Best Shows in Denver and Beyond August 2022

The Wild Hearts Tour featuring Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker at Sculpture Park August 7, 2022, photo by Alysse-Gafkjen
Horse Jumper of Love, photo from Bandcamp

Monday | 08.01
What: Horse Jumper of Love w/Cryogeyser, Cherished and Fainting Dreams
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love is that rare band that can somehow be simultaneously a post-punk band and a psychedelic Americana band. Its new album Natural Part has a haunted grittiness that is at times reminiscent of Big Star at its gloomiest and Built to Spill in an introspective mood. Cryogeyser might be considered a bit of a slowcore band even though plenty of its songs aren’t so slow and employ jangly guitar in the way Lush did in its more pop songwriting. Cherished used to be called Lowfaith and thus an intense deathrock band with knack for moody atmospherics. Fainting Dreams is a Denver-based slowcore duo whose introspective/melancholic songs shimmer and incandesce and bloom with lingering moods.

Psychedelic Furs in July 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.02
What: The Psychedelic Furs w/X
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Psychedelic Furs and X probably need no introduction as bands who in the first case popularized post-punk for a mainstream audience and in the second made arty, literary punk that didn’t shy away from its own roots in country and rockabilly while embracing the ferocious energy of the scene in which it found itself. Both began in 1977. The Furs in London, X in Los Angeles. The former had songs on movie soundtracks most notably the title track, as it were, of the 1986 John Hughes film. The latter were stars of the first underground punk movie of long lasting influence and notoriety, 1981’s The Decline of Western Civilization. Both wrote some of the most memorable songs of their time and genre. Both had many years off between their heyday and their most recent albums but with the most recent albums being among their best. And both still put on a compelling and powerful live show that will sound good in a place like Mission Ballroom.

Florist, photo by Carl Solether

Friday | 08.05
What: Florist w/Marc Merza
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Florist returns with a full band album with 2022’s self-titled album. Though the band is often dubbed with the indie folk label, fair enough, its gently atmospheric music sounds like it was written while contemplating deep feelings and thoughts while having the time to let the mind stretch out in a calm place and replicating that mood in the songwriting. The textural elements of the instrumentation, even when Emily Sprague has composed with her analog synths, are part of the appeal of the band’s music as it establishes a tactile as well as sonic intimacy that sets the band well apart from many other artists whose work is described as indie folk and on the new album there are parts that sound like musique concrète and field recordings used both in the mix and recreated with instruments. It makes for a different kind of listen than the usual pop arrangements that inform the music of most bands. Fans of Mega Bog will appreciate the unconventional style yet immediate accessibility of what Florist has to offer.

The Derelicts, photo by Christina Rogers from thederelicts.net

Friday | 08.05
What: The Derelicts w/Cyclo Sonic and Cease Fire
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Derelicts are a punk/garage rock band from Seattle that formed in 1986 around the same time as Mudhoney who had similar musical roots and sensibilities. Maybe they both listened to a lot of The Saints and Radio Birdman. Known for bombastic performances and frontman Duane Bodenheimer’s irreverent stage banter, The Derelicts have remained a bit of an underground legend known among connoisseurs of late 80s and early 90s punk. Chances are The Derelicts encountered The Fluid during that late 80s period when the Denver-based band toured to the Pacific Northwest and played shows with like-minded groups among bands that would go on to form the core of grunge because The Fluid too was a band influenced heavily by the Stooges, garage rock and the like and arguably the most influential punk/post-punk band out of Denver in the 80s and 90s whether other bands know it or not. Matt Bischoff was the bass player for The Fluid but he’d also been in an earlier punk great Frantix from Aurora, Colorado whose single “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic” definitely strikes an immediate chord. These days Bischoff plays guitar in Cyclo Sonic. Sure musically it’s not a big leap from his other bands but fortunately for us Bischoff and his bandmates including Arnie and AJ Beckman formerly of garage punk band The Choosey Mothers and Jif Jipers of punk legends Rok Tots have written a some vital slabs of incredibly catchy punk which can be heard on their 2020 album Candied Rats and the earlier EPs. Cease Fire is a street punk band from Denver that includes former members of The Purple Fluid including Richard Kulwicki, one of the sons of the late great Fluid guitarist the senior Richard “Ricky” Kulwicki.

Angel Olsen at Larimer Lounge 2014, photo by Tom Murphy

Sunday | 08.07
What: The Wild Hearts Tour: Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen w/Quinn Christopherson
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Wild Hearts Tour is a showcase of three of the greatest songwriters to have emerged in the past fifteen years. Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker and Angel Olsen are all artists who earned their reputations with strong songwriting and an inventive take on their specific musicianship styles establishing their own artistic voice early on in their respective careers. And each has gone on to push the boundaries of expectation for what they would do creatively with a body of work that is inventive and emotionally rich. As performers all three women have an openness and freshness of presentation that lends the show an air of the spontaneous that is consistently strikingly compelling. Van Etten’s 2022 album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong is a bit of a departure from some of her earlier work with a sound that’s so spare it might throw off older fans but it also has an intimacy that has always been a part of her appeal as a songwriter but this one feels so very up close and direct. Julien Baker’s early releases proved she is a gifted songwriter able to take a very stripped down presentation of the music and letting her powerful and emotive voice speak for itself with wit and perceptive observations of self and of being a human navigating a life often fraught with challenges and discouragement. Her 2021 album Little Oblivions greatly expanded her sonic palette as a songwriter with extensive use of electronics and deep atmospheric elements and yet none of it hid and rather enhanced the expression of a startling and thrillingly raw lyrics that just hit so powerfully with an urgent and honest exploration of conflicted feelings and working through emotional trauma in a way that felt maybe a little too real for some listeners. Angel Olsen has been refining and reinventing her songwriting style and sound since her 2011 debut EP Strange Cacti and with her first full-band release 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness her career seemed to take off. Her creatively expressive vocals lent itself well to stories drawn from her own life and observational songs about the impact of culture and one’s own history on the psyche. Her evocative and pastoral guitar work and voice have worked powerfully in tandem across her career as she freely incorporated aesthetics and musical ideas into her work but always somehow being able to speak to underlying emotions that often defy cogent expression but which Olsen has been able to bring forth across six albums including the classic country flavored 2022 album Big Time which does draw upon an older aesthetic but is fully modern in execution which is no mean feat. Won’t be a subpar moment of music on stage for this show.

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen
White Hills, photo by Alex Carter

Sunday | 08.07
What: Telekinetic Yeti w/White Hills and Hashtronaut
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: When one thinks of gloriously epic psychedelic metal Dubuque, Iowa is probably not where you’d expect a band like Telekinetic Yeti to come from though the state has long been home to many musical surprises over the years. The duo’s new album Primordial released July 8 on Tee Pee Records, home to some of the cooler heavy psychedelic and doom bands of recent years. “Stoner rock” started getting super stale around 18 years ago but fortunately some of those musicians evolved in to doom metal and then the weirder musicians recognized that Black Sabbath and Sleep both didn’t bother with splitting up heaviness and psychedelia and in fact saw how they could complement each other well in creating mind-altering music. Telekinetic Yeti is of that vintage. White Hills has long been one of the best heavy psychedelic bands going since forming in 2003. Also a duo, White Hills has fortunately been impossible to pigeonhole because yes there are elements of metal, krautrock, space rock, post-punk, ambient, noise and the avant-garde in the group’s music the entirety of its career and each record has been an attempt to do something different in terms of sonics, songwriting, structure, emotional colorings and the potential for performance that goes beyond simple songwriting. The forthcoming The Revenge Of Heads On Fire out September 16 on Cargo Records UK is definitely a stretch into the kind of space rock territory fans of Hawkwind will appreciate. Denver’s Hashtronaut are also fellow travelers of the tripped out, slow burn, heavy psychedelia.

Death Bells, photo by Kristopher Kirk

Sunday | 08.07
What: Death Bells w/Pendant and Candy Apple
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Bells formed in Sydney, Australia in 2015 but moved to Los Angeles in 2018 in search of greater horizons of developing and sharing its unique brand of post-punk. The sophomore album New Signs of Life was a refreshingly spare and stark set of songs with hushed moods and strong melodies. Its new album Between Here & Everywhere seems to have incorporated even more synths and electronic drums for an album that has even further refined the band’s use of repetition as an emotional mnemonic element that has an effect like connecting with ripples of water in the mind all while one hears in the arrangements an element of haunted folk. But one thing is for certain, Death Bells is not really making music in line with the more trendy sounds of modern darkwave and post-punk.

WILLOW, photo by Dana Trippe

Sunday | 08.07
What: Machine Gun Kelly w/Travis Barker and WILLOW
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Machine Gun Kelly is someone whose blend of hip hop and rock you either like or find odd but one thing he has done outside of providing fodder for tabloid news is champion up and coming artists of promise in the realm of pop by bringing them on to his recordings and/or on tour. This time that artist is WILLOW. The latter for sure had a leg up in the realm of entertainment as the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. But not all children of famous, wealthy people end up doing anything of interest beyond casual curiosity. Fortunately Willow Smith isn’t just skating by on those connections even though they have certainly helped her out along the way. Her musical career thus far has been one of reinvention and exploration from early, teenage pop music to her 2021 album lately I feel EVERYTHING in which she debuted a knack for writing pop-punk songs that really do articulate the overloaded feelings of adolescence well and with lyrics that go beyond tropes of the genre. Look for WILLOW’s new album <COPINGMECHANISM> due out later in the summer, the early singles of which find the songwriter evolving further in her fusion of styles and incorporating them into her own sound.

Marissa Nadler at Lost Lake in 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Monday | 08.08
What: Marissa Nadler w/Bluebook
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Marissa Nadler is one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. Her musical style that may default to comparisons to folk, Gothic Americana, dream pop and what might be described as pastoral metal has an emotional vibrant and intense yet expansive quality that has rendered her music probably too dark for even the psychedelic and freak folk scene and not hard rock enough for heavy music purists. And yet there’s something compellingly otherworldly about Nadler’s songwriting that has rendered all of her albums and collaborations unique and requiring the listener to enter the songwriter’s emotional universe, one which has direct resonance in a universal sense as Nadler’s mezzo-soprano vocals and intimacy with the roots of her own psychology translates well into a personal myth making and storytelling that is instantly captivating. Her latest album The Path of the Clouds may be her finest yet as she was forced to compose the songs during the depths of the first phase of the pandemic and its companion EP the The Wrath of the Clouds reveals a broad range of emotion and an attempt to move through the anxiety and anomy the ongoing crisis is visiting upon everyone with any level of sensitivity. Bluebook these days is very much in sync with the broodingly brilliant energy of Nadler’s own work especially in the band’s current arrangement like a darkwave-flavored chamber folk band.

Tuesday | 08.09
What: Church of the Cosmic Skull w/Lord Buffalo and Keefduster
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Church of the Cosmic Skull sounds like it listened to a lot of Ya Ho Wha 13 along the line of arriving at its unusual brand of psychedelic chamber pop. Lord Buffalo has a vibe like the guys in the band went out into the desert and tried to find signs of the Great Spirit in the dark and forgotten places of the landscape and returned a little haunted, a little mad and a little inspired to make expansive, psychedelic rock to reflect those kinds of journeys outside mundane pursuits.

Ian Sweet, photo by Lucy Sandler

Thursday | 08.11
What: Ian Sweet w/BNNY
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: When Ian Sweet released its album Show Me How You Disappear on March 5, 2021 it was right before an extended period of great uncertainty for live music and music careers in general and the industry surrounding all of that. Perhaps it’s a bit too ironic but also oddly good timing for that record to have come out as its psychedelic pop was an exploration of anxiety, the traumas that fuel it and working through the paralyzing guilt that crashes into your brain when you take on the responsibility for the trauma inflicted and overthinking what could have been and what could be in an endless spiral of self-reinforcing, internalized punishment and turmoil. The album’s songs feel like both a realistic depiction of the feelings of processing the aforementioned and a salve on the psychic turmoil that can feel like an inescapable trap. In 2022 Ian Sweet issued the Star Stuff EP which deals with similar emotional territory as Show Me How You Disappear but feels more at peace in its exquisite atmospherics even when it hits some deep melancholic notes. Chicago’s BNNY has been writing similarly emotionally tender material but its own music is more in the realm of slowcore and dream pop. Singer Jess Viscius sounds like she’s singing out of a book of private thoughts and writings drawn from extensive self-examination and deep observation. He group’s 2021 album Everything is reminiscent of both Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500 in its beautifully billowing tonal aesthetic.

HELP, photo courtesy the artists

Thursday | 08.11
What: Red Fang w/Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: Stygian Bough and HELP https://www.bluebirdtheater.net/events/detail/436500
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Red Fang is the sludge/doom metal band based out of Portland, Oregon who have managed to carve out of a niche for themselves in a crowded field with imaginative music videos, a healthy sense of humor and songwriting that goes beyond simply making melodic heavy music paired with superior tone sculpting. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are playing a collaborative set with a performance of the 2020 album Stygian Bough Volume I. In typical fashion there is a lot of delicacy and nuance in the crushing and transporting heaviness of the music like a mini-metal orchestra but without the cheesiness of some of the more melodic death metal bands, just mystical, haunting soundscapes that feel like a heroic journey through dark places. Opener HELP is a noise rock band also from Portland whose songs seethe with a rage against the power structures that have been increasingly making life more challenging and unsustainable for most people and in the end all life on earth as well. Unabashedly political that sensibility can be heard in its clashing, twisting, angular assault of drums, guitar, bass and vocals with a triumphant spirit we don’t hear often enough and the 2022 album 2053 is worthy of Killing Joke at its most righteously caustic.

Jordana, photo by Sophie Gurwitz

Friday | 08.12
What: Local Natives w/Jordana
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Local Natives have thus far made a pretty good career out of writing the modern equivalent of yacht rock but with undeniably great vocal harmonies that incorporate superbly executed falsetto which isn’t easy to pull off. Opening artist Jordana released her latest album Face The Wall. Jordana Nye played all the instruments and did much of the production for the record. It’s a deeply introspective, confessional set of songs that feel open and gently but strikingly honest. What is perhaps most striking about the songwriting is Jordana’s mastery of transitions and orchestrating the layers of atmosphere. A lot of pop music has solid production or it wouldn’t work but Jordana’s work on the album draws you in and while very real about issues of anxiety and uncomfortable truths makes it all seem like something you can survive even if you may or may not overcome your life’s struggles for good or in the ways you had anticipated.

Moon Pussy, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.12
What: DUG, Moon Pussy, Quits and Almanac Man
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: DUG is comprised of former members of the great noise rock band Buildings from Minneapolis. Noise rock can be a generic term so in the case of DUG it sounded like they took some inspiration from Laughing Hyenas and The Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid in equal measure. Moon Pussy from Denver has a catharsis embedded in its eruptive and sometimes caustic but also angularly mind-altering riffs. Quits somehow sounds colossal and on the verge of breakdown and breaking out at the same time making its own sonic barrage exciting and engrossing. Almanac Man somehow splices together an unhinged sludge rock with math-y posthardcore. Like if Clutch and Neurosis had a baby.

Saturday | 08.13
What: Lost 80s Live A Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, The English Beat, Naked Eyes, Missing Persons, Stacey Q, Animotion, Dramarama, Tommy Tutone and Musical Youth
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Could be kind of a mess, this many bands on one bill but of course all the acts will get limited stage time to play their 80s hits. But it may also be one of the only opportunities you get to see the legendary and pioneering New Wave band Missing Persons who were always different from its peers and still a compelling live band. Also Flock of Seagulls wrote plenty of evocative, moody synth pop beyond its own hits but will they play songs like “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” or “The More You Live, the More You Love”? Wang Chung is most well known for hits like “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” but its score for the 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. proved that the group was capable of crafting enduring art pop of urgency and intensity. Hope if you see their set they’ll indulge a track or two from the soundtrack.

Hooveriii, photo by Alex Bulli

Sunday and Monday | 08.14 and 08.15
What: Hoveriii (with Moose and The Crooked Rugs on 08.14 and with Nolan Potter and Petite Amie on 08.15)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge 08.14 and Vultures 08.15
Why: Los Angeles-based psychedelic rock band Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”) recently released its new record A Round of Applause. The record is only eleven tracks and all roughly the length of a radio friendly pop song but it feels like a sprawling yet progressive affair of kaleidoscopic tones and a strong streak of experimentation in what sounds and structures the group was willing to indulge as it took the time to explore what it could do in the studio in shaping and crafting a sound that was fairly different from the jam band stylings of its 2021 album Water For Frogs. Urgent yet playful, the new album finds Hooveriii operating with a focus and economy of style without skimping on imaginative sonic excursions outside the established songwriting lines.

Bodega, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Monday | 08.15
What: Bodega w/The Sickly Hecks and Flora de la Luna
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Bodega is a Brooklyn-based art punk/post-punk band whose offbeat sense of humor and fascinating fusion of New Wave rock and the kind of pop band Brian Eno might have started had he not attached himself to Talking Heads and U2 for several years. Its sharply observed lyrics cast modern life in sharp contrast to its historical roots and the legacy thereof at least on its 2022 album Broken Equipment—a title that is such a great metaphor for the tools we’re given to navigate and make sense of the world handed down to us and making do the best we can.

Spaceface, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: Spaceface w/Petite Amie and Pleasure Prince
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: For the past decade Spaceface has been crafting otherworldly, psychedelic pop and its 2022 album Anemoia is a genre swapping, colorful sonic collage of sounds and ideas that seems to free associate styles from across decades. A core of fuzzy guitar and ethereal melodies evoke 70s R&B and funk while the songs often sound like summertime music for a place the band !!! might vacation after being woken from cryogenic slumber in 100 years after a generation as yet unborn has dismantled the foundations of our dysfunctional civilization in favor of something more nurturing and fun for everyone. But really its just gorgeous, retro-furturist psychedelic music that somehow sounds hedonistic without coming off corny. Petite Amie is a similarly-minded band from Mexico City whose own music has lush, downtempo funky vibes like they absorbed the entire ABBA catalog along with heapings of Broadcast, Daft Punk and taking in the films of Sofia Coppola. It has that dreamlike quality that exudes benevolence and mystery like few bands do. It’s the kind of music those of us who remember going to roller skating rinks in the 1970s and 1980s wish we could have been listening to instead of the too often tepid pop hits of the day. The band’s 2021 self-titled album is grand showcase of transporting sounds and soothing soundscapes.

Petite Amie, photo courtesy the artist
…And You Will Knows By the Trail of Dead, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.16
What: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead w/New Candys https://www.eventbrite.com/e/and-you-will-know-us-by-the-trail-of-dead-with-new-candys-tickets-356700158777?aff=odwdwdspacecraft
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Forming in Austin, Texas in 1994, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead has been one of the more interesting guitar rock bands out of the underground that somehow both exerted an influence on modern indie rock while remaining a bit of a cult band. Its 2002 album Source Tags & Codes defied easy classification with its eclectic and inventive range of sounds, a pattern the band maintains up to and including its 2020 album X: The Godless Void and Other Stories. Known for its incendiary live shows contrasted with thoughtful and often high concept lyrics, Trail of Dead may be underrated but always surprisingly vital. New Candys from Venice, Italy released Vyvyd in 2021 and it proved to be one of the best psychedelic rock albums of the year with its hybrid of krautrock and shoegaze.

Wednesday | 08.17
What: The Teaches of Peaches Anniversary Tour
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: Canadian electroclash pioneer and producer Peaches is touring for the anniversary of the release of her genre landmark album The Teaches of Peaches (2000). The album broke Peaches aka Merrill Nisker to a more mainstream audience despite its playfully profane and unabashedly sexual lyrics. Perhaps its biggest hit “Fuck the Pain Away” is a classic of modern electronic music and Peaches’ confrontational and genre bending live show blurs the boundaries between hip-hop, electronic dance music and punk in a way that both challenges preconceptions and welcomes listeners and those who are there for the show to open up to new ways of thinking about subjects you thought you already knew your thinking about.

The Weeknd, photo by Brian Ziff

Thursday | 08.18
What: The Weeknd
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Empower Field at Mile High
Why: Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd has spent the last decade and a half building a career as one of the most compelling songwriters and producers in popular music. Whether he lends his imaginative soundscaping to R&B, hip-hop, pop or his unique and powerful interpretation of synth pop or lending his skills to the works of other artists, Tesfaye seems to bring a creative sensibility that finds and brings forth the hidden potential in the music and helps that to highlight and enhance the work overall. His new album Dawn FM (2022) bridges all his musical worlds while also being one of the great darkwave records of the past decade. Expect a spectacle for this show especially given the of necessity large format venue as the songwriter seems the type to want to give people something extra for the trouble of showing up and following his music in general.

The KVB in 2019, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 08.18
What: The KVB w/M!R!M
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: UK duo The KVB caught the attention of shoegaze and post-punk heads with its early releases starting a decade ago and garnering a bit of a cult following for its highly stylized multimedia aesthetics and seamless synthesis of electronic music and the aforementioned styles. Its 2021 album Unity is a further exploration of the techno production that has informed the band’s music since its early days as fused to downtempo pop in hazy melodies shot through with a forceful energy. M!R!M is the solo project of Jack Milwaukee whose 2022 album Time Traitor recalls a strange blend of early TR/ST and mid-80s synth pop and thus darkwave style but with some R&B sensibility in the beat making.

Emerald Siam, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday – Sunday | 08.19 – 08.21
What: Down In Denver Fest
When: 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday, 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Saturday, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m. on Sunday
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: In the decay of local culture curation born of a robust local media covering music and the arts in a systematic and interested rather than neglectful manner local music coverage and festivals seemingly lack an awareness of the history of the community of the arts and the context in which new artists emerge. This festival was conceived of when in 2021 the UMS, which had been an actively communitarian endeavor in years prior, seemed to have lost its mooring and sense of mission and musicians representing a swath of local music cut out of that sprawling event realized they could put something together that was very much about the local scene and the people who make it up. Assembled in about a month to six weeks the 2021 edition of Down in Denver was a well orchestrated showcase of some of the best local music at any festival all year. This year the event is slightly bigger but in the same format of two stages and now the first day is a free pre-party featuring some prime local talent as well. No skimping. Look for our extended coverage with interviews throughout this week with some of the artists performing and photographic shares on the Queen City Sounds IG account throughout the weekend. To purchase tickets and for the detailed and most up to date lineup and schedule check the link above or here.

Saturday | 08.20
What: Barstool Messiah album release show for Whiskey Baptismal featuring Erica Brown w/Cyclo Sonic and Dust Beneath Dirt
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Herman’s Hideaway
Why: Barstool Messiah is celebrating the release of its thunderous and soulful new album Whiskey Baptismal with a performance including legendary soul, blues and R&B singer Erica Brown whose vocals in her own music are reason enough to go see the show but whose talents have graced numerous records including the aforementioned and artists one might think well outside her realm of musical expertise. Also on the bill is the exceptional garage punk band Cyclo Sonic comprised of former members of the Fluid, Frantix, Rok Tots and Choosey Mothers.

Circle Jerks, photo by Atiba Jefferson

Saturday | 08.20
What: Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival Feat. NOFX w/Pennywise, Circle Jerks, The Suicide Machines, Adolescents, T.S.O.L., Dwarves, The Bridge City Sinners, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, PKEW PKEW PKEW, Cheap Perfume and All Waffle Trick https://www.fiddlersgreenamp.com/events/detail/429519
When: 11 a.m.
Where: Fiddler’s Green
Why: Until this tour one would have said that the Jawbreaker tour was the punk tour of 2022. But there’s no need for competition in punk or music and this event happening at Fiddler’s Green includes some of punk’s most important bands of both the pop-punk and hardcore era. And also the great Colorado Springs, feminist punk band Cheap Perfume whose powerful and irreverent songs dismantling patriarchal behavior and human cruelty in general are always worth a gander. It would be facile to list off why every band on the bill matters but Circle Jerks, this might be the last time you get to see them on some kind of national tour. The group began after singer Keith Morris departed Black Flag and his combination of deep contempt for vested authority and surreal and pointed sense of humor found a vital outlet in a new band Circle Jerks which produced a body of work so potent and creative beyond simply being foundational to hardcore that its early records still sound fresh and telling it like it is. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the group’s Wild in the Streets album and thus the setlist might lean a little heavy in that direction. The tour earlier in the year proved the Jerks still have the fire so maybe, just maybe, they’ll tour in 2023 for the 40 year anniversary of its 1983 classic Golden Shower of Hits.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, photo by Danny Clinch

Tuesday and Wednesday | 08.23 and 08.24
What: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats w/Caroline Rose
When: 6:30
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Nathaniel Rateliff first made waves in Denver with his alternative rock band Born in the Flood. The atmospheric, heartfelt music that came out of that project garnered the songwriter and his bandmates fans far and wide and was poised for at least indie fame when it was invited to be on a live music program Matt Pinfield was helming, recording one of the pilot episodes. The show never aired. Rateliff went on to do some solo music as The Wheel which became a band with local musical luminaries and long time collaborators and friends and it too seemed poised for success in the kind of indie success most bands never quite achieve and that didn’t happen either. Nevermind the quality of the material, the music world is fickle and people just as worthy out of Denver have been overlooked for decades. But then Rateliff got together some friends for a band called Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The name probably came along after the music, as these things go, but the 2015 self-titled debut album yielded a left field and unfortunately locally ubiquitous hit in “S.O.B..” But even if you got sick of hearing it in Denver it finally propelled Rateliff into mainstream success and he took some friends along for that ride that one can tell from interviews he knows can end at any time so now the band is simply enjoying that success while it lasts and is now touring in support of its “COVID” album The Future which is the blues, Americana rock blend that has kept the band in the musical mainstream but there is an interesting spaciousness and stark production at points that point to an acute awareness of the fragility and tentative nature of life and what we take for granted when we allow ourselves to get too comfortable. It’s also the band’s best record of its three thus far.

Wednesday| 08.24
What: Mizmor w/Heretical Sect, Spiritual Poison, Cronos Compulsion
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Mizmor’s 2022 album Wit’s End is a meditation on the caustic effect of superstition gone wrong and the extolling of destructive irrationality above compassion and intelligence. In the language of colossal, atmospheric blackened doom it seeks a path through a time of civilizational darkness. Heretical Sect is a blackened death metal outfit from Santa Fe whose spooky atmospherics are driving and not really cartoonishly menacing and the content of shows 2020 album Rapturous Flesh Consumed shares some thematic sentiments as the new Mizmor record. Spiritual Poison you won’t get to see too often and it’s one of Ethan McCarthy’s always interesting noise projects, this one more ambient and enigmatic than even Many Blessings.

Extra Kool and Time of Calm. August 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Friday | 08.26
What: Extra Kool album release w/DJ Jon Blaze and Calm.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Englewood Tavern
Why: Extra Kool almost never performs live anymore but Danny Vincennie aka Extra Kool has been writing some of the most heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking and creative raps of the past two decades and more. This night he’s releasing his latest album Not A Ghost…But Dead Inside and it’s proof that if you do something with integrity for your entire career everything you put out will have artistic merit and this album is on par with his entire catalog. Also playing this night is the political and also intensely creative hip-hop duo Calm. with their own literary raps and some of the most colorful, moving and beautiful beats in the Colorado rap game and beyond.

Joan Osborne, photo by Lynn Goldsmith

Saturday | 08.27
What: Madeline Peyroux and Joan Osborne
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities
Why: Joan Osborne burst onto the national music scene with her hit album 1996 Relish and the single “One of Us.” One might be excused to not being into the single so much and perhaps misjudging Osborne’s other music based on the ubiquity of the single in the year or three after its release. But anyone that got to see Osborne around that time whether on one of her own tours or her appearances on the Lilith Tour in 1997 and 1998 witnessed a passionate performer with a raw, authentic style that couldn’t fail to leave a strong impression of the singer/songwriter as a performer and human capable of projecting her feelings and connecting with the audience in a seemingly direct way. For this show, Osborne will performs Relish in its entirety. Madeline released her own noteworthy debut album Dreamland in 1996 as well. The record garnered her a bit of a following but her 2004 follow-up albums Careless Love marked the beginning of her prolific subsequent career as one of the most popular jazz singers of the past couple of decades.

Monday | 08.29
What: Marissa Nadler w/Seance
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Vultures
Why: See above on 08.08 for Marissa Nadler.

Reptaliens, photo courtesy the artists

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Cults w/Reptaliens and DJ Boyhollow
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Reptaliens from Portland, Oregon may at initial contact seem like a cool, fairly downtempo, psychedelic indie pop band with earworm vocal melodies. But the more you delve into its lyrics and the subject matter of its albums something far stranger emerges with songs inspired by left field science fiction, bizarre pop culture artifacts and esoteric knowledge. After all who names an album VALIS after the 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick based on true events with possibly metaphysical experiences with an alien intelligence. Headliners Cults enjoyed real indie buzz in the early 2010s when its self-titled debut was released on Columbia. Fortunately the hype wasn’t overblown and Cults’ dream pop offerings had some vitality as evidenced by its often spirited live shows.

Brother Saturn, photo by Tom Murphy

Tuesday | 08.30
What: Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters w/Totem Pocket, Innerspace, Abandons and Brother Saturn
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is an all post-rock/post-metal show featuring Salt Lake City’s Black Flak and the Nightmare Fighters who might more rightly be considered a shoegaze band with Kate Hoffmeister’s dusky vocals. Abandons is the kind of band who maybe came out of an early interest in progressive metal and art rock that evolved into a skillful crafting of soundscapes and textures in broad, dynamic strokes without writing music aimed at fitting in with a genre or subgenre which is why it’s difficult to make comparisons except to describe the music except partially as sculpted waves of mood. Brother Saturn is Drew Miller’s post-rock project which means some blissed out guitar tonal compositions and electronics that are the more visceral side of his other projects in ambient music.

Elder, photo by Anait Sagoyan

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Elder w/Belzebong and Dreadnought
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: ELDOVAR – A Story of Darkness & Light (2021) pretty much established former Massachusetts-based progressive metal band Elder and German psychedelic band Kadavar as purveyors of a heavy art rock that is as creatively ambitious as it is compelling beyond any ability to appreciate the technical skill going into it or the theory. It’s cinematic in the way that mid-70s Genesis was and the delicate touches in the composition give context to heavier passages and the album doesn’t get stuck in the tropes of any genre. Yes, we’ve heard epic, science fiction flavored hard psychedelic rock before but this album feels like something different and worthy of a listen to anyone with an interest in psychedelic rock and where doom can go when it’s not stuck in its familiar habits. Dreadnought is a band whose tribal, heavy pagan psychedelia is a good fit for a bill like this where there isn’t a tired formula guiding anyone’s music.

Wednesday | 08.31
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Boulder Theater
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Best Shows in Denver April 2022

IDLES, photo courtesy the artists
Baroness, photo courtesy the artists

What: Baroness
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness never got to tour behind its 2019 album Gold & Grey for the reasons most bands didn’t do a lot of touring in 2020 and a good chunk of 2021. But now the group with new guitarist Gina Gleason will get a chance to perform older favorites as well as material from the aforementioned album showcasing a seemingly different approach to songwriting different from the brash, bombastic and playful style of previous records. John Baizley’s vocals still soar with great expressive control but the music seems more tied in with the rhythms and beautiful minor chord progressions so that when the songs engage into expansive choruses they always seem to resolve in ways that feel like the group decided to push themselves to say something different and worthwhile with each song. It’s frankly their best album and it would be simply lazy and clumsy to merely refer to this era of Baroness as sludge metal.

Friday | 04.01
What: Brandon Wald (owner of Black Ring Ritual Records out of ND), Viator, Many Blessings, Maltreatment, Tripp Nasty and MPW
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: There aren’t too many noise shows or places to see noise in Denver these days meaning a form of music/sound art is hard to come by in the live setting where it is best experienced. But this show will include local stars like Many Blessings aka Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man doing his harsh industrial noise project and Tripp Nasty whose body of work is so diverse and broad that some of it is in the realm of noise so who knows how that will manifest for this show so just best to go if you’re so inclined. Brandon Wald runs Black Ring Ritual Records, home to some of the more prime noise records and tapes of the last several years and his own noise is part power electronics, abstract industrial, harsh ambient and musique concrète.

Friday | 04.01
What: The Blue Rider w/Cleaner and Wes Watkins
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Psychedelic garage rock band The Blue Rider hasn’t been playing much in recent years since Mark Shusterman has been busy playing in Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So catch the always surprisingly powerful and brain expanding show with Wes Watkins who has been involved in a variety of projects over the years like Wheel Chair Sports Camp and the aforementioned Night Sweats. But his own music betwixt jazz, R&B and funk is worthwhile in its own right.

Friday and Saturday | 04.01 and 04.02
What: The Goddamn Gallows & Scott H. Biram w/JD Pinkus
When: 8 p.m. both nights
Where: Larimer Lounge (04.01) and Swing Station (Laporte, CO on 04.02)
Why: The Goddamn Gallows sound like something you’d get if you mixed a scuzzy punk band, some murder ballad honky tonk and Black Sabbath. Scott H. Biram plays solo and while many men of his ethnic persuasion have abused the blues and country in ways largely boring and unforgiveable, Biram’s songwriting is so strong, diverse and sincere yet poetic he’ll make you forget those other guys that served as a blight in blues clubs for decades. JD Pinkus is indeed the bass player of Butthole Surfers and member of Honky. But this tour showcases his fragmented, haunted psychedelic country material. His 2021 album Fungus Shui is the peak of that aesthetic as crafted by Pinkus thus far.

Monday | 04.04
What: Spiritualized
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: With the 2022 album Everything Was Beautiful expected out on April 22, 2022, Jason Pierce finds yet another way to blend freaky, spooky yet warmly engaging folk with space rock in ways transporting and transcendent. The roller coaster dynamic of late 90s music has long since given way to lush orchestral builds that flow in unpredictable yet satisfying directions so that listening to the album gets your brain to go down a different path than previous records from Pierce. With any luck the live show will reflect this bright aspects of this album without losing the dark cool that has made the songwriter’s material so fascinating since his early days with Spacemen 3.

SASAMI, photo by Alice Baxley

Tuesday | 04.05
What: SASAMI w/Jigsaw Youth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Squeeze, the 2022 album from SASAMI, is definitely a departure from the songwriter’s 2019 self-titled debut. Whereas there was a deeply chill energy to the downtempo aspect of that album, there is a more distorted and visceral quality to Squeeze that seems like a mirror image of the wonderfully ethereal quality of that first record. This might seem like too wide a stylistic swing, Sasami Ashworth has had a very eclectic career playing in Cherry Glazerr and contributing to albums by artists as widely different as Vagabon and Wild Nothing. Ashworth explores metallic sounds and much more aggressive song dynamics this time around while pushing the boundaries of her knack for pop songcraft with songs that sound sometimes metal, sometimes industrial, sometimes grunge and all made accessible. Fans of the broad spectrum of St. Vincent’s catalog would appreciate what SASAMI has been doing the past few years and beyond.

girl in red, photo by Jonathan Kise

Tuesday | 04.05
What: girl in red w/Holly Humberstone
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: girl in red is the performance moniker of Marie Ulven Ringheim whose guitar pop has garnered critical acclaim beyond her home country of Norway. Her 2021 debut album if i could make it go quiet found the songwriter expanding beyond the bedroom pop compositions and recordings that brought her to prominence and it charts her struggles with the various ways in which one’s mind can sabotage your life. In addressing these personal demons in such a direct, honest and relatable way with such luminously warm melodies Ringheim doesn’t insult herself or the listener by suggesting something as trite as it’s all going to work out. Her depictions of the head spaces in which you can get stuck seem so vivid and immediate that they seem like something you can overcome or at least survive and dare to want more for yourself and reach for it than you seem to think is possible when you’re in the depths of your own personal hell.

Tuesday | 04.05
What: Hiatus Kaiyote
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Melbourne, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote is refreshingly difficult to pin down without sounding like they’re trying too many things. Their unique style of soul and R&B is so idiosyncratic it sounds like the kind of band J. Dilla would have wanted to have started or at least produced because the avant-garde jazz flourishes in the songwriting almost sound like well-produced samples. Its 2021 album Mood Valient is the group’s most coherent offering to date and its organic and evolving rhythms so fresh and unusual it sounds like an improv session developed until the rhythms are tight but never stale.

Baby Tate, photo by Scrill Davis

Wednesday | 04.06
What: Charli XCX w/Baby Tate
When: 06:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: This show should probably be at a bigger venue but hey you get a chance to see Baby Tate before word gets out that her sex positive songs aren’t all production in the studio and in music videos. Sure, her mom is Dionne Farris who hopefully most people remember from her time in Arrested Development before branching out into a popular music career under her own name. But Baby Tate’s confidence isn’t just swagger, regardless of subject matter and word choice there is a deft and creative wordplay that syncs her words with the always imaginative beats with a fine ear for the use of bass that one doesn’t hear in enough hip-hop these days. Fans of Kari Faux should probably give Baby Tate a listen. And of course headlining is Charli XCX who is touring in support of her 2022 album Crash. Whether the record is the end of a chapter in the pop star’s career or hinting at a more experimental future direction, the singer sounds as confident as ever and the eclectic influences are on display so that beyond the typically strong vocals the driving bass of post-punk and the expert electronic dance music production allows for all elements to flow freely together in a way divergent from the hyperpop aesthetic of earlier offerings. Of all the pop songwriters in the mainstream, Charli XCX has long been one of the more consistently inventive and fascinating whose lyrics also hit as poignant and poetic.

Thursday | 04.07
What: CELE Presents: Chihei Hatakeyama w/Carl Ritger and Wind Tide
When: 7-11 p.m.
Where: 860 Vallejo St. (Denver)
Why: Chihei Katakeyama is an ambient/experimental electronic/drone artist from Tokyo, Japan whose work has found a home on Kranky but lately largely out of his own White Paddy Mountain imprint which showcases other artists that operate in similar realms of composition and sound design. Carl Ritger has been producing prepared environmental sound experiences under his own name and as Radere and a fixture of Denver’s ambient music scene for more than a decade. Wind Tide is presumably the musique concrète/ambient artist from Littlefield, Texas whose use of field recordings and processed noise captures the essence of the background sounds of civilization that often go ignored unless brought explicitly to your attention though not often as creatively as Wind Tide has done in an extensive Bandcamp catalog.

Jawbreaker, photo by John Dunne

Thursday and Friday | 04.07 and 04.08
What: Jawbreaker w/Descendents, Face To Face and Samiam
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Fillmore Auditorium
Why: Between 1986 and its break-up in 1996, Jawbreaker helped to shape the aesthetics and sound of what became pop punk and emo during that time and going forward. With albums like 1994’s influential 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and Dear You from 1995, which the group celebrates with this tour, Jawbreaker brought an existential self-examination to the lyrics and a creativity to the dynamics and textures of its songs that transcended the genres it helped to define. The trio has been back together since 2017 with a documentary about the band Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker releasing that same year. Listening back to its old albums the fingerprints of that music is clearly evident on a large swath of punk-oriented music of the past 25 years. Also on this bill are pioneering pop punk band The Descendents whose own anthemic songs likely proved an inspiration for Jawbreaker and both Face to Face and Samiam also sharing the stage this night.

Sarah Shook & The Disamers, photo by Harvey Robinson

Saturday | 04.09
What: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers w/Lillian
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Sarah Shook could have had a perfectly fine and successful career sticking to the modern country sound of their excellent first two records Sidelong and Years. Shook’s expressive vocals and finely crafted songs have always been informed by a thoughtful sensitivity with some grit underlying the delivery. The new album, 2022’s Nightroamer, produced by Dwight Yoakam collaborator Peter Anderson, has touches of effects on Shook’s voice which might strike some longtime fans as odd but overall those sonic details and a more expansive quality to the sound in general on the album feels like it opened up the singer’s songwriting a bit and lends it a quality that sounds more full and the musical equivalent of a color photo versus a black and white. Both have their appeal but more hues in emotion are emphasized. Lillian is a Denver-based singer-songwriter whose luminous songs in an Americana vein are difficult to pigeonhole. Her new album Chasing Shadows will be released at a show at The Skylark Lounge Bobcat Club on April 21.

Hex Cassette at Hi-Dive 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Saturday | 04.09
What: Lose Your Head II: Ponce (Swampy Erotic Punk Blues), Julian St. Nightmare (Goth Rock), Ray Diess (Goth Pop), Savant Tarde (Post Wave), Hex Cassette (SynthGoth For Satan), Painted City (Synth Pop)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Jester’s Palace
Why: Lose Your Head is an event that highlights some of Denver’s better underground bands in a more dawkwave, post-punk and experimental pop vein. The genres listed above in parentheses work as a vague idea of what you’re in for. Julian St. Nightmare are a visceral yet atmospheric post-punk band. Hex Cassette is industrial darkwave pop with a confrontational and wildly energetic live show. Painted City is for sure synth pop but in that art rock sense one might have seen more in the early 80s but with a sensibility that speaks to having coming up post-Radiohead. Ray Diess is definitely “Goth Pop” but also with a theatrical live show that fans of classic EBM will appreciate.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Abandons, Brother Saturn, Equine and Denizens of the Deep
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Brother Saturn will celebrate the release of his latest album Dreams of Sand at this show. As per usual, ethereal soundscapes that are both subtle and transporting and fans of the Hearts of Space program will find a lot to like with his material in general. Abandons is a heavier post-rock band. Denizens of the Deep also produces ambient/noise/modern classical music in a variety of modes but the latest album End Times is a good deal of distorted synth drone over mournful, melancholic compositions and moody piano. Equine is avant-garde prog informed by modal jazz and cosmic mathematics.

Saturday | 04.09
What: Fern Roberts, Vampire Squids From Hell and Mossgatherers
When: 8-11 p.m.
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Fern Roberts is a band that isn’t easy to classify and its latest album I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow occupies a musical space between late 80s Talk Talk, Animal Collective and Beach Fossils. Vampire Squids From Hell are an instrumental, psychedelic surf rock band.

Melvins, photo by Bob Hannam

Sunday | 04.10
What: Ministry w/Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: For this tour Ministry is mainly tapping into its songs from Psalm 69 and earlier and even playing”Supernaut” which leader Al Jourgensen covered for an EP by his side project 1000 Homo DJs. So maybe some other early material is in store for the rest of the tour as well. Corrosion of Conformity wasn’t explicitly a crossover band but one whose hardcore bridged the worlds of punk and thrash almost from the beginning. And of course Melvins are always a reliably entertaining live act that has pushed its own envelope since its early days in the 80s when it inspired a great swath of the grunge scene including guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne teaching Kurt Cobain to play guitar and drummer Dale Crover having been a member of Nirvana for a time in the early days. The trio’s impact on modern rock music is often underrated but indelible. In 2021 Melvins released two albums, Working with God, a record more in line with its always compelling noise rock, and Five Legged Dog, an acoustic album. You never have to worry about a rote Melvins show so get there early and see one of the truly great bands of the last 40 years in a place that sounds as great as Mission Ballroom.

Girl Talk, photo by Joey Kennedy

Monday | 04.11
What: Girl Talk w/Hugh Augustine
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Gregg Gillis as Girl Talk took the mashup to new levels in the 2000s as a DJ who, inspired by 90s IDM, alternative artists and noise, created surprisingly unique blends of sounds, rhythms and musical concepts. In 2022 Girl Talk released a collaborative album with Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T. And Smoke DZA called Full Court Press in which Gillis was able to use his production expertise to weave together the contributions of three hip-hop artists not short on personality and idiosyncratic styles. The album represents Gillis’ first full record since 2010’s All Day but also one of the higher points of an already interesting and genre bending career.

Bootblacks, photo by Katrin Albert Photography

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bootblacks w/Plague Garden and DJ Kilgore
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Bootblacks started in New York City in 2010 around the early stage of the current wave of darkwave and post-punk. Its intricate rhythms and brooding atmospherics sync well with what feels like a visceral intensity, especially live, that brings an urgency and forcefulness to the music that is missing from the music of some later bands tapping into similar sources of inspiration. Bootblacks didn’t get to tour on its 2020 album Thin Skies for reasons with which we’re all too entirely familiar so this tour will find the band able to give the material its proper presentation. Fans of Chameleons will appreciate Bootblacks dusky take on dreamlike, observational nightlife anthems. Plague Garden is a similarly-minded post-punk band from Denver with roots in punk and EBM.

Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, photo by Thomas Girard

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Brian Jonestown Massacre w/Mercury Rev
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev started around the same time around the beginning of the 90s on opposite sides of the country. But both incorporated elements of folk, psychedelic rock and experimental soundscaping into their respective mix of sounds. BJM became an influential band in the American and international underground with a fiercely DIY spirit that went from making records to touring and promoting its music. Singer Anton Newcombe’s thoughtful and poetic lyrics and ever evolving songwriting injected the expansive and imaginative spirit of late 60s psychedelic rock and art rock into a the zeitgeist of the often anemic late-90s post-alternative rock musical landscape and culture with ample personality and unpredictable live shows, some going sideways, mostly striking a chord with disaffected creative people wherever the band toured. Since that time Newcombe has tried his hand at a variety of musical styles while maintaining a subversive and forward thinking creative vision channeled into prolific output. In late spring we can expect to see the release of the new BJM record Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and its the result of Newcombe’s active experiments in composition and production over the past few years in his Berlin studio. Of course live the group is reliably vital. Mercury Rev from upstate New York was started by former Flaming Lips guitarist Jonathan Donohue and with longtime guitarist Grasshopper, Mercury Rev too has been on a creative arc that has taken them to fascinating places from early, warped psychedelia and space rock to the deeply affecting dream pop of breakthrough album Deserter’s Songs (1998) and explorations of personal mythology and the ways our inner lives manifest in how we make sense of the world on every album since. Live, Mercury Rev is transcendent, inspirational and just the thing you need to fill up after a long time being hollowed out by the less fun aspects of life.

Tuesday | 04.12
What: Bill Frisell Trio
When: 6 p.m.
Where: MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater
Why: Bill Frisell is one of the great living jazz guitarists. From Baltimore, Frisell spent many of his formative years in Denver and Colorado as a graduate of East High School. Going to Berklee took him back to the east coast and he was a studio musician for the prestigious jazz label ECM and when he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey he became a fixture in the NYC jazz scene where he came to collaborate with multiple luminaries of the era including John Zorn, going on to become a member of Naked City, the wildly experimental jazz band. By the late 80s Frisell had relocated to Seattle and continued his already noteworthy solo career but also continuing to collaborate with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and on film and television scores. Frisell maintains his connections to the Denver avant-garde and occasionally plays locally including this rare chance to see his trio at the MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater.

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

Friday | 04.15
What: The Velveteers w/Dry Ice and Rose Variety
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: The Velveteers released its most recent album Nightmare Daydream in 2021 and demonstrated a great leap forward in terms of songwriting for anyone that hadn’t been keeping up with the band in its live performances. Produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, Nightmare Daydream is a blues rock record informed by imaginative songwriting with lyrics that reveal an astute assessment of relationships, the social scene around the world of music and the nuances of human psychology but channeled into bombastic songs that in the live setting have proven to be forceful and captivating. Anyone that saw the Gothic Theatre album release show got to witness a band in full command of its powers with a fiery performance that felt like you were getting to see a famous rock band on the verge of reaching a far wider audience. With upcoming dates with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet it’s likely the trio’s star will be rising so catch The Velveteers for a hometown show at The Fox Theatre before it breaks through to a mainstream audience.

Friday | 04.15
What: Mogwai w/Nina Nastasia
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Scottish post-rock band Mogwai has consistently delivered cinematic guitar music across the breadth of its career going back nearly three decades. But even at that its 2021 album As the Love Continues comes as a bit of a surprise as it includes even more evocative vocals in no way buried in the mix as well as those more processed and a finely nuanced soundscaping with electronic elements and rock instrumentation working in perfect sync to at times remind one of a Wendy Carlos composition (i.e. “Fuck Off Money”). There are no mediocre Mogwai albums but it is one that goes to wider vistas musical vistas than to which the band has traveled in some time.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Actors w/Scifidelic, Weathered Statues and DJ Sin
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Canadian post-punk band Actors have been crafting New Wave-inflected darkwave for around a decade now and its 2021 album Acts of Worship sounds like a dance club soundtrack from a forgotten, 1980’s transcendental science fiction movie. Like maybe if the club Tech Noir from The Terminator got its own movie after being re-opened in 2020. The album’s echoing guitar riffs, melodically brooding vocals, hazy synth lines accented with crystalline tones are reminiscent of early 80s Human League had the league fully incorporated guitars and taken some inspiration from Fad Gadget. And the warping, upbeat, melancholic melodies of songs like “Killing Time (Is Over)” is thoroughly captivating with its unconventional dynamics like something you’d hear on an early Brian Eno “solo” album.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Calm./Time w/Wilt to Live and Lucy Freedom at Mutiny Information Café 8 p.m.
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Calm./Time is one of the great hip-hop projects of Denver music with sharp, political lyrics infused with an incisive and playful sense of humor. With some of the most creative beats steeped in not only classic alternative hip-hop but experimental music and art pop, Calm. (comprised of rapper Time and producer Awareness) always seems to make high concept social commentary accessible and engaging.

Saturday | 04.16
What: Pile (Rick Maguire solo)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: From the Facebook event page because I can’t do better: “While the band is known for its dynamic and bombastic live performances, Maguire recontextualizes the material by performing on his own, something he has continued to do throughout the project’s history. 2021 saw documentation of this aspect of Pile in Songs Known Together, Alone, a solo re-imagining of 15 songs across Pile’s catalog.”

Snail Mail, photo by Tina Tyrell

Sunday | 04.17
What: Snail Mail w/Joy Again
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Lindsey Jordan seems to have packed more than a lifetime of heartbreak and pain into her 2021 Snail Mail album Valentine. The title track alone so vividly captures what it feels like to be in the worst throes of a bad breakup and is kind of an inverted Valentine expressing feelings of love and affection that have no direction because of the split and how that can churn inside you leaving you in agonized confusion. Which is a tricky feeling to get across. “Ben Franklin” is apparently about Jordan’s time in a rehab facility, a place for which there all sorts of reasons to end up in for a time, and in the music video for the song she moves about with an energetic playfulness the way many people do with words and actions until they’re ready to have the breakthroughs that are necessary to move on. But the whole record is a brilliantly poetic pop exploration of the various phases of being in some of life’s lowest places set to lush arrangements and inventive guitar compositions that are reminiscent of the more interesting late 90s emo bands that blurred genre lines like Rainer Maria and Milemarker except that Jordan’s sounds reflect the gentleness better suited to expressing wounded feelings and lingering hurt. And yet there is a sense that these songs helped Jordan to crawl through the most vivid memories of their inspirations.

Sunday | 04.17
What: Radolescents w/The Haji, Noogy and Egoista – canceled
When: 7 p.m.
Where: HQ
Why: Radolescents is Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer of the Adolescents along with original Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew’s son Frank Agnew Jr on vocals, Dan O’Donovan on guitar and Dan Colburn on bass performing the Adolescents’ 1981 self-titled record aka The Blue Album in its entirety. Rikk Agnew has been responsible for some of the most inventive and memorable guitar tones out of punk rock including his performance on the 1982 deathrock classic Only Theatre of Pain while a member of Christian Death. Live performance video out there for this lineup has been pretty solid so here’s a chance to see one of the most iconic bands out of punk of the last 40+ years.

Sunday | 04.17
What: mssv aka Main Steam Stop Valve (Mike Bagg, Stephen Hodges and Mike Watt)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: mssv has quite a pedigree including obvious master bass player Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Stooges fame but also Stephen Hodges who played drums on Tom Waits records like Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Mule Variations. He also played on various soundtracks including those for Until the end of the World and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. No big deal. But with Mike Bagg whose own performance resume is respective for his work with distinguished jazz artists and avant-garde musicians like Nels Cline. Together they make what might be described as a mutant type of free jazz and surf rock.

Monday | 04.18
What: Sleep w/Superwolves (Matthew Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The right people are going to appreciate this strange folk and blues band Superwolves comprised of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Chavez guitarist/singer Matthew Sweeney opening for psychedelic sludgerocks’s heaviest of the heavy, Sleep. Some people are going to be so put off and angry that will be amusing on its own. Too bad for those people though because two great bands on one bill with this stylistic swing should happen more often. Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) has influenced a generation of musician though his various bands over the years and his solo records as well for inventive and intricate guitar work and heartfelt, tender, poetic and witty lyrics and Sleep has perhaps more than any other single band outside of Black Sabbath spawned the doom metal genre as we know it but few have equaled their sonic grandeur and imaginative songwriting.

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

Monday and Tuesday | 04.18 and 04.19
What: The Airborne Toxic Event w/Mondo CozmoRescheduled, date TBD
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo made a name for himself as the frontman for Laguardia in the the first half of the 2000s and then for a decade as the lead singer for Eastern Conference Champions. But since 2015 he has been recording and performing under the Mondo Cozmo moniker and crafting heartfelt and genre eclectic music. His new album, 2022’s This Is For The Barbarians takes Ostrander deep into his roots in rebellious folk artists like Bob Dylan and his more experimental electronic interests at the same time. The album is like a Radiohead album but more informed by folk and more overtly pop but with the appropriately rough around the edges quality to suit the times that surrounded the process of writing the songs with Ostrander commenting on the highs and very low depths of the world in the past half decade and his insight into personal psychology and the American zeitgeist is as cathartic as it is inspirational. And yes, opening for Toxic Airborne Event whose own long career of luminously gritty alternative rock has garnered a bit of a cult following. Its 2020 album Hollywood Park, sharing the title with singer Mikel Jollett’s memoir of the same name from the same year, was unsurprisingly as literarily as musically as poignant album as any in the group’s career to date and certainly seemingly its most personal.

IDLES, photo by Tom Ham

Tuesday | 04.19
What: IDLES w/Automatic
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: IDLES first came to the attention of a wider international audience with the 2017 release of its debut full length album Brutalism. Its exhilaratingly spirited live shows and the poetic intensity and social consciousness and deep self-examination reflected in the lyrics had an immediately appeal that seemed another high point in the then relatively recent resurgence of punk and post-punk that made that style of music seem relevant and exciting again. The 2018 second album Joy As An Act of Resistance in title alone sounded like a call to action for putting energy and will into the world around you that engages people in a positive and compassionate yet passionate manner. Since then 2020’s Ultra Mono took some knocks by various critics as a creative plateau if not a dip in the exciting potential of the band’s previous work but Crawler (2021) proved IDLES is not out of ideas and certainly not out of the incredible energy that is clearly behind its live performances. When IDLES performed at Larimer Lounge 2018 it was unlike most club shows of late with lead singer Joe Talbot ranging far into the crowd to break down the performer and audience barrier the way the songs often do, like they’re speaking directly from your life. Opener Automatic is a trio from Los Angeles whose own flavor of rhythm-and-synth-driven post-punk is reminiscent of early OMD. Its forthcoming and second album Excess releases on June 24, 2022 with retrofuturist music videos that compliment its aesthetic so well. In commenting on the song “New Beginning” the band references the Swedish science fiction film Aniara which is one of the better neo-dystopian films of recent years.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Soft Kill w/Alien Boy, Topographies, Candy Apple and Destiny Bond
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Soft Kill was one of the earliest of the current wave of darkwave/post-punk bands with a decent string of releases with its 2020 album Dead Kids R.I.P. City being its finest and a poignant commentary on the confluence of the growth of Portland, Oregon both organically and through the poisonously mutant manner that the tech industry and other moneyed interests have initiated globally and the ways in which underground music scenes and cultures have been all but washed out of larger and perceivedly hip cities. The music was a little predictable in that obviously influenced by The Cure and The Chameleons way early on but that latest record has some more inventive songwriting and what comes across as a sincere and tender, melancholic observational lament on people lost and a way of life for creative people and others involved in vital subcultures essentially made a thing of the past or at least a shadow of its former self. Alien Boy is also from Portland and its own melancholic blend of punk, emo and atmospheric guitar rock is imbued with its own melancholic spirit inspired by the struggle with the usual everyday stuff that can be a drag if you’re at all sensitive and thoughtful but also with a culture that in too many quarters is hostile to the very existence of certain sectors of society. Candy Apple from Denver perfectly combines spirited hardcore and Hüsker Dü and The Jesus And Mary Chain-esque noise rock. Destiny Bond also from Denver comes from a similar realm of music but one closer to emo but more aggressive in its expression of vulnerability.

Black Map, photo from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.19
What: 10 Years w/Black Map and VRSTY
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Black Map is a post-hardcore band from San Francisco comprised of members of Far, Dredg and Trophy Fire. Though supporting alternative metal band 10 Years on this tour its 2022 album Melodoria is the kind of melodic heavy music that bends toward emo and definitely in your wheelhouse if you’re a fan of Circa Survive as its not on the screamo or pop punk end of post-hardcore.

Tuesday | 04.19
What: Jon Spencer & The HITmakers w/Quasi
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Spencer has been giving us gloriously demented and exciting psychedelic blues and garage rock since at least his time in Pussy Galore. But with his new band he collides together all of the stuff you might expect with industrial music production and willingness to introduce non-musical sounds and concepts into the mix. The group’s new album Spencer Gets It Lit is like a retrofuturist science fiction movie as imagined through the lens of an unlikely Suicide and the Cramps team-up and then turned into wonderfully strange and sometimes unsettling songs, which has been Spencer’s modus operandi through various projects for decades. Anything to weird out the squares and honestly the world has been in desperate need for such creative gestures in increasing amounts over the last several years. On the record you can hear the synth and vocal stylings of Sam Coomes of opening band Quasi which is no experimental rock slouch project either with drummer Janet Weiss who in rock and roll right now has to be considered one of the top tier talents. Most people probably know her from her long stint in Sleater-Kinney but anyone lucky enough to have seen her with Quasi or Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks has seen a different facet of her considerable talent.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Blushing, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is pretty much the shoegaze or shoegaze adjacent show of the year with Blushing touring in support of its new album Possessions. Its hazy and urgent melodies are enveloping and hypnotic. Letting Up Despite Great Faults also based in Austin weaves in a bit more twee pop stylings into its gorgeous soundscapes. Its own new album, IV, is back to back entrancing material about the more subtle sides of life and daily struggles and in “She Spins” one of the great melodic guitar progressions of the past two decades. Old Soul Dies Young from Denver mixes expansive guitar atmospheres with an almost black metal grit and lo-fi aesthetic seemingly inspired in part by anime and manga, or so its releases on the group’s Bandcamp suggests. Moodlighting like Letting Up Despite Great Faults puts the pop songcraft at the center of its own amalgam of indiepop and dream pop.

Wednesday | 04.20
What: Parquet Courts w/Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: If you were to name the top ten post-punk bands now that are pushing that form of music forward with creativity and ambitious songwriting while putting out some of the most sharp critiques of modern politics and society, Parquet Courts would be near the top of that list. Its 2021 album Sympathy For Life has an almost mystical album art design and its songs combine the use of mythical storytelling with stories of the folly of human civilization, especially late stage capitalism, and our often flawed ways of coping in the face of a deeply uncertain future.

Waxahatchee, photo by Molly Matalon

Friday | 04.22
What: Waxahatchee w/Madi Diaz
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Katie Crutchfield has been releasing deeply personal and insightful folk pop albums as Waxahatchee since her 2012 solo debut album American Weekend. Crutchfield’s gift for articulating existential uncertainty, personal devastation and yearning has imbued her recorded output with a underlying but always present spirit of compassion for self and others. Her 2021 album Saint Cloud expands her sound palette further with synths and programming serving as a backdrop, a context for songs that speak directly to a world of accelerating sources of anxiety and by grounding her songs in directly relatable experiences rather than contemplative theoreticals. The songs come off like a great country record informed by imaginative songwriting that pairs grit with poetic observations as ingredients in keeping present when so many things drive us to dissociate.

Friday | 04.22
What: Emerald Siam, Weathered Statues and We Are Not a Glum Lot
Where: Enigma Bazaar
Why: Emerald Siam has long been fusing a dark and melancholic sound with a brightness of spirit that rises through the psychological murk that can bog everyone down so easily these days. Its membership includes former members of bands like Twice Wilted, Tarmints, The Bedsit Infamy and Wild Call and its alchemical use of rhythm tied to dynamic rhythms plus frontman Kurt Ottaway’s passionate vocals is hard to beat. Weathered Statues is a post-punk band from Denver whose sound is rooted in the classics of that subgenre but there is something so upbeat and spirited about its sound and performance that associating the music with something gloomy seems inaccurate as its moody atmospherics have an expansive energy. We Are Not A Glum Lot all but suggests it’s going to be a an emo band of some kind and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark as its intricate guitar melodies and wiry rhythms have a leg in 2000s emo but also one in shoegaze and gritty post-punk. Think something like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with Jawbox and you have some idea of what you’re in for.

Saturday | 04.23
What: Ho99o9 w/N8NOFACE
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Ho99o9 from Newark, NJ have somehow managed to completely fold together industrial music, hip-hop, hyperpop, hardcore and noise for one of the most immediately riveting sounds around. The live show is as visceral and as confrontational as you might imagine but also brimming with a sense of joy at shattering the conventions of established genre music-making.

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, photo by Chris Phelps

Saturday and Sunday | 04.23 and 04.24
What: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs w/Sammy Brue
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Why: Mike Campbell is indeed the influential guitarist who was once a member of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a co-writer of many of the band’s hit songs across decades. This is his new band and they’re touring small venues in support of the band’s lively new album External Combustion. So go expecting an arena rock level show at these small theaters. Less polished than the Heartbreakers, this project from Campbell showcases the musician consistently cutting loose a little more than he has in his long and storied career.

PUP, photo by Jess Baumung

Sunday and Monday | 04.24 and 04.25
What: PUP w/Sheer Mag, Pink Shift
When: 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre and Boulder Theater
Why: PUP is one great bands to have emerged out of the 2010s as purveyors of the kind of heartfelt pop punk that seemed to revitalize that style of music and bring to it a healthy sense of self-deprecation and introspection expressed in spirited, anthemic songs that feel less like refurbished angst and more like catharsis in camaraderie. Its new album The Unraveling of PUPTheBand has more than its fair share of tasty hooks but also of lyrics that vividly capture the frustrations of the average person trying to navigate the vicissitudes of life in the modern world seemingly on the brink of some kind of disaster. Sheer Mag is the punk band that sounds like it grew up listening to a ton of AC/DC and Slade but ended up discovering working class punk and decided not to see why those sounds and ideas should be separate. Its 2019 album A Distant Call has the visual aesthetics of a Judas Priest record but lyrics that were a sharp critique of plain old American greed and political corruption and the immediate and deleterious impacts on every aspect of life.

Particle Kid, photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger

Monday | 04.25
What: The Flaming Lips w/Particle Kid
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: The Flaming Lips will forever be to some people the scrappy weirdo band from Oklahoma that made strange, psychedelic music with vivid lyrics about life’s challenging and colorful moments before and after a brief flirtation with mainstream popularity in the mid-90s before circumstances within the band and a crisis of creativity sent the group back to the drawing boards. After the parking lot experiments in performance, the perhaps ill-considered yet brilliant Zaireeka released on four CDs meant to be played simultaneously for the full effect of the music and then deep diving into alternative methods of recording with its creative high point then thus far with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin. In the 2000s the band’s star ascended further than most people might have expected with its various stylistic experiments and becoming the kind of band that seemed to be playing every festival and embraced by fans of unusual rock music and jam band types. And then the Lips would put out some of its most daring and deeply introspective and insightful albums like 2013’s The Terror and American Head from 2020. If history seems correct for the Lips, this would be a tour to see. Opening the show is Particle Kid and his eclectic, countrified, psychedelic new record TIME CAPSULE includes collaborations with J Mascis and Willie Nelson. Which sounds like it could be a trainwreck but instead it’s an unusually touching set of contemplative, observational songs on American culture and our trying to make sense of it all. It is somehow both nostalgic and imbued with a paradoxically chill immediacy.

Yumi Zouma, photo by Nick Grennon

Monday | 04.25
What: Yumi Zouma w/Mini Trees
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Yumi Zouma from Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand have spent the last eight years or so crafting tender dream pop imbued with a buoyant energy tempered by hazy, introspective tones. It’s 2022 album Present Tense explores the nuances of love and romance in the current period with a poetic sensibility and music that flows with a smoothly cinematic quality lending each song feel like a short film with all the drama of the story coming together poignantly in under four minutes. Jazz-like structures and strings throughout the album renders it like a new take on chamber pop without any of the pretentiousness.

Deftones, photo by Tamar Levine

Monday | 04.25
What: Deftones w/Gojira and VOWWS
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ball Arena
Why: Deftones are arguably the most influential of the newer style of metal band that came to prominence in the 1990s. The ability of the band to not just tap into a hybrid metal aesthetic but to weave in an always interesting and evolving atmospheric element that has been a part of its songwriting since early on. 2000’s White Pony was like a dream pop album written with the sound palette of a brooding metal group in search of a sound that better expressed the breadth and depth of emotions of its content with the tonal nuance to hit the ears with something more creative and interesting than the usual bludgeoning edginess of much of 90s metal. The combination gave the anger and pain in the album a raw accessibility than it might have had otherwise. The group’s 2020 album Ohms pushed the songwriting further into a more soundscape-y mode that had more in common with the likes of Failure and at times Swervedriver than metal. But that record came out in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic and of course the veteran band didn’t have a way to tour in support of what might be its finest set of songs until this run of shows with support from French death metal band Gojira and prominent darkwave duo VOWWS.

Deserta, image from Bandcamp

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Deserta w/Little Trips and Mon Cher
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Deserta is a Los Angeles-based shoegaze band whose songs sound like a more benevolent side of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie. The project’s new album Every Moment, Everything You Need has whispery vocals that fit right in with the languid builds and grainy melodies and insular mood. Its previous album 2020’s Black Aura My Sun was reminiscent of a more summery Slowdive if influenced by bedroom pop and the new record like a modern take on 80s New Wave but with sultry guitar atmospherics that trail off into the middle distance. Little Trips is a lo-fi dream pop outfit from Denver with a knack for subtle synth melodies that integrate well with chill beats and Mon Cher, also from the Mile High City, is a synth and piano-driven dream pop trio whose melancholic spaciousness is refreshingly not in some trendy mold of that style of music broadly speaking.

Tuesday | 04.26
What: Bloody Knives w/Twin Image and Juliet Mission
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Austin’s Bloody Knives sound like what might be called an industrial shoegaze band with fairly strong electronic and electric musical components in its sound and seeming inspiration from 90s experimental electronic pop. Twin Image is the latest project from former Fell frontman and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Wambeke and this time it’s more like a shoegaze/slowcore hybrid which is roughly the lane in which Fell existed but Twin Image is even more introspective and somehow more brash. Juliet Mission includes former members of alternative rock/shoegaze band Sympathy F and this long-running project truly captures and expresses the dark, moody vibe of Denver from back when downtown at night was both a perilous and magical place, evoking the specific melancholic flavor that is one of the hallmarks of the city no matter how much shine Nü Denver projects try to gloss over the top.

Knocked Loose, photo by Perri Leigh

Wednesday | 04.27
What: Knocked Loose w/Movements, Kublai Khan and Koyo
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: While metalcore battered itself into self-parody as a movement sometime in the 2000s its leading lights and adjacent artists of note like Poison the Well, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and others have endured as an influence on hardcore and heavy music for their ability to express a furious kind of outrage through cathartic live performances and having a more imaginative take on that hybrid musical style that can seem monolithic. Since the 2010s metalcore has experienced a kind of renaissance with Knocked Loose from Oldham County, Kentucky being one of the most prominent bands out of that new wave. In 2021 Knocked Loose released its latest EP A Tear In The Fabric of Life with an full animation of the EP by Swedish filmmaker Magnus Jonsson from a story by Knocked Loose frontman Bryan Garris. This time out the band seems to be drawing out its grindcore influence a bit while expanding its dynamic range.

Thursday | 04.28
What: MONO w/Bing & Ruth
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Japanese post-rock band MONO has been quite prolific in its 23 years of existence releasing creatively ambitious, mostly instrumental rock albums that speak more eloquently to emotions and ideas in a nuanced and eloquent way than many standard issue rock bands that spell out what they have to say more explicitly. This has mean the group’s music takes on rendering its meaning beyond specific cultural context. The music is rock but also extends to a modern version of classical music with elegant structure and formal composition tempered by an organic spontaneity. Live this quality translates perhaps most directly.

Vahco Before Horses circa 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | 04.28
What: Vahco Before Horses, Polly Urethane, Pearls and Perils, Blank Human, Esu the Illest, Space Pirate, Morpgorp and Joohs Uhp
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Vahco Before Horses is moving to the Netherlands soon and this is going to be his last show as a resident of Denver. The producer/singer/musician has run a local record label called Glasss and now Glass Melts which focused on more experimental music in the local underground and beyond. Vahco spent some time on both coasts in the music industry at various levels and brought some of that sensibility to his work in music in Denver. His own music is a surprisingly soulful form of electronic pop music with powerful vocals and vivid emotional portraits of life. Also on this bill is experimental downtempo artist Pearls and Perils, the weirdo techno of Blank Human, avant-garde mashup hip-hop hooligans Joohs Uhp, transcendent industrial pop soundscaper Polly Urethane, forward thinking rapper-producer Esu the Illest and others. Though kind of a farewell show to Vahco it’s also a fairly solid showcase of one important branch of left field underground music from the Mile High City.

VR Sex, photo courtesy the artists

Friday | 04.29
What: VR Sex w/Lunacy
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: VR Sex is the more punk alias of Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty fame. This project is more gritty in tone, noisier and more brash. Adopting the performance moniker of Noel Skum (an irreverent anagram of Elon Musk which is pretty on point), Clinco’s songwriting for VR Sex is ordered around clashing dynamics that sound like the kinds of songs a futuristic biker gang might listen to when getting up to some crimes aimed at yet another attempt at authoritarian control of all things in an asymmetrical warfare approach to taking down the man. The new record Rough Dimension with its cover clearly a nod to The Blair Witch Project all too poignantly encapsulates in sound the static, urgency and chaos that we face every day but blasting it apart with buzz saw riffs and attitude. Lunacy from Pennsylvania recently released Echo In The Memory is a bracing, ghostly industrial post-punk record that sounds like life after humans per the History Channel series but for real—gorgeously stark soundscapes with firm rhythm lines and washes of ethereally caustic atmospheres.

Big Thief, photo by Alexa Viscius

Friday | 04.29
What: Big Thief w/Kara-Lis Coverdale
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Mission Ballroom
Why: Big Thief became so popular so quickly you might be excused for dismissing it out of hand as a buzz band of the moment. But its particular brand of indie folk rock strikes deep chords, comes off as deeply honest and personal and its use of space expertly rendered so that it feels like Adrianne Lenker is singing directly to you about your own life. Its 2022 album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You seems so developed and practiced yet also unvarnished and vulnerable. If there is a popular style of indie folk that has been plaguing playlists and the airwaves and watering down the impact of the music, Big Thief here is the opposite of that by embracing what might be considered flaws as simply an essential aspect of our analog humanity and the way we live and exist in a world where not everything is streamlined for easy consumption and the band takes many sonic chances on the record that many artists on a similar level of popularity would not and that makes what Big Thief is doing now seem incredibly refreshing.

Tempers, photo by Julia Khoroshilov

Saturday | 04.30
What: Tempers w/Lesser Care, Julian St. Nightmare and Kill You Club DJs
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Tempers from NYC has been developing its dusky darkwave synth pop for the last several years with albums that seem to draw on a hazy 80s post-punk aesthetic for inspiration but also rooted in modern techno. Its 2022 album New Meaning is arguably its most coherent effort yet with songs about coming to terms with living in a time of great uncertainty and needing to create meaning where it might be eroding in meaningful ways in various areas of life and in the world around you. The cover image of the staircase to nowhere that is a part of contemporary creepy pasta culture as manifested so powerfully in Butcher’s Block, the third season of prematurely canceled horror anthology series Channel Zero. As a symbol for the album it works too as an enigmatic image that requires us to imagine where we might make the staircase take us and the peril of not building something beyond the great unknown that seems to be paralyzing the psyches of so many and otherwise sowing insecurity and desperation in a social environment that wasn’t already short on such things.

Saturday | 04.30
What: LEAF w/Negativland and SUE-C
When: 7 p.m.
Where: The Arts Hub
Why: Lafayette Electronic Arts Festvial returns with a set from legendary performance art/avant-garde electronic/sound collage project Negativland and live cinema artist SUE-C collaborating on a performance that comments on the dystopian tech environment that is plaguing so much of life in the 21st century thus far.

Best Shows in Denver November 2021

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

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

Wolf Alice, photo by Jordan Hemmingway

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

Black Dice, photo by Black Dice

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

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

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

Soccer Mommy, photo by Brian Ziff

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

Band of Horses, photo by Stevie and Sarah Gee

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

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

Plack Blague in October 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

Gus Dapperton, photo by Jess Farran

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

Uniform, photo by Ebru Yildiz

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

Mamalarky, photo by Sara Cath

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

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

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

Silverstein, photo by Juan Angel

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

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

Phony Ppl, photo courtesy the artists

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

Julien Baker, photo by Alysse Gafkjen

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

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

Big Dopes, photo by Jake Cox

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

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

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

Paul Jacobs, photo courtesy the artist

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

Black Marble in May 2017, photo by Tom Murphy

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

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

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

Kraak & Smaak, photo by Michael Mees

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

The Velveteers, photo by David Mermilliod

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

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

Primitive Man in April 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

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

Best Shows in Denver 1/31/19 – 2/6/19

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Bert Olsen performs at 3 Kings Tavern on February 1. Photo by Tom Murphy

Thursday | January 31, 2019

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Denver Meatpacking Company, photo by Michelle Simutis

Who: Stereoshifter, Denver Meatpacking Company and I’m a Boy
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Alternative blues rock, second wave grunge and flamboyant, emotionally charged rock and roll with an ear for classic glam and the future.

Who: Starjammer – Empire of the Mantis
When: Thursday, 01.31, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: Squidds Madden brings his visionary multi-media, multi-instrumental one-man band to 3 Kings to demonstrate that “Avant Garde/Dub-Reggae” is not some kooky gimmick but an evolving futuristic music that is truly a synthesis of deeply experimental improvisational music and the production style that enhances a broad spectrum of sonic frequency, textures and rhythm.

Who: Endless, Nameless, Honey and Salt, Obtuse, Admiral and more
When: Thursday, 01.31, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: Kind of a math rock show with Obtuse who certainly draw on 90s and 2000s math rock for some of the inspiration but is thankfully more focused on the emotional possibilities when you don’t get tripped up on the time signatures and precision but use those as needed to express the raw nerves of a generation that late capitalism is trying to toss in the dumpster but not without some very articulate resistance.

Friday | February 1, 2019

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Broncho, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Maemyth, Galleries, Bert Olsen and matherial
When: Friday, 02.01, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: All the other bands on the bill are worth your time. But Bert Olsen, not named after anyone in the band, makes the kind of punk that is atmospheric, probably inspired in part by The Cure and early Christian Death, noisy and vividly emotional and not trapped by the need to sound like another era of punk. Bert Olsen is charting its own path and Hunter Wood’s vocals are both melodic and demonstrating a willingness to crack and distort to fit the mood of the moment. More rock music in general would benefit from such instincts but a lot of it is self-tamed and conditioned, traditionalist stuff.

Who: Broncho w/Pinky Pinky
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Too many artists and “comedians” have ruined irony for probably another generation by abusing its possibilities and basically by not being ironic, just wannabe surrealistic and too much of a broken person’s public diary presented as entertainment. Broncho didn’t fail in its employment of irony by making sardonic yet sincere commentary on American culture and life. When singer/guitarist Ryan Lindsey was in The Starlight Mints he injected some color into the tail end of the wave of indiepop that emerged in the early 90s. With Broncho it’s more rock but out of step with the tendency of a lot of modern rock music to be trapped entirely too much in past decades. The band’s latest record is 2018’s Bad Behavior.

Who: King Eddie, Briffaut and BabyBaby
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: King Eddie began as something of a fairly predictable psychedelic rock band but by that time and the release of its 2017 album it completely refined and reinvented itself into one of the most interesting and creative bands in that realm of music. Briffaut is sort of freak folk, psychedelic indie rock but sounds like it was made by people who cut themselves off from outside influences for half a decade or more. Because of that, it’s music is always interesting and left-field.

Who: Dry Ice, Slugger, Satellite Pilot, Rose Variety and Ludoesmusic
When: Friday, 02.01, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Apparently Dry Ice is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. If it’s album 2018 Technicolor Yawning is any indication it sounds like the product of suburban boredom and thus this far into the band’s career means it’s sort of all over the place style-wise but that also means its not locked into being a particular genre and its eclectic quality yields some interesting material that might not have been possible had its members been channeled into a particular local scene. Slugger makes a case for garage and psychedelic rock inspired by classic rock not being totally played out.

Who: Boldtype, The Gamits, Reno Divorce and No Bueno
When: Friday, 02.01, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Manuel Lopez was the passionate and affable drummer of Boldtype who recently passed away. This is a benefit show for his daughters and will include performances by his band as well as some of the best local punk rock bands that came up at the same time his group was coming into its own.

Saturday | February 2, 2019

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Mozes and the Firstborn, photo by Nick Helderman

Who: The Parrots + Mozes and The Firstborn, Billy Changer, Super Bummer
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Mozes and The Firstborn from Eindhoven, The Netherlands came up during the peak of the 2010’s garage rock revival and toured internationally relatively early on its career. The band was always a little different from the other garage rock bands of that period because its sound was closer to power pop and its musicianship and songwriting had some uncommon refinement. In 2019 the group released its latest record Dadcore. To be fair, the band doesn’t sound like dadcore so much as its the typically Dutch dry, self-effacing and layered commentary on the cultural phenomenon and its own hearkening back to classic songwriting and what some may see as the quaint notion of guitar rock in the twenty-first century.

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Sunk Cost, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: GNO, Calambre, Sunk Cost, Kid Mask, Flesh Buzzard, Corgi Commander
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Thought//Forms
Why: A kind of harsh noise and harsh sounds show with some of most interesting artists operating in that mode in Colorado right now.

Who: The Pamlico Sound, Queens of the Galaxy and The Jessicas
When: Saturday, 02.02, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Pamlico Sound is a funk band lead by Will Baumgartner who went to Woodstock as a kid and who has been involved in the 80s No Wave movement as well as some of the more unexpectedly inventive and imaginative jam and funk bands from Colorado over the past two decades. It’s a spectacle and highly entertaining as Baumgartner is an engaging and unconventionally charismatic performer.

Monday | February 4, 2019

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Ron Gallo, photo by Chiara Danzieri

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Monday, 02.04, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Ron Gallo is from Philadelphia but his solo work sounds like he spent some time in 1970s New York in the early punk scene with a wiry energy. Of course if psychedelic garage rock hadn’t happened his 2018 record Stardust Birthday Party wouldn’t have sounded like a bit like a manic Sparks. Whatever the touchstones might be, Gallo is one of the most dynamic rock musicians of the current era. Perhaps co-headlining is the psychedelic prog band Post Animal whose own spirited performances transcend any specific genre of music.

Tuesday | February 5, 2019

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Post Animal, photo by Pooneh Ghana

Who: Ron Gallo w/Post Animal and Stuyedeyed
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: See above on 02.04 for Ron Gallo and Post Animal.

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Yoke Lore, photo by Wes and Alex

Who: Yoke Lore w/LP
When: Tuesday, 02.05, 7 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Adrian Galvin was once a member of synth-heavy indie pop band Walk the Moon before going solo a few years back. His work under the name Yoke Lore is decidedly different from Walk the Moon in having softer edges while showcasing Galvin’s inventive use of layered sound in his songwriting with bright synths accenting his vocals with an evocative flair. He is currently touring in the wake of the release of his 2018 EP Goodpain as an opener for R&B-inflected indie pop songwriter LP.

Wednesday | February 6, 2019

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The Drood circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Weird Wednesday: The Diablo Montalban Experience, The Drood and Claudzilla
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 9 p.m.
Where: The Ogden Theatre
Why: Weird Wednesday is as suggested by the name quite a bit this time around with keytar rock sorceress Claudzilla, experimental pop/psych band The Diablo Montalban Experience and The Drood. The latter often performs in costumes that look like a cross between anti-hero crusaders for cosmic justice and occult ritualists with music that fans of Legendary Pink Dots may find very much to their liking.

Who: P.O.S. w/Calm. and DJ Fundo
When: Wednesday, 02.06, 7 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: P.O.S. is the Minneapolis-based rapper whose talents and range as an artist go far beyond including his masterful production on his own work as well as his musicianship in other bands including Gayngs, Marijuana Deathsquads and many others. He’s in good company with his sonically adventurous beats paired with Denver’s Calm., a duo comprised of Time and Awareness whose literate and incisive raps and deeply atmospheric production is always surprisingly impactful. Their latest release, 2018’s Things I Learned While Dying in Denver is one of the most sharply critical yet hopefully albums of the past few years.

Best Shows in Denver 12/6/18 – 12/12/18

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CupcakKe at Summit Music Hall, Saturday, December 8, 2018. Photo courtesy the artist

Thursday | December 6, 2018

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Quits circa Spring 2018, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Red Fang w/Telekinetic Yeti and Quits
When: Thursday, 12.6, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Red Fang is a “stoner rock” band from Portland, Oregon that started out when that form of music was a big trend in underground metal. But Red Fang’s knack for writing a solid melody and its self-awareness and sense of humor set it apart from early on. After all, who gets über metal nerd comedian Brian Posehn to cameo in your music video (“Wires) unless you’re somewhat legit but don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s been a couple of years since the band’s most recent album but in 2018 it released an interesting choice for a single in Tubeway Army’s “Listen to the Sirens.” Opening the show are two fairly different kinds of bands. Dubuque, Iowa’s Telekinet Yeti makes a sort of groove-oriented doom-sludge, like a more psychedelic Fu Manchu. Quits from Denver is a noise rock juggernaut whose membership includes Luke Fairchild of Git Some fame, Doug Mioducki (formerly of indie pop band Felt Pilotes and noise rock groups Sparkles, Witchdoctor and CP-208) and Darren Kulback (ex-Hot White and Poison Rites). When the band started former Hot White vocalist/bassist Tiana Bernard brought her emotional intensity and charisma to the band but since she moved out of state, Neil Keener has stepped in with his considerable abilities honed in projects like Planes Mistaken For Stars, Git Some and Woven Hand.

Friday | December 7, 2018

 

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Godflesh, photo courtesy the artist

Who: Godflesh w/In The Company of Serpents
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: The Oriental Theater
Why: Godflesh was oft-cited as an early grindcore band by the national music press in the late 80s when the group’s landmark industrial metal album Streetcleaner was released in 1989. That same year other significant records in the realm of what came to be called alternative music emerged with Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine, Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love and Pixies’ Doolittle. The combination of scorching, grinding, forbidding guitar and bass work backed by beats generated through drum machines was not in line with metal orthodoxy and too abrasive even for most fairly adventurous radio stations. Though in being explicitly against the tough guy stance in its lyrics, Godflesh was certainly articulating an ethos that was in opposition to the hypermasculine rock and roll image and rhetoric of the time.

Fast forward decades and the duo has experimented with atmosphere and dynamics, expanding the palette of Godflesh overall while not dispensing with a style of music that reflects the harshness of the world as a sort of sonic totem against it. Guitarist Justin Broadrick has also explored various musical interests including forays into the realms of electronic music not always present in his work with Godflesh including the projects Techno Animal, Jesu, Pale Sketcher, Final and Scorn, among others. Bassist G.C. Green, who founded Godflesh with Broaderick in the mid-80s when the latter was a teenager whose pioneering guitar work on the first half of the 1987 Napalm Death album Scum was one of the blueprints for extreme metal generally and grindcore in particular, has also contributed more than his fair share to experimental music with his contributions to Final and Main. All the biographical details aside, Godflesh as a live duo is even more beautifully brutal than the records might suggest and as powerfully menacing.

Opening the show is the excellent Denver doom/extreme metal band In the Company of Serpents. The group has evolved quite a bit over the years from an early sort of high contrast death-grind doom sound and now Grant Netzorg’s songwriting has folded in his inspirations from dark Americana, Swans and Earth. It’s still towering riffs and gritty vocals but with a more song-oriented approach rather than what could at times seem conceptual.

Who: The Number 12 Looks Like You, Rolo Tomassi, Arsonists Get All the Girls
When: Friday, 12.7, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: The Number 12 Looks Like You melded together an instinct for amped emotional expression and math rock and by not sounding like every other screamo and post-hardcore band, established a bit of a cult status for its inventive sound that fans of Hella and Blood Brothers might find incredibly appealing. After breaking up in 2010, the group returned to active status in 2016 with this its first appearance in Denver since reconvening.

Who: Weaponizer w/Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir
When: Friday, 12.7, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Bannock Street Garage
Why: Weaponizer’s blackened thrash has surprisingly keen songwriting as though the guys in the band grew up listening to metal but not getting lost in just the making sounds their parents might hate and actually writing songs that will probably endure past the time it’s no longer active. This show celebrates guitarist Justin Kelly’s fortieth birthday and the band will be joined by deathgrind band Rotstrotter and Flight of Sleipnir who seem to draw some major inspiration from Scandinavian, transcendental metal bands and perhaps people in the band have read Egil’s Saga or Heimskringla or any of the old Viking epics.

Saturday | December 8, 2018

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Calm. circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: CupcakKe
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Maybe CupcakKe is considered a “dirty rap” artist because of the sexual content of her raps. But she’s no more so than many artists who haven’t been similarly dubbed. Her creatively layered beats alone would make her an artist of note but even among the unapologetic, sometimes boastful, stream of words, CupcakKe actually makes some interesting, insightful and poignant truthful commentary about life. Her fourth album, 2018’s Eden, may be a bit moodier on a few tracks than some of her previous releases but it just demonstrates her range as an artist and nowhere on the album is the IDGAF about foolishness attitude in short supply.

Who: Calm. album release w/Extra Kool, Joe Alan and Cosmicam the Cosmos
When: Saturday, 12.8, 7 p.m.
Where: The Summit Music Hall
Why: Two of Denver’s underground hip-hop greats, Calm. and Extra Kool, perform tonight to raise awareness of the issues facing the homeless by inviting those who show up to donate coats and other warm gear to Denver Homeless Outloud which also dedicates its efforts to stop the city’s misguided and destructive camping ban. Calm. also releases its incendiary new album Things I Learned While Dying in Denver on this night as well.

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Anthony Ruptak, photo by Nick Velharticky

Who: Anthony Ruptak release of A Place That Never Changes w/Los Mocochetes and Kramies
When: Saturday, 12.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Anthony Ruptak’s new album A Place That Never Changes nearly didn’t happen when all his music gear, songbooks and money for recording was stolen from his home. But years of good karma playing in the Mile High City and running one of the best open mic nights in town meant the community came to his aid and helped him to complete the debut LP. The record is never just one flavor. There are bits of freak folk, indie pop, chamber rock and pastoral country but it all comes together as a statement, in the form of vignettes, on a how life and your surroundings change even if you feel as though it never really, in essence, does. Ruptak brilliantly explores the frustrations, the worries, the aspirations, the fantasies and yearnings of a generation and a society that seems to be stalled out and assaulted by forces seemingly beyond our control. All while suggesting we can work around the situation if we open ourselves up to our own imagination and share the angst and struggles with others even if just a little. Fans of Mercury Rev, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine will find much to love about A Place That Never Changes.

Monday | December 10, 2018

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Protomartyr, photo by Daniel Topete

Who: Protomartyr and Preoccupations w/Teeth of the Hydra
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: On a short list of the great post-punk/art punk bands of today would have to include Detroit-based noise rock weirdos Protomartyr and Preoccupations from Alberta, Canada and its brooding yet expansive atmospheric guitar rock. So it’s only fitting that the two bands are touring together and releasing a split single on which each band covered the other. Preoccupations’ interpretation of Protomartyr’s “Pontiac 87” from that band’s 2015 album The Agent Intellect is brimming with a moving, haunted sense of resignation. Whereas Protomartyr’s cover of “Forbidden” from Preoccupations’ 2016 self-titled album honors the somber grit that gives way to elevated emotional states that made the original so compelling. Both bands have a gift for using atmosphere with an emotional push and intensity coupled with layered musical textures and dynamics that even when each hits a hypnotic peak of repetition it remains heady until the end. Each band would be worth seeing alone but a bill together makes it potentially one of the great shows in Denver of 2018.

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Middle Kids, photo by Maclay Heriot

Who: Middle Kids w/The Shacks
When: Monday, 12.10, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Australian rock band Middle Kids released its debut full-length, Lost Kids, in 2018 and did us all a favor by showing how one can be pretty much unabashedly influenced by music that one’s peers made trendy and do something more interesting with it. The songs seem to be rooted in a sort of folk rock songwriting mode, twinges of 70s Laurel Canyon haunting its edges, while incorporating elements of fuzzy 90s rock. But with uncommonly thoughtful and wise lyrics that are nostalgic yet self-conscious of the tendency to romanticize when the bare truth can often be more poetic than a sanitized personal revision of one’s life.

Tuesday | December 11, 2018

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The Helio Sequence (Benjamin Weikel), photo by Ana Pupulin

Who: The Helio Sequence w/Wild Pink
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Helio Sequence were exploring spacious melodies and daydream tones when it wasn’t too widely present in modern music outside of IDM acts like Boards of Canada and Clark. As a duo, the band had to be creative and efficient in their execution of sounds so there is a fairly different sound from other bands that are often placed under the banner of indie rock. Before the latter was a clumsily vague banner term The Helio Sequence was often described as being within the realm of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, which is true enough, but its musical roots also stretch to Pacific Northwest underground rock, drummer Benjamin Weikel even having drummed on the 2004 Modest Mouse record Good News for People Who Love Bad News. In 2008 The Helio Sequence released its second, and breakthrough, album Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It represented a more overtly well-composed pop direction that band would expound upon thereafter—soaring melodies, introspective lyrics and always inventive soundscaping. For this tour the project is celebrating the ten year anniversary of the album that propelled it into a circle of success wider than underground cult status.

Who: Demoncassettecult w/Machu Linea and Mirror Fears
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Beat driven, noise influenced experimental electronic music is the theme for this show. Demoncassettecult combines industrial soul samples (close enough) with R&B vocals for something that shouldn’t exist but completely makes sense live and on the projects recordings. Machu Linea is the latest project from Armando Garibay who was a member of The Circus House, a sort of avant-garde psychedelic pop band that included former Ancient Elk vocalist Anna Smith. Machu Linea is like downtempo deep house reminiscent of Sunday 8PM-period Faithless but updated. Same dusky, beautifully moody, hip-hop-inflected dance music. Machu Linea’s 2018 album GIRL would be in the upper echelons of a best of dance music list for the year if the wider world was aware of it. Mirror Fears, of course, has been pushing the envelope of electronic music in Denver without being an electronic dance artist per se. Not that dance beats and programming aren’t part of her sound because they are but she also comes to the music from the perspective of someone who spent time in a dream pop band as well as being steeped in the local noise and experimental music scenes. Lately her songwriting has delved further into beat-driven electronic composition.

Who: John Grant w/Two Medicine
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7 p.m.
Where: The Bluebird Theater
Why: John Grant’s Denver music history is pretty respectable as the keyboard player of an early incarnation of gloom rock legends Twice Wilted and then as the lead singer/pianist of dream pop band The Czars. But upon leaving Denver to pursue his artistic fortunes elsewhere, Grant embarked upon a critically acclaimed career under his own name beginning with 2010’s excellent Queen of Denmark. His command of electronic music composition in the context of artier pop songwriting has made all of his solo albums worth listening to on their own. That his lyrics are thoughtful, even insightful, and relevant to the vagaries of modern life has kept his songs fresh and striking. Currently Grant is touring in support of his 2018 album Love is Magic.

Who: S A D Nois, Lipglo$$, Equine and more
When: Tuesday, 12.11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: S A D Nois and its sound sits somewhere at the intersection of modern classical, noise and textured environment sound composition. Lipglo$$ is sort of like a weird, ambient, noise take on trap and profane and hypnotic. Maybe influenced by video game music and Tim & Eric. Equine is Kevin Richards’ use of his mastery of weird jazz chords and phrases, minimalism and processing both in fascinating directions.

Wednesday | December 12, 2018

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Allout Helter circa 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: La Armada w/Allout Helter, Targets, No Sign of Remose and others
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective
Why: La Armada from Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic is one of the most popular hardcore bands in the country and it has made an impact throughout the North American underground with its crossover sound and political lyrics. The quintet is in good company for this bill with Denver’s Allout Helter and Targets. The former shares some of the thrash sound of the latter and a bit of the grindcore edge of the latter.

Who: Kid Astronaut w/Kayla Marque, Dylan Streight, Shalom Dubas
When: Wednesday, 12.12, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Jon Shockness is moving to London soon to explore what the wider world of music outside of Denver and outside the United States has to offer his eclectic and considerable talent. He was once a member of the late great hip-hop group Air Dubai and a graduate of Denver School of the Arts where he recently told Colorado Public Radio he was able to be taken seriously even as a young artist, providing a solid foundation for his efforts sine. In 2018, as Kid Astronaut, Shockness released the project’s debut full-length, the sultry, powerful and imaginative Full Moon.

Best Shows in Denver 6/21/18 – 6/27/18

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Lithics perform at Tuesday 6/26/18 at Lost Lake with Super Bummer and Male Blonding. Photo by Christie Maclean.

Thursday | June 21, 2018

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Bios+a+ic circa 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Glasss Presents the Speakeasy Series Season 2: Bios+a+ic and Acidbat
When: Thursday, 06.21, 7 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: For this edition of the Speakeasy Series Season 2 you can see Wesley Davis doing a rare performance as Bios+a+ic, his long-running ambient/experimental electronic and acoustic instrument project. Davis curates the Textures Ambient showcase series now hosted the last Sunday of every month (including this Sunday, 6/24) at Mutiny Information Café. This event marks the twenty year anniversary of Davis’ label Symbolic Insight. Also on the bill is Acidbat, Seth Ogden’s noise-techno-downtempo-IDM project. Though not short on the experimental of electronic soundscaping, Acidbat pushes the use of rhythm and beats in interesting directions.

Who: Cindygod w/French Kettle Station and Whoopsi
When: Thursday, 06.21, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Probably a good reason to go to this show is to see New Wave Dance phenom French Kettle Station and his emotionally charged performance. But the main reason is to see the debut of Andy Rauworth’s and Craig Nice’s new band Cindygod. Rauworth and Nice were the indie rock duo Gauntlet Hair who made waves in the late 2000s/early 2010s with its energetic, noisy, sparkly rock songs. The group signed to Dead Oceans and did a short bit of touring before calling it quits in August 2013. For this band Rauworth is joined by Anton Krueger formerly of Bollywood Life (now H-Lite) and Eamonn Wilcox
who some may remember performing as Running Niwot a few years back.

Friday | June 22, 2018

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Calm., photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Pop Up: Music & Art with Calm., Adolfo Romero and poet Jesus Rodriguez, art by Goat Witch Goods
When: Friday, 06.22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: The benefits of this show will go to benefit the undocumented community. It will include performances from poets Jesus Rodriguez and Adolfo Romero as well as the great Denver-based hip-hop duo Calm. whose own music reflects growing up poor in Park Hill and North Denver and an organic intellectual tradition. Also, rapper Chris Steele might lay down some of his surreal humor between songs and drop some knowledge outside the context of Calm.’s music.

Who: Pearls & Perils, Vahco and Victoria Lundy
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: Soulful downtempo and synths show from Glasss Records artists Pearls & Perils and Vahco. Olivia of Pearls & Perils creates a deep cloudscape of sound with her beats and her sultry voice and Vahco’s experimental R&B and powerfully emotive singing gives his songs a quality that transcends any specific genre of music to which it might be attached. Victoria Lundy is the godmother of experimental electronic music in Denver at this point from her time in Carbon Dioxide Orchestra two decades ago to her Theremin work for avant-pop outfit The Inactivists to the music under her own name that reflects the influence of Twentieth Century classical and avant-garde electronic music as well as her own imaginative use of synth and Theremin.

Who: Pink Hawks w/Wheelchair Sports Camp and Polyphoni
When: Friday, 06.22, 9 p.m.
Where: Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box
Why: Pink Hawks are one of few legit Afrobeat outfits in Denver led by Yuzo Nieto. The latter helped start the project as more of a free jazz trio but followed his instincts into more out jazz and Latin music to whatever it is one might exactly describe Pink Hawks now. Also on the bill is the great, jazz-inflected Denver hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp whose playful yet deeply meaningful songs bridge the personal and the political with rapper/beatmaker Kaelyn Heffernan’s social activism. WSC doesn’t really sound like anyone else, reflective of its diverse roots.

Who: Sliver, Pout House, Yellnat, Hair Club and Galleries
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: It’s a free show but that is no knock on its quality. Galleries is a heavy psychedelic band from Denver but one where the songwriting comes before simply rocking with a weirdo flourish. Sliver is a punk and grunge band influenced by, of course, Nirvana, but also hardcore pioneers Bad Brains and post-punk/proto-grunge band Wipers from Portland, Oregon. As good as any of those bands? Maybe. But, contrary to the band’s protestations otherwise, Sliver does not in fact suck.

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Krallice circa 2009, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Trve Brewing’s 6th Anniversary Bacchanal Night 1: Krallice, Wayfarer, Fórn, Many Blessings
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Trve Brewing has been hosting a weekend of great extreme metal for several years now and this first night includes legendary black/technical death metal shredder Mick Barr with his band Krallice as well as Denver doom outfit Wayfarer and Many Blessings, the ambient/instrumental doom/noise project from Ethan McCarthy of Primitive Man.

Who: Definitely, Maybe, Thistledown, Ancient Elk and Laura Goldhamer
When: Friday, 06.22, 8 p.m.
Where: Denver Bicycle Café
Why: Definitely Maybe includes former members of the late, great, math rock band Scatter Gather. Ancient Elk shows us where avant-folk, psychedelia and soul meet. Laura Goldhamer has long been an influential figure in Denver’s later era indie pop and experimental folk world not just for her music but for her steering bookings at the now defunct DIY space Brooks Center Arts as well as her beautifully imaginative filmmaking.

Sunday | June 24, 2018

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Mingo, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Textures 4 year anniversary at Mutiny w/Mingo, Bios+a+ic and The {Nothing} 
When: Sunday, 06.24, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: This Textures anniversary show also celebrates 20 years of Wesley Davis’ Symbolic Insight imprint. For the occasion, Davis will perform as Bios+a+ic, his long running ambient project. Additionally, Mingo, whose work has also been featured on Hearts of Space Program, will put in one of his few performances and The {Nothing} is a newer ambient/experimental project that is Travis Sturm who will provide the usual, greatly evocative visuals under his orchidz3ro moniker.

Monday | June 25, 2018

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Oko Tygra, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: The Horrors w/Oko Tygra
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Even though The Horrors were basically a The Birthday Party tribute band early on, as evidenced by its promising debut album Strange House, it at least was one that seemed halfway credible. As the band evolved, and as the band aged out of their early 20s, The Horrors took on other flavors like late-era Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized with the 2009 Primary Colours album, motorik beats and all. With 2011’s Skying The Horrors made its inspirations in electronic music much more obvious but so well blended with the rock instrumentation that it was practically a new band whose gift for otherworldly and transporting compositions was fully formed. While not sounding the same at all one might say that The Horrors have become the British equivalent of Deerhunter. With 2014’s Luminous The Horrors went further into the realm of the electronic but with 2017’s V, the band has come to engaging in more straightforward pop songcraft while not shedding its experimental instincts and what it has learned during its impressive arc of development as a band. To say nothing of the group’s great visual style and theatrical performances which give the music its proper and impactful context.

Opening the show is Denver-based dream pop band Oko Tygra. Singer/guitarist Joshua Novak has been making emotionally stirring music since his days of performing as a what one might say singer-songwriter. Of course Novak’s songwriting seemed much more sonically ambitious from the beginning and with this band he’s able to create the kind of downtempo, lush music that has been in his imagination waiting for the right way to see expression for years.

Who: Men I Trust w/Pearl Sugar and Modern Leisure
When: Monday, 06.25, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Montreal’s Men I Trust operate independently of labels and PR folk pushing their music to press. And often that means the band is probably punk or some kind of rock. But no, the group’s music is minimalist, downtempo dream pop and its ethos reminiscent of bands that used to play the American DIY circuit in the late 2000s when you could never fully predict what kind of music would come through playing place in Denver like Rhinoceropolis, Mouth House and the like. Men I Trust has more in common with Cocteau Twins and Alvvays than modern synth pop or post-chillwave acts and its production sophisticated for a band existing largely outside the traditional channels of the music industry. But, really, isn’t that how many bands these days are doing it? From learning the skills to produce, mix and master their music and create music videos mainly to have control over one’s output but also because you can learn all those skills and not have to pay someone outside your immediate orbit to do the work. That part doesn’t really make the band unique in this day and age. However, Men I Trust seems like it’s put more than their fair share of time into releasing quality product from inception to setting it off for others to enjoy.

Tuesday | June 26, 2018

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Dirty Projectors circa 2007, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Dirty Projectors w/Still Woozy
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Whatever one thinks of Dirty Projectors you can’t really down a band that seems to explore new territory or at least find different angles on ideas it already developed well on earlier releases. Its forthcoming album Lamp Lit Prose (due out July 13, 2018) finds David Longstreth and company doing as it has done for years in weaving together a wide spectrum of musical traditions and ideas to produce music that many may find quirky but which pushes forward what pop music can be. This time the spidery and labyrinthine guitar work and non-western rhythm schemes inside fairly mathy overall structures is a fascinating wrinkle for a band that has rejected certain comparisons to prog. Because it’s not prog. It is, however, using technical musical ideas as a framework to experiment with unconventional ideas in its own musical legacy.

Who: Lithics w/Super Bummer and Male Blonding
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Inevitably Lithics get compared to No Wave early NYC and Bush Tetras. And that sort of wiry, writhing alienation is part of its sonic DNA. But the urgent atonal math rock-esque quality of some of its songs and the junk-jangle riffs remind one a bit of great 90s math rock weirdos like A Minor Forest, Polvo and Autoclave as well as art punk peers like Palm and US Weekly. Nevertheless, Lithics, from Portland, Oregon, has distinguished itself with stark melodies and jagged changes of pace as well as singer Aubrey Hornor’s intense stage presence and piercing gaze that channels perfectly songs brimming with nervous energy distilled into brilliant nuggets of postmodern poetic meditations on the neuroses plaguing anyone paying attention in the world in the past decade. Its new album, Mating Surfaces (out now on Kill Rock Stars), is exactly the kind of harum scarum post-punk disco we need as an salve to challenge and help cope with the conformist shittiness that has taken over our national politics. Bonus: you get to see two of Denver’s greatest post-punk acts with the more psych Super Bummer and Male Blonding’s deeply atmospheric sound grounded by one of the greatest rhythm sections in the Mile High City.

Who: The Sidekicks w/Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive
When: Tuesday, 06.26, 7 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: The Sidekicks, from Cleveland, Ohio, spends most of their excellent 2018 album Happiness Hours proving that you can still be a pop-oriented punk band and not have to perpetually navigate life as an emotionally stunted teenager. It’s not a melancholy album. It’s not cynical. It’s not rife with the voice of someone who feels like they have it all figured out. What the band has figured out, though, is that their version of punk doesn’t have to fit the formula they grew up with in terms of instrumentation or the flavor of the sentiments expressed in the words—that punk, too, can evolve and grow with you if the people making it are willing to reimagine the music they love for a time in life they never really thought about reaching without feeling like they had to put anything fun behind. Denver bands Great American House Fire and The Spirit of the Beehive also didn’t get the memo on needing to keep on making punk like you never outgrew shitty street punk and problematic emo.

Wednesday | June 27, 2018

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Thurston Moore circa 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Who: Thurston Moore
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café
Why: Thurston Moore wasn’t just a charismatic member of one of alternative rock’s most influential and iconic bands. He was an ambassador for the underground in music and art throughout the 80s and through to today. He is also a scholar of the Beat movement and an instructor on that subject at Naropa University. Tonight he will be doing readings from his book Stereo Sanctity – Lyrics & Poems.

Who: Weird Wednesday: Dorian, Chromadrift, Denizens of the Deep
When: Wednesday, 06.26, 9 p.m.
Where: 3 Kings Tavern
Why: This edition of Weird Wednesday will have a focus on some of Denver’s greatest ambient bands. Chromadrift just released his latest album Skyline. It’s organic/electronic/textural beats frame luminous compositions reminiscent of Dntel will be soothing enough to make one forget how busy the Baker District has become of late. Denizens of the Deep’s soundtrack-y ambient music is the aural equivalent of an A.E. Van Vogt story set in some detailed yet completely alien and haunted far future after civilization has fallen for the umpteenth time—haunted, suggestive of decaying urban landscapes and dark yet comforting.