hear in Bognanno’s songs doesn’t feel manufactured or couched in some identity stereotype. Even if you feel like her music is a retread of 90s rock you have to give her credit for sincerity.

On the bill tonight as well is Chicago’s Melkbelly is roughly an exact contemporary of Bully and based in Chicago, where Bully recorded both of its full-length albums. Melkbelly’s music has often been referred to as noise rock, which fits well enough. But Miranda Winders’ voice is a consistently melodic focus amid the urgency of the beat and the pulsing, splintered sounds and sense that the song could fragment into burning chaos. Melkbelly has the spirit and energy of a punk band but its sounds are more experimental and more wide-ranging. More Live Skull and Melt Banana than Shellac or Daughters. The group’s 2017 album Nothing Valley is an auspicious debut full-length that signals throughout that Melkbelly isn’t going for just one or two sounds and dynamics. Also, a band that calls a song “Twin Lookin’ Motherfucker” has to be a bunch of glorious weirdos and cherished in a time when the music industry too often rewards easy marketability over outright quality and uniqueness.

Who: Alex Cameron and Molly Burch
When: Monday, 03.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Alex Cameron’s 2017 album Forced Witness sounds like it could have come out in the mid-80s and hit big alongside the likes of post-Squeeze Paul Carrack or Paul Young—new wave-y, well-crafted pop songs mixed with blue eyed soul. When a lot of other artists now are still tapping the classic rock sound or Laurel Canyon pop, Alex Cameron’s update on Icehouse sounds pretty fresh.

Molly Burch may be an artist whose sonic antecedents rest in Brill Building pop and soul singers but her smoky, hushed yet warm and resonant vocals and vulnerability have a mysterious quality that draw you in like Julee Cruise or Angel Olsen. Burch’s music has a familiar quality that waxes timeless rather than derivative. Her 2017 debut full length Please Be Mine sounds, track for track, like Godard’s 1960s films look—vivid yet dreamlike, emotionally tumultuous yet refined, a lyrical economy of style that uses space and silence to convey much more and much more effectively than clumsily spelling it all out.

Wednesday | March 7, 2018

BrotherSaturn_Feb25_2018_TomMurphy
Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: Brother Saturn, Hello Darkness and Full Bleed
When: Wednesday, 03.07, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings
Why: The current edition of Weird Wednesday features a pretty broad mix of sounds. Hello Darkness is sort of a folk punk band without the de riguer labor struggle era folk covers. Rather, its use of various acoustic instruments in the mix makes Hello Darkness the folk pop equivalent of a chamber pop band. Except with more political content than most bands that can be described as “chamber” anything. Considering two thirds of the band used to be in Reality Show it should come as no surprise there’s some lively emotionalism on stage. Brother Saturn’s melodic soundscapes are reminiscent of the 90s period of guitar and beat driven instrumental ambient/abstract rock acts like Bowery Electric, Seefeel, Magnog and Stars of the Lid. Maybe even Flying Saucer Attack. There is an innocence and elegance to the composition that suggests Drew Miller has carved out a space in his heart and imagination for a pure and universal expression of the kind of transcendently tranquil energy he articulates in his music in general. Brother Saturn is just the more shoegaze-ish end of that.

Who: James Blood Ulmer
When: Wednesday, 03.07 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3229/id0/james-blood-ulmer) and Thursday, 3.08 (store.dazzledenver.com/EventTicket/EventDetail/3230/id0/james-blood-ulmer), 7 p.m.
Where: Dazzle
Why: James Blood Ulmer was one of the guitarists who was steeped in jazz but also helped to define fusion with his imaginative, textured guitar work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as the first electric guitarist to record and perform live with free jazz genius Ornette Coleman and his long time collaborations with Pharoah Sanders. Ulmer’s solo material tends to be a blend of styles with a rich mix of jazz, blues and brooding funk. Whatever Umer’s specific music alchemy of the moment, he brings more than dazzling technique and soul, he brings something otherworldly and riveting. The guitarist performs two shows in Denver. As indicated above, the evenings of March 7 and 8 at Dazzle.